- Player: David Perel
- Company: Obox Themes
- What they do: Brothers David and Marc Perel founded Obox after school in 2005. The business specialises in products built for WordPress. Obox products are used by over 100 000 people worldwide.
- Established: 2005
- Visit: oboxthemes.com
David Perel is one of my closest friends and someone I admire immensely, but a lot of the time I think he’s out of his mind. His average month doesn’t look like yours or mine. His measure of normal stretches way beyond what most of us manage to achieve or deal with in a decade, never mind a single month.
From week to week, David could be on a plane to Italy to race Lamborghinis or in Cape Town working on the business that he and his brother, Marc, have built over the past eight years. He could be overtaking a Ferrari at Monza and clipping the cars’ bumpers together, and then out with his girlfriend for a drink back in Cape Town the next night. It sounds glamorous but trust me, it rarely is.
Launching a single career is a challenge all on its own and for most people it’s a life-long endeavour. Yet there are some people who find themselves working on two dreams simultaneously. Thomas Edison created incredible inventions and built General Electric. There are parents who raise kids and still have it in them to build a business and play a round of golf over the weekend. Elon Musk has five children, is married and is the CEO of two billion-dollar businesses. Yes, he’s an exceptional case, but nevertheless, he exists.
David is striving to be one of these people. Hooked into a life of racing cars by his father, the bug bit David early on and hasn’t left him. Although he’s had periods in his life where racing had to take a back seat, he never really let the dream of racing professionally fade. Recently, his dream was revived when he was offered the chance to race Lamborghinis in Italy.
Being a professional racing driver is a strange career choice as far as careers go. Not because it’s dangerous (it is) or because it’s competitive (it is), but because it requires such intense investment in terms of time, physical commitment and capital. Each race can cost a couple of hundred thousand rand and a season can cost in the millions. That’s money that the driver needs to find to commit to the race. David trains constantly, eats with intent and not for enjoyment. It’s brutal all round.
Large pursuits don’t come without sacrifice though. David has had his fill of sacrifices. Early in 2015 he crashed one of the cars he was racing, which set him back a few hundred thousand rand. That was just days after he had been recruited to race.
“Coping is not easy, you need to be able to switch focus very quickly and that focus needs to be intense. With more practice you get better at it. I feel like it was easier when I was younger. With racing you can experience extreme highs and extreme lows in a very short amount of time. It’s made me tougher when it comes to business, as things happen much slower in that world,” David told me when I asked how he manages the crazy entrepreneurial ups and downs.
It is quite something to watch from a distance. The intensity that David experiences over a racing weekend is immense. In his most recent trip he had massive break failure and his car spun off the track and caught fire. He was unharmed but I can’t imagine experiencing that and then hopping on a plane back to my desk job and dinner with my friends.
Balance is overrated
If you’re looking for balance David is probably not the right person to help you figure out how to find it. Doing anything with vicious determination requires focus and when I asked David about his views on balance his response was straight forward, “You don’t need to worry about balance if you’re doing what you love.”
He followed that up by saying that “the only time you have to worry about balance is when you’re doing something you don’t enjoy. Then you need to balance that with something you do.”
Although loving what you do isn’t always enough. There are periods when he doesn’t see his friends because he’s travelling or training. He’s missed important events like anniversaries or birthdays because of a race, but that’s part of the fight and part of the grit required.
The people who surround David also have to make peace with his decisions, or move on. It’s difficult to understand the drive of a top athlete like David. They put everything at risk; families, friends, financial stability and any level of comfort so that they can have 20 minutes every two weeks in the seat of a car that goes 280km/h and might end up crashing into a wall.
As David put it, it’s not about balance if you love what you do; it’s about understanding what’s important to you and what you’re willing to give up to achieve greatness or die trying.