We have been encouraged from our youth to lead from the front, or, in Navy terms, to “take charge and carry out the plan of the day.” It is also phrased “Lead, follow, or get out of the way.”
I agree, for the most part. The best reason to lead from the front is to achieve a goal, whether a personal goal, a corporate goal, or a Team goal. The worst reason to lead from the front is to avoid being picked off at the rear as the “easy meat,” (this is easy to understand if you’ve ever received a speeding ticket even though every one else passed you at 80 MPH).
However, leading from the front can be painful. I commute one hour to DC from Southern Maryland every morning. In the early days of my commute, I led the pack, zipping to the front of the traffic herd and pressing the accelerator enough to remain out front. First to the traffic light, first from the traffic light.
As the years have sped by, I am less likely to lead the herd. The accelerator and I have fallen out of love. I have fallen out of love with my commute. The commute has killed my love of road trips. There were times I could drive to Gettysburg or Skyline Drive – three hours each way – twice in a weekend for the sheer enjoyment of being on the road, exploring the side roads and antique shops, taking photographs, and going on hikes.
I want my love of road trips back, exploring, hiking, taking photographs. I don’t want to lead the pack anymore. I don’t want to be in a herd. I don’t need the safety of numbers, the society, the reckless abandon.
My piece of relaxation heaven comes each year when I spend a week on Moosehead Lake in Maine. My dog, Yoshi, and me, a tent, a sleeping bag, a canoe.
This morning, on my drive into DC along Suitland Parkway, I noticed the herd ahead of me, the pack of speeding zombies, rushing to get to a good parking spot. The cruise control was set, Pink Floyd on the iPod, coffee cup in hand. It was good to trail the pack, foot off the accelerator, enjoying the drive, my blood pressure at a nice relaxed pace, rather than watching my side and rear-view mirrors to see who might be thinking of passing me.
Life is good. I’m winding down to that time when I’ve achieved all I wanted to achieve and I can look forward to longer spells canoeing on Moosehead Lake with Yoshi. I’ll lie back at night and count the stars, roast marshmallows, and plan the next day’s hike, just Yoshi and me, the last and best herd I ever want to be a part of.