Success is one of the most elusive and least understood concepts in our world. Second only to “love”, success is written about, preached, taught, and lusted after by millions, yet it remains one of the most difficult concepts to explain.
Much like love, success is relative and each of us defines it differently. For me, Success is Freedom. To work when I want, from where I want, and with whom I want. It’s the freedom to travel, dine at fine restaurants and enjoy the “toys” that come with success.
My favorite toy is my car. It’s no secret that I like to drive fast, and doing so in a car that is the epitome of high-performance luxury is the ultimate expression of freedom.
I’ve learned, however, that driving a car is a perfect metaphor for achieving success. After all, much like with success, not understanding the nuances of driving a car will cause you to steer off course. These two driving lessons I learned changed the trajectory of my success and still apply today.
1) Look Where You Want to Go:
In 1999, I bought a Honda S2000, in one of the most hyped car introductions in history. The S2000 had the first red start button. It was simple really, but that change from turning a key to pushing a single button literally put the power at your fingertips.
My employees at FlashNet gifted me with a driving lesson at Motor Sports Ranch for my birthday, which is a race track for fast, every day cars. You strap in with a race car instructor, and take your fast car on a track to experience speeds up to 150 miles an hour. I was in heaven.
The race car instructor drives your car around the track first, teaches you a few important lessons, and then straps you in to see how well you learn these lessons, as you race around the track at speeds one can only dream about.
One of the lessons I learned on the track changed my life.
The instructor said “Your car will follow your eyes. Wherever you look, the car will go. If you look at the wall (as we are racing over 100 miles an hour!), you’ll hit the wall. If you look to the left of the wall (good idea by the way), the car will veer left. Always place your vision on where you want to go, rather than where you are.”
Place your vision on where you want to go, rather than where you are. Wow. I’ve heard that before! My grandfather had taught me that “You get what you focus on.”
Needless to say, I knew that lesson well, but to experience it in the driver’s seat and to feel the car physically follow my focus was a visceral, life-changing experience. As we neared a hairpin turn, my tendency was to focus on where I didn’t want to go…into the wall. We tend to focus on our fears, and on the problems of life, and that wall was creating a problem as my car came closer to it at breath-taking speeds!
“Shift your focus to where you want to go. If you look at the wall, you’ll hit the wall.” the instructor commanded.
Hard as I tried, I could not stop looking at the wall. The fear in my chest was overwhelming until finally, less than 3 inches from the wall, the driver grabbed the steering wheel and navigated us to safety.
“Stop the car,” he said.
“Terri, the car follows your eyes. It goes…where you look. Focus on where you want to go, not where you’re afraid you’ll end up.”
Something snapped. I GOT it.
I revved the engine, and sped off down the straight-away, breaking the 100 mile an hour mark, as I neared the next turn.
As I leaned into the turn, the car naturally moved closer to the wall. I felt the urge to look, but my instructor reminded me: “Put your focus on where you want to go.”
As I shifted my focus to the left, I could see the inner rim of the track and the next point in the turn, and instantly the car moved away from the wall!
So lesson one for driving a car, and achieving success: Keep your focus on where you want to go, not where you are afraid you’ll end up.
2) Your Perspective Changes with the View
I was about to head off to college, and had saved enough money to buy my first car, a Datsun B210. I loved that little car! Although I knew how to drive, my grandfather wanted to give me a few grandfatherly tips since he was about to send his beloved granddaughter off to college in that little car.
I could sense the driving lesson was bigger than safety 101, and any time spent with my grandpa was always a good investment, so I eagerly obliged.
We got into the car, and he talked to me about the basics: the importance of the seat belt, to keep the radio noise at safe levels, all of that kind of stuff.
But then, as we were driving down the highway he said, “I want to show you something. Do you notice how big the windshield is?
I said, “Yes. So…”
He followed, “If you knew where you wanted to go, would you use the windshield or the other mirrors?”
“The windshield, Gramps. That’s the only way to see where I am going.”
He said, “Good. Now look in the rearview mirror. What do you see?”
I was getting a little nervous, because cars were whizzing past me, and I wasn’t totally comfortable yet driving on the highway.
“I see stuff behind me. What’s the point, Gramps?”
“Stay with me. Now look in the side view mirrors. What do you see?
“I see the stuff behind me, and the cars that are passing me.”
He pressed, “Does the stuff behind you look the same?”
I responded, still not getting it. “Yes. Well…No, actually, it doesn’t. It’s from a different perspective.”
He said, “Great, pull over for a second.”
And then he grabbed my face and made me look him straight in the eyes, with his steel blue eyes piercing my soul.
“Terri, driving a car is the same as achieving success. The first step is to spend more time looking out the windshield at where you want to go.
The second step is to occasionally look at the smaller rearview mirror to remind yourself where you’ve been. The key is to not spend too much time there, because where you’ve been is behind you.
But the third key is to also view your past from a new perspective. The past won’t guide you to where you want to go, but if you use the side view mirrors, you’ll gain a different perspective on your past, and it will help you navigate both where you want to go, and anything blocking you from getting there.”
And, with that perspective, I headed off to college with new found wisdom on how to achieve success:
1) Spend more time looking forward, at where you want to go, then looking back at the past.
2) Occasionally, check the rear-view mirror to remind yourself where you’ve been, but more importantly, how far you’ve come.
3) Use the side view mirrors to look at the past from a different perspective, and to observe what’s passing you by, WITHOUT taking your eyes off of where you’re going.
Success is like driving a car. And, just as my love affair with luxurious, fast cars, so it is with success. I prefer ridiculous abundance, and I want it fast. Unfortunately, success doesn’t always show up that way, but the key is to remember to “look where you want to go.”