Make each day better than the last

by Mark Lee

First, I would like to wish you all a happy and prosperous New Year. I know we’re already a month into 2014, so we can get down to business of making a difference this year now that all the get fit or quit smoking type resolutions have fallen by the wayside. There’s a reason these resolutions fail and it’s because we never actually wanted to go to the gym or quit the smokes, but we felt we had to do something to herald the start of a new year.

We have the rest of the year in front of us now so it would be good to start off as we mean to go on. Now I don’t mean repeating what we did last year, however successful that may have been, I mean by making improvements to that and making this the best year ever. We’re a month in already, so we have a good idea of what the year holds in store for us.

We really should be trying to work out a way to make improvements in everything we do. A lot of small positive changes can have a huge effect overall.

It’s a bit of a cliché, I know, but the best way to achieve change is to review what we have done in the past and try to improve upon it – not just at this time of year, but on a daily basis. After all, every day is a fresh start. No matter how bad things were yesterday, today we have a chance to put things right and we have an (almost) infinite number of tomorrows to repeat the exercise.

I used to shake my head at statements like that. I thought it was a bunch of happy clappy nonsense, usually said by one of those really annoying people who wake up smiling and full of life, when most of the rest of us are in a zombie-like state until our caffeine levels are topped up sufficiently.

As much as it pains me to admit, the happy clappers are right; we do get a fresh start every single day. The kids have a new saying: YOLO (You Only Live Once). Except you don’t. You live every day, so it should really be YODO (You Only Die Once), but that’s a bit pessimistic, however true it may be.

So what does this have to do with trucks and trucking? Simple, we should all look back on what we have done to get us to where we are today. None of us have been perfect and if we look back at the past we can avoid making the same mistakes in the future. Looking back at some of our past mistakes could, in some cases, be quite amusing, but every single mistake will also reveal a way that we could have avoided it and that’s what we use to improve what we do or how we do it.

Generally speaking I think the trucking industry is quite easy to fix, when we look back on why things are the way they are now, it’s because we’ve complicated things unnecessarily. We need to get back to basics.

A perfect example of this is NASA. They spent millions of dollars and countless man-hours developing a pen for their astronauts that would write upside down in zero gravity. The Russians just gave their cosmonauts a pencil.

In place of zero gravity, we in the trucking industry have KPIs and Risk Management Strategies. They focus our attention and we run the risk of losing sight of our target. We need to concentrate on doing what we are supposed to do: moving freight. When we do that properly, all the buzzwords you can think of will be taken care of. We don’t need to think outside the box, we need to think about what’s inside the box and get it to where it is supposed to be, on time and in good condition.

When it comes down to it, that’s all we need to do: pick stuff up on time and take it where it’s needed, when it’s needed. Anything else is just complicating things for the sake of it. The more complications we add, the more we increase the risk of something going wrong.

As with the NASA example, just because a technology or idea exists, it doesn’t mean we have to use it. The wheel has already been invented, trying to reinvent it will only bring problems we don’t need. Sure we need to innovate and improve what we do, but not at the expense of actually getting the job done.

There really is no need for weekly power meetings, with everyone concentrating on saying the right thing at the right time. Talking the talk may make everyone feel happy, but talk is cheap, there’s far more potential for future success by doing the right thing at the right time.

We don’t need fancy ideals. We should all have a strategy for everything we do and there is a one-size-fits-all strategy: simply do a better job tomorrow than the one we did today.

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  • Mark, Great article.
    As a former long haul driver for many years I can’t say that I didn’t have the odd bad day on the road but the good ones outweighed the bad.
    I tried not to dwell on stuff and to look for something that would bring a smile to my soul.
    Like: After a nerve racking drive trying to get to a place to park in the freezing rain and the next morning you crawl out of the bunk and the rising sun has turned the whole area to crystal!
    Or the car that spun out trying to get past you on a slushy highway gives you a thumbs up (not the finger) for missing him, sure I could have dwelled on what an idiot he was for days, instead I chose to ” Thank God” and move on.
    I never cared for winter driving but some times in the early evening as the sun was going down the snow would take on a pink tint for a half hour or so, that short period of time was just the most calming to me, to just shut of the radio & CB and just listen to the “horses” work made it all seem worthwhile.
    We’ve all heard the drivers who have “been everywhere seen every thing” still going on about something that happened days ago! If they spent that time looking for the good stuff when the bad stuff happens it wouldn’t be so hard to deal with.

    Trying to keep on the sunny side,

    Bev Plummer
    Prof Driver Ret