U is for Uncomfortable

Try this: stop reading right now and time how long you can hold your breath…

How long did you make it? 30 seconds? 1 minute? Longer? Regardless, it starts to get pretty uncomfortable towards the end and you think you’re going to die. In reality, you’re a very long way from death. Your self-preservation instincts are pretty powerful. Free-divers can train themselves to hold their breath for several minutes. They learn to overcome the discomfort.

To become a fast driver, you must go beyond what feels comfortable. In the words of Ross Bentley, you must become comfortable being uncomfortable. There are several things that can be uncomfortable about driving a racecar, but let’s focus on one particular sensation: sliding tires. On the street, your tires should never slide, but on the track, they are supposed to slide from turn in to track out. It’s surprising how few people appreciate that rubber has more grip when sliding than when not (up to a point and then it gets worse). The problem is that driving with sliding tires, like holding your breath for longer than 1 minute, isn’t something you do on a daily basis. The wheel becomes light and the car responds sluggishly when turned. The tires make screeching sounds and the car feels like it’s not connected to the road. It’s all very unsettling. And yet this is how a racecar is supposed to behave. Racecars do not “corner like they are on rails”. Not when driven at the limit.

There’s a very good reason for self-preservation instincts: to keep you alive! Competent, experienced free-divers sometimes drown because their confidence exceeds their physical limits. Please don’t kill yourself trying to break through the discomfort barrier. Chip away at it slowly in a safe environment. It’s supposed to take a long time getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. While some people learn faster than others, the actual limit imposed by physics is the same for everyone. If the learning journey takes driver A one year and driver B four years, nobody cares in year 5.

Here’s the car equivalent of an over-confident free-diver experiencing shallow water blackout (sometimes leads to drowning).

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