Sunday, July 22, 2007

Lessons from Driving School

I ran across something earlier today that reminded me of driving school and the life lessons that I picked up there.

When I was much younger, I went to a few high performance driving schools. They were great learning experiences, and the people that taught were amazing coaches and motivators. I think that one of the most amazing things about the assistant instructors was that they were providing this motivation and coaching from the passenger seat of a car they weren't in control of... and often the driver wasn't in control of it either.

The first thing that I picked up was "Eyes on the prize." The concept is very simple. The execution can be a little tricky sometimes, though. The idea is that if you can keep your eyes on the goal, your hands will find a way to steer you there. The application in racing or high performance driving is that you need to focus on where you want the car to go. Don't get sidetracked looking at places you don't want to be. The problem is that when there is a lot going on around you, focusing on where you need to go can be VERY difficult. If the car is sliding sideways, looking where you want to go, rather than where you think you are going to go is not easy.

The same holds true in real estate. Making a plan, and then executing it, while it seems that your career is sliding out of control, is not easy. Focusing on the plan, and concentrating on moving in that direction is "Eyes on the prize."

The other major concept I learned in driving school had to do with the level of performance. This is less directly applicable to the outside world, but actually more of an all encompassing concept.

There are four levels of competence/performance. Let's start from the bottom.

Imperfect/Unconscious (I/U). Basically, I'm doing it wrong, and I don't even know it. My performance is bad, but I don't have enough knowledge to know it.

Imperfect/Conscious (I/C). I know that I'm not doing it right, but I know what I am supposed to do. My performance is bad, and I can recognize it.

Perfect/Conscious (P/C). I can do it right, but I have to think about it. My performance is good, and recognize what I need to do to keep it that way. I have to work at keeping my performance there.

Perfect/Unconscious (P/U). It's just right, and seemingly effortless. I know and have internalized what I need to do, so I do it without thought.

Interestingly, coaches are usually P/C. They recognize the proper techniques or learned skills. Superstars are usually P/U, and often don't make good coaches because they may lose touch with how they do what they are superstars at. There are some interesting exceptions. Tiger Woods comes to mind. But, I think that is because he has elements of both P/C and P/U. A few years ago, he went into an in-depth examination of his game. He had already won EVERYTHING that one could win in golf, but he felt that his game wasn't where it could be. So, he started examining his game. He determined with his coaches (imagine being able to tell Tiger how to play golf!!!) that his swing was not as he wanted it. So, he began a process of change. He didn't tell everyone. He just began to work at improving his swing. It wasn't a tweak, it was a wholesale change. As he worked over his swing, something did change. He began to lose. He could do it, but it wasn't effortless. It wasn't smooth. It wasn't effective.

But, it became smooth. Obviously, it became effective. And, as we have seen his domination of the game increase, he perfected a better swing. He doesn't stand in front of the ball wondering how he will swing. He has trained himself to swing perfectly, and he concentrates on his result.

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