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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Warning - Slow Moving Traffic Ahead!

This past weekend, I was driving in a slow-moving, long line of cars when I looked down at my speedometer and thought to myself, "hmmm, is this a 25 mph zone we are in?" As you may have guessed, I thought that because I was at this point driving at 25 MPH. As if in answer to my unspoken question, I passed a sign that clearly said, "Speed Limit 45 MPH" Strange - that's a good 20 MPH faster than we are going right now...

This was depressing to me for two reasons: 1) This was a 15 mile stretch of single lane road. 2) This was at the beginning of a 160 mile drive. Let me tell you, you don't want to start a 160 mile drive by driving 20 MPH below the speed limit for 15 miles. You know the saying, "the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step?" Imagine if those first steps involved getting caught behind a giant impassable rhinoceros with a bum leg who liked to stop every 30 seconds to sing the Aria from Madame Butterfly. It was kind of like that.

I'll admit - I like to drive fast. Not crazy fast, and not aggressive, but the word "puttering along" is not something I would use to describe my driving. In fairness to me, I never get irritated at people who choose to drive right at the speed limit. That's the law, and if that's how fats they want to go, I can't get upset at it. Unless of course it is someone "puttering along" at 55 in the left lane of a major highway while being passed by hundreds on their right...

But here I am, driving along at 20 MPH below the speed limit. There are some justifiable reasons for driving this slow, none of which existed in this case. It was a beautiful sunny day and there was no road construction. I managed to get a look at the lead car of this debacle - it wasn't hauling anything, had nothing strapped to the roof, and didn't have its hazards flashing. It was also not a Hearse, so I wasn't smack dab in the middle of a funeral procession.

Now, while it may not have been a Hearse, it was in fact a mini-van. This in and of itself is a telling sign, and explains the slow moving traffic thing quite well. Please don't be offended or get mad at me if you happen to own a mini-van. I am sure it is a very practical choice if you have a family, but let's face it, the day you decide to buy a mini-van is the day you officially decide to move into a completely different phase of life. And "mini-van" trumps everything. Your other car could be a Ferrari, but still, at the end of the day, you are a mini-van owner first and foremost.

To be fair, I bought a BMW a year ago, so that probably gives you cause to judge me as a driver. When I was shopping for the car, a friend of mine told me, "don't buy a BMW. Everyone who I have ever known who has owned a BMW was a jerk." Now there's a judgement! Of course, this never stops her from asking me for a ride too or from the airport when needed. Who's the jerk now...?

In any case, I was dropped behind this mini-van for the full 15 miles, and it was painful. I spent a long time in that long line of cars thinking about what life and business lessons one could pull from this. Did I come up with anything? Of course! There are 3:

1) Get your tools, skills, and abilities up to the task at hand! There are many reasons why someone would drive that slow. Car trouble, lack of confidence, new driver, etc. These are reasons, not excuses. Get your car fixed, practice driving (in a location where you are not backing up traffic for miles!), and get yourself up to speed - literally and figuratively.

I say apply the same rule to life. There is really no excuse for lack of preparation. If I took the stage for a speaking engagement and stumbled over what I was saying or looked shaky, clients would want their money back. (to see me speaking, visit my funny motivational speaker website. If there are areas in your business or life you want to succeed in, then take the time to prepare and get your tools, skills, and abilities up to speed!

2) Communicate your limitations! If the mini-van was having some kind of trouble, the driver should have put on his hazards. This is why driving school cars have big obnoxious signs on top. In the same way, if you are in over your head, you are not doing anyone, yourself included, by keeping your mouth shut. Too often people plod along, afraid to admit their challenges, hoping things will work out. Once in a rare while it does. Usually, things go very wrong.

3) If you drive a mini-van you will be mocked! You should be ok with this though, because if you have a mini-van, then you have kids, and that's more important than any mockery you may receive. And if you don't have kids but you own a mini-van, then walk, don't run, to the nearest therapist you can find, because you need help.


Terrence Ryan said...

How do you feel about people with children who buy an SUV to avoid the stigma of buying a mini van?

Avish said...

Funny, I was going to write a whole bit about the "SUV as mini-van alternative," but the post was already too long.

I'm on the fence on this. I respect the commitment of the mini-van owner - they're not hiding anything. SUV's are, at the end of the day, ludicrous unless you live in a snowy climate. And don't mind paying $114.47 for a full tank of gas.

That being said, at the end of the day most car purchases have some level of ludicrousness to them (did I really need a BMW? no - but I wanted one)

I will fall behind the defense semantics on this issue. If you are buying an SUV to avoid the stigma of owning a mini0van, I say "man up" and get the minivan. If you buy an SUV because you like SUVs, then go for it! As long as you admit you care more about your image than you do about your kids...