My daughter and son-in-law and myself just drove from Calgary, Alberta to Vancouver, British Columbia. It is one of the most stunning drives in Canada (nay, the world). Winding through the Rocky Mountains, along rivers and beside green-blue lakes the grandeur takes ones breath away every turn of the road.
We began our drive at 4pm planning to drive through the night. We did this because my two grandsons ages three and two wouldn’t make such a journey unless they slept most of the way. Google maps told us the trip would take 9.3 hours, but that is a bit of a stretch. We were planning on twelve hours for the trip.
Our plan was to take turns driving and sleeping. It is a good plan of course, except that all of us were a little too pumped to really sleep. We dozed, sorta, little bits here and there as the trip and the night progressed but never enough sleep to erase the growing weariness.
Personally, I have driven this route many times before. Years back I did it a number of times with five children and a dog, straight through. In recent years I’ve been taking the bus through those mountains in the winter to visit Alexis and Manuel, a trip of 14 hours.
Needless to say the journey is familiar. The time it takes doesn’t feel as long as it is. The scenery is like an old friend still there to greet and welcome as one passes by.
As the hours and the miles passed we kept switching drivers. And each time we passed the steering wheel to another we said, “Now, whenever you need to take a break you let me know. Even if I am sleeping you wake me up, even if it is only an hour from now.” To which the one taking the wheel would say, “Yes, I’ll do that.”
It is this kind of agreement that creates trust in each other. Driving these kinds of distances, on mountain roads, and then through the night, is always a daunting kind of task that could go very wrong in a very short moment of time. We must all commit to turning over the driving to another if we need a break.
Each one of us must refuse to be the hero. No HERO’s Allowed.
In the middle of the night as I was driving I was thinking about this – No hero’s allowed – and as I look back over my life and in everything that has gone wrong and bad and failed, there was someone who was trying to play the hero. Often me.
I think about life now and the journey ahead and I am reminded – No hero’s allowed. When I think about leadership and teams and communities and processes and projects going forward I am know that if any one of us plays the role of hero that the whole thing can implode.
As people we must be authentic and honest and vulnerable. We must put down our pride and our hero vest and do what we can, surely, but not more than we can. It is up to each of us to know what we can do and what we cannot do and to say this out-loud in a timely fashion.
For teams and communities of people toward any good end each person must rely on each other. They must ask each other for help. They must receive from each other and clearly say, ‘Okay, can you take the wheel for a time.”
We need the kind of trust in each other that others will wake us up and ask us to take a shift. And we must commit to this same thing, that we will put down our driving position when we know that to go ‘just a little more’ could result in death.
Driving the last stretch of our journey I was well aware that the end of long trips are the most dangerous. That accidents happen in that last push towards a destination when we try to convince ourselves that we can just go a little bit more when really, we can’t.
Of course, this journey turned out well. It was an adventure and a great experience in so many ways, marked, for me, by the commitment amongst us to rely on each other and the refusal by any of us to be a hero.