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Life and the Participation Ribbon

Participation ribbon

Some people like to compete; and others do not.

Some people strive to get better every day.

Some people are just cruising through life.

Some people want the challenge; others don’t.

It’s OK either way. It’s your choice.

However, if a person isn’t willing to work hard, don’t expect to be blessed with the rewards of achievement the same as those who work for it. It is unlikely that those of you reading this think that just because you got out of bed this morning, you should receive anything else. Life does not give “participation ribbons.”

Life is a competition, but Life is not a competition with anybody but yourself. You against You. Me against Me. And no one but you should ever hand out to yourself the proverbial participation ribbon. (Here’s a scary notion: I was recently coaching someone on their job search, and they shared with me that some fellow students are interviewing with a parent in the room during the interview. I was astounded. I’ve hired several engineers and interns. I would not continue the interview with the parent present. In fact, there would be no second opportunity. It would be opportunity lost.)

I do like to have some fun when competing. One situation where I have a lot of fun is getting on the interstate closest to my house. My family knows my routine. The ramp is long, and it has one big curve. It is my intention to take the curve fast, get to highway speed, and set the cruise, long before we have reached the merging point onto the interstate. In fact, if there’s a car in front of me, the passengers in my car will hear me comment, “I wonder if I can pass them on the shoulder…” (Please understand, this is all in fun. I have complete control of the vehicle, and I follow all posted highway signs.)

Life is like my driving this curve: We are to have fun, pushing ourselves, without taking away opportunities for others along the way. We are to imagine life as we want it, “racing” around the curve.

What happens once we are on the highway? Well, I was taught to drive in the rightmost lane. And when it was time to pass, it was proper to move into the left lane to pass the slightly slower vehicle and then move back into the right-hand lane. (Thanks, Dad, for teaching me the rules of the road.) With three lanes on the highway, it really is no different; there is just one more lane with which to handle the traffic and pass the slower vehicles.

Unfortunately, I don’t find that others were trained in the same manner, or with the same set of guidelines. I find that a lot of people drive in the center lane. It’s not like they drive faster than all the people in the right lane. It’s more like they don’t want to be considered “slow.” Or maybe the center lane is more like being in our comfort zone. We can move right or left, but most of the time, we will just drive straight down the middle. A comfort zone is OK, but it should not be at the expense of slowing someone else down. Which is what happens when one only drives the middle lane.

When I pass someone, and I often do, especially someone in the center lane, I must consider which side is best to pass them on. I was trained that it was proper to pass on the left side. But many times, the right lane is clear. So, many times, I do pass by driving in the “slower” right lane. I recently passed a “professional” driver—one who drives a semitruck for a living. Upon passing that driver, he moved over to the right lane. (That confirmed my understanding of the rules of the road.) However, if I pass a regular vehicle and driver, they don’t respond as if anything is out of the ordinary. They do not change lanes and move to the right-hand lane.

Life is like driving along the interstate. There are certain guidelines. We only have control over ourselves. It’s OK, and even expected, to pass people along the way. Pass them by following the guidelines. Always do the right thing. It’s about being the right kind of leader. Don’t take the center lane and impede traffic. Move over if it’s appropriate.

Life is about living. Keep on keeping on. Follow the road. Stay alert. And know where you are going! If you’re looking for leadership assistance along the road of life, we’d love to help you!

Take care, my friends.

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