A Road to the Middle of Nowhere
2004 Boaz Rauchwerger
The other night, as I was traveling to a speaking engagement from San Diego to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, I learned a valuable lesson about setting goals and being focused.
The afternoon began with a delay in taking off from the San Diego airport. The pilot related that, due to thunderstorms in the Chicago area, we would have to wait a while before heading in that direction. From the Chicago airport I would drive a rental car north, just past the Wisconsin border, to Lake Geneva.
At an hour and a half past our scheduled departure, we took off. As we neared the Chicago airport, the pilot circled for a while. The continuing bad weather had caused quite a backup in planes and we had to wait our turn to land.
When our plane finally landed, coming out of the sky through a rainstorm full of lightening, it was about 10 oclock at night. After getting baggage, I was off to the car rental counter.
Because I travel so much for speaking events, and am often driving to resort locations, I always request a rental car with a GPS system. Thats the satellite-connected global positioning system that directs the driver to a destination.
When I attempted to input the address of the resort in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, into the Hertz Never LostGPS system, it didnt offer me the option of the exact address for the resort. The street number for the location was 20001. I could only input address numbers in that community up to 10000. Thus, assuming that I could find my way if I got that close, I began following the verbal and visual directions of the GPS system.
That system also gave me an option: Did I want the shortest route or the route that uses freeways most of the way? I chose the shortest route.
I had just made two mistakes that have a direct correlation to many things we do in life. The first mistake was in my assuming that I could find my way once I got close enough. The second, knowing that I was going to be traveling in rural areas on a dark, rainy night, was that I mistakenly chose the shortest route rather than a better route.
How many times in life do we proceed ahead on a certain path and assume the outcome? Then, when things dont work out, we get upset. How many times do we choose a shortcut because we think it will be easier, only to find that a longer route would have actually been more productive?
Thus, I followed the route of the GPS system from Chicagos OHare Airport as heavy rain continued to drench the countryside. A few miles on an interstate led to a series of small highways through numerous small communities to the north.
Between these communities, on the way to the Wisconsin border, there was nothing but pitch black and lots of rain. Yes, this might have been the shorter route. However, these 60 miles to my destination began to look like the much longer route.
Youll recall that I set the GPS on an address which I assumed was in the vicinity of my destination. How much time would it have taken to call the resort and ask them which route they recommended? How much better off we would be if we simply asked for help instead of assuming? How many times do I have to learn this lesson?
My smaller highways turned into streets in a small down, which then led to a series of dark country roads. The voice of the GPS system said I was getting closer to my destination. Obviously the voice didnt have the ability to look outside my car windows. The last country road led to a dark and desolate spot in the middle of nowhere. The GPS system proudly proclaimed, You have arrived at your destination!
I had just flown across the country, driven through almost 60 miles of rain on dark country roads, and I was nowhere. Ive got to tell you, nowhere felt pretty alone that night and very uncomfortable. The shortest route had become the longest road.
Deciding that I would need to backtrack in order to find where I was, I turned around on that small, dark road. As I drove back under an old railroad trestle, I saw a small sign which read: Entering Illinois.I had obviously driven into Wisconsin. Thus, I turned back around and kept going down that dark Wisconsin country road.
Coming to a crossroads, I finally decided to ask for help. A call to the resort told me that I was about five miles away. The kind gentleman on the phone, obviously realizing that I was pretty perturbed, guided me to his location. The next day, heading back to the Chicago airport, I asked for directions, took the slightly longer route, and it ended up being so much easier and actually faster.
So, lets analyze what I will do differently next time. As I said, how many times do we need to learn certain lessons? I will not assume that something in the vicinity is close enough. I will call and ask questions. I will not choose the apparent easy way (the shortest route), but rather consider that a little extra effort could actually become a much better route.
In the future, Ill take the time to find out how to get somewhere. Without clear goals, and well-laid plans, we end up on a road to nowhere.
A Goal-Setting Affirmation
I clearly define my goals, ask for help and follow through on my plans.
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