Obstacles

Life Lessons From Off the Road

Obstacles

Why is it that we tend to get upset by obstacles and challenges in life but we look forward to them off road?

What would an autocross course be without the pylons? Are not the yumps and twisty turns the most exciting part of a rally race? Without wet grass, dirt and other traction limits, rallycross would just be autocross.

When we are at play, we look forward to obstacles and challenges. These are what make the game fun. We get bored when games are too easy.

I am amazed that we will load up the Jeep and drive several hours to camp in the cold just so we can drive on muddy or dusty roads to get to even rougher places to drive. For the ultimate challenge, we even drive places where boulders have purposely piled up just so we can drive over them.

If we wanted to take the easy road, we could just stay on the interstate. Or we could at least stay on the nice gravel road instead of playing in the rock garden.

Pushing our limits is how we have fun. Whether it is pushing the limits of acceleration and braking around and autocross course or testing our nerve on a narrow gravel road surrounded by trees in a rally car, we love the challenge. The challenge is what makes the game fun.

When I first stared enjoying the sport of off road driving, I saw absolutely no point in the rock gardens. My justification for off road driving was accessing places that were off the beaten path and only accessible by Jeep. Getting there was the goal – not the journey.

I would sit and watch the others bash their Jeeps on the rocks while I took the easy bypass. I would wait impatiently until they all got through and assessed the carnage.

On one trip however, the road to the campsite had no bypass. This road had real obstacles just like the ones I had bypassed in the park. I was really wishing for some more experience before I faced such a challenge with no options other than turning and going home. And I knew that if I went down that rock the only way out the next day was to come back up it.

I suddenly realized what the rock gardens were for. These were places where I could hone my skills in a relatively safe manner. If I got stuck in the rock garden, there were plenty of resources to help me recover. If I broke my Jeep, there was easy access to the trailer and tools. And if there was a weak link in the Jeeps armor, it would be exposed and I could modify it later.

The skills I have since learned in the rock gardens have boosted my confidence on the trails. I know a lot more about what my Jeep and I are capable of. I have learned what modifications I need to do to my Jeep to make it more capable and more enjoyable to drive.

Trails that once intimidated me, I now consider easy. My sons and I were recently discussing that what we call a minor adventure others might call extreme. While still others would consider our adventures mild. As our skill and experience in dealing with obstacles increases, so does our confidence. With more confidence, it takes more to qualify as “adventurous.”

By facing obstacles in a confident yet careful manner, we build our skill at off road driving. We learn to assess the obstacle and determine the best way over or around it. How we attack an obstacle will depend on the equipment we have, what we are willing to risk and the skill level of the people around us whop are willing to help.

Having a strong support group is also very important when facing obstacles off road. I am willing to try much more difficult obstacles when I am in the company of a group that I have confidence in. I know that they will support me and come to my rescue if I fail.

When I am surrounded by people that I don’t know or trust, I will be more cautious off road. I am even more cautious when I am with people who have even less experience than I do with off road driving.

It us still amusing to me that we actively seek out obstacles in motor sports but we tend to react negatively to obstacles in life. I am now learning to treat obstacles in life as learning opportunities instead of problems. Treating my life as a game makes it so much more fun.

When I hit am obstacle now, I try to assess it like I would an obstacle off road. Is there a bypass? What can I learn about myself by attempting this obstacle even if I might fail? What are the potential consequences of failure? What resources do I have? What skills do I have?

How well prepared am I to face this obstacle? Do I need to retreat and gather more resources? Who is available to help me succeed? Who is willing to help me if I fail?

Another lesson I learned very quickly on my first off roading trip was to watch how others handled the obstacles. Since I was with a group of Jeep XJ fans, we all had the same basic equipment. Seeing someone else make it over an obstacle in the same truck I was driving gave me the confidence to try.

So when faced with an obstacle in life, it is often a good idea to study other people who have conquered the obstacle you are facing. Did they do it with similar equipment or did the require more resources that you currently have?

Challenges and obstacles in life can be faced the same way as those we enjoy off road. We can look for easy ways out. We can bypass them while we watch and learn from others. We can avoid them all together. Or we can drive right up and face them with the same enthusiasm as when facing an obstacle on the Jeep trail.

Workplace safety and acceptance.

