This Great Recession of ours has forced me to learn a lot about myself, and to improve my approach to just about everything in my professional life. As an engineering student in college I learned what it meant to truly work hard, and since then I've considered myself a persistent, tenacious, and industrious person with an entrepreneurial approach to problem solving. I like to hurdle obstacles, and I like it when the constraints are tough. But over the past few years of global economic woe, figuring out how to still have a growth mindset — as well as how to bring people along with me in the groups I work with — has been a tough challenge. As a result, I had to try and radically improve myself and my approach to life in order to get to where I needed to be. I'm still trying, but I've gotten better.
Thankfully, I could rely on many people along the way to provide inspiration and guidance. I had someone giving me straight, unvarnished feedback. Another person acted as a role model and coach (a great combination if you can find it). And there was another person — who happens to be a race car driver — who gave me the best advice of all: keep your head down, focus, and keep cranking away. Just keep at it. All of them helped me realize that what I was doing wasn't enough, that I could do better, and that there was indeed a path to get there.
I've written about Alex Zanardi many times before here on the pages of metacool. He's truly one of my heroes. What Zanardi says to me is that no matter where you think you might be on the path to mastery and enlightenment, there's always more worth striving for. It's not about feeling that you're never good enough, for that's an energy-sapping state of being eternally bummed. Rather, it's about having the confidence to know that life doesn't reward finished products — it's staying on the path to mastery that counts, even when you're already pretty good. Zanardi, of course, has a way of becoming pretty good at everything he puts his mind to, and then going far, far beyond that point. As Dario Franchitti states in the video above, Zanardi doesn't know what the word "no" means. Plus, I'd wager he also probably doesn't know what "done" means, either. In Zanardi's mind, he can always be what he wants to be. And — most important of all — he knows that in his heart, too.
What have I learned from Zanardi? That tomorow we have the potential to be better than we are today, and that the decision to keep striving is all our own. We won't always succeed, and we'll all have setbacks, but man, the reward is in the pushing. It's not about being remarkble, it's about striving to be so.
When I wake up tomorrow morning, I'll be thinking of Zanardi, and I'll try my best to raise my game. I hope you will, too.