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From time to time, I wonder about the competitiveness between different racing leagues or even different teams within the same league. Just as Sebastian Vettel is maligned for having the best car in the field during his four-years as Formula 1 champion with Red Bull Racing, now Lewis Hamilton is tagged the same way for winning the 2017 F1 championship in a seemingly-dominant Mercedes.

The way I see it, there are degrees of advantage gleaned from 1) Lewis Hamilton’s acumen as a driver 2) The reliability and speed of the Mercedes team and 3) The mistakes and errors made by Lewis Hamilton’s competition.

Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas is the #2 driver at Mercedes. He has the exact same car as Lewis Hamilton, yet has only taken two wins to Lewis Hamilton’s nine during the 2017 season. Never mind that Bottas himself is a five-year veteran of F1 racing who had scored many podiums with the Williams team previously to his time at Mercedes.

The average person will perform much worse in initial competitions. This can come down to equipment, conditioning, inexperience or simple incorrect emotional responses.

A really good example of this phenomenon is evidenced by a Jalopnik article where an automotive journalist takes her mother’s Hyundai Genesis drag racing against amateurs at the Texas Motor Speedway. Despite the car’s factory horsepower, she gets creamed by other similar makes within her class.

It’s very wrong to judge the journalist unfairly. It takes courage to try to do something you’ve never done before–and even more to put those results out in a story and video saying “I lost, badly.”

Because it’s completely normal to make huge gaffes or fall short in your first few attempts at something. This is evidenced in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), where nearly all of the time when new participants roll and end up getting submitted. This will happen if neophytes compete in chess or tennis or even algebra because you cannot base your expectations on how someone performs straight out-of-the-box.

It takes a tremendous amount of time and effort to just get to the point where you don’t suck at something. That point has to be addressed and reached before you can call yourself competent. After that, if a lot of factors (including your own hard work, timing, luck, etc) are in your favor, you obtain mastery.

So to suggest that either Sebastian Vettel or Lewis Hamilton’s cars drove themselves to easy F1 championships is incorrect. Truly, they gained really degrees of competitiveness from their cars, but most of the effort in actually competing and winning came from themselves.

As a side note, I would not mind seeing a second story or video from Jalopnik where the same journalist who drove her mother’s Genesis returned to the same track with a new strategy, car and outlook. Could they have done better with the benefit of planning and experience?

In all things, we must try and try again. We don’t know the full truth if we do otherwise.

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The Ferrari-Ford Cobra Wars

I was watching Need For Speed, the 2014 movie that sought to establish Breaking Bad‘s Aaron Paul in the feature film genre when I kept hearing a plot point about a “Carroll Shelby designed Ford Mustang” over and over again. Yes, I’ve heard of a Shelby GT500 Mustang, but I got curious and decided to learn more about the iconic American behind the car’s design.

Carroll Shelby was a chicken farmer and a highly-decorated professional race car driver who had won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1959 with British automaker Aston Martin.

When he retired from racing in October 1959, he took his talent to Chevrolet in order to convince them to build a new prototype of sports car. Chevy already had the Corvette as their signature car, so Shelby went to Ford and got a small amount of money and some Ford engines to begin work on the AC Cobra.

In 2002, the BBC produced a good documentary about Carroll Shelby and his role in developing the Ford GT40, which would usurp Ferrari at Le Mans, winning four times from 1966 to 1969. The GT40 itself was in development before Shelby joined the project in 1964, but his contribution to the team helped defeat the Italians, who had a solid lock on the Le Mans title, winning it every time from 1960 to 1965.

The other really good resource for understanding this era in car racing is the 2016 documentary The 24 Hour War:

“In the early 1960s, Henry Ford II and Enzo Ferrari went to war on the battlefield of Le Mans. This epic battle saw drivers lose their lives, family dynasties nearly collapse and the development of a new race car that changed racing.”

Today, auto racing has completely changed. Privateers are virtually nonexistent at the highest levels of racing. Even major teams with solid financial clout flail and seem noncompetitive against those with greater backing.