How to Improve the Safety of your Workplace

Acceptance

Knowing where you really stand is the first step to improving the safety of your workplace. All too often, I have seen managers respond to a directive to improve their plant safety by trying to cover up accidents. See my article on How to Improve your Safety Metrics without Improving Plant Safety for examples.

In order to fully understand how to make your plant safer, you need to accurately assess where you currently are in terms of safety compliance. Where are your trouble areas? How well do your policies and procedures reflect current practice? What is the emotional environment of the workplace?

If we fail to accurately assess the current situation, our measurements of improvement will be skewed. Sweeping problems under the rug will not help in finding effective solutions to them.

When beginning a new safety awareness program, we often see a spike in recordable injuries and illnesses. Sometimes this is due to employees learning what to report. Sometimes it is due to improved record keeping. But more often it is due to the safety programs being focused on accidents and injuries. The Law of Attraction teaches us that whatever we focus our attention on, we will get more of. New safety programs often demonstrate this law all too well.

Many managers seem to be afraid to accurately assess their actual workplace safety for fear of having their plant shut down by OSHA. If their plants are really that unsafe, then perhaps the reality of the situation is that the operation would be better off shut down and replaced with a safer one.

Allocating the time and resources to accurately assess a workplace environment requires a high level of commitment. However, you will not be able to effectively improve the work place safety until you accept the reality of the current situation.

Perhaps the reality of your situation is that you already have a very safe plant. Improvements may be hard to make. Compare your self to other operations in similar industries to see how you are actually doing. However, I find the only real and meaningful safety goal is zero accidents and injuries.

If you do find that you are truly the best in your industry as far as safety goes, then please make and effort to share your knowledge with others. Once you can accept where you really are in terms of work place safety, then you will know in what areas to focus your energy for the most effective improvements.

Begin by looking at your OSHA logs. Do they accurately reflect what is going on in the workplace? Or are injuries going unreported? Or do they show only frivolous results while the real problem goes unreported?

What about your safety policies? Do they really tell people how to do their jobs safely? Or do they simply list things they can do to get hurt? Remember that whatever you write down or focus on will expand in the thoughts and minds of the employees. Focusing on teaching them how to do their jobs safely will be much more effective than telling them not to get hurt.

How well do your work instructions reflect current practice? I will never forget a comment I heard during an audit review; “I did not know that was a procedure we were supposed to follow; I thought it was one we wrote just to satisfy [our customer]!”

By allocating the resources to audit your procedures and accepting the results, you will soon know where to focus your energies to create a safer work environment. Too many times I have seen audit reviews treated as punishment rather than a learning exercise. Management often fails to accept the poor results and rather than work to improve, they try to cover up the situation or become defensive.

Accepting bad news may be hard on the ego, but it is a necessary step in improving the process. Only by accurately knowing where you are starting from can you measure your improvement.

If you need help in making a true an accurate assessment of your workplace, you may need to bring in an outside auditor. Just be sure you are committed to accepting the results of the audit. OSHA tends to take a strong stance against employers who fail to correct situations that they have been made aware of.

If you would like me to help you assess your current situation and offer suggestions on how to improve, just contact me by email. Or you can read my other articles to know just what I would be looking for if I visited your facility. I am also available on a very limited basis for phone consultations. Email me for details. Just be prepared to accept the results before you ask for my help.

For more information on applying the principle of acceptance to personal development see these articles:http://www.stevepavlina.com/blog/2005/06/self-discipline-acceptance/
or

Acceptance

Acceptance

Life Lessons from off the road

Acceptance

My first automobile race was an autocross in a parking lot at Tennessee Tech University. The race was held by the Golden Eagle Sports Car Club.

I popped off the hubcaps from my Datsun 710 and aired up my Michelin XZX tires. I was quite sure that I would be able to score at least a class win it not the fastest time of the day driving around the little course made up of construction pylons. That is, if I could just remember where the course went.

My heart was pounding and my palms were sweaty as I pulled up to the timing light to start my run. I soon learned a lot about my car and my ability to drive it as I found out that no matter how far I turned the wheel, if I entered a corner too fast, my car would just go straight. I had just discovered under steer!

Watching the other drivers maneuver their cars around the course, I was amazed at the control they had. I was sure they had made huge modifications to their cars to make them handle like that. I was convinced that it was tires, or shocks or a million other expensive parts that they must have hidden in their cars.

