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A few months ago I started driving on F1 circuits, including Spa-Francorchamps, Monza and Suzuka. I’ve driven dozens of exotic cars, from the Porsche 911 GT3 to the Alpine A220 and the Ferrari F50. That is, I drove them virtual via Gran Turismo (GT7). GT7 is a racing simulator that, with the steering wheel and pedals, comes as close as possible to real driving. F1 teams have their own versions of this simulator (worth hundreds of thousands more, of course) that they spend countless hours training on when they’re not on track.
Almost everything about the art of racing can be applied to business. Here are four racing lessons that can help you accelerate your career.
1. Prepare too much
F1 racers know the track. They can drive it in their sleep. Indeed they do. Here’s the one from Red Bull Sergio Perez Driving Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez with his back to the screen and eyes closed, on a dummy steering wheel, virtually ahead of the 2022 Mexican Grand Prix. Perez was third at the Mexican Grand Prix. So much preparation goes into every F1 race. His teammate, Max Verstappen, earned the highest podium finish, finishing 17 seconds ahead of him.
When I look back over the first 30 years of my career, there is one common denominator among my most successful articles, pitches and campaigns: I was too well prepared. I didn’t just wing it. I spent a lot of time researching, asking questions and jotting down notes and ideas. On my first try I didn’t get gold on any of the GT7 tracks. In fact, it took about five laps to get a good feel for it, then another 10 or so laps to get it right. Show up over-prepared and your chances of success increase exponentially.
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2. Go slow to go fast
“Slow in, fast out” is one of the first lessons race car drivers learn. Anyone can drive fast in a straight line; it’s how you handle the corners that make you a great racer. The long straights at Monza make it one of the fastest circuits in all of F1, but a long straight is often followed by a series of two corners (e.g. fast left then right) called a chicane. It is here where drivers typically make up (or lose) time. Navigating a chicane is a skill in itself, as you’ll need to drive a bit slow for the first half to take the second half at full speed.
All turns are not created equal and knowing what is most important requires a keen sense of priorities. Slow in, fast out is the stimulating equivalent of “playing big” – focusing on the bigger picture, rather than the details. Working slowly means more thoughtful, creative work that can help you “play big” in your career. And that ability to slow down can accelerate your business when you least expect it.
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3. Know your brake (break) point
Any racer worth their salt can tell you with pinpoint accuracy exactly where each of the braking points are on any corner of a track. Braking points are different for every driver and depend on many variables: the driver’s ability, the capabilities of the car, the condition and wear of the tires, and even how much fuel they carry. Finding the braking points is the key to going faster and winning a race.
As a professional you have your own breaking points, and these are also based on different things: how many hours you put in, how much stress you are under, whether you are hungry, tired, etc. If you break too early, you risk already you lose momentum, but if you break too late – or not at all – and you’re likely to crash. Most of us learn this the hard way. Don’t want to crash and burn? Learn to build breaks into your schedule when you need them. It is not only crucial for your mental health, but also necessary for your physical health. Find your breaking points, unless your goals are panic attacks and migraines.
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4. Follow the racing line
We all know that the white and yellow lines painted on each road are to prevent cars from crashing into each other. What you may not know is that the optimal driving line rarely follows those painted lines. I’m not advocating that you ignore the traffic rules. But when you put an F1 driver on the road, they don’t see the paint, they see the racing line.
That’s because going as fast as possible requires you to go as straight as possible. The corners are the challenges that the drivers have to overcome. That’s why you see the F1 drivers using the entire track from edge to edge.
Racers know that the best lap times are the result of creation the straightest possible line around the circuit. Twisting and turning takes precious time. You may be temporarily ahead, but without following the right line, I guarantee you will end up at the back of the pack.
For marketers, this can mean engaging your audience wherever they are on the buyer’s journey. For manufacturers, completing each step of the process ensures quality craftsmanship. Whatever your role, industry or industry, don’t succumb to shortcuts. Use the full track (and any tool at your disposal) and follow the proper process.
You don’t beat your competitors by taking shortcuts, you beat them by being a better driver. Learning how to navigate the twists and turns of your professional journey can help you stay focused, accelerate your career, and position you for success.