Today’s post is the feature article from the March 2007 issue of The Front Porch Newsletter. If you would like to automatically receive The Front Porch e-newsletter on the last Thursday of each month just click here to sign-up for your complimentary subscription.
I remember my first speeding ticket. At 18 years old, I was doing 42 in a 40mph speed zone. That’s right — 42 in a 40! That’s back when the speed limit actually meant something. Today, as you drive down the I-88 Reagan Memorial Tollway to the west of Chicago, you will find that the traffic often moves at 20mph over the posted rate of 55mph. Ten-times my first offense! You may ask how so many, otherwise honest drivers, can justify it. They will likely tell you they are just following the advice of their long- forgotten driver-ed teacher — just going with the flow!
They must not be too at odds with the law. Recent Illinois legislation proposed that a ticket be issued for freeway drivers in the left lane who are moving slower than the natural flow of traffic — insinuating even if traffic is going 20mph over the speed limit! So what really is the limit? I suppose there really isn’t one as long as you can get everyone else to rise to the flow of your self-defined limit.
So what does this have to do with business? I would propose everything! My older brother has professionally counseled patients for over 30 years. Long ago, probably while riding in my car, he told me that one of the most important disciplines we can create is to drive the speed limit. I thought for a while that this was a quite arbitrary piece of advice driven by personal preference. That is until I heard the same advice from several unrelated psychologists. They weren’t on a mission to make our roads safer — but to create habits of discipline in our life.
Bigger is better — and faster is sweeter. Sometimes yes, but not always. Back in the peak of the “dot- com” era, the cover of Fast Company Magazine asked a critically important question: When is enough enough? It is an incredibly important question — unless we want to live like a greyhound chasing rabbits at a dog-track.
Whether we are talking a division or company-wide operational budget, the national economy or the ecology of the world, we are best served when we develop an appetite for limits. We hated them as teenagers and with the largest consumer debt in US History, we seem to hate them as adults.
Don’t get me wrong. The sky is limit when it comes to our dreams and our vision. And limits can eventually be the foundation for creating and sustaining big dreams. By definition, limits create space. They prohibit one set of priorities from destroying all the others. They create balance. They create discipline. And ultimately they recreate a sense of respect.
One day my brother challenged me to get in the far right lane and actually drive the posted speed-limit on I-88 in Chicago. I protested saying that someone was sure to hit me from behind and that several frustrated drivers would likely pass me by saluting me with one finger. From experience on other roads he insisted that would not happen. So I decided to try it out. It was the most relaxing drive I have ever taken on that tollway. No one hit me, no one gave me a one-finger salute and no one even honked their horn.
Ultimately the point isn’t about driving the speed limit. The point is that we drive everyday. And if every time we drive we consciously set limits, then we are likely to become more consciously aware of the other limits we need to set in the daily habits that define our lives.
I asked our Front Porch readers about their driving habits. As with any survey there is a margin of error (e.g. 2 to 5% in either direction). Knowing our typical response to a policeman who has just pulled us over, my guess is that the margin of error in this survey is all in one direction. I will let you assume which direction that may be in the following responses:
1. Do you regularly drive the speed limit?
NO – 64.2%
YES – 35.8%
2. I am most likely to drive within the posted speed limit:
ON CITY STREETS – 83%
ON OPEN FREEWAYS – 0%
EVERYWHERE – 11.3%
NEVER – 5.7%
3. Most neighborhoods post a 25-mph maximum limit. Do you stay within that limit on those streets?
YES – 60.4%
NO – 26.4%
SOMETIMES – 13.2%
4. The following best describes where you would most likely find the needle on your speedometer:
BELOW THE LIMIT – 0%
RIGHT ON THE LIMIT – 18.9%
5-10 MPH OVER THE LIMIT – 71.7%
10-15 MPH OVER THE LIMIT – 9.4%
WHO LOOKS – I LIKE TO FLY! – 0%
ACTION IDEA: Once a week for the next 30 days, intentionally drive the speed limit on a road where the flow is significantly faster. Relax into the moment — and think about the other areas of your life where you need to define when is enough, enough! You may just find the sytemic impact will propel you far beyond just arriving at a destination.