MORE THAN WORDS
When crisis brings opportunity
If you are looking at the photograph and thinking that something does not look well with the red car at the rear of the pack, you would be correct. What you are looking at is a picture of the Scuderia Ferrari car of 4-time Formula 1 World Champion, Sebastian Vettel with a broken rear wing. This is the aftermath of, in Formula One terms, an apocalyptic event. Vettel’s teammate and a probable future World Champion, Charles LeClerc made an ambitous and universally accepted badly judged attempt to pass Vettel which saw them crash and retire from the recent Styrian Grand Prix in Austria. Many creative expletives were said in Italian, German and French no doubt.
What do two Formula 1 drivers have to do with words and opportunity as the title suggests this piece is about? Well this coming together, which happened in 2019 at another track, and the subsequent reactions of both men and their team hold a few lessons, for me at least.
Drivers are expected to speak to the media after the race, regardless of whether their particular race experience had lasted just one lap or the full duration. Both Vettel and LeClerc provided quick and polite responses when interviewed and simply both looked to the future, which in their terms is the Hungarian Grand Prix on the 19th of July. They may very well have been warned by their team to keep things PC. Then things changed when the Ferrari post race debrief had been cancelled, with numerous outlets citing the cause as Vettel leaving the track and country….
This got me thinking, as i sat at home in Cape Town watching the last few sun rays give way to a winter storm, that we often rely on words to provide explanations to ourselves, to family, partners and society. Think of how often we practice, in the relative safety of our inner thoughts, these words before we say them. Often, depending on what it is we have said, one or more conversations will take place and we tend to develop a script of sorts for each person.
Vettel did not keep to the script. He instead used silence to say much more and then, judging from his free practice performance in Hungary, took the opportunity to send a message to his team.
The lesson I’ve taken is that words have connected us across time, they are precious. However, as the world we once knew falls away, perhaps it is more than words that we need to create new opportunities?
Taking action rather than just merely speaking could provide us with the opportunity for both personal and societal growth. As the noise grows around us, the value of “just getting on" with the opportunity presented rather than scripting the next move could open a plethora of self development.
As we navigate the new normal, perhaps we need to go beyond words.