Push Me Pull You
Standing at the window of my Los Angeles area hotel room last week, I watched the stream of un-moving traffic on the freeway outside. It's amazing to me that a metropolis of this size has allowed such an obvious problem to not be remedied. I understand all the different perspectives on this, but seriously? This is an acceptable outcome?
I'm reminded of the old story about the Pushmi-Pullyu (push me pull you) - Dr. Dolittle's fictional creature that can't go anywhere because it's controlled by two heads, each of which want to go in a different direction...and so as a result goes nowhere.
Our world is so full of ideas and youthful unbridled energy. Put into motion like that of a rowing team and we can launch rockets into space to allow a human being to walk in the moon. We can create technology to conduct delicate laser eye surgery to make people like me who spent their whole life blurry, to now see perfectly.
I believe we spend over 80% of our energy being push me-pull yous. We fight against one another, yelling at full volume about what we think other people want, without realizing we completely miss their point because we weren't listening.
We get locked into being right instead of relevant.
"Most people would learn from their mistakes if they weren't so busy denying and defending them." ~ John L. Mason
I've learned to stay away from the "why" questions, as well as the "should's" and "if only's" - none of which are terribly useful. And frankly, it's not only fruitless, but boring listening to people gripe about the world not working the way they want it to.
Instead, I'm more intrigued by the "what can we do about it?" and "how can we make things work better?" questions. So I'm not a big push me pull you fan. It's like watching Jersey Shore. Kinda pointless.
I understand all of the circumstances that led a city like Los Angeles to not have an effective transportation system. There are some who would even dispute that - and say that LA has an incredibly advanced system for transportation. But those people can't be spending hours stuck in traffic. The kind of traffic that makes some people so angry they shoot other drivers.
Which is what makes efforts involving people working together interdependently toward a common goal so amazing. Rowing teams are a terrific example, as are any type of team, frankly. The concept of synergy, surrendering of ego, commitment to a cause greater than the individual.
"Synergy is the highest activity of life; it creates new untapped alternatives; it values and exploits the mental, emotional, and psychological differences between people." ~ Stephen Covey
Systems of transit are just one of many examples where a well thought-through, collaborative, strategically executed plan of action can make such a profound difference in our lives. Another more locally has to do with construction of a sports arena for the Sacramento Kings - I just want to say "pick a side" and make it happen. After awhile, you just tire of the fruitless debate.
So I decided to research some of the best systems of transit in the world, and here's what I found: Hong Kong successfully transports 7 million passengers through their city every day. That accounts for 90% of all travel. And it means people get to spend more time doing things that matter, rather than sucking in exhaust and dodging bullets. New York's subway system transports 4.5 million people a day - and most New Yorkers don't even own a car. Paris also transports 4.5 million a day on the Metro and London transports 3.4 million people a day on the tube and the Chicago Transit Authority transports 1.6 million daily. Other cities with reportedly top-notch public transportation systems include Copenhagen, Berlin, Seoul, Taipei, Moscow and Tokyo. Of note, Tokyo's transports 8 million people a day, the subway is spotless, has heated seats, computerized messaging in Japanese and English, and a solid reputation for running on time.
In a word, you get there faster and more efficiently, because someone planned ahead.
I in no way intend to disparage LA, because it has a lot going for it. This is just an example of an unintended outcome that has far-reaching negative impacts. Throughout the world, we have example after example of innovations, technological advancements and visionaries, who can think through the ugliness of the present to create a better future - one that presents us all with the kind of potential we all desire. I know everyone has an opinion about how to get there, but when we can let go of our narrow, self-serving perspectives, there is no limit to what we can do.
"The future belongs to those who see possibilities before they become obvious." ~ John Sculley