You also have to wonder: How much does a manufacturer’s success carry over into consumer sales? For instance, if a Toyota Camry wins the NASCAR title this year, will people go out and buy that car? Is there incentive for Ford to create a Mustang for NASCAR?

As it stands, the Ferrari-Ford rivalry was a good thing because of how it radically advanced technology and expectations about performance. I believe there are things to be learned that can be passed down to consumer versions of cars–but filtering out the truth from a million options available is where the buyer has to educate themselves.

Anyway, Carroll Shelby certainly made a huge contribution to the American car industry and researching him was really worthwhile.

 

 

 

 

Breaking Cycles

One of the most effective aspects of Rick and Morty is the way the show breaks down the wall between the viewer and the fact that they’re watching a TV show. The epilogue to the finale of Season 3 essentially mocks the audience, “This is how much I’ve done in the time that you were waiting for this show to come back.”

Because, like certain foods or patterns of thought, we’ve been quietly lulled into believing in a television show. Like, viewing the show became a priority somehow surpassing all other chores or activities. And the show is so good that it can poke fun at our dependence on its continual existence!

Then we come to the next quandary: How do we break a negative pattern or bad habit that we seem to be stuck in? As a creative, I would sometimes rather be entertained by other people’s work than producing or showcasing my own stuff. It took a lot of nudging and prodding from friends, colleagues and mentors before I was comfortable even seeking publication.

What I understand now is that it’s a minute-by-minute process of trial-and-error of brainstorming ideas, executing a handful of them and, even then, needing to discard much of what you produced. And this process of burning away the impurities through substantive editing–it’s laborious, time consuming and painful.

Which brings me back to my original point: The big consolation of doing the right thing is that it is cumulative. Instead of waiting for that next distraction, be it whipping out your phone or whatnot, we can be proactive in continuing to craft our own narrative via asking the hard questions to ourselves.

Time is going to pass no matter what. Might as well get something done.

 

 

Horses for Courses

I got a chance to go horseback riding last week. Growing up in Caledon, the opportunity to ride was everywhere–but for some reason, I never made the introduction. Perhaps because it was seen as an unnecessary expense? Or something no one ever thought would be a priority?

Well, as it turned out, the experience of driving up to Uxbridge ended up being purely magical. We learned the ropes in a safe, graduated way, got an amazing ride on picturesque trails and then truly bonded with the animals.

Petting the horse

Except for those from our group who had experience riding, none of us knew what to expect. It’s hard not to feel a little anxiety, but achieving a “first” means you’re having an adventure. The fact that the darkened skies kept spelling rain also put us in a different spot.

When it was time to step up and mount “Latte,” my aptly named/paired horse, I felt unease and a total lack of familiarity with the beast. This animal could have bucked me off with relative ease and made no bones about showing me he knew what was up.

Me and Latte

Out of everyone in our group, my horse seemed to be the lone non-conformist, refusing to line up facing the exit. I tried to turn him using the method we were shown, and he just didn’t respond.

“Let him know you’re in charge,” suggested someone.

I relaxed, and lo and behold, Latte began to respond, taking his place near the front of the line. During the last part of the trail ride, I really began to enter that quiet, contemplative head space–a place that is harder to access living in the city.

***

Inside the house

What we all learned was that animals are easily spooked. Especially prey animals that have learned to avoid humans for their survival.

Still, the process of bonding with a horse can be incredibly rewarding. They learned to trust us and we all learned to care about each other.

In the end, it was harder than you can imagine to watch that farm disappear in the rear-view mirror. Truth be told? We knew we were leaving a part of ourselves behind.

Scar Tissue

We get a rich tapestry illustrating this through Chili’s vocalist Anthony Keidis in his 2005 autobiography Scar Tissue. Co-written by veteran biographer Larry Sloman, the book traces Anthony’s life emerging from his parent’s fragmented marriage to success as a child actor into tumultuous years in the LA music scene.

There are never any hints that Anthony is fated for the big time with the RHCP. If you look carefully, it’s a telling more about the ephemeral nature of moments in life itself than someone charting the ever-cliched “meteoric rise to the top.”

As the Chili’s make their foothold into mass consciousness, Anthony experiences the highest of highs: an extravagant home, beautiful admirers and picturesque vacation spots. He also must contend with spiritual erosion from the toxic nature of the world itself.

