June 27, 2021

By: 
Rachel Strella

Life Is Highway: Observations from a Traffic Encounter

Strategic intent

On the weekends, I trek to the gym, a trip that is about a 15-minute commute in two-lane traffic. I encounter about a dozen traffic lights during the drive. Last weekend, as I was traveling along, a lady in a black Pathfinder raced up behind me and then swerved around me. I didn’t think I was going slowly, but I checked myself just to be sure. Nope. I was going with the flow of traffic. I watched as she cut in front of the car that was in front of mine and then switched back into the other lane. She continued weaving between lanes and around cars. When I arrived at the final light before the gym, I saw she was directly in front of me. I thought to myself, “She went through all of that to end up no farther than where she started?”

It occurred to me that the woman’s actions and the final result could be a metaphor for life. We can make a conscious decision to go with the flow as we take the route to our destination, or we can try to jump ahead, putting ourselves and others in jeopardy, in hopes that maybe we will arrive faster. In the case of the driver on my way to the gym, trying to get ahead was a waste of her energy. Moreover, it was reckless; it’s amazing that she didn’t cause an accident.   

Can You Get a “Jump” on Things?

My overzealous personality makes me consider if there might be a suitable time when jumping ahead might be advantageous. While I understand that weaving through traffic is not likely to get the desired outcome, I wonder if there’s a strategic component and merit to attempting to get ahead? (Disclosure: I admit that this thought trajectory might be solely selfish to justify my peacefully optimistic but overly eager tendencies 😉). 

It’s said that timing is everything. While I pondered this thought over the weekend, I read a short book that gave me some insight. It was sent to me from a client who enjoys fruitful reading as much as I do. That book, combined with countless other books I have read in hopes of uncovering something that will help me navigate business and life, offered a much-needed reminder. 

We can plan as much as we want. However, there are no shortcuts to success. 

There’s no way to skip ahead and get the same result, let alone the best result. We still have to put in the work and follow the natural laws of the Universe.

In the case of the lady driver I observed, she was defying natural (and very real) laws. 

Strategic Choices and Success 

Strategy is about making choices, trade-offs. It’s about deliberately choosing to be different.” ~ Michael Porter 

There’s a lot to be said for trying to get ahead, but we must be strategic with our actions and have our goals in mind. Once we know the desired outcomes we are aiming for, we can prioritize our efforts. That’s the key to knowing where and how to spend our time and energy. Otherwise, we will find ourselves weaving in and out of traffic without gaining any ground.

Your turn! Have you encountered people personally or professionally who spin their wheels trying to get ahead to no avail? Please leave a comment and share your experience and observations!

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