• Want to get better at (whatever)? Explain the concepts to others.

    20 Mar 2020

    I recently had the opportunity to write an article for Ross Bentley’s Speed Secrets Weekly newsletter. It’s one of the most popular newsletters in motorsports with a ton of visibility. Ross was kind enough to let me reshare my article here…I wanted to share it with you because it relates to IT and security just as much as it does to racing a car.

    Being a professional writer in information/computer security, it’s super simple to knock out articles on that subject. Writing about racing and high-performance driving…well, that’s a different story. I suppose that’s the essence of what this very article is about. 🙂 Maybe it’s because I’m better at security than I am at racing…for now!

    I hope this piece has a nugget or two that can help you become a better person in some capacity, nonetheless…

    Want to Be A Better Driver? Explain the Concepts to Others.

    by Kevin Beaver

    This saying has been attributed to Albert Einstein: “All physical theories, their mathematical expressions apart, ought to lend themselves to so simple a description that even a child could understand them.” As I gain experience in my career in computer security and in my hobby of racing cars, I’ve grown to understand what Dr. Einstein meant. It’s easy to throw buzzwords around in IT and even more so in racing. However, understanding and conveying what those words mean is a completely different issue.

    Have you ever noticed that the person throwing around the fancy words often struggles to deliver the right message? What’s important is not what’s being said, but rather what’s being heard. Such words echo around racetrack paddocks on any given weekend. I’ve experienced it with racing coaches and track day instructors. I see it in IT, healthcare, and so on. Just because someone knows a topic doesn’t mean they can effectively communicate it to their audience.

    How does this impact racing? Take, for example, race engineers and technicians and the information they need from us racers in order to maximize the performance of our race cars. If the proper setup and adjustments are to be made, we must provide good feedback on things like understeer, oversteer, and balance. If we provide poor feedback, it can quickly translate into poor car setup and, thus, poor results. That’s not why we spend good money on racing!

    Along the same lines as communicating car setup, you can use teaching to improve your own driving skills. I have found that when I show my kids my race videos or I’m giving them advice on a racing simulator, I have to change my approach, my words, and even my communication method if I’m going to be successful in what I’m teaching them. It’s the same thing when coaching my newly licensed teenage son on rules of the road and car control. Even when consulting with clients, presenting on computer security, or writing security guides made “For Dummies”, explaining it simply can be quite difficult.

    Similarly, I’ve found myself giving impromptu coaching sessions at the racetrack and having to explain racing concepts to others. It makes you think, and it makes you re-analyze your own knowledge and assumptions. Distilling complicated topics down into simple terms is one of the hardest things to do. It’s easy to be a Nick Burns-type character but I don’t recommend that approach. Instead, you must step into the shoes of a beginner’s mind and empathize on how they will receive your message. The great thing is, when you take this approach, you’re burning that content into your brain and getting better at what you do in the process.

    Einstein’s original statement evolved over the years to if you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough. Regardless of his actual words, the point is the same. By gaining seat time and experience, we learn the nuances of racing – hopefully well enough to be able to share it with others. Knowing what I now know, I’m convinced Einstein was right.

    I encourage you to start thinking about the different aspects of racing in this way. From technical driving skills to racecraft to the mental game, think about how you might explain these topics to someone else. And, then, explain it to them if you can find someone willing to listen – willing being the key word here! It really does help.

    Ross was behind me writing this piece. To his credit, when Ross initially reached out, he planted this teaching seed in my mind by sharing a quote with me: “When a teacher teaches someone, two people learn.” I had trouble determining who actually said that, but it helps underscore my message, nonetheless: know, teach, and get better in the process.

    You’ve likely heard the saying: “Those who can’t do, teach.” I’ll put a twist on that and say those who can do and can teach, well, they’re on top of the world.