Are You a “Johnny Lightning?”

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Johnny was fast: running, swimming, biking—anything he set his mind to. His friends nicknamed him Johnny Lightning. Johnny had a dream: to race a Honda RC213V on the 2.2 mile, eleven turn, Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey, California. There was one problem—he had never driven a motorcycle. In fact, he had never even driven a car. However, he had read extensively about motorcycle racing. How difficult could it be?

In truth, There is probably no one without prior experience who would not seriously injure or kill him or herself attempting to ride a Honda RC213V—a motorcycle with more horsepower than most cars, that weighs barely over 300 pounds, can go from 0 to 100 mph and back to 0 in less than ten seconds, and reach speeds of 217 mph. In addition, it takes years to learn the racing skills necessary to compete at Laguna Seca. Nevertheless, that did not stop Johnny from pursuing his dream.

He learned his first hard lesson taking his driving permit test: reading magazines or tagging along with his parents as a passenger taught him little about real driving. After taking the city bus to the Department of Motor Vehicles, he failed the test miserably. A DMV employee handed him a pamphlet as he left.

“Study this. You’ll do better next time.”

After a few days of studying, he returned to the DMV and passed the test. Then came months of practice with his mother and father during which he nearly gave them both heart attacks with his appalling driving.  While attempting to get a driver’s license six months later, he failed the road test by turning into the wrong lane of a one way street and knocking over a cone during a parallel park. Again, he forged on and obtained his driver’s license in no time.

A Honda RC213V does not have an automatic transmission and Johnny knew nothing about manual transmissions. A friend offered to teach him with his car: a BMW 325i. It took weeks for him to master, but using the “stick shift” eventually became effortless. Finally, it was time to learn how to ride a motorcycle.

Another friend offered to teach Johnny to ride his Kawasaki Ninja 250R, a motorcycle with similar characteristics to the Honda RC213V, but with 200 less horsepower. Following a few lessons: shifting with his left foot; operating the clutch with his left hand; applying the throttle and the front brake with his right hand; and managing the rear brake with his right foot, his friend let him ride alone. The acceleration and speed left him breathless and he quickly lost himself in the thrill of riding.

He soon faced his first challenge, however. He skidded one way and then another as he desperately tried to stop before overrunning the rapidly approaching end of an unfamiliar road. His tires burst instantaneously as the motorcycle hit the curb at over 30 mph. He then crashed through brush for fifty feet before finally coming to a stop. Clearly, Johnny had a long way to go.

After paying to repair his friend’s motorcycle, he started saving for his own. With his sights still set on the Honda RC213V, he searched online for the price: $184,000! His heart sank. Nevertheless, that was not the end of his dream. Six months later, he purchased his first motorcycle:  the friend’s Kawasaki that he’d nearly killed himself on.

Johnny eventually learned to ride competently and began taking his trusty Kawasaki to every local racing event he could. Over time, he moved to the top of his class.

As the years passed, he progressed to more powerful motorcycles and raced for higher stakes. He logged countless miles, attended dozens of track-days to hone his skills, and took classes taught by renowned experts and world champions. He competed in fierce, grueling, and sometimes, injurious races, losing many more times than he won. Despite numerous setbacks, he never lost sight of his dream.

Ten years after failing his driving permit test, Johnny hunkered down on his sponsored motorcycle at the starting line of the Laguna Seca race track. As adrenaline amplified every sense, he revved the engine to red-line and focused on the starting flag. When the flag dropped, He bolted to the front of the pack on the motorcycle of his dreams: a Honda RC213V.

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It is intuitively obvious that someone who has never driven could not immediately drive a car or motorcycle. What is less obvious is how much time and effort dreams take. You will confront seemingly insurmountable obstacles and there will be times when you fail or stop progressing. Those are merely speed-bumps on the road to fulfillment. If you give up during those times, you will never achieve your goal.

To realize your dreams, you must keep your eyes on the prize and let nothing stand in your way. If you do that, you will succeed. Nevertheless, such journeys are not for the faint of heart. They are for the fearless and determined—the Johnny Lightnings of the world—who have learned firsthand that if you never give up, you can accomplish anything.

Are you a Johnny Lightning?

About the Author:

Ken Dickson is the author of Detour from Normal and The Road to Amistad.

Detour from Normal is the shocking true story of how our broken medical and mental health care systems robbed Ken of his life as a respected engineer and devoted family man, and landed him in a high security psychiatric ward.

In The Road to Amistad, an unprecedented psychological change catapults people from all walks of life into an extraordinary new level of human consciousness. For most, this leads to confusion and heartache, but for some, it is their calling. They are a new breed of human: resilients.

Ken Dickson lives in Phoenix, Arizona with his wife and a motley crew of pets.