Why is My Lane Always the Slow One?

Driving to work the other day, a car just sneaked into my lane and slowed down a bit. I found myself saying: Why does this always happen to me? Why is my lane always the slow one?

Fortunately, it was an expressway and it was a pretty straight road ahead, so I could drive subconsciously for a few seconds and let my thoughts flow to conjure up the reasons for my discontentment here.

It cannot be just me who says that to himself, right? Someone driving at 80 miles an hour must be unhappy that her lane isn’t peaking at 90. You never look at slower lanes and feel good about yourself. You stop at a red signal somewhere and think: Why does the signal always turn red when I’m about to drive past it? George Carlin’s quote comes to mind here:

Have you ever noticed that their stuff is shit and your shit is stuff?
— George Carlin

Well, even though the above quote seems to negate my point, I think the quote is true in a reverse psychological sense. You actually always feel your stuff is shit compared to others’, but that’s not how you want to feel. So you just lie to yourself and try to be happy about it.

There’s a common pattern of uneasiness here, an intrinsic assumption, not that shit happens, but that shit happens just to you. Worse still, if you were driving in the morning like I did that day, most probably you’re just starting your day and you’re already unhappy with it so far! And while these instances might seem trivial at a first glance, it kind of translates to our attitude towards greater and more important things in life.

Career as lanes

Alright, you get past the everyday frustrations of traffic and reach the office with a calm and fresh head. You hear one of your colleagues got promoted, one other found a better opportunity elsewhere and is leaving and one of your directors just quit, to start a new firm(of course, not all in a single day). Everybody just seems to be in a faster career lane than you are.

Personal growth as lanes

You’re too busy being unhappy with your career track that you fall behind in the personal growth lane as well. You can’t seem to find enough time to spend with your family, to learn something new(language? skateboarding?) or even to just travel. And now you’re just sad seeing other people so happy on social media(obviously you’d see them happy, it’s selective sharing!).

The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel
— Steven Furtick

Questions to ask yourselves about changing lanes

  1. If you changed to a faster lane now, are you sure you’re gonna reach your destination any sooner? Turns out that fast lane you changed to, got stuck due to an accident and cars from your previous lane have gotten much ahead! 
    Say you’re working on X, but Y is trending right now. So you switch to Y. But you know what, Y was just a fad, X turned out more promising in a longer term. Now Y doesn’t look so good, does it?
  2. Is the timing right for you to change to a faster lane? If you change the lane impulsively, chances are, you might get hit by some other car. Everybody’s changing jobs, moving into startups. You don’t wanna miss the wagon, you change jobs, join a startup. You fall in love, get married, have kids(not necessarily in the same order). Your expenses increased, job security decreased! Not such a good timing, was it?
  3. Are you comfortable driving faster? Faster is not always better. You don’t need to speed just because others are doing it. 
    Every graduate out of college(or even those not yet out) is starting his own start-up. Not all smart people are entrepreneurs, and not all entrepreneurs are the smartest of the lot. So, think about it. Do you actually have something useful to contribute to the world and capability to turn it into a viable business model? And even if you do have a great idea, go back to the previous point and think if the timing’s right.
  4. Are you the only one with all the problems and insecurities? You realize that the signal turns red in all four directions, right? So someone has gone through the same shit you have, minutes before and minutes after you.
    That happy person you see and admire might have gone through or might go through the same shit as you some days or maybe months before or after you.

So the thing is: Shit doesn’t happen just to you!

You admire someone’s professional success, you learn, work more, grow, define your career path and try to get where you want. Think you aren’t as happy as you can be, get your shit together, re-think your priorities and set it on the right track. Comparing yourself with others need not be such a bad thing, because when that happens, you do(you better do) something about it, be happy for a while. Repeat!

There are always going to be people who are smarter than you, happier than you, driving faster than you! Because you’ll always think they are.

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