I watched Ford v Ferrari two days ago at a theater nearby. Before heading into anything I like to quote a dialogue from the movie that stayed with me even after I walked out of the theater.
“There’s a point at 7,000 RPMs where everything fades.
The machine becomes weightless. It disappears.
All that’s left, a body moving through space, and time.
At 7,000 RPM, that’s where you meet it. That’s where it waits for you.”
I never experienced what 7000 RPM would feel like but I can imagine from the exhilarating movie experience what such a terrifying moment in space and time would feel like. We feel that right from the beginning of the movie when Caroll Shelby played by Matt Damon wins the final lap in an Aston Martin DBR1 at the 1959 24 Hours of Le Mans, the world’s oldest active sports car endurance race. We will have such a hypnotizing experience many times during the movie when Ken Miles played by Christian Bale, a British World war-2 veteran-turned professional race car driver runs his Ford GT40 at 7000+ RPM.
What fascinates me about this movie is how perfectly aligned is this character of Ken Miles with the real-life persona of Christian Bale. As most people are saying the portrayal of Ken Miles was the career-best of Christian Bale, the greatest actor his generation. I still remember an old interview of Bale, in which he says-
“why acting is good, why I like it because when you’re riding a motorcycle to the hilt, knowing the danger involved you have to be absolutely focused on what you’re doing. You can’t allow anything else in and there is such a thrill to doing that. That’s why it’s so hypnotic and mesmerizing. At best times I feel a similar thing with acting.”
Ken Miles and the racing-drivers of those times drove their machines at 7000+ RPM, not even knowing whether their cars or at least the breaks have the endurance to withstand with that. As Bale quotes “Knowing the danger involved you have to absolutely focused”. There is a similar version of the dialogue by Ken Miles in the movie- “if you’re gonna push a piece of machinery to the limit and expect it to hold together, you have to have some sense of where that limit is”. This is absolutely true with life. When one driving his life, he has to be absolutely focused while running on that limit of danger. But that doesn’t stop enthusiastic engineer called Caroll Shelby and a talented mechanic cum best race car driver Ken Miles. They were persistent with their purpose of winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Another idea I like to draw from 7000 RPM is the importance of flow state.
Brian Donovan in his CNN article explains how much hypnotizing such a speed would feel like.
As psychology says, the flow is characterized by the complete absorption in what one does, and a resulting loss in one’s sense of space and time. Achieving such a flow state regularly helps to fire the neural pathways of our brain and will improve the performance and productivity that leads to success. Racecar drivers like Ken Miles were able to achieve such states of uninterrupted attention at such unimaginable speeds. Motor racing brings the drivers into a profound mental state of adrenaline combined with deep concentration. Such a regular exercise for their brain would certainly have helped them keep focused on their goals.
This is something that the millennials are lacking with the advent of email and social media notifications. Multi-tasking and frequent checking on mobile notifications became the new notion of hard-work and reduced the ability of our brains to keep focused on things that matter the most. At the end of the day, the millennials still haven’t managed to complete their simple daily tasks and keep scrolling on their newsfeeds, while Caroll Shelby and Ken Miles engineered a Ford GT40 to beat a Ferrari in 90 days. I still doubt within our modern productivity systems of car making, we would manage to go through the odds and build a sportscar like Shelby and Miles did back in the ’60s.
To end my article, I like to say that 7000 RPM is not just a point in space and time where everything fades. It’s a point in space and time where man witnesses his deep focus and gets hypnotized to produce performance. Not the performance of a machine but the performance of human potential.