Conscious Communication: bringing communication
up from "auto-pilot" and reactive, to thoughtful, responsive, and above
in the background while you file, exercise, ride to work, etc.
Quick Communication Tip
The Racer's Edge, part II
In our last episode we
touched on some lessons about successful teamwork that we can learn from
Auto Racing, and there are hundreds more to be found if we keep digging.
To shift our focus a bit for this exploration, let’s look at some
insights and successful strategies from racing that are more for you as
One of the great things about viewing things from a systems-oriented
plane is that we get to see "universal analogies" that can be applied to
an individual or an organization as a whole, so we can apply them to our
life circumstances in many different situations. Let’s take a look at a
few of these “universal analogies,” and how they create versatile
This principle is so obvious that we can forget to keep it front and
center. Auto Racing gives us a nice physical analogy to re-invigorate
Although they may look nice and smooth on TV, race tracks are often as
rough and bumpy as the course you or your business are on. They've even
been compared to giant cheese graters. As your car speeds around the
track, the corners add centripetal force lateral to the direction you're
aiming. This is why they “slide up the track” when they enter the
corners too fast.
The more you slide sideways, the more the rubber gets grated off your
tires. The more the rubber gets grated off, the less grip, and the worse
your car handles. Add to this being more likely to get a blowout and
perhaps wreck your car, and it’s pretty obvious that it’s a bad idea.
Activity that’s lateral to your chosen direction is also a bad idea.
This sideways sliding uses up your resources quickly, and puts you and
your organization at risk. If the activity is in line with your chosen
path, it doesn’t waste your resources, and it supports you. To determine
whether or not an activity is in-line, think about your peripheral
vision. If you have to turn your head from your chosen course to face
the new activity; don't do it.
Long View /
Another lesson we can take from racing is the need to be able to hold
both a long and short term view of what's in front of us. Some folks
have called this far-sighted and near-sighted perspective, or a bi-focal
Races tend to be pretty long; often as much as 500 miles, and a driver’s
car may not have the best set-up from the beginning. If you race really
hard with other drivers and your car isn’t handling all that well,
you’re really taking a chance of crashing yourself and others, or at
least using up your tires and brakes early on. This is where patience
and experience are helpful.
Successful drivers think more strategically. It’s better to let a
faster, better handling car pass you early in the race. You take care of
your own equipment, reduce the chance of crashing, and you can observe
what they’re doing that’s working so well for them. Then during the
course of the race, you’ll have opportunities to make pit stops and
tweak the handling of your car. You’ll often hear these more experienced
drivers being annoyed with the guys who race so hard in the beginning,
when it’s just not necessary. Even runners know to “save their stuff”
for the last few laps, when it really counts.
Looking at the long-term rather than reacting, you're more likely to see
opportunities and strategies for achieving your goal. Reacting tends to
be very tunnel-vision and single solution oriented. Responding tends to
be far more broad-based and systemic, so we come up with many more
strategies and solutions, and we’re in a level-headed enough state to
Keeping one eye on the long-term and one on the short-term, you can
minimize or mitigate issues until you have the opportunity to address
them without as much downside.
A Million Compromises a Day
When you set
a car up for a given track, that track has straight-aways and a minimum
of three corners (Infineon Raceway in Sonoma County has 11 curves for
their NASCAR race). These curves are rarely the same in radius or
banking, so each requires differences in chassis geometry, tire
pressure, and suspension.
Obviously you can't include all those differences simultaneously, so the
set-up will always compromise perfection in one turn for the best we can
do for as many as possible.
Best case scenarios and ideals are imperative to successful goal
setting, and yet reality dictates that we compromise constantly. This
isn’t surrender. Quite the contrary, intelligent incremental compromises
in the service of your end-goal are more likely to result in success.
This requires some long-term vision again to see long-term benefits.
When compromise feels like a loss, look at your larger goal. Isn't it
worth losing even a few battles to win the war? Most skirmishes are over
insignificant issues, and the resistance to compromise is more often
than not a "matter of principle" rather than a genuine obstruction to
In summary, we can borrow at least three lessons from champion racers:
• Minimize lateral motion
• Maintain long and short term views
• Be ready to make a million compromises a day.
Stay conscious and aware of these principles, and you’ll be a winner
Quick Communication Tip
Hit Your Marks
Mapping over from the
racing world to Conscious Communication, the concept of hitting your
marks gets you optimized results as well. When racing, things are coming
at you and by you very fast (not unlike life). This means you need to
look ahead, pick points to aim for, and do your best to hit those marks.
When you’re engaged in communication that has a specific point, as
opposed to a more open, relaxed conversation, you’re in a similar
position to racing. Staying on point and to the point is imperative to
getting optimized results. Wandering all over, jumping from topic to
topic, circling back, and all the other ways communication can flow is
fun, but rarely give you a sense of getting anything accomplished in a
meeting. Stick to your points, make them into imaginary marks on your
path, and then focus on hitting those marks consistently.
Want to learn more about how your communication can hold you back or
catapult you forward? Come visit the
or better yet,
contact me and see how we can design a program to fit your needs and desired outcomes.
- the podcast series
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Ian Blei on Kind Ambition and the
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"Coaching the Life Coach:"
Communication Excellence (full interview)
for Evolutionary Radio w/ J. McClain
2nd Edition now available
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