Building A Motorcycle And A Business
Good morning. Its 6:30 in morning as I begin this post, that’s especially early for me, since I keep odd hours. I went to bed about 1am, and normal sleep til 9 or 10. But I woke up about 4:30 and couldn’t get back to sleep. I tossed and turned, I meditated, I read a bit, but this one thought kept popping up in my head. I wrote it down, so as not to forget it. That didn’t work either, so here I am sitting at the computer typing.
I started riding motorcycles about five years ago, and since them its become a part of who I am, part of my identity. I ride almost everyday, year round, any time I can get away with not needing a car – which is most of the time – I take my bike. But its not just about riding a motorcycle, its about riding my motorcycle. My bike is unique, one of kind, and I did the work, its mine.
It wasn’t long after I bought my first bike, technically the bike I still ride today, that I began seeing what it could be. I had this second hand motorcycle that ran just fine. I wasn’t the prettiest, fastest or best in anyway, but it was mine and it worked well enough. Then I started having ideas about what I could do to customize it – change the handlebars, the paint job, the fenders, lose the air box, relocated the battery… The details began to get very clear, until I was almost surprised every day when I walked out of the door and the bike sitting there was not the one in my head.
Once I’d decided to customize my bike, I began making small changes, the ones I could do easily. That lasted for about the first six or nine months, then I hit a major problem. The vision I had depended on a lot of various things all working together. The cosmetics, like the fenders and the tank were easy, but if I changed the fender, I needed to mount the new brake light at the same time, and that was going to be LED, which meant I had to rewire things since the wiring was not set up for LEDs. And if I was going to rewire for LEDs, that affected other things. The list went on and on.
The problem was, rewiring a motorcycle from scratch, as I needed to, wasn’t something I knew how to do, and once I got started, I wouldn’t be able to ride it until the wring was finished. And I did NOT want to be without a motorcycle for weeks or months on end.
(Now is when the idea that woke me up come in.)
The vision of my perfect motorcycle is like my vision of my perfect life. I had a decent life. I wasn’t rich, but I was comfortable enough. But once I began to envision something more, something truly mine, waking up everyday to the life I had didn’t feel right anymore – I had to change it. But, just like customizing my bike, I didn’t have all the money, free time or skills to just up and do it all at once. I didn’t even know where to start.
Pretty soon, as I thought about all the various parts of my life that had to work together to create my ideal life, I figured out the core thing that had to change was how I got the money to do everything else – just like I had to rewire the bike.
Re-wiring the bike would be difficult, I had to figure out what to keep, what to cut away, what to add and how to connect it to the parts I kept and how to make them work together, where to mount things, learn all the skills like using a multimeter and soldering iron, and once I started the actual work, I had to do it as quickly as possible so I could keep riding the bike.
When I decided that I needed a new source of income, one I was in control of, one that allowed for passive income and scaling, I had no idea how to do it. How did the things I knew and my experiences translate into that kind of business? And without having a lot of money or a formal education? Just like wiring the bike, I started with research. I had a goal, and bit by bit I began to see how all the pieces would fit together. I began educating myself, looking for good sources of information, people I could ask questions of, books to read, videos to watch, etc. Then I assembled all the tools and parts I would need – or at least what I thought I’d need. Everything had to be in place, because once I started, the bike was useless until I finished.
There’s a saying in outdoorsmanship, “The map in not the terrain.” All the planning and studying in the world isn’t the same is really doing something.
My goal with the bike was to get the wiring done as quickly as possible, so with everything planned out and ready, I opened it up and began pulling out wires. Needless to say, even with the wiring diagram to go by, and all my notes, it wasn’t as straight forward as planned. There are scores of wires bundled together, all different colors, tangled together, covered in grim and the glue from old tape. Each had to be identified and many of them cut and tossed away – but one wrong cut and I might spend hours and hours trying to figure out what I did wrong.
But if I didn’t do something, the bike would never become what I wanted it to. So I started pulling wires, hoping I got it right.
Its the same with starting a business to create my perfect life – until I do something, nothing will change. So with my plan in place, I set to work. I spent the money on coaching and education and the tools (web hosting, domains, apps, etc.) And looked at that overwhelming mess of stuff I had no idea what to do with and started with one small task. Just check one box, then move on to the next one.
I bought a domain and hosting and began building a website. In retrospect, I paid too much for both, and built the site with the wrong goals in mind, but its not like I didn’t make mistakes wring the bike either. What was important was I had begun, and that created momentum and confidence.
Even mistakes build confidence. When you screw up and have to fix something, you discover its not the end of the world and you can fix it if it happens again, and you’ll know not to do it next time. That’s experience, that’s learning.
At the end of the first day working on the bike (I had only envisioned it taking one day. I was wrong.) I stepped back a looked the tangled, rainbow color of wires hanging out and the discarded pile of more wires, knowing it was never going back the way it was, but also thinking “what I have I done!” This was going to take longer than planned, I felt way out of my depth, and when I began showing up to work in my car people would begin to wonder what happened to the bike and I’d have to explain that I’d ruined it. Embarrassment is big motivator for me.
There are so many things to know about running a business – accounting, taxes, legal issues, marketing, software… Its no wonder beginners start with the easy things like logos and business cards and websites. Those look doable. They don’t do much in reality. Without the real substance behind them of a product and marketing plan and research, but they feel like you are getting something accomplished.
But once those easy things are done, and you step back and look, you realize you are just at the beginning and there is so much more to do and its going to be harder and more time consuming than you thought. Just handing someone your business card or publishing your website doesn’t automatically generate sales. You suddenly realize you didn’t know what you didn’t know!
