It’s been a while.  So I’m going to start this as if I’m sitting with one of my old best friends.  You know, like you don’t have to explain everything you’ve done since you saw each other last?  You just pick up where you left off.

It’s interesting how life flies by.  I find myself trying to stop saying, “but I’ve just busy too busy to do ‘x’.”  That is the beauty of my time in Morocco.  Although I am there for work, checking out of my SoCal life for several weeks and driving off into the desert is absolutely heaven for me.  Even though I’ve got the stress of getting from point A to point B via map and compass, little to no path, and the safety responsibility of those in my vehicle, to emails when the engine is off, it’s my slice of heaven.  Driving off-road is my sanity.  It’s my domain, where my spirit comes to life, and time slows down.

However, every time I am off-road, I think of this simple fact.  I would never have been able to do what I do if it weren’t for having the best mentor in the 4×4 arena.  I am basically able to get off a flight, pick up a random 4×4, take a long look over it and then pilot it off into the unknown.  Just a bag filled with an avi shovel, tool kit, set of MAXTRAX, tire compressor, sleeping bag, headlamp, and my Starbucks Via.

So 2 weeks ago, I hopped on a plane and flew to Reno, Nevada to see my mentor, friend, and former business partner – Rod Hall.  There is nothing better than thanking your mentor in person for what they mean to you, and what they have taught you.

Rod is a legend – still racing into his late ‘70s and always kicking serious ass.  He told me that my lesson in life is patience, and that I would learn that in racing.  He wasn’t kidding, but what a strange place to learn it.  For those that race and drive stock vehicles off-road, you know what I mean.

I have been fortunate to spend hours upon hours in a vehicle with Rod.  Not a handful or even dozens in a few training courses, but thousands of hours hunting trails, developing training areas, pre-running races, racing, coaching and just enjoying the backcountry via 4×4.  We’ve gone on to coach thousands of drivers together.  Yes, thousands.  And through his wise council and simple lessons of handling a vehicle successfully, he’s taught me the nuances of what to watch for, what to do.  He taught me how to feel the vehicle.  I know when I am being too hard, too easy, just right.  He is the voice in my head.  A couple years ago, I had to put on the brakes (literally) and stop a bad habit I was developing, so I went back to my mental notebook from the days when he would take right seat.  His voice will always be there when I turn off the pavement and engage the 4-wheel drive.  And that voice has saved me some major headaches – or worse – more than once, in remote parts of the world.

I have a few pet peeves.  I’ve seen several people receive top-notch coaching and try to act as if they have always been good, like they were born drivers.  Unable to give credit to their mentors.  I’ve seen people take coaching from poor instructors and they have no idea what kind of impact that has had, as well.   Remember, pretty much everything we do is a learned skill.  I learned how to ski, snowboard, surf, drive and everything else from someone.  Everyone has the opportunity to learn from the best teachers.  I urge you to go find the best and reinforce their instruction every chance you get until it is burned into every cell, every nerve, every action.  Then thank them and credit them.

Inspire people that they can learn too.  The sports you do, from driving a car to driving a golf ball, is not a God-given talent, but a developed skill.  Driving may be go, stop, and turn, but how you combine those three is an art form.  Find your Ghirlandaio, your Bach, your Bondurant, your Rod Hall.  And when you get to the point where you forget that you learned your skill – and that prior to your training, you sucked – reign in that ego and say “thank you.”  It feels pretty good…for both of you.