Looking Ahead

The impulse to act first and fix the consequences second runs deep with a lot of people.

It’s a trait borne of curiosity, supported by an understanding that for some of us learning by doing is a better teacher than any other.

This is the world of the entrepreneur, where trial and error are essential components in the growth of any business. 

The key, as the song says, is knowing when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em, there being a cost to either strategy. The understanding of which come with experience, often painfully-earned.

Take Monday afternoon, for example, when a simple drive to take Jon Collins and his wife Sarah to the train station after a glorious weekend of eating, drinking and a continuation of the Millbrook, go-kart time trials evolved, in retrospect, in a way that was inevitable.

It takes a number of decisions to bring four talented people with a history of solving some of the Communications industry’s most challenging problems, to a place where they are trying to decide how best to prop up a car that is resting on a slope, without using the hand-brake, so they can spin the back right wheel to re-align the bolt holes in order to replace the tire that is too hot to touch and which is attached to the wheel whose lug nuts are applied so tightly that none of them can loosen even one of the five.

The answer, it turns out, is to apply sequential logic supported by creative thinking, which results in a process that goes like this:

  1. Wait a few minutes until the smoking rubber of the flat tire has cooled enough to pull it from the wheel mount, having first loosened the lug-nuts by kicking the crowbar with your foot, while your wife makes two trips home to get a sledgehammer that it turns out you didn’t need.
  2. Call road-side assistance twice and answer the same set of questions three times while simultaneously watching the car slide slowly back down the hill and off the jack the instant you release the handbrake.
  3. Re-apply the handbrake and re-jack up the car while noting a number of improvements you would like to suggest to whomever at Audi designed the interface between jack and chasis.
  4. Discover that in the process of sliding off the jack, the rear wheel has spun so as to mis-align the lug nut holes. Further discover that the wheel can not be rotated while the handbrake is on. Deduce that the car will not stay on the jack once the handbrake is released. Recognize that without the jack or rear wheel in place, there is nothing to prevent the car from sitting either on its fibre glass chasis or its wheel mount. Acknowledge that neither was designed for the purpose.
  5. Recognize the residual value provided by the original wheel and the lacerated tire if turned on its vertical axis.
  6. Place said wheel flat on the ground and slide beneath rear bumper, aligning hub with tow-hitch for confident support.
  7. Cautiously lower jack and allow rear of car to rest on damaged wheel
  8. Remove handbrake.
  9. Rotate wheel to re-align holes
  10. Insert lug-nuts to hold wheel alignment in place
  11. Re-apply handbrake
  12. Re-jack car
  13. Remove lug nuts and attach spare wheel
  14. Remove damaged wheel from beneath rear of car
  15. Lower car to the ground
  16. Tighten lug nuts and replace hub cap
  17. Throw everything in the trunk of the car while trying not to smear the white shorts and golf shirt you have been wearing throughout the whole exercise with any more axle grease than they have already been adorned with
  18. Get close friends to the station 90 minutes later than planned with their resulting trip home taking precisely twice as long as intended.

There is an alternative to this process.

When you turn to Sarah Dowland, one of the world’s great producers, half a mile after leaving the driveway of your house and tell her you’ve just remembered you have a slow puncture in your rear, right tire, and she says to you, “Okay, then let’s just go back and deal with it at home,” listen to her. Don't see whether there's still enough air in the tire to make it the 6 miles to the gas station. 

There are times for experimentation and exploration. And there are times to listen to experience and pay attention to reality. These are the times that require we see pre-emptively what will soon become clear retrospectively.

Because the cost of getting that wrong will effect not just you, but the people who choose, for now, to put their future in your hands.

Whether you are driving a car or managing a business.