This is when most people quit, if they got started at all.
At the end of day one of wiring, I walked inside and sat down on the couch and thought, “I can’t do this.”
But then I thought, the worst that could happen was that I spend a few more bucks, buy a factory harness, install it (that would be easy now!) and go back to riding the bike the way it was.
Its the same with starting a business. When I hit that point of overwhelm and wonder if I can do it, I remember: The worst that can happen is I go back to my old life, a little poorer but wiser. So why not keep going and see how far I can get?
One Thing At a Time
You can only do one thing at a time, that’s just a fact of life. When you’re looking at all the wires and components you need to have connected to make a motorcycle run, it seems overwhelming. But you can only connect one end of one wire at a time. Then you connect the other end. Then move on to the next wire. Then install the next component. Nothing will work until everything is in place, but you literally cannot install everything in one motion, you have to do it one piece at a time.
After that, the next step is whatever is next. You just keep going, doing thing at a time.
Same thing with setting up my business. To create this blog I needed domain, a web host, to install WordPress, and a theme and customize the appearance, and so on. But I could only do one of those things at a time. The key was to pick one thing, and just do it. Don’t worry about the next thing, or the thing after that, or after that, until you get to it. I had a plan, maybe somethings were out of order, but I could adjust, as long as I just focused on doing the one thing I could do right then.
When it looked like I had the wiring all done, before I put all the panels back on the bike, I tried to start it.
It didn’t start.
Obviously, I’d made a mistake somewhere, and I had to figure it out. But by now, I knew a lot more about what I was doing. I knew how to use the tools better, how to trace wires, and look for shorts, and I knew how I had set things up rather than trying to follow someone else’s diagram. I found the problem – the ground wire had come loose – and the bike started. I then went about testing each component, the lights and signals, etc. to make sure they all worked.
If I’d put the bike completely back together before testing it, I would have wasted a lot of time and had to take it all apart to find the problem. Testing takes a little longer, but saves you a lot of time and headaches in the long run.
Starting up any business, there will be problems and somethings you need to test. Whether its the links in your website or spell checking your book, or market testing your advertising, before you “go live” its best to test whenever possible.
If you don’t test things, life will test them for you. In fact, even when you do test things, life will test them more and find faults in them. I’ve had to go back and correct many things on the bike since I “finished” it. Things that worked fine at the time, but proved to be problems later on – armature mistakes. But even then, with every new problem and new solution, I learned and got better.
I know in business, I’ll always find things to fix and improve, but that’s ok. At least I’ve got something out there. I might not be perfect, but its literally better than nothing. We all want perfection, we have our own vision of how things should be and when our first efforts don’t line up with that vision, we feel like we failed. But the truth is, no one else sees what’s in your head, so …
No One Notices
When I finally finished rewiring the bike and had it all put back together, 90% of everything I’d done was invisible. What you could see were things most people don’t even look at, like the new LED turn signals and low-profile buttons I’d installed. I was filled with the feeling of pride and accomplishment, bragging to my friends and co-workers about what I’d done. To them, it looked like exactly the same bike. I showed my work off to everyone, but only one person, who happened to by an experience motorcycle racer, appreciated any of it. All that work, and no one could even tell, except me.
When I finally got my business up and running, got my first client, nothing really changed in my life. I wasn’t suddenly rich. I still woke up in the same house, wore the same clothes, ate the same food. My life didn’t really seem different, and to my friends and family, I was just talking about stuff they didn’t see or understand.
And even to me sometime I had to wonder why I was putting all this time and effort and money, nothing was changing. Why bother?
Its called “investing.”
When you invest in stocks, you have to wait to see a return. When you invest your time in a business, it also takes time to see a return. It can be discouraging to keep plodding away and not see your bank account growing. It can be lonely, because time you used to spend with friends and family is now spent working on a business that doesn’t seem to be producing. But if you stop now, it never will. You have to keep going.
With the bike, once the invisible work of wiring was done, I could focus on the cooler stuff. I learned to weld and paint and do body work and soon things began to take shape in an outwardly visible way.
Until They Do
I had started with the wiring on the motorcycle because it was the one thing everything else depended on. It took a few days of intensive work, and when I was done, the bike looked the same, but the foundation had been laid. Later when I cut the rear fender off, added a custom seat, and made all the other change that people noticed, it was much easier because I was building on the foundation I had laid.
Now I get comments on my bike all the time. People approach me at the gas station offering to buy it. It looks like my vision. I invested a lot of time and effort to get it there, but the hardest part was those weeks of learning an preparation, and the few intense days of doing the wiring. The rest came more easily.
When the outward things began to change, the feedback from others helped encourage me along. But I never would have gotten there if I hadn’t stuck it out doing the unseen, unappreciated things first.
Everyone wants to sit on and ride my bike, no one wants to hear the details of how I had to rewire it from scratch to make it look that cool.
Now that my business is started, I just have to stay the course. Keep building on the foundation. Over time, the efforts will compound and grow until I see the changes in my life and eventually others will, too. From building my motorcycle I know that, I trust in that.
There will still be things to learn, mistakes made, just as I did on other parts of my bike. But even when I made those mistakes, the bike still ran, it started and ran. I might not have been pretty, but it was rideable. And now, its my bike – just like its my business and my life.
A lot of life’s lesson come from unexpected places. We have to be open to seeing connections that others miss, and learning from them. If you’ve learned an important life lesson in some odd or interesting way, please share it in the comments, I’d love to hear about it.
If you like these sorts of posts, you’ll probably also enjoy my podcast, Slap The Basil, on Anchor.fm or on whatever podcast service you use. Please, check it out!
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