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How Time at the Track Has Led to Success at the Office

With my 40th birthday just around the corner, I recently found myself reflecting on the impact racing has had on both my personal and professional life. As I looked at some of the greatest lessons I’ve learned on-track, I quickly realized that these same lessons have played a significant role in the success I’ve experienced within my professional career. Here’s what I can tell you.

A Brief Background About my Career

While I won’t proclaim to be a self-made millionaire with endless amounts of cash to throw at motorsports, I have had success in my career as someone who has continued to climb the ranks within their industry and is in the process of launching a new business in an area where I am deeply passionate. I’ve developed a few habits along the way that have served me well and I can point to specific decisions during my career that have unlocked significant opportunities.

Sweat the Details

If you’ve ever spent time on track, you know that details matter. You double and triple check critical nuts and bolts. You go over each system on the car or bike to ensure you won’t have a failure while you’re on track and pushing the limits. Like you, I have my track day checklist that has served me well. And this is a habit that has also served me well at the office.

Throughout my career, I’ve never been afraid of the details. I’ve seen colleagues who wanted to fly at the 30K foot level and it never failed that they would eventually get blindsided by a detail. But not me. I’ve taken pride in knowing the details and using this information to stay two steps ahead of where I need to be, giving me just a little extra time (and knowledge) to make better decisions along the way. Too many leaders seem to find pride in not knowing the details, as if they are “too good” to know certain information. Don’t fall for this trap. Just like you sweat the details before you go on track, sweat the details at the office!

Take Calculated Risks

Any good racer can pick up a track map and point to the best places to make a pass. Whether it’s a hard braking zone where the right timing can yield valuable feet or a tricky section of turns where a specific line can result in greater exit speed, there are always specific areas of a track that make for better passing opportunities. This also means that there are areas of the track that make for very poor passing zones. Insufficient track space may be areas of the track where your best bet is to follow the leader and wait for a better opportunity to overtake them.

The same philosophy holds true at the office. You will find times in your work where pushing the limits will yield huge rewards without requiring you to take significant risks. What’s equally, if not more important is that you’re aware of when the risk outweighs the reward. When will challenging an idea or decision provide you with an opportunity to position yourself as a thought leader? When might pushing the situation leave you looking for another job? Your ability to weigh risk and reward is one that has likely paid dividends on track. Make sure you’re using this skill to your advantage in the office as well.

Never Stop Improving

Think about the last time you were on track and set a new personal best lap time or experienced your highest race finish. Odds are, that payoff didn’t happen overnight. You worked hard on and off track to improve the way you drive, to improve your vehicle’s setup, and to push harder than you ever did before. You likely realized small improvements each time you went out on track. Or maybe you experienced setbacks along the way that forced you to go back to the drawing board. What remained throughout the process was your never-ending pursuit of speed.

Your continuous pursuit for improvement may have a bigger impact on your career than any other lesson you’ve learned on track. This is a lesson that can be applied to almost any professional situation and can differentiate you from every other team member. By bringing this lesson into the office, you’ll show everybody that you’re not only committed to getting the job done, but also committed to finding ways to get it done even better.

These are just a few of the valuable lessons I’ve learned on track that have served me well throughout my career. They have helped me push the envelope at the right times, demonstrate my value above and beyond what was expected, and have opened up new and rewarding opportunities that may never have been available.

But these are just my experiences. What are yours?

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