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Columns : In My Sights

Trapped on an Escalator

Are you giving up responsibility for achieving your career and life goals?

May 08, 2012  |  by Dave Smith - Also by this author

Illustration: Sequoia Blankenship
Illustration: Sequoia Blankenship

One of my favorite metaphorical videos is of two people going up an escalator that suddenly comes to a halt. They are both stunned and search for their cell phones and begin to scream for help. Finally, the lady says to the fellow "trapped" with her that she thinks she will cry. He simply replies, "Well, there is nothing left to do."

When discussing this in class the gang always agrees that a stopped escalator is called "Stairs!" I joke that these are the kinds of folks that call us to light their pilot light, or tell their neighbor to take his Christmas lights down. All they need to do is "step up the stairs, not stare up the steps," to steal a line from motivational speaker Zig Ziglar. Instead, they wait for someone to come and help them because they can't see their own ability to solve what we observers see as a minor delay.

But what if you are on the escalator? What if someone else is watching you wondering why you don’t just climb up and get where you want to go in your life? Psychologists call this your "locus of control," your sense of controlling your own future, your own happiness, your own life.

Too often people blame the commander, the sergeant, the department, a boyfriend, a girlfriend, a husband, a wife, or a partner, maybe even all eight of them for their unhappiness or unfilled dreams. Do you feel you need to get in shape, finish your degree, improve your shooting ability, find more time for your family, or stop being so miserable and find happiness, and are waiting for someone to come help? Maybe you are stuck on an escalator.

Heck, maybe I am. I was preparing for a class the other day when my wife, the Sarge, called and asked me about something I had wanted to do but had been putting off for quite a while. I had so many great excuses it was obviously not my fault; it was just going to have to wait; someday it would happen.

Fittingly, after hanging up I checked the next video in the PowerPoint I was preparing and suddenly two people appeared on an escalator. Holy Jung, talk about synchronicity. I was stuck on an escalator myself. I had the wonderful comfort of a good excuse and so I was waiting for someone to fix the escalator while I wondered what was taking the technician so long.

I suddenly flashed back to a class I had attended years ago where the trainer asked each of us to make a list of three things we wished we had more time for but just didn't. He had us write, "I wish I had more time for: 1…2…3." I wrote down: my kids, working out, and reading, in that order. What would you put in that list? In your head, pick three.

He then had us scratch out the first part of the sentence and write, "I don't care enough about…" Ouch! What an epiphany. I realized I was stuck on an escalator then and didn’t hesitate to change my priorities and run up the stairs to get my life rolling full steam ahead again.

Here I was staring up the steps, and all I had to do was start climbing? I realized that we all face issues in our lives that begin to generate inertia, and so we end up just standing, being carried along the escalator of life. Sometimes it takes everything coming to a stop to get us refocused, reenergized, and stepping up again.

We limit ourselves with excuses, and negative expectations about ourselves, or failing because we had unreasonable expectations that only made us feel helpless. If you think you should lose weight don't try to look like someone who isn't even your body type. If you're 45 and want to get in shape and you decide to win 5K races against razor-thin 20-year-olds you will be disappointed. But you can be in the best shape for you if just keep going and making demands of your body.

Make a list of three things you want to do or change, and then ask yourself why you can't or don't. Does a list of excuses start popping into your mind? Then ask yourself, are they true roadblocks, meaning you need to aim for a different outcome, or are you just standing on an escalator waiting for someone else to come solve your problem?

Take a weakness and make it a strength, and remember that the center of control of your life is in you. Start climbing.

Dave Smith is the creator of "Buck Savage" and a retired law enforcement officer from Arizona. Currently, he is the lead instructor for Calibre Press' Street Survival seminar.

Comments (9)

Displaying 1 - 9 of 9

Random @ 5/8/2012 7:14 AM

Thank you. This was fun.

Adrian Stroud @ 5/11/2012 6:06 AM

Great article Dave. Some of my fondest memories in the 80's are of watching you at Street Survival seminars as Buck Savage. I met you at a couple also. I always found that cops work so much overtime like roadjobs and doubles that you begin to feel like you're on a never ending treadmill. You work all the holidays and most of the weekends. The job requires great sacrifice.

Ima Leprechaun @ 5/11/2012 6:56 AM

Love your articles but my escalator is a very easy one its called money. Everyting else I have all the time in the world for. So if it costs nothing I can do it all I want to. So I blog and I read and I shower my wife with love. So as long as its free I am good to go. I wont go there here, but with my circumstances I am more stuck than a guy in hip deep quicksand. The more I struggle the deeper I go. But I still enjoy your slant on life.

Ima Leprechaun @ 5/11/2012 6:57 AM

Even a drowning man can laugh.

Henry Sherwood @ 5/11/2012 10:16 AM

:-) :-)

Lerningto Walk @ 5/12/2012 12:28 PM

This is a great article, especially at my agency where so many officers have been drug down, because of the environment. I will share and hopfully this will motivate them.

Gini Ann @ 5/14/2012 6:59 AM

If you find yourself in a hole, QUIT DIGGING!!!

Trainer @ 6/30/2012 8:19 AM

See the escalator training für for the Austrian police!

PSWInstitute @ 12/10/2012 5:12 AM

Thanks Dave...again. It's just what I needed.

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