Leadership Lessons Learned or "I Teach This Stuff!" Lesson #1 Driving in NJ - The GPS
This is the beginning of a series based on my experiences driving in New Jersey. For anyone who may not have been here, in New Jersey the 'rules' of the road' are unique and I've learned some valuable lessons from some of those experiences behind the wheel.
As a business professional I am also a member of the adjunct faculty of several colleges. As such, I travel around the state to the various campuses to teach. As a 'native New Jersian' I have my favorite routes as well as 'short cuts' around the problem traffic areas. In recent years, I've begun to rely on the GPS to keep up with traffic updates.
The Morning Commute
One morning while driving to class the GPS started giving me directions for unfamiliar routes. I started wondering what kind of malfunction might be occurring with the GPS and ignored them.
Note: I'm a strong extrovert and tend to 'talk back' to the GPS (I don't think I'm the only person who does this). I proceeded to have a heated argument with the GPS telling 'it' that "no way was I going 'that way'" and what was wrong with 'it' anyway?
The "Right Way"
As I was engaging in this argument with the GPS I took the exit to my preferred route and explained to the GPS that "this is the 'right way' to go." However, 'it' had the last laugh (if there is such a thing) because I discovered rather quickly 'why' these alternatives were being provided.
Not long after exiting the ramp onto my preferred route I found myself in a horrific traffic jam. It turned out that a terrible accident had occurred and all lanes in both directions were closed; the traffic was at a complete standstill.
Whose Fault is this, Anyway?
It was then that I understood... the GPS was not malfunctioning; it was really doing its job and providing me with alternatives to avoid this traffic nightmare in which I found myself. It was trying to warn me! I was the one who was not heeding the warning and was now 'kicking myself' for not doing so. Ah... the regrets of hindsight being 20/20!
When I'm stuck in traffic I have an opportunity to ponder what all this might mean and what lesson I might learn. It was then I realized I was resisting change. The GPS was doing its job by providing me with alternate routes around an obstacle in my path. The problem was not with the GPS; I was caught up in my own comfort zone and ignored the warning signs. I wondered how many other times I might have ignored warning signs or opportunities because I was stuck in my comfort zone and wanted to do things 'my way.' How many times did I get a 'nagging feeling in my gut' about a situation but ignored it only to have the very thing occur. How many times did I tell my self, "I 'knew' that was going to happen! Why didn't I (fill in the blank)?"
When the Student is Ready...
While I was pondering this... and saying to myself, "I teach this stuff!" suddenly, it was as if a miracle occurred. The GPS gave me directions to take the next exit! At first I thought to myself, "No way... I have no idea where that exit will take me and I don't want to be late for my class." However, the traffic was crawling along at a snail's pace, so I decided to take the exit. Then an amazing thing happened. The GPS directed me through the local towns, along back roads, side streets, up and down hills (I had no idea where I was) and before I knew it I was back on the highway on the other side of the traffic jam with a clear route directly to my destination.
What's the Point?
The lesson I learned was that even though I am a change agent, resistance can creep up when least expected and, sometimes create obstacles blocking my path. I still prefer to create a comfort zone; even if I don't realize it at the time. The questions I ask myself now that I think we all might want to ask are:
- Where is my comfort zone creating obstacles that block opportunities for future success?
- What would my business, organization, career, relationship or life be like if those obstacles were gone?
- What do I need to do outside my comfort zone to remove these obstacles?
- What's stopping me from doing it?
My comfort zone is just that; comfortable. However, when times change or obstacles block my path it might be necessary to break out of it. Those of us who don't change or adapt to changing times or circumstances will be left behind. New skills and behaviors can be 'learned' and kept current. When we learn new skills a whole new world of opportunities can open up. Just as the GPS brought me down unfamiliar roads, stepping out of our comfort zone can provide us with a world of opportunities we might not even imagine could exist... If we are willing to take the risk and step out of our comfort zone and onto unfamiliar paths. The rewards can be limitless.