It took me quite a while to accept that it was really just their skill at driving the car that made them faster than me. Either through instinct or more likely by lots of study and practice, they knew how to make a car maneuver around a tight twisty autocross course.

Before I finally began to accurately perceive the reality of the situation, I spent a lot of time and money trying to make my car go faster and handle better. I read books on how to make a car handle and how to improve my suspension. I entirely overlooked working on the big nut behind the wheel.

I never made any real improvement in my autocross times until I accepted that I needed to work more on my driving skills and not so much on the car. In fact, I had pretty much lost interest in autocross racing before I fully accepted this fact of life.

My next great motor sports adventure was Road Rallying. Jeff, my former college roommate, became my navigator. Together we developed a computer software program to aid in our time keeping. We did not put much effort at all into studying the products that were commercially available because we felt they were out of our budget. We simply focused on what were could build with our limited resources and the features we wanted in our computer.

We became successful quite quickly. We even took home a couple of first place trophies in National Championship level events. We probably could have been competitive on the national circuit had we been willing to invest the time and money into travel needed to compete in events scattered all over the country. Our work situation made it very difficult for us to both be gone the same weekend, so we let a lot of those things get in the way of pursuing our hobby.

What we did not realize at the time was that our little computer program had a few features that the commercially available computers did not have. After some of the top competitors saw what we could do, they forced the main manufactures to add those features to their products. We, of course, got no credit for our ingenuity.

In this case, we never really accepted how good we really were. We often lost rallies right near the end due to our inexperience or sometimes we would frustratingly loose them in claims after the rally. Had we accurately perceived the reality of the situation, we could have made a much larger contribution to the sport and had a lot more fun.

As it was, our inaccurate perception allowed us to let other interests take over our passion for road rally. We never really tried to market our computer program. Had we accepted just how good we really were at that sport and what natural talent we had, I am sure we would have made some money and had a lot more fun.

My next automotive endeavor was organizing Rally Races. These events were huge fun to be involved in. Lots of people came together from various backgrounds and with various skills to make the event a success. The highlight of this phase of my life was the Cherokee Trails International Rally. It was a three day event in the Cherokee National Forest. Racers from all over the world came to challenge the gravel roads of east Tennessee.

The event was won by an Irishman on St Patrick’s Day. There was much rejoicing.

Again here I failed to see the level of my own skill. I did not have the confidence to speak up where I saw things that were not being done properly. Since I did not have as much experience as some of the others, I deferred to their ideas. I failed to accurately perceive that these people really did not have the skills needed to maintain an event of this caliber. I also did not accept that my social skills were not good enough to build strong relationships with the key players so that they would listen to my ideas.

Again, I found myself wasting effort working on the wrong things due to my inaccurate perception of the reality of the situation. I failed, or more likely refused, to accept what I was observing.

The rally organizing led me to building my own rally racer and racing it in several rallies. At the same time, I was enjoying the new sport of Rally Cross racing. By this time I had learned that the most critical element of this type of racing was driver skill.

Picking a good line through the course was also very important. I learned quickly that getting familiar with the course was way more important than tire pressures or weight distribution. I also accurately assessed that there were people who were much better at creating a new line through the grass than I was. I always tried to walk with them when possible and I definitely watched their runs to see what I could learn.

Through accepting my strengths and weaknesses in this sport, I was able to win many class victories as well as a few “fastest time of the day” driving my Jeep Cherokee against what should have been much faster cars.

I also enjoyed the sport of Rally Racing. Pumped up by the success of Rally Cross racing in the Jeep, I decided to build a dedicated race Jeep. What I failed to accurately assess about this reality was how heavy and underpowered my vehicle of choice was. It’s handling and reliability were great, just not the power to weight ratio. I also did not accept my inability to drive at high speeds with very little control.

I enjoyed the races and I did pretty well in events where the roads were tight and twisty. I did really poor where the roads were more open and top speed became a factor. I was just not willing to maintain momentum over crests and around curves where I was not sure what was on the other side.

It took me a few races to fully accept that I was never going to be the next Colin McRae. I did spend some more money on the Jeep just in time for my favorite race – Cherokee Trails – to be cancelled forever.

It took a few more months for me to accept the fate of the Rally Racing Jeep. I had just met a new group of friends who shared many common values and a love for Jeeps and driving them off road.

