Behind the Zoom – Tristan Nunez

This week’s Behind the Zoom blog is from Mazda racer Tristan Nunez. He is an easy-going, personable teenager who’s fun to be around. Before starting big races, you’ll find him in his race car, playing air drums to loosen up. But, what does this 19-year old fear most? It’s certainly not the high speeds….

Mark Twain once said, “There are two types of speakers: those that are nervous and those that are liars.”  Yes, almost everyone gets nervous about speaking in public. For me, this is one of the most terrifying things about being a “public personality.” Racing at 200mph is a piece of cake in comparison!

There are many responsibilities that come with being a professional racecar driver. You need to perform outside the car as well as inside the car. Going fast is probably the easiest part for me. It’s all the things you need to do outside the car that are equally important. Carrying yourself in a professional manner, speaking to the fans and the press, representing sponsors, interacting with corporate clients … the list goes on.

Although I have had some professional coaching with this, it just never seems to get any easier. At age 15, I started my distracted driving campaign after having a near-death experience with my mom in a near-crash on the street. I saw my life flash before my eyes and it was at the moment we decided to try to put an end to distracted driving. I plastered “Dnt txt n drV” all over my Cooper Tire Prototype Lites car, and had the logo on my suit and helmet as well. I began speaking at high schools about the dangers of distracted driving in the cities where I raced. So, I had no choice but to speak publicly and spread this important message because I felt like it was my calling to share the message. Over the last four years I have spoken to more than 50,000 people! (I can’t imagine talking to that many people at once!)

My palms get sweaty, my heart races, and I feel nauseous just before stepping in front of hundreds of people. I don’t know about you, but the old saying “picture them in their underwear” doesn’t cut it for me. In fact, I can’t think of too many things that would disturb me more than being in front of a room full of half-naked people! The good news is, however nervous I may feel, it’s not life threatening. To my knowledge, no one has ever died from either speaking in public or worrying about speaking in public.

My mind is a wonderful thing that enables me to drive a racecar and exercise quick reaction times. My mind never stops until I get up to speak. Humor is something I’ve turned to because it relieves my tension of social anxiety about public speaking.

To get prepared to race, I try not to think too much. I am not the type of driver that needs to meditate and “get into the zone” before the race. I like to be loose and at ease. When my helmet visor goes down, that’s when the light switch goes on to focus mode. But with public speaking, I am finding that the more prepared I am, the more I practice, the less nervous I am … so this is the complete opposite approach!

But, I know this must be done and I can only just keep challenging my fears. Because I know it’s all for a good cause and hopefully my spoken words will save lives.

Since I started with a quote, I’ll end with one too. Comedian Jerry Seinfeld explained it best:  “According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”