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Two Traffic Lights

As I write the first draft of this post, my family and I are on vacation in Australia.

Yesterday, we drove to the beach, and on our way back home we got stuck in some rush hour traffic.

Our son then said, "I hate Australia!"

Big words. My wife and I asked why ...

"Because there's so much traffic!"

At this point we hadn't even been in the country for 24 hours.

Apparently we haven't driven around with our son too much back in Canada. I think he believes that traffic is a rare species found only in Australia.

My wife and I realized later, he did have a point.

We were stuck at a few lights that seemed to take much longer than they do in Canada.

When we got home, we asked my Mother-in-law about this. She usually knows these kinds of things.

It turns out, the lights do take longer to change in Australia! Our son was right!

Apparently though, this is by design.

Let's explore.

Sidenote: I am not a professional traffic engineer. I am just a sucker for a good metaphor.

Canadian Lights

The lights in Canada change fairly quickly.

This is great if you're close to the front of the line, and it's not if you're at the back.

It's a bit stop-and-go, but there's still some go in there so it creates the illusion of forward movement.

Obviously, not all lights in Canada operate this way. Please refer to my sidenote above.

Let's call this approach to traffic light design, the incremental approach.

In the incremental approach, you do things bit by bit. Eventually it will get done, and it will take some time.

Australian Lights

The lights in Australia are painfully slow to change.

But, when you get a green light, whether you're at the front or the way in the back, it doesn't matter, you're getting through.

Let's call this, the intense approach.

You're either completely stopped, or you're fully in flow. There is no stop-and-go.

Apparently, the lights in Australia are designed this way because they create a greater overall flow of traffic.

Your Choice

A little effort and a little rest, or complete effort and complete rest?

Incremental or intense?

With any good binary, there is rarely one answer.

By default, I think our surroundings have set us up for the incremental life.

When was the last time you did one thing for 90 minutes without distraction? Sleep doesn't count.

The intense approach is hard. You have to get over big feelings—like the ones that cause you to yell out, "I hate Australia!"

If you have a chance, try to play around with these two approaches in different dimensions of your life.

In the mean time, I will leave you with a quote I read recently.

Life is a well of deep waters. One can come to it with small buckets and draw only a little water, or one can come with large vessels, drawing plentiful waters that will nourish and sustain.

navy background, with two geometric traffic lights on it

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