Harvey Mackay: Winning the race takes a lot more than speed
December 15, 2008
Whizzing along the track at 225 mph, winning a Formula One race is one sport that takes a real whiz kid. “It is the head and not the foot,” says team principal Peter Sauber, “that is instrumental in any one driver’s achievement.” The same wisdom prevails when a driver climbs out of his high-tech, flame-resistant suit. Formula One is one of the most expensive sports in the world, and owners and sponsors cringe at blown images as easily as blown engines.
Over the past two years, a dual-heritage African-British star has captured the eye of the world racing public. Lewis Hamilton is a 23-year-old British Formula One driver for Vodafone McLaren Mercedes. Sports bean counters are toting up some big numbers for Hamilton. That includes the Times of London projecting a possible $100-million annual retainer, the biggest ever for an F1 driver. There’s even speculation Hamilton will rank with Tiger Woods among the world’s best compensated athletes.
Among Hamilton’s achievements to date:
– The youngest winner of the Formula One championship.
– The first black driver to compete in an F1 race.
– The first black driver to win a major competition at Indianapolis.
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– The most pole positions and victories in a first season.
– As a rookie, most trips to the podium for finishing No. 1, 2 or 3.
Hamilton’s achievements may sound storybook, but this is reality sport at its best. The Lewis Hamilton saga also is steeped in preparation with a dose of gumption:
– Hamilton learned karate as a kid to fend off local bullies. Today he’s a black belt.
– His father held three jobs to help finance building his son’s career.
– Lewis Hamilton began racing go-karts at age eight. He had the focused goal of driving for McLaren when he was just nine years old.
Echoes of Tiger Woods are easy to spot. First, the influence of Papa Woods and Papa Hamilton is inescapable. At the tender age of six months, Tiger is said to have gazed at his dad Earl whacking golf balls into a net. And Tiger was tuned into motivational tapes when he was just 6 years old.
Hamilton, who now lives in Switzerland, still makes it a practice to go back into poor communities in the UK. He’s committed to bringing back the inspiration and success message to kids who need a boost. Who is Hamilton’s own inspiration? His younger brother Nic. Afflicted with cerebral palsy, Nic’s life is confined to a different set of wheels.
Great athletes may get the gold, but to keep it they need to be very disciplined, competent communicators and caring individuals. These traits used to be more or less just afterthoughts. Not so today. There’s no such thing as a one-dimensional competitor any more. Not if one wants to make it to the very top. This reality holds true for business managers and rocket scientists just as well.
What can parents, budding superstars and business people learn from Lewis Hamilton?
– Pursue goals methodically. Hamilton may travel on wheels, but he surely watches his steps too. While he always wants to win, he has great consistency in taking it one step at a time. Hamilton excels at doing it methodically.
– When you’re ahead, stick to it. Murray Walker, race commentator, used to say: “With half the race gone, there is half the race still to go.”
– Don’t let setback spell tailspin. In 2008, Hamilton had impressive results, including winning the Australian and Monaco Grand Prix. In the Canadian Grand Prix, he overlooked a red light on the track, rear ending another driver and putting both cars out of the race. No stall for Hamilton. He came back roaring to his first Formula One championship that season.
Breakthrough athletes ” like Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali, Tiger Woods and Lewis Hamilton ” have surplus motivation to excel. When they smash the ceiling, they soar right on by. Today they’re esteemed as great human beings and not just superior sports stars.
Mackay’s Moral: When it comes to dedication, floor that pedal to the metal.