Driving Mastery

Turn Passion into Glory

1.1 - Introduction

My intention in building this website is to help readers build a foundation that will serve them in any driving situations, whether that be a daily commute, family road trips or even in their career. I am grateful that you have invested your time to study this material. My hope is that you will commit to reading it all the way through and apply the concepts that I share with you, which I have developed over 30 years of study, application and continuous development.

I am confident that you will find something of value here. Most books on the subject of advanced driving techniques imagine that the reader will apply the techniques on a racetrack. There is no doubt that the racetrack is a great venue to develop better driving skills; particularly sensitivity and control while driving near the limit of a car’s capability. Unfortunately, we rarely have access to a racetrack. Even if we did, a daily practice regimen at a racetrack would be prohibitively expensive for the vast majority of us.

I want to be especially clear that this site is for people who intend to master the art and craft of driving. This is written for first responders, ride share drivers, chauffeurs, traveling salesman or any number of other driving related jobs. Racing drivers seeking “The Unfair Advantage”, tracks fanatic who wants to better their lap-times, and weekend canyon drivers will also discover ways get more satisfaction from their driving enthusiasm. The exercises are designed to be practiced every time you get behind the wheel, particularly in your daily commute since this is where you spend the majority of your drive time. Some of the words are specific to racing and high-performance driving. It is important for these drivers to understand the context of their specific interest and it is also helpful for street drivers to understand how the techniques are similar or distinct between these two applications.

It is not necessary that you ever turn a wheel on the racetrack in order to develop the skills of a great driver. I have designed the exercises to be applied on the street without breaking traffic laws and without disturbing other drivers. Let me put this another way: a master driver is invisible to other drivers and who’s passengers are blissfully unaware of his driving prowess.

Trying to impress your friends by emulating the actions that you see in movies will only take you further away from mastery. One need only look at where and how the actors grip the steering wheel, how they stab at the pedals and how they muscle the shifter, along with the many other absurd actions that make for an exciting (albeit fake) film. Keep in mind that our goal is not to be street racers. I must repeat: you should be able to practice these techniques and get their full benefit without ever breaking a law or provoking a reckless driving citation.

Additionally, my hope is that you will find other collateral benefits of applying these techniques. I have found that these techniques give me more focus in my work. I am more present when spending time with friends and family. My mind is sharper and I have a broader field of vision and mental bandwidth. I believe that you will discover these benefits as well, just as exercising, eating well and staying fit tend to give people more energy and make them more productive at work. These are lofty goals to be sure. And make no mistake, driving is an athletic activity, despite what the critics of NASCAR might say. But our driving mastery goes beyond just physical ability. We will explore psychology and mental fortitude in our path to mastery. This is the duality of driving mastery: If you apply these techniques, you will become a better driver and you will also drive your life towards mastery in many other disciplines as well. Keep in mind that mastery is not a destination but a lifelong pursuit.

Now a word of warning: as you become a better driver, you will begin to see all the horrible things that people do on the road. You’ll see it in the other cars on the road and you will see it in your friends and family. And if you want to make progress, you will see it in yourself and commit to changing your habits. Just keep in mind that people hate to hear that they have room for improvement; particularly when it is something that they have been doing for years. You may have the best intentions and a desire for their safety but if they are not paying you to coach them to be better drivers, then it is likely they do not want your input. Better yet, offer to be the driver. It will provide more opportunities to improve your skills. As your skills improve, you may find that people prefer that you drive, which means more time to practice. It’s a win-win for everyone.

Additionally, being unshakable in the face of the atrocious things you see on the road is part of mastery. Yes, driving is a potentially life threatening activity and at times it seems people are actively trying to kill you. Your best option is to remain cool under pressure and continue to make good decisions rather than focus on the bad decisions of others. My intention is to help you bring awareness to what you are actually doing, offer suggestions on how to do things differently and provide tweaks here and there to help you improve what you’re already doing well.

