I crossed the line. It was very clear that on my recent trip to Nashville, when I bought those cowboy boots, I crossed the line. I don’t even like country music but I loved it in the music district. I am not overly crazy about horses, but I fell in love after a day with a friend on his horse farm. I am not a fan at all of chocolate milk, except now I crave Hatcher Farms chocolate milk. Over Thanksgiving my family took a trip to Nashville and we stayed on a family owned 185 year old dairy farm and they brought us fresh milk, it was incredible. Sorry to my vegan friends but I drank more milk that week than I had in the previous five years combined and loved it. When we left for the trip, I didn’t intend to cross any lines. Wasn’t thinking about drinking milk, listening to country music, hanging around horses, or getting cowboy boots. But on the last day of the trip, the boots just seemed to naturally slip onto my feet. I have crossed many lines in my career and life. They all end differently but start the same. The key to understanding how to start down the road can help you cross the lines that will propel your life and avoid the lines that will hurt your life.
Chris wrote a post that touched on this in December of 2012 titled Slow Fade. He talked about how projects, situations, relationships just don’t blow up, or become successful, by themselves. You can usually trace some bad situation or successful project, to a simple seemingly inconsequential decision made in the past. Chris’s point is also true in the context of crossing the line, whatever the line may be. Need to graduate college while working full time and raising a family. Draw a line in the sand when it comes to defending your time and do not let things creep in and steal any of it. It starts slowly and innocently. Someone asks you to volunteer, your brother needs help moving, your co-worker needs a night out and some advice. All these sound nice and are in and of themselves good things, but collectively, they can rob your time and keep you from reaching an important line. In high school, I heard many kids in the party crowd swear they would never drink the hard stuff. They party, and hang around the crowd long enough and see other people doing it and appear to be doing ok. You say that you are overly cautious and you try it once, just once. What happened? Nothing. You didn’t die. You didn’t get caught. You made a big deal out of nothing. If you crossed that line and nothing really bad happened, what other lines are you ridiculously defending that could be fun? I remember seeing one of those kids at another one of those kids funeral. He was begging for money to get something much harder than the hard stuff, another line he swore not to cross. That is an extreme example you might think. Alright, lets hit one closer to home. If you are a male supervisor and you swore that you would at least let your wife know if you have to have lunch or dinner with a female subordinate or co-worker. You forgot once. No big deal. Nothing happened. You were overreacting. Another lunch. How about dinner. A conference, no problem. You wife does not need to be bothered with this, it will cause unnecessary concern. You are both cool. Drinks after the conference. Before you know it, your sharing orange juice in the morning, from room service. How did that happen? You are now faced with a storm, way beyond the line and there is no return, that toothpaste doesn’t go back into the tube.
There are lines that we need to cross but sometimes can’t see ourselves on the other side. Start small. Make a conscious effort to string together some smart choices that start to propel you in a specific direction. Before you know it, that crazy idea of you becoming something or someone won’t seem that far fetched. There are lines in the sand that we draw more as goals. We need to cross those and push past barriers and challenges to keep propelling our lives and careers. There are other lines in the sand that we need to place warning signs around. Lines that if crossed could be disastrous. Mentoring plays a huge role in our lives as we manage these line. If you do not have a mentor, get one. Each of the lines that you draw, good or bad, should be known by at least one other person in your life. Might this put you in a position of vulnerability? Maybe, but I would rather be in a position of vulnerability with a close friend than divorced or jobless.
Whether you are trying to cross a line, or trying not to cross a line; whether it is business related or very personal; vehemently defend either small progress towards the line or small steps away from the line. Regardless of the circumstance, as you approach the line and you are almost at the end, that boot will fit your foot like it was made for it.