What happens when you send a car-crazed gear head to the headquarters of an iconic American car company to talk to the employees about living a healthy, active lifestyle? What happened to me was that I got to spend two fantastic days with people who are as passionate about cars and trucks as I am. And, I learned that there are a lot of similarities between what they do, the way new vehicles and equipment are imagined and created and the way an adult-onset athlete like myself changes their life.
When I was younger, when I was smoking and drinking and working 80 hours a week I couldn’t imagine living a lifestyle any different from that. I didn’t know that there was any other way to live. I didn’t know anyone who lived any differently.
I wasn’t fundamentally a different person back then. My history, my education, my influences and influencers were all the same. I didn’t have a personality change when I discovered the joy of being active. The things that I enjoyed when I was locked in sedentary confinement – cars, motorcycles, racing – are the things that I enjoy now.
So it was with great eagerness that I accepted the invitation to go to Auburn Hills, Michigan to speak to the Chrysler folks. All I asked in exchange was the opportunity to learn a little more about the inside workings of a great car company. What I got was that, and a whole lot more.
It would take a book to describe everything that I got to see and do. Even they highlights would be longer than a blog. But, in summary I got to see the “Pilot” area where they cut and chop and glue together new models to see what will work and what won’t. I got to visit the assembly plant where the new Jeep Grand Cherokees and Dodge Durangos are produced. I had a special interest in that since I own a new Durango. All I can say is that the absolute dedication to making a flawless vehicle was palpable. It was impressive.
I got to spend time in the design studios and see how a vehicle goes from concept to showroom. It is a process that is part art, part science, and part pure magic.
And, I got to spend time in the “innovation” department. Think about the weapons room in the movie “Men in Black”. These folks are working on devices, and contemplating improvements to the driver and passenger experience, and the safety of the vehicles that are light years ahead of where we are now. They are not just mad scientist, or engineers. They are wizards who imagine what might be and then make it happen.
What I learned was that it’s impossible to make the perfect car. All it took was a walk through the Chrysler museum to drive that point home. There were cars there that were designed and built by the best minds of the time using the latest techniques and yet today they look antiquated. It’s not that they weren’t great vehicles in their time. They were. And many were ahead of their time. [Think Chrysler Airflow]
What I now realize is that it’s impossible to make the perfect me. And it never was. That person that I used to me was what I thought was the best me possible based on the information I had at the time. I thought smoking made me cool. I thought fat was where it was at. I thought over-indulgence was a right of passage.
Now, though, just like the wonderful folks at Chrysler, I have to be willing to abandon some of my most closely held beliefs. I have to be willing to accept that what is, is not what will always be.
And that the only way I will ever be better than I am is to imagine what I am not.
An Accidental Athlete is available in print and ebooks versions now. BUY THE BOOK
What others are saying: Looking for some motivation to start running and improve your fitness? You’re sure to find some inspiration from John Bingham’s new memoir, “An Accidental Athlete.” As an overweight, uninspired pack-and-a-half-a-day smoker, Bingham realized that he had to make some changes in his life and began running at the age of 43. With wit and humor, Bingham recounts his journey from couch potato to self-proclaimed “adult on-set athlete.”- ESPN Gear Guide