Hacking the brain for happiness

This was on my to-do list for a while and finally today, I started with the exercise of writing down three things that I am grateful for every day. I intend to fill one small notebook with the lists of good things in my life, one day per page.

No, I do not plan on spamming my readership with the daily lists, but I wanted to share with you the reason for my starting the exercise.

Happiness, as you may already know, requires work, and not the kind that conventional wisdom may lead you to believe. You don't buy that car/house/purse you've always coveted and become happy for the eternity. You experience a peak of happiness and then it wears off. Evolution made our brains in such a way that we never settle for what we have, and every goal we reach only raises the bar for the next happy high that little bit higher.

Now, compared to our ancestors roaming the prehistoric savannah scavenging for food, our lives are astronomically better. Uh-uh, you don't get to complain. You are reading this on a computer or a web-enabled mobile device. Your life rocks. At least in aggregate.

So how do you make the brain pay more attention to the good stuff, and snap out of the bad habit of constantly looking for the next big thing, ignoring the "bird in hand?"

There was a flutter of articles about it all over the web, but here's one that I read most recently, talking about increasing your happiness and thus your performance in all areas of life.

I read it and thought, I should try this. So here are my three things for today:

  • Grippy new tires to keep me safe in the rain
  • Cafeteria had a dish that I liked that was also Paleo-compliant (for my permissive version of Paleo)
  • Pandora playing one of my recently favourite songs, Heart of the Country by Paul McCartney

Our brains are programmable, and I am going to hack the shit out of mine.


A lot of firsts

This past Saturday was a remarkable day at the track for me, and I find it symbolic that of all the local tracks, Thunderhill Raceway was again the stage for a big step forward for me.

Thunderhill is like my racing home. It was the track where I took my very first driving school, with a car that I had just bought and did not even have a chance to drive yet. It was the site of my first race after getting my rookie license, and two days ago, it witnessed my first race where I did not qualify last, passed another driver, and kept him behind me until the end of the race.

The day started with the realization that my car was different than before. The new cage made the car push in fast corners, and the seat position was not ideal. I did my best to get comfortable inside the car and get used to its new handling, but the whole day I just felt like I was not doing as well as I could.

Given my struggles, I was surprised to find that I did not qualify last when I pulled up to the grid. Once we were on track, rolling towards the start-finish line waiting for the green flag to fall, I completely forgot about my discomfort. It was as if I was truly fused with the car as I was vying for a good position in the controlled chaos that is race start.

I was so glad to see that I haven't lost my position once we made our way through the first corner. Now was the time to go to work, and drive my best, with the car that I had. I did not spend much time looking in my mirrors, and focused on driving as fast as my understeering car would allow.

The driver in front of me was losing ground, and I realized that I could get him. Our cars were about evenly matched on power, and I was still struggling with the new handling, but I stayed on his bumper turn after turn, while he was defending his position. Finally, he overshot Turn 10 and I almost squeezed by him to Turn 11, but he got there just early enough to not let me by. In his attempt to pull away, he underbraked, and his car got a bit sideways. By the time he had it steadied, I was side-by-side with him, coming out of Turn 13. I did my best to ace Turn 14/15 and pulled away on the main straight.

For the remainder of the race, he stayed close, and time after time I had to defend my position. We both got passed by a more experienced driver who started from the back because he did not qualify, so I ended up finishing in the same position I started.

But not last.

To make my happiness even more complete, looking at the data together with J. that night we discovered that I have improved a number of my sector times that day, and even drove my personal best lap time, running over the cyclone.



Practicing what I preach

You see me talk a lot about safety. But if you saw my car a few weeks ago you'd be right to ask why haven't I done more to keep myself safe?

No, I was not racing in a garden chair taped to the floor boards, but to be honest, there was a lot left to be desired in the safety area.

Not any longer.

As of today, my car is proudly sporting a Sparco Circuit composite seat and a strong TC Design roll cage.

 NOTE: Pictured is another TC Design customer's car, because I did not have the presence of mind to take a picture when I was there for seat fitting at 7:30 am this morning
The seat has nice and deep hip, rib, and shoulder protection, and comfy halos that I can lean the head on in high-G turns, and which will also protect my head in an impact.

My harness had just aged out, so I got myself a nice HANS-compatible Schroth Profi II, which will be basically just like the one that I had before, only with narrower shoulder belts to accommodate the HANS.

While we were in there, I asked Tony at TC Design to also update my rear view mirror from Wink to a panoramic Longacre one, and remove the passenger seat and harness.

That's right, no more passengers in Wasabi. While I am a bit sad about not being able to give rides to friends anymore, this step also is an important symbolic milestone on my way to becoming primarily a racer, and not a TT or HPDE driver.

As I have been progressing on my journey back to racing, I knew that I would need a better seat and cage before I compete in a wheel-to-wheel event again. Now that I have reached my lap time goals to make racing fun again, it is not unlike a snake's shedding of an old, smaller, and tighter skin. I have to shed the old constraints so I can grow further.

I will be putting my new skill level to the test this Saturday at Thunderhill. Wish me luck.