Lessons and Reflections | Ft. Ryan Dungey 6

Ryan Dungey joins for Lessons and Reflections and shares his top five lessons he learned in his career.

There are many lessons learned from racing motorcycles. Responsibility, work-ethic, determination, and sportsmanship are a few core examples many of us have learned through our years of riding and racing. With Lessons and Reflections we want to hear from past professional racers and have them reflect on their careers so they can tell us five lessons which impacted them and helped post-racing career. These lessons may impact them in business, relationships, personally, or some other way. In the second edition we talk to four time Monster Energy Supercross and three time AMA Pro Motocross champion, Ryan Dungey. Dungey is the epitome of a rider who was successful through hard work. He did not come into his pro career as a phenom and surprised most people with his early success. Ryan went on to be second all-time on the 450 wins list and is one of the most respected racers in history. 

For the full interview, check out the Vital MX podcast right here. If you're interested in the condensed written version, scroll down just a bit further.

Lesson #1

The first one is to focus on executing and not the results. It was about four years into my career before I really understood that. In our sport, everyone wants to talk about the championship. So, as a rider you can start thinking about the championship. You're at round one or two and still have 15 to 16 rounds to go. I actually spoke to a mental coach about it, and he helped. I started focusing on executing. I broke it down daily. If that was my training, I broke it down each day, and even during my riding, I broke it down lap by lap. Then, when I was at round one, I was focused on round one and getting the win that night. It wasn't so much focusing on the results but executing. Getting off the gate, getting to the first turn and then the next turn, and so on. That brought a lot of clarity because when you think about the championship, you are so far ahead of yourself. It's easy to start holding on to something that isn't even there. In my mind, even if I was at round 17, I wasn't going to worry about the championship; I was just going to worry about racing. If I do my job well, the results will be there. I could also use that after racing with any goal, such as starting a business. With those things, you can make a game plan, want a goal, and have a ten-year roadmap to get there. I build that out, but it can change. You may get further down the pathway or less at year one, so you adjust. You keep working towards that, but mainly, you focus on that day's task and try not to get too far ahead of yourself. I want to get ahead and get impatient, but I tell myself, "Stay in the moment. Focus on your deal." Life is a lot better that way. You can make yourself miserable by being impatient and anxious. Enjoy the journey.

Octopi Media

Lesson #2

Number two is keeping the priorities in order. I remember when I first became a racer; it was everything to me. My parents and I put so much into it to turn pro, and then you're on the big stage. I caved under the pressure. The first year, I won my first race, and after that, it didn't go well because I had these high expectations, and it meant everything to me. Then, in year two, I had a 35-point lead in the championship, threw it all away, and lost it. After that, I realized I had no balance. The problem with something being at the center of your life is that if that thing falls apart, everything in your life falls apart. So, I took a page out of Lance Armstrong's book. Racing wasn't everything to him. I remember reading that and asking myself, "How do these guys perform so well and be dominant, but it's not that important to them?" I realized they just put it in its place, and that's what I try to do. My priorities are God, family, and my foundation, and I would try to put racing as low as it can go. It makes it seem smaller than it really is. When it was number one, it was just too big. Once you're under pressure and on the gate with the championship on the line, you can cave under that pressure. It feels like it's everything when, in reality, it isn't. It's just a race. It's important, don't get me wrong, but it's not everything. You have to ease the pressure off but still allow yourself to perform. After racing, it's the same thing. I try to keep things in balance and allocate my time and energy. You have to realize what is important. I'd argue that it's more important to have that figured out after racing. When I met my wife, I thought, "I can't have a girlfriend. I can't let anything distract me from what I'm doing." I made myself miserable. It was no fun, and there was no balance. I could enjoy things once I let myself breathe in that area and got my priorities in order. It doesn't mean you won't still be a great athlete or be successful at what you are doing. Once I learned that it was like having a pressure valve release. 

Guy B

Lesson #3

Number three is doing the little things. When I look back at my racing career, I remember one of the stories from when I was about 12. It was in the Summer in Minnesota, and I set my alarm for 5 a.m. to start training. When the alarm clock went off, I thought, "Oh my God! I don't want to get out of bed." But I did, and I pushed myself and put one foot in front of the other, and I was glad I did. There were so many moments I've encountered where you don't feel like doing it, but if you want to separate yourself from the rest of the field, you have to do these things. Specifically in racing, it's training, running, riding, putting in the laps, and doing the motos. When it comes time to do those little things, you have to decide, "Do you really want it?" Those moments are arguably more important than doing the big things, like someone seeing you win a race. Nobody sees all the tough times and little things you must do to get to that top level. It's even an act of integrity in my mind. It can be little things like that piece of trash that fell out of the garage can and is floating everywhere. You can pick it up and put it in the trash. Integrity and character are more important. Don't get me wrong, I'm always working on myself in all these areas, but I think they are important.

The Dungey Family

Lesson #4

Constructive criticism is number four. I was fortunate to have good people in my corner from day one. Especially when I turned pro like Roger (DeCoster) and Ricky (Carmichael), they didn't flatter me with anything, and I wasn't that great by any means, but they would say, "You can do this better." I remember realizing they were straightforward and honest. As a rookie, if they said I could do better, I could. There is a point where someone could tear you down, and that is not productive. I get that. As far as someone coming to you and being honest about where you can be better, execute better, or whatever it may be, I was always open to that. The second you think you know it all, it's the beginning of the end. I apply this to all areas, whether business or learning to be a good husband or dad. At the end of the day, you get to take it all in, absorb it, take what you want, and you can leave the rest. So, I think it's important to hear people out and look inside to see, "Can I do a better job here? Am I being a jerk?" It's all those things. 

Guy B

Lesson #5

It takes a team. Taking racing as an example, if you think you can make it to the top all by yourself, you'll find out quickly you won't make it. It takes a team of people, and it did for me. That was my parents and my family, and when I turned pro, it was the whole production. That includes the mechanics, team manager, engine, suspension, and all the people who make it go around and around. Not to mention, it's more fun with a team because you don't have all the skills and talents other people have. You can work together, and that motivates your people, who then motivate you. It makes everything smoother. After racing, I'd try to do some things to cut costs and not have employees. I found out quickly that you can't grow as fast. Also, if you're doing it by yourself, you probably aren't doing it big enough either. If you want to be successful, it will take a team of people, and you'll work together to achieve that goal. I don't want to leave this by saying my life is perfect because no one's is. There are challenges, but the biggest thing is to learn from them and get better, not bitter.


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