Life is like my commute to work....I never know exactly what I am going to get.

For the last 18 years I have learned some valuable life lessons during my commute to work.

You remember that famous line from Forrest Gump, “My mom always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”

Chocolates are like a daily commute

Well, now that I have a new job I have a new commute. Overall it is a better commute – 50% of the miles per day but only about a 25% less time. My old commute was 110 miles round trip but a good amount of it was against the rush hour traffic. My new commute is only 50 miles a day but all of it with the rush hour traffic.

I have found several things that made me think of the Forrest Gump’ism and how it applies to life in general.

Since I have a new commute to a different part of town I started using the Google Waze App to provide me “real time” feedback on my route. The big plus about using Waze is that it provides me more real time information about traffic conditions. The big minus about using Waze is that it provides me more real time information about traffic conditions. Say What?

First is my normal routine. I get in my car, set up Waze and my route is established. This is easy, pushing one or two buttons or using voice commands there is very little effort or thinking involved on my part. I buckle up my seatbelt and I am on my way. The downside of this is that I am effectively on auto-pilot and not even listening to the Waze app. I already have experienced being directed on a different route than I am used to without realizing it until three turns later.

How does this relate to life? We need to avoid being on auto-pilot. Sure, it is certainly the easier road – at the beginning at least. However, just blindly moving forward without thinking things through can lead to potential challenges. There will certainly be times you encounter the need for spilt second decisions. However, the vast majority of the time our lives allow us time to not just be on auto-pilot. When a F.I. tool spits out an answer remember this – garbage in, garbage out. If you are not honest with the inputs you may be deceiving yourself on the output.

Daily Commute Nightmare

Second, the classic radio traffic reports are traditionally old news by the time you hear them. The digital signs on the road put up by government agencies are even slower. Waze, by using feedback from the Wazer (Is that what they are called?) Community, can tell you about speed, traffic hazards, etc. The magical Ms. Waze voice comes out and says “Watch ahead, car reported on the shoulder.” Or “Police reported ahead.”

How does this relate to life? Well, we should all be using the queues around us – even if someone is not dropping a verbal hint. Studies show that non–verbal feedback happens more often than verbal feedback.  The best feedback comes from communicating with your family, friends or co-workers. They can be your sounding board that give you the heads up to a potential hazard that might be in your blind spot. The best communication is done timely and verbally. The more immediate the better. In person or on the phone is always better than a text or email that can be taken out of context.

Road Closures can mess up your daily commute

Third, another thing Waze does is provide alternate routes when traffic gets backed up. Now with this feature comes pros and cons. So first things first – make sure Waze it set up so you can provide verbal commands to activate things (see Waze Voice Commands ). You can tell Waze verbally to accept an alternative route it suggests or you can ask Waze for an alternate route. While this is great to get you re-routed there is a potential risk. You need to also have ‘situational awareness’ and use critical thinking skills. Waze lacks true “boots on the ground” intelligence gathering that will be able to tell you the route suggested is blocked by a major construction project.

How does this relate to life? We need to be sure to use a variety of sources to gather information to make informed decisions. Don’t always blindly follow one source of information since that source may not have all the information needed. Bounce ideas off different people. When you sign up for those email subscriptions for news feeds or blogs, sign up for a variety of them to get different perspectives.

Also, train yourself to improve your situational awareness and apply critical thinking skills. Situational awareness is the ability to know what is going on around you to understand how that will impact you. Critical Thinking Skills is taking all those inputs to your situation and applying logic to reasonably know how the situation will impact you.

How does this relate to life? I have had to learn a new route with new challenges that I was not used to before. My previous commute was pretty much all major highway – get on, get off. My new commute involves going to the downtown of a major city and can involve all sorts of side streets off the highways. So, in life you will need to use Situational Awareness and Critical Thinking when you face new challenges. A good read you may want to look up is the book Who Moved My Cheese.

Recharging batteries by napping

Fourth thing about Waze is the battery usage. Waze can suck down the battery life of your phone in a heartbeat. I have turned the Location setting to “While Using” only (and not Always). The only other way I have figured out how to counteract this is to have my phone plugged into a 12V USB adapter to try to maintain the battery.

How does this relate to life? Be sure you have a way to recharge your personal batteries. Take queues from your body (that Situational Awareness thing) that will help you know how you are handling things. Know your daily cycles and rhythms. In my case – I am an early riser and an early to bed guy. My batteries are full in the morning and start to drain about late-afternoon. With my new job I am getting about one more hour of sleep a night which is helping.

OK, enough about Waze (and I am not being paid by Google for this). This next part is about all the different vehicles I see on my commute. It is interesting to see the variety of vehicles on the road. I see the high end Beamers (BMW), the big Dually’s (pick ups), the Beaters (barely held together), the MassPos (public buses).

A little sidebar that is related to this topic. I admit that I tend to stereotype the car, which really means I am probably stereotyping the driver of the car. It truly is more about me rationalizing my personal choice of a vehicle than demeaning another human being. I tend to focus my attention on the high end cars by saying, “well, there is another 2 years of working until retirement.” On the negative side I might say, “well, there you go, another Richie Rich weaving in traffic to get to work. Why it is always those Beamers!”

How does this relate to life? We live in a diverse world and you should understand how all those differences can benefit you and your community. We live in a County that is considered the most diverse racially in the United States. The census data shows that the percentages of different races are what some call a “minority majority (as a percentage).” As I have gotten older I have matured in my perspectives and come to appreciate the fact that my two sons have grown up in a very diverse community filled with different races, religions and ethnicities – and we are all better for that.

What lessons from your own daily commute can also be applied to your life in general? Share your comments so others can benefit.

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