The Fast Track Trap

During the 1980’s and 90’s it was considered a badge of honor to be on the “fast track.” It meant you were going places fast. While everyone else was riding the stodgy “commuter bus” of life to an uncertain future, you were riding the bullet train to success. But whose success were you achieving? And was it worth the price you paid?

If you were a fast tracker, you didn’t have time to stop and smell the roses, spend time with your family, enjoy a hobby or focus on work that truly satisfied you. No. Every second was focused on determining what looked good, of the public perception of what success looked like and strictly adhering to that model. If that meant having a certain type of car, wardrobe, education, portfolio or job, you did whatever it took to get it and mirrored exactly what was expected. Unfortunately, the reflection that many fast trackers saw when they looked in the mirror wasn’t their reflection at all, it was a corporate one. And, as many people discovered during the corporate downsizing that occurred during this time, if you are cut free from the only identity you believe you have, it can be frightening to look in the mirror and not know what you see anymore.

It’s time to examine what is important to you so you can pursue the goals that will have true meaning in your life. It won’t matter what the rest of the world thinks or does at that point. If you forge your own path based on the driving determination that comes from within, you will have a greater chance of success and true happiness. As General Patton once said, “Lead, follow or get out of the way.”

Are you not sure if you fit into the category of a fast tracker? Take a look at some formerly supposed dream jobs I had and see if yours fit any of the following criteria: 1) worked for a credible company, admired by most people, 2) it was the best company in the world at what they do, 3) people respected and looked up to me because of who I worked for, 4) worked in a variety of overseas locations, 5) worked for some of the best 5-star resort hotels in the world, 6) traveled to unusual third world locations for work, 7) made good money and 8) worked with bright people.

Some of you might recognize the trappings: 1) faster pace of life, 2) material rewards, 3) admiration from others, 4) top company, 5) good money. Unfortunately, those of us who got caught on the fast track of life didn’t know how to get off.

If you’re like many people, the decision to step off the fast track is a difficult one because you’ve invested a lot of time, money and effort to get where you are. The problem is, as a fast-tracker you have no option to slow down, to rest on your laurels and enjoy the fruit of your labor. The fast track doesn’t allow anyone to slow down. It is a treadmill that continues to speed up and your only choice is to focus on what it demands or step off and focus on what would satisfy you. Albert Camus said, “Real generosity toward the future consists in giving all to what is present.”

It is a tough decision. Image, the public perception of who you are is a powerful personal motivator. It’s what makes many work 12-16 hours a day, regularly commute 2-3 hours one way, give up activities they enjoy and relationships they treasure. But then one day you realize the only way to hold onto this image is to keep running. Like a priest, you forfeit all other desires in your devotion to this god of success. You may be home alone in a quiet moment or caught in yet another traffic jam thinking of all you could be doing if you weren’t trapped amid a sea of cars. And suddenly it hits you. This isn’t the way you want to live your life. It’s time for a change.