Driving on the freeway the other day, a small Fiat 500 zipped around me and pulled into the left lane, right behind a Ford F450 dualie. A tiny car, with a driver vaping with one hand, following this huge truck at 70 mph, without consideration for any possible traffic situation, other drivers on the road, or even their own life.
Driving is a phenomenon where the operator, being surrounded by a large box of metal – and often a lot of plastic, feels invincible and invulnerable. This comfort zone is completely artificial – an invention of the driver’s mind. There is no safety in a vehicle, and there is no safety in driving like a crazy person right up the rear end of the vehicle in front.
This is human nature, and you can see it everywhere every day. . . if you look. For most of us, it’s impossible to see it from inside that invented bubble of safety.
Today’s story is an allegory. This has become a common practice in the world of motivational, inspirational, and educational books, so I am taking this opportunity to dabble.
Once upon a time, people decided that their yards would look great if they had something ornamental. They planted shrubs and lots of green grass. Green everywhere. Then, the green grass grew and it started to look tatty. Someone had the great idea that they could clip the tops of the green grass and it would look neat and presentable.
They spent a lot of time trimming the green grass in their yards, until someone invented a contraption they dubbed a hand mower. By pushing the entire apparatus, the wheels would cause its blades to rotate fast. Pushing this around the yard would trim the tops of the green grass, thus ensuring the neighborhood HOA would not send a notice or levy a fine.
And there, the story ends.
Actually, not for everyone. Enterprising people decided that they could complete the job more efficiently and faster if they added an engine to the contraption. The motorized push mower meant that more yards could be mowed in a shorter time.
However, there were people who loved their hand mowers. They had become quite skilled at mowing their green grass with this easy-to-use garden tool. They stuck with their hand mower, and loudly proclaimed their resistance to the complexity of the motorized lawn mower. One had to use gasoline to power this new-fangled thing – which cost money! And the effort of pulling a rope to start the engine itself was an effort that was simply unnecessary.
Then, with the efficiency and speed of lawn mowing, more green grass was planted. Yards became larger, lawns were growing in acreage, and more lawn mowing was needed. Motorized lawn mowers became ride-on machines, lawn mowing implements to be used with larger tractors were added to the arsenal.
There were still people who loved their hand mowers. They had become quite skilled at mowing their green grass with this easy-to-use garden tool. They stuck with their hand mower, and loudly proclaimed their resistance to the complexity of the motorized lawn mower, the ride-on lawn mower, the lawn mowing implements.
As time rolled on, more people learned how to use motorized lawn mowers. New employees at yard maintenance companies never learned how to use a hand mower. On the occasion when they would see a hand mower, they’d politely ask. Responses varied from laughter to reminiscing. There were even some people who had lovingly restored hand mowers and displayed them in museums for nostalgia.
There were still people who loved their hand mowers. They had become quite skilled at mowing their green grass with this easy-to-use garden tool. They stuck with their hand mower, and loudly proclaimed their resistance. . . .
One small lawn maintenance company offered their personal hand mowing services. They kept wondering why their business was declining – after all, just look at all those lawns out there in the neighborhood! They claimed they provided great service. They claimed their tools were easy and simple to use. They argued that all those extra things one needed to manage a motorized lawn mower were unnecessary to the business of lawn mowing.
They noticed that one of their competitors had managed to take most of their customer base. Sure, there were a few retired home owners who loved watching the hand mowing experience, but their business was suffering. They hatched a plan.
One day, they recruited fellow hand mowing experts from across the world to join them in a protest against these horrific modern implements. They came together where the new motorized mowing equipment was being used and started to raise their voices. They screamed loudly that hand mowing was easy. They argued that no one needed those new-fangled laser thingies. They protested that home residents just loved their hand-mown green grass. They mocked the apparel worn by the operators of the motorized equipment. They laughed as one at those people who dared to speak up and promote the efficiency and speed of the modern lawn mower.
This community of hand lawn mowers had become quite small over time, so even their raised voices were not very loud at all. But, they really felt good about themselves. They had stood up for the green grass and its hand manicure. They were proud. They were defiant. They celebrate together while the world looked on, confused and saddened by their behavior.
Surely, if they’d like to keep their business, the upskilling to motorized lawn mowing would be a logical step? But no, hand mowing is so super amazing and . . . hmmmm. Easy! Yes, easy!
Not that it is hard to learn how to use a motorized lawn mower. But the fear of having to learn something new means the hand mowing geniuses feel justified in rejecting anything that is outside their comfort zone. They are driving a Fiat 500 without consideration for any possible business situation, other lawn mowers, or even their own lawn mowing career.
And there, you’d think the story ends.
One of the vocal hand mowing geniuses was let go from their job. The business did not need so many hand mowing experts now that the business had shrunk significantly. This genius made loud pronouncements about their availability and lots of noise about how amazing hand mowing is. They recruited like-minded geniuses to gather and mock the motorized lawn mowing process, because hand mowing is so, so easy.
No business in lawn mowing has room for such a genius in a bottle. They’d probably be able to upskill lawn mowers to motorized equipment, but the hassle of attempting that with such a closed-minded proponent of hand mowing is a daunting task. And younger, more eager prospective lawn mowers are open and have initiative.
Surely, the story ends now?
One day, a house who was a customer of the hand mowing boutique was sold. The new owner performed a review of all the expenses for the upkeep of the property. Clearly, the cost of hand mowing was low – per hour, but the huge number of hours needed meant it was not cost-effective. They decided that it was time for a change.
They asked the hand mowing company for advice, and the only offer was a plea to keep servicing the lawn with hand mowing – because, after all, it is easy.
The new owner did not bother with looking at the motorized lawn mowing services, and the hand mowers neglected to mention this was a possibility. The new owner had a better idea! They had learned this from their last house and from all the houses in their previous neighborhoods.
Why did they need a lawn at all? They ripped out all the green grass and replaced it with concrete. Now, it may not be as beautiful, or as good for nature, or as fun to play in, but it looks more clean, sparse, and should do the job.
Eventually, when all the lawns are replaced by concrete, lawn mowing won’t be needed. An entire world of lawns will be gone. And who is to blame? Hand mowing experts. They are a lover of green grass and will continue to loudly proclaim their affinity and allegiance, while their business dries up and their industry disappears.
The lesson of this allegory is simple. The world moves along while your comfort zone stays in place. Challenge yourself to step up to an ever-changing and fast-evolving world. Your lack of speed and buckets of fear will be barriers to your own evolution. Your small comfort zone will shrink, and from the outside, you’ll be seen as a failure as you slowly become one.
Living is a phenomenon where the operator, being surrounded by a comfort zone of their own creation, feels invincible and invulnerable. This comfort zone is completely artificial – an invention of one’s mind. There is no safety in this invented bubble, and there is no safety in acting like a crazy person ignoring or mocking every other person who is evolving beyond oneself.
And for crying out loud, stop screaming how amazing you are at hand mowing. Your small world does not offer you a view of the mockery you are making of yourself.