A Bridge To Nowhere – The art of getting unstuck
The other day,
I was sitting in traffic trying to cross the Golden Gate Bridge. I needed to get to the North Bay to meet an important networking colleague and referral partner. It was a meeting that easily could have been a “catch up session” over the phone. But seeing as it was springtime, we aimed to meet at a favorite spot that has a fantastic reputation for sunny sidewalk seating, great Italian food, and rich espresso.
I always leave in plenty of time to arrive early. This day was no different. So as I sat on Doyle Drive waiting for the tourists and double-decker buses to get through the tollbooth, I embarked upon a moment of mental relaxation, reflecting on my journey, business, and the afternoon ahead.
It was a gloomy day in San Francisco
In a Spring that has been a bipolar mix of rainstorms and (of all things) heat, this was an afternoon that provided neither the sun we desired, nor the rain we very-much needed.
Gloom, fog and traffic. I was stuck. I couldn’t see much.
The light at the end of the tunnel
As locals to the Bay Area know, something almost mystical happens when you cross the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco to Marin County. As you leave the city in your rear view mirror, 220 ft above the Pacific Ocean, the skies open-up and the warmth of the California sun reaches into your car. It’s nature’s way of welcoming you to the Marin Headlands and the cities to the North.
It was tempting to get lured into that mindset. Sitting in the damp, cold, grey fog, the idea of sunshine and warmth which I knew was a mere mile-and-a-half away was an attractive proposition.
Standby for news
So stuck in traffic, I tuned to my AM dial to see what KCBS had to say.
The news was in — there was an accident on the bridge. I wouldn’t be going anywhere for quite some time. Ugh.
As attractive as the idea of sunshine was, I quickly resigned myself to the inevitable verdict. Not only would I be late, but I was likely to miss my meeting altogether. Time to hop on the phone, reschedule the meeting, and find the nearest exit.
I almost ended up on a bridge to nowhere
On that particular day, canceling a meeting to which I was really looking forward was a most unwelcome development. Stuck in the fog. Stuck in the traffic. Stuck in a literal sea of gray, I dreamed of the moment where I would reach the other side of the bridge. Sunshine. But I would never get there.
I was stuck in the fog . . .
Being stuck is a frustrating place to be
That’s why as business owners (or managers), we have to limit the time when we’re “spinning our wheels”. Stuck in the fog, unable to see the bridge, yet contemplating the sunshine on the other side of the Bay, I was in a place without perspective.
I’ve found that in business (and life) it’s easy to get mired in tunnels, constantly telling ourselves that things will get better when we get to the other side.
Now there’ s a lot of truth to that. No doubt, things would have looked awfully brighter had I reached the sunny side of that bridge. Experience told me that.
But lost in that truth is the inconvenient fact that sometimes the best course of action is to stay out of the tunnel altogether.
Don’t get on the bridge to nowhere. Get off the highway. Turn your car around. Go back to your desk. Restore your afternoon of productivity.
That’s exactly what I did
It was a tough decision. But the reality was that I probably wasn’t going to meet my friend anyway. I would have been far too late and his schedule would have required him to move on.
That doesn’t mean the choice was easy. It’s easy to envision the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s easy to justify an hour stuck in traffic when the end result appears to be sunny skies, a bowl of pasta, and rich espresso.
“Sometimes letting things go is an act of far greater power than defending or hanging on.” – Eckhart Tolle
The art of getting unstuck
Getting “unstuck” isn’t as much art as it is discipline. Discipline to quit. Discipline to look at your cards, make an assessment, and choose not to proceed.
In business, I’ve found it easiest to get stuck when either trying something new, or after “doing the same thing” for too long. Both of those situations are when the business owner and manager in all of us can fall prey to a common human fallacy — accepting the current condition as fact — not a transient situation over which we have free will.
So . . . .
- When you set a goal, set a deadline.
- When you start something new, calendar a day to assess whether your new venture should continue.
- When you find yourself stuck, schedule a time when you’ll quit. And then quit.
Taking a break can be the perfect moment to reassess whether you’ve been traveling in the right direction.
Being stuck is rarely the right place to be
In fact, it’s almost always an expensive place to be. It’s a condition we all-to-often accept as “reality”, rather than a transitory condition in which we hold the keys to our own destiny.
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