Look Where You Want to Go

I ride a motorcycle. Before I bought the first one, I took a class on how to ride safely. (If I’m going to do something that’s inherently dangerous, taking a class first makes sense). Our class was a motley crew of geezers, younger punks, wealthy touring bike-types and regular people who like to ride.

In these standardized safety classes, you don’t bring a bike, you ride a small provided bike. I had the odd feeling that these bikes were confiscated or had been ridden into an accident. Bent fenders, scrapes and odd color combinations attested to hard use. I was on a tiny, banged up model. I felt like a bear on a bike.


Helmets are expensive, but wear one anyway. Neurosurgery is more expensive.

Class rules demand that everyone wear a helmet, gloves, heavy jeans, a jacket, and boots above the ankle. Did I mention the class was August in D.C.? Even at 7 a.m., we thought we were taking lessons in a dog’s mouth.

The instructor said, “Now we are going to learn how to go around corners and make sharp turns. How do you think we do that?” Half the class turned the handlebars and  promptly fell over. A non-moving bike likes to lie down. That often comes as a surprise to the rider.

The instructor rolled his eyes, and said, “Never turn the *&$%&^% handlebars to go around a corner! You LOOK where you want to go. The bike will follow. Always. Look. Where. You. Want. To. Go.”

He was right, of course. When we look ahead to where we want to go, our body automatically makes small adjustments to get us there. On a bike, you lean into the curve, and your hand and arm closest to the turn automatically pushes the handlebars down on that side, guiding the bike through the curve.

Creativity works the same way. We make tiny decisions that take us where we look. We press down, our thoughts go where we look. That’s why it’s important to look ahead where you want to go creatively. Because looking at failure is as easy as looking at success. But failure is a very different trip.

What are you looking at on your journey today?

-Quinn McDonald rides a motorcycle. She’s also a creativity coach. Those two facts are more closely related than is obvious.

13 thoughts on “Look Where You Want to Go

  1. I once rode a horse that was taught to go where the rider was looking. Except that I was a bit overwhelmed with the idea of steering a horse I’m riding by just looking. Hence I was slightly unsure how it would work and where I would like to go, and the horse decided that I wasn’t ready to take the wheel quite yet. So she walked where ever she wanted – but in a very nice, tutoring manner. By then I had been riding horses for about 15 years but with that one I was a greenhorn apprentice.

    I’m a sucker for bagpipes too. Only a few things are more invigorating than a bagpiper blowing away ‘Scotland the Brave’ next to the Sir Walter Scott Monument (world’s largest monument for a writer, apparently) in Edinburgh amid the afternoon traffic with the buses thundering by, and still managing to be loud enough to be heard a block away.

  2. Personally I love the sound of the bagpipes, they bring me out in goosebumps . . . the good kind . . . however the aspiring bagpiper is just given a chanter to learn on, just the piece attached to the bag. It looks like a recorder and sounds worse. The magic (for me, with all my Scottish blood) happens when the player attaches the bag and puts on a kilt.

    I often say to kids, “If you don’t know where you’re going, how can you work out how to get there?” Keep your eye on the prize!

  3. Looking where you want to go is good advice for any aspect of life I think. And one we often forget about. Many of us tend to look at where we are at instead. Harder to move forward that way.

    • Staying in the moment is often misinterpreted as “don’t go anywhere.” Looking where you want to go is is far more productive than looking at the worst that could happen. Because you’ll had straight for it.

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