Clutch Control – The bite point…

My son is back for the summer and we are enjoying family time together. Over the last week, driving lessons have begun and I am happy to report he is a fast learner. Interestingly, his driving lessons are a learning lesson for me as well. A lesson about teaching and how it’s best to focus on how he learns, rather than what I feel is the correct way to teach. 

How to start a stick shift car? I explained it to him in what I thought was a simple and easy-to-understand way. Release the clutch slowly and at the same time press down on the accelerator. A visual demonstration of this with my left and right hand helped (I felt) to illustrate this point. Jagat our driver, who has seen Neil grow up is possibly the most excited about this new adventure and he chimes in with encouragement and advice. Maybe it’s the multiple instructions or perhaps it’s the way we were sharing the information but what seemed so simple and easy for me to understand had a bunch of follow-up questions from my son. 

He had a good first day and came home tired but happy with his progress. Knowing how much he loves learning stuff online, while we were in the lift heading up to our apartment, I suggested that he check out some YouTube videos on the subject. 

The next morning as we set off to a nearby maidan that is doubling up as a cricket pitch and his learning ground, he enthusiastically shared with me all that he had understood courtesy of YouTube. The biggest ‘ah-ha’ moment he said was understanding the concept of the bite point. “The bite point is when the clutch plate engages your flywheel (engine plate)….and he rattled off all he had learnt”. The difference was noticeable. He was easily able to stop at will and also start with much more confidence. He shared a lot of other information about the right RPM to change gears and seemed excited with the knowledge he had gathered. 

Tony Robbins talks about three stages of mastery. First, there is knowledge mastery, then emotional mastery, and finally physical mastery. Theoretically, my son now had all the information he needed. Emotionally he was in a “can-do-will-do” mode excited with the prospect of learning how to drive. And then comes physical mastery. You have to put in the hours. Through practice, he is learning what works for him and what does not. The difference between driving in a maidan and then the feel of the road. How traffic changes the game. Every additional day he is out there behind the wheel, I see his confidence grow. 

As an instructor, my learning about learning has got enhanced. There is a sequence in which things are best taught. You can’t rush things. It takes time for learning to settle in. Finding fantastic is always better than finding fault. Positive encouragement and a safe environment to learn are favorable and enhancing conditions to speed up the learning curve. Muscle memory gets built with rituals and repetition. Stop the car and shift the gear into neutral, put on the hand brake. Three different actions are initially to be thought about but in three days they become one fluid motion. 

And oh yes, I nearly forgot we had the music on. Stacey Kent with her silken soft voice has been the background jazz to which my son has gotten his first taste of what freedom behind the wheel feels like. May the road rise to meet him and hopefully, he will remember to embrace all learning in his life to be a positive experience. The rest is easy if you can understand the bite point and how that helps you stay in control.

  1. Exactly a year ago, I wrote this piece, that took me back to the days when my granddad was teaching me how to drive, and how I chose to reframe and remember those lessons. 

Here is a paragraph: After a few failed attempts, I made a feeble attempt to correct him. “Do you know how many years I have been driving?” he (my grandpa) thundered. “Do as you are told” and so went that morning’s driving class. I now realise he was trying to teach me the importance of speaking up when I knew something was wrong. If I had found my voice and shown him that I knew what I was doing, I would have got off to a much smoother start. A wonderful reminder of how I need to drive forward if ever I find myself in such a situation again. Thank you, Gramps, for that lesson and so many others that shape my life today. 

I smile to myself and pat myself on the back. I am happy to be putting theory into practice….I found the bite point and I have myself in control. Instead of telling my son what he is not doing right, I find myself encouraging him when he does something well. And when the car shudders to a halt and shuts off, or we go a bit too close to a tree trunk, I occasionally clutch onto the door handle and tell myself to bite my tongue, clutch on to the advice and let out the encouragement. In a digital world, YouTube provides the knowledge, my role is to keep the excitement alive and make sure there is a safe space to explore his new skills. After all life is about remembering to enjoy the drive.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Nikhil Dey
Nikhil Dey is Executive Director, Adfactors PR.

A trusted coaching and communications professional, Nikhil Dey is a certified life and leadership coach (International Coach Federation - ICF). Nurturing talent and helping clients achieve their goals is what makes him happy. He loves learning from students of communication, teaching courses and guest lecturing at various educational institutions. When he is not working you will find him on the tennis court or out for long walks with his family and four legged friends.

Previously he has held senior leadership positions at Weber Shandwick and Genesis BCW.

He can be reached on twitter @deydreaming

1 Comment on "Clutch Control – The bite point…"

  1. Sukanya Mukherjee | July 3, 2022 at 11:39 AM | Reply

    Thoroughly enjoyed the write up. It’s no wonder that when children grow up and look up to you to help them learn some vital life skills, you feel so special. However, an equally important part while teaching your child, is that, you learn too how to control your anxiety and keep focussing on what he is doing rather than what he is not doing. It is rare indeed to have such understanding father who allows the child to be themselves and guides them gently only when it is really required.

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