Yesterday was a great day. I was at an amazing converted barn in the middle of the Kent countryside for some digital marketing training.
It’s all part of the process that’s taking me forward into uncharted areas of experience as I look to scale my business. It’s another big investment but again I’m working with world class people who are at the cutting edge of what’s working in the marketing field.
There was no sign of the trouble ahead when I got into my car to drive home. But I’d only been on the road for 2 minutes when I hit the fog.
I can’t remember having been in worse visibility. There were no street lights to break through the murkiness and obviously no moonlight either. With my headlights I could see about 10 yards in front of the car and, when I put them on full beam, the light just reflected back off the fog and my visibility was literally the end of the bonnet.
While I was the only car on the road I was quite enjoying the challenge of the drive, but it wasn’t long before I had a Range Rover right up behind me.
Suddenly the atmosphere changed. I felt under extreme pressure as the driver behind stayed uncomfortably close, given the conditions. As this continued I actually felt quite intimidated and at one point considered stopping the car to give him a piece of my mind. The road was so narrow I couldn’t even wave him past.
The worst part came when I came to a sharp bend and, as I went round it, couldn’t distinguish between the road and the verge which had been worn down by years of cars running over the edge.
Before I knew it half of the car was off the road, bumping through pot holes and drains. I managed to recover but slowed down as I realised that the only reason it had happened was that I had started to drive faster because of the pressure from the car behind.
After 15 minutes I finally got to the main road at the bottom of the hill and the fog dissolved. After one of the hairiest drives of my life, and I’ve had a few, the rest of the journey was uneventful.
As I drove the remainder of the M25 home I had time to think about the event and a horrible thought came to mind.
I was reminded of what I must have been like to work for when I was a manager in the newspaper industry. On peoples’ backs and shining a bright light on the problems we were facing.
And that’s what it was like when I put my headlights on full beam. The only thing they shed any light on was the fog, the problem. They shed no light on the solution to the problem, i.e. pointing out where the road actually was to drive on.
The thing is I never thought of myself as that impatient driver who I had on my tail, as I tried to navigate the tricky road in appalling visibility.
I thought I was being helpful; shining a light and providing some motivational pressure.
We are all under so much pressure to get things done nowadays that the tendency is to push harder and to shine brighter lights at the problem in our efforts to break through. But all we do is succeed in making the visibility worse.
Sometimes the right approach is to turn the light down a bit, let the solution emerge from the gloom and follow the path a bit more slowly.
It wasn’t the lesson I was expecting to get from my day’s activity but one I’m very glad to have received.
So next time you have a problem that is proving difficult to break through, think about turning down your focus on the problem and give the solution a chance to emerge from the gloom you see ahead.
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Have a fog free day.