The NASCAR racing season wrapped up in Miami, Florida, this past November. We have just two short months full of holiday merriment and planning before we are back on track to start next season in Daytona. The short break is a wonderful time for gratitude, reflection and of course, preparation for an upcoming, better season.
I like to take the first few days of the New Year, some of the last few days of my break from racing, to think carefully about the things I want to prioritize in the coming season and during the coming year. Pondering the things for which I’m grateful, reflecting on goals both met and missed, and planning for the most successful outcomes possible in the coming year help me stay focused throughout the busy race season and always remember (and prioritize) what is most important in my life during that time.
Here is that process for 2018 laid out for you to see:
Gratitude Never Forget a Team Member
The logistics of racing two trucks from Miami to Vegas, Texas to Toronto, and everywhere in between is a massive undertaking. As a small team, we rely heavily on volunteers who pay their own way to join us on the road and help unload the trucks and equipment and prepare us to get on the race track. There are so many volunteers that I have a hard time keeping track of them, so I break down each of our 23 races and study the guest lists and my notes from that race to create a list of those I need to thank.
I personally say thank you with a gift that emphasizes that each person is one of my team members and I’m grateful! We create what we hope is a useful gift bearing our logo and send these out in December with a note of appreciation. Not only are our volunteers living a dream with us (it amazes me how many people dream of working on a NASCAR team) but they now have tangible evidence of how much they mean to our team.
Ask yourself: Who makes a difference for me?
People want to feel important and useful. Who assists your team in keeping you on track? Think back: Who pushed you through the highs and lows this past year? Something as simple as a five-minute personal phone call could go a long way toward letting someone know that they matter to your success and that you recognize that. For example, my vendors provide some pretty specialized parts and services for my racecars that I cannot just go to the local parts store and buy. Even though I am the customer, it is important for me to show them appreciation for having what we need when we need it. It takes a village to make you successful, so don’t forget to thank your village!
Reflection Face Past Mistakes Head-On
I competed in 24 races in 2017. It is my pleasure and sometimes painful responsibility to look back on each practice, qualification session and race results to identify what I and my team could have done better. Most of the time, deficits come in the form of lack of preparation at the race shop or a missed checklist item. It is too easy to get into the grind and forget to mend the mistakes during the hustle and bustle of the racing season, so it’s vitally important to take a step back during “time off ” to objectively evaluate what happened. Mistakes should be learning tools, but if they are merely fixed once and not addressed you risk creating negative habits.
Ask yourself: Where in the past year could you or your team have done better? What can you learn from it?
Our biggest mistake came at the end of the season when we had a guest driver in the truck at Phoenix. Somehow, a fuel line to the carburetor did not get tightened and checked. It resulted in a huge fire and the scariest racing incident our driver had experienced in his many years in racing. We install and take off carburetors three or four times a week! All of us can almost do it in our sleep. When I inquired as to who made the mistake I was surprised to learn it was not one of our newer interns or first-year team members. It was a very experienced individual with a lot of common sense. Nobody is above mistakes, and it’s vitally important to the success of your business and your investments that you never assume that a mistake was just a one-time accident. Identify areas wher your system failed you, then remedy the gap in the system. No one is too old, too important, or too experienced to benefit from a good checklist and a system of accountability, especially where mundane tasks are concerned.
Planning Actively, Purposefully Prepare for and Pursue Improvement
Many years ago, I learned of a Japanese philosophy called Kaizen. Kaizen is essentially continuous improvement or the continuous pursuit of doing better taking just one small step at a time. As I prepared for 2018, I looked at what I could be doing on every level to be better. This starts with my physical health, extends to my mental acuity, and then reaches beyond me, personally, to my team, business, and brand.
Ask yourself: Am I healthy? Am I mentally acute? Am I always looking for solutions?
When your body is healthy, hydrated, and strong your mind functions better. When your mind functions well, you handle stress better. When you are not consumed with stress, you are free to find solutions and grow your business.
In the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey wrote “begin with the end in mind.” I’ve always loved new beginnings, but I am starting to learn that some time spent reflecting on the endings can propel my success further than just sitting down with some big goals and resolutions that may or may not come to fruition.