Fast cars — a mental wellness story
Fast cars changed my life. Ferraris, Lamborghini’s, and race cars. I’ve pushed hundreds of exotics to their limits — and that happened because of mental wellness skills.
I didn’t set out to become an exotic car tuner — but I did set out to have adventures. My ability to make this happen leverages vulnerability, curiosity, empathy, patience, risk assessment, humility, and radical acceptance. A healthy dose of persistence is the container for everything else.
In my early 20s, I was in college, working full time, and a unsure what my next step was. I was shy and insecure and didn’t have much confidence. My free time was spent surfing, riding my motorcycle, experimenting on my first race car, and driving auto-cross races. (auto-cross is the most minimal kind of car racing — done in a coned off track in parking lots at relatively low speeds)
Frankly, I was bored and couldn’t figure out how to get out of my boredom.
The catalyst that ended my boredom happened over dinner with Marc — a coach from my high-school days. Marc was asking about my life and about my desire — and car racing came up. So Marc changed the course of my life.
He told me a story about a friend who had just completed a one week racing school in California. I had to get to that school. That night, I used vulnerability while we were talking to share this desire — that I had no idea how to achieve.
Over the next 6 months, I reserved a place in the driving school, saved up to cover my expenses, arranged time off at work, and figured out planes, cars, and hotels. All these tasks were first timers for me. I used persistence, curiosity, lots of patience, and more vulnerability to get myself successfully to that school.
Then I met someone at the school.
I was super excited about the school and had no idea what traffic was like in the area so I got to the track 90 minutes before class was scheduled to start. I know — sounds crazy — and I was absolutely not going to be late.
And this was an opportunity — because a strange looking car pulled up and the driver (MH) asked if I was there for the school. I admitted that I was, found out that MH was also there for school, and we started chatting about cars. I learned that the car was a rareish Ferrari 308 GT4 (2,826 made), MH was a psychologist and business consultant, lived an hour away, and was born in Zimbabwe.
When my wrenching came out, MH asked if I could troubleshoot a noise from the suspension. I admitted that I’d never seen a Ferrari before — but my trepidation was ignored. Minutes later, I was driving my first Ferrari around the parking lot and trying to hear the front shocks over the rumbling engine behind me!
Truly this was a surreal moment. The clutch was heavy, shifter was rough, throttle was sensitive, pedals were offset from the steering wheel — and I couldn’t hear any suspension noise. My willingness to listen and try to help — a face to face networking moment — was key to the years of exotic tuning that followed. To make this happen, I had to be curious, have empathy, take a risk (remember, I was a shy surfer kid), and patiently listen to stories.
And then I was working on craziness.
MH and I were at the same hotel and most evenings compared notes about the days learning and driving. I learned more from hearing another student’s experience. By the end, MH knew that I wanted to stay in the area and wanted to race. I was flying out for a few days to visit a friend in Colorado and would then be back in the area. MH asked me to call when I got back.
When I called, MH said I had 6 interviews available with people who raced — to work for them. Networking is amazing!! After interviews, all 6 said they would hire me and I took the one with the crazy cars. To make that happen, I again had to leverage curiosity, radical acceptance, patience, and some breathing to stay calm 🙂
Track time! Over the next 7 years I got burned, scraped, broke a finger, and worked on all kinds of interesting engine driven rides. I also was sponsored by my shop to race — they bought parts, I put in all the sweat and late nights.
Running a race car on the track is ridiculously fun — traffic, passing, staying off the guard rails, and always balancing on a razor’s edge. Side projects included race bikes, karts, and friend’s race cars. Skills used — persistence and curiosity and patience and humility ( need humility to ask people for help ).
The blur of the day job. At a certain point, we can get used to anything. Clutches, water pumps, valve adjustments, and tuning multi-carburetor engines becomes a daily reality — boring even on cars made in the hundreds.
The standouts were 1 of 10 or even 1 of 1. And a lot of days were just a grind. (yeah, I know that sounds crazy). Persistence — that was the key skill. Curiosity was second when we had unusual problems. Empathy was key to talking with customers and hearing about their cars.
Allergy to solvents can wreck a tuner’s career. After 7 years, I learned that the solvents we used daily were going to kill me. A career change was necessary — because I wanted to see 35. I hunted around and found a pivot — which ultimately got me into coding, designing, and scaling out other skills. That pivot required more curiosity, a ton of risk assessment, humility, radical acceptance, and patience.
People rarely ask about the mental and emotional skills needed for success — and then they fail at achieving those same results. Anyone could have achieved my results. My mechanicing skills are good but not insane (I’ve worked with better mechanics). What I did have was mental wellness skills — that made all the difference.
My adventures are 100% a results of mental wellness skills — trouble shooting the brakes on a priceless pontoon Testarossa was doable because of my mental skills.
Every success you want is the result of mental wellness skills.
How much success do you want? Which skills do you need to learn?