Here it is. Plain and simple. We need more Jack Beckmans in our world.
Why? Easy. The man can cause you to feel better, just by being in his presence.
Sure, you know him as “Fast Jack.” Yep, just skate on over to NHRA.com and you can go one-stop shopping for all the facts, figures, and titles highlighting this Funny Car pilot…heck, the site has it all, down to the fact that Beckman loves to surf and is in midst of an El Camino restoration project. He’s taught more than 7,000 students at Frank Hawley’s Drag Racing School since 1998, and is himself licensed in 12 different NHRA categories. A former sergeant in the U.S. Air Force, he also survived a tremendously difficult battle with cancer. The man has enough street cred to last several lifetimes.
But, that all pales in comparison to this simple fact: hanging out with Jack is a blessing. If you ever have the opportunity to meet him, even for just a few moments, you’ll walk away encouraged. Happier. Uplifted. Just…feeling better about your day. Some folks have an aura about them that radiates a love for life, and it’s in no way forced, faked, or an act. It’s 100% real deal.
So, when we had the opportunity to “get off track” with Jack and visit about topics outside of his racing world, we jumped in faster than a .000 reaction time, (Nah, we don’t red light around this joint!) and what we got was even better than expected! Why? Hey, this is only Part One! Yep, next week, following the Seattle stop of the Western Swing, cruise on back to RPMHD for the second half of our visit. So now…let’s get Trackin’!
GOT–Pretend that beginning tomorrow you get to start a new job. It’s something you’ve always wanted to do, and you’ve already got the training and education necessary to jump right in. What would you see yourself doing?
JB–“It would involve speaking. It would either be doing the television coverage for the drag races, or maybe combining that with some motivational speaking in front of businesses or groups.”
GOT–Where does that interest come from?
JB–“When I first enrolled in the Frank Hawley Racing School as a student back in 1997, I was very passionate about drag racing, and I’ve always been very passionate about learning, which is ironic because I’m a high school dropout. But, when I saw how Frank could combine those two things it just struck a chord in me, and I eventually wound up quitting my regular job as an elevator repairman to go teach full-time at the drag racing school, so I have a lot of background speaking in front of groups of people and imparting a message, and that message was very instructional, but the amazing thing about the Frank Hawley School is how it delved into…I guess you could put it under the general heading of self-improvement, and he did it in a very nuts and bolts way. Frank is great at disseminating information into layman’s terms. In other words, he can read 20 pages of medical text on the human brain, or let’s say the motor cortex and associated nerve fibers that make your muscles move, and turn it into a five-minute lecture that anyone can clearly wrap their head around and understand, and I thought, ‘Boy, somebody that can take a complex subject, and make it understandable…that’s amazing. That’s the mechanical aspect of speaking to people.’ The emotional aspect of speaking to people is to convey a story in such a way that it resonates with them, that they can latch onto and find something within themselves that might be a little deeper than they thought. Or, it transcends barriers, like age, sex, race, or religion. It’s a touchy-feely type of ‘Chicken Soup For the Soul’ type thing, and I think striking a balance between the two, being able to speak in a motivational way, and also to educate and speak to people in mechanical terms is an incredible gift.”
GOT–You’ve been interviewed countless times. Think about someone that’s familiar to most of us, (The general public) someone that’s still living, who you have always wanted to interview.
JB–(No hesitation) “Denzel Washington.”
GOT–What would you want to ask him?
JB–“I’ve read some amazing things about him, what he does for injured Service members, how he goes over and above. I tend to go back to that famous Charles Barkley basketball comment where he said, ‘I get paid to be a basketball player, not to be a role model’, and I understand what he said, and he may have said it in a context that wasn’t to be taken in such a negative way, but I think we all have an opportunity to live our lives as role models for others. Denzel is one of the guys that does that without patting his back about it. I’d like to bring that out in the public forum, and I’d like to find out what motivated that, and I’d like to find out…my guess is his character was that way long before he had the money to support projects like that, and I’d like to find out how he put those two together.”
GOT–You’ve been known to have a great interest in the history of racing. But, I’m betting that you have an overall interest in other areas of History as well.
