I just opened my Tuesday Speed Secrets email from Mr. Ross Bentley to be intrigued by the topic of having kids and how it affects your driving (and general attitude toward risk in life). Mr. Bentley was, in turn, inspired by Will Buxton, F1 pit lane commentator, who wrote an article about the same topic on Racer.com using Nico Rosberg as the example du jour.
Here is what Mr. Buxton has to say, "Rosberg is unquestionably different in 2016...Rosberg's delicate savoir faire seems to come from a place of personal contentment...He joked with me in an NBCSN interview on Saturday evening in China that perhaps it has something to do with becoming a father, before brushing the idea away. But it was something I wanted to push him on...Has being a father changed him? I'd argue it has. Becoming a parent can do one of two things to a racing driver. For some, the knowledge that there is a small person on this earth that you have created and who needs you in his or her life, will cost them a tenth of a second. It will make them lift where they would have stayed flat, duck out of a move they'd never have flinched at previously. It dulls the sharpness that made them such a potent force."
But for others, having a child reminds them that there is more in this world and more to this world than racing cars and winning races. Far from slowing them down, that awakening to a world far bigger and far more important than everything they've known since they were 6 years old actually has the opposite effect. It lifts the self-imposed burden and pressure. It frees them to do their very best, and if it doesn't work out ... well, who really cares? Because there's a wonderful little human at home who is going to think they're the most amazing person in the world, whether they're a world champion or a refuse collector."
Mr. Bentley's analysis of the psychology behind this potential affect is what resonates deeply with me at this point in my life: "when one relaxes, performance improves. It's easy to get caught up in the pressure of 'having' to turn a lap time, or get a certain result. But as Rosberg's performance has shown, it's definitely not the best way to get what you want. You're not negotiating world peace. You're negotiating a track!"
I'm often surprised by how competitive my adopted sport can be a times. Whether it is negotiating cones on an airstrip or driving around in circles on race tracks all over New England, most of what I do is not inherently competitive. There are no trophies and no money will be won (only lost - by turning it into smoke and noise). I've often found myself looking at this from a very detached perspective. My goal is to have massive fun...and be safe...and to be home in time to enjoy my kids and my wife some more. For me, that is the "win". Every time.
Don't get me wrong. I love to improve. And I softly "compete" with my own expectations at each outing. But I'm also grounded by my goals and try to remain humble and realistic. The thing I love most is learning something I didn't know before. That, for me, is also a "win."
So for those of you who are able, please head down the to the first ADSI autocross of the season this Sunday, May 1. I'll be proudly watching my son receive his first Holy Communion in Providence and hosting my family to celebrate him. My heart will also be with you all on the track. Hopefully you'll be finding out for yourself whether your kids have made you more or less relaxed in your outlook on life!