I recently experienced a momentous occasion that reminded me of the importance of a few of life’s simple lessons.
My son got his driver’s license yesterday and drove the car alone for the first time. Initially, it was a great moment. I handed him my proof of insurance as if it were the Magna Carta, and proudly snapped his picture as he pulled out of the driveway.
But then he was gone. On the road. By himself. Surrounded by other drivers who do not have an overpowering need to love and protect him coded into their DNA. I realized that I was going to have a stomachache for the rest of my life.
But then I realized something else: The whole experience is a metaphor for running a business — or life, for that matter.
I can’t control the other people on the road; all I can do is drive with care and teach my son to do the same. I can be decisive, considerate and levelheaded. I can avoid cutting in front of people or yelling at them even if I think they deserve it. And I can always try to give that little “thank you” wave when someone does me a favor.
If someone sharing the “road” with me begins to drive dangerously, or with a lack of regard for others, I can tell them in a nonthreatening way that I’m concerned. If they listen, then I truly have made the industry, as well as the world, a better place. If they tell me to mind my own business, then at least I know I tried to help rather than watch as they plow into another car, shake my head and say, “I saw that one coming.”
But most of all, I can always remember that every person on every road is someone’s child, someone’s parent, someone’s spouse. And that unseen web of caring is what holds the world together. I can try to treat those around me the way I hope that others will treat my son, forgiving his boneheaded mistakes and teaching him, when possible, to be a better driver.
Customers, competitors, employees and colleagues all deserve to be given respect, even if we don’t share their DNA.