As I cycled back to my office from a leadership development meeting in San Francisco’s SoMa neighborhood on a recent morning, I decided to take a longer route, one that Google Maps had recommended but that I had dismissed. “Why would I want to go a block in the wrong direction to get to where I am going?” I had thought. “Best to go directly.” But when I took the different, longer route recommended by the map, I discovered a great thing: a dedicated bike path for much of the route, that I hadn’t known about!
Now, not all of you may be cyclists, so let me explain the significance of bike paths. A dedicated path — one protected from auto traffic by some kind of barrier or enough distance — is a beautiful thing, because you can relax and not be constantly in fear of getting hit by a car. It’s good for the cyclist and good for the car as well — who doesn’t need to worry about cyclists popping up unexpectedly? This got me thinking about how cycling relates to lots of other things in life: it’s the mentality, the mental framework, that you bring to it that makes all the difference. When I’ve brought a tranquil, un-rushed mindset to the task of getting to where I’m going, I’ve enjoyed it more, and I’ve taken the time to find the best route (like that morning).
At earlier times in my life, and even today on some days, the mental model I bring to driving is speed, and competition. Can I get there faster? Can I accelerate here and by doing so, get in front of that next car so I can make my turn? The problem with that framework is that not only is it less safe, they reinforce an us vs. them way of thinking.
Leadership Development: Enabling People To Do Big Things
My work is about leadership development , and at its heart leadership is about enabling people to do big things. There’s a personal productivity aspect of doing great things, but that’s not really where the action is. If it were, “Getting Things Done” and its author, David Allen, would be advising CEOs and presidents and no one else would be. The action is in how other people respond to you — listen to you, follow you, do things in coordination or concert with you. And when you communicate respect, personal interest in others, interest in their safety, they are more likely to do all of those things. When you look at another car, what do you see? Do you see a chunk of steel and engineering capable of moving at high speed? Or do you see the person inside it? I think too often we see the car, and not the person, and that’s a core problem for us these days.
When you drive a car or a bike, if you view it as a tranquil activity, one where being relaxed and alert is the goal, versus being fast, competitive and “driven,” you can truly enjoy the time and you are safer. Increasingly, when I am driving and cycling, I am seeking to bring myself into that relaxed and focused state.