On a beautiful spring Saturday morning, with the music playing in my wife’s car, I drove into town to do some errands. I was using my wife’s car as mine was in the shop for repair.
When I arrived back home from town, the fuel light came on, and I realized I had only 10 miles of gas left. We live about 5 miles from the nearest gas station in town. Like many parents, Saturday’s include playdates, sports practice, etc, so I had to run back out. I stopped at my in-laws and made a few other stops, all while still nowhere near the gas station. By the time I returned home again late Saturday afternoon, I was left with just 5 miles until the tank was empty. I was quite uneasy about this, yet I knew I still could get to the gas station on Sunday morning on our way to church.
Sunday morning came and I had my two girls in the car with me. As we departed, my girls quickly noticed the gas tank situation and exclaimed “Dad we’re going to run out of gas!” I told them not to worry that we would just make it. Down the hill we coasted… 4 miles… 3 miles… 2 miles. The tank meter actually even read 1 mile before empty. I thought about shifting the car to neutral to literally coast into the gas station. The girl started to scream, “Daaaaaaad we’re running out of gas!!!! I laughed jokingly but deep down I was concerned and embarrassed that we actually could run out of gas.
The gas tank reading said stop for gas and did not change to the shameful number zero, but we all knew we were empty. As I pulled into the gas station, I had a sigh of relief. The girls continued to scold me and asked why did I do that? Why didn’t I take care of filling the tank earlier?
A 14-year-old and 9-year-old stated the absolute truth: How could I let that happen? I’m the leader and protector of the family. This caused great anxiety and angst for the girls. That prompted the topic of this blog: preparation of the controllables. How could I have missed filling the gas tank? How could I not have realized it was so low? How could I have not taken care of the simple task of filling the tank before heading home? It is inexcusable as a father and leader of the family to have this happen. That’s my responsibility.
This leadership point stretches and points to so many things. Take care of the things that you have easy control over. Like the beautiful serenity prayer that we learned when we were young:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
Manage, prepare, and control the controllables. There’s no excuse as a leader. Make your to-do list and get it done, especially the easy things. The hard ones, that maybe you don’t have total control over, or things that are out of your control can be challenging and may need more time. This one however was easy. I apologized to my girls and told them it wouldn’t happen again. I will definitely be more mindful.
This situation was not a dire need, but it could have been. What if we were on the interstate late at night? What if I had left my wallet at home and I didn’t have the resources to fill it up? All valid questions. Take care of the things that you can control in your life and get them done early and often.
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#LeadershipSparks: The Candle Story
Quote: “A good objective of leadership is to help those who are doing poorly to do well and to help those who are doing well to do even better.”