Am I grateful or thankful? Both! It sounds kind of mushy, I know, but I mean every word of it and in all honesty, I believe most of my readers do as well. Yes, I’m so thankful for NASA and all it brought into my life. In fact, NASA became a way of life not only for me, but for my family, friends and teammates, and I am thankful and grateful.
The dictionary definition of “thankful” means being conscious of benefits received. The person receiving the benefits has an awareness of a beneficial gesture, and responds as such. It became clear to me many years ago that NASA offers many benefits.
Dictionaries define being grateful as having a sense of thankfulness that comes from a feeling within, rather than a social norm response to a kind gesture. Being grateful or having “gratitude” can be directed at not only people you appreciate, but also things that you feel have been of great assistance in your life. Yes, I am more than grateful to and for the many wonderful friends and lifelong friendships I have made because of NASA, and I truly appreciate them all.
When you feel grateful, you can express it without words or any physical action. A perfect example of such is standing on the podium with those you just finished battling with on the track. And it goes beyond thankfulness, although that is often the first step that grows with time into a lasting feeling. Memories of such victories and battles on the racecourse last a lifetime and for that, we will be forever grateful. We can all be thankful to NASA for making these moments possible.
One thing that unites us all as NASA members, is our pride in the spirit of motorsports. For that, I am very thankful. But it goes much further than that. So much happens each year on and off the track that to try and cover it all would take many hours, but I must admit, each of those hours would be well spent.
A 2010 study conducted by University of California Davis found that practicing purposeful gratitude has been shown to trigger a 28 percent reduction in perceived stress. Think about that for a second. All the physical factors that have the power to boost a driver’s performance are significantly improved by simply practicing gratitude. In short, gratitude can have the power to boost training and performance.
I can recall many examples of how gratitude made me a better driver. For example, one weekend while racing at Buttonwillow, I found myself battling with another driver in my class for two full races, unable to make a pass on his many blocks. My frustration must have been obvious as I returned to the stands to reflect. My good friend and teammate to be, Elvis Matkovitch, who had been watching my race, asked, “Hey buddy, looks like you’re having a tough time getting around that 27 car. Want some pointers?” I couldn’t wait to hear what Elvis had to say.
“What! Slow down? How can I pass someone if I slow down?”
“You’re obviously faster than him in the straights and the corners, but then he blocks you in the corners, which slows you way down. So back off when coming into the corner and let him exit the corner ahead of you, then use your better line to enter and exit far faster than him, which will allow you to make the pass.”
Boy was I grateful and thankful. I passed that 27 car that day and never looked back. That lesson won me a lot of races and remains one of my most gratifying memories of many friendships made possible because of NASA. At the end of the day, gratitude will make you a better driver too, but don’t forget to be grateful to NASA and all that it is.