I quickly built a Cheap Jeep to see how I would enjoy the sport of off road driving. I did a couple of trips with this Jeep before I accepted that I really did enjoy off roading much more than any form of motor sport I had tried up to that point.

After that second trip in Scuffy, I went home and began converting the rally racer into a true off road machine. It took some commitment to finally cut the rear fenders to clear the big tires. But, by then I had accepted that I would never really be competitive in Rally Racing. Also, through a lot of encouragement from my new friends, I quickly accepted that I have a lot of natural skill at off road driving that I could quickly build from.

Getting Scuffy II’s first dent was another lesson in acceptance. I was surprised that it really did not bother me much. In fact I saw it as a badge of honor. A battle scar! Now, I look forward to each outing to see how much more I can push myself and enjoy building my off road driving skills.

Learning to accept the reality of a situation is the key to improving it. This concept is critical no matter what process you are trying to improve.

Whenever you are trying to improve any aspect of life, be sure to accurately assess the situation. What are your real strengths and weaknesses that are factors? What skills do you need to develop? What machinery or automation will make the process more effective?

Acceptance is the first step in process improvement. Learning how to properly assess the current state of a situation is one of the most import lessons I have learned from driving off the road.

To learn more about how to apply acceptance to your personal development see http://www.stevepavlina.com/blog/2005/06/self-discipline-acceptance/

Jeep Cherokee Shakes, Wobbles and Vibrations.

Does your Jeep shake quiver, tremble agitate, brandish, bump, chatter, churn, commove, concuss, convulse, discompose, disquiet, disturb, dither, dodder, flap, flicker, flit, flitter, flourish, fluctuate, flutter, jar, jerk, jog, joggle, jolt, jounce, move, oscillate, palpitate, perturb, quail, quake, quaver, rattle, reel, rock, roil, ruffle, set in motion, shimmer, shimmy, shiver, shudder, stagger, stir up, sway, swing, totter, tremor, twitter, upset, vibrate, waggle, water, wave, whip or wobble?

Nothing ruins a great drive in a Jeep faster than the many shakes, wobbles and annoying vibrations that can occur. These problems are made even worse when you start lifting the suspension and adding bigger tires.

The most common cause of shakes and vibrations in a Jeep are the tires. Jeeps use rather large tires often with heavy tread and with stiff sidewalls. All these factors add up to a rough ride if the tires are not well cared for.

Another common source of vibrations are the drive shafts. These rotating shafts have to be perfectly straight, and in proper alignment and balance to run smooth. Often the drive shafts can be misaligned as the Jeep is lifted or if the springs are damaged. They can be easily bent or knocked out of balance through off road use.

The most startling of all Jeep shakes is what we call Death Wobble. Death Wobble is the very scary sensation that occurs when the front wheels start to flutter like bad shopping cart wheel. The only way to deal with it while driving is to slow down until it quits. Right after your life flashes before your eyes.

Lets us look at the tires first. Other than being round and black, truck tires are very different from passenger car tires. Truck tires have much stronger sidewalls and thicker heavier tread. Both of these factors mean they may need much more weight to balance them. Also, as the tread wears the balance may shift.

Also, it is very easy to knock off a wheel weight when driving off road or sometimes move it to another place on the rim. Mud can also build up inside the rim and rocks can lodge in the tread. Any foreign object like this will cause an imbalance.

When you have a speed sensitive vibration, look first to the balance of the tires. It may be necessary to use an internal balancing system to deal with the changes in balance cause by tire wear.

Drive shaft vibrations are sometimes hard to diagnose. When you suspect a drive shaft vibration, start by inspecting the U joints. Make sure all the U joints are properly lubricated and have no slop. Replace them as necessary.

If your Jeep is lifted or has sagging or twisted springs, the drive shaft alignment may be off. Just couple of degrees of pinion misalignment can cause serious problem with the drive shaft. Also note that the alignment used for a double cardion shaft is different from that of a single tube with a single U joint at each end.

To isolate a drive shaft problem, try driving the Jeep with out the front drive shaft. The front drive shaft is easily removed and you can quickly tell if the vibes go away when the shaft is removed. To drive without the rear drive shaft, you will need some way to plug the transfer case if you have not modified it with a slip yoke eliminator. With the rear shaft removed and a suitable transmission plug in place, you can drive your Jeep using front wheel drive by placing the transfer case to the part time 4X4 setting.

