Zen and the art of trucking towards a better future

In Trucking Toward a Better Future 20235 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineOctober 6, 2023

Lindsay Wood offers some inspirational thinking for the 2023 Trucking Toward a Better Future competition.

Have you read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance? No? You’re far from alone, even though it became a classic the moment it was published in 1974.

TBH the book is a bit like anchovies or blue cheese – something people either love or hate, with few in the middle. I happen be in the ‘love them’ camp, but this time I’ll stick to the book and spare you the fish and cheese!

Zen and the Art is a story with lots of unusual threads woven around a man taking a 17-day motorbike trip through the United States, and some of those threads seem worth exploring for the TTABF competition.

‘He’ – weird, but we never learn the name of the rider/storyteller, even though he tells us he rides with his son Chris and, for a while, with his friends the Sutherlands – gets a buzz from the amazing machinery of his 1966 Honda Super Hawk working smoothly in a miracle of engineering.

Silver-grey and chrome and black…and dusty. Dirt from Idaho and Montana and the Dakotas and Minnesota. From the ground up it looks very impressive. No frills. Everything with a purpose.

But his friend John doesn’t give a toss for the mechanics – John’s buzz comes from the coolness of his bike’s colour, and the wind riffling his hair.

Enter “Zen”, and the idea that the more we care, and the more we bring a sense of wholeness and mingling of different ideas, the better the outcome will be. So maybe ‘Zen and the Art of Trucking Towards a Better Future’ can help us see ourselves both as part of a mighty whole, and as a unique joining place for zillions of different thoughts and facts that we can bring to life in new ways.

‘He’ also had a trick that sometimes helped people who were stuck when wanting to be creative. The trick was to focus on smaller and smaller things until suddenly you became unstuck. Like this story of someone stuck while writing about a town square:

“Well, write just about the Town Hall.”


“Try just the front face of the Town Hall.”

Still stuck.

“Try the brick at the bottom left corner of the wall…”

And the story took off, and spread right back out again!

So, what’s that to do with the TTABF comp? Well, say you realised certain roadworks were needlessly disruptive of traffic flow, but couldn’t figure the change needed. Maybe try looking at the way one lane worked. Nah? Then just the road cones. Nah? Then how might you reposition just one road cone? Aha! And the next one? Yes!

Even the book’s history reinforces something useful for the comp: perseverance. Author Robert Persig (probably ‘he’ in the story) submitted the manuscript to publishers no less than 121 times before it got accepted, and then it became an instant best-seller. That means 120 ultracrepidarian publishers didn’t understand what they were looking at. So, watch out for ultracrepidarian mates who might put down a really good idea of yours because they simply don’t recognise how clever it is.

And who’d have thought any book would do a deep dive into ‘gumption’, that great Scottish word for a give-it-a-go combination of courage and initiative. Zen and the Art even dives into ‘gumption traps’, like ultracrepidarian mates or skinned knuckles, that “drain off gumption, destroy enthusiasm and leave you so discouraged you want to forget the whole business.”

Maybe allodoxaphobia is also a gumption trap we should be on the lookout for!

(To check out Zen and gumption go to https://chiro.org/Graphics_Box_LINKS/FULL/ARCHIVE/Zen/chapter26.htm. Expect quite a journey!).

So, rally your gumption, spice it with Zen, beware ultracrepidarian mates and allodoxaphobia, and shape up your entry for the TTBAF Competition!

(And in case you’d like a memory jog, allodoxaphobia is fear of what others think, and an ultracrepidarianspouts on about stuff they know nothing about.)

Visit nztrucking.co.nz/category/trucking-toward-a-better-future-2023/ for full details on how to enter, and to find more weekly inspirational updates.

– by Lindsay Wood, director, Resilienz