Today I am thankful that this old dog can learn new tricks.
Imagine you are asked to drive 325 miles. Not too crazy, right?
Now you’re asked to drive 525 kilometers. Weird, but do-able, right?
So then you’re asked to drive 525 kilometers in a car that looks like this on the inside…
Now, you’re asked to drive 525 kilometers in a car with the driver and passenger seats switched AND after driving on the right side of the road for 20+ years you’re asked to drive on the left side.
Oh yeah, just for giggles, the drive starts off in the 75th largest metro in the world!
Today was one of the most interesting (and stressful) drives of my life. I had no idea that it would be so tough to fight 23 years of habit and muscle memory. Everything was different than normal (except the position of the brake and accelerator – thank God!). For fun, sit in the passenger side of the car, pretend you’re driving, and then quickly look up in the rearview mirror. Where’d it go? Crap! Wrong side! Pretend you are turning and need to turn on your blinker… But suddenly your wipers move and then blinker doesn’t light. Crap! The controls are on opposite sides! This was the ongoing feeling I had. Which leads to why I am thankful that this old dog can learn new tricks.
Over the past 20 years driving has become an automatic thing for me (though I’m not saying that I’m a good driver – good and automatic are two vey different things!). Today completely switched things up and made me re-think the process. I was a beginner at this thing I’d done so often and it was incredibly humbling. Every single time I hit the wrong side to turn on my blinker the windshield wipers would move to indicate to everyone in the car that I had just screwed up. When turning I got to the point that I was coaching and directing myself out loud to help me get in the right place… “Look to the right AND the left before making a right hand turn. Make sure I go into the left lane and not the right.” I was a beginning driver and it took me back to taking driving lessons from Mr French my freshman year, but there was a difference. When he taught there was an emergency brake on his side to save me from danger, and try as Becky might, there was no brake for her, just the imaginary brakes she pushed hard on in vain…
This whole experience was enlightening to me. I just taught my team members Situational Leadership II (SLII) last week, and this was a perfect example for me to use in future classes. The whole point of SLII is that people all learn a new task or skill in the same predictable pattern.
We start off as an ethusiastic beginner and just need direction, to be told what to do. As we learn how hard the new task is we become disillusioned and need direction and support, we need to be reminded that we can figure this out. As we then start to do the task we start to feel confident but occasionally have setbacks that cause us to get frustrated and question ourselves and need others to support us and remind us of past success. Finally, we are able to do the task without direction or support.
Today I was initially excited to learn how to drive in Australia. As soon as I pulled into traffic I realized this was going to be way harder than I thought and asked my passengers to help direct me on what to do. That’s also why I started talking it myself – to give myself the direction I needed. As I started to get the hang of it I’d feel really good about my progress… Until the wipers would go moving again… Then I needed the support from my passengers telling me how good I had been doing up until that point and it was only a minor mistake. I also thought about how I had been successful before and tried to copy it again (keep my left hand on top of the steering wheel so I have to use my right to hit the blinker which is on the right hand side). While I’m not quite sure I’ve mastered it yet, by the end of the drive I was thinking less and just reacting more. It felt great to make progress on this.
Experiences like this usually frustrate me a lot at first, and it’s easy to give up and move on to something else (you drive!) instead of pushing through to learn something new. Today reminded me that this old dog can learn new tricks and I know how to… I need to remember that more often when a new opportunity presents itself.