You never know when or where you might receive good insight.

My car was in the shop and I had to ride in the ‘courtesy van,’  a gaudy red and white minivan, plastered with the name of the automobile dealer.  Not usually my choice of rides.  Similar to many curious cab drivers, the van driver was interested not only in my destination, but also my journey.

As we talked about leadership and life, he helped me do some learning.  He talked about a course he attended that helped him see that when something happened, we had a two choices, not just one.  Most people believe that when something happens, we simply have a choice on reactions.  He said he learned something different – something life changing.  He learned he also had a choice of how to react – before you react.

Continuing the conversation, he described how a person can choose to get upset, get angry, or get even, but that all three were a conscious choice.  It may be made very quickly and have many different causes, but the first choice we make prior to a reaction is how to react.  I was amazed by his self-awareness and insight – it was clearly not what I expected to hear from a courtesy van driver.

“People don’t stress us out – we choose to be stressed – then we act upon that choice.  The choices you make tend to define who you are.  I think in many ways that tells us how important the event is to you.  Your reactions will definitely influence how the event is remembered,” he said.

As he spoke he reminded me of a lesson I learned here at CCL – the importance of understanding emotion in order to know when and how to become emotional.  Because when we become emotional, we are no longer rationally addressing the situation.  Instead, we are fighting ourselves to understand how the situation relates to us.

As we pulled into my destination, the driver quietly commented, “Our choices really define us and I want people to know that I make good choices.  That is my definition of leadership.”

I thanked him for his courtesy and as I retrieved my now-working car, I reflected that it was a very insightful journey.

Have you ever learned something in an unexpected place?

– Clemson Turregano

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