8 Ingredients for Success: Lessons I learned from Motocross

I’m forever trying to learn from experiences and then synthesize what I learned to generalize it into something I can apply somewhere else. Here are 8 things I learned racing motocross that apply broadly to life.

1.  Preparation – Most riders experience tension in their forearm muscles from squeezing the handlebars too tightly known as “Arm Pump”.   Sometimes the arm pump can become so bad that it’s hard to hold the handlebars making it hard execute at your best.  Arm pump comes from tension that’s created by doing something you don’t normally do.  The solution to this problem is more time on the track or “seat time”.  Practice and preparation allow you to reduce tension and thereby perform at your best.  The cliché practice makes perfect is nothing new but it is still a virtue.  Practice also reduces anxiety, fear and nervousness which can rob your performance of its true potential.

2.  Balance– In this case, balance doesn’t refer to keeping the bike upright but to the combination of courage and self-awareness which allow you to accomplish daring things while minimizing your risk (chance of getting hurt).  You’re often capable of more than you realize but if you push too far past your capability things won’t go well.  Balance courage and wisdom.  I find this one especially hard personally.

3.  Consistency -After several laps taken by multiple riders on a track, deep ruts and huge bumps are created from aggressive braking and accelerating.  When the track gets rough, great riders stay on the gas no matter how tempting it is to let off and look down.  When things get rough, it’s tempting to panic, quit looking ahead, and stop doing what you know are otherwise good habits.  By staying consistent your chances of successfully navigating challenges that come your way are maximized.

4.  Effort – Every rider looks to ensure their bike running at peak performance to ensure their lap time isn’t being held back by anything mechanical.  However, there’s a saying in motocross that “there’s 3 more horsepower in the right hand” (right hand controls the throttle). In fact, rarely does a rider’s ability push the limits of the bike.  However, people spend countless dollars on parts and apparel hoping to go faster.  Additional effort and willingness to develop skill will beat out all the gadgets and “shortcuts” to speed.  The world is full of promises of instant gratification.  The truth is that your greatest potential is within you and what you’re willing to do. 

5.  Courage -The fastest path around the track is seldom the one everybody is on.  If you want to get better than average results, expect to travel a different path than the herd.  Many times, a groove gets “cut” around a track and is then followed by everyone (particularly in the turns).  Experienced riders know that these are not always the fastest “lines” and often an alternate route must be followed to have success. 

6.  Fundamentals – Races are won in the precise execution of the turns, not the thrill of the big jumps (this is the MX equivalent of the golf adage “drive for show, putt for dough”).  The ability to clear the next big jump is based on how well the previous turn was executed so that enough speed is maintained.  The simple things matter and often set up the next big success.

7.  Focus -Momentum is precious, avoid things that threaten it.  Many things will tempt to break your rhythm.  Maintaining your vision on the track a few yards ahead of your bike and the path you plan to travel is key to executing your ride.  Looking too close in front of you, at other riders, or the track condition will only distract you from hitting your potential.   The ability to stay consistent despite distractions, negative outlooks, and obstacles is the thing that keeps you moving towards your goal.

8.  Poise – The start of an MX race is pandemonium.  More than 20 riders are funneled from a gate 100+ feet wide charging into the first turn of the track looking to come out first, or “hole shot”.  In the madness of the first turn, the ability to stay calm and under control will allow you to persevere.  Being the fastest out of the gate is great, but even the very best don’t get the hole shot often.  The best find a way to stay calm and to execute during times of volatility and chaos.      

Perfecting these 8 traits is hard – there’s always more to improve upon. But by focusing on these things your ability maximize potential is optimized!

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