The Highway of Life – Watch for the Exits!



The unplanned re-route of the NYC-to-Phoenix flight pushed an already long domestic flight towards unbearable, being particularly harsh on my cramped legs. But not all was bleak. Sitting next to me was an older gentleman that was headed for San Antonio, TX. We started chatting about life, flying and many other topics, but we settled on the topic of destiny.

It was destiny, we decided, that our flight would be re-routed. Destiny is not something that, by definition, you can or should mess with. But I have a theory that destiny presents you with many options in life and business that make allowances for free will. It’s a theory I like to call “The Exit Ramps”.

Destiny and Exit Ramps

Whenever I think about the path that one follows in life I visualize a freeway and its exit ramps. For me our journey is riddled with exit ramps and, as with a real freeway, certain parts are loaded with on and off ramps while long stretches having none at all. You can take any one of these exits – it’s your choice – often influenced by frustration, temptation or impatience. Some of these exits will lead to you feeling lost and you might spend years finding your way back to the core highway of your life.

But there are exit ramps that are purposeful; they exist and present themselves for a reason. These side trips are part of life’s journey, but unlike unproductive exit ramp diversions, can add huge value. These follow a defined route and loop you back to the core path with renewed energy and vigor. These productive detours I call “Jumpers.”

What’s a Jumper?

Jumpers route you off the life path that you have become comfortable with. The tricky thing is, Jumper exit signs may look a heck of a lot like regular exits on the path of life. But once you recognize their existence, they should be easier to spot — glowing a bit brighter and usually challenging you in ways that threaten to bust you out of your comfort zone.

An example of a person who veered off their route and took a famous Jumper is Steve Jobs. He was on track with Pixar to build himself another legendary career but took a Jumper to shift back into the Apple game. As a result, he “jumped” miles forward in his life path.

Mr. Jobs, of course, was a visionary and part of that talent was the ability to see Jumper signs flashing like beacons in the night. Macy’s Terry Lundgren has that 20/20 vision as well. He veered from the comfortable department store route and shook things up with a somewhat bumpy side trip into the land of omnichannel. Those efforts are now paying off as all those “channels” merge back onto their main route.

Other leaders … well, think of Eddie Lampert’s side trip into retail management to take over Sears Holdings. That was nasty, rain-slicked exit ramp disguised as a Jumper.

And then there are those times when Jumper exits fly by unnoticed. Had Circuit City seen theirs, they might still be giving Best Buy a run for its money.

In my life I have seen these Jumpers shining and three times I took them. Each one paid off and rocketed me further ahead in life by teaching me new things, introducing me to people that I never would have met and other untold benefits. There are about five or six other exits that I took — those not so productive. In some cases, it was a considerable struggle getting back to my highway. Stupid moves.

So, think about your destiny, exit ramps, and Jumpers when you are pondering where you are in life and your next step forward. It’s not always clear if the glow you see is genuine, so it’s important to know what your core principles are — the ones that determine where your highway is going. As long as you know what’s ultimately important, the detours — whether productive or otherwise — will still lead you back to your main route.

See you on the freeway of life…my windows are rolled down and listening to Slash playing “World on Fire”.


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