Last night I had two baseball games happening at the same time; one in our town and one in the town about 10 miles away. There was no way I could be in two places at once. As a mom, I hate to miss out on my kids’ events. I worry about missing the home run or the catch of a fly ball and having my child look into the stands to see me cheering, but I’m not there. I worry about someone getting nailed in the face with a ball or falling down and breaking something and I’m not there to comfort them and take care of them. Sports mom life is hard, especially when you have two kids to divide your time between.
Unfortunately last night there was an accident on the freeway. A semi carrying plywood tipped on a corner sending debris across both lanes. I could get to the baseball game, but getting back from it would take hours. Luckily they decided to cancel the game which gave me the opportunity to focus on my daughter’s game and be there to cheer her on.
As I sat watching her play, I could see the freeway. Every once in a while a car or truck would go by from the neighboring town but there was no flowing traffic like on any other day. I could tell when a lane would opened up near the accident because a mass of traffic would come through. Then it would stop. Then they would open a lane and down came the mass of vehicles.
Traveling along the road to success and putting yourself through the traffic jams to come out ahead takes a lot of work. It takes going down that extra mile and once you come through the jam or find that open lane, you can get ahead of the others and you can set your cruise control and enjoy some of the scenery.
The extra mile is similar to how the freeway looked from the minimal traffic from the neighboring town. Not many people travel that extra mile so there’s freedom to take it a little slower or focus on the road and the sights a little more. The extra mile can be grueling, but it’s rewarding.
Traffic jams happen in my business all the time. As I’m building my business, I’m in the thick of the traffic jam, right in the middle where there’s no exits, no turn arounds, and no open lane. I struggle to inch my way forward, to pull ahead of the crowd. I will begin to gain customers or clients and start to see the lane opening up ahead. I’ll be able to roll forward a little more, pick up speed, and maneuver through the debris in my path. Sometimes I take an exit and get off that road because it isn’t going where I want to go. Sometimes I get lucky and traffic control decides to let me be the last car through before they stop again. Once I get out of the jam, it’s smooth sailing. I can roll the windows down, get ahead, and even make a couple of pit stops along the way.
But I never forget that all the traffic behind me will eventually be let through. That’s when I need to push myself to get an extra mile or 5 ahead of the others. Last night I could tell every time a lane opened up, a mass of traffic came down that freeway. Every time those masses come up behind me, there’s someone with something bigger and better and they will pass me in the fast lane.
I always remember this…the fast lane isn’t as rewarding as the extra mile. The fast lane can get me quick sales, but the extra mile will get me consistent sales. The fast lane will snag the travelers but the extra mile will give me relationships, people who come back every year, every month, or every day.
This analogy isn’t just for running a business. Think of it in terms of loosing weight. I’ve been down this road a time or two. I watch the food I eat, move my body in a safe and loving way, and stay hydrated. I watch my mirrors, move through the traffic in a safe manner, and make sure I have a full tank of gas. If I head out of town without some snacks, fuel, and the ability to make some pit stops to stretch, my trip is going to end up in a traffic jam. Let’s say I grab the fast lane and do a crash diet. What do you think will happen? I’m literally going to crash. I’ve done it before. Massive change to my eating habits and food practices that were not beneficial to my body did fine in the short term but I eventually got stuck in the traffic jam again. I’ve also taken the extra mile and slowed down my travels a bit. I paced myself, was aware of my food, and stacked new habits on good habits. That was hard work, but it paid off.
I will always run into a traffic jam, whether it’s in business, my health, or my relationships. Something will happen and stuff will be scattered across the road and I’ll have to wait it out. Or I’ll pull ahead and get in front of the jam. Maybe I slack off a bit because I’ve gotten so far ahead. I have to be careful that my cruise control doesn’t take over for too long because all of those cars will be coming up on me.
I take the time to go the extra mile. I share the road with other people who are pushing themselves forward and they help me push forward. I travel in groups so the extra mile doesn’t seem so lonely. I celebrate my travels. I take lots of pictures. And I share my struggles with those who are stuck in similar traffic jams. They are my attentive audience. They are my travel buddies.
What are you doing to set yourself far enough ahead to avoid the traffic jam?