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Screen Capture from Need for Speed Most Wanted Hands-On

The saying, “drive it like you sole it,” has always made me laugh. Just imagining the reckless abandon in which you would careen down the road if you were guilty of grand theft auto and trying not to get caught by the blue lights in pursuit. You would push the vehicle to the limits, wear the tires to their core and push the limitations of fear aside in favor of the one big fear that was motivating you – getting caught. Of course it wouldn’t be funny if someone really drove like this. However, when someone tells grandpa whose getting into his 1970’s era wood-paneled station wagon or the kid who just got his license to, “drive it like they stole it,” they definitely get some laughs.

Why does that phrase instantly conger up images of such crazy and inappropriate driving? It’s the motivation of trying not to get caught in the midst of a major crime. The humor comes in because none of us would ever do such a thing. The other interesting thing about the phrase, is that it suggests we change our behavior and push our limitations by imagining there is a major motivation in place. We don’t ever “drive it like we stole it” because it is wildly inappropriate but what if we did? What if by imaging a scenario that didn’t exist we pushed beyond our limits?

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I decided to test this premise with a group of our teenage martial arts students during their warm ups. I asked them to do a series of exercises -10 push-ups, 10 sit-ups and 10 burpees. Each time they completed all those exercises they counted that as one circuit. They had two minutes to do as many circuits as they could. It was just a simple request with no consequence at the end. I started the timer and they set to do as many as they could. I kept yelling motivation to them especially when I saw slow transitions from exercise to exercise or pausing in the middle of a set. They definitely worked hard but weren’t quite moving with the purpose I knew they could. At the end of the two minutes, I went around the room and each student announced their number.

I told them that I knew they hadn’t done their absolute best. They hadn’t pushed the limits of their abilities. Then I asked them to pick a new number higher than the one they had just achieved. We would repeat the exercise and they would hit the new higher number. To my delight, they all pick a very challenging number. I then let them know that if they all didn’t hit their number they would have to repeat the exercise. Their faces dropped. Most of them were still breathing hard from the first round. I added ten seconds to the two minutes they had to complete the task. That gave them a feeling that achieving the number was within their grasp.

At the word go they all started with a new determination. Their eyes were straight forward. They moved fast and steady, pushing themselves as hard as they could. There was no pausing. There was no looking around at other people. There was no working only when I was looking. They were determined to hit their number. The thought of not hitting their number and having to do this for yet another two minutes was like being chased by the police. They were driving themselves like they stole it.

At the end most people hadn’t quite hit their number. They were all one or two exercises off. Had I given them an extra fifteen or twenty seconds they all would have made it. I didn’t make them repeat the sets because I had gotten what I wanted – complete attention to the task and a push to the edge of their limits. Just like the thief would drive their stolen car right to the edge of its capability, just barely keeping it on the road at every turn, these kids pushed themselves to the edge of their capabilities.

The question is, why stop there? Why wait for the major consequence to be in place? Why not imagine a consequence and operate at that level all the time. The phrase is, “drive it like you stole it,” not, “drive it because you have stole it.” You’re just imagining the consequence.

Their chests still rising and falling as they tried to replace the oxygen their hard-working muscles had just burned, they nodded. This made sense to them. They had experienced a huge difference in their performance. They had just operated at a level they weren’t sure was possible three minutes before. What a wonderful thing for a young mind to realize. It wasn’t just some old guy yelling at them telling them they could do better. They had been tricked. By giving them the consequence they showed themselves they could do better.

We are all capable of performing at a higher level. We just need to, “Drive it like we stole it.”

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