There are many different types of wake up calls. I had a couple of my own wake up calls a few days ago! (I’m not above them; I get several of them every week.) I think of a wake up call as one of those “holy crap” moments where you basically step outside your comfort zone and have the normalcy of your life completely shattered.

For years, I would do some extreme things to have these kinds of moments. (Think adrenaline junkie stuff like offroad racing.) Here’s a couple of quick little stories about two such moments that have happened to me within the last couple of days.

The first one involves offroad racing. There’s this great movie about it that you don’t have to be a fan of racing at all to appreciate. The film is called Dust to Glory, and it’s about a guy named Mouse McCoy who wants to be the first rider to race the Baja 1000 solo. (The Baja peninsula is in New Mexico, and the Baja 1000 is a thousand mile race held there every year.) The race goes through towns, mountains, and many other different places – it’s never the same. And this guy decides he is going to ride solo in this race. That’s just insane for so many reasons – in this race, there are usually six drivers, and they each drive around 150 miles. But this guy wants to do the entire race himself. (This movie came out about a few years ago.)

This was the movie that inspired me to go offroad racing in the first place. You have a co-driver barking orders at you, and you’re strapped in and focusing on 100 yards in front of you. You don’t have time to think. You’re just reacting. It gives you this high of life coming at you all the time. You have these “holy crap” moments every minute the whole time. It just shatters all the survival and safety mechanisms you have. You have to be in a zone just to make it through. You’re squeezed tight into the cockpit, and there’s a steel bar called the “oh shit” bar where you just grab it and hold onto dear life when you don’t think you’ll make it.

As you get better at racing, you use this bar less and less. You become much more relaxed. That’s when you take the racing experience to the next level. You’re in the state where you’re scared so much that there’s nothing left in you to be scared any more. You’ve already survived so many moments that could have been deadly that nothing scares you. That’s a hell of a way to race, and to live life.

Back to Mouse McCoy. He’s riding a bike by himself in this race. He’s getting beat up really bad because he’s got very little suspension. And in this race, there is no track. You have to control everything without a guide. Every rock, branch, anything on the ground that can trip you up can end it all for you. If you’ve ever had one of those moments where you can sense that you almost died, THAT’S a wake up call moment. When your entire humanity is thrust in your face, and everything else is secondary to whether you will live or die in that moment. Those moments can teach us so much about how we should live our lives in every other moment when our very existence isn’t being threatened.

The average person has about 10 of these kinds of moments in their entire life. In Baja racing, you have 10 of these in an hour. (Probably feels more like 10 of these in a minute if you’re not experienced with it!) There’s a very self-induced sense of mortality. It teaches us that we shouldn’t take life so serious because it can be over at any moment. Whenever we get comfortable, that’s when we NEED a moment like this to remind us that it can all be gone in an instant.

I used to be a truck driver. I was a roadie for different musicians. In the touring business, you have a nocturnal existence. You try to sleep during the day and be awake at night. If you don’t do your job the show literally does not go on. It becomes your life where you drive all night and get into the next city. And there was only so far that you were allowed to travel in a day and in a week. The tours are planned so your distance is maximized. Imagine getting in your car and driving 300 to 500 miles every night. You get into your destination every morning. Now imagine doing that for months – years – at a time. You wake up in a different city every day. That’s a whole different type of wake up call.

When the sun is coming up, that’s when the most difficult time to drive is. Your body is yelling at you to stop what you’re doing. It’s trying to shut down. You have some things you can do to stay awake. If you’ve ever fallen asleep at the wheel, you know the feeling – if you fall asleep, you will die. So will others. And yet, it feels so good to let yourself drift off. It’s torture! And it happens every day.

As a roadie, you live for that challenge. You try different things to keep you awake. I loved to trash talk with the other drivers to help me stay awake. If you stop responding, the other drivers know you are falling asleep. That’s a different kind of wake up call.

Last night, I left the office and went for a bite. I saw a bartender where I went who was a big, powerful guy. This guy always has his walls up. You can tell he’s just guarding against letting people in. And I could tell he was just going through something bad. So I asked him what was going on, and he told me: “I’ve got two ex-wives, two kids, and I live with friends. My utilities are shut off.” It hit me like a ton of bricks. Who am I to have any complaints about anything I am going through compared to that? And although it’s not something I normally do, I left him a huge tip on my bill for the night. And here was this huge guy, visibly weeping from gratitude over what I had just done for him…

When you think you’re cruising in life, that’s the MOST dangerous place to be. Complacency kills.


Jay Kubassek’s WAKE UP call is every Tuesday at 10:30 am ET. Catch this week’s call here.


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