Life at Highway Speed

Last Friday I spent the day in Chicago attending the kitchen & bath show… very cool. It was the first time I attended the show so I have little to compare it to, but it seemed pretty busy.

For the most part, the highway to Chicago from our town parallels the Lake Michigan shoreline. You can’t actually see the lake from the road, but you can sense it’s presence. The landscape changes from one of unobstructed, flat farm land to gently rolling mature dune. Beach grass trades place with scrub oaks and then back again with an occasional open dune. You can almost hear a voice at whisper level beckoning you to pull over, abandon your premeditated agenda and indulge in spontaneous exploration through the woods and cart-wheels down the sandy inclines.

There is one section where the north and south lanes peel apart. For a few dozen miles, people traveling on either side can’t see the other. During summer day trips to Chicago you typically encounter this section of road home at sundown. In-between the two lanes is a growth of beautiful trees that filter the sunlight with a rapid strobing effect, like looking at a flashlight through a ceiling fan.

Friday, on the way home, as this phenomena was taking place I looked out the window directly at the road screaming by beside me. What I witnessed was dizzying. At 80 mph things up close that I tried to focus on came close to inducing mild nausea. When I shifted my “zoom” as a friend of mine put it later that night, to things further in the distance, I could easily focus.

Here’s the dichotomy. All through life we are told that it’s the details that matter: “The job isn’t finished until the paperwork is through”… “God is in the details”… “great idea but they blew it with the execution”.

So here I was in my rental car, looking for things to keep me entertained (or is that too obvious?) trying to focus on the details and concluding that it was just impossible. The only thing I could focus on was the big picture… the long view. Had I inadvertently discovered a new theory that eroded the sand from under the pilings of my youthful boardwalk? Holy rapid-fire Batman! What was the twisted logic that allowed these two philosophies to coexist? Focus on the detail. Don’t focus on the details or you will drive off life’s road!

As the evening unfolded I reconciled this silly dilemma by concluding that it had nothing to do with what you focus on, rather the speed which one travels. Which, ultimately is a much more applicable lesson. Traveling too fast prevents you from seeing the details. Traveling too slow prevents you from reaching your goals.

To me this insight seems applicable to pretty much any situation. If you had two weeks to go to Colorado, how would the experience be different between flying, driving and biking. If you schedule 2 hours on Saturday to clean out the attic vs. doing in in 10 minutes some early December evening, while you’re looking for your favorite holiday snow-globe! How different would the experience be?

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