I am a believer that any event can become a networking opportunity. You simply have to get out of your comfort zone and connect with people and start conversations.
This past weekend, I had to get out of my comfort zone on two levels: 1) talking with strangers; 2) driving a race car around a track.
I get talked into joining him at the AutoCross, not as a spectator, but as a driver!
One problem: I have never driven his Porsche. I have enjoyed the lazy and luxurious position of passenger, leaving the task of driving to him.
Today, not only do I get to drive his Porsche, but I had to do it front of a bunch of experienced (mostly male) car enthusiasts I can hear their laughter now.
And that’s where I met Pam Kudra, the co-manager of the Connecticut Valley Region Porsche Club organizers of this AutoCross event. By day, Pam is an adjunct college professor in human anatomy/physiology; but on weekends she is a Porsche enthusiast and driver in her own right. She and her husband Paul and their son Randy host the monthly AutoCross event in Hartford, CT. Organized on an abandoned city blacktop, they transform the area into a traffic coned directional course of driving with electronic timers and computerized score keeping. It’s impressive!
Pam was genuinely happy to see me at the event – another female in a sea of men. She gave me a high-five greeting. Then she invited me to join her as a passenger in her Porsche for her first run of the day. Hold on to whatever is available. Pam is not afraid to drive fast. I’m terrified, but thrilled at the same time.
Back up a minute.
As the drivers walked the course with the coaches, I was listening with two hats on: 1) as a driver; and 2) as a writer, knowing that this event would make excellent content for my blog.
So here’s what I learned at the AutoCross that might be helpful in your life, career and business:
- Sit up straight. Smile. Relax. Now you are ready for any challenge.
- Your car will go where your eyes go. (same holds true for your career, business and life)
- Look ahead. Do not focus on the cone immediately in front of you (i.e., your present circumstances). Look 2-3 corners ahead. Focus on the path ahead. Master drivers develop the peripheral vision to see the whole course.
- Don’t be a “cone killer” – that is someone who goes so fast, that they knock things over and wreak havoc for themselves and others.
Another driving tip that intrigued me was the “speed and distance tradeoff.” That is, you can go faster, but your car will swing out wider and taken more distance. Or you can choose to slow down at critical points, to take your time and reduce the distance from where you are to where you wish to go. I suppose there is value in slowing down, even when everything around you say to go faster.
There are also advantages to speeding up.
Pam drove with me on each of the four runs that I made that day. (note: AutoCross usually allows you to make 8 runs in the day, but I had Mommy duty and felt compelled to leave a little early.).
So how did I do, you wonder?
I went from reluctant to terrified to triumphant.I was strutting around notifying other drivers that I made a “personal best” timing.
- Round #1 -= 70.83 seconds
- Round #2 = 62.27 seconds
- Round #3 = 58.43 seconds
- Round #4 = 56.51 seconds
That’s more than a 20% improvement over the course of the day. Not bad for a first-timer.
The other accomplishment was that I was able to write down and cross off a bucket list item in the same day. Who would have thought?
What are the business networking lessons that I am taking away from this experience?
- Any event can become a networking opportunity. I hope to add Pam Kudra to my sphere of influence. I think we can both help each other achieve our goals.
- If something scares you, perhaps it’s time to focus on it. Be bold and confident in your undertakings.
- There is a time for speed and a time for careful progress. Both speeds will serve you.
- Vision and focus. Look up, beyond your current circumstance to where you WANT to go. It’s a powerful technique that will help you drive your career, business, life and yes, your car.
Your Networking Goal for the Week
Accelerate the progress by putting yourself in the driver’s seat. Put the pedal to the metal whenever you can. If you need coaching, then engage a coach. Get the tips and motivation and apply them. If you are like me, there are opportunities to go faster and to be bolder in your networking and in your business. Test the limits of what is possible. “Make the car complain.”
People need to hear from you. Make your engine roar and your tires squeal. Stop driving your career so conservatively. It’s time to find out this baby can do!