Imagine you wake up every day around 7 a.m. You go to the gym for two hours. Oodles of cardio, lots of core work, and plenty of boxing. (You enjoy boxing; plus it's great for endurance, for your core, and for eye-hand coordination.)

Then you come back to your house and spend the day driving a race truck on the dirt oval your dad built behind your house in order to refine your skills. Or you go to one of the nearby go-kart tracks for the day. (Not the go-karts and tracks you and I can drive; race-built karts on real kart tracks.)

Then, when you finally make it back home, you often decide to work out some more. And then you watch race videos to uncover new racing lines, new strategies and tactics... 

And by the way: You're seventeen years old. You doubled up on your coursework and didn't take vacation breaks in order to graduate high school early.

If that doesn't sound like an average teenager, it's not.

Hailie Deegan is the first female driver to win a K&N Pro Series race (and the first woman to win a NASCAR sanctioned race in thirty years.) To top it off, after twelve of this year's fourteen K&N Pro Series West events Hailie has notched five top-five finishes, ten top-tens, and one pole, which is another first for a female in the series.

For most people, success comes from a relentless focus not on an end goal... but on the daily process required to achieve that goal. And while you might be tempted to feel she's "missing out" on being a typical teenager, you're wrong.

When I ask her if she worries about someday looking back on on things she didn't get to experience, she's quick to answer.

"If I wanted to do the 'typical' things other people my age do," she says, "I would. I want to train. I want to get better. In my mind, if there is something I want to do well... I don't want to waste time doing things that won't help me.

"Plus, racing is really fun. Racing is what I love to do. I have the most fun when I'm practicing. I have the most fun when I'm racing. When I hang out with friends, it's at the racetrack. All my friends are racers. That's what we love to do.

"So, no. I'm not missing out on anything. I'm doing exactly what I want to do."

And while she has lofty goals -- she someday wants to be a Cup driver, the top NASCAR level (think Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, etc.) -- she's much more focused on the process.

"I know it will be a long road," she says. "It will take a lot of work. So I'm patient... but where I'm not patient is when it comes to doing everything I can today to be the best I can be tomorrow.

"And every time it gets hard, like if I have a couple of bad races, I don't get down. I just start working harder. The best way to get over a rough period is to work harder... because the harder you work, the more likely you are to be successful."

Even though hard work matters, so does experience. Hailie's background is not in stock car racing; she cut her teeth in off-road racing, an almost entirely different sport. So while she needs stock car experience, experience costs money. Fortunately -- actually not fortunately; deservedly -- for Hailie, Toyota Racing Development spotted her talent and worked with Bill McAnally Racing to get her seat time in the series. (Which is not at all unusual; in the past TRD has provided assistance to a number of people who went on to drive in the Cup series, like Erik Jones and William Byron.)

"Right now, I know I need experience," she says. "This is my first hard-core year of stock car racing, and we're learning. TRD has given me the opportunity to get better and develop myself. If we race the K & N Series next year, we would definitely want to run for the championship.

"But in the end, my goal is go keep getting better. Each level you move up... the drivers get better and better. I need to run up front and prove that I'm competitive at every level I race. And then I need to win at every level I race."

When I ask about the advantages and disadvantages in being a female in an almost exclusively male sport, she's also quick to answer.

"On the track there is no advantage," she says. "Off the track? Yes, there are definite advantages. There are very few female racers, so the attention and the media naturally comes with it. Any driver would feel privileged to have the opportunities I have. I feel privileged. It's all a privilege for me." Laughs.) 

It's still cool to be the first female to win in this series," she says. "But in the end I want to not be a female driver, but just a driver."

So will Hailie achieve one of her ultimate goals: Driving -- and winning -- at the Cup level?

While there is no way to know, she's definitely taking the best approach: She does everything she can today -- and then does the same thing tomorrow.

After all, one of the most common reasons people give up on their goals is the distance between here, where they are today, and there, where they someday hope to be. If your goal is to someday run a marathon, but today you able to run only a mile... the distance between here and there seems insurmountable. 

That's why so many people give up on huge goals: They don't feel they can bridge the gap between here and there. 

And that's why nearly every incredibly successful people will set a goal, and then relentlessly focus on taking the daily steps necessary to someday achieve that goal. 

They gain a sense  of accomplishment from doing what they set out to do today. That makes today fun... and lets them inch a little bit closer to achieving their ultimate goal.

Which, if you think about it, means they're already winning.

Published on: Oct 16, 2018
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