The Warning Light

When I left the office for lunch on Monday, I noticed a light on my car warning me that the tire was low.  It was a warm day and I thought it was simply caused by the temperature change.

Have you ever missed the warning signs?

When I left at the end of the day, I noticed the light again and thought I ought to stop and add some air.  As I drove my mind went to other things until I felt the car start to pull.  By the time I decided to check it out, it was flat.  “Maybe I can just go a little further before I put some air in it,” I thought to myself, wanting to avoid using the spare.

Only one mile to go.  Can I make it?

Have you ever tried to push too far?

By the time I got “a little further” it was too late.  I got about half way; a lousy half a mile to go…only 880 yards or 2,640 feet…and thump, thump, thump.  The tire was coming apart so I pulled over.  I know nothing about cars and perhaps less about patience.  

Patience is a virtue but the cell phone was closer at hand.  My wife was supportive, but I was frustrated.  What could she do?  My buddy who owns the automotive store couldn’t help.  A tow truck was at least an hour away.  I located the spare, the jack and the lug wrench in the trunk.

Have you ever had one mistake compound to become a litany?

I put the jack in the wrong place.  Reset.  Try again.  I jack it up all the way before I tried to loosen the lug nuts.  The tire just spins.  Reset and  try again.  The lug wrench that comes with the car is too small to get enough leverage on the lug nuts.  (Honestly, did they weld these suckers on?)  Three are loose.  My back is pulled.  Two will not come off.  It’s time to reset and try for help.

Have you ever waited too long to ask for help when you really, clearly needed it?

My wife met me half way and we drove over to Wal-Mart.  Did you know they won’t loan you a good lug wrench?  My friends in college referred to Wal-Mart as the “lending library of consumer goods” thanks to their generous returns policy.  I suppose it’s fair since they aren’t in the lending business.  We purchased a better lug wrench, which I am now glad to own.

Do you appreciate the value of good tools at the ready?

With my new lug wrench providing the right leverage, I got the spare on and we got it to the shop.  While we waited I met a lady who was going to school to get her associates degree.  She was proud that her son would graduate tonight from high school and then go off to college.  She preached good education to her kids and now she was pursuing hers too.  We talked about job search and I provided her some help.  It was a nice connection.  Maybe this is the ”something good” that comes out of yucky experiences. The shop replaced the tire and I was only a few minutes late to my son’s scout meeting.

Paying attention.  Patience.  Persistence.  Those are all good skills and they all applied with various degrees of success in my travails last night.  But I was also reminded that having the right tools to get the job done and the opportunity to practice with them are important too.

In your career, you will run into situations where you make the mistakes like I did during my trials.  You will ignore the warning lights. You will push too far. You will wait too long to ask for help.  You will not have the right tools. You will not practice using them.

The important thing is to learn from these situations, especially when you can’t avoid them.  Personal and professional development is an essential part of reaching your career aspirations.  When you make a mistake, do you learn from it? Do you use the tools you already have? Do you work to gain those that you don’t?    By learning from situations, you will gain the insights, tools and competencies necessary to achieve career success. 

Organizations around the world recognize that competencies drive performance and ultimately organizational success. On June 6th Career Partners International is hosting a webinar about competencies: The DNA of High Performance – How Competencies Drive Success.  We hope you’ll join us to hear how successful organizations are using competencies.

What tools and competencies are you adding to your toolkit?  What are you doing to achieve your career aspirations?

Obviously, I need to develop more competencies around paying attention, and maybe automobile maintenance.  But, on the bright side, I got a new tool out of the experience and I learned a lot!

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  1. Travis Jones's avatar
    Travis Jones
    | Permalink
    My light on the car has come on frequently as of late and I have been stopping the car to check and it is not low as it says. I figure something is just wrong in the cars system. After your blog, I am going to still stop and check it anyway even it I don't think it is accurate.
    Good title "Warning Lights" don't neglect and especially in your career. thanks for a nice blog spot.
  2. Guy Kargl's avatar
    Guy Kargl
    | Permalink
    Same thing happened to me on the way to work about two months ago. But I had no warning, as my Mazda 3 does not have TPMS sensors.

    So, I was not given warning. The rest of it could NOT be described as a cascading failure.

    I had no idea what was going on until I saw smoke at the rear of my car...
  3. Kari Berg's avatar
    Kari Berg
    | Permalink
    There is much to be learned from the difficult situations we find ourselves in. A career transition can be a challenging time, but by using the right tools, paying attention, learning from your mistakes, and resetting when necessary we can emerge on the other side of the transition in a positive way.

    Thanks for your thoughts, Russ!

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