The Life Lessons in Canyons and Wind Turbines

Posted on July 31, 2014

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I’ve taken advantage of summer weather and the nearly pothole-free highways of the South and Southwest to do a lot of automotive traveling in recent weeks—a LOT of traveling.

Over an 18-day period, my family and I drove from Dallas, Texas, to Columbia, S. Carolina, then to the rhythmically paired cities of Asheville and Nashville, on to Little Rock and Oklahoma City, and reached our ultimate destination of Santa Fe, New Mexico. A week later we drove down through the alien-ated community of Roswell, across West Texas and home to Dallas.

While I’ve driven all over the Great Lakes region and much of the East Coast, in this first west-bound car trip nothing surprised me more than the occasionally tumultuous and always immeasurable landscapes of Texas and New Mexico. Here’s what we discovered:

  • Hundreds upon hundreds of wind turbines transforming breezy West Texas plains, best known for their oil production, into electrical generation sites. If you think wind power is still an experimental energy source, a visit to West Texas will quickly update your perceptions.
  • Humongous areas of pastureland and sagebrush, much of it fenced to create ranches that must extend for thousands of acres. Perfectly flat fields gave us views extending many, many miles in every direction, and we all shouted out when we finally spotted a lone steer or an occasional small herd that had congregated at a watering hole.
  • Mesas in New Mexico that powered up from the landscape to form flat mountains exposing geological layering and a natural skyline over miles of desolation.
  • Truly immense chasms in two places. Near Taos, New Mexico, the Rio Grande has carved a gorge of dizzying depth, with the river running 650 feet below the nation’s fifth-highest bridge—perhaps a source of the phrase, “gorge-ous view.” And in the Texas panhandle, the little-known Palo Duro Canyon State Park allows exploration by car, foot or horseback of the nation’s second-largest canyon, an amazing collection of cliffs, peaks, natural stone fortresses and creek-crossed valleys.

I calculate I’ve visited 40 of the 50 states over decades of assignments across America, but I’m still encountering sights I’ve never anticipated. These kinds of experiences can offer some life lessons in which executives, communicators, students and residents all may share equally:

  • Don’t make judgments about people, products or places until you’ve driven down the path where they originated and reside. One person’s everyday power source is another’s miraculous spin on alternative energy.
  • We’re setting our expectations too low. America and American ingenuity hold immense potential for surprising us with new perspectives, new technology and new opportunities. Look at your current business plan and raise your expectations 50 percent—you’ll view the path ahead with new, more eager eyes.
  • We have more space to grow than you’ll ever know. If you think you or your business has reached capacity, visit the pastures and scrublands of the Southwest. Your boundaries will be blown away and the dimensions of potential redefined.

Next week, we drive back to South Carolina, then Kentucky and Illinois. I know these regions pretty well, but during this trip I’ll open my eyes to the possibilities I may have been missing by focusing on my preconceptions of our destination instead of the potential of our journey

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