What to do when you are pushed to your max.

I love driving in the mountains. Maybe it is because I grew up in Vermont, but I find the twists, turns, inclines and declines thrilling. I love the constantly changing scenery and inspiring views. Mountain driving is like life itself. It offers ups and downs, surprises, wonder and danger all packed closely together. Although in the mountains, the restrooms are always spread far apart.

One of the most fascinating features of mountain driving is the runaway truck ramp. Because of the long steep declines that are unavoidable in mountain driving, truck brakes can occasionally max out. Leaving truckers with no means to slow down or stop their vehicle. Remember Large Marge?

The runaway truck ramp is a last-resort safety measure. It is an off-ramp on the side of a downhill road that consists of an incline filled with gravel or sand. The ramp provides rolling resistance to decelerate a runaway truck and bring it safely to a stop. It’s a simple solution to a potentially deadly situation.

Runaway-Truck-Ramps

Whenever I see one of these ramps I can’t help but think that we should also have runaway people ramps. And not just for Julia Roberts. Because life can be hard on humans.

There are times when we all could use a good backup system to help us regain control. And given the challenges of the past several months, this is certainly one of those times. Stress, sadness, loss, anger, depression, and other mental illnesses can push us beyond our capacity to cope. So can debt and financial difficulties. Drugs and alcohol are famously hard on our brakes too. As are all forms of addiction. Except perhaps Jane’s Addiction. #JaneSays

When the challenges of life push you past your personal capacity do you have a runaway truck ramp? Do you have friends or family that will step in and help you through? Do you have a teacher, coworkers or a supervisor who can step up and listen or lighten the load?

Do you know which people or programs are available for you? No matter what challenges are maxing you out there is help available. There are specialized support groups, counselors and therapists. There are hotlines you can call that can help you with issues more serious than baking your Butterball turkey.

There are doctors and nurses and treatment facilities ready to help. There are websites and chats and technologically advanced resources you can tap into any time from anywhere. A simple google search will often help you find the type of support you need. And if you need any of these things, use them. They are prepared to help you regain control.

Key Takeaway

At some point, we all need backup help. The past several months have provided a wide variety of human challenges. If you feel like you are rolling downhill fast, it’s time to find some help. If you see others who are on a decline and struggling to slow down, step in and help them pump the brakes. We need to watch out for each other. There are plenty of great views just down the road. Let’s make sure we all get there safely.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this idea, please share it with them.

Don’t push yourself until your tires come off. Trust me.

On a recent Saturday my family and I drove from Knoxville, Tennessee to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The drive was beautiful. We rolled through the grand mountains of eastern Tennessee and Kentucky. We passed the surprisingly un-Indiana-like hills of southeastern Indiana. Which is by far the most beautiful part of Indiana. We played geographical connect-the-dots with the great cities of Knoxville, Lexington, Indianapolis, Chicago and Milwaukee.

I also saw something I didn’t want to see. I saw a tire come off of a vehicle directly in front of me. Twice. Seriously.

Incident One

The first time it happened was on I-75, as we were descending a mountain pass in southern Kentucky. A large white SUV in front of me lost its driver’s side rear wheel. The whole tire-rim-wheel situation left the vehicle and made a break for the center median. The remainder of the vehicle, now sitting on 3 wheels and a brake rotor, skidded to a stop on the right shoulder of the freeway.

The runaway tire crossed the highway in front of me, slammed into the cable barrier in the median, bounced into the air, and flopped to the ground on its side. I was happy I didn’t run into it. And I was thankful that the barrier prevented it from crossing into the oncoming traffic.

Incident Two

Three hours later I was on I-275, about to cross the Ohio River, north into Indiana, just west of Cincinnati. I noticed the large pickup truck directly in front of me had a flat passenger side rear tire. I assumed the driver would notice the flat tire and pull over. But no. The driver sped right along at 75 miles per hour on that poor flat tire.

We soon drove onto the Carroll Lee Cropper bridge that spans the Ohio River, and I slowed my roll, concerned about the fate of that poor, little tire that probably couldn’t. It was a good thing I slowed down. Because in the middle of the 1700 foot-long bridge, the tire gave out. The outer tread separated like a giant piece of Goodyear calamari. It rolled down the road in front of me like a naughty kid chasing after the car he had just been kicked out of. Which brought back strong memories from my childhood.

The rolling tread then angled to the right side of the road, slammed into the bridge wall, lost its shape, and flopped to the pavement.

