Speed Secrets: Objective: Learning
By Ross Bentley
May 20, 2014
I admit it. I'm an addict, a junkie. In this case, it's an addiction to learning. While I'm considering forming a Learners Anonymous group, a difference from many groups like this is that there would not be a 12-step program to beat the addiction. Instead, there would be a 12-step program to feed the addiction, for I can see nothing wrong with learning more.
A regret that I have about my racing career is that I learned a number of things too late, which is why I enjoy passing on what I've learned to others, now. Learning to focus on learning was one of those things.
Early in my racing career my focus was simply on winning races, and moving up the ladder to become a professional driver. To do that I needed money, so a big focus was on getting that which I didn't have. I focused a lot of my attention on finding financial support for my racing. In fact, between hunting for sponsors, putting together deals to drive for a team, and focusing on winning, that was about all I had time for.
Through a variety of things that happened, including meeting certain individuals who changed my approach to racing, and reading a few key books, my focus began to change. Learning became an additional focus. More precisely, learning to learn. Fortunately, my natural curiosity drove me to studying how to learn more in less time. I had places to go, things to do, so I needed to learn in a hurry! I figured that if I could learn more, I would get better as a driver. If I got better, the ability to attract funding and opportunities would grow. If that happened, I would win more. If I won more, I would move up the career ladder. So, learning was the key that would lead to winning more.
I began to focus on learning. And when I did, I quickly realized that my driving improved. Was it that I was learning to drive better, or was I just more relaxed because I wasn't overly focused on winning, and that led to performing better? I don't know. I didn't care. What mattered was that it was working. If only I had learned this earlier in my career...
As most drivers making a living from racing will tell you, you had better have something on the side - a job, a business - to keep you going when you're not making a living solely from driving, when the inevitable season of doing not enough driving comes along. I did that, and learned that what I had learned from racing applied to business in many ways. Especially my coaching approach and philosophy applied to building teams and businesses. Over time, that led to consulting work with other businesses, and eventually I added business coach to what I do.
In working with start-up companies, an approach I learned worked very well is summed up this way: think, launch, learn, refine. Some businesses spend so much time developing their products and processes - they over-think, they take too long - that they miss the opportunity. And most important, they over-think in isolation. They think about it strictly from their own perspective, not their customer's. All too often, that leads to failure.
Other businesses don't think enough before launching. They jump in with little thought, or none at all, again leading to failure.
(Hey, this sounds like driving: some drivers think and analyze too much, while others don't think enough).
The successful ones spend the right amount of time thinking (researching, analyzing, designing, developing), they launch it, they learn (from their customers, from contributors, from experience), and then they refine it.
That's my approach to Speed Secrets Weekly. I'm learning. In fact, I'm learning things I never thought I'd have to learn, such as how to use the various applications needed to produce a publication that gets emailed to people with different types and versions of computers and software!
Mostly, I'm learning from our guest contributors - it's been an enormous learning experience. I don't always agree one hundred percent with everything they say (which is a good thing - I want Speed Secrets Weekly to provide more than just my opinion). I also find myself often thinking, "I've never thought of it that way before, or never explained it that way." I can only hope that you're learning as much from our guest contributors as I am! I appreciate every single contributor's thoughts, opinions, and stories.
Over the past year I've learned more about driving, coaching, writing, and producing this publication than I thought possible. I couldn't have done it without our guest contributors, and you, the reader. Certainly, a highlight has been the insights, the lessons, and the humor our guest contributors have shared.
Hearing other people's ideas and thoughts makes me think. It challenges my own beliefs. It makes me a better driver, better writer, better person. Isn't that why we do all of this, anyway? Isn't it about what we can learn from performance driving and racing that can be applied to other areas of our lives that matters most?
Okay, just having fun may be the first, and most important reason for what we do, but what we learn from it must be a close second.
For years I've felt that the most important part of my life in racing is what I've learned from it. And I learn these things from other people. In fact, it's the people and connections that I treasure the most.
In the early '90s, I was fortunate to have dinner with Jim Hall, of Chaparral fame. Listening to him talk about the thinking that led to putting those large wings on his Can-Am cars, and the development of the "sucker car" was fascinating. I once sat and talked with Denny Hulme, 1967 World Champion, while eating lunch at a driver training facility in Australia. Just weeks before he passed away, "The Bear" had as much passion for racing as anyone I've ever met. World Champion and Indy Car champion, Nigel Mansell tried taking me under his wing in his attempt to have all drivers demand bigger salaries from team owners. While I was just happy if I had enough money to live between then and the next race at that time, experiencing his dogged determination up close and personal was inspiring.
But just as important, I became friends with a photographer who invited me and my wife, Robin, to visit him and his family at their home in Booth Bay Harbor, Maine. The burns expert and plastic surgeon who looked after me after I was burned in a fire at Indy invited Robin and me to share a weekend at his summer cottage on Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire. A few years ago, while in Estonia to conduct an Inner Speed Secrets seminar, a local enthusiast gave me a tour of Tallinn, and then spent hours in his home over a home-cooked lunch and dinner telling me about the Estonian people - and their sense of pride for their country. The very special friends I have in Australia from my various trips to coach and conduct seminars down-under are amongst the highlights of my life (as is the experience of watching the Fairy penguins coming ashore at dusk on Phillip Island). I could go on...
It's what I've learned from these people, and so many others, that make my life around racing and performance driving so valuable. It's what I've learned that matters most, from the time that I made learning an objective in my racing. I hope there's something in my experiences for others to learn from.
"Ancora imparo: I am still learning."
- Ross Bentley