Driving a car, Driving a company, Driving a life

Photo by Matt Duncan on Unsplash

My mentor/coach Sameer Kamboj and I had a conversation some time in the beginning of 2019. He asked me why I enjoy driving on vacation abroad but not in Mumbai. I responded with many reasons that may resonate with some of you: it’s more fun and relaxing while driving abroad because roads are emptier, I am on a leisure drive, do not always need to get somewhere by a particular time, there is a better traffic sense, I am in a better mood, there is highway lane discipline and everyone follows a standard set of rules.

He smiled, and asked me if I can only drive when conditions are perfect and if that is how I consider life too — wait till conditions are perfect to fully enjoy living life.

I was then asked to be fully present and aware the next time I drove in Mumbai and reflect on any thoughts that come to me. The below is a recollection of the thoughts that went through me on one such drive, that I ended up sharing on the CACTUS intranet on 25th May 2019, our 17th Foundation Day.

With most of the world under lockdown due to COVID-19, I thought it might be helpful to reproduce it here.

One Sunday in 2019, as I was driving to an advisory board meeting of Cuddles Foundation, a not-for-profit that CACTUS supports, certain thoughts and parallels between driving and life started coming to mind.

Driving can be full of anxiety and stress if one has left late and has to get somewhere by a certain time. But even if one has left on time, unforeseen situations like a traffic jam or a flat can cause a delay and result in anxiety and stress. It becomes difficult to do anything else, to focus on anything else or to enjoy the drive, the sights, or even enjoy a conversation with companions on that drive.

If one drives too fast to reach on time, one is putting one’s own life and the lives of others in the car or on the road at risk. This is quite likely to happen considering the stress and anxiety created by wanting to reach on time. So then, why don’t we leave a little earlier, or change the arrival time if we know we are going to be late? Is our need for speed/to reach the destination on time worth the risk to all our co-passengers, and to us?

Like highways have high speed, mid-speed and slow lanes, shouldn’t life also have different lanes, allowing people to choose which lane they want to be a part of?

But then, maybe life does have different lanes, but we are not aware that we are in the wrong lane, and that it would be better for us and for everyone around us if we moved to a lane that is right for us based on the speed we can and should drive at.

But then again, what really is speed? There are some people who can drive well and safe even if driving fast, but there are many who would be quite dangerous to themselves and to others even when driving at the half of the regular speed limit.

If one is not able to drive at the required speed (even if it is a safe speed), is it better to volunteer to get off the driver’s seat and take a co-passenger seat? If someone else is a better driver for the terrain ahead, is it not better for one to take a back seat?

Sometimes one is not familiar with the make of the car or lacks the judgement of car size to manoeuvre, or the skills to manoeuvre a heavy vehicle, doesn’t know the route to where they are going, or where the bumps and potholes lie. There are other times when the road ahead is not clear, it’s foggy or raining, or one’s night vision is poor.

If one is not comfortable or can’t see clearly, where does their responsibility lie?

As a driver, I need to make sure I am well rested, alert, am constantly upgrading my skills and setting the destination such that I can enjoy the journey — the journey of scaling, the journey of my own development and growth, the journey of coaching and helping people blossom and lead better lives. After all, isn’t travel a waste if the only thing that matters is the destination?

On this journey of life, there are many things that I cannot control: the terrain, the sudden bumps, others around me who are driving recklessly, those who lack the knowledge or skills required, and those who think they know better.

But what I can do is to make sure my car is well oiled and serviced, and my skills and reflexes are top notch.

As we navigate new terrains in a new world that is going to be unrecognizable after the pandemic, I wish each of you all the very best!

PS: During this time of COVID-19, as many of us are doing soul-searching, if you become aware that you may be in the wrong lane, don’t let expectations others have of you, expectations you have of yourself, and an image of yourself that you feel pressured to maintain, prevent you from thinking deeply about what is it that you really want from your life. I have found that these moments of clarity first come as a tiny beam of light that disappears quickly if I ignore it. I need to give it attention to nourish it, and in doing so, I find myself comfortably seated in the driver’s seat with the choice of where I want to steer my life back in my hands. And that, I think, is a good place to be in!

Originally published on LinkedIn.

Another article by a friend about how entrepreneurs can think about their long term goals while still finding joy in the near term.

Co-founder and CEO of Cactus Communications (cactusglobal.com). Scicomm, customer delight, happy workplace, mindfulness, coaching