I’d like you to remember as you go through this material that you bring a unique perspective. This perspective determines how you interact with the world around you. Similarly, everyone around you has their own perspective. The ability to view a situation from several perspectives does not diminish your perspective, but it broadens your view of the world. Take for example, the common optical illusion of the young woman / old woman. What you see depends on where you focus and how you interpret what you see. Generally speaking, the first image that you see is the image that you fixate on and it may be difficult to see any other image. However, when you know that there is another image, it opens your perspective up to new possibilities. Once you’ve seen both perspectives, you have the ability to switch between them at will. It may be that you have a preference for one perspective over another. It can sometimes take time to release your preference and see both images with similar ease.

Similarly, I may present alternate perspectives that are in conflict or incongruent with your current perspective. The challenge that I present to you is to maintain both perspectives and develop the ability to switch between them. In this way, you will take the benefit of your own knowledge and experience and still be open to new ideas. It takes time, practice and experience to adapt to something new. This is the first step towards mastery. Consider the novice learning a skill, technique, perspective… He believes that this is “the way” because he knows of no other way. When confronted with new ways that challenge his existing way, he may resist the new way and then he is stuck. The master studies all skills, techniques, perspectives… he takes what serves him and makes each one uniquely his own.

Clearly, you are here because you seek knowledge so it is safe to say that you are already open to new ideas. However, in my decades of coaching people, observing their behaviors and experiencing their protests, I have discovered that people hold on very tightly to their own way of doing things. It is no surprise that people are very fixed in their ways when it comes to driving. I know of no other activity that is so widely practiced on a daily basis, whether that practice is wanted or not. And in many cases, people would rather not. In this way, we develop a love-hate relationship with driving: we love the freedom, mobility and utility that driving provides; we generally hate the traffic, navigating, and long hauls. There is also the anxiety of making mistakes and the risk of physical harm.

At this point, it is important to clarify that an experienced driver is not necessarily a prepared driver. An experienced driver may have basic skills based on remedial driver’s ed classes. A prepared driver is one who has taken the time and effort to study and practice advanced driving and accident avoidance techniques. A prepared driver knows what to do to avoid any dangerous situations. A prepared driver is on the path towards mastery.

Lastly, there is one obstacle that you must overcome on your journey towards driving mastery. You must avoid distractions while driving. This includes talking on the phone, eating, shaving, putting on make-up, or any of the other unnerving and unsettling things that people do behind the wheel. I also encourage you to turn of the radio/audiobooks/podcasts; at least until you have developed your ability to focus and the techniques presented here become second nature (the one exception being audio related to the development of driving skills). You must view every driving moment as an opportunity to better yourself, just like a fitness routine or learning any new skill. With every moment that you spend behind the wheel you have a choice to develop greater capacities in focus, concentration, awareness and presence. And you’ll even become a better driver along the way.

Furthermore, it bears repeating that it will take time to adapt to new concepts and techniques. You may feel uncomfortable at first. You may feel like you are regressing in your skills. You may want to toss this new information aside. These are powerful moments for introspection. Do not waste them. Consider where else in your life you are prone to push away things that do not come easy right away. Where else do you avoid discomfort because returning to the comfortable way of doing things is easier? Where else are you set in your ways and unwilling to give new ideas, skills and methods a chance? What is more important to you: comfort or mastery? There is no judgment in wanting one more than the other. It is just as noble to seek more comfort in your life as it is to seek mastery. But it is important to recognize that you have a choice and that your actions represent the choice that you make. Furthermore, comfort and mastery are not necessarily exclusive. In fact, you will find more comfort and confidence as you develop mastery in an area. However, you will note that the title of this book is not “Driving Comfort.” And there is necessarily a period of discomfort when doing things differently from what you are accustomed to.

I will ask you to stretch beyond your comfort zone. If you apply my techniques, you will find some discomfort at first but this will pass with practice and experience. You will also feel less anxious or hurried, more present in every moment, more patient and more satisfied with your experiences. You will experience it in your driving first and then you are likely to notice it in other areas of your life as well.

Lastly, I have found that I can teach myself to the point of burn-out, which is counter productive. You could probably read through these pages in a weekend but then you would have a hard time remembering the specific tasks or the specific order of the training. These lessons are designed to be layered. As such, I recommend that you give yourself time to learn and practice a new skill before moving on to the next skill. Of course, you are free to study as you please and you surely know what pace is right for you. However, this curriculum has been developed from years of coaching drivers and working with them through these steps. And remember, if you’re struggling, just breathe…