“Direction is much more important than speed.” – Anonymous
Two weeks ago, I sent out my update from Walker Lake in Minnesota where we were visiting with family. We were in the middle of our two-week 6,000-mile driving adventure across the US. We passed through California, Arizona, Colorado, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico. Whew! That’s a lot of distance to travel by car, but thankfully we were able to travel at 70-80 mph most of the way.
With a family of five, as you can imagine, there were plenty of stops along the way. For the most part, I have a good sense of direction, but the thing about a long drive is that the roads, exits, hotels, and fuel stations all start to look alike after a while. If you’re not careful, you may end up getting turned around and going the wrong way. I recall one particular bio-break stop where I ended up on the wrong onramp, heading East instead of West. Thankfully there was a quick exit and turnaround. If I had made that miscalculation in one of the Dakotas, I may have been stuck on that road going the wrong direction for 50 miles!
I love going fast! Seeing the world move quickly beneath you as you arrive at your destination is exciting and rewarding. But when you make a directional error and end up 100 miles off course all that excitement morphs into a sick feeling of failure. It occurs to me how much that applies to our work, projects, business and life. Sure, there are measured risks we must take when we need to explore new directions, but most of the time we can quickly assemble enough data to select the right bearing. That’s engineering. My dad used to say, “Son, with engineering you assume a point of beginning and proceed with great accuracy.” Like the scientific method, you begin with a thoughtful plan, act, measure and make corrections. My recent road trip reminded me how important it was that we plan, measure and correct when the vector is off. Reaching the final destination demands that discipline.
What does your compass say? Are you headed in the right direction? Pull out the map and measure your position and trajectory. Are you going where you want to go or do you hear the GPS suggesting a “next legal U-turn”? It’s never too late to alter course, especially if your goal is to arrive at the right destination. I challenge you all this week to think about your destination and the direction you need to go to get there.