Embracing The Near Win

A couple of things take place this time of year with regard to Speed News. One, we take the best features from the year and assemble them all into one issue, the one you’re reading now, our 2015 Car Setup and Driver Instruction Special. I hope you find it informative and entertaining reading during this offseason.

The other thing that takes place is editorial planning for the coming year, and the juxtaposition between last year’s stories and those yet to come are an amusing contrast — to me, at least. It’s interesting because they both happen at the same time, and it highlights the differences that can manifest between the ideas I had such high hopes for and how those ideas played out on the pages of Speed News.

As you know, it is difficult to get something to turn out as you originally envision it. I see it happen all the time with the magazine. I don’t get the kind of photos I want to illustrate a story. I don’t get an interview in time for deadline or something happens that makes me change course from what I originally had in mind, and the end result isn’t exactly what I thought it would be.

Like the old “Saturday Night Live” sketch with Will Ferrell and Cheri Oteri who were always searching for “the perfect cheer,” I’m always chasing that perfect issue. Each month, I try to put together a magazine that will have something that interests everyone, with a blend of feature stories that help you go faster, learn more about racing or setup or inspire you with ideas for your own projects.

I realized long ago that perfection is a dangerous pursuit, because it invariably leads to dissatisfaction, so I altered my own expectations to something more achievable: excellence.

Excellence is a more worthwhile pursuit for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that you can achieve excellence, yet fall short of perfection and still be satisfied with what you’ve accomplished.

I watched a TED Talk that called it “the gift of a near win.” Near wins give you more tenacity for the next time you pursue a similar goal, and I think that’s true. In looking over last year’s near wins and planning 2016, I’m more charged up than ever.
I see the same tenacity play out at the racetrack. The gift of a near win drives people that much more to come back stronger for next race. I can think of several instances at the Eastern and Western States Championships in which drivers who fell just a bit short came back to take the win the following year.

The gift of a near win also keeps us humble. When things don’t go as we envisioned them, it sharpens our focus and maybe changes our approach to a given goal. Racing is like that in a lot of ways. To borrow a phrase from the Ted Talk, racing is a “voracious unfinished path that always requires more.” It is an “ever-onward ‘almost.’”

After we release a new issue, I go back through it to see where my “near wins” were, so I can make the next one better. I have a few favorite issues from the past couple of years since we’ve been publishing, but by far my favorite is always the next one, because of the promise it holds. Another phrase from that Ted Talk sums it up nicely: “We thrive when not when we’ve done it all, but when we have more to do.“ I couldn’t agree more.


Watch the Ted Talk here:

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