London cabbie or bus driver…

London streets are messy. Unlike most American cities, London streets are mostly angled, curved, filled with crazy circles, and tons of dead ends. And, the Thames river runs down the middle of it all. So, when people like me head over for work or play we are really happy to hop into the big, black, boxy car and forget about driving. In London, you can count on your cabbie; NYC, not so much. You see, London cabbies have to pass a crazy, hard test before they’re licensed. To get licensed the cabbie has to master a list of 320 runs and then keep working to play with ways around the final quarter mile or so. It’s estimated within the 6 mile radius of Charing Cross there are 25,000 streets and the prospective cabbie has to know ’em all. Over half the prospective drivers drop out during the testing.

London cabbies go through a rendering.

The result of this rendering is the worlds finest team of cab drivers. As a foreigner who has visited a few cities around the globe, I concur that the London cabbie is a cut above. They’ve been tested. They’ve been challenged. They live in a chaotic city with unique challenges and they make it look easy. It is not. Why is the London cabbie a cut above, I wonder. According to Eleanor Maguire, a neuroscientist at University College London, it’s because they’ve got a better brain. Eleanor studies brains for a living and she studies loads of London cabbies, cabbiewannabes, and normal Londonites who have nothing to do with cabs at all. The London cabbies have huge hippo’s (hippocampus) because that part of their brain is where navigational know how is stored. The cabbiewannabes who couldn’t make the cut and the normal Londonites have, well, normal hippo’s. When dear Eleanor compares the London cabbie to the London bus driver, guess what – big diff. The London bus driver may be driving the same crazy matrix of circles, one ways and dead ends, but he/she always runs the same route. The brain doesn’t grow just because you repeatedly exercise it. You’ve got to surprise it, challenge it, and make it uncomfortable to force it to find the best way around. This is why we run BTL practices “just this side of chaos.” We are trying to build London cabbie equivalents. We want our practice participants to learn their best way ’round – not mindlessly follow mine.

So, what about you. Are you making yourself a master of your domain through challenging skill development and stretch assignments or are you just showing up, and mindlessly running the same old routes day after day after day. If your aim is mastery, you’re gonna have to chase down some blind alleys and embrace a few twists and turns along the way. Obstacles are gonna pop up on certain days and you’re gonna have to adjust on the fly. Life isn’t a bus ride. You’ve got to navigate new routes, new destinations, and figure things out as you go. I’m headed to London later this summer. Good to know a master navigator awaits my arrival. Good.

London cabbie or bus driver – what kinda brain you building…

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