Conversations with Uber Drivers — Patrick

Uber Driver: Patrick, who drove me from the west side of Singapore to the central business district, in a funny little Chery QQ.

Let’s just say that where I’m staying right now isn’t the most conspicuous place. If you took a drive down that particular stretch of road, you would very likely miss the turn into the small compound that blends into the lush greenery of its surroundings. Even if you paid attention, you might still miss it anyway, and take a five-minute detour before getting a second chance to get it right.

After three failed attempts to guide Uber drivers to my place, I resorted to sending out this same message to every Uber driver who accepts my ride request:

“Hello. Please do not turn into [street that is right next to my place]. Please look for a condominium named [Name of where I stay], and wait at level one.”

The Uber driver, as I expected, got it right. Most of them do if I send them this text. I would say that probably 8 out of 10 of them get it right upon receiving this text from me. A cute red Chery QQ car pulled in at level one, just as I walked out from the lift.

Perfectly timed.

I waved hello and chirped “good afternoon” as I got into the car. It was a great start to my day. I spent the morning brushing up on Japanese kanji and grammar and read a chapter of The Airbnb Story by Leigh Gallagher. I tend to read selectively, and this morning I chose the chapter “learning to lead,” a much needed 10-page-long chapter (I have doubted myself and my ability to lead quite a bit lately — let’s save this for another blog post). The chapter talked about Brian Chesky‘s insatiable curiosity and aptitude for consuming knowledge, and how it had helped him successfully build the Airbnb empire from 2008 until today. Chesky’s lack of knowledge in business had resonated deeply with me. This chapter also served as a reminder that I have to be constantly hungry to learn, and smart enough to pick out the best people and experiences to learn from. If you had asked me a year ago what I thought about learning from others by speaking with them, bouncing ideas and building on ideas with each other, or learning from the story of themselves which they choose to share, I would tell you to talk to as many people as possible. Now, I’m going to assure you that’s a terrible idea, because I’ve wasted a whole year focusing on both the 80% of average, mediocre ideas, along with the 20% which I should be seriously investing time and effort into. This chapter helped reinforce this idea.

Anyway, I digress — for a good reason. Read on!

Patrick’s a funny man. He was decked out in brightly colored clothes and a fresh pair of shades. His gold watch gleamed and reflected the afternoon sun into my eyes. Not very pleasant, but he caught my attention.

“Eh,” he blurted out in a thick Singaporean accent. “You very lucky I turn into the right condo — I almost missed the turn because of your text la.”

Normally, drivers would thank me for the text I’ve sent them because they managed to find this building. Patrick was telling me how my text message nearly caused him to miss the building instead. This was odd. He piqued my curiosity. “Could you elaborate? How did that text cause you to nearly miss the turn which you have to take to get here?”

“You are telling me what not to focus on! When you tell me, do not turn into [street name], you inevitably just made my mind focus on this particular street, instead of the name of this building which you want me to drive to.”

This guy has a point. I cannot articulate this well in psychology terms, and perhaps some of you here could help me out with this, but it makes sense. If I told you not to think of a pink elephant, can you tell me now what the pink elephant in your mind looks like? My point is this: when told not to think of something, it tends to amplify that in your mind (or at least threaten to reappear in your mind unless you distract yourself with something else).

Patrick then added, “Hmm, here’s another example. You know you young girls, you sometimes enjoy talking about the man of your dreams, right? You’ve had that conversation at least once in your life, I’m sure.” I nodded. “Sometimes, you hear girls telling each other what they don’t want in a man, right?” I nodded again. “Well why can’t we humans just focus on what we want, instead of wasting time and energy on dictating, sniffing out, and weeding away those that we don’t want?”

“Next time,” he added, “try sending a text to the Uber driver, telling him or her where you want her to go instead of where you do not want them to go. Trust me; it gets a lot better.”

What Patrick shared with me in a short span of ten minutes wasn’t anything new. I’ve heard and have given this advice to countless of people, but I never had anyone point out my mistakes, and how I was doing exactly what I told myself and others not to do: focusing on things I don’t like, activities I don’t enjoy, people I don’t want to spend time with, instead of going laser-focused on what I want.

Although Patrick only talked about focusing on a goal (turning into the right building) and pulling ourselves away from possible distractions (instructions on where not to turn into), I believe this advice can be further expanded into various similar advice you have heard of before — one of them being giving fewer f*cks.

In this Ted talk titled “The Magic of Not Giving a F*ck”, sarah knightexplains to us the benefits not giving too many f*cks can bring to our lives and the lives of people around us. Each of us has a limited number of f*cks to give, so we should spend them wisely, and know that this doesn’t apply to just ourselves, but to everyone else as well.

Let’s not add more points for consideration (aka “clutter”) for someone else AND ourselves to consider spending/wasting our f*ck budget on, and focus on what we want instead.