Procrastination: The Fine Art of Losing

The art of winning auto races is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the racecar, but just as important is the art of preparation.

During countless days spent at the racetrack, I was always amazed while walking through the paddock while observing teams supposedly preparing for the day of racing, but none more than the 25 Hours of Thunderhill or the NASA Championships. I am speaking about all races, but especially these two events, which teams, drivers and owners have excitedly waited for with great expectations for an entire year, if not longer.

But what I observe over and over are teams practicing things like driver changes, fueling the car and so on. Are you kidding me! You’ve had months to prepare for the most anticipated race of the year and probably the most expensive one, and yet you waited until today to practice this?

Teams that win do not procrastinate. They intend to win. If you aren’t practicing for every situation, do yourself a favor, save your money and stay home. Preparation can be tough to define, so it might help a little to think back to your grammar school teachers, who probably taught you that the best way to define a word is to go back to Latin. Pre means “before.” You might feel the same way about defining preparation. So, in essence, to prepare means to make it before you give it. You set up everything—you get your ducks in a row—before you execute your task. You visualize everything in your head. You assemble its parts. You piece it together before you do it, show it, or speak it and then you act on it. Simply put, you don’t procrastinate.

The old adage, “Practice makes perfect,” works and it can mean the difference between “dreaming of winning” and actually standing on the podium. Trust me, standing on the podium is a lot more rewarding.

Practicing doesn’t end with driver changes and fueling. My teams used to practice for every conceivable probability we could think of. What if we were hit and damaged a front spindle? How fast could we repair it? Would we have the parts to do so? What if our clutch failed? How fast could we replace it? The possibilities were endless, and yet, not only did we practice, but in doing so we found ourselves developing ways to make improvements that allowed us to do so much faster.

Methodical preparation is a part of American lore. Consider Benjamin Franklin’s concise and forcefully expressive advice: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” I’ve found over the years, that methodical preparation simply gives you a greater sense of control and competence. Picking your team is imperative and you should focus on whom you will work with and what their roles and responsibilities will be. The key is matching people with their talents and interests. In addition, you look for a good devil’s advocate. Writing down the message you want to express as well as preparing the technique you will use to express it, practicing it, and sharing it with your team will help you check its effectiveness and gain confidence from the entire team.

I have had the good fortune in my career to witness the preparation habits of people from all types of fields. All these endeavors led to my success on the track and in the business world. You too will benefit by eliminating procrastination — so start today. Stop procrastinating and see yourself on the podium.

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