In my view, Sebastien Loeb is probably the world’s greatest competition driver. Certainly of the last three decades, quite possibly ever. So what? You’re not really into cars and driving and you’re about to stop reading? Give this one a little more time and read a little further. What can you learn from Loeb?
After 9 World Rally Championship titles, Sebastien Loeb retired from the WRC circuit. Many of us who enjoyed watching his artistry wished he would have continued for 10 world titles, though in truth the only reason for doing that was to make it into double digits. He had nothing left to prove.
Seb didn’t retire entirely from motorsport. He set up and ran his own successful circuit team, he was often seen popping up in the celebrity guest car in Porsche Supercup and of course, he entered the Dakar rally raid each January in South America. Plus of course, we’s been competing in Rallycross.
And in October 2018, he returned to his beloved Citroen team for a one off drive and won Rally Spain.
This was in a car that had seen little success since he left it and in the 2018 season had been in the hunt several times, though had not won a single round all season.
Bear with me, I know you may not be into cars. I have a point.
To put this into perspective for the non-motorsport people reading this. It’s like Roger Federer retiring from the world tennis scene, taking some time out playing for fun, then coming back and winning a Grand Slam with no real practice.
Imagine Sir Chris Hoy deciding to come out of retirement and winning, straight out of the box?
It’s that big a deal.
Why is Seb Loeb such a talented, successful driver? Why do I have so much admiration for him? And what can you learn from him and his career?
Even if you have not interest in driving whatsoever, here’s what you can learn:
His work ethic. Seb was originally a talented gymnast. Anyone who follows that sport knows that it’s a very tough arena, with long hours of work and many setbacks. I believe that set him up for the inevitable falls and setbacks of becoming a World Champion. He’s not scared of hard work.
He talks about a good feeling in the car. This is what is known as Flow. Have you ever done something and everything seemed to click it seemed effortless. And when you were finished, you perhaps wondered why it was that you could not replicate that every day of your life? You are able to write 2000 words non stop and wonder where that came from, turning a performance in your favourite sport that seemed easy, yet your colleagues were stunning by the result?
It’s called flow. And it’s something that scientists have been fascinated with for many years. Books have been written about it, with varying degrees of success. So far, nobody has definitively written about this concept. Watch this space.
I continue on my quest to unlock Flow in myself. It’s a subject I often talk about with my friend McKenna who runs Ice Driver in Scandinavia each winter.
On Loeb, Andy says, “He has immense concentration and love for rallying so he’s enjoying himself every time he gets in the car. If you genuinely love what you do and your not stressed then your more able to apply yourself to the job in hand. With regards psyching out other drivers, they do it to themselves, they bring on mistakes through self induced driver errors, he’s in their heads before they step off the clutch, job done. Seb just does his own thing and does HIS job. He keeps an eye on placings and manages the gap but only stretches himself when he has too.”
Flow applies to you in your life. Stop and recall the last time you felt that way. Imagine if you could replicate it whenever you needed to?
Patience. He typically only pushed very hard when he has that feeling. And such is his confidence that he is happy to wait until he has verything right. World Rally events are run over three days. Day two of a WRC round is typically when he really turns it in, generally from somewhere around fifth place and just when everyone else is thinking they are in with a chance of a win.
It’s never over until it’s over.
He never gives up. I can recall wins where he has been having problems and struggling. His competitors are looking at the time sheets and thinking that this time, he’s not going to beat them. Yet even on the final day of an event, he’s suddenly digging deep, getting into that mental space and turning on a performance that stuns onlookers. Never write him off. He never gives up.
Self Belief. We all, in varying degrees suffer from a crisis of confidence sometimes. Whether we thing we’re not good enough – imposter syndrome – or are sure that we’re going to lose, or simply worry about the consequences of failure. We have all been there at some point.
Seb’s self belief is such that, as McKenna says, he doesn’t need to play mind games or psyche out other drivers. They do it themselves, simply by the metal pressure of having to compare themselves to him against the clock. Self induced pressure like this can affect both sport and business. Worrying about what others are doing, rather that simply making your own performance the best it can possibly be, can have significant negative effects.
There’s nothing you can do about the opposition’s performance. Get over it. Instead, concentrate on being the best you can at what you do. That’s where Loeb wins over his fellow drivers.
So while I have great admiration for Sebastien Loeb’s skill behind the wheel, in my view everyone can learn a great deal about the overall package, what makes him such a complete driver that he won nine world rally championships. And also what has motivated him to return to the World Rally Championship in 2019.
Quite simply, he loves what he does. We should all try and do that more often.