By Steven Pressfield | Published: August 22, 2012
I’ve been traveling overseas for the past few weeks, and one of things I’ve encountered is a vehicle navigation system called WAZE. WAZE has a couple of cool features that I’d never seen before. (Forgive me if this kind of system is old-hat to you; it was blockbuster, earth-shaking news to me.)
First, WAZE takes traffic into account in real time. Accidents, speed traps, construction delays; WAZE is on the case, suggesting alternative routes and automatically recalculating your ETA. It presents you with three choices of route, including the estimated time-to-destination of each. “Ah, it’s 21.6 minutes by Route A and 24.7 minutes taking Route B.” I liked that.
Then there was the Girl From WAZE. The voice that guided you. If you missed your destination (say, within some crazy maze of one-way streets in an inner city), she would instantly recalculate and tell you how to zig and zag to get back on target.
But the best part was that she didn’t get mad at you.
I’m so used to the frenetic, accusatory voice in my own head that, each time I cruised cluelessly past a destination into a labyrinth of Third World lanes and alleys, I was waiting for the Girl From WAZE to screech, “You idiot! I told you to turn right! Now look what you’ve got us into!”
Instead the Girl continued without judgment or condemnation. “In two hundred meters, turn right … then turn right again.” I liked that.
The Girl From WAZE got me thinking about self-talk. About the voice in my own head. Man, it would be great if I could reconfigure that voice into a friendly, knowledgeable, non-judgmental assistant/mentor/Muse like the Girl From WAZE.
The Girl From WAZE had a wonderful tone to her voice. Professional, focused, cool and collected. You felt that she was there for you only. She was not texting her girlfriends or checking her stock portfolio. She wasn’t multi-tasking. When she declared, “At the next roundabout, take the second exit,” you felt like she was there at Control Center, glued to the Big Board. Her intent was entirely to help you.
I was glad, too, that the voice was a woman. If it had been a guy, the vibes would’ve been different. A man’s voice would’ve pissed me off. It would’ve triggered my competitive instincts. “Who does this sonofabitch think he is?” I would be saying to myself, “Bossing me around like this!” (A female driver might feel differently, I suppose. She might like a male voice.) But for me, a woman was perfect.
The last great thing was that the Girl From WAZE spoke with an English accent. Not too English. Just English enough. Clean and crisp (so I could understand it), professional (like a flight attendant), with just the right balance between authoritativeness and helpful, friendly deference.
I found the voice kinda sexy. When I got out of the car, I missed it. I wished the Girl From WAZE could have followed me back to the hotel. “At the closet, take down your gym stuff and go for a nice workout.” I wouldn’t have minded if she tossed in the odd bit of praise. “You look particularly fetching in that houndstooth.” Or even a dash of concern. “Be careful crossing the dining room floor; the cleaning crew occasionally leaves a slick spot.” Nor would a dollop of love have gone unappreciated. “Please don’t stay too long at that dinner meeting; I miss you when you’re gone.”
The subject here, of course, is self-talk. The Girl From WAZE was great because she never judged or condemned, as the voices in our own heads sometimes do. When you screwed up, she did not take you to task. Nor did she panic. She was resourceful. When we got lost, she immediately turned her attention not to blame or recrimination but to how to get us un-lost. And she did it. Instantly and infallibly.
As artists and entrepreneurs seeking perfection, it’s easy for you and me to get caught up in internal self-flagellation when we fall short. “That was the crappiest plie I’ve ever seen!” And we can lose focus on the target. Did we start this business to do some good in the world or just to screw people and make money?
The Girl From WAZE didn’t fall into these traps. “In eight hundred meters, bear right.” I liked that. It was fun having her with me in the car. I worked better. I didn’t grind my molars as much. The Girl From WAZE was my secular Muse.
I missed her when she was gone.