“Just you wait”, or, the difference between “Externalising” and “Internalising”.

It was a lovely morning. I’d had a very pleasant ride to the training range and was now sitting in the classroom about to begin a Pre-Provisional course.

The P’s course is the second stage of the mandatory motorcycle training required in NSW to obtain your licence, and is a full day course run with students who have already been riding on the road for between 3 and 12 months.

A full compliment for the course is 6 students, but on this particular morning I only had five. While it’s unusual, it’s not unheard of for a student to fail to show up for any number of reasons.

We had started at the designated time and I was 40 minutes into the course when I heard another motorcycle roar on to the range, park, switch off, then hurried footsteps on the stairs. My heart sank. I hate it when this happens.

The rider appeared at the door, “I’m here for the P’s course, sorry I’m late, I was down at the other place”. The “other place” is where the training facility used to be, it was moved about 6 months ago. The “other place” is now an empty carpark with no buildings, no signage, and no motorcycles.

“I’m sorry to hear that but we haven’t been there for 6 months. The new address is on the paperwork that you received when you booked the course. Unfortunately the course started 40 minutes ago so you will have to rebook the course for another date”.

“But I’m here now, I was at the other place” he said with an incredulous look on his face, and a tone in his voice that suggested I was too stupid to realise he was “here now”, even though I was presently carrying out a conversation with him.

I handed him a piece of paper from the RMS, the government department that funds and manages the training courses. “This explains the situation and what you need to do to rebook. I need to keep going with the course, do you have any questions before you go?”

He looked at the sheet, and then at me. “Are you serious?”

“The course has already begun, I have already explained how the course will run and done the safety briefing. I’m sorry but I can’t admit you to the course. If you have any questions you need to take them up with the RMS, and I need to get back to the class”.

I braced for the tirade, but instead he went for a change of tack. He smiled and gave a little laugh. “Yeh but you can just let me in if you want”. My patience was waning. “No I can’t” I replied. A little more forcefully this time. “Yes you can”. Again I replied. “No I can’t, you need to leave”.

Here it comes! “YOU ARE A PRICK, I’M GOING TO REPORT YOU. GIVE ME YOUR NAME AND LICENCE NUMBER”. I took the paper that I had given him previously and wrote down my name and licence number. When I handed it back to him I said “when you do complain make sure you do it in writing, and make sure you spell my name correctly. Goodbye”.

His look could have melted iron, and I could feel how much he wanted to hit me, but with 5  other people sitting there wide eyed watching the exchange, he decided against that option.  Shaking with rage he spat out “JUST YOU WAIT”! Then he turned and left.

I sat down and looked at my students, and for some reason I felt that I had to defend my actions. “I’m sorry about that, it might seem like a stupid rule but there is a valid reason for it”. I started to elaborate on the reason when one of the students saved me the trouble. “No need to explain” he said. “He was just a d**khead”.

I smiled as it suddenly occured to me that The Universe has just handed me an absolute cracker of an example to use later in the course. The anger and frustration that I had been feeling a moment ago was gone. Everything happens for a reason.

Later in the course, during our section on applying Roadcraft, we talk about how our attitude, the way we think, has a direct influence on the way we ride, and we talk about two different thinking styles, Externalising and, Internalising.

Externalising is the thinking style that we generally learn from childhood, it’s easy, and it protects our fragile egos. When people externalise they try to apportion blame for things to   “external” sources. “I had an accident but it wasn’t my fault”! How many times have I heard that line?

My punctually challenged friend from the morning was the perfect example of the classic externaliser. The fact that he had been refused admission to the course was entirely my fault, in his eyes. The fact that he had failed to read the course information given to him when he booked the course, the fact that he had turned up at the wrong location, and the fact that he stayed there for over 30 minutes despite the fact that he was the only person standing in an empty carpark was “not his fault”!

Undoubtedly externalising made him feel better about what had occured, but the question is, did he learn anything from the experience? That I don’t know. I have not seen the student again, so whether or not he rebooked for another course, and whether or not he managed to arrive on time will, for me, remain in the realm of the great unknown. But that’s the big problem with externalising, it doesn’t offer us any learning opportunities.

And what of the other way of thinking, internalising? Internalising requires you to honestly look at the situation that has occured, and to say to yourself, “There was probably something that I could have done differently to change the outcome”. Internalising requires a bit more effort, it requires us to be honest with ourselves, and no one likes to admit they might have made a mistake, but the wonderful thing about internalising is that we learn from what we experience, and the more we do it, the quicker we learn.

Surely the ability to learn is one of our greatest human attributes, and in my humble opinion, the day we cease to learn, is the day that we die. For some that may be figuratively, but when you ride a motorcycle, it could well be literally.

The Perpetual Motorcyclist

© Observations of a Perpetual Motorcyclist, 2012 – 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Observations of a Perpetual Motorcyclist with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

7 responses to ““Just you wait”, or, the difference between “Externalising” and “Internalising”.

  1. Bravo!! Very nice post my friend and so very true. BTW: still haven’t forgot about our trade, an OPM t-shirt for a BikerMonkey t-shirt. Plan to have some made in the near future! :)

  2. Stressful times when it happens like that. You did well and he did give you a great case in point. Does make you wonder how long before he is saying “it was the other guy’s fault…” Wouldn’t research on people like that be interesting to know how often they are involved in crashes compared to reasonable people?

    • I think we all start of as externalisers, it’s just a question of whether you choose the other path. I am in no doubt that externalisers are in the high risk catagory for both close calls and accidents. Learning to internalise was the biggest change I made to my riding, and I’m very glad I made that change over 20 years ago, otherwise I doubt I would be here.

  3. An EXCELLENT post OPM. Very astute summary of the issue and a great description of the type of person we public servants encounter all our careers. I recall my own epiphany on the subject of standing up and accepting responsibility for my own actions. Maybe I’ll blog it sometime. I can say that as an enforcement officer I still encounter people who feel they should be allowed to do whatever they want, regardless of risks or consequences to others. It is hard to be patient with them.

  4. Pingback: Slip Sliding Away | Observations of a Perpetual Motorcyclist

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