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Elon Musk, Texting Behind the Wheel, and My Road to Responsibility

Tiny thought exercises that can transform your life

Elon Musk made me do it.

I tell myself that I only text and drive when my Tesla is on auto-pilot, but I know that’s not competely true. And even if it was, it’s still not safe.

My friend Neeraj Jain was over the other day and asked me a question. He asked, “If you were to wake up in the hospital, what would be the most likely reason?”

I didn’t have to think long, and I responded, “Texting and driving.”

He stared at me.

I stared back at him.

Then I said, “Oh shit. I have to stop texting and driving.”

You know the expression “scared straight”? That’s what happened to me in that moment. I know texting and driving isn’t safe, but heck, lots of things aren’t safe. I ride roller coasters, I take drugs, I criticize people on twitter. But until that tiny thought exercise, it didn’t occur to me that texting and driving was the single most dangerous thing that I did.

Later that day I started using Siri to send text messages that I deemed urgent while driving. I also told my kids that if they ever saw me using my phone while the car was moving, to call me on it. They both enthusiastically agreed, anticipating future blackmail opportunities.

This works for many other questions, both in de-risking your life and in increasing the odds of something positive happening.

After my friend left, I expanded the exercise, and asked myself the question, “You get a phone call that makes you very happy, what is it?”

My immediate thought was, “A call from a AAA hockey coach offering my son a spot on his team.”

As a hockey dad, I’m responsible making sure coaches know about my son. His biggest ambition is to make it to AAA, the highest level of kids hockey. I’ve got a spreadsheet of all the coaches in the region, with notes about past conversations with them and future plans. I text and email them, but I resist randomly picking up the phone and calling them. I procrastinate. I make excuses, ‘I’m sure they’re busy, they’ll respond to the texts’, but they rarely do.

After the thought exercise, I realized that getting that call was the single most positive thing that could happen to me. And I got on it, immediately calling several coaches.

Jesus, where has this motivation been all my life??

You can expand this to other questions. Here are a few to try.

Your spouse leaves you. What happened?

You lose your job. Why?

You receive a large check. What is it for?

You get really bad news on a phone call. What is it?

And in each of these cases, what is your reaction?

If the bad news is that a loved one passed away, you can decide to spend more time with them. If the job loss comes from a company-wide layoff, you can decide to look for another job now, rather than waiting.

Maybe don’t ask yourself all of these at the same time. You’ll have so much motivation and energy you might spontaneously combust before you get anything done. Ask yourself one of these questions, starting with waking up in a hospital. Decide what you’re going to do about it.

Then put a reminder on your phone to ask yourself one of these questions regularly.

Don’t wait. One minute. Start now.

And then if you really want some great karma, call up a friend and ask them, “If you woke up in a hospital, what would have most likely happened?”

  1. Inspiration for this post came from the great writing of Lucas Dellanna.

  2. If I had done this thought exercise first, I might not have made the biggest financial mistake of my life.

Thanks for reading!

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