Most of my readers know that I’m a recent transplant to Denver from Las Vegas. A lover of all that is outdoors and the craving to live somewhere with culture once again led me to pack up the house, cram 2 dogs/2 cats and one redhead into the Honda Element and head for the Rockies in early November. It’s business as usual for The Redhead, writing for a living and doing it underneath branches going bare instead of amidst the tumbleweeds.
This past Sunday, I awoke to a yard draped with snow, a blanket so even and crisp that it reminded me of a bed at the Westin. After the dogs tore through the yard and I bundled myself up, I decided to run to Target for both groceries and shopping. Consolidation (I figured) was wise, given the weather conditions.
With the turn of a key, I warmed-up the car as I’ve become accustomed to doing on cold mornings here. Y’know – in 3.5 years in Las Vegas and 5 prior in Southern California, I NEVER had to warm-up my car. But hey – it’s all good. I live in Denver now. And it gave me time to shovel behind my garage in the alley.
The Hoopty (my affectionate name for my pumpkin-colored ride) and I tooled down the road, AWD engaged and set out on a task-oriented morning surrounded by winter bliss.
About 3/4 of the way through my journey to the Devil-Store (as I’ve dubbed Target, as you walk in to buy tampons and inevitably leave with patio furniture), I’m cruising at a conservative 2o MPH and approach a stoplight. Braking as I normally do, I…
Shit. (shit, shit, shit)
Right through the intersection. I land smack-dab in the middle of the thing with cars on either side, their exhausts billowing like locomotives and piercing disdain emanating like sharks with frickin’ laser beams from their eyes. I feel their stares bore through my soul as they’ve obviously SEEN the Nevada plates on my car by now. Stranger…I don’t belong here. TOURIST! (the worst…)
The business of driving in snow is seen every day in the business world, yet it never hit home for me until Sunday when I went about my business as usual. We tend to find certain ways to deal with everyday situations and think that minor adjustments will suffice to see us through. It’s not uncommon for us (or for me, at least) to approach a familiar business or personal situation in the same manner as always and expect the predictable result.
Shame on me.
Driving in snow is the same business landscape we deal with on a day to day basis – customers, products, campaigns and processes – yet with one glaring difference. Our every move is exaggerated. Like my drive on Sunday, I approached an intersection in the same manner as always, and while slower than normal, my SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) failed miserably.
I didn’t acknowledge that there was a layer of snow on top of the ice that had formed the night before. That Westin-like blanket of snow hid the most dangerous aspect of “business as usual” from me. Or did I just not have the experience or wherewithal to take the time to understand that it was there whether I could see it or not?
Is there not a higher level of thinking involved when we actively choose to see every situation, every customer in business as unique?
Since I’ve taken the time to apply an analogy to my driving bumble, I think we encounter times of “driving on snow” more than we realize in our lives. Reminds me of a Demi Moore quote from “A Few Good Men”:
“But my feeling is that if this case is handled in the same fast-food, slick-ass, Persian Bazaar manner with which you seem to handle everything else, something’s gonna get missed.”
Not that I make it a practice to go around spewing Demi Moore quotes, but in this instance, she’s reaming Tom Cruise for treating what she perceives as a unique situation as “business as usual.” And she was right. Probably because Aaron Sorkin wrote it that way, but it’s a great damn quote nonetheless. Something WILL get missed and your ass is going to end-up in the middle of an intersection like mine.
My point in all this being: opening our eyes each day is an incredible gift. On Sunday, I chose to see the beauty of the day, yet that beauty shielded a danger that – having experienced it once – I’ll never miss again. Not to say that danger lurks in life’s every nook and cranny, but driving on snow this week taught me that by changing the terrain of my thought process – by opening my eyes and my mind – I’m able to see much more than the rote routine to which my psyche has become accustomed.
My goals on a move-forward basis are to:
- respect the routine of the predictable
- appreciate the beauty of the unexpected
- understand the uniqueness of every situation
- and stop quoting Demi Moore flicks.
Drive on. Brake softly. And don’t swear too loudly at the chick in the pumpkin with the Nevada plates.