Seeing the way through

Close up of line on a road

When I was a design engineer working at Ford Australia, I was sent on many advanced driving courses. These were necessary for all engineers who would at some point be driving around in a prototype vehicle. We needed to be ready to handle any situation that might arise.

During one of these sessions we were taught how to control a car, under extreme braking conditions, on multiple road surfaces. We were told the speed and asked to focus on a set of lights that would flash green for go and red for brake. An obstacle would pop up at the same time as the red light flashed which was the signal to slam down on the brakes and avoid hitting the obstacle.

The lesson that has stayed with me from this experience is to focus on where you want to head, not the thing you’re trying to avoid.

The instructors told us that if we looked at the tree we were trying to avoid, that is exactly where we would subconsciously steer the car. We needed to pick the safe path through and keep our eyes on that. An important message for leadership.

This came up during a recent lunch time conversation with a client in Amsterdam. We were exploring how important aspects of business, like mitigating risk, might be done differently. We explored the likelihood of focussing on risks we are trying to avoid, resulting in an increased chance of us experiencing them. Kind of like a self fulfilling prophecy in a way.

To be able to see the way through in the first place, you need to not be looking at the obstacles. Once you’ve seen the pathway, keep your eye on that so you subconsciously steer in that direction. Otherwise, you’ll experience the very thing you’re trying to avoid.