The Steel Pole Theory


Today’s Topic: The Steel Pole Theory

Last week I wrote about “The Ostrich Theory” – not putting your head in the sand when trouble comes your way. “The Steel Pole Theory” has almost the same message, but taken from a slightly different perspective. You most likely subscribe to this particular theory in some fashion or another; if you’re at all like me, “The Steel Pole Theory” might actually be – although you probably don’t label the thought with the same title as I do – the most important driving factor in your life. Let me explain…

As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, I used to work in the restaurant business. Near the end of that particular career, the restaurant chain sent me out as a trainer when opening new locations. This was a national chain and they had specific structural and design requirements for each restaurant. To open the training, I would walk the few dozen newly hired employees around the restaurant and discuss the various thoughts behind these distinct structural and design features.

When we walked from the front of the restaurant towards the kitchen, people’s heads would be swiveling at the busyness of the design; the goal was to create a chaotic and lively environment for the clientele, and there was nothing subtle about the look. When we arrived at the entrance to the back of the restaurant, we would stop in the center of a wide open walkway that was the very busy intersection of server, busboy, bartender, and kitchen traffic coming out from the kitchen, service bar, and cashier station, and coming in from the tables. This intersection was the hub of activity for the restaurant – and a floor to ceiling, one foot wide, steel pole was erected in the exact center of that hub.

The reason for the steel pole, of course, was so everybody would have to keep their heads up to avoid it, thus avoiding each other. If people’s heads were down, it would be easy to disrupt this organized and flowing artery of activity with the inevitable collision of fast moving food-and-drink-carrying bodies.

By “The Steel Pole Theory”, or by any other name, in life, I tend to keep my head up and notice what’s going on around me all the time, everyday. I do so not necessary to avoid trouble, but rather so I won’t miss experiencing all the beautiful and wondrous activity around me.

Keep your head up.

Here are a few movie quotes that come to mind on the subject…

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” –Matthew Broderick in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

“You know we just don’t recognize the most significan moments of our lives while they’re happening. Back then I thought, well, there’ll be other days. I didn’t realize that that was the only day.” –Burt Lancaster in Field of Dreams

“Sometimes you can have a whole lifetime in a day and never notice that this is as beautiful as it gets.” –Robin Williams in The World According to Garp

And this is not a spoken quote, but rather a screen title from the very famous 1927 movie The Jazz Singer which I think beautifully illustrates the idea of keeping your head up and paying attention…

“For those whose faces are turned toward the past, the years roll by unheeded.”