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Looking Foolish to the Crowd — A Life Lesson Under the Hood

Looking foolish to the crowd_Kinetic Motorsports Kia Racing_Pit Crew

There was a Chinese symbol, written haphazardly in black ink, encased inside a cheaply made, 6×9 black plastic frame. It was one of my few prized possessions, so it came with me to Philly and hung bedside in my first two apartments and later, it made the trip to my new home in the ‘burbs where it rested on a stone mantle. Next to the symbol, offset slightly towards the bottom right, read the English text:

“Before the beginning of great brilliance, there must be chaos. Before a brilliant person begins something great, they must look foolish in the crowd.”

For better or worse, those two sentences served as a key tenant of my early adulthood. Maybe it’s because I fancied myself a brilliant man. Or maybe it was because I knew that most people considered me a fool for trying to become a concert promoter and for starting an indie rock record label. I was laughed at by many who said neither would work. They told me both were wastes of time and money. They were only half right. Neither enterprise reached the terrible twos, but nothing was wasted. I grew and learned and kept moving forward.

Fast-forward to mid-adulthood and to more laughter when I announced I’d be leaving a cushy, well-paying corporate job to be a full-time dad and to try my hand at writing. Few understood the decision and many had no problem expressing their opinion of it.

Funny enough, my schemes, ideas and dreams no longer appear quite as foolish and the laughter, if any, is a murmur from a far corner.

One of the unexpected byproducts of that recent unorthodox life choice has been to find myself on the road from time to time, partaking in unusual experiences I could never have envisioned while running a fledging record label or back when I ditched the cubicle, but the through-line from there to here is stitched into both. One of the most unique moments from this new life came at the mid-point of this summer, in central Wisconsin of all places, when I broke bread with the founder of a motorsports company and discovered that we shared common ground.

Like me, the Kinetic Motorsports team has looked incredibly foolish to the crowd. In late 2009, their peers in the racing industry laughed at the big reveal of Kinetic’s new automotive and racing partner. When the silk cover was pulled back there sat a Kia.

A Kia.

Looking foolish to the crowd_Kinetic Motorsports Kia Racing

More specifically, not that it probably mattered to the chuckling naysayers, Kinetic would now work on and race with a Kia Forte, the very same Koup bought begrudgingly by countless broke-ass college students out of sheer desperation for cheap wheels. A Kia Forte Koup was going to be taking on all comers in the hyper competitive Grand-American road racing series. Yeah, right. Where were the Candid Cameras hidden? Kinetic’s move into a relationship with the Korean car company came after making bones with more established automobile manufacturers and racing legends like Porsche and BMW. No one expected to see a Kia at that event. Cue startled and hysterical laughter.

Looking foolish to the crowd_Kinetic Motorsports Kia Racing

I heard this story of racecars and gut laughs as we passed around bowls of White Truffle Bacon Mac-n-Cheese and plates of Sweet Corn Fritters with the two Kia GT drivers at the Black Pig in Sheboygan, WI and I immediately thought of kids and childhood. Such is the life of a parenting writer, where every kernel pops into some kind of metaphor for bringing children into this world, building a foundation for and with them, and sending them out to hopefully thrive and to discover their own happiness. It made perfect sense in this case because one of the tendencies we dads and moms should be trying to instill in our kids is grit, a serious tenacity of will, because like Kinetic Motorsports and the poor Kia Forte, there will be times when the ambitions of our children will have them laughed at, or worse, mocked, teased, ridiculed and harassed. And we might not always be there to put a comforting and reassuring arm around them.

“Before a brilliant person begins something great, they must look foolish in the crowd.”

Changing the behavior of others is tricky business and often a long haul endeavor, but we might change minds more quickly by persevering, out working, out thinking, and, I won’t lie, because this has been an added benefit in my case, by envisioning that glorious moment in which we stick it to the doubters as we emerge victorious. Or not. Victory won’t always be the outcome but gaining the respect of a peer group can be accomplished in more ways than one. Kinetic proved immediately that they and the Kia Forte Koup, and later, the Turbo Kia Optima that now races on the Pirelli World Challenge GT circuit against the likes of Aston Martin, Porsche, and Mercedes Benz, were a force with which to be reckoned. After respectable top 11 finishes in year one, Kinetic and Kia rose to the top of the podium for both the drivers and the team as a whole in year two. No one was laughing at them any more either.

Looking foolish to the crowd_Kinetic Motorsports Kia Racing

A hardening of resolve of many prideful automotive professionals helped turn the Kinetic and Kia racing team into champions in short order and there’s a pretty brilliant life lesson lurking right under the hood of those red & white race cars, a lesson that our kids, whether they care about motorsports or not, can pull something out of that may help them next week or at some point in the next decade: being an underdog and having a commitment to put in the hard work that’s required when you cannot rely on reputation to open doors is all part of the journey between the many points of one’s life. Reaching a desired destination is never guaranteed but we choose the path we take and decide on the effort we give, and regardless of whether we’re mocked or laughed at or called names by others doubting our decisions, we may just come out looking brilliant to the crowd.

Looking foolish to the crowd_Kinetic Motorsports Kia Racing

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2 Comments

  1. Excellent reminder that commitment and consistency pays off. It’s the two words my wife and I kept using in our adoption interview, and it’s what got us our wonderful kids.

    Now we just have to work to apply it each day.

  2. People laughed at Japanese cars back in the day, too, and look at them now…

    Always be true to yourself and things tend to settle in the right places. Gut instinct is a beautiful thing!

joc