Troy Hazard recalls how a car racing experience taught him a lesson about life and why it’s necessary to think more than one turn ahead.
TAKE A STEP back in time with me for a moment, back to a time and place in school and a moment when you were asked that ever-important question by a guidance counsellor or a teacher: ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’
Do you remember the question? Do you remember what your answer was? I do. I wanted to be a racing driver! I mean, how hard could that be, to make a living out of simply driving fast? I was 32 before I got into my first race car, 42 before I bought my first race car, and 43 before I learnt that I was a really lousy race car driver!
It took me a handful of businesses to realise that if I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up, then there was no way I could work out what the business would look like when it grew up.
Interestingly, it was my racing experience that taught me this very valuable lesson.
I was doing a practice session at Sydney Motorsport Park (formerly Eastern Creek Raceway). I was having a shocking time – I was six seconds off the pace. As I re-entered the pit lane after the last session of the day and parked the car, my race instructor and drive partner called me over and said, ‘Here’s your problem; you’re focused on turn one as you’re going into turn one’. Confused, I said, ‘Of course I am; I’m doing 185 kph with hundreds of thousands of dollars of machinery breathing down my neck.’
‘That’s where you’re going wrong’, he continued. ‘You’re focused on avoiding the accident, not winning the race. You know intuitively and instinctively how to take turn one; you’ve done it a hundred times. You need to be focused on the strategy of what you’re going to do in turn four as you enter turn one.’
And then the penny dropped. This was not just about my driving; this was also about my life. Every day I would wake up and focus on what I had to do that day. It was all about the turn right in front of me, the accident waiting to happen, and never about winning the race.
When we are so focused on going faster we are sometimes washing off the very speed we crave. The consciousness of living in the moment overwhelms our ability to visualise what the impact of today’s decisions are on the future.
Talk to any race car driver about speed and you’ll get the same answer: smooth equals speed. And the only way to find smooth is through the strategy of winning the race, not avoiding the accident.
A single moment at a racetrack changed the way I think about business, about life, and about the future. I saw that if I wanted to make a change in the way we did business I first had to make a change in my life.
I needed to understand my personal purpose, if I was ever going to give the business one.
So I took a week off. If I was going to work out what the future held for me then I needed to have a clear head and the space around me, where the very day to day I was trying to avoid did not clutter my vision of what could be with the focus of what was.
Over the course of the next few days I started furiously to write down what I wanted out of life. When I was sitting in my rocking chair in my twilight years, what would I look back on and say ‘wow, I’m glad I did that; those were the things that defined me as a human being, that gave me purpose’?
What I found was that with personal purpose and an understanding of what I wanted to be when I grew up, it was much easier for me to develop the business plan that would support that life and that lifestyle.
Now I had a new passion for what I was doing in business, because now the business had a purpose. Its purpose was to provide me the resource, the funds and the opportunity for me to achieve my personal purpose. Now the business was working for me; I was not working for it.
It’s an easy mistake to make as business leaders. We’re pretty good at writing plans, setting targets and creating metrics in the business to help us achieve our ‘goals’. But what we really need to ask ourselves is – why? Why do we do what we do? Is this what I was meant to be when I grew up? If not, then what am I going to do to change that position with purpose?