Are you really improving as much as you want to?

Have you ever asked a friend who lost weight and got in really good shape how they did it, and they said “I just watch what I eat and workout a couple of times a week”? Or perhaps you have asked a CEO or a similarly successful person to give you career advice; they commonly say something along the lines of “follow your passion and work hard”. In both of these scenarios, the advice given isn’t wrong, but we intuitively know that it is incomplete. There must be more to it!

Why do people who achieve success give us these short, albeit well meaning, but ultimately un-actionable pieces of advice?

It’s because they have been asked these questions thousands of times before, and in their experience, not only will the person asking the question fail to follow their advice, the asker is often not actually looking for advice! They just want to know that they’re doing fine and are on the right track. The fact is, very few people really want advice, and even fewer will actually follow through with action. Most just want to get things off their chest, they want to feel validated, but fewer than 1 in 1,000 actually want to make a change.

And the uncomfortable truth is, we all do this.

The moment someone shows us what it takes to make an improvement, change something for the better, and achieve success, we begin to mentally prepare a list of reasons why it wouldn’t work for us.

“I really should, but…”
“I don’t have the time”
“I’m just doing this for fun”
“My buddy’s uncle’s friend’s cousin tried that and it didn’t work”
“I don’t want to spend money on anything that doesn’t put me on track”
“I don’t learn from books”
“I just need more seat time”

We do this all the time

Each of us has something we want to get better at, or some part of our lives that we want to improve. Maybe we want to climb the career ladder, get in better shape, improve our finances, find love, learn a language, cook more often, eat healthier… or drive faster. Many of us have had goals like these for years, without having made much progress towards them, and it is really uncomfortable to be honest with ourselves and contemplate why have we not made as much progress as we would like.

When we say “I want to get faster”, our question to ourselves should be “What have I tried?” Most of us haven’t tried much outside of the seat time we get. And without really giving any of them a shot, we dismiss other methods by saying “That doesn’t work for me”, or “I should try that someday, but I don’t have the time right now”. Often, there is an underlying and unsaid mental block/obstacle behind those words. The mental block could be something like:

“I feel foolish spending money on an online course or trying to learn about driving from a book because it makes me feel like I’m trying too hard, and on top of that I don’t even think it will work.”

Having a mental block is OK! But it is to our own benefit to become self aware of it, and work to get past it. For those who don’t feel like they can learn about driving when they are off the track, consider this…

Musicians study theory along with practicing their instruments. Physicists study from textbooks to supplement their experiments in a lab. Basketball players study hours of film in addition to practicing on the court. Why would a driver only learn from seat time?

“I’m fine”

The most common mental block that holds us back becomes apparent when we say “I’m fine”. The problem isn’t saying it to other people, it’s that we say it to ourselves. With all the things that we say we want (improving our driving, finding love, saving more money), we convince ourselves that we are fine not having it. It’s a psychological mechanism through which we relieve ourselves from the burden of taking any action or making any change. Even if we have the entire formula for success written out in front of us, we still often don’t take the necessary action because we are “fine”.

To understand this phenomenon a little better, we can look deeper, at how the brain functions. The brain really likes routine; it loves mapping out programs that it can run on autopilot. Have you ever had the experience of getting to your desk at work, and realizing that you don’t actually remember driving there? That was your brain on autopilot. Making a conscious change to our programming takes a lot of effort. There is a built in resistance to changing the programming, and that is the reason why even when we want to make a change, we never “feel like it”. Scientists call it activation energy: the force required to get us to change from what we do on autopilot to doing something new.

The fact is, no one who wants to lose weight FEELS like going on a diet.
No one FEELS like eating boiled chicken and peas.
No one FEELS like doing burpees.

But once you get started, the new program becomes habit, and it becomes much easier to keep going. It is much easier to keep going to the gym once we start. It is much easier to find healthier meal options once we start looking. It is much easier to gain a deeper understanding of the nuances of driving once we open our mind to the possibility that it can be done off the track as well.

Fall in love with the process

Just because you read one book and didn’t immediately go 5 seconds faster in your next track session doesn’t mean you can’t learn about driving off the track. That’s like someone going to the gym for a week and giving up because they don’t look like a UFC fighter yet. Whatever outcome we are striving towards, we are much more likely to get there if we learn to love the process. When we say things like “I don’t learn that way”, we make that our self image. And when we make it our self image, we act as if it is a foregone conclusion, even though the self image may not be true!

Instead, try get to the root:

Why have I not improved as much as I want?
Because I don’t get enough seat time.
Why?
Because it is expensive.
What else can I do?
I’ve heard of books/sims/courses/etc, but that doesn’t work for me.
Why not?
Because… well, I’ve never tried.

You don’t have to do everything, but do something.

Look, I know this isn’t for everyone. If you are just driving for fun, then none of this really matters, and that is perfectly fine. But if you aspire to improve your skills (whether to compare against yourself or to win championships), then I strongly recommend that you challenge your preconceived notions about how you learn, as well as how much you can learn about driving when you are not behind the wheel of a car. Books are cheap. Online courses aren’t too expensive either. Sim race systems can range from a couple hundred to several thousand dollars. There’s high quality content on the internet for free! No matter what your budget is, there’s something for everyone.

It’s time for all of us to raise our game. The 2018 season is underway!

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10 Comments

  1. This is an awesome article, and this is the beginning of all “conquest’s” , I’m Turing 70 this year and just started racing Shifter Karts, last season, I know it’s an “In way deep ” start to racing , but loving it. I’ve been reading racing , racing sims and taking care of the health /weight side of life as well. This just reaffirms that even with a short racing season , that I know I will be going quicker this season. The racing starts between the ears, not always in the seat and behind a wheel.

    Being mentally prepared is crucial to a good race or season, and I have a long lay off to prepare that side of things. My next step is when the track opens is to enlist one of the young guns for driver training to complement Winters prep work.

    Thank You again for this article it is a great affirmation and exactly correct in being honest with ones self. Ask and reevaluate and goals will be achieved.

    1. Author

      Your comment was fantastic to read! I love your approach. I love the tenacity and the desire to leave no stone unturned in the pursuit of improvement.

  2. You’re like the Tony Robbins of Racing haha… very good article. Can you fix your website so I can subscribe? Yeah, that would be great. ;D

    1. Author

      Robb, thanks for pointing out the subscription error. It is now fixed 🙂

  3. Good push to face self deception. Did some of the inspiration come from the Meg Jay TED?

    1. Author

      No, but thanks for pointing her out. I just watched her TED Talk 🙂

  4. I’m a voracious racing learner and just stumbled upon your site today, content is fantastic, can’t wait to devour it all and looking forward to future posts!

    1. Author

      Marrek,

      Thank you for the kind words, and I’m glad you are finding it informative.

  5. Great, and painfully truthful, article!

    “Beyond Seat Time” 😎 We are kindred spirits! It drives me crazy when helpful “experts” give the “you just need seat time” advice to drivers who are struggling. WRONG; you need to extract and apply the LESSONS hidden withing your seat time. I have an an article about learning strategies for racers located here:
    http://www.intuitivespeed.com/learning/initial-research/

    Relating to this improvement topic of yours, I have used a training method I call Race Walking for 30+ years. In the past it has allowed me to be out of the car for 11 years and get to withing less than 0.2 of the lap record on my first weekend back… on a track I’d never seen before. The technique is explained in detail here:
    http://www.intuitivespeed.com/training-techniques/training-techniques/race-walking/

    Have a great season and keep up the good work!

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