“How did you go to get here?” “What route did you take?” These are common questions upon arriving at a destination or meeting point with friends. As one of the new members of the Southern California driving set this is a common question of mine as well. My goal is to see if there was a better route. A more direct route. Or, if there is some super secret shortcut that nobody told me about. A friend here in Los Angeles told me I need to watch the movie LA Story now that I am part of the culture.
Speaking of culture… the SoCal way of discussing directions seems to be unique. The other night I was going to meet some friends. I was going 15 miles and passing through a city or two. I took the 110 to the 5 to the 2 to the 134 to the 210 to finally arrive at the restaurant. I like to use the word “the” in front of the freeway numbers. It feels so Cali…well it feels so SoCal. It feels like you are speaking a foreign language to me. It is a common topic of conversation and it still feels like I am forcing it. To me it seems to stand out. Like when Jeb Bush says – Guacamole or when Giada is explaining a recipe and then she uses AN ITALIAN WORD and then continues along. I am sure they aren’t forcing those words, but they do stand out. It makes sense that we say “the NUMBER” when discussing the routes. It seems to be shorthand or slang for the Interstate 5 or the state highway 14. We drive fast and we talk about the freeways fast.
A blog on freeways?
No, no, no there is a point to all of this set up. So much for driving fast eh? I was driving the other day and I was thinking about THE freeways and going over the five I explained in the last paragraph. It made me think about life. Have you ever been faced with a big decision? Something gut wrenching that you put a lot of effort into the whole thing? Or you have a big project due or a paper deadline that is looming? It takes over your world. We have to focus and get through that period in our lives. There are life events that seem HUGE when they are out there in front of us. Things like coming out, or a job decision, a break up, or how will I handle this or that. How many times have you said, “this is the biggest thing that has ever happened to me.” How many BIG things can happen? Why do the looming things on the next offramp of this life journey seem bigger than the last one? Maybe because we build them up and give them more of a life than they might deserve.
After we make it through that project, decision, event, deadline, situation it seems to just fit into our live and maybe it didn’t even take as much out of us as we expected. We probably learned something along they way. More importantly, we probably learned something about ourselves. It added to our self-concept and awareness.
did we stop to think HOW we got there? Did we review the route? Did we take the 110 or the 210…was it the 5 or the 405…was the Hollywood freeway the 101 or the 170? Do we stop to reflect on what we learned from our journey? What if we charted our route in LA terms? We took the anxious to the overwhelmed to the this-aint-so-bad to the I-got-this to the done to the well-that-wasn’t-as-bad-as-I-thought. What if we went through life looking for the challenge and the resilience or the trust to the belief and growth? It would sure be a lot more fun to drive through life.
Closer or smaller?
During that pondering the freeways drive I looked at my side mirror. I saw the words, “Objects are closer than they appear” and I started to think. That is a lot like life. When we look in the mirror of our live we see the things that were fun and the things that left a mark and hurt a little. Think about those overwhelming situations we were discussing earlier. They seem a lot different in the rear view mirror than they did in the windshield. Maybe all of our mirrors should have that etched mantra that say – Objects in mirror are smaller than they appeared.
We all have the ability to make choices. Looking through the windshield at what’s ahead gives us a moment to decide how we are going to approach the situation. Glance at that rearview mirror? What did you learn last time? What happened that seems like you could pull a chapter from that playbook and apply it again? The biggest thing is probably just keep driving and make the plan. Don’t park and wait for it to come to you. Don’t take the wrong exit and avoid it. Walt Disney said, “Sometimes it’s important to start doing even before you have a chance to start thinking.” You’re on the I-got-this and the interchange to the Done is just ahead.
In doing research on leaders’ experiences we found a theme of idealism/realism. Many talked about the notion, but one explanation coined the term. It means that as we plan we have an ideal and on some days we move along quickly or efficiently to the end. Some days we have a more difficult time getting there, that’s the real part of life. So the end has a look and feel. There is a goal. It is ideal, but the real is how we handle the good and the bad that help us attain the goal. Perfectionism and procrastination are just noise. They are the wrong off ramps or the unexpected construction zone. Avoid those if you can.
What would you name your freeways?