Throw The Bums Out!

During my executive coaching sessions over the past years with clients that are trying to get a “better handle” on their career direction or lack thereof, I frequently share with them a bus metaphor to help them visualize what might be going on in their “career world” as a way of assessing some of the real challenges they’re facing in moving forward.

Now, I just don’t use any old bus metaphor, but I prefer a school bus, thank you.  Yes, that long yellow, black-lettered school bus with those endless row of seats where every kid (we’re all kids really) fights to be in the last row, just like in every classroom.  As you probably know, in the last row are the coveted seats of unmatched power.  In fact, what’s great about the seats in the last row is that you have a perfect view of the entire bus all laid out in front of you.  Nobody can see what or who you’re looking at but you can see it all……….from picking noses, to sleeping, to cramming for a final and so on………and the list could go on and on.  Another perceived advantage of being seated in the back row is that if anyone screams after to spotting something gross out the window, like a dead deer or a car accident, you have ample time to change what you’re doing, look up and catch a good long look.  What seats of power and prestige!  Or, so we think.

OK, so back to the my bus metaphor………………our careers in many ways resemble that good old yellow school bus.  You see, depending how old you are and how you’re wired, you’ve taken on a lot of passengers on your bus, both welcomed and unwelcomed.  Their names may vary but there is one thing they all have in common ……. a voice:  mom, dad, brother, sister, teacher, coach, friend, pastor, culture, fear, stability, money, failure, success, doubt, resistance, indifference, complacency, promotion, acceptance, and the list could go on and on.  And yes, all these passengers are traveling on your career bus and occupy different “seats of importance”.  Some of their voices are soft, some muffled, some loud and, yes, some screaming!  They all have a distinct and unique message but all trying to tell you who you should be or not,  where you should be going, and how you should to get there.  And most, if not of all, are competing for your attention and win the right of grabbing the steering wheel of your career bus.  

So, every time you gather the courage to get up and start walking toward the front of the bus to get your own hands on the steering wheel, all of your passengers in their well-meaning, I-know-what’s-good-for-you way start yelling at you to “shut up, go back and sit down stop making a commotion!”  Your parents might yell, “How are you going to support yourself?”, your sister might ask, “Are you crazy?”, the cultural beliefs might direct you to “play it safe” and “get back in line”, your friends might think you’re just misguided and a little weird, failure might even taunt you with your past mistakes, promotion might plead with you, “You’ll make more money!”

With this barrage of voices screaming at you from all the seats, your heading is spinning out of control, you feel like a prisoner in a merry-go-round of voices and choices, you’re confused and overwhelmed while thinking to yourself, “where did all these “passengers” come from and how did they get on the bus”.  Your first instinct is to retreat and go back and sit down………..anything to shut them up. But before you turn to head back, something deep within you blurts out at the bus driver to pull over and stop.  As the bus rolls to a slow and methodical stop, you reach down deep and garner all the courage and stamina you have left (which isn’t much), you point to the door demanding that everybody, yes everybody, get off the bus.  For a moment there is complete silence, no one moves, everybody is glaring right at you with looks of anger, disgust and bewilderment.  Time seems frozen.  You are frozen.  You’re numb with questions but somehow you form two of the most powerful,  words you’ll ever speak two………..simple………….repeatable words……………GET OUT!   GET OUT!    GET OUT!