Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to reach back into my past and do a little driving instruction. Not the “Can you parallel park” type of driving instruction; the “Here’s the right line through Corner 2 and Mosport to go fast, but be safe” type.
It had, as I said, been a while, so when the call came to lend my services to the Cadillac Experience, I was more than pleased to be able to oblige. But it was also a learning experience, to say the least.
Not so much on the customer side – everyone of whom were attentive listeners, able to take direction, albeit with a couple of exceptions (does the fact that bloggers live in the cyber world isolate them from the realities of the physical world?) – but from my side.
For one, it had been a while since I sat in the passenger seat of a car going super-legal speeds on a racetrack. It took a little getting used to.
It had also been a while since I had been called on to talk drivers through a corner, whether from the driver’s side or the passenger side. And as people say, if you want to really learn about something, teach.
Just to be clear, this is not a racing instruction course (though I did a bit of racing in the past). It’s really about General Motors giving the owners a real appreciation of the capabilities of their Cadillac, with the hope, one would imagine, that they would buy another.
Drivers were run through a series of handling and stopping exercises in addition to the on-track portion, and what it drove home to me (if you’ll pardon the expression) was how much emotion has to be taken out of such exercises to get them right. Want to stop in the pit box properly? Don’t get caught up in the excitement of acceleration and the scenery whipping by. Want to get the slalom correct? Feel the car; don’t try to go faster than the last guy. Want to get Corner 2 right? Don’t yank the wheel hard just because you can’t see the corner dropping away.
The common factor in all these is that getting the drivers to look further ahead almost immediately solved most of the herky-jerky steering motion. Just getting them to scan ahead to pick up their turn-in points, apex, and exit, got some of my students up to speed with such aplomb I was asked to politely slow them down to give them something to work on in the afternoon.
The key to being effective on the track is to focus on hitting your marks, and not worry about the speed. You, the driver, are just sitting there. No reason to get excited. And, for the most part, plenty of time to pick where you need to put the car, using brakes, steering, and throttle smoothly.
On the flipside, problems come immediately when the gaze drops to the hood ornament.
It’s exactly the same in business. When you plant your gaze firmly upon just the day before you, you are doomed to be reactionary (and probably, even a bit panicked).
But when you take the long view and understand the strategic objective towards which you are working, your motions become smoother, your heart rate drops, and you become far more effective – today and tomorrow.
This is not to say that you should not react to a crisis of the moment, but crisis should not be your constant operating condition. And if you’re operating to a strategy, you’ll be much more able to deal with the unanticipated without throwing the whole operation off-course.
Smooth and fast wins the day. And the year, and the decade.
— Andrew Ross, Publisher and Editor
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