A mile a minute: business lessons learned from my coach during a day at the racetrack

Systems & Operations
Thoughts

My name’s Mike, and I’m a car guy.

A while back I had the privilege of taking my car for two days of track racing. The experience was intense, and humbling. My instructor rose shotgun—a quiet, patient coach who made certain to leave me with the understanding of what it really means to drive fast.

The lessons I learned with him extend far beyond the track. Here are some of the highlights.

Smooth is fast

It’s elegant, and it’s the mantra of performance car drivers—smooth is fast is what we know, yet as racers, the first thing we do is mash on the gas and get going. We’re pedal to the metal; we brake as hard as possible at the last second and hammer into corners.

In doing so, we put excessive wear on the car and end up significantly slower than if we focus on level controls.

How often do we make snap decisions or drop everything to rush XYZ out the door? Is living life in a reactionary state making your business meet your goals more quickly, or is it wearing out your team, products or customers?

Roll into changes, don’t force them. Smooth control allows you to navigate the track at the top speed your car can handle. It does the same for your business.

Look up & plan several corners ahead

After misguiding a corner, I found myself out of position for the next. It took me several bends to get back on the line and desired speed. Here’s where the importance of planning comes in: look up and think ahead to be where you want to be.

One of the keys to flawless execution is planning. You must understand your goals, strategy and how to maximize every step along the way. Failing to plan far enough in advance leaves you unprepared and reacting to whatever curve ball comes next.

Focus on your line, not the car in front of you

Our natural tendency is focus on what’s right in front of us. Several times my instructor would point out when I was following someone instead of running my own lines. Doing so would put me out of position for my next corner or have me at the wrong speed.

Competitors have their own path to follow. It may or may not be right for you. Don’t be led by them—focus on the right path for you.

By day two of driving I found myself living these lessons from the track. The results were huge.

  • The track felt unwrinkled.
  • I wasn’t reacting anymore.
  • I wasn’t abusing my car.
  • I was less tired after each session.

Most importantly, I was having more fun and performing better.

Have you made the same mistakes with your team? Join the conversation on social media.

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