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3 Career Lessons From Indy 500 Drivers

Topics: Career Advice

If you don’t follow car racing, you might not be aware of the magnitude of the event that’s taking place today (weather permitting). This year’s Indianapolis 500 is the 100th running of what some claim is “largest single-day sporting event in the entire world.” The purse this year tops $13 million, and 33 drivers are competing for the winner’s share of about $2.5 million. But these potential millionaires have more in common with you, the working person, than you might think.

indy 500

(Photo Credit: Global Jet/Flickr)

For instance, these things are true both for career professionals and race car drivers:

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1. You start winning the race before you ever reach the track.

Driving is a sport, but we don’t think of it as being an athletic pursuit. That’s wrong.

Jeff Richter, trainer for driver Conor Daly, says that exercising during the off season makes drivers better.

“When they can operate at a better heart rate, they can make better decisions,” Richter tells WISH TV. “They can be more about their wit, they have the strength and fitness to withstand all the repeated forces from turns.”

You’re better at your job when you’re fit, too, and not just in the physical sense. When you continue your education, bridging your personal skills gaps, you make yourself into a stronger professional.

This is also why it’s a good idea to know how much you’re worth on the job market, even if you’re not looking for work right this minute. What you do in your “off season” helps you when you get to the track. Prepare now, and you could win big later.

2. Technology makes a difference.

In 1911, Ray Harroun won the first Indy 500 with the use of one of the first rear-view mirrors.

It’s crazy to think now that drivers would ever do without a rear-view mirror, but prior to his insistence on using a reflecting mirror on his dash, race car drivers had a human lookout, called a riding mechanic. In the 100-plus years since, of course, it’s become standard equipment, to the point where we no longer think of it as an invention at all.

Good technology quickly becomes indispensable. In your career, you use mobile devices and social media and digital technologies all the time – maybe without even thinking about it. But as you update your LinkedIn profile or search for jobs on your favorite app, spare a thought for what the job hunt would be like without these things … and keep your eyes peeled for the next gadget or application that could make your professional life even easier. You never know when it’ll become standard for your industry or the work world in general.

3. You can be the best … but not win the race.

The Associated Press recently interviewed 27 Indy winners to ask them which driver they thought was the best who’d never won the race. Seventeen chose Michael Andretti, who came within 20 miles of winning in 1992 when his car broke down.

“Being the best driver to have not won Indy is an unfortunate honor,” Andretti said. “I think I’d much rather be one of the winners and not be honored in this category at all. But a lot of great drivers have raced here and never did win, so to be picked among those names is a real honor.”

The lesson? You can be the best at what you do, and still not win the prize. All you can do is prepare to give your all, and remember that even famous athletes sometimes run into bad luck.

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Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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