Thursday, May 2, 2013

Trip Wires and Tell-Tale Signs


The fuel gauge in my old car is busted. It registers Full all the time. This can be more than a little disconcerting when you drive as many miles as I drive…I start asking the question, “How Full am I?”

I was telling a good friend about it and he mentioned that he’d had it happen a couple of times with different vehicles. He said, “I just punch the trip button and figure that I can drive 250-300 miles before I have to fill up.”

Now granted, the number of miles you can drive before it’s time to fill up depends on how many miles your car gets to a gallon of gas and how many gallons your tank holds. I immediately understood the strategy and it has saved me the cost of a repair, at least for now.

What I loved about his solution was the simplicity, the logic and the ingenuity. Something has gone wrong or is headed in the wrong direction—the fuel gauge—and if you use this solution it tells you when to do what you need to do.

It’s a trip wire.

The military uses trip wires outside camps for security. It’s a thin wire stretched a few inches above the ground. When an intruder trips (that’s where the name originated) over the wire it sends up an alarm.

We all have trip wires in our lives. Situations, actions, comments, alerts and behaviors that send up alarms. The problem is we often don’t pay attention to them.

I got on the scales a minute ago. When I get on the scales there should be a sound like the loud klaxon horn you hear when a nuclear blast is imminent. But, there’s no klaxon. There’s only the sound of my voice in my head saying, “PBJ for breakfast? OK!”

Creating your own trip wire in a life situation is not a bad idea. It would send up an alarm alerting you to tread carefully.

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