Yesterday, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg visited Charlotte Motor Speedway to ride along for some hot laps with Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and run a few laps of his own in a souped-up NASCAR Experience car.
While that may sound like a rich guy’s perk — anyone can attend a NASCAR Experience event, but riding along with DE2 is another thing entirely — it’s actually part of a bigger plan.
Each year Zuckerberg creates a system to help him learn new things. This year he’s decided to visit and meet with people in every state. (Check out his Year of Travel page to learn more, and to see where he’s already been.)
Tuesday in North Carolina was the latest stop on Mark’s tour. Earlier in the day he spent time at Hendrick Motorsports, touring the facilities with Chad Knaus, the crew chief for seven-time Monster Cup champion Jimmie Johnson.
Then he zipped over to CMS (the Speedway is a three-minute drive from Hendrick Motorsports) to hang out with DE2…. and, as you probably guessed, document that experience on Facebook Live.
I know what you’re thinking: “What does all that have to do with me?”
Whenever you speak with a person you normally wouldn’t speak to, you learn something. Whenever you visit a place you wouldn’t normally visit, you learn something.
We all tend to work and live within self-created boundaries. We do the kinds of things we normally do, we read the kinds of books we normally read, we hang out with the kind people we normally hang out with.
In the process, we learn a little more about the things we already know. That feels like progress. And it is.
But what if you stepped outside your self-created boundaries? What if you decided to go where you normally don’t go… and to do what you normally don’t do?
When I worked in book manufacturing, I was part of a small group that toured a Coors bottling plant. We walked away with more productivity improvement ideas than we could implement in a year. The facility was impressive, but it’s not like Coors was doing incredible things. They were just doing different things.
We knew what we knew. We were good at what we did. But we didn’t know what they knew, and that we could apply those things to make ourselves even better.
I’ve had countless similar experiences. I went riding with pro mountain biker Jeremiah Bishop and discovered more about cycling in thirty minutes than I had learned in the previous year. I worked out with FitnessGenes co-founder and CEO Dr. Dan Reardon and discovered more about lifting in that hour than I had learned over years of trying to gain strength and size. Talking to Navy SEAL Ray Care totally changed how I think about perseverance and determination… even though after doing 100,00 push-ups, I thought I already knew a lot about staying the course.
The same has happened to you. You’ve met people who totally changed your perspective. You’ve read books that made you think differently about your life, whether professionally or personally. You’ve gone places and done things you normally wouldn’t do that made you a smarter and better person.
Yet we don’t actively seek out those experiences.
When they happen to us, we look back and feel grateful. So why not make those experiences happen? Take a page from Zuckerberg’s playbook. Challenge yourself to learn and do new things this year.
Go places you normally don’t go. Talk to people you normally don’t speak with. Experience things you normally don’t experience.
But don’t do it haphazardly. Create a plan. Then follow your plan.
Shoot, I’ve spent an entire day and then a race weekend with Alan Gustafson, the crew chief of the #24 team of Chase Elliott.
If an everyday schlub like me can do those kinds of things… imagine the amazing things someone like you can experience.
All you have to do is try.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.