Thursday, July 31, 2014

Objects (and Success) May Be Closer Than They Appear

If you own a car, have seen a car, or have ridden in one at some point in your life then, yes, you've seen this message on objectification written on a side-view mirror. It's there to help us calculate the distance between vehicles and objects for our best possible safety; to help us gauge how to better proceed. But I recently was reminded how that same message can be applied to our quest for success as well.

If you know me, you know I'm all about planning. Be it as simple as a party or as elaborate as a European vacation, you better believe I've done my homework and mapped out a beginning, middle, and end--and everything in between those--in order to guarantee a (near) perfect outcome. As a Virgo, I'm certainly not one who likes to "fly by the seat of my pants." In fact, on a trip to Barcelona once with a friend, I had read up on the city and studied its layout so well that by the time I put down my bags, I was sashaying down streets and hoping on and off its transit system as if I'd been living there my entire life. (It's also the reason that when it comes to travel, most family and friends are just fine letting me handle all the details. But I digress). And the less questions I have to ask anyone, the better. Not because I'm above being assisted but because I never like to feel I'm a burden to anyone. But on a recent business trip, going against my habits turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

As usual, I had studied the city to which I was traveling; located my hotel on Google maps; calculated the walking distance between the hotel and the meeting location; and  packed the shoes I would need to make my commute between both locations comfortable. The night before the first day of my meeting--now having a more close-up view of my surroundings--I calculated a new route; decided to take the sky walk versus the street; and. planned in more travel time to allow for any wrong turns along the way. Needless to say, I was pleased with my plan. However, something continued to nag me. I realized from my hotel's window view I still wasn't 100% sure what direction I was facing and which exit I would take out of the hotel to begin my journey. But I had a plan and, dag nabbit, I was sticking with it. However, more travel weary than I expected to be, the morning found me running a bit behind schedule, which made my accuracy in calculating my commute even more important. Luckily, I made up for time and was out the door. But I still had a nagging feeling that my plan wasn't as perfect as I convinced myself it was. And, so, I bit the bullet and did the unthinkable: I stopped at the front desk and asked for directions. The exchange with the concierge went something like this:

Me: Good morning. I'm heading to a meeting at Deloitte.What's the best way to get there?
Clerk: Wait. You said Deloitte?
Me: Yes. You think I should just jump in a cab or take the sky walk? I have to be there at 10.
Clerk: Actually, ma'am, I think the location you're looking practically right next door.
Me: *blank stare*

Well, the location was not right next door but only a half a block down. In fact, I was so focused on MY plan, I had passed the location during a leisurely walk the day before and I didn't even know it. I was both relieved and ticklishly embarrassed. But, most importantly, I was reminded of two simple facts: 1) most people are more than happy to help others; to feel a sense of accomplishment in knowing they made a small difference in someone's day; and 2) the person in our own way most of the times is our own selves.

Often times, help is available, but we don't take it. Answers are waiting, but we don't ask. Opportunities arise, yet we don't grab hold of them. Whether driven by fear, shame, or "independent" pride, often times we miss our moments and thus our blessings, and create stumbling blocks toward our own success. Just as those objects in a mirror may be closer than they appear, so may our proximity to the things and people that can help take us to that next level. All we have to do is make the first step and ask. As Nobel Prize winning surgeon Alexis Carrel once said, "All of us, at certain moments of our lives, need to take advice and to receive help from other people." I was more than grateful for that reminder that day followed by what was a very successful meeting. And I also learned Google maps is definitely not drawn to scale. Go figure.

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