Avoid Highways (The toad to happiness)
I had this brilliant plan to drive take my 1966 VW bus on a 3 day road trip from Ocean City to Philly to attend some Hoop Tea events. What could go wrong? I had my GPS app set to "avoid highways" since the van doesn't enjoy going over 45 MPH. Unknown to me, I also had accidentally set it to "shortest route" instead of "fastest route". It doesn't seem like taking the shortest route vs the fastest route would cause a major change in my course, but it got me in all sorts of trouble. I ended up traveling over mountains, through farms, as well as roaming around some seedy neighborhoods. Who knew Reading PA had a 'rough part of town'? People got a big kick out of seeing the goofy bus, whether they were sitting on a housing project stoop or riding an Amish horse & buggy.
The steep mountain roads were too much for the bus so my engine started acting up. I was overheating regularly and I couldn't take my foot off the gas without stalling. This meant I spent a lot of time going top speed down hills and flying through red lights. I was quite a spectacle. It's funny to look back on, but at the time I felt like I was getting an ulcer from the problems.
The stress of the trip got me wondering if it was worth it, all of it. I was questioning why I was risking my life in the middle of nowhere in a 50 year old bus with smoke coming from the engine. Also, why was I complicating my life by growing a new brand if this is what I'd have to spend my days doing indefinitely? When would it end?
My mindset changed about halfway through my trip. I slowly started to enjoy my ridiculous journey. Because of the "avoid highways" restriction, I got to see some fascinating places and meet a bunch of interesting people. I was humbled by the amount of people who offered to help every time I was stranded. This would have never happened if I had been in my SUV zipping down the interstate. Most likely I would have fulfilled my obligations at the events and got back on the road without learning or enjoying much.
My trip exposed me to the similarity between building a company that you hope one day will be 'successful' and building a life that you hope one day will bring you "happiness". The truth is, there is no final destination where you will stop and say "I'm successful" and no road that will eventually lead to a destination where you can declare "I have arrived at happiness". Happiness and success are the roads you're already on. Slow down and enjoy them.
I read a great quote by Brian Smith, the surfer who started the brand UGGS. He was describing the problem of being discouraged while building a business with no end in sight. He said "the surest way to becoming a frog is to live every day happy being a tadpole".
I've read of several other smart people saying the same thing in different ways;
- Thich Nhat Hanh, the Buddhist monk said "There is no way to happiness, happiness is the way"
- Marcus Aurelius, the stoic Roman Emperor said "Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.”
- The microphone fiend Rakim said "it ain't where ya from, it's where ya at".
I think this applies to business as well as personal life. If you don't stress about how far you are from the final destination, the place you're at becomes more enjoyable. The fastest route is often not the happiest route. Avoid the highways and be happy as a tadpole.