Past the band’s antics, there’s something deeper at work here that resonates deeply: People (including myself) are sometimes quick to judge others. Do we look at ourselves with that same critical lens? Anthony rarely displaces blame elsewhere, although he has many sharp (accurate) observations about others.

Nowhere is this made more clear than the section telling us the story behind the classic Under the Bridge that originated from Keidis’s feeling of being distanced from his own band.

If Anthony Keidis teaches us anything, it’s that his truth is something internal. In the end, we don’t fully understand because he’s always holding that 25 percent back from the reader. The people who fully understand him are the ones who are (or were) already in his life.

In Scar Tissue, he’s given us something much more magical, a story that continues to create associations and memories long after the pages have stopped turning. He delivers essential truths.

Whether you’re reading the book or listening to the music, audiences can interpret the message for their own design.

 

 

Form vs Substance

We’ve all heard the saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” What that means is, substance can be present without us realizing it.

Or maybe there’s another interpretation, that goes “Some things that are pretty on the outside just aren’t worth it.”

Now, from experience, we all know that there are a lot of different products out there that this can also be applied to: movies, video games and music albums are all products where a lot of attention is paid to the cover art.

What about the famous scene in Spinal Tap where Fran Drescher’s character admonishes the band about their cover artwork, explaining that The Beatles didn’t need anything special or unique to sell The White Album?

In an ideal situation, a product would contain both style and substance. A lack of presentation doesn’t hurt the reality of what is inside, but perception itself has a way of shaping reality: Take the example of certain luxury brands that are able to price themselves higher simply based on reputation.

It really is a constant challenge to meet the escalating expectations that people have. We really should spend most of our focus working on creating the best products or services and also reserve some time to think about presentation.

These two can and do work together, and there are many more examples of this from highly functional and beautiful furniture to powerful, stylish vehicles. This also reminds me to mention that substance itself could have a bunch of subgroups for any product or service depending on who the ultimate consumer will be.

This really could be an endless debate if we are asking “Which is more important?”. They work together and the things with an ideal combination tend to dominate the marketplace.

 

 

 

Escape Rooms

Right now, the concept of an “Escape Room” is very popular with people. I’ve done two so far, and wanted to recap some of the lessons I learned. In particular, the importance of recognizing patterns.

For those that don’t know, an escape room is a place where you are put into locked rooms and fed clues that allow you to progress into eventually leaving the room. They are meant to be solvable, but usually contain a high degree of difficulty.

The first time I went into an escape room, I quickly found the key that released us from our handcuffs. Then we began looking for clues. One person assumed a leadership role and began trying to decipher some cryptic writing on the wall.

When they failed to figure out the puzzle, we called for help. That’s when we all learned that the writing on the wall had nothing to do with the next step. The person was ascribing meaning to things where it didn’t actually exist. This happened again and again during the game, until we ran out of time and essentially lost.

This can happen to anyone. There’s a good Terminator: Sara Connor Chronicles episode called Strange Things Happen at the One Point Two where Sara drags her team through a lot of unnecessary danger because she gives meaning to three dots. I won’t spoil the episode, but it’s a good metaphor for what I’m trying to explain here.

Generally, to move forward, you have to see key information and base conclusions off of it. Otherwise, you will be trapped over and over by things that aren’t actually there.

I learned my lesson, and the next time I was in an escape room, I assumed the leadership role among my team. This time, we came through in flying colors and I was ecstatic that we escaped. We would have had a good time regardless, but sometimes, it’s nice to flex your problem-solving muscle among friends.

All it took to make it out of the situation was the ability to see what was really there. So whenever we’re confronted by obstacles or challenges, we have to ask ourselves, “What is really going on here?”. Our own biases may tell one story; the facts another; and others may layer on their own narrative.

Sometimes, people misinterpret the clues. This can happen to anyone, but it’s 100% on us to find a systematic approach so we get to our goals and are not waylaid or distracted. Once you know the truth–what things actually mean–you’re going to overcome challenges.

The exit is right there…and it’s been there all along.

