Lewis Hamilton won his 91st Formula 1 race this past weekend. This is a big deal, and ties a what-was-presumed-to-be impossible-to-break record set by the late Michael Schumacher.
Background: Formula 1 racing is a premier level of motorsports. The cars are open-wheeled single-seaters with factory backing from the likes of Ferrari. They are as technically advanced a car as on any race track, in this case sports car race tracks located around the world.
The 35-year-old Hamilton is quickly being recognized as one of the great Formula 1 drivers of all time, with a record of success dating back to his entry on the scene in 2007. But then at that point nobody was surprised as when Hamilton’s age was in the single-digits he was showing an enormous skill set on the professional driver training ground of go-kart racing. He had that quality, that thing: You put him in control of something with a steering wheel and he was able to go faster than anyone else.
When Hamilton won last weekend, he was presented one of Schumacher’s helmets while at the podium, presented by Shumacher’s son. (Schumacher died in 2014 after complications from a, of all things, skiing accident.) The win was at the historic Nuremberg race track, in Germany.
And sure, take a minute here and enjoy an athlete and his accomplishment, as it should be.
But here’s a larger point, posted by Hamilton to social media on Oct. 9, two days before the Nuremberg win.
“I am a man who is growing everyday. I’ve made more mistakes than I can remember but I know that they have helped shape me into who I am now, and helped me build to a better place. I am more conscious than ever about my surroundings, I think everyday about how I impact the world. I know in my heart I want to impact it in a positive way whilst I’m here, and am now on my journey to do so. I just want to acknowledge those of you out there who are becoming more conscious of the world around you, that are on your journey the help make this world a better place, discovering who you are and what you want to do, as I know it’s a process. Please don’t give up, keep pushing, and keep fighting. Life is a gift and we need to live it to the fullest. Sending you all positivity as always.”
His ending punctuation was – in the social media tradition – a praying hands emoticon.
Hamilton, to take this further, is a man of color and continues to lend his high profile to a variety of causes he believes in, Black Lives Matter not in the least. Feel how you feel about that (and I type that realizing a lot of energy is put into denigrating and otherwise misrepresenting that cause). Even that, however, is not the point.
Go back and read that quote again, to which I add this: If I had to pick one thing, one single thing, which has affected my outlook and my life for the better it’s getting the mental game dialed in (as race car drivers say). I came to understand this back when I was covering Bicycle Motocross (BMX) racing, that the difference between a really fast amateur and a fast pro was the mental game. Either one could make the pedals go as fast as the other, but the mental game was what led to the lower lap times during closer competition. (This is backed up in scripture at several points, although Matthew 17 comes up most often in this conversation.)
Put it another way, and I’ll speak strictly for myself here: I’m going to make mistakes, at times some rather sizable mistakes. So it goes, I’m human and that’s what happens.
But with each mistake comes a new opportunity to learn, and with each opportunity to learn comes the opportunity to do it better next time. And with each opportunity to do it better next time comes a new opportunity for success, and with each success comes new opportunities.
Things are going to work out. Not necessarily the way you want or on the timeline you want, but things are going to work out.