Those with the entrepreneurial spirit dream big. As a NASCAR driver, I meet many students and young adults. My message is always, “Dream big and never give up.” I’ve become known in NASCAR circles as the girl who just won’t give up. Nothing makes me feel more empowered than weathering the storm and emerging in a better position. Nothing builds my confidence more than overcoming. Being an overcomer.
You may think the adversity I speak of happens on the race track, with fiery crashes or confrontations with competitors (which cost a minimum of $5,000, by the way). Truly though, my worst laps on the track never come close to the adversity I face in business as a NASCAR team owner.
Working for yourself and controlling your destiny takes courage, more courage than going full-throttle into a left-hand turn on 32-degree banking at over 190 mph. Those taking the leap have many reasons to give pause. Here is why I believe every risk as an entrepreneur is worth taking.
Control your destiny
Doing what I love and the accomplishment I feel outweighs any money I could earn. I can make decisions and mistakes without the worry of being fired. No one is harder on me than I am on myself.
Control of my finances and of my future goes beyond being my own boss. It also means control of my healthcare. How many fear leaving a bad job, a bad marriage, a bad situation because of finances, healthcare, or retirement? As entrepreneurs, I am sure we could let go of a little control, but your destiny is priceless and worth holding onto.
Stay true to yourself
In 2004, I signed the biggest driver agreement of my life and leapfrogged to racing full-time in the NASCAR XFINITY Series, known then as the Busch Series. I was whisked away to New York City for a photo shoot with Nigel Barker, world-class photographer, and an America’s Next Top Model judge. It was an enormous milestone and very exciting, but I felt uneasy.
The problem? There was a team owner of questionable character in charge of my destiny. At that time, I did not own my team and subcontracted my driving skills to other teams. That meant I didn’t know how my sponsors’ money was being spent. Were the dollars I brought to the team used on race cars or was I making a payment on the team owner’s private motor coach? But let’s get back to the bigger issue: Of all the foibles of this team owner in my two months with him, his demand that I change my signature on autographs bothered me most.
Many drivers sign their car number under their name. Car numbers do not belong to the drivers in NASCAR, they belong to the team owners. Since I was driving for various owners, I’d have to sign a different car number each week. Instead, I included an inspirational message for my fans. The message was a Bible verse that speaks of power, love and self-discipline. The owner forbade me to include it under my signature. I am not here to push my beliefs. The point was the request to give up my values. Whether you are a believer or not, surely you can’t find fault with living life without fear and striving to be powerful, loving and disciplined.
I planned quiet defiance on those orders regarding my autograph. It was unnecessary though. The deal fell apart weeks after the photo shoot. This was one of many lessons learned that gave me the courage to drive for myself as a team owner.
The road has been bumpy but I do not regret the journey. I feel empowered persevering as an underfunded team and outlasting many teams that came with millions of dollars. I joke, “I am busy here, running my multi-thousand-dollar corporation.” My journey is different than most in NASCAR; through it I’ve learned the beauty of entrepreneurship.
During this risky endeavor we call entrepreneurship, you will fail. At least once. Remember that failure is not final until you give up. Sometimes it is hard to remember, but every time I’ve fallen, I have gotten back up, with breakthroughs that propel me toward success. It’s a test and I am glad to pass. Maybe only with a C- at times, but I am passing and working toward more A+ moments.
Go get your success.