I recently had coffee with Ingrid Steffensen, author of 'Fast Girl' which is the quirky real-life chronicle of her journey of self-discovery and liberation through the unlikeliest of means: racecar driving. The book is a life-affirming exploration of pushing oneself way beyond the comfort zone in the often sweaty, noisy, and testosterone-tinged ambience the racetrack. The subject is not primarily about cars and driving, but how the tackling of a scary new set of skills changed one woman’s whole perspective on life. It is a story of the transformative power of exposing and overcoming self-imposed psychological boundaries.
Here's how Ingrid describes 'Fast Girl':
Life Lessons at 130 Miles per Hour
I was a frustrated academic and a suburban New Jersey wife and mother when I encountered race car driving. I didn’t even particularly like cars. Nothing in my life could have prepared me for what I discovered about myself once I went out there! The lessons I learned there inspired me to write Fast Girl. It’s not about the cars—it’s about the journey.
Five Things I Learned at the Racetrack
You are never too old to learn something new: Clichéd, but so true. I was 41 the day I first drove out onto the racetrack. They say the brain, like your muscles, needs to be exercised to keep it strong. The acquisition of an entirely new skill set was both a pleasure and a challenge that reinvigorated my intellect and my love of learning—and my whole life! You don’t have to drive racecars to learn something new—it can be square-dancing, Mandarin, or Krav Maga—as long as it challenges you in new ways.
Dare to venture outside your comfort zone: I was terrified nearly out of my mind before I settled behind the wheel, and after five years I’m still a bundle of nerves before every driving event. Embracing the fear and doing it anyway can be an enormous source of pride and strength. I have a friend who was afraid of the water—and now she is a certified master scuba diver. Do something that scares you! You’re stronger and braver than you think you are.
YOU are an extraordinary machine: Do we really only use 10% of our brain’s capacity on a regular basis? Whether or not this is true, what I learned at the racetrack is that you (and your car) have deep reserves of power and performance that you ordinarily don’t use. Test them out, and surprise yourself!
Live life at the limits: High-performance driving is all about pushing your vehicle as close to its physical limits as possible. It is both scary and thrilling to approach your limits—but you don’t know what those limits are if you don’t seek them out. If you push yourself to test those limits in a controlled way, you will find a lot of life’s other challenges far less intimidating. I would never have had the courage to write this book, find an agent, and publish and market my work, before I realized I have more in me than I thought I did.
Take the wheel, own the aggression: Maybe you’re the self-confident go-getter who doesn’t need to be told this: but I sure did! Raised to be polite and a “good girl,” I struggled at first with the overt aggression at the racetrack. At the racetrack, it’s all about who is the fastest, who is the most skilled. Men don’t ever apologize for overtaking—why should I?
The book is a fast read - it is great and filled with motivation and inspiration.
To learn more about Ingrid, visit her at www.ingridsteffensen.com