Sport has a unique ability to highlight aspects of human psychology. Lewis Hamilton’s latest run has been inspiring to say the least. I’m writing this the day after the Austrian Grand Prix, which although he didn’t win, he started in poll position, after winning the Canadian. Anyone who follows sport at all will know that this isn’t just about winning. Because before Canada, was the Monaco Grand Prix, and the events that led to Lewis losing top spot in one of the most glaring errors in the history of Formula One.
Lewis had a fantastic race, in the final laps while ahead, his team made a strategic error bringing him in for a pit-stop. They miscalculated his gap with the other drivers, allowing both his team-mate, Nico Rosberg, and Sebastian Vettel into 1st and 2nd place ahead of him. He was more than 25 seconds ahead when he went in for a stop he didn’t need, and he ended up in 3rd place as a result.
“I can’t think of much to say. This race has been close to my heart for years. It was a great feeling during.. I could have doubled the lead if I’d needed. I’ll come back to fight another day, at the moment I can’t think of anything else.” If you want an example of how Hamilton has matured in recent years, this was it.
Having won 3 of the previous 6 races, Hamilton bounced back after Monaco and won the Canadian Grand Prix two weeks later. This weekend, Rosberg won his 3rd race, fair and square, in Austria. These two team mates, and their cars, have now won 7 of the last 8 races this season. Impressive. Their cars so engineered, their skill-level so high, that their positive mental state is all that divides them. For these two, there is no point in turning up unless you know you’ll win.
Working out adversity
We often make the mistake of feeling that after a certain level of achievement, or success, things should start coming our way. Mistakes like the above shouldn’t happen anymore. Life should be easier. We have put enough in, why shouldn’t it? Suffering, adversity, shouldn’t be a part of our lives anymore, we have won our way out of that. From a 1st class lounge you could forget that life, is still, just life.
Improving our lives
In developed places around the world, in our own homes, and work lives, we work towards improving our lives. And we feel unfairness, distress, or bad luck shouldn’t happen to us anymore. We feel we have bought, or worked, our way out of that by now. But life is not fair. It doesn’t matter how much money you make, or how many friends you have. It doesn’t matter how amazing your team or your product is. You will still fail sometimes. And sometimes you will fail because of other people, bad luck, or a mix of everything. The only thing you can do, is respond in the best way you can. Respond with courage. Respond saying, knowing, it will happen next time.
Lewis is an F1 Driver with all that entails, he is the face of British racing and the front man of Mercedes. He has worked hard over the last 20 years of his life to reach the position he is at today. He would have more right to complain than any. But that day on the track he didn’t blame anyone or anything, he didn’t comment on his competitor, complain about the data, the strategy, the decision, the unfairness of it all. He just walked away, saying he’d be back. His response showed commitment to his sport, and above all, to his team.
Everyone knows that winning is not about winning all the time, but how many people acknowledge it’s not about winning on your own?
Why the team is essential
Nobody can possibly win anything alone. Even a F1 Driver is just a part of a team. No company, product or strategy has ever succeed because of just one person. It’s impossible. Why? Because each person only has 1 brain, 2 hands, 24 hours in a day. No intellect, money, strategy, or business school can ever get you more. Want to do something amazing? You need a team.
How do you deal with your colleagues when at times when you fail, or when you think they’ve failed? How quickly do you get over it, learn from it? Do you learn together? How do you cushion the blow? Have you learned to accept mistakes, and made it easy for others to accept theirs? While also learning to share the credit?
Winners are people who have lost more times than everyone else. They are those rare people who are exceptionally good at coping with set-backs, they expect them, welcome them, even. Because they know that failure is the only route to success. Winning teams work together through adversity. They rely on each other’s strengths. When the chips are down, they do not reject other people for their errors. While upsetting, failure is viewed alongside a string of successes. The failure is acknowledged, but it is not laboured, they commit to doing better, and move on. Together.
Lewis is back on home ground in two weeks’ time for the British Grand Prix. I’m going to place a bet.