Wet Roads

In my younger days, when I had only been driving for a short time, I once took my father on a few errands with me behind the wheel. We both had a few things we needed to do in the city, and he wanted to see how I was keeping up with this new skill. As it happened, that day was very rainy one, and many parts of the road had standing water on them.

As casual driving conversation, he asked me if I knew what to do if I started to lose control. I could always use a few pointers and said so. He reminded me that the most important thing was to do exactly what I had been doing. Not to panic and hit the brakes or anything. He said, “remember, the car wants to go straight.”

Almost prophetically, within about five minutes of that conversation I hit a patch of water and the car started to slide – we weren’t speeding by any means, but we were still on a highway and going fast enough that I didn’t want to lose control of the car. But his advice was fresh in my mind – I took my foot off the gas but didn’t put it on the brake. I kept my grip on the wheel tight but didn’t try to swerve or pull over. And sure enough, we slid right through the water and stopped hydroplaning.

There are two bigger lessons from this that apply to things other than driving.

The first lesson is this: everything has a trajectory; a default path it will take unless you alter it.

The second lesson is this: what that path is depends on the actions you take before you hit the crisis.

If you’re driving safely to begin with, and you’re doing the right things, you’re more likely to make it through a patch of wet roads safely than if you were speeding, swerving, and driving recklessly. Likewise, when you hit any sort of crisis, you’re likely to make it through just fine if a.) you were already doing the right stuff and b.) you don’t stop doing it just because you hit a crisis.

Your life wants to go straight.

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