On Love, Life, and Racing

The Fast and the Furious.  2001.   This is one of my favorite movies of all time.  But…I hate to say it…Vin, you’re a bit off.  Winning is great – and everything is WAY more fun when you win.  But sometimes, it’s not the winning part that makes it worthwhile.

You see, I race cars.  I’m good at it – really good.  It’s taken me years to become so.  I win a lot – sometimes by an inch, and sometimes by a mile (figuratively).  My racing is far less fast and furious – it’s technical and controlled, and more like downhill skiing than anything else.  It’s not a wheel-to-wheel race; it’s timed, and the fastest time wins.  If you hit a cone, they add 2 seconds to your final time.  I struggled with developing my skills for many years, but in mid-2012, something clicked and I haven’t looked back. I’m not a National Champion, but I’m at a level where they’ve made me an instructor, so I can teach the new kids all my bad habits 😉

I drive around cones arranged in a predetermined course layout in a parking lot or airfield.  Sometimes we have a drag-racing start, and sometimes we don’t.  It sounds simple, but there’s so much more to it.  There are sweepers, and slaloms, and blind corners, and giant turns with both increasing and/or decreasing radii.  There’s looking ahead to where you want to go (which is sometimes behind you), there’s planning your line (do you make arcs? Is it point-and-shoot?), and there’s knowing when you’ve got to grow some balls, get out of your comfort zone, and take that risk, because the reward will be great.

2013 East

The 2013 Solo National Championships East Course Map. You get to walk the course before driving, so you have an idea of where it goes, but you really don’t know what happens until you’re behind the wheel – much like life.  You might think you know how you’d handle things, or what they’re going to be like, but you never really know till you’re in that situation.

When I am instructing, the first thing I try to teach my students is to separate your inputs.  Make sure that when you are braking, accelerating, or turning, you’re doing one at a time (and do your accelerating and braking in a straight line).  After they’ve mastered that, I teach them to think about blending inputs – but to be cognizant of the fact that you can only ask the car to do 100% – in any combination.  You can do 44% turning and 56% acceleration, or 28% braking and 72% turning, but you can’t ask for more.  If you do, you’ll spin (see the end of my YouTube video), get off line, hit cones, scrub speed, break something…in any case, it most likely will not be your fastest run.

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Not my fastest (overturning and braking at the same time, with no ABS), but I suppose it made for a cool photo!

The more I’ve raced, the more I’ve realized that principle of blending inputs is more applicable to life than one would initially think.  Any given person has career, family, friends, hobbies, a relationship…that’s a lot of directions in which to be pulled.  And you can’t dedicate more than 100% of your time, effort, attention – your life, basically – to any combination of them.  There are some people that have to dedicate 100% to work sometimes.  Or 100% to family.  I was nearly 100% hobby for a while.  And that’s okay.  The remaining components of one’s life just have to wait.

I have always believed relationships are 100/100, not 50/50.  Each person gives 100% – of what they are able.  Love is a series of percentages of input.  Sometimes it’s 100%, sometimes it’s 50%, sometimes it’s 2%.  If someone is at 90% work and 8% family and 2% relationship, that 2% is 100% of what he can dedicate to the relationship at the moment, and that is all that anyone could ever ask for.

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Of course, 2% forever might not be ideal, but that’s the other beauty of racing and life.  If you’re turning at 100%, and there’s nothing left for anything else, it’s difficult, and frustrating, and very much not what you want to be doing at that moment.  Believe me.  To have your hands and arms crossed up, fighting the car to make sure you’re still turning while losing speed….it’s no fun.  I also tend to hold my breath and forget to blink when I’m at nearly 100% of an input, so that’s also not great.

One of my favorite instructors taught me that while entering a corner, I need to find my exit – the moment when I’ll be able to reduce steering and increase acceleration.  Even if I can’t see it upon entry, or even halfway through the corner, I need to trust and have faith that the exit is there.  And then when I find it, I need to recognize it, unwind the wheel, take a breath, and get back on the gas.

Of course, this is easier said than done…”ask any racer, any real racer.”  We all just want to hit the gas and go!  Go fast!  Faster!  We want to win!  We want to do it all, have it all!  But the truly skilled drivers know that sometimes they can’t, and the go-fast-pedal has to wait.  These drivers are also the ones with the most faith – in the car, in the course, and in themselves – especially when they can’t see the end of the turn.  It might take a lot of seat time, but they inherently know that eventually they’ll see the exit.  And when they do, they can unwind the wheel, roll on the accelerator, and they will be able to breathe and keep going.

Vin Diesel, I very much disagree with your statement.  It might be great, and make it more fun, but it’s not all about winning.  It’s about how you get there, how you win, and how you balance your inputs.  Sure, life is a series of connecting, never-ending sweepers, and it can be hard work to traverse them sometimes.  But it’s that constant adjustment and the faith that there’s an exit that helps us keep going forward.  When things get tough, when you get crossed up and start losing speed, when you’re at 100% with one thing, it’s so important to remember that you’ll always eventually unwind the wheel, and when you do, you’ll be able to breathe again and hit the gas.

 

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