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Friday, October 17, 2008

White-Knuckle Driving in NASCAR

Gripping the wheel of your career in the "New Economy"
by Steven Brown

I dream of driving a race car someday. My home state of Oregon has some spectacular stretches of Highway and mountain roads that elevate your adrenaline. But the thrill of competitive driving has called to me for years. Maybe someday I'll make it to Infineon Raceway for one of their driving schools. For now I have to settle for the thrill of bumper to bumper driving at 20 mph on interstate 880 here in the east bay.

NASCAR is a different breed of racing from the Portland Champ Car races I've attended. The wrecks in NASCAR are so spectacular, the fan community almost celebrates them. The most exciting replays are from the on-car camera of a driver who can't avoid driving through the smoke of a wreck. This aspect of NASCAR is so popular that video games advertise this as one of their most attractive features!

As I look around I’m sure there are many executives who might feel like things are a bit out of control, just like they are driving through the smoke, or worse, going up in flames. Wall Street has certainly had very well-publicized troubles of late, and those issues are beginning to cascade into other sectors.

As we find ourselves driving 200 mph in turn 4 (Q4); trying to avoid running into one of the wrecked cars, or someone who slowed down for the smoke, it's important to stay calm, and focus on the customer, on business, on creating measurable contributions. Water-cooler conversations and continuing to look in the rear view mirror will do little to move your car safely through the smoke and wreckage.

And just like in NASCAR, it’s ok to be a bit sad because no driver likes to see those wrecks, particularly the wrecks of their teammates. People we have known and worked with. But we have to move on, and keep driving through these times towards the exciting opportunities ahead of us in this race. I for one anticipate a lot of exciting changes coming. I can see them and I feel the adrenaline kicking in to keep me from over steering in turn 4. Maybe a pit stop is in order to check my tires and fill up on racing fuel. For today, I have marketing collateral to develop, programs to manage, and customer success stories to publish. My knuckles are white...holding on tight!


Ellina said...

Every race takes courage to start and wisdom to finish. Today’s economical and psychosomatic situation couldn’t be described more precisely in this allegory. Thank you for your creative mind and profound life philosophy. Keep writing and sharing your vision.

MikeE said...

Steve, great analogy! Yes, these are some interesting times. Your post caused me to think about optimal states for people to experience success and move through challenge. A great book to consider from my personal readings (http://michaeljemery.com/recommended-books/) is Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience
by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Even in the midst of seeming chaos, it's completely possible to experience a deep sense of fulfillment and complete absorption in the task at hand.

During challenging times such as this it is the ability to immerse yourself in your vision, understand your options, and follow your strategy through to completion. Counter-intuitively, we all may find that "letting go" of the outcome actually makes it more achievable and creates more flexibility to perceive the possibilities that we have a tendency to overlook when we hold tightly to a concept or one specific path forward... Both business and personal affairs happen in real-time and we must be ready to adjust our "strategy" based upon our environment. Keep up the good work!

kevin said...

Steve - your comments bring to mind a recent article in The Wall Street Journal, by John Stossel:

"We don't need anyone to rule the world"

Imagine you had never seen a skating rink. I tell you, "I'm going to invite 100 people down to strap blades to their feet and race around as they like." You say, "That's insane! Someone must coordinate all those people."

Yet we know that the skaters' actions are coordinated, though not through central planning. There are predictable and understandable rules, but within them, people are free. In promoting my interest in avoiding a collision with you, I also promote your interest in avoiding a collision with me.

Economics Nobel Laureate Friedrich Hayek called it spontaneous order. The market system is the leading example. In promoting my interest in gaining through a voluntary exchange with you, I also promote your interest in gaining through voluntary exchange with me.

Like skaters at an ice rink, we trace our way in the economy making decisions for ourselves. It works out pretty darned well. Prices help guide our way.

Most of life works by spontaneous order. It characterizes how we choose our jobs, hobbies, associates, recreation, etc. When politicians try to regulate the process, they usually make life worse.

I try to demonstrate that in my upcoming ABC TV special, "John Stossel's Politically Incorrect Guide to Politics." I centrally planned a skating rink, and stood in the center of the ice and shouted through a bullhorn: "Slow down! Turn right. No backwards skating!" It didn't work. People hated it. Some fell, just as predicted by George Mason University professor Daniel Klein, who came up with the idea."

Another recent article I read comes from Henry Hazlitt as to Market Behavior and Regulation:


The dichotomy of life insures (as in FDIC -Federal Debt Increased Catastrophically) there are always (and in all ways) lively discussions. With that in mind, let's drive with abandon knowing all the bad drivers are in front of us.

Effetti said...


May I offer, from my experience, that it is often this propensity to "adjust our 'strategy' based upon our environment", which causes a lack of velocity, and often complete failure?

Conversely, if we adjust our "tactics" to be consistent with the "environment", and other fundamentals we succeed with speed. Consistent with this, once a strategy is set, it should ONLY be changed based upon grounded assessments and assertions ( fact ) that it is indeed the wrong strategy.

Appreciate your comments, please keep them coming !!

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