Crashing in Life and Why Most Drivers Never Get Better

Most people won’t ever get better at driving. Past a certain age (18, 20, 23?), we’ve settled into the routine of driving and won’t change our ways. I think that is primarily because there aren’t good ways to receive feedback about how we are doing. (We’re also biased to assume we make good choices and others make bad choices). To be sure, there are negative ways we can get feedback.

Two negative ways you can get feedback about your driving:

  • You can get a speeding ticket. You’re not likely to become a better driver, though. You’ll likely slow down in the area you were pulled over, at least for a while. But over time, that “feedback” loses it’s potency and you go back to driving as usual.
  • You can crash your car. You are more likely become more cautious, attentive, and defensive, assuming the crash wasn’t too severe. The cost of this “feedback” though is exceedingly high. Effective, but costly.

Outside of these two instances, most people don’t change how they drive. Bad drivers just keep doing what they want: cutting others off, tailgating, failing to use a turn signal, excessively speeding, spending emotional energy impatiently trying to will other travelers out of the way….

Paired with a sense of invulnerability inside of our fiberglass shell on wheels, a lack of meaningful and effective feedback means most people never get better at driving or even consider they might need to.

Are you navigating other parts of your life the same way?

In the office or at home, there are many more pathways for receiving feedback that can help you grow and get better. There are meaningful ways, effective ways. Are you paying attention or are you just going forward the way most people drive?

Asking for feedback about your driving might seem odd, but we should all be asking for feedback in other arenas of life as often as we can muster the courage. Ask your boss, your spouse, your kids, your friends…

  • Do I usually give too much or too little detail?
  • How comfortable do you feel asking me for help?
  • How do the dynamics in the room change when I leave (or enter)?
  • Was my communication clear? What did you hear me saying?
  • How well did I lead that meeting?
  • How can you tell when I’m stressed? Distracted? Excited? Tired?
  • Do you think I care about you as a person?
  • What are others afraid to discuss with me?
  • What do you think I could focus on improving in the next three months?
  • What’s it like being on the other side of me?

Results and accomplishments are one form of feedback (and the easiest to point to), but the quality of your relationships is probably a more meaningful form of feedback. Truly understanding how you make people feel — are they a cog in the wheel or are they a person you know and care for? — can be the most effective feedback to help you become a better leader in any area of life.

If you are willing to listen. And that’s the key. A willingness to listen, to reflect, to practice self-awareness. Small conversations and in-the-moment observations are daily doses of feedback that can direct your path toward improved relationships, work, engagement, and satisfaction.

But of course, there are more dramatic forms of feedback that have higher costs, like speeding tickets and crashes when you are driving.

  • When your boss tells you your negative attitude has been impacting the team’s performance, so you’re being pulled off of the big project. Speeding ticket. You try to bite your tongue in team meetings and add some vague compliments to soften the critique you just couldn’t hold back. But over time, you start reverting back to criticism without solutions, defending it as “just speaking your mind” or “telling it like it is.”
  • When your wife tells you she wants a divorce and is leaving tomorrow. Car crash. It’s violent, perhaps unexpected, and you feel like you’ve lost control of everything. This unmistakable feedback confirms that something has gone horribly wrong and a very high price is about to be paid.

It’s important to note that most people don’t end up with their career or family falling apart at a moments notice. A lot of feedback likely had to be missed, ignored, or withheld. No matter where you are standing today, you can start seeking out and listening to feedback at any point. All it takes is intentionality and willingness (closely followed by acting on the feedback).

Do you really want to keep driving through life without asking for or listening to feedback?

Is there an area of life or a particular relationship where you need to step out of your invulnerable shell and ask for the perspective of someone else? To gain some awareness about how you are really doing on the roads at home and in the office?

Take the time to act on small doses of feedback and avoid tickets and crashes.