The Dull Hum of the Highway

There’s this place in Hocking Hills, Ohio near Rose Lake that is so peaceful, that I find myself yearning to return to it well before our regularly scheduled family visit in the fall.

The forest floor is covered with an inch of red-orange pine needles that once dropped from tall, fragrant pine trees. The sun dances in between the swaying evergreens and the only thing you can hear is the slight sound of the still attached, green needles whispering to each other as the wind gently moves them.

There is literally nothing else you can hear, if you are still, silent, and you close your eyes.

I thought about this scene the other day when I was waiting for my daughter at lacrosse practice and the dull hum of the nearby highway challenged my ability to focus on the work I was attempting to do in my car on my laptop.

Have you ever felt like this? Have you ever felt like there was something else passively distracting you from your ability to focus?

Based on the hundreds of conversations I have had with the CEOs of startups and growth-focused businesses, I suspect you have. Many of you have told me that it’s hard to stay focused.

In my opinion, after taking care of your health, it’s the second most important job you have as the CEO of a startup and growth-focused business.


Well, when we started our company, I grew fond of a book that I think explains it clearly. In his 2005 book, “The One Thing You Need to Know…About Great Managing, Great Leading, and Sustained Individual Success,” Marcus Buckingham suggests that clarity is the preoccupation of the effective leader.

I agree.

He suggests that there are four points of clarity that a leader must ALWAYS be working on:

  • Who do we serve?
  • What is our core strength?
  • What is our core score?
  • What actions can we take today?

Many of you know, this is not easy when you are the Founder & CEO of a fast growing business. Things change constantly.

My point is that there is NO ONE else but you who is charged with this key responsibility.

No one.

So, why don’t we spend more time on this second most important endeavor? Why is it hard for us to focus on these questions?

Well, there are lots of reasons. I think one that we often don’t think about is the “dull hum of the highway.”

It’s really hard to find “silence” like I am fortunate to experience in the pine tree lined hills of Hocking Hills, Ohio. But, silence is what we sometimes need to answer these questions. It’s helpful to identify those passive distractors that rob you of the”silence” you need to reach clarity on the major issues you face at CEO.

I want to encourage you to be silent for just 15 minutes this week.

What do you hear?

What are those things that are like the gentle hum of the highway in the background – not distracting you enough for you to readily notice it, but there nonetheless, taking you off your second most important role as Founder & CEO, Chief Clarity Officer. It may not be a highway noise, it may be a relationship that needs attention. It may be too much “stuff” in your work environment. It  may be too many non-core tasks. It may be important, unfinished business. It may even be a vice that drains you.

Once you have figured it out, send me an email and let me know if you have been able remove them and the impact it has on your ability to reach clarity on the key issues listed above.

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