Just wrapped up reading Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story by Arnold Schwarzenegger. I have so many thoughts on this wonderful book that it’s hard to contain them into a mere review. I suppose, like his life story itself, Arnold touches on four main areas of his personal success:

BODYBUILDING

Arnold explains how he became a multiple world bodybuilding champion by putting in the work and being extremely hard on himself. In one section, he is highly self-critical of his own body:

“I also had some shortcomings. Relative to my torso, my limbs were too long. So I was always having to build the arms and legs to make the proportions seem right. Even with massive twenty-nine-inch thighs, my legs still looked on the thin side. My calves fell short compared to my thighs, and my triceps fell short compared to the biceps.”

This kind of direct, open honesty is rare, even in hindsight. Arnold actually solicited feedback from judges at bodybuilding competitions, telling them that he wouldn’t feel insulted by their feedback. What’s more, Arnold went to task, working on each of his weaknesses until he emerged triumphantly.

Total Recall

MOVIES

Hollywood is the hardest nut to crack in a world full of glittering opportunities. Arnold turns the tables completely by dismissing the people who said “You can’t do it because of the accent, your size, your nationality, your lack of theater experience, etc.”

Most interesting is how Arnold gives up concessions early on for his earliest movies–and later on reaps benefits by having detailed knowledge of contracts. Twins was a foray into comedy that always left an impression on me.

Some terrific insight into the hardcore nature of director James Cameron as they feverishly worked on the Terminator movies. There really are no prisoners in the film business, no stone left unturned and Arnold really got a hold of something magical through his efforts.

REAL ESTATE

Thanks to his math skills and careful research, Arnold invested in various properties that increased many times in value. Before he bought a home, he invested in an apartment building in the 70s. Even before Conan the Barbarian, Arnold’s investments contributed to a net worth of $1 million dollars.

His wise investment of income allowed him to take the right movie roles to get to where he wanted to go, rather than trying to fit in with wherever he was typecast.

POLITICS

Arnold really shines here as he explains his bipartisan initiatives to govern California. He takes the very best qualities of both parties and melds them into his own centrist politics.

While his two terms as Governor of California were marred with low approval ratings, we must examine the constitution of California, as well as the 2008 housing crash/recession as factors. Arnold had to take decisive action and he wasn’t going to win any popularity contests by challenging the status quo.

The only shame is that Arnold can’t run for president. He truly has a solid vision for where the USA should be headed with universal healthcare, budget reforms, environmental initiatives and just his people skills in general.

My recommendation: Buy this book. Arnold’s life lessons, strategies, tips and stories are incredibly valuable. A must-read.

 

As Communications/Marketing Coordinator for Coleman Lemieux & Compagnie (CLC), I get to meet many tremendous artists who walk into The Citadel on a regular basis. One of the absolute killer performances that CLC hosted was the sold-out run of dancer/choreographer Sabina Perry’s FUNNY/FUNERAL.

Sabina is a Cologne, Germany-based artist who has the unique backstory of going to 51 auditions without any success. She was just about ready to return home to Canada, but she had to follow-through with her 52nd audition first. Breathe easy, because she got the gig and was able to continue developing abroad.

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I managed to watch a preview of FUNNY/FUNERAL before it ran in April of this year. From the opening with Molly Johnson dancing to Morrissey’s “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now,” to the rapid series of one-liners Perry tells near the end, the show was wildly entertaining.

The first half of the show is a dance performance with Johnson showing fine control in synchronization with a perfectly-chosen selection of songs. The second half is Sabina Perry giving a fiery monologue that delved into ex-boyfriends, murder fantasies, orgasms and other edgy topics.

What Perry & Johnson did was special in that they took their performance to the absolute limit. They opened up as artists to capture electrifying moments of their lives as they nudged past their 20’s. They did it with style, class, wit and candor, drawing rapt applause from an ecstatic audience.

This show gets five stars out of five. Hopefully they remount in Toronto in the near future.

 

 

Did this nifty feature on Canadian Indycar driver James Hinchcliffe for luxury men’s magazine Preferred. In this issue, Hinchcliffe discusses coming back from his devastating crash and plans for the future. Read more here.

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