Locomotives and Cabooses
I finally confided in a mentor that I couldn’t handle this guy any more. Something had to change or we wouldn’t be successful. That’s when I was taught a life lesson I’d never forget. He told me that some of us are locomotives and some of us are cabooses. When a locomotive pulls a caboose over a hill, he said, it might go slower than it ever has. It will definitely go slower than it has the ability to. But that caboose, when being pulled, will go faster than it ever has before and certainly faster than it has the ability to on it’s own. The lesson was clear to me and perfect for those circumstances. I’d like to say the rest of our time together was a blissful success, but it wasn’t. It was better though, and I was more patient with the situation and more understanding of my colleague.
So maybe this is where you sit back and say “Ah, I’m definitely a locomotive. I’m pulling poor, slow cabooses over hills they can’t possibly overcome themselves!” And maybe I did too. But now, years later, I don’t think my mentor meant to tell me I was a locomotive ALL the time. Only then, at that time, to THAT CABOOSE was I a locomotive. In reality at that very moment, I was also a caboose. Remember? I was at my breaking point and I didn’t think I could continue. I needed someone to get me over the hill.
There’s No Shame In the Caboose
Locomotives are big and powerful and strong, it’s true. But what good are they if they have nothing to pull? Or take endless trips to transport goods? A locomotive needs the caboose as much as the caboose needs the locomotive. Of course If people were train cars then being the caboose is what shapes you and prepares you for the opportunity to be a locomotive. Because when you’re the caboose you need someone to show you, teach you, pull you, and get you over the mountain. These experiences prepare you with the know-how and grit to be an example, a mentor and a leader to others. After learning to carry the load, learning to find your way through and learn when to let yourself be pulled up the mountain … then you’ll become a locomotive.
Look around you, there are lots of opportunities to be a locomotive for others. But don’t forget to seek out the opportunity to be the caboose. For the better you are at being a caboose, the better you’ll be at being a locomotive.
When have you been a locomotive? When have you been the caboose and what did you learn?
Greer Method Complete Coaching provides one on one coaching for executives and business owners. Through expert coaches, habit locking technology, and proven processes we help leaders create, manage, and sustain personal and professional performance. Jared J. Greer is the founder of Greer Method Complete Coaching. He is an executive coach, 6-time Ironman finisher, marathoner, ultra-marathoner, husband, and father of four.