Either you drive it or it drives you!
Ultimately, unity bests uniformity.
By Ken Shelton
I’ve driven One (Honda) Accord for most of my adult life (along with Mazda, Toyota, Chevy, and Lincoln). One of my Honchos at work (General Dynamics in San Diego) converted me to the car in 1977. He had recently purchased one and told me all about it. I’ve since leased three of them, rented dozens of them, and purchased two of them, including my current ride.
Why I Drive One Accord
I’m been loyal to Honda ever since I traded in one my Accords for a Lincoln Continental. Here’s the back story:
Shortly after our third son, Christopher, was born, my wife and I wanted a bigger car. So, on an unseasonably warm December afternoon, I drove my trusty Honda Accord to the local Lincoln dealer and debated whether to trade it for a one-year-old Continental. Admittedly, I liked the leather seats, full power and leg room. I drove the car briefly, and left that day undecided.
Early the next morning, the dealer put the car through the wash and wax and drove it to my office, leaving it parked outside my window, sparkling like a diamond in the sun. Admittedly, I liked how it looked. An associate said, sincerely (without wax), as we gazed at the car, “You deserve it—why not buy it today?” At noon, I returned to the dealer and made the trade.
As soon as I signed the papers, the weather changed for the worse. Within two hours, my new car was covered with snow. By the time I left work that evening, it was dark and cold, well below freezing; and the roads were slick. Suddenly, appearances and luxuries meant nothing.
My old Honda, equipped with a new set of all-season radials, had been very sure-footed in snow and ice. Immediately I noticed a big difference as the Lincoln, equipped with a worn set of fair-weather tires, tended to slip and slide. At the first red light, I slid into the intersection and had to back up to avoid being hit. I lowered the front power windows to remove snow from the rear-view mirrors. Neither front window would come back up. One was binding in its track, and the other seemed to have a short in the electrical circuit.
I pulled my suit coat around my neck and drove slowly home. Early the next morning, windows still not working and the temperature at 10 degrees Fahrenheit, I drove 50 miles on the freeway to Salt Lake City (wind chill of -20F). I noticed at 65 mph a slight play in the steering. I learned later that the car had been damaged and repainted. The electrical connections and the alignment were never right; consequently, my love for the car wore down faster than the tires.
I learned that shiny new models of cars, like slick leaders, aren’t necessarily better. They may be “sunshine patriots” and “summertime soldiers,” not very sure-footed in winter seasons, uncertain and inconsistent in using power, and the cause of rapid wear and tear because their lives are out of balance and their priorities misaligned. And so with them, rather than bask in love and security, you get the big chill, as their plans get short-circuited and bound up in bureaucracy. The cosmetics and surface features you thought so fine when struck by love at first sight turn ugly over time—from sugar to salt, from accord to discord—as the culture changes and the costs for maintaining relationships escalate out of sight.
Do You Drive It, Or Does It Drive You?
I’m working now with leadership consultants and coauthors Bob Anderson and Bill Adams (BABA) on a new book, Masters of Leadership. They report that while reactive leaders look in the rear-view mirror, trying to navigate forward by fixating on what they do not want in order to play safe, authentic and effective leaders discern their purpose and orient themselves around it to create what matters most. Both reactive and creative styles and traits develop in our formative years and serve us well up to a point, until we reach a stage in our development where we hit a wall and we realize that we’re outmatched by what’s required of us, or our core strengths and talents no longer work well for us. In fact, they are being cancelled out by the liabilities associated with them. For example, our drive (once considered a signature strength) may be cancelled out by our poor people skills.
This isn’t the magic of ali-BABA; it’s like the lyrics of ABBA’s hit song Waterloo:
At Waterloo Napoleon did surrender, Oh yeah
And I have met my destiny in quite a similar way
The history book on the shelf Is always repeating itself
Waterloo . . . couldn’t escape if I wanted to
Now it seems my only chance is giving up the fight
And how could I ever refuse: I feel like I win when I lose
Waterloo . . . finally facing my Waterloo
Now We Sing (and Drive) with One Accord
Maybe that’s why I was so attuned when I heard the lyric sung today in church: “now we sing with one accord.” Christ told his disciples, “If ye are not one, you are not mine. So, be of one heart and one mind—no contentions! And if you are married, the twain shall be one flesh.”
Now, even if your name is Mark Twain or Shania Twain, having the Twain be one—truly being one, being united, singing or driving with One Accord—ain’t easy. You may think you are one, but when driving under stress you learn . . .
Sameness is not Oneness; and Uniformity is not Unity.
You might put that line on a bumper sticker and paste it on your Accord (or whatever you’re driving) because unless your strong “drive” originates from a desire for unity and oneness of heart and mind, you will drive around in circles, go nowhere fast, or idle in neutral.
My suggestion: trade your Continental for an Accord; otherwise, you may face your Waterloo (and a wind, or wife, chill of -50F).