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The Illusion of Progress 

I was hurrying through the airport, wheeling my baggage behind me and racing between terminals to make my connection. The airport was full of people doing the same thing. I came upon one of those moving walkways designed to make distances a little shorter. The walkways generally have a rule: walk on the left, stand on the right. Frequent travelers know the score but the grandparents making their annual visits, the college students on Spring break, the foreign tourists coming to America for the first time sometimes need to be instructed. As I weaved my way through them I started to think about why people stand on the moving walkway instead of continuing to walk. It has to do with the illusion of progress.

As I stand unthinking on the conveyor belt I feel like Iím moving forward. I would never just stop and stand still in the middle of the airport because I would feel like I wasnít going anywhereóeven though it would take me exactly the same amount of time to get where Iím going if I walked on the conveyor belt and stood still in the middle of the airport for 30 seconds. But on the conveyor belt I have the illusion of progress.

When I get a raise in salary every year I have the illusion of progressóeven if that money does nothing more than buy the same goods it did last year at inflated prices. But itís really standing still on the moving walkway. Real progress only exists when I am clear about my goals and have tangible ways to measure my progress in that direction.

The Level-3 player will be playing with a lot of people standing still on the moving walkway. Itís easy to take their standing still as evidence that standing still is OK, and even easier to interpret passing them as evidence that real progress is being made. But I am the only one who can judge my own progress, my own success at living my life purpose. Iím the only one who knows what gate my plane is departing from because Iím the only one who gets to decide where Iím going.

Richard Brodie
April 2000