Long time, no blog!! I’m so sorry that my “Same Advice to the Graduates” series was interrupted by life! But I guess learning that life interruptions can and will affect your plans is also a great lesson for graduates. Here’s what happened -- my husband and I planned to drive our son, a newly graduated doctor of veterinary medicine, to his new job and life in Tacoma. We rented a BIG moving truck and mapped out our route from Texas to Washington. But as mentioned, our plans changed as my husband could no longer travel with us. So, after a day of careful and Tetris-like packing (thank goodness Scott helped with that part of the process), my son, his friend, and I left early one morning to start our adventure across the country. Oops -- I forgot to mention that our group also included 2 dogs, 2 cats, 2 snakes, 2 turtles, and some fish - pretty much just a smaller version of Noah’s ark! I drove that BIG moving truck (pulling a car on a trailer) for 3 and ½ days, listening to audiobooks (thanks to Neil Patrick Harris, Mindy Kaling, and Amy Poehler - your autobiographies kept me very entertained), admiring the scenery (after we left Texas), trying to stay in my lane (so sorry to those 2 cars I didn’t quite see), and sweating out each and every mountain we climbed (at the super fast speed of about 35 miles per hour - going down the hills was so much more fun!). We ALL made it (even the fish), and Austin started his exciting new job this week. But as I drove that BIG moving truck, I also noted some communication lessons that we can all learn. (I truly hope you saw this coming.)
Lesson #1 - Figure things out before you start!
I’m pretty sure that I should have spent some time reading the owner’s manual before I started driving the BIG moving truck. The basics were all there -- and for the most part, driving the truck was very similar to driving a car -- you just had to make wide turns and give lots of space when changing lanes. But on the second morning, I started up the truck and experienced a loud and continual beeping noise. I started to panic - what was beeping and why? Did something break? Did I do something wrong? The beeping eventually stopped, but I worried all day about it. Day 3 started with the same beeping -- but I figured out that the warning signaled that the air brakes were not “ready” (like my automotive terminology and understanding?). Had I figured things out on Day 2 (or read the manual), my worrisome, anxious day would have been so much better. So the lesson here is work to “figure things out” before you start any communication experience. Understand your audience, define your objective, plan your message, and prepare for any unexpected “beeping” or obstacles to effective communication.
Lesson #2 - Ask for help!
I have a new appreciation for all you truck drivers out there! Not only do you safely travel from place to place, you are able to expertly pull into a gas station and get fuel. I on the other hand did NOT expertly pull into one particular gas station in Arizona (I think!). The BIG moving truck could not make the turn needed to get out of the station, and backing up a BIG moving truck with a trailer on the back is really hard. You turn the wheel one way and the trailer goes another way. I admit that I panicked (I may have even cried a little) as I could NOT figure out what to do. So, I got out of the truck, went into the gas station (it had a restaurant attached), and asked for help. A very nice man came out and stood by the truck motioning which way to turn the steering wheel. It took a few tries, but I finally got the truck out and back on the road. And, I only visited truck stop gas stations the rest of the trip. When you are planning or presenting a communication message and you get figuratively “stuck” like I literally did, ask for help. Seek out advice from respected colleagues; research to find needed information; and ask coworkers for feedback. And like I did, learn from any mistakes and plan differently for the next communication experience.
Well, there are many more communication lessons I learned from driving the BIG moving truck, so I am sure you will hear more in later blogs. etc Strategies believes that you can learn communication skills from almost anything you do in life. Take time to look around and see the communication lessons you can learn by driving a BIG moving truck or shopping at the grocery store or carrying on a conversation with a child. And one more lesson I learned -- Austin will need to pay for movers the next time! My days driving the BIG moving truck are over!