As we go through life we are taught to have a goal, to know why we want it and to work hard towards it every day. Add to this a dash of good fortune and you will succeed.
During your fight to accomplish a big goal you spend some time envisaging what it will be like when you achieve it, what it will mean to you and others, what benefits it will provide and how great life will be. You think of it all the time and it motivates you to act.
The success formula is quite simple but something you are not told whilst on this path to your desired destination is what it’s like when you get there. What you are faced with once you have achieved it and the dust has settled after the honeymoon period.
I hate to piss on your bonfire here but more often than not when you reach the one thing that you have spent most of your life trying to achieve you are often left feeling disappointed and end up saying things like "Is this all there is?" or "This is not what I expected".
It's kind of like when you finally get the girl, the girl that you have been after for so long but once you are with her for a while you suddenly start to see why she has so many ex boyfriends.
Or when you get that road car you have always wanted but before long you are worried about scratching it or car park dents or how much the running costs are.
Once you get these things you no longer have this mental imagery of what it will be like, instead you have the realisation of what it is actually like and the challenges that come with it.
Bit by bit your brain starts to attach negative thoughts and beliefs to this ‘Dream Life’ and it begins to change its view of how great things are.
Most couples allow this happen in their marriages and end up killing the passion they once had, criminal.
You will also see high profile celebrities and sports stars throwing it all away through drugs and alcohol, and even worse they end their lives in order to escape what they have created.
Luckily in racing this kind of life ending and self-abuse is not the norm amongst professional drivers but still it demonstrates to us that you need to be prepared for what will happen when you do make the grade.
“It’s not all sunshine and rainbows”
Paying Driver Vs Paid Professional Driver
There are more differences between these two career positions than you may initially think. Yes one is paying to play and the other is earning a wage but they really are worlds apart, everything changes as soon as you are paid to race.
As a Paying Driver you get the following:
1) Virtually everyone in the team is there to serve you in some way
2) You are treated like a valued customer
3) The engineers bend over backwards to teach and nurture you
4) You have a lot of downtime on the weekends
5) If you are underperforming then more outside help is sourced to assist you
6) Even if you consistently screw up on race weekends you can still re-join the same championship or team the following year
7) Now and then you can get away with not putting your absolute best efforts into your race weekend preparation
As a Paid Driver you get:
1) None of the above
2) A ton of pressure from in and outside the team
3) Other drivers constantly after your drive (the handshake / stab in the back scenario)
4) Political games and ego's within the team
5) Constant media criticism
6) To worry about the future even more
Both scenarios carry a certain amount of pressure because someone is always paying and that needs justification but I want to communicate here that life as a paid professional driver is no walk in the park, it is a pressure filled position that often rattles drivers causing them to question their passion.
It can then lead to depression and other signs of deep unhappiness.
Working At Tesco
Just imagine this in a different industry, if you went to Tesco and paid them £100,000’s so you could work with them for a year, then how well do you think they would treat you?
They would treat you like royalty, they’d be speaking to you nicely, would give you the best jobs and would do what they could to make sure you are happy at work.
Compare this to how they treat a normal member of staff who is on their pay roll, all of a sudden Tesco are the ones who are paying so they have virtually all the power. You now do as they say, do the jobs they want you to do and behave accordingly.
This is similar to racing, the person paying is the person with the power in the relationship, and they are the boss. This is where the problems start because often the new driver is not prepared for such a shift of authority.
All of a sudden you have serious consequences for your actions and have to walk a very fine line.
When you start to get paid to race most of the ‘Paying Driver’ benefits are taken away. How you handle this is key to your success as a professional driver and that’s what I want to speak about today.
For Drivers Who Are Coming Up
In your junior racing years you spend most of your time learning how to drive well, how to deliver on demand and most of your training is performance based.
That’s fine but you should also spend a great deal of time training the professional skills that are needed like:
Race car engineering and set up
Winning over your race team
Building your own brand
These are areas that you must, I mean MUST, practice and get good at because once you get a paid drive you become a manufacturer’s ambassador, you are their face and they need you to be more than just someone who can drive in circles.
You have to develop their brand as much as you can develop their car.
Most champions in sport are great businessmen / women and they dedicate themselves to mastering every aspect of their sport because they know that it will make them more valuable, they will be more effective and it helps them build a more secure career. This again is a must.
So if you know that you are not very good at talking to executives and you know that you are clueless when it comes to business then use all of that spare time you have to learn. Make it your mission to become as valuable outside the car as in it.
You have to be an all-rounder to stay in a sport when you start to get paid for it.
The Mental Game
It is also up to you to be aware of your mental strengths and weaknesses because this will be consistently tested when you start to get paid.
If you have a tendency to overly worry about what people think then you will crumble when the media or your own team manager decides to publically attack you.
If you find it hard to deliver under pressure at the moment then you will find it hard to drive naturally when the stakes are higher and you have a new driver after your seat.
At the moment whilst paying you can make mistakes and people will tell you it's a good lesson, but if you do these things when in a paid drive you all of a sudden find yourself in a meeting explaining your actions.
Another must coming here, you must train your mind now to deal with such scenarios. Make this one of your top priorities.
A Meeting With Grosjean
I was having dinner with Romain Grosjean in 2012 when he was experiencing huge media pressure for his accidents in F1 and he was deeply unhappy. He was being attacked from every angle which left him feeling so alone and helpless at the time.
This is a driver that had won 7 car championships before reaching F1, he was fast, fearless and could seemingly make magic happen in the junior ranks. But when it came to the big paid drive his spontaneity and 'on the edge' driving was killed off due to people judging him and he then started to double think in the car and lost his way a little.
I’m so happy to say that he turned it around and got people to believe in him so they gave him a second chance. He deserved it.
If however Romain had built up his mental muscle through his junior career he would have dealt with it better. Again I'm happy to say that he has addressed things now and is stronger than ever.
Take control now, do not wait until the paid drive turns up. If you lack confidence, lack self belief or have a bad work ethic then you may be getting away with it whilst everyone is kissing your backside and making money from you but these things will bring you down as soon as you get your big shot.
Already A Paid Driver?
If you have reached the level of being a paid professional race driver then first off congratulations, you have achieved more than most and should take a moment to be grateful for making this happen.
You may be going through a tough time where some decisions need to be made but really revisit why you started this sport in the first place. Reconnect with what you love about it, it is still there if you look in the right places.
You may be under pressure right now but simplify things down, what are the real core issues here and what aspects can you control to influence the outcome?
Spend less time on the effect and target on the route cause to put you back in the driving seat.
If you are going through a tough time then feel free to hit the Ask Enzo button for a quick chat. This blog post wasn’t meant to go this way but my fingers cannot help smashing this keyboard to offer you some advice if you are going through something right now.
To Sum It Up
To sum all of this up I want you to become prepared for what's coming and to make sure that you are training yourself to deal with the challenges that are on the way.
Most drivers fill their ‘Off Days’ with distracting activities and by going to the gym all the time but these things are not the most effective way to spend your hours.
If you want to become professional then you must train all the areas that will differentiate you from all the other drivers out there. To work on your mind and to be the kind of driver that manufacturers would welcome with open arms.
These areas as well as improving your driving should be the only things on your mind.
Sounds a lot to take on?
Then welcome to the real world because this is the hard work that successful people talk about, the invisible training that they have to do behind the scenes. It's better to do it all now than have to cram it in when the pressure is on in your first fully paid year.
Make this your mission and be the complete driver.
NB. Photo taken from Daily Sportscar. Enzo at Silverstone contemplating a career change.