The idea of the perfect lap is a bar he’s setting for himself that has nothing to do with winning or losing, but has to do with the quality of his own execution. And there’s something deeply inspiring to me about that way of looking at life, looking at your work. And whatever we do—as a mechanic, as a bus driver—this tremendous pride in the craft of the simplest part of your job, and trying to do it the very best your body and your mind will allow, I think it’s something we’re missing.
There’s a question at the heart of the Ford v Ferrari movie that any professional can relate to. One of the main characters takes his son to the race track and says, “Out there is the perfect lap. You see it?” “I think so,” his son replies. “Most people can’t see it,” he answers.
Professionals see their own version of the perfect lap. We have a vision we seek to create. We have an awareness of ”quality” we seek to uphold. When Mark Bechtel asked director James Mangold about this quote (see “Fueled by Star Power, ‘Ford v Ferrari’ Captures a Bygone Era of Ingenuity” in Sports Illustrated), Mangold cut straight to the heart of it,
To some, it looks like we’re just going around in circles playing a game. They are the ones that don’t see it. They’re caught up on who won or lost that round, who scored the most points, and whatever momentary metrics are being discussed.
To us, to the professionals, we recognize the pursuit of our vision, the upholding of the quality, and the attention to the details that matter most. We may not ever complete the perfect lap, but we have to be able to imagine it in order to pursue it.
Have pride in the craft above all else. We only make consistently good work by consistently doing good work. There is no other way.