Drive shat work can be expensive so it is often cheaper to swap in a used replacement rather than having yours fixed. Look for any warps or dents in the tube and replace the shaft if you find any problems.

Death wobble is normally a combination of factors. While stock Jeeps can have death wobble, it is much more common on lifted Jeeps. Bigger tires and the angle of the control arms exaggerate the already unstable inverted Y steering of the Cherokee.

Do not attempt to mask death wobble with a steering stabilizer. Replacing or adding a steering stabilizer may appear to correct the problem, but it will simply be masked until the source gets worse.

The most common source for death wobble is the track bar. Usually it wears at the frame end. This is a tie rod style joint with limited flexibility. If you have lifted your Jeep, you have already used up much of its range of motion and it will be easily damaged if the axle drops lower.

To test the track bar, place your hand on the axle end joint and have an assistant move the steering wheel back and forth. If you feel any play in the joint at all, the track bar needs to be replaced.

Note that many aftermarket track bars have poor life expectancy. I have found the ones from Crown Automotive to be well made and reasonably priced. Let me know if you need a quote on one.

Another common cause if the track bar is OK is wear in the control arm bushings. The axle end upper joint is sometimes damaged by oil dripping from the air box if blow by is an issue. The bushings are difficult to replace in the control arms them selves and it is sometimes cheaper to buy new control arm than to buy the two bushings.

Other things to check are the bolts that hold the steering box to the frame and slop in the pitman arm. Worn tie rod ends can also contribute to death wobble.

In extreme cases or where you have to drive a Jeep that is subject to death wobble, try altering the steering alignment a bit. Toe out will usually stop death wobble. It will wear the tires, but it will stop the wobble. I also fixed one by removing all the caster shims from the lower control arms.

Follow these guidelines and you will be driving a smooth running vehicle that can take you anywhere. Just realize it will take some attention to details to keep your Jeep running smooth.

Twilight the movie

Twilight movie review

I finally relented to the pressure of my female friends and watched the movie Twilight. They have all been raving about it so in order to keep up with the conversations, I watched the movie.

In case you have not heard this movie is about a 300 year old vampire who pretends to be 17. Presumably so he can hang out with high school girls. Oh and he is a vegetarian vampire so he only drinks soy blood or something like that.

He has the ability to read minds so he always knows what everyone is thinking. He has a foster family that includes two incredibly hot foster sisters who ride around in a four door Jeep Wrangler. At least they have good taste in cars.

Anyway the new kid in town becomes inexplicably popular with all the guys wanting to invite her to prom even though she is painfully shy and clumsy. She drives around in an old Chevy pickup that was built for her by her childhood Indian boyfriend that is probably a werewolf. At least it has new tires. Police chief dad bought them for her so she would be safe. That and the pepper spray.

Anyway the plot of the movie revolves around the 300 year old vampire falling completely head over heals in love with the 17 year old jail bait. He even takes her home to meet foster mom and dad. They all agree that she smells tasty.

They do all live in a really cool house. I guess several hundred years of wise investments pays for something.

He even invites his new girl friend over for a friendly game of backyard baseball. Here we meet the other not so vegetarian vampires when they help recover a lost baseball.

One of the animal instinct vampires suddenly takes an interest in the snack food i.e. the 17 year old clumsy chick. Inexplicably the animal vampire risks certain death just to get a taste of the girl.

So begins the epic battle scene of the movie. The girl is whisked away by the vegetarian vampire clan to supposed safety in her mother’s home town. Who would have thought that the resourceful animal vampire using only there animal instincts would track down her mother’s home. Not to mention why they are so interested in traveling long distances just to get a snack when there were plenty of other much easier to devour food sources along the way.

So the animal vampire uses her mother’s phone to set up a meeting with the girl. There is the obligatory big fight scene where they all show off their superhuman strength and the animal vampire is finally out numbered and killed by the “good” vampires. But not before he gets a little taste of his target. The pedophile vampire then has to steel his will and suck out only the infected blood and not the yummy life supporting blood. Naturally his great love overcomes his better instincts and he saves the girl’s life but does not turn her in to a monster.

All is well save a broken leg so they all get to go to prom together. Another sappy happy ending. But evil lurks just around the corner as the vampire girlfriend of the one they killed is watching in the darkness. Cue sequel.


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