The Wisdom of the Great Shaman of Kuusamo
Coming in from the freezing cold of the night into the tent made my goggles fog up. That and dim light of the few logs burning at the fireplace in the center made it hard to see. There were a few benches and people have gathered to sit on reindeer furs. The sound of a soft beating drum and the light crackle of the fire was soon mixed with a low voice humming a melancholic melody. They do say that the lack of sunlight during winter above the Arctic circle makes people depressive. My eyes adjusted and could now see the old man in reindeer furs beating the drum and humming his tune. His eyes were closed and he ignored us. He seemed in trance.
Then someone closed the opening in the tent and the great shaman of Kuusamo began to speak in the old Sami dialect:
With that he handed out little cups with a white liquid. We drank and it tasted sweet. I wondered.
The next day I sat down with another shaman, but this time I was strapped in and a 600 HP engine roared to life. We rolled out onto the ice of the lake and with no further delay he spun the car around its center and off we went. We were past a 100 mph in a few seconds and I saw the woods come closer at the edge of the lake with frightening speed. He was driving with one hand while telling me that he started driving at the age of seven. His father had told him to not get into trouble with the police but that was it. He applied the brakes and the quarter-inch rally spikes tore up the two feet thick ice of the lake. I hardly saw him move the wheel but the car tilted left only to jerk right a moment later when he applied the throttle. We were jolted forward but because of the ‘Scandinavian flick’ we kept going sideways until the next right turn appeared. I could sense a moment of less power and with no more than a tug at the wheel the car changed load to the opposite drift into the next turn. Both the rear and the front of the car were throwing up snow from the edge of the cleared path on the ice track.
I finally managed to say something through my amazement. I had practiced this for a couple of days and kind of gotten the hang of it but I now felt utterly sobered and disillusioned. This was incredible perfection and control in an environment that should not allow such action. “How in the world do you keep the car so precisely in the drift? I always lose control and spin out.”
The great shaman just shrugged as he presented me with another snippet of wisdom: “You spin out if there is no force holding the car in place. When you roll straight it is the friction of the tire. When you drift there is nearly no friction and the only thing that keeps you going around the corner is the forward push of your tires. Without power you lose it. It is a balance of power and pointing the power in the right direction. You are only in control when you are under power!”
That made a lot of sense and I realized that this was another truism for life. Let go and stop giving direction forward and you will lose it. In your private endeavors, in your relationships and obviously in business alike. Drifting was not about floating but it was about applying power and giving it direction.
“I often feel that I will be too fast for the next turn and thats why I reduce throttle and then the car spins out,” I asked. He nodded smiling and answered: “How you make the next turn mostly depends on how you come out of the previous one. For the load change from one side to the other you must be in full control, which means you must not come off power, but just reduce it enough so that you destabilize the drift and the car will react to the wheel.” Again is sounded so logical that I did not understand why I had trouble doing it.
He hit the brake hard and the spikes dug into the ice just before the 180 turn. I noticed that he did his Scandinavian flick after the breaking only. He said: “Break early and hard when you are straight until your speed is right. Point shortly into the turn and then destabilize the rear by steering outside. Wait until the car comes around and then apply power to take full control. Little power, little control, more power, more control!” He grinned at me, all the while steering with the left hand and kind of showing me the cars movements with his right. It was absolutely no effort to him. He had so much experience that he reacted completely automatically to whatever the environment threw at him. No surprise that he had been four times World Rallye Champion …
Then the clear thinking actually came to me!
I had met the great Shaman of Kuusamo. Two very different people, but both with the same clarity of thought and open hearts to their surroundings. One an incredibly old goat herder who was the most happy when with his reindeer and in harmony with nature. The other Juha Kankkunen who is still the most happy when in harmony with a car and a road. But the harmony did not come from learning in books, or following rules and procedures. It came from listening, feeling, clear thoughts, open hearts and 10.000 hours of practice.
People do not become experts through (taught) knowledge, or through experience or natural talent. Despite all the explanations that satisfy my brain’s need for narrative, I still had a hard time doing it myself and when I failed I got worse and worse. Experts are usually pretty poor in explaining exactly what they do. But when I was watching the expert do his thing I suddenly was able to copy some aspect of his expertise. I usually got it in a couple of sessions or I better stopped. Just practicing did not make it better as I got too tired and frustrated. I needed another infusion of expertise from the expert himself. It is this kind of teaching mode that the collaborative working style of ACM suggests and supports.
If you have not done it yourself – ANYTHING – you can study all you want and get as many degrees as you like – you will be an outsider and repeating other people’s knowledge without really knowing what it means. You certainly won’t be able to teach the real thing. There is nothing wrong with getting a great education, but you need to get out into the school of hard knocks, to experience the value of failure, and the adrenalin of daring and the dopamine of winning that will put you in harmony with the world. That harmony will make you wise enough to teach or consult or manage. Nothing else will.
Yup, the Nike slogan applies to life: “Just Do It!”