Meanwhile, the pickup truck sped down the highway tossing bits of rubber all over the roadway from the tire’s rapidly vanishing sidewalls. Finally, once the truck cleared the bridge, the truck pulled to the shoulder. A woman in her 50s, with her hair in a long braid, wearing denim shorts, dropped out of the driver’s door and quickly ran around the truck to look at what was left of her rear tire, which was not much.

As I drove past the second 3-wheeled vehicle in 3 hours I heard Nate Dogg’s lyrics from Dr. Dre’s Next Episode in my head:

We gon’ rock it till the wheels fall off. -Nate Dogg

Indeed, both of these vehicles rocked it till the wheels fell off.

But you shouldn’t

These two de-tiring episodes serve as a strong reminder that we all need to take care of ourselves. This has the potential to be an uber-stressful time. COVID-19, the economy, politics, racism, weather, social isolation, uncertainty and unemployment are leading to high levels of unenjoyment. Overworking and underplaying are problems too.

Pay attention to both your physical and mental health gauges. Control the things you can control. Eat right. Get plenty of sleep. Exercise. Brush and floss. Consume more humor. Tend to your spiritual health. By which I mean your Faith, not drinking more spirits. Take your vacation time. We all need it.

Key Takeaway

You have to take care of yourself during this stress-filled time. Think long term. Don’t rock it till the wheels fall off. That is too far. And the results can be disastrous. Not just for yourself, but for those around you. Nate Dogg died at just 41 years old. So check your tire pressure before you wreck your tire presssure. Check your tread and your lug nuts too. Adjust your inputs and outputs as necessary to make sure you and all your tires are here for the long haul.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this story, please share it with them.

3 easy things you can do to prevent stress gunk.

Entrepreneurship is like joining the Stress Of The Day Club. Because entrepreneurship is hard. But motherhood and fatherhood and living in the hood are also hard. That’s because life is hard, and stressful. No one is immune. And not to spoil the ending, but none of us will make it out alive.

Stress Gunk

We accumulate stress during regular operating hours every day. If we are not careful, that stress leads to the accumulation of a funky gunk. That gunk prevents us from performing at our best. In turns us into cranky pants. It also prevents us from being able to handle more stress.

I have found 3 things that help me eliminate the stress gunk in my trunk. Together these 3 ingredients form my de-stress recipe. Or destressipe.

1. Exercise

When I started lifting weights when I was a freshman in high school it changed my life. I tend to have a lot of energy. But when I lift weights it helps me burn off my excess, pent-up, or silly energy. Stress is a form of energy too. You can use it like a workout supplement to move more weights or endure longer endurancey things. The key is to workout until you’ve burned off the stress energy. It’s a great way to prevent your mind and body from going all Chernobyl.

2. Sleep

Sleep is your giant reset button. It is what helps replenish your store of energy, your tolerance for craziness, your focus, your stamina and your eye boogers. Whenever I get 7 hours of sleep at night I feel like I am unstoppable. I often nap on the weekends too. Because it is an investment in a better me. When I don’t feel quite right, sleep is my go to prescription. Because it is how your body naturally regenerates the best you.

3. Church.

Stress often causes us to lose perspective. Or maybe it is the loss of perspective that causes the stress. Either way, attending church is the best way I know to regain a healthy world view. I believe there is a greater power than me. And I don’t just mean the IRS or Dwayne Johnson. I’m on Team Christian. But I believe all of the major religions provide great perspective and guidance on how to be a better you and live a better life.

I try to attend church regularly. It helps me refocus, refresh, relax, feel supported, and forgiven for my mistakes. Communion also makes me feel a bit like a cannibal when I eat and drink JC. But that’s a different issue.

Key Takeaway

There are stresses, frustrations and losses that accumulate every day. We are drained by daily setbacks. So we have to prevent the stress gunk from building up and fouling our systems. The key is to figure out how to reboot, regenerate, and respond positively.  Exercise, Sleep and Church are the back-to-basics keys that can help you find your balance again when you start to weeble or wobble. Try these proven approaches. They just may make you feel like a better human.

The key to longevity from my 100 year old Grammy.

Yesterday was my Grandmother’s funeral.

Many people have told me they are sorry for my loss. But I’ve had nothing but gain.  My Grammy, Lillian (Anderson) Sprau, was 100.5. She was a purebred Norwegian saint from Minnesota.  She was the sweetest, kindest person I have ever met.

