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Chris LoCurto

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April 6, 2012

Leadership Lessons From The Racetrack

Leadership can be found in the best of places. This past weekend, I drove in two races at Carolina Motorsports Park. I’m proud to say that I had two second-place finishes. Even more exciting to me was the 30 minutes I spent fighting off a much, MUCH faster DSR.

I beat him to turn one on our start and kept him behind me the whole time. The stress of that car on my backside for 30 minutes was amazing. At every corner, every breaking zone, he was trying to get close enough to pass. And every time I made a .1 second mistake, I could see him getting a little closer.

If I took a turn too fast and got loose on the exit, he was there. When we started to lap cars, I could hear his main thought, Get stuck, so I can catch you!! I don’t think I actually exhaled for 30 minutes until I went under the flagman’s stand and took the checkered flag. I should have gone straight to medical to drain off the adrenaline that was coursing through my body!

What’s odd is that the second second place might not have happened if not for the day before. During the first race, I discovered something. I found myself slowing down as I passed cars.

When I was behind another car, I was all over him. I pushed him as hard as possible to get him to make the mistake that would allow me to get by. But the moment I cleared him, I stopped pushing as hard. About three cars later, this voice inside my head said, You, uh, you here for a Sunday drive? Just because you passed that car doesn’t mean someone’s not coming after you.

I realized if someone closed in on me, my slower momentum would have allowed them to slingshot by me. At that moment, I began focusing on how to go the whole race on the edge. I believe it’s what helped me fight for so long in Sunday’s race.

In the middle of that thought process, I said to myself, This would make a great leadership blog post. Yep! Flying around a racetrack with enough adrenaline in me to kill a Thoroughbred, I thought of you guys. It lasted about .0003 seconds before I realized I still had to pilot a FORMULA CAR!!! But it still happened.

I think in leadership, there are many times when we need to have our foot on the gas. We don’t always need to run wide open, but most of the time we do. And sometimes, we have a tendency to get comfortable and slow down—only to find out that someone behind us is about to fly right by.

In those moments, we have to remind ourselves and our teams that we can breathe as soon as we get to the checkered flag. It’s not that far away, and it will be there sooner than you think. Don’t give up. As one of my pit crew guys radios me when I need to hear it, “PUSH PUSH PUSH!!”

Question: Have there been times in your life where not pushing hurt you or times when you did push hard and succeeded? 

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  • LouiseThaxton

    There have been times when I pushed and succeeded – and times when I allowed my eye to stay off the ball.  I will say this – that when you nod off at wheel – and then someone comes up from behind and beats you, it is humbling to say the least.  And a reminder that you could have succeeded if you had kept your focus.  
     

  • http://specializingintheimpossible.wordpress.com/ Laura Johnson

    Strangely enough, in the past couple years, I have discovered I LOVE living on the edge in terms of pushing myself in the business world. As I commented on your last post, I don’t have much experience… so I guess a positive way I could look at things is, since I don’t have much experience, I have SO many opportunities to push myself :) I just need to remember to not kill myself…..

    • http://www.ChrisLoCurto.com Chris LoCurto

      Haha…yes, the last part is the most important.

      • http://specializingintheimpossible.wordpress.com/ Laura Johnson

        At my previous job I pushed myself too hard. I would stay a couple hours after everyday, cut my breaks short or not take them at all, and even come in on Saturdays, working 9 hours one of those Saturdays. I completely burned myself out, even my body reacted by causing me to have flu symtoms. I think I learned my lesson :)

        • http://www.ChrisLoCurto.com Chris LoCurto

          God’s built in alarm, huh? ;-)

        • http://specializingintheimpossible.wordpress.com/ Laura Johnson

          Definitely!
          I now know on a personal level what people are talking about when they say sometimes God lets us get sick, to force us to take a break/rest!

  • http://www.bluebridgecomm.com/ Joel Fortner

    Absolutely there have been times when I haven’t pushed hard enough. And there have been plenty of times when I was pushing but on the wrong thing or in the wrong direction. Goal setting helps tremendously though. Prayer helps even more.

    For instance I asked God for motivation to push push push on my business this year to grow it. He answered that prayer quickly, and I believe the reason was because my faith in and reliance on him grew. Simply put, I’ve been more faithful. I’ve worked to bring myself closer to him, and I’ve given of myself in a variety of ways, all of which were centered around God. Give and ye shall receive! The thing is I don’t believe God really gave me anything other than something that brought me closer to him. The purpose of it all.

    • http://ChrisLoCurto.com Chris LoCurto

      Preach it brother!!!

  • http://unknownjim.com/ Jim Woods

    Chris, love this! I’d say what it really comes down to is MOMENTUM. Something that is often overlooked and undervalued. I need to apply this momentum principle more to myself and ask others what they see. I think we are often a terrible judge of ourselves. If my wife says “you seem tired”, I shouldn’t argue and fight it unless absolutely necessary. I should go take a nap. This one of the best ways to avoid burnout and fatigue.

    • http://www.ChrisLoCurto.com Chris LoCurto

      I could use one now. :-)

    • http://specializingintheimpossible.wordpress.com/ Laura Johnson

      Yes! Listen to your wife :)
      I’ve driven myself into the ground… It stinks to have all the flu symptoms, not because I have the flu, but because I drove myself for too long without rest–I don’t recommend it.

