I never realized how much I would miss my rear view mirror.

Well, we suffered a total shutdown in Atlanta courtesy of a couple inches of snow, a lot of ice and some poor planning by our governments and schools. Many folks lived in their cars stuck on the highways for 24 or more hours. I didn’t suffer that same fate. I suffered a worse fate.

Yes, I was adjusting the rear view mirror in my car on one of the coldest days of the recent Ice Age. And “snap.” The rear view mirror broke off in my hand. Still possessing skills sharply honed in my childhood, I immediately released the mirror and glanced left then right to make sure no one . . . especially my mom . . . saw me break the mirror.

So there the mirror dangled. And no amount of hand pressure or angling could force it back up on the windshield. Now, I know how the King’s Men felt when they tried to help Humpty Dumpty. It was futile.

Well, this will be good material for a blog I told myself. Immediately looking for that silver lining, I seized upon this hope. I would use this experience to prove once and for all that looking backward is not healthy. After all, the road is ahead of us . . . the task is ahead of us. Onward!

The grand experiment was on . . . I would drive without a rear view mirror and learn all I could from this experience. And the applications from my lessons to personal life and business life would be profound.

Okay, I was being a little dramatic. I did learn something but not nearly what I thought it would be. It is hard, scary, life threatening, stupid and downright silly to drive a car without a rear-view mirror. What the heck was I thinking?

You need a little feedback from the road behind you . . . those prior experiences. You need to be aware of your past. You need to know about that road behind which may include all form of cars, trucks and tractor-trailers barreling toward you. Are they going to come careening into your rear end if you decide to stop quickly at the yellow light? Side view mirrors are okay but they don’t give you the full view as you merge into that adjacent lane. And whether you think you need it or not, you do get a level of comfort from looking back every now and then at the road behind you.

In business, it still amazes me that some of us totally ignore past experiences. We seem to drive our business without a rear view mirror. We repeat the same mistakes. Maybe we jumped too quickly into a new product line, a new location or a new business . . . maybe we didn’t do enough investigation of the market place . . . maybe we cut before we realized the breadth of the implications.

But hey, look at that road ahead. It sure looks promising. And, if I don’t beat the car or business next to me to that next intersection, I will miss the opportunity. The light will go to red before I get there. So pedal to the metal . . . oops, a policeman was parked behind me; oops that marketplace wasn’t as deep as I thought; oops that employee really was valuable and the salary savings from that reduction wasn’t nearly worth the loss.

So I learned something that I never thought I would say: “I love my rear view mirror.”  Now, I don’t use it to drive the road in front of me. But it sure gives me a lot of good feedback from the road behind me.

What is your rear view mirror: an advisory board who reminds you of prior experiences both within your company and within the industry, a good set of data developed over the years . . . what is your rear view mirror? We all need a rear view mirror that is small enough that it doesn’t block our view of the road ahead but large enough that it reminds us of past experiences that should inform current and future decisions.

Yep, you bet. I am getting my rear view mirror fixed.