Living Between The Lines

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Living Between The Lines

The other day I was out running early in the morning. At one point the trail I run on goes behind an office building an its garage. The garage is open to the woods and the trail. As I passed by around 6:15am (Hey, it gets hot early here in Houston!), I noticed a guy heading from his car to the building entry. I noticed that on the ground there are lines that mark the walkway across the garage from the parked cars to the building door. And this guy was careful to walk within those lines – even though he was the only one around at that hour of the morning. All I could think was “Why the heck is this guy doing that?” Why would you stay within this walkway when no one else is there? Why follow this “rule” when it really doesn’t do anything for you? What can we learn from that behavior? How does any of this apply to running our businesses?

Blind Rule Following

Without thinking he goes wherever the lines go – wherever some authority told him he can walk. I bet you cringed a bit when I told you that story. As business leaders, we often don’t like to take a path that others tell us to take. We like to chart our own course. We like to be independent. We know we can and should break some rules – especially when they make no sense or add no value. Don’t blindly let others tell us what to do. As a leader you need to know which rules you should follow and which ones don’t matter so much. Chart your own course.

Heed Warnings That Make Sense

Then I started wondering if I judged this poor dude too harshly. After all, the garage walkway lines are there for a reason. They help to guide cars and people through this parking garage safely. Even though it was early morning, what if a car had been coming unexpectedly. The driver would probably not expect anyone to be walking through the garage. And if so, they would be looking for them inside the walkway lines. So if a car was coming, being inside those lines might make sense to be most visible. How does that apply to running your business? Well, let’s not dismiss every rule there is. Sometimes they make sense. Sometimes they should be followed. Just do it consciously.

On Auto-pilot

The guy just wasn’t thinking about the best path from his car to the building’s door. My guess is that he just takes that same path through the garage every time without much thought; because that’s what the rules tell him to do. We can’t afford to be on auto-pilot when we run our businesses. Almost very day is different than the one before it. Consequently, our best path through each day is different. Our solution to each problem should be considered independently.


So, a small observation leads to some larger themes. As business leaders and entrepreneurs we tend to bristle against those rules that the world throws at us. Sometimes they make sense. But more often they are another way to rein in our creativity, our passion, and our independence. Be on the look out for the cross-walk lines in your life and in how you lead your business. If you choose to stay within them, just make sure you do it consciously and with purpose.


I LOVE to help leaders improve and businesses grow!

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