Rider or Owner?

True story:  guy takes his motorcycle to a shop for an oil change.  After chatting with the man, the mechanic looks at the bike, its pristine condition, and its low mileage and says to the man, “Oh, you’re not a motorcycle rider, you’re a motorcycle owner.”

Now, when it comes to takeaways from this un-fable, I think you can roll your own, but this is what I get…

Our time— our life — is like money:  no value in and of itself, only in what we exchange it for.  But many folks (me included) too often slide their cash across the counter for the bubblewrapped package labeled “Safety.”  And this has got to be one of the worst fake bargains ever, much like the department store item with a grossly inflated MSRP so that it can then be marked “80% OFF!”.  On this topic, but I subscribe to the Helen Keller school of thought:

“Security is mostly a superstition… It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure.”

As such, your ‘money’ is best spent on something else.  Something like experience.  But experience is a tricky thing, yes?  Some is good, some bad.  Some experiences are fun while others are horrific.  And some experiences, often a cocktail of several of the adjectives above, alter the very shape of your life.  This idea is wonderfully expressed in Fight Club (the very non-linear novel, not the feature film):

“I just don’t want to die without a few scars, I say.  It’s nothing anymore to have a beautiful stock body.  You see those cars that are completely stock cherry, right out of a dealer’s showroom in 1955, I always think, what a waste.”

“What a waste.”  This reminds me of a gift I received when I was but a wee lad, let’s say late elementary school age — an electric rock tumbler.  Oh, the possibilities!  Load in the rough stones, add in some water and silicon carbide, and some time later, BOOM, smooth, beautiful marvels of modern lapidary technology.  In the time I had that rock tumbler, I must have made, oh, about zero polished stones.  Zero.  None.  Because I didn’t like the gift?  No, just the opposite.  I liked it too much, was too careful with it.  Because what happened when I ran out of rocks?  What then?  What if I did it wrong and messed them up?  Looking back, it’s easy to say this was absolutely ridiculous because, frankly, it was.  But are there elements of your life that you’re currently keeping in a similarly perfect (and perfectly useless) mint condition? Do you have any talents or goals that are rotting away, just as that rock tumbler is in my parents’ dusty attic?

I challenge you with these questions because these questions challenge me.  Always have – likely always will.  Let me leave you with one more thought, a benediction if you like, a quote attributed to Mr. Jack London as his “Credo”:

I would rather be ashes than dust!
I would rather that my spark should burn out
    in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot.
I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom
    of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet.
The function of man is to live, not to exist.
I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them.
I shall use my time.

Rider or owner?

Ashes or dust?

What’s it going to be?

– Matthew Porter


Matthew Porter writes about decoding success, creative leadership, marketing, and productivity.

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1 Comment

  1. Turn, Turn, Turn -January 20, 2020

    […] – a thousand times yes.  I say this not as someone on the sidelines, but as a recovering ‘owner’ who has sat longer than I should have just staring at […]

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