JB–“I love it. Hated it in school. Worst subject ever…absolutely adore it as an adult.”
GOT–Great! Let’s go back in time. I’d like for you to go back to a certain time in history that interests you. And, you can take your family with you. There is one catch: once you’re there, you can’t come back. Where would you go, knowing you can’t return?
JB–“Wow. Being that I have studied History so much, and I don’t consider myself a lazy person, but I feel like the more modern lifestyle you’re adapted to, it would make survival so much more difficult going back even a couple of hundred years. Wow…you know, love or hate America, whatever you want to think about it, we live in a country in a time where the tolerance level is amazing, despite what some in the media would have us believe, where people are free to express pretty much as they please. I think I was born in the right place at the right time. You know, you go back to the Wild West, and arguments sometimes got settled and often times, somebody was dead at the end of an argument. And while movies romanticize that, boy, that’s got to be a tough deal. You go back to European times when monarchs ruled, and you could literally have all your land confiscated, and you were in essence an independent slave, so to speak. So, if you’re going to send me back somewhere, I’m going to go to…I’m going to go back to Roman times, where they did away with the Emperor, and the Senate ruled for that period of time, and society really seemed to flourish. They had enough autonomy to be a semi-capitalist society, but they were taxed enough to have social programs that made the city flourish, and they built some amazing things that have endured time, so that would probably be a pretty fascinating era.”
GOT–You are a very positive person, and I’m not necessarily saying you’re “Suzy Sunshine”…
GOT–But, you try to look at things from a positive perspective. A few moments ago, you alluded that some can make our world seem to be a very negative place. Because of racing you travel a great deal. What do you see while on the road that gives you hope about our country?
JB–“Yeah, I think I’m a ‘cup half-full’ type of guy One of my mantras that I live by is, ‘You will find what you’re looking for’, and by that, I mean that if you’re having a crappy day and you’ve convinced yourself that nothing’s going to change this day, then you’re absolutely right. Those three people that cut you off on the freeway…you want to run into ’em. That person who was rude at the grocery store…shame on them. But you know what? You could be experiencing the exact same scenario, but for whatever reason when you woke up, you just decided it was going to be a great day, and the three people that let you in when you put your turn signal on is amazing. The two people that smiled at you in the grocery store just go to underscore what you think. So, I think that having a positive attitude gives you a positive outcome, and I think the opposite’s true. Also…listen, I’m not necessarily all rose-colored lenses, and I’m not gonna say that if your folks are terminally ill, or you just lost your job, that you could just smile your way through that. There’s always going to be bad days for happy people, but I think a lot of times you just have to fake it till you make it. My son’s eleven, and I tell him that. I say, ‘You know, a lot of what you experience is what you project into it. You can have the exact same day, and it can be perceived by you as a good day or a bad day, and that has everything to do with you.’ Now, I think I’m chemically constructed and biologically wired to be a certain way, and you can’t change your genetics. You can alter your behavior without changing your personality, and I think it would change the outcome of a lot of things, and let’s face it, even if it doesn’t change the outcome, you have a better day. Your perception of it was a better day. Let me tell you. A lot of this is the Frank Hawley School. I have been so incredibly fortunate to have crossed paths and spent time with some absolutely amazing people, but then again, that goes back to my philosophy. If I didn’t go in with an open mind and a positive outlook, maybe my experience and takeaway from those things wouldn’t have been quite as positive and moving and life-changing. So, listen. I still have bad days. Yeah, I have bad experiences some days. I still get upset at people. Driving down the freeway I get mad at people. I’m a fairly normal person. I think in balance, though, you’ve got ten fingers and ten toes and you’ve got a roof over your head. There’s a lot of people in this world that don’t have the things that Americans have…there are people that would give 90 hours of work per week to have half the things that Americans complain about not having enough of.”
See? Beckman’s glass…it’s always half-full. Yep, he gives you a lot to think about, you know…to “drink in”. (Just couldn’t resist that line after the half-full reference!)
But best of all? This is only Part One! Next week, (When we get really down and dirty…) we’ll talk with Jack about why he occasionally hangs out in his attic, what he really thinks about playing hide and seek, and…stopping everything to enjoy a good game of hockey!