Yesterday I attempted to get out on the snow-covered streets of Prescott, AZ to meet fellow yarnies at a coffee shop. Well, it didn’t go so well for me. And I learned a few things that can be applied to business as well as life.
1. Experts don’t always know what’s right for you. You are the only one who truly knows your background and circumstances. And it’s your job to know your reasonable limits. Locals I talked to were saying, “Oh, this snow is nothing. You can drive in it. No big deal!” However, the weather turned out to be not quite what even locals expected. In analysis, I think my problem was complicated by drought weathered tires and the fact that I have seen snow less times in my life than I have fingers. Meaning I have not really driven in real snow either. (We generally get ice if we get anything in Austin and everything shuts down – hence I don’t get out in it.) My tires seem to have good tread, but we had 6 weeks of over 100 degree weather this year in Austin and it probably doesn’t make it easy on the tires when it comes to maneuvering in snow, nor do I have 4-wheel drive.
Though several people seemed OK out there driving, there were people like me having trouble. On my way back there was even a van that had once been behind me, flipped on its side from trying to make it up a hill. A local driver with more experience and better equipment might truly have been fine driving out there, but I should have thought better and not gone out in the weather.
2. Things are not always as they seem, but with a little pause and think, you can likely figure it out. Folks crammed into the downtown area of Prescott for the parade and other Christmas activities this weekend. Lots of families. After all, Prescott is Arizona’s “Christmas City.” It took quite awhile to get out of the hotel parking lot because of all the parade goers. Or so I thought until I saw the main road. Perhaps the amount of traffic in the hotel/shopping center parking lot should have been a clue that traffic on the main road wasn’t normal. If I had stopped to figure out that piece of information, my decision process would have been much different.
3. There is no shame in letting others know when you need help. Getting unstuck requires space to work. People can’t help you or give you the space you need on your own without knowing something is up in the first place. I had worked my way out on the roads and got maybe a mile down the way before I realized that I didn’t have a lot of visibility and that I was having some trouble with the slick roads after all. With a white truck, I knew that other drivers might not realize that I could not drive as well as they could in the snow, that my vehicle would not be as visible and it definitely did not have a very good turning radius. As a result, it was possible that others might not give me the room needed should my truck fishtail or should my u-turn not work out as well as I hoped. I threw on my hazards and looked for a safe place with enough space to safely turn around. I couldn’t find any at first. Finally I pulled into the snow-filled middle turn lane for a left turn into a parking lot that looked big enough to turn around in. Which is where I got stuck.
4. You are not committed to an action if the follow-through turns out not to be in your best interest, or not in the best interest of others. Do not force what will not likely work, especially when the environment of the game has changed.
In the end, you must preserve yourself and others. I had pulled into the center snow filled lane thinking it would have more traction and that I could just make a u-turn and head right back the way I came. This seems logical under normal driving conditions, but here I got stuck. I attempted a few times to continue to make that u-turn, but physics proved that it was not going to work for me as long as traffic continued the way it was. I was too stuck and my truck was starting to drift in a circle. I might have been fine should I have been the only person on the road. As it was, though it seemed logical, my initial idea was too risky and would put both my life and the lives of others in danger. My goal to get home safely had not changed, but I needed a new course of action.
5. Baby steps are the backbone of any successful outcome. Keep the end goal in mind, but focus on the NOW. Getting unstuck from any situation requires focus and patience. Drop your main attention from the desired results to the immediate steps necessary. My end goal was to get back safely to my hotel. I even had a comforting picture in my head of sitting in front of the fire with hot tea and relaxing. Oh how I wanted to be there right then! However, my main focus needed to be on the first problem, getting unstuck from the ice and out of the center lane with traffic coming at me from both directions. If any cars around me started to skid, I was a sitting duck.
First baby step, get out of that spot. The road finally cleared in both directions enough so that I could slip and slide my way back into the lane I came from without mishap. I was finally moving, and that baby step was solved. However, it put me still going (slowly) in the wrong direction. Next baby step, change lanes and find a well-traveled road I could turn onto so I can hopefully work my way around a loop to come back. Baby Goal: avoid stopping since I seem to get stuck when I do. Other baby steps towards getting home safely were also required. Stay away from pedestrians (I marveled at the amount of people walking around cars that are slip-sliding in the ice) and be still if they come near you. Keep a slow steady pace. Start braking half a block away from stop lights and flash your brakes so those around you can see you and compensate in case you skid. Keep the hazards on. Focus on the right now, so you can get to the future. Be patient. Work cooperatively with traffic, knowing everyone else is also having to focus on their baby steps. Roll down your window, be friendly and let others know that your next move depends on them moving first. They might not realize the situation, so it’s not a bad thing to let them know. And do not try to turn into a parking space surrounded by pedestrians and cars when your truck obviously won’t take the turns under these circumstances. While you’re at it, pray for everyone.
Eventually, all these things inevitably led to me to the driveway at my hotel, which at an incline had me stuck again for a bit, and then on into a parking space way in the back of the lot. I may have had to walk a ways, but I didn’t mind, because it allowed me to park safely. I’ve been in a horrible car wreck that I was lucky to walk away from. And I spent over a year in physical therapy regaining strength in my left arm and hand as a result + years of pain. I’ve worked hard, overcome a lot and never want to repeat that experience, for me or for anyone else. I feel blessed.
6. Fear (not panic) is a motivator that can keep you alert and clear the mind. However, STRESS requires a lot of energy and recovery time. Allow for the reboot when there’s stress. After I got back, I realized my goal and relaxed by that fire with some crochet and tea for a bit. However, after a short while, I had to head upstairs before completely passing out from the intensity of the day. I didn’t lay down for long, since we needed to meet friends for dinner and would be walking, but the bit did wonders for helping me finish out my day.
Not bad for a life lesson, huh? Goes to show, lessons can be drawn from even the mundane, and all experiences have value. Y’all stay safe out there and Happy December!