First Learn to Steer, Then Go Fast

During this season of my life I am incredibly fortunate to be the steward and occupant of Hickory Hall, an off-grid 1870s log cabin in rural northern Alabama, owned by my good friend Lawrence. I met Lawrence in 2018 when we were both organizing with the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival. When pandemic isolation was weighing heavy on my spirit, he graciously offered me Hickory Hall as a port in the pandemic storm. Lawrence has wild curly white hair, a mischievous sense of humor, and a huge heart.

He’s also a bricoleur. According to Janisse Ray in her beautiful memoir, Ecology of a Cracker Childhood:

bricoleur, a term given by French anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss to folk recyclers, people of creativity, vision, and skill who use castaways for purposes other than those originally intended, sometimes for art. Theirs is a native genius — as Joe Graham explains in his paper about milusos, meaning thousand uses, of Mexico — that goes beyond simply making do with what one has. Native geniuses are ‘able to take the materials and technology at hand and solve complex problems.’

Given Lawrence’s native genius and proclivity for collecting all things useful and potentially useful, I was not surprised when he showed up one day last week with a battery-operated adult tricycle. We had a good time laughing at me trying to learn how to ride the thing — it is surprisingly unintuitive! While Lawrence was still coaching me and I was still trying to figure out the finer points of turning right (imagine a dog chasing its tail, but a grown woman riding a tricycle) I asked him when we might attach the battery and let ‘er rip. I was clearly not yet ready to let ‘er rip, so Lawrence matter of factly pointed out that I needed to learn to steer before I could go fast.

And oh boy, did that little nugget of wisdom smack me upside the head.

During this season of my life I have also been struggling on my entrepreneurship journey. Lost in the woods, adrift at sea, gripped by self judgment, doubt, insecurity — the whole bit. I have imbued my work with an almost frantic quality — gotta go gotta go gotta go, gotta make something happen, gotta figure this out, gotta get moving. Lawrence’s simple reminder jolted me back to the present moment and more prescient questions — where am I, who am I, what am I steering, and where am I going?

I am finding that for me, one of the greatest obstacles to really sitting with these questions is my tendency to compare (also one of the greatest thieves of joy). In my rush to figure out how to “do it” like everyone else is, or like how I am supposed to, or like how I think I should, I have lost my self-focus and my faith in my co-creative relationships with the Universe. I have lost my spaciousness and softness and patience. Instead of clarifying my narrative, my offering, and my vehicle(s) for showing up in the world, I have been agonizing about how much I am producing and how quickly I am getting to this place that when I stop to think about it, I don’t really know where or what that place is.

Lawrence’s wisdom (which was really just plain truth) was the simple reminder that I needed to slow down, look inside, and reorient from frenetic to flow, from fear to focus. Instead of allowing comparison to feed the voice of judgment, now is the time to ask for help, get more clear about what it is that I am moving forward, and learn how to steer it before trying to go fast.