  • http://www.janabotkin.net/ Jana Botkin

    From reading the comments, I’ve concluded that the checkered flag is a cautionary thing which means to slow down and catch your breath and stop pushing.

    Is there any equivalent in business? Seems to me that you can’t ever stop pushing, that there is never a checkered flag time.

    • http://www.ChrisLoCurto.com Chris LoCurto

      I think there are many races in business where you need to keep the foot down. But like Mark said, “when you got a couple minutes to give high-fives, spray champagne and get you picture take before the next race.”

    • http://www.bluebridgecomm.com/ Joel Fortner

      Sometimes you need to push to rest. Push to think. Push for a needed break. And then get pushing on your business again.

  • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

    Chris! I have seen this principle working in my life when I run the half marathon. At several points during the run, I am tempted to give up due to physical stress. But, when I see others gear up, I keeps me pushing till I complete the finish line.

    It’s true. Perseverence yields great reward when we don’t give up.

    When you say “Push, Push, Push”, I am reminded of my youth pastor telling PUSH —
    P- Pray
    U-Until
    S-Something
    H-Happens

    • http://www.ChrisLoCurto.com Chris LoCurto

      And we all can focus a little more on pray in stress situations, that’s for sure!

    • http://www.bluebridgecomm.com/ Joel Fortner

      Uma, I’ll remember this during my half marathon tomorrow!

      • http://specializingintheimpossible.wordpress.com/ Laura Johnson

        Good luck!! So envious :)

      • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

        That woud be great Joel! All the best for your half marathon!

        Subject: [closblog] Re: Leadership Lessons From The Racetrack

  • http://www.indueseason.net skottydog

    Chris, I could read the race car analogies every day! I love it! Many times in my life I’ve found that NOT pushing myself yields poor results, or no results at all.

    I’ve heard many people in my Christian circles say, “It’s impossible to walk with God and stay where you are.” Outside of the Christian community, don’t you think this same rule applies as well?

    It’s impossible to move forward with ANY aspect of your life when you’re standing still, or in your case, taking your foot off the gas.

    • http://www.ChrisLoCurto.com Chris LoCurto

      Agreed. The saying is business is, “If you’re not growing, your’e dying.”

    • http://www.bluebridgecomm.com/ Joel Fortner

      “It’s impossible to walk with God and stay where you are.” Love it. So incredibly true!

  • http://www.lifeofasteward.com Loren Pinilis

    I think the funniest thing was how you thought of the blog post idea while racing.
    Just this morning I was thinking about how sometimes I settle and start to coast. When I don’t have an immediate deadline in front of me, it’s easy for me to relax my efforts. But I want to go strong the whole time!

    • http://www.ChrisLoCurto.com Chris LoCurto

      Me as well. And it’s not to say you can’t have coasting time, just not when you’re in the race. :-)

  • http://www.ChrisLoCurto.com Chris LoCurto

    Ok, so I’ve switched back to Disqus for now since WP comment system isn’t working either. Sorry folks.

  • http://www.lilykreitinger.com Lily Kreitinger

    I’m about to take this conversation into a whole different direction. Since I’m not a race car driver and I normally don’t even drive above the speed limit, I couldn’t stop laughing (inside, of course or people sitting by me will think I’m weird)because I’ve heard the same words, “push, push, push!”… in the delivery room at the maternity ward. The analogy is similar, though (and I hope my fellow moms agree). If you don’t make it happen, no one else can do it for you. And you will experience a miracle that brings tears to your eyes and the rewards will be beyond your wildest dreams.

    • http://ChrisLoCurto.com Chris LoCurto

      BAH!!!! Yeah, same exact concept. :-)

    • http://www.indueseason.net skottydog

      Great analogy, Lily! Except, in the delivery room, there’s no caution flag! It’s push, push, push until the race is over!

  • tbric

    I’m glad you realized you were still racing before you got passed.
    I have the same thing going on all the time, doing one thing and thinking of something else. I’m trying to limit the amount of other things going on in my head and concentrate on the task at hand.

    (ps Anyone else having problems logging in?)

    • http://www.lilykreitinger.com Lily Kreitinger

      I’m still getting good old error 404…

  • http://hardandsimple.blogspot.com Mark S.

    Haha, well when you’re racing’ you race, and when you win you celebrate. I don’t create natural law, I just follow it ;)

  • http://hardandsimple.blogspot.com Mark S.

    Haha. Receiving inspiration at high speed huh? I have received revelation while making a PB&J sandwich before, so I understand!!
    I think it’s easy to let off the gas anytime you achieve something, like when you broke past a car, I’ve let up after getting a raise, or finishing a project. When in reality it’s the momentum of that breakthrough that could propel me even further ahead!
    I think the key is, like you said, knowing when it’s time to PUSH! PUSH! And when you got a couple minutes to give high-fives, spray champagne and get you picture take before the next race.

    • http://ChrisLoCurto.com Chris LoCurto

      “when you got a couple minutes to give high-fives, spray champagne and get you picture take before the next race.”

      LOVE IT!!!

  • http://www.ricardoequips.com Ricardo Butler

    Yea, I like to call that, “missed opportunities”. And that was from just being too lazy at times under the name of “I’m so tired!” That was pure folly. And on the other end as far as over pushing, I turned into a driver and harmed a lot of relationships in my leadership because I didn’t see things happening. I had to learn how to have a proper balance between people and policy.

    • http://ChrisLoCurto.com Chris LoCurto

      Good point Ricardo!!