Walking the Line

Back when I was learning how to drive race cars, the instructor was giving us a chalk talk about the line. The line is the ideal path for a car, making it possible to brake the hardest without skidding, take the turns at the highest speed and drive the optimum distance to get to the finish line first. It’s a combination of physics, physics and physics.

And some of the guys in the class with me are arguing about alternatives.

What if I drop into third gear 100 feet later and start the turn further from the edge of the asphalt?

Couldn’t I make better time if I start my turn earlier and make a wider arc?

And all the instructor says, again and again, is: “The line is the line.”

He was right, of course. No driver can stick to the line 100% of the time, partly because everyone is trying to drive the same path and it can get pretty crowded out there. Once you’re off the line, it takes time and energy to get back on it. Lots of issues, and other cars, get in the way. However, any driver able to drive the line precisely could amass one heck of a winning percentage.

There is another word we can use to describe the line. That word is: reality. Many people—not you, dear reader, but other, less perfect souls—will spend far too much time arguing with reality.

Harry’s not really producing as a sales rep, but if I give him one more deadline, he’ll change.

I should lose some weight already, but maybe I can burn more calories if I eat while standing.

Agnes has never been a team player, but this new project will convince her to change her work habits.

And even as we are arguing with the way things really are, we can’t avoid knowing that Harry isn’t going to respond to the same deadlines he didn’t meet before, that standing while eating is not going to burn more calories and Agnes is simply a toxic employee who should have pursued other ventures a long, long time ago.

What is it, deep within our DNA, that makes us take the same path, over and over, even when we know, also deep within our DNA, that it’s just not going to work? Strange creatures, we are.

Self-defeating creatures, as well. I wonder sometimes about the amount of progress we avoid simply because we don’t just accept reality and move on to more productive activities.

Harry’s not the right sales rep for this company today, he wasn’t the right guy last year and, if I wait long enough, he won’t be the right guy next year.

Agnes was a bad hire on day one, but we kept reassigning her instead of firing her and she’ll still be a bad hire, in a different department, next year.

I can eat standing up for the next five years without making a dent in my excess baggage.

I spend way too much time talking with people about issues we talked about last year and the year before and the year before that. Some are their issues and some are mine, but all of them are topics we’ll probably be talking about next year, as well, because it’s easier to talk about them than to fix them. Except, of course, that if you add up all the time spent talking, worrying and navel gazing, we’d save a lot of time and aggravation by simply facing facts and moving on to more productive pursuits.

What’s holding you back, today, because you refuse to accept the reality of a situation? What problems remain unresolved because you choose “solutions” that haven’t worked the last five times you tried them?

The line is the line.

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One Response to Walking the Line

  1. Bill Hass says:


    Balance that with PERSISTENCE: You state: “What’s holding you back, today, because you refuse to accept the reality of a situation? What problems remain unresolved because you choose “solutions” that haven’t worked the last five times you tried them?”

    REMEMBER: Edison failed 1000 times but kept trying!

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