Staying in my lane

Management professor’s secret sauce to success

Kasey Thompson worked throughout her life to succeed in the business world. Photo provided by: Kasey Thompson

As a guest faculty contributor for The Torch, an editor asked me to consider writing about how I navigated the waters of corporate America, rising to the position of Director of Global Menu Strategy for one of the world’s largest, most profitable corporations.

More specifically, to expound on how I maneuvered through these ranks as a Black woman. I get asked that question often, and my answer is now consistent and direct, “After much trial and error, and many lessons in survival as a business leader, I ultimately learned how to stay in my lane.” I wrote about this philosophy in greater detail in my book “Fall Down, Gritty Up: The Unconventional Mental Map for Becoming Your Own Hero,” and I want to share an excerpt on that concept in this article as well.

When most people hear the phrase “stay in your lane,” they think of it in a negative, restrictive, constrictive way. “You don’t belong over here, so stay in your lane over there”—that’s what we tell people who seem to be overstepping their bounds. From this standpoint, staying in your lane takes on a negative connotation. That’s why embracing the concept seems strange at first—it runs against the current of modern thinking.

In my opinion, however, staying in your lane is one of the most freeing, empowering aspects of living—one of the most liberating things you can do. Staying in your lane means knowing who you are and what you stand for. It offers freedom, and all it takes to accomplish that freedom is understanding what your lane is, what it looks and feels like, what your lane allows and doesn’t allow.

What do you like or dislike?

What are your passions and goals?

What will you accept—and what will you refuse to accept? How do you want to be treated?

Identifying the answers to these questions helps define the parameters of your lane—and frees you to find all the success you deserve.

Staying in my lane allows me to gather and understand the guiding principles that steer my life. Staying in my lane, therefore, becomes my guide, my path, my True North. It allows me to steer clear of a lot of the minutia—all the trivial things, the garbage. It keeps me from becoming distracted by someone else’s lane, from swerving into what other people may want or expect from me. Knowing my lane grounds me, keeps me real and reduces the allure to be fake. It leads me down the pathway to staying true to my core values, my purpose and myself.

These guidelines help keep me out of harm’s way. These guidelines keep me from veering off into the ditch. These guidelines help me live courageously, without fear.

I believe that living outside of our lane is a great way to smother one’s true self. Leaving your lane for prolonged periods is like driving into dense smog—you can’t see the road ahead clearly, and the air becomes suffocating. Meanwhile, the path of your own lane is crystal clear. There’s less traffic, fewer obstructions in your path, and less trash and junk cluttering the roadside. In your own lane, you can move freely, keeping a firm grip on the wheel, and you can stay in greater balance.

Driving in somebody else’s lane throws off our equilibrium. We wonder why we’re stressed or unhappy. Veering out of our lane into someone else’s feels gross, because their lane does not align with who we are. It’s dangerous territory for us, and that accounts for why we keep stumbling, tripping up, and running into unseen obstacles that are not natural in our familiar habitat.

Our bodies, our minds, our values, our ideals, our guiding principles weren’t designed to thrive in the wrong environment. Veering into the wrong lane might lead us on a collision course or a path of destruction; we might run out of gas or end up at a dead end.

Our own well-defined lane, on the other hand, is our path to strength and freedom. It gives us value-driven boundaries, and these boundaries create safety. Without them, chaos reigns.

When you understand your core values, staying in your lane lets you steer away from the detours that can derail your life. In essence, it becomes a liberating and monumental act that frees your spirit in an invigorating, magical way.

So again, my nugget of wisdom to anyone willing to learn from my successes (and stumbles), is when you know your lane, keeping both your hands firmly on the wheel will keep you where you need to be—on the road to your success.

Excerpts From Fall Down, Gritty Up

Dr. Kasey Lynn

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