When is the right time to slow down? | Column

By Tim Suddard
Nov 7, 2022 | Elva, Project Cars, Restoration, Column, Elva Mk VI | Posted in Columns | Never miss an article

Photography Credit: Chris Tropea

As I was rushing to the airport early this morning to catch a flight to San Francisco, I went past a sign–blinking and brightly lit–that angrily advised me to slow down. Everyone has seen these signs, and normally I just ignore them and keep rushing to wherever I’m late to be.

But this time, I couldn’t get those blinking yellow letters out of my head: Slow down. 

It was a particularly hot summer, and I was out in most of it. We’re trying to finish a new office building, and with contractors walking off the job or doing terrible work if they did stay, I finally kicked most of them off the property and have been doing much of the work myself.

At the same time, I’ve finally gotten my building permit to construct a new barn to store the cars I’ve spent a lifetime restoring. While I’m not the one hoisting the walls, I’m still involved in the legwork, running around to secure permits, figure out suppliers, get quotes and manage the entire project.

And while all of this is going on, I’m still running two publications, two websites, several social media channels, two video channels (one of which usually needs me as the talent) and an event business.

On top of all this, I’m building three project cars right now. This requires a fair bit of welding, fiberglass work and, again the most time-consuming aspect, the management and securing of parts and services. While the Bugeye Sprite and Mustang are pretty straightforward, restoring an Elva Mk VI sports racer largely from thin air has kicked my ass pretty hard.

There is no Elva catalog, and everything has had to be fabricated by hand. Most recently, I found a fellow Elva owner who was willing to loan me the parts I needed. He wouldn’t give or sell them to me, so we either duplicated them ourselves or had friends help us.

Most recently, I created a jig and fabricated the complicated, trapezoidal transmission mounts and a front engine cradle. You might ask how a magazine publisher knows how to do this kind of stuff, and the answer is that I really don’t. I simply combined my meager skills with some expert advice and figured it out.

[Ever see transmission mounts like these? | Project Elva sports racer]

Duplicating the complicated exhaust header is another story and is beyond my skill set, so I farmed that out to our friends and long-term partners at Burns Stainless. Still, even having someone else do it meant test-fitting the borrowed header, shooting pictures, determining critical measurements and communicating all the details. 

And, of course, coming out of a pandemic, getting sales back on track while figuring out which events we can and cannot do has also added to my stress level.

So yes, this year has been a little intense.

And I realize I’m not the only one with an overflowing plate. Many of us face similarly complicated situations. Personally, I’m just getting tired of the intensity of it all.

So what does slowing down look like? And how does one do it? I know these are simple questions with perhaps simple answers, but I struggle with the concept.

Each year I promise myself that this will be the easy one, but then I look at all the commitments I’ve already made. It’s hard to say no to an event when they offer to make you a guest of honor, right? 

I would love to hear your input on this, but I think the answer is to reset some priorities. I’m lucky to have a nearly 30-year-old son and son-in-law who are both passionate about motorsports. I need to race more and spend more time with my kids before I’m too feeble to do so.

I also need to redirect more time to my long-suffering wife and partner, Margie. As the front man, everyone credits me with making this whole magazine thing happen. In reality, it is her and our staff who do the hard work so I can gallivant around the country and act important. 

She wants to travel some, play in the garden and enjoy the vintage travel trailer we restored together. I may have to just say no to some other stuff to make more of that happen.

Is it time for me to pay more attention to the blinking yellow signs and slow down? 

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Purple Frog (Forum Supporter)
Purple Frog (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
11/7/22 9:20 a.m.

I hear you Tim.  I hit 73 a few days ago, and am rethinking the 50-60 hour weeks.  I fear the problem is that we love the creative process the work provides.

I know you are not one to go to a cars and coffee and sit on a lawn chair behind your car answering the same question over and over.  (note taken from your podcast)

In my case I only escape if I am traveling out-of-town.  If i'm home i go into the same work-work routine. Problem is It really doesn't feel like work.

I'll follow your journey of discovery.

OBTW, it looked like the kids handled the Challenge pretty good this year, a first step maybe.

