Be Your Best

‘Braking Later’ Means Big Success For You

by on Jan.20, 2016, under Blog Posts

In Formula One Racing (basically the “Indy 500” type race cars, which is absolutely huge in Europe and worldwide), the fastest racing on the planet, reactions in fractions of fractions of a second make the difference between winning, losing, and potentially dying vs. staying alive.  I picked up on something in Formula One Racing, and specifically, from one very successful Race Driver in that sport, that I think is a ‘golden nugget’ and applies to business and pretty much success at anything undertaken.

I watched an interview recently with Lewis Hamilton, a 3-time World Champion in Formula One racing, who drives multi-million dollar race cars and wins races all over the world.  Hamilton is the youngest World Champion in Formula One history, achieving this status at age 23.

When he was talking about ‘what makes him so successful?’, besides the things I expected him to say in answering this question:  massive passion, starting racing at a very young age, supportive parents, etc… I heard him mention an additional factor that was subtle, but I think incredibly profound and important.

Braking Later

What I heard Hamilton say is that he went from being very good to great as a race car driver when he was taught the most important lesson of all in race car driving by his father: the importance and value of braking later and harder when going into turns.  When I think of race car driving, I naturally think of pressing harder on the gas pedal, acceleration, achieving highest speed, etc… for what wins races.  Braking and slowing down better does not seem like a super important element — but I am not a race car driver!

Hamilton was taught by his father, who had to self-teach himself about racing while Lewis was young in the sport, that ‘the best race drivers brake “here” in this turn’ — “you, Lewis, want to brake much later, and harder, in the turn here”.

When Lewis Hamilton started mastering the process of braking later and harder in the turns than all the other drivers, he began to dominate racing.  He still attributes this element or process/skill to his dominance today.

How ‘Braking Later’ Can Impact You

On the surface this braking later and harder in the turn thing would appear to have no relevance whatsoever to anything except for racing.  But…I thought about what this breakthrough of braking later and harder meant in racing, and if this concept can be adapted to business or personal life success.  And…I think there is a golden nugget lesson.

What braking later and harder means in Formula One Racing is that Lewis Hamilton was testing and then mastering taking a calculated risk in an area of the sport that may not have been exploited or understood to be as impactful as it really is or can be.  Lewis’s dad studied racing and determined that one common denominator of the best and fastest drivers was that they braked later and harder in the turns than other drivers.  He then theorized that if Lewis could brake even later and harder than those best drivers were, then he would be even faster than them.  Hamilton tested and practiced this process over and over, pushing the point of braking later and later in the turns.  Even though braking later and harder is “risky”, which is why drivers do not naturally do this beyond their comfort zone, by “testing” taking this calculated risk Hamilton could then reduce the risk by practicing and mastering this very specific skill.

The way that I adapt this concept to business or personal life success is this:

If you take the time to analyze your life or business/job aspects that are important to you, there should be trends or themes or aspects/elements that you may not have previously dug into or pushed or focused on.  When those are identified, it is very valuable to test/experiment taking a different approach(s) on those areas to see what happens.  Even though the tested approach may be “risky” in your mind, you can test in a small way that highly limits your risk while you are seeing what the impact is of your new approach.  In Lewis Hamilton’s racing example, when he was testing braking later and later and later in the turns, I am certain there were no other cars on the track and no walls to run into!  In this way, the testing could be done while minimizing the risk.  When the testing results in a breakthrough finding, then that new process can be focused on and practiced, and mastered.  By practicing and mastering what appears to be a risky process for everyone else, you can reduce the risk dramatically if you are a “master” at it.

I think another big key here is that just simply watching what everyone else does and “copying” them does not produce huge success in business or in life.  Copying what you see as success can produce “good” results, but I think the gold nugget lesson is that to drive extraordinary results, you have to look at good and great examples, find critical-to-success potential areas of focus, and then test alternative approaches or processes to find breakthrough opportunities.

Hard, But Worth It

All this is easier said than done.  First, you have to take the time to step back from what you are doing to think and analyze the bigger picture in order to find the critical areas of potential focus.  Most of us are moving and doing what we are doing such that stepping back and analyzing the big picture may seem like it is unproductive or a waste of valuable time.  And then testing a risky process or alternative approach — well, riskiness creates fear in many cases, and fear can stop us from trying a new or different approach.  In nearly all cases, the fear we have is simply our fantasy of a potential bad experience that appears real, but is not.

Taking time to identify critical areas to test alternative approaches, and then testing those in a way that minimizes risk, has the potential to unlock breakthroughs in many aspects of life.  Finding and then practicing the successful alternative (and usually unconventional) approaches can be career- and life changing.

Be Your Best,

Todd D. Gifford


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