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MMI Motorcycle Instructor and Bike Builder: Jimmy Womack

"My favorite thing about teaching is knowing that I might be putting someone on the right track to be successful at life."

 

 

 “I like staying in the background and watching people admire the motorcycles.”

With a slight southern drawl and easy going demeanor, Jimmy Womack possesses a working class humility that's hard to fake. There's nothing contrived or phony about who he is - he's a motorcyclist to the core.

“I’ve done a lot of things in my life, but there are not many things that even come close to blasting down the road on two wheels.”

Working on motorcycles is more than just a way to pay the bills but an extension of who he is. Even when he first started working on bikes he would put in an eight hour day in the shop, then when he got home, work in his own garage until twelve or one in the morning. There was no separation between who he was at his job or off the clock. Motorcycles were a constant in his life. And it's this same drive and all consuming passion for bikes that has helped him find success as a motorcycle builder and as an instructor at Motorcycle Mechanics Institute (MMI).

He's accomplished a lot in his career. But Jimmy isn't the type to brag. He'd rather let the focus be on his work than on himself.

“I don’t really talk about it much, but I’ve had the opportunity to build a lot of custom bikes for people. Everything from entry level builds to $80,000 custom builds. I got lucky and got into some magazines.”

Yes, there's luck, those instances where everything falls into place. But if you don't have the skills or ambition to take advantage of a chance opportunity, it's easy to waste it. Jimmy had the experience and desire to seize on his good fortune and create even more opportunities.

Jimmy spent fifteen years working on and building bikes, and didn't realize that this would one day lead to bigger things. After all this time spent honing his craft, he started bringing his custom bikes to motorcycle shows. He'd come back to his bikes and there would be business cards left by photographers impressed with his work. This wasn't just good luck - it was recognition. Photos of his builds started gracing the covers of magazines like Easy Rider. He earned this esteem through his fifteen years of hard work, rather than spending money on self-promotion.

“I’ve been on the cover of Easy Rider. I didn’t buy an advertisement in the magazine to get there – they came to me. Which made me feel good because I didn’t have to buy my way into it.”

Though he's gotten front page glory from the motorcycles he's built, it's the creation process that brings him the most satisfaction. The satisfaction of bringing into existence what once started out as an idea and then building something that's a culmination of his own creativity and talents. And just like his own personality, no one else could ever duplicate it.

“When you pull up at a gas station and you’re motorcycle is like a magnet and people come over asking questions. It feels really good when people admire you’re work. They don’t need to care about me, they care about the motorcycle.”

What can Jimmy take a selfless approach to bike building - he's more concerned with the final product than he is about talking about his own accomplishments. It's this same attitude that he takes into the classroom. Instead of showboating in front of the students, he keeps the students' success at the center of his attention.

 “My favorite thing about teaching is knowing that I might be putting someone on the right track to be successful at life.”

With over 22 years in the motorcycle business, Jimmy has learned a lot. Not only does he share with his students the technical information about how to do things but he also shares with them his mistakes. And he teaches them the values that are so important at MMI that will help students out when they walk out of the classroom and into the real world.

 “The qualities a hiring manager looks for in an entry level tech is what we push here and professionalism is a huge part of it. Show up with the right shirt on, your hair combed and be on time and ready to work. As much as we don’t want to conform as bikers, it’s the name of the game.”

Professionalism and having a formal education may help in moving one’s career forward, but Jimmy thinks that there needs something deeper driving anyone interested in having a rewarding career.

“To really be successful at working on motorcycles, or ‘turning wrenches’ as we call it you’ve got to really want it, and have that internal fire burning that pushes you.”

What you chose to make your career should be what moves and excites you. Jimmy has made a life out of motorcycles that is the everything of his very being.

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