After the 4th of July this year we took a new way home. In the past, the fireworks would end somewhere between 9:50-10:10pm and I wouldn’t get home till 11-11:30pm. With two small kids in the back, I was pretty frustrated by the end. Just sitting in traffic, breathing fumes, no one is moving, and the kids are cranky and whining. Perfect.
This time I parked in the same spot, but, to go home, I went in the opposite direction. I went out of my way to go the “wrong way”. Turns out, the fireworks ended about 9:50pm and we were home by 10:10pm. Pretty remarkable! Happy ending.
As I was driving home feeling very happy, I couldn’t help but reflect on how this is a metaphor for life. In order to get where we need to go, we often need to take several steps in the “wrong” direction to get where we want to go. This is easily seen in business (at least for me) when you need to rebuild, start from scratch, wipe the slate and begin anew. It’s tough. You invested so much in that first project, that product, that team, that philosophy or ideal…and yet. And yet the best thing for the overall mission is ditching it and starting over. Sometimes in the wrong direction.
So next time you feel like everything is going terribly wrong, or you can’t catch a break, or that the workload is insurmountable, ask yourself, “what do I gain by continuing the path I’m on?”
If you’re feeling stuck, if you’re in a position where the only way out is working more hours, if you don’t have the right team and you’re trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, if your systems are failing or aren’t enough…then call a time out. Why continue to slam your head against a brick wall? Why?Because it’s easier than the alternative. Working more hours, doing the same thing, or throwing more resources at the problem is simply easier than facing the real issue. If the issue is personnel, it’s easier to leave that alone rather than having the difficult conversation (or firing them). If the issue is rebuilding the framework, that will require a HUGE investment and delay so many other projects that you’ve pressured yourself to ship on time.
You have a sunk cost bias on whatever it is that you’ve invested in and you will struggle to let that go. The best thing you can do for yourself is let it go, drop it, and move on. You may feel shame because you feel like you “gave up”. To hit our overarching goal, sometimes the faster way home is starting in the complete opposite direction.