Have you driven into the rumble strips?

LOOK! …where you want to go >>

Look familiar? Our state highway administrations carve these rumble strips (seen on left) into the shoulders of our roads and especially in areas where we are prone to fall asleep at the wheel. So a fair assumption, from the title here, might be that I wanted to write about the business metaphor for … falling asleep at the wheel. Nope. Good guess, though. 😉

Elaine has been cutting my hair for many years and we usually talk about what’s new. Well, her youngest son just started driving and I said, “Wow, I can’t even imagine how stressful that must be for a parent.” She went on to tell me how — to her amazement and wonder — her son (wide awake) recently drifted over into the rumble strips. She just shook her head after sharing this with me, so I asked if I could share a coaching tip…

“Tell your son: LOOK! …where you want to go,” I said. It’s that simple — so simple, in fact, it almost seems too easy. How could it be so easy? If you ask aircraft pilots, motorcycle instructors and driving teachers, this may be the most valuable advice they could ever share. I, myself, learned this from taking a motorcycle safety course and I’ve heard this same advice from someone who has learned to fly a military jet…

Remember when you were a kid, riding along on your bicycle? Every once in a while you’d see a twig or branch on your path, right? Do you remember what would happen if you fixated on that obstacle? Of course you do, you’d run right over it! “But how could that be?” you may have wondered then and even wonder today. “Why did I run over the very thing I was looking to avoid?” It’s simple, really:

When your eyes are focused on something along your path, your hands will steer you right into it.

And therein lies the metaphor for business; for life. LOOK! …where you want to go. It’s quite remarkable, really. Both in its simplicity and in its effectiveness. If you choose to focus upon those obstacles that are in your way — and stay focused on them — I promise that you’ll run right into them. Every time. No exceptions.

Acknowledge instead…

So what’s the solution? Well, it’s much like thinking that you can “break” a bad habit. If you’re focused on breaking a bad habit, you’re still focused on … the bad habit; the very thing you want to avoid. The key is to acknowledge, then replace. Replace that bad habit with the right/good one — then your focus is upon the good habit — you’ve set your sights upon the goal — you are now looking … where you want to go.

So, of course we can’t just ignore something and hope it will go away. It’s important that we acknowledge it, then (quickly) look away from it and onto where it is that we want to go.

Acknowledge >> Look Beyond and Ahead >> Go

Rocket science? No. Invaluable life lesson? You bet.

Your Turn

I’d love to hear about your thoughts and your own experiences on this topic. I expect many of you will have something to share.


  1. True indeed, Steve! In coaching we talk about how you get what you focus on, and what you pay attention to expands. One of my favorite resources, TUT.com puts it simply: “Thoughts become things”. Great reminder for all of us to look where we want to go – and stay focused on THAT! Thanks for this post.

  2. I agree in number of ways with your advice here, Steve. Neuroscience research tells us that our brains are designed to continue to repeat the habits we developed over time. If we focus on them with the intention of CHANGING them, fugedaboudit! It just perpetuates the process. The focus itself moves us to repeat what we’ve been entrained to do.

    As you suggest, just momentarily notice the tendency to repeat that old behavior, then turn your attention to a new thought: a new thinking pattern or behavior. Practicing that new pattern over time results in a new habit which has the potential to become the first habit of choice.

  3. Suzi: I love those TUT daily messages. They are always simple and profound.

    Lowell: That makes SO much sense. Thanks for sharing.

    BTW: When I was 16, I was driving my brother, Dad and I to a concert at the old Capital’s Center in MD. I was so stressed to be in the left lane of I-495 — at that time, due to construction, there was a jersey wall to my immediate left. My Dad, seeing that I was stressed, said, “Focus on the car in front of you; its license plate” – whew!

  4. You are so right. Focus on what you want. When you focus on what you don’t want, your brain doesn’t register the “don’t” or the “not” so you get what you don’t want.

  5. Yes, Sally. In fact, I remember Oprah doing a show on smoking — She insisted on calling it a “Breathe Easy” show, rather than a “Quit Smoking” show, for that very reason.

  6. As always, great advice Steve! What you wrote reminded me of an exercise I learned in a leadership course.

    My class (about 40 people) was split into two groups and instructed to go to separate sides of the room.

    The first group was instructed to act like fish and the second to act like kelp.

    Initially, the “fish” group was asked to walk through the “kelp” group and instructed to focus on the open spaces between the kelp.

    Everything went great – the fish swam uninhibited by the kelp.

    Then the instructors asked the fish group to do the same thing – only this time to focus on the kelp.

    It was a disaster. People were running into each other all over the place!

    I learned two things during this exercise.

    As a fish, I learned to stay focused on opportunities… not obstacles.

    As a kelp, I learned that no matter what problems you run into (or, in this case, run into you) be flexible and – no matter how bad the collision – always come back to center.

    Thanks for sharing this story Steve – and keep the great advice coming!

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