Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Career Lessons from a Feather Foot

I was driving home from shopping this weekend when I found myself behind a driver that possessed a – shall I say – “feather foot:” one who braked 500 feet before the stop light and could not possibly go one mile above the speed limit. Now, I would like to think of myself as a patient person who would not let something like this get to him…but in this instance I did the opposite: I revved my car’s engine, signaled right, and zipped around the offending vehicle with a roll of my eyes. About two miles ahead I encountered an intersection under construction and I waited for my turn to go along with the other cars at the four-way stop. I glanced in my rearview mirror and was startled to see…the feather foot driver. We ended up in the exact same place, only he did it with half the energy. Just as in driving, there are ways that you can manage your career that produces better outcomes using a more calm approach.

The speed limit is a guide: Speed limits exist not only for safety but to keep traffic flowing optimally. They’re designed to regulate: not too fast, not too slow. There are features of your career that serve as guides, too, from the education you obtain to workplace norms and industry culture. To make you trip smooth, study these guides so that you are more prepared for the work ahead of you.

What’s the hurry?: If you visit FuelEconomy.gov you learn that the faster you drive, the more fuel you expend. Fuel, in this case, parallels your time and energy. Just because you are “driving faster” doesn’t meant that you are getting to where you want to go more quickly. Those who are successful in their fields really delve into them. They engage with their passion, meet others who renew them, stay on top of industry advances, and learn through making mistakes and celebrating successes. Don’t be in a hurry to get “there;” be here in the now and celebrate the journey.

Aggression causes accidents: When I sped around the feather foot to get ahead of him, I did so for the sole purpose of being ahead. There was no emergency; it was just a senseless, impulsive act. A race to the top for the sake of being at the top can leave many causalities in its wake. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t passionately pursue your dreams, be mindful of the difference between aggression and focused ambition, between impulsive desire and inspired aspiration. If your current actions are honoring your personal values and are not inflicting harm on others, you’re on the right track.

I couldn’t help but laugh at my folly when I saw the feather foot; it was a powerful reminder that it’s better to enjoy the drive than to be the first one at the stop sign.

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