I got lost in San Antonio.
A while back, during a conference, I had a few hours to kill and a rental car. I looked at a map, saw a road called “Scenic Loop”, and took it. It was a pretty drive, through mesquite and past riding stables. I then took a right turn away from the city and headed out towards the Texas Hill Country.
I found myself winding around a four lane road with only an occasional pickup truck driving the other way. The sun was bright and the hills were more of a frosted pre-spring green. I was about ready to turn back when a bug hit my windshield and I immediately was taken back thirty-five years.
My father was a professor in Philadelphia and for a number of summers he did research in Boulder, Colorado. So, in June, we’d clamber in a VW bus and make the three day (or so) trek from Philadelphia to Boulder. Despite the fact that the four kids were always getting into trouble and my only view of my dad on those trips was of his right hand swinging back from the front seat trying to grab the first pint-size Kreitzberg he could find (I was no fool and sat in the way “way” back), I learned more about the United States on those trips than in any Social Studies book. I learned about the caves in the Ozarks, the slam of a diner screen door and truckers’ conversations off a Missouri Interstate, the vast emptiness of Kansas prairies. Of course, every so often on the road, we’d stop at a picnic table to stretch our legs, have some Kool Aid and read the historical marker which had a story about a forgotten battle, a forgotten tribe a forgotten settlement. The kids would run around, my dad would stretch his legs, light a cigar and ponder the imponderable, then we’d clamber back into the bus and take off.
Finally, the mountains behind Denver rose like a tidal wave from the Colorado floor and we’d be there. And the first thing we did in Boulder was pull up to a car wash and wash the bugs off the windshield, the grill and the front lights.
Getting to where you want to go, whether in business or in life, requires getting a few bugs on your windshield. If you play it safe, if you stick to your neighborhood, your windshield might be clean, but you won’t be able to see much. You need to pick up speed, have some urgency and set out beyond the limits of your experience. And, while you’re out there, you need to pull over every once in a while, stretch your legs, ponder the imponderable and get back on the road.
Where are you with regards to your goals? Are you still sitting in your dining room looking at a map? Have you decided that it’s safer to to go to the local Blockbuster to rent videos about others achieving their goals? Or are you out on the highway, wind in your hair, tuned to an ancient AM station and hitting those bugs?