Do You Squander Your Time in Traffic?

I was driving to a meeting and a young man in a beat-up Honda Accord had spent the last three miles trying to get around me and the other motorists. Every time he got a few cars ahead, he was thwarted by the flow of traffic or stoplight timing. I would pull up right behind him, pull a few cars ahead or end up beside him at the next light. I was tempted to lower my window and ask, “What are you accomplishing?” but I didn’t think he’d get it.

Young people in old cars are not the only ones displaying this impatience. I see middle-aged women in SUVs and older men in pick-up trucks doing the same thing. Most of them have this look of focus and determination that says, “I’m going to beat all these people to the next intersection.”

Of course, given a distance of ten miles, chances are we’ll all arrive within seconds of each other. At the risk of appearing a little anal, I even tested this theory a few times by mentally tagging these individuals in the flow of traffic. Sure enough, I’d be right behind them at light after light after light. When my kids were young, I pointed out to them that certain vehicles were demonstrating this dance of impatience while imperiling everyone else on the road. Once they earned their driver’s licenses, they began mentioning this phenomenon as they got behind the wheel.

Of course, this behavior is not confined to driving. I’ve seen people get so wound up in positioning themselves in a meeting or for a job, that they’ve been ignored or passed over because everyone thought they were annoying or even obnoxious. I’ve interviewed thousands of successful leaders over the years. With the exception of a few, I have found them all to be cordial, generous, and forthcoming. Apparently, they have figured out that working with the “traffic,” rather than competing with the “motorists” gets you further ahead in the same amount of time.

On the roads of life, we have all have choices for how we spend our time and energy. I’d rather sit back, go with the flow, and think through the day’s real challenges, such as writing the next article for my blog. There! I think I’ve done it.