I write a lot about the power of hard work and perseverance. About the importance of betting on yourself. About sometimes doing work for free in the hope that opportunity will someday knock as a result
Every time I do, at least a few people write to say that hard work is overrated. That betting on yourself is too risky. And that you should never do any work for free.
Which of course is fine... but don't say those things to Ross Chastain.
JDM is a relatively underfunded team that regularly punches above its weight: Ross made this year's playoffs -- and barely missed making it into the second round -- ahead of a number of drivers from better-funded teams, using a combination of equipment, strategy, and race craft to wring every ounce of performance out of the car.
Earlier this year, his talent and work ethic caught the attention of one of the best teams in the garage, the Chip Ganassi Racing XFINITY Series team. With the support of DC Solar founder Jeff Carpoff and his wife, Paulette, they offered to put him in their car for three races.
He jumped at the chance -- even though a condition of the deal was that he would not get paid to drive the car.
And he made the most of it. He led 90 laps at Darlington before an incident with Kevin Harvick put him in the wall (and caused him, whether intentionally or not, to hook Harvick seconds later.)
He won the next race at Las Vegas -- his first victory in any of the top NASCAR touring series -- after leading 180 of 200 laps.
Then he clawed his way to a second-place finish at Richmond after being forced to start at the rear of the field due to repairs made to his car after qualifying.
As he said moments after winning the Las Vegas race, "Holy cow. I'm just a watermelon farmer from Florida. I'm not supposed to do that. Man... that is a testament that anything in life is possible. No matter what happens, if I go back to the farm tomorrow ... which I'm going to do one day after racing's over... if I had to back tomorrow, I'll have no regrets."
But he won't be going back to the farm any time soon. Chip Ganassi Racing and DC Solar just announced they signed Ross to drive the #42 car full-time next year, putting him in a top-flight ride worthy of contending for the series championship.
A journey that started when his father borrowed an old race truck so he could enter his first race -- a truck that had been sitting for so long, pine needles blew around inside the first time he took it on the track.
Hard work. Persistence. Sacrifice. Betting on yourself. Occasionally doing work for free, especially if that puts you in a position to prove yourself.
While doing those things are no guarantee of success... if you don't, you're almost certainly guaranteed to not succeed.
As Russell Crowe said in an Oscar acceptance speech, "For anybody whose on the downside of advantage and relying purely on courage... it's possible."
While where we come from certainly matters, where we choose to go -- and how we choose to get there -- is everything.
Choose to work to be the person you really want to be.
Because good things really do happen to good people.