Is there anyone reading this who does not want to drive faster? Yep, just what I thought. Going faster can be seen in two ways: what can you do to drive faster, and what stops you from driving faster. It's this second viewpoint that driver coach E. Paul Dickinson writes about this week, getting you to think about what stops you from going quicker. By doing so, you can mentally prepare for what prevents you from driving quicker. –Ross
A buddy, with comparable skills, gets in your car and goes a second quicker. What does it prove? Embarrassing, yes, but likely shrugged off or justified. More than likely - and more to the question - you are too familiar with your car and consistently overdrive it.
A pro gets in your car and goes three or four seconds quicker. What does that prove? You might ask yourself, “What does he do that I don’t?” rather than a defensive thought like, “What do you expect? He’s a Pro!”
This “reasoning” is a means to a predetermined end – justifying our preconceived ideas, our existing concepts. We give greater heed to evidence and arguments that bolster our beliefs and we try to debunk or refute that which we find disagreeable.
What prevents quicker? You do!
We ALL have “right-disease”. We all believe how we do or see things is the correct way. We become so emotionally invested, we bend driving beliefs to support our theory. Unwilling to realize flaws in our understanding, we believe in what we have come to trust.
Our expectation of a particular outcome forms our confidence in it. We trust the knowledge, however flawed, with which we have come to our current understanding. This conviction becomes so ingrained we believe our misconceptions more than fact.
We cite the actual course of events as proof of being correct. It is like a placebo effect. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we're already acting as if it is already true. We behave in such a way that creates the outcome (prophecy) we believe.
Most all understanding and its corresponding actions have flaws, misconceptions. Identified, they outline the learning process. It is a truism that driver’s perceptions are built upon their knowledge and on-track practice. Based on this experience, if you believe your car cannot go through a corner more quickly – you will not allow it. Attempting to go quicker increases anxiety. Maxed-out anxiety produces failed attempts.
The fight-or-flight reflex applied to prey is also applied to on-track-experience. Our rapid-fire emotions can chart a course of thinking that is highly biased. We push threatening information away. We pull friendly information close. It explains our bias - how easily we ignore actual facts and perpetuate erroneous concepts.
Reasoning and deliberation come later and work slowly - often so slowly that misleading information has already become deeply-rooted, since we are acting as if it is already true – fulfilling our perceptions and prophecies. Subconsciously, we ignore or dismiss anything that threatens our opinions. It leaves our conscious effort with every opportunity to validate the flawed go-fast skills we have grown to trust, and with which we are unable to "go-faster."
Protecting one’s sense of self often makes us highly resistant to changing our beliefs. We actively seek out information to confirm our view – a confirmation bias. We gravitate to those who reinforce outcomes we have set ourselves up to believe. It is easy for us to assume our views had to be true from the outset when we seek-out those who validate erroneous beliefs.
If we open ourselves to “Maybe we are wrong,” then we have to look at change. Change requires new ways of thinking and doing. Change is uncomfortable because self-defined success is not always immediately assured. Good decisions can have bad outcomes. Of course they do, they are not yet well-practiced. Bad outcomes from good decisions serve to reinforce our old ways of thinking and doing, in which case we resist doing it again.
Resistance to change is a normal reaction when it threatens established beliefs. The more familiar we become the more we resist change. Change causes us to feel risk. So we vigorously defend our point of view to protect existing beliefs with which we are comfortable. We become risk averse - opposed to taking risks, or only willing to take small risks. The only real way to manage risk is to develop greater knowledge and skill.
Much of our knowledge and skill evolve invisibly. You do, unknowingly, outgrow what you think you know about driving. As driver knowledge matures, skills assume new levels of importance. Mistakes can easily be caused by continuing to apply improved skills to lesser knowledge, or lesser skills to improved knowledge. Mistakes are so ingrained, it is hard to think about why they are mistakes.
It is fundamental to identify problems and correct mistakes, e.g., missing the apex in Turn 3 or struggling with braking into Turn 7. The most commonly-practiced solution, “Fix a mistake turn-by-turn,” does not get to the core of the learning problem. It is a long process to fix, individually, every problem on every turn on every track each time you are there. Identify and correct mistakes at their root cause and you resolve the mistake over many turns, not just one.
When the friend who drove your car quicker (at the beginning of this article) says, “You can go through that turn faster...I did!”, you say, “No, I can’t. I’ve done it 50 times. It’s as fast as I can go.” The friend continues to encourage. So, next time we up the speed as encouraged. It is the only change. The outcome is not positive. Will we look for new techniques and fresh knowledge to try again? Or is the prophecy self-fulfilled?
We all prevent our own greater quickness because of our experience and the beliefs formed from them. It becomes as hard to imagine creating new techniques in support of fresh knowledge as it is to modify or discard old ones. Fresh ideas and new techniques do not occur naturally. We tend to resist these changes even when they represent growth. If we are to become quicker, resistance to change is inevitable. But, quicker can only occur with change.
The difference between a good amateur, and a good pro? Good amateurs practice until they get it right. Good pros practice until they can’t get it wrong.