“If everything seems under control, you’re not going fast enough.”
– Mario Andretti
Recently, I went to a performance driving school. It was a mixture of defensive driving, racing theory, and behind-the-wheel-in-your-face-pedal-to-the-metal auto racing (imagine, they told me I was a little aggressive as a driver). I learned quite a bit that day about sending a large piece of metal supported by small pieces of rubber on a specific path. I learned where my head needed to be to ensure that the large piece of metal and small pieces of rubber took me to where I wanted to end up.
In the course of doing all this, I had to unlearn (read that as “remain open minded”) 40 years of incorrect driving technique.
My day of doing really fast taught me a few things that are also applicable to life.
Do you mind if I share them with you?
The beginning of my day-long instruction started with theory and diagrams and war stories from race car drivers. One thing was very obvious from the start—race car drivers (the good ones – male and female alike) are consummate professionals. They are micro-managers. They are results oriented and technique centered. They have to be. That’s what keeps them alive.
They have the grit of fighter pilots, the mystique of successful surgeons, and the swagger of gunfighters. It’s not that any of them haven’t crashed their cars. They have. It’s not that they’ve won all their races. They haven’t.
What was intriguing about each and every one of them was that that they’ve learned from their failures, lived to race again, and have deconstructed what worked and what didn’t and put that information to the best use possible for themselves.
Oh, they also presented themselves to the outside world as extremely confident and skilled in their chosen profession. They combined that with humor, patience, customer relations skills, and, in some cases, a bit of attitude/elitism.
Imagine how such a combination for you could instantly transform what you do, how you do it, and how you are perceived in the the circles you travel in!
So, how about actual substance and content?
There were more meaningful ideas, thoughts, and suggestions received during my day of instruction than will comfortably fit in this space and likely your time constraints. So, I’ve distilled a small portion of the meaningful “stuff” from the day into the following item you can immediately put to good use.
Before we dig in, bear in mind, when I was being trained, all of the electronic helps in the car were turned off. I was forced to get to know the race car, feel the race car, and learn to rely on my own technique to get me where I wanted to go and keep me out of trouble. Perhaps this is the most important lesson from the day. I offer it to you first and foremost!
Now . . . on with the lessons . . .
Your car goes where your eyes go.
If you find yourself in a tailspin or you’ve lost control of your car, and you’re at risk for crashing into something or going off the course, the last thing you want to do is fixate on what you’re about to crash into or the path off the course. Instead, look where you want to go, accurately turn the steering wheel, and move in the path of correction.
Always look far enough ahead to see where you’re going.
By looking far enough ahead of you, you will be able to see a lot of situations that might cause challenges for you. You then have ample opportunity to do whatever is necessary to avoid the hazards and break free, when able, to get to your outcome.
Adjust your mirrors so you don’t have any blind spots.
Most of us have been using our mirrors (rear view and side views) incorrectly. Move your head and modify the placement of your mirrors to completely eliminate your blindspots. Rather than having three views (rear view and two side views) that partially overlap each other, place your mirrors so you get a wider, uniform, and reliable picture.
Steering and acceleration don’t mix.
Let me be blunt. This was the hardest lesson for me. I finally learned, however, that if you steer and accelerate at the same time (and, indeed, brake and steer at the same time), you tend to oversteer – usually crashing or losing control. Acceleration (and braking) is best when done in a straight line. Think about that.
Sometimes you have to go slow to go fast.
An extension of the former lesson, there is a lot of preparation that goes into running a race correctly. You want to go into a turn slower than you might otherwise be included to do. So . . . Consider your braking as a preparation for the turn that will ultimately take place. And we all have turns in life that we take to correct our course.
You can’t throttle your way out of a turn.
Another extension of Lesson 4, just think of this lesson in this manner, you want to drive fast in a straight line. If you’re turning your car, it’s still not pointing in the direction you want to travel. If you throttle your car while it’s turning, you will go off course.
Always go into a turn slow and come out fast.
Do you notice there are a lot of lessons about turns and braking and accelerating a little later? Racing is a lot like life. Well this lesson was a little unorthodox (from most racing teaching that is done). Simply, when you go into a turn, you don’t necessarily keep your foot on the brake (if at all). Rather, you take your foot off the accelerator and roll into the turn. This allows you to maintain constant speed and then accelerate out of the bend.
Don’t hope you’ll make a turn. Know you’ll make the turn.
Remember that swagger I talked about earlier? There is a mental component to racing. You must be able to visualize the course, your car, your actions, and your winning.
One last thing, I know the title of this is “You’re not going fast enough.” I was initially criticized by the race car drivers that I was too aggressive behind the wheel. Ultimately, I was let in on a little secret. You’re either a race car driver or you’re not. Professionals would rather have an aggressive driver who they can train to be a little more prudent than a timid driver they hope they can get up to speed. Something to think about as you create your own magical life.
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