Achieving Personal Success is as Easy as 3…2…1…Green!

It was not until I got to high school that things like the internet and cell phones started to become popular, and the popularity then pales in comparison to now. This means that, for the majority of my childhood, my parents had to entertain me the old-fashioned way. You know, we actually talked to one another.

Car rides are always particularly challenging for children to remain patient. When I was young, maybe 4, 5, or 6 years old, my father would frequently play the same game with me. I don’t know that we ever named it, but I look back on it fondly as “3…2…1…Green!” Whenever we stopped at a red light, it was my challenge to predict when the light would turn green. It sounds incredibly simple but, at that age, I found the task nearly impossible. Time and time again I would count down, “3…2…1…Green!” only to look up in disappointment as the traffic light continued to glow red.

Without fail, each time after a couple of my own misguided attempts, my father would casually swoop in, count down, “3…2…1…Green!” and like magic, the light would change.  I remember feeling so stunned, amazed, and slightly frustrated that he would always win. For those of you who know me, and as the rest of you will continue to learn, I do not accept failure. I hate to not to be as good at something as I’d like to be. This is the same drive that led me to, in junior high, teach myself to juggle baseballs while standing over my bed in a single night. But that is another story for another time.

I can remember back, even at such a young age, about how I tried to figure out how my father could flawlessly complete his feat. It made no sense at the time, but my progression of theories went something like this: First, I believed that my father had magic powers. He would always countdown at exactly the same pace and then dramatically point his finger to the light at the exact moment it changed. He must be able to control this, himself! I quickly dismissed that idea because I knew my father was a nice person, and if he could really make the light turn green whenever he wanted, a nice person would not make us sit at a red light longer than we had to! Not to mention that pointing never helped me. It must be something else.

I grew up in a small town in Connecticut. Not exactly your one-blinking-light-in-the-center-of-town small town, but we had a finite number of stop lights to be sure. Once I abandoned the magic hypothesis, I began to believe that, given the small number of options, my father had simply memorized exactly how long each light would take to change. I longed for the day when I could be that smart and have all of that knowledge.  But there were certain pieces that didn’t fit. For instance, if we pulled up to a light that was already red, how could he have known how much time remained? Not to mention I was totally baffled when he continued to correctly predict the changing of lights in other towns as well. There’s no way he memorized all of the traffic lights in the state, did he? Don’t even get me started on my bewilderment when he was able to do this when we went out of state on vacation, too.

I should point out that I did ask him at times how this could be done, and he refused to tell me. At the time I thought it was a mean thing to do, but looking back I realize that it fueled my drive for self-discovery. If it meant I could be as smart as my dad, I would memorize how long each stop light lasted, no matter how many years it would take. If he had simply told me the first time we played that he just waited until the adjacent traffic light turned yellow and began counting, the magic and the mystery would have been gone. Gone, too, would have been the sense of accomplishment I felt when I finally figured it out.

As I’ve lived in other places in this country, I realize now that some areas even have a visual countdown associated with the pedestrian crosswalk at the intersection. That certainly would have made things easier! Not to mention a cell phone app was launched recently that attempts to predict when traffic lights will change colors. Regardless of the method, I believe the message absolutely remains the same: sometimes the difference between where we are and where we want to be is not as insurmountable as we might think. It is the difference between believing that I needed to memorize the duration of every traffic light in the world and realizing one simple rule that could be applied to every traffic light.

The unknown absolutely can feel scary and overwhelming, but it is rarely as bad as we make it out to be in our own minds. Sometimes it might even seem like everyone else around us has it figured out and we are light years behind. I promise you, you’re not. The difference between the today you have and the tomorrow that you want may be just one newly discovered piece of information away.

What success would you strive for if you suddenly realized it could be that close? 3…2…1…GREEN!


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  1. Frankly Speaking – 5/19/14 | Frank Bevacqua, Ph.D. - […] Also recognize that, although it is an environment in which opportunities present themselves to learn how to be independent, …

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