It was 1988, when my dad first took me to the local Kart track in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The day was amazing, with the scent of two stroke fuel in the air, and my first taste of the unique experience of driving fast around a track. I remember putting on my plastic BMX helmet, and being pretty certain that I was about to follow in the footsteps of my racing heroes, Nelson Piquet and Ayrton Senna.
What I didn’t know, was that I was about to embark on a journey that would shape the rest of my life and fully define the kind of person I was going to be, and the things I was going to do.
Lesson #1: There’s Always a Way
My burst of excitement was short lived when my dad told me this was a one time treat. Racing was simply too expensive and we couldn’t afford it. I was devastated that my dream was dead on arrival; too young to realize that my mindset was the real thing holding me back.
Fast forward 10 years and, after moving across hemispheres to a new life in the United States, the idiom “Where there’s a will, there’s a way” started to take hold.
On a random high school weekend in 2002, something in my mind clicked, and I decided if I was going to start racing I had to go to the track and figure out a way to make it happen. So I got in my car and took off for Jacksonville, FL to check out a race taking place at the 103rd Street Sports Complex.
I arrived ready to work, two racers from Atlanta needed a hand, and a few weekends later this happened!
Driving that shifter kart was amazing, but the biggest eye opener from the experience was the realization that money was just another excuse I was using to justify not racing.
When you find ways to add value to others, there’s no limit to what you can achieve. There’s always a way.
Lesson #2: Success = Focus + Action
The experience in Jacksonville and Ocala rekindled my racing dream, and for the next eight years I went all out; starting the Eagles Kart Club at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, then selling my daily driver and using my savings to buy a 1984 Van Diemen Formula Ford.
With the help of dozens of amazing friends and family, I got my racing license, got the car ready and went on to win some races; finishing second in the 2004 SCCA South Atlantic Road Racing Championships. By the time I transitioned to sports cars in 2005 I was hooked; my college weekends were going to be spent at the race track.
The success and effort paid off leading to the opportunity of a lifetime, two races with APR Motorsport, a top team in the Continental Tire Sportscar Challenge. Leading a pack of 36 drivers, at my second professional event, gave me a huge feeling of accomplishment—I made it! Or so I thought.
Success, like most things in life, is not guaranteed. It’s earned through continuous focus and action. I had the driving part down, but had not developed the marketing and business skills required to succeed as a racing driver.
And I had a bigger problem, my motivation was waning as I still had not figured out why I was racing.
Lesson #3: Why We Race
Why do we race? Is it a selfish desire? Is it a healthy addiction to adrenaline? Or is it about something bigger?
To have the drive required to succeed at the professional level, I had to figure this out. Over the next five years, I returned to coaching and racing at the club level. And gradually, through the eyes of my students, started to see everything come together.
Racing was about something bigger. We win medals to inspire others and we learn in order to share and add value to the world.
This realization gave me the energy to continue the journey. One that’s no longer about a kid from Rio wanting to become world champion, but one that’s about you, me and racers around the world, leveraging our passion for the sport to grow as individuals, and inspire others to win big.
Now it’s your turn!
What sparked your interest in racing? What’s the biggest lesson you learned along the way? Let me know in the comments below.