Tuesday, October 27, 2009

What's 11 Seconds Between Friends?

It’s interesting how people and events shape our lives.  One of the events that shaped my life took place in the front seat of my car, while sitting on the tarmac at a retired Army base in Weatherford, Texas.  I had just completed a series of laps with the Chief Driving Instructor for the Dallas Region of the Porsche Club of America.  Bryan Henderson was the guy in the passenger seat and he was one of my heroes.  Bryan drove a car that was very similar to mine – but he did it a lot faster than I could.  Specifically, he was 11 seconds a lap faster than me, on a track that was less than a mile long.  That amount of time over a mile is like the difference between Lance Armstrong and anyone that might possibly read this blog!  It’s a lifetime in racing minutes.

Bryan was in demand at these events, because he is fast and he can communicate “how to be fast” to others.  I had waited several months to get an opportunity to have him with me for a ride-along.  When we finally made it onto the track, I was flawless!  (Note: I was flawless in my mind!).  I hit all my marks and was quick, while keeping the car under control.  I did everything that I knew to do and performed as well as I could.  I was thrilled.  The reason this ride was important to me was because Bryan would have to sign-off for me to move forward earning my racing license.  I desperately wanted the license and Bryan was the only way to get it.

When we finished our laps, I pulled into the cool down area and shut the car down.  I could barely contain myself as I pulled off my helmet and waited for the congratulations to start!  Bryan got his helmet off and looked me in the eye.  I’ll never forget what he said.  He simply asked, “What were you doing out there?”  I wasn’t ready for a question – I was really expecting something much more complimentary.  Being a bit confused, I said, “I’m sorry – I don’t understand the question.”

Using the same voice that a Highway Patrolman uses when he says, “Do you know how fast you were going?” – Bryan asked again, “What were you doing out there?”  He sounded almost angry.  I was stunned.  I think my pride kicked in and I responded with something like, “Driving my ass off?”  He wasn’t amused.

Here’s the lessonBryan pointed at me and said, “When you sit down in this car – before you buckle your seatbelt, before you put on your helmet and before you start the car – you have to decide if you are going to wrestle with it or dance with it.”  He continued, “Wrestling is loud and feels like fun – but it’s hard on you, it’s hard on the car and it’s slower.  When you learn to dance – everything is easier and faster.  You need to learn how to dance!”  With that – he got out of the car and walked off.

I sat there totally crushed.  I had done my best and my hero had made it clear that I was nowhere close to being up to his standards.  I wanted to think he was wrong and I was right – but there’s no getting around 11 seconds a lap.  So over the next weeks and months – I had to accept that I was going to have to approach racing cars differently.

That could be the end of this blog – but Bryan’s words really struck a chord with me.  I took a step back and started considering other areas of my life where wrestling had become my way of doing business.  In the years since my ride with Bryan, I’ve worked to do a lot more dancing and a lot less wrestling.  I’ve shared the story with more than a few people and I think the lesson has caught on with at least a couple.

So this is a “Thanks!” to Bryan (wherever you are).  I never found the 11 seconds a lap – but the lesson he taught me that day was a lot bigger!       


  1. Well, if you stop blogging, best of luck to you, I hope you get your racing license, thats a little too nuts for me.

  2. I think he had a turbo in his car...
    Great story.

  3. I was touched by this story and have reflected on how I handle life's situations-wrestling with them or dancing with them. I'd rather dance! Thanks for sharing.