Floating Doc (Forum Supporter)
Floating Doc (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltimaDork
11/7/22 9:35 a.m.

Take care of yourself. Margie deserves time with you too. 

A couple of clichés that are totally relevant:

We're not getting any younger. Edit: I'm 67, and running myself hard too.

No one's obituary says that he wished he spent more time at the office. 


docwyte PowerDork
11/7/22 9:36 a.m.

I have no desire to work 50-60 hours now.  I can't wait to retire, nobody tells me how much vacation I can/can't take but my opportunity costs are so high to take it, I hardly ever do.  I want to get away for longer periods of time, can't do that now.  I'm gonna punch outta here as quickly as possible...

kb58 UltraDork
11/7/22 11:09 a.m.

I used to work in Field Support, where on rotation, we took one-week 7/24 on-call duty. My coworker was driving in to address an issue in the middle of the night and got a speeding ticket. He said that it made him question his priorities in life.

I retired 11 months ago, taking the company's early retirement offer to their "old growth" employees. Things I've noticed since retiring:

  • Gaining 1.5 hours every day not sitting in traffic
  • Commuting was much more stressful than I realized, which only became evident once it stopped.
  • I can now concentrate on projects with fewer (work) interruptions.
  • Doing a home remodel entirely by myself is a great use of time, and saves a lot of money.

Car-related, I sold Midlana for a number of reasons, but one was that I've never considered myself a really good driver. I came to the realization that being in my 60's, I probably wasn't going to get faster, and was slightly afraid of the monster I'd created, as it was definitely faster than I was.

Colin Wood
Colin Wood Associate Editor
11/7/22 12:02 p.m.
Floating Doc (Forum Supporter) said:

No one's obituary says that he wished he spent more time at the office. 

Huge life lesson right there.

GregAmy New Reader
11/7/22 12:40 p.m.

The most important skill I've developed in recent years is...the ability to say "No". "No mas, por favor" goes a long way to setting my personal priorities.

Sometimes I don't say it enough. Maybe sometimes I say it too often. But there are many situations in life that will continue along its merry way without my intervention/input. I can't - and shouldn't even try to - do everything.

Trust me, it gets easier after the first couple times.


msterbeau Reader
11/7/22 1:31 p.m.

What is this "slow down" concept your speak of?  I do not wish to know more.  I do not wish to subscribe to the newsletter.. 

AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter)
AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter) UberDork
11/7/22 1:50 p.m.

Traveling and spending time with others at their things has to be a priority.  Sometimes my stuff sits a while longer, but going on trips or to family events  is always more important.  It's tough to admit but sometimes I have to remind myself family is more important than my hobbies or job.  Putting that into practice can be even harder.  

Plan trips with family, and take them.  It's is as rewarding as finishing or showing off a project but it is far more inclusive of others.  

We are going to a swim meet this weekend.  My stuff can sit another weekend.  It's not going anywhere.

31rx7 New Reader
11/7/22 2:16 p.m.

Age 64 here, and thinking about the next 20 or 30 years.

This is a time where many of us have the option to spend our time how we want with less or even no consideration for generating income.  If we are blessed, we have our health, reasonable financial security, and stability in other areas of life.

At the same time, there is recognition that this train ride is not going to last forever, that our time to do the things we love and value is limited. 

So, how do we make best use of it?  The answer varies for all of us, but I have found the following: 

  • Think hard about what you value and treasure.  Think about the things you've maybe taken for granted or assumed that, if lost, would be hard to accept.  Family, friends, mental and physical health.
  • Diverse hobbies / activities / interests is of benefit. We all have this addictive hobby and eventually, our ability to enjoy it will decline. There needs to be things to fill that void.
  • Diverse social circle is similarly of benefit. 
  • Feed all elements of yourself. Stay physically healthy, mentally open and engaged, spiritually (no matter what you believe or don't).
  • Stay engaged with the world at large, maybe through part time work, through volunteering, etc.  
  • Make plans. Have things to look forward to. 
  • Appreciate today and focus on the good.  

Enough of my philosophical wanderings.  All the best. 

kaybat New Reader
11/7/22 2:55 p.m.

About the same age, yoga(and less coffee) helped me slow down a couple of notches.

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