She was also fun and funny. She loved to travel. She loved a good party. And she loved her family. She was married for 67 years before my Grampy realized he couldn’t keep up with her at 92. She had 9 children, 23 grandchildren and 35 great-grandchildren (not including those of us regular grandchildren who were also great).

I used to call my Grammy regularly on my commute home from work. We would talk about all kinds of things; from weather to family happenings to politics to travel to world news to sports. I would always spend a part of the conversation talking about our family heritage. I knew that Grammy was my best source of family history, and that she wouldn’t be around forever.

On one of our calls, when Grammy was in her northern 90’s, I asked her, ‘What is the key to living so long?’  She paused a moment, then stated confidently,

‘I think you can’t take everything so seriously.’

That is some great Grammy advice.

The stress we feel when we take life so seriously wears down our machinery. As of 2017, humanic machinery still can’t be replaced. So often we take work, politics, sports, family, school and social interactions so seriously that it takes years off of our lives.

As you go about your day today, remember my Grammy’s words. Don’t take everything so seriously.  Don’t stress yourself out. Don’t let others do it to you either. Have fun. Find the humor in life. Laugh more. And live more.

 

Could you pass the Fender Bender Test?

Sunday afternoon I was in a fender bender. Boo. I was driving my daughter home from basketball practice. We were having a nice conversation about her practice and I was looking forward to making chili when we got home. Then I was going to bake a couple of pies with the apples we picked at a local orchard in the morning. Then Normal Rockwell was going to sue me for infringing on his schtick.

I was driving within the notorious Five Mile Circle of Doom: that 5 mile radius that surrounds your home. Statistically, this is where the majority of accidents happen. As I passed into the invisible circle I slowed down because a tanker truck was stopping at a railroad crossing in front of me. Then I heard it. That telltale crunchy metallic BANG of a car slamming into another car. A moment later I heard another BANG. But this time I felt it too. I had been hit from behind. And suddenly the chili, apple pie and Norman Rockwell lay in shattered fragments on the pavement. Now Danica Patrick was going to sue me for stealing her schtick.

I pulled my car off the main drag and onto a side street. I got out of the car. And that’s when I realized what had happened. I had been part of a 3 car pileup. I was the third and final ball in a Newton’s Cradle fender bender.

Back on the main road there were two cars still intimately engaged like two dogs getting it on in public. Which is always such an awkward thing to see. Even for dogs.

After a moment the two cars disengaged and gingerly limped off the main road and onto the side street with me. We got out of our cars and remembered to first ask if everyone was okay. Then we introduced ourselves. This is one of the all-time oddest ways to meet someone new. Hey, crash here often?  How about this crashing inducing weather we’re having?

First I met the woman who hit me. I’ll call her Laura (because that is her first name, and her last name is too difficult to spell). She was driving a new grey Honda Oddessy mini van. She had a car full of humans and was finally heading home from a long day of volleyball at the high school.

The person driving the car that created the crash was a tall goofy boy who was college-dropout aged. He was odd. And he raised an eyebrow of the responding police officer who said, “I’m going to talk to him first. He’s acting pretty shifty.’ But I don’t think he was acting. That was just him being himself.

This left me, Laura, her kids, and soon her husband John (who came to help) to talk amongst ourselves as we waited. And the more we talked the more I liked them. They were nice people. Laura asked my daughter how her basketball practice was. Which was a very nice thing to ask a kid who had just been in her first accident. And it demonstrated Laura’s ability to think beyond herself, even though her brand new minivan has just been dented, gashed and bruised. And her engine was now wheezing like a junkyard conversion van. John was friendly, composed and funny. He said, ‘Well at least it didn’t happen during the Packer game.’ I laughed.

But as we talked we realized we had more in common. Laura and I had both gone to the University of Wisconsin. We quickly found several people we knew in common. And then we realized that we both work in (and love) advertising.

So there we were. Our cars dented and saddened by recent events. Yet Laura was cool, collected, considerate and humorous. Which are the traits you need to have to be successful in advertising. Because in this industry fender benders and traffic jams and last minute surprises are routine. After this surprise-round of speed networking we decided that we should meet again to talk about doing business together.

While we at The Perfect Agency Project don’t recommend getting in an accident, it does provide a valuable look at how people respond to the negative. It gives you a good look at who they really are under pressure. And if you like them then, you will probably like working with them too. Laura passed The Fender Bender Test with flying colors. Would you? I encourage you to think about it. But I hope you never know.