The gas or the brake (redux)?

Growing up one of my friend’s Dad had an interesting driving strategy. At more or less one minute intervals he would accelerate fairly rapidly, only to step on the brake seconds later to return us to roughly the speed limit. Speed up, slow down. Over and over, until he dropped us off at practice, the mall or wherever it was we’d be hanging out that particular day. Not only was this very annoying, but it didn’t seem to serve any useful purpose.

It wasn’t until many years later when I saw this pattern repeating in my life: with friendships, in romantic relationships, within organizations I worked for and with. Just as things started to pick up speed, suddenly the brake would be applied and we’d be right back to an average, uninteresting pace. Worse, when it came to driving innovation at major brands–which is what I have been doing most of my career–this return to average only resulted in our falling further and further behind.

Of course, at the root of most of our unwillingness to step on the gas and keep the pedal down, is fear. Fear of vulnerability. Fear of rejection. Fear of being wrong. Fear of looking stupid. And so on.

But here’s the thing. Shift happens. It’s an especially bad time to be boring. Defending the status quo is almost certainly a recipe for eventual disaster. Good enough simply no longer is. As General Eric Shinseki reminds us it “if you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.”

The journey to remarkable requires many things and chief among them is to be a radical; that is, to be willing to take risk, ruthlessly experiment, get out of the stands and to be the one in the arena getting your ass kicked. And if we believe that failure isn’t an option just know we’re deciding that neither is success.

It’s later than you think and chances are your problem is that you think you have more time.

The truth is we can no longer coast.

And we certainly can’t be riding the brake.

It’s time to buckle in and step on the gas.

And if you can’t, please hop on out and hand the keys to someone who can.

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