If you watched yesterday's Indy 500, you witnessed a dramatic finish that was literally determined in the last corner of the last turn of the race. Rookie driver J.R. Hildebrand, who looked to have the race in the bag, took the final corner hot, got into the marbles (tire remnants that are left behind during a race that are very slippery) and crashed. Dan Wheldon quickly swooped in under Hildebrand, hit the gas, and took the checkered flag. A couple seconds changed everything for both drivers.
For Hildebrand, my heart sank. I remember yelling "NO!" at the TV, and couldn't believe how fast his fate was determined by pushing just a little too much on the throttle, or missing a line by an inch or two...oh well, that's racing.
Wheldon, on the other hand, quickly took advantage of the situation, steadied his line, and moved from second place to champion. Just like that.
I kept thinking about the importance of being prepared and aware of your surroundings so you can act quickly when you need to. The same can apply to being successful at work, art or building a career. What can easily be written off as someone being lucky is usually a case where someone was openly looking for opportunity, and when it presented itself, they were ready, and they acted. Purely an active vs. a passive action.
While most of us don't have crashing competitors of whom to take advantage, there are cues to opportunities that could benefit from your talent if you purposefully keep your eyes open and look for them. I think the active pursuit of opportunity combined with preparation for the moment is what makes the difference. Plus, there are plenty of prepared drivers behind you waiting to take advantage of your situation...they are prepared and looking to beat you to the finish line. There is no time to be passive, so get on it!
Watch the dramatic finish:
I had a particularly stressful day today. I have a tough deadline with an important client, and you could say I was feeling the pull we all get when we are challenged in one way or another. I reached a point where I said to myself "enough. I made a conscious decision to just "let the stress go."
I remember a family vacation in Maui back in 1982. We were on Maui, and had ventured up the road to Hana. On the way, we found a beach that had some pretty tall waves (at least six feet.) To an eleven year old, they could have ben skyscrapers! While we were getting our gumption up to try to swim in the surf, we saw a guy who couldn't have been younger than 70 years old just walk into the waves, and enjoy a leisurely swim amongst the undertow and crushing surf. Wave after wave came, and he seemed to stay in the same place. When he came out of the ocean for a break, my dad struck up a conversation with him, asking him how he managed to stay out of harms way, and in one spot among these monsters. The old man said it was simple - don't fight the wave! If it is breaking, dive into it, and if not, ride it out. The wave will always put you right back where you started.
So, we managed enough courage to give it a shot, and I'll be damned, it worked! We learned to relax and get in tune with the rhythm of the ocean, and let it take us for a ride, and bring us back. It was really cool.
So today, I rode the wave, and gave up control. As soon as I made the conscious decision to do this, I literally received an email from a prospect that (if the waves permit) will become a new client.
Dive in when you need to, but ride the wave when can, and pay attention to know the difference between the breakers, and the rollers.
This is a picture of me and my favorite CART driver Paul Tracy. As you can tell, I am a huge auto-racing fan. For as long as I have been alive, my family has been carting me off to racetracks in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Illinois to see a myriad of races from CART, to Trans-Am to LeMans. The smell of the brakes and oil, along with the high-pitched scream of the turbo engines is a part of my upbringing, and always elicits a Tim Allen-esque growl when I get to the track.
A Family of Amateur Photographers:
Part of the fun of our race weekend activities is to take pictures. We all carry around our SLR’s with huge lenses with the hopes that we will get that one shot of our favorite drivers, or the chance wreck at turn 5 at Road America. On one particular day at a CART race, my dad and I were walking past “my” driver, Paul Tracy’s trailer in the paddock, where they prep the cars. Naturally, I wanted to get a close-up picture of Paul, so I staked out a position behind the barrier of the trailer.
While standing there waiting, my dad and I had a chance to develop a plan for the photo we wanted:
- Because it was Saturday (and the races are on Sunday), the crowds were minimal. This meant it was easier to get close up shots.
- Paul was scheduled to practice at one of the upcoming sessions
- There was only one exit of the trailer area where they bring the cars and drivers to enter the track, and we were standing at that spot
- Not many people saw Paul enter his trailer, so there were no other fans hovering around his trailer.
With our position set, my dad and I rehearsed what we were going to do to not only get a shot of my favorite driver, but my driver with me. Pretty cool.
I handed my dad my SLR, and said “OK, when I see him come out, I will tell him I am a huge fan, and could I get a picture with him. Then, I will hand you the camera, you take the picture, and we will be on our way.” He got used to the camera, fired a couple test shots, and gave me the thumbs up.
Paul’s crew started moving his car out of the paddock area into the pits. Paul came out of his trailer, and approached the exit where we were. Just like we rehearsed, I explained that I was a big fan, and could I get a shot with him. He agreed, so I handed my dad the camera, he took the shot just before all the other fans realized Paul was outside. This all took, maybe 5 seconds.
We were stoked! Everything happened like clockwork, just as we anticipated. It was a very cool moment. Bragging rights ensued amongst our family of race fan/photographers!
In the grand scheme of things, this may seem like a small moment – a picture with a driver – big deal. If you think about it though, the moment itself had some important ingredients of a successful moment.
We were enjoying things in life that we have a passion for – auto racing and photography.
RIGHT PLACE – RIGHT TIME:
For the picture, we had to stake out a position where we know our subject would be. Because the driver was scheduled to practice, and we were between the trailer and the track, we were set. We were where we needed to be, and we were “present.”
Some people may give up after standing outside a trailer for five minutes. We knew the reward would be worth some time, so we stuck with it.
We knew the practice schedule, when my driver would be outside, and which entrance to stand by. We mapped out a strategy using our experience and creativity.
My dad rehearsed taking the picture, knowing that it was a one-shot opportunity. I rehearsed what I would say, so I wouldn’t have to think about it. This put our actions on auto-pilot.
When the moment came, and everything worked out exactly as we planned, in our minds, we achieved a big success. We were able to enjoy the moment, having taken care of variables ahead of time, like my dad fumbling with the unfamiliar camera, or me getting tongue-tied.
Maybe it is a presentation you have to give, or an upcoming sales call. Either way, working these ingredients into your “system” could bring more successful moments in your life.
Try them. Do you have a story where you used tactics like this?