Just a thought: Changing the world with an orange cone


It entertained me all afternoon, that single orange cone.

No one knew just what to do with it. It was just sitting out there in the middle of everything. It didn’t belong there, but everyone who came upon it believed it had a purpose so no one picked it up and moved it. Those who encountered the cone had to determine how to navigate around it because it was there. They had no choice but to recognize it and change their path accordingly. But I am a little ahead of myself.

It was the beginning of Roswell’s annual UFO Festival. As the visitors in the city grew, the downtown parking lot outside my office window filled up and overflowed. In the lot I saw cars from Maryland, California, Indiana, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico.

When I got to work that morning, Main Street had already been shut off and the cross road in front of my office had been closed. I had no trouble getting my normal parking spot just before 8 am. As I spent my day on the phone I could see out the window from my desk the parking lot and I was able to watch the steady flow of cars and trucks into the lot.

Soon, all the parking spots around mine and in the next parking lot filled up leaving no spots for those who arrived later. Most of these circled through the lot and drove on.

I had decided to work through lunch, but I told one of my staff, Lori, that when she left for lunch she needed to mark her parking spot or else it would be gone when she came back. I grinned and said an orange cone would come in handy today. Little did I know where my random comment would lead.

I saw Lori drive into the lot after lunch and pull her car right back into her daily parking spot. I wondered how she did this but I didn’t think much about it until later in the day.

She came to my office and told me the orange cone idea was a good one and it worked. Lori had found an extra cone from the side street and put it in her parking spot when she left. Lo and behold the spot remained open until she returned.

I went back to work but then I noticed an orange cone at the far entry to the parking lot placed square in the middle of the entrance. It allowed just enough room for cars to squeeze by it on either side. As the afternoon wore on I began watching how the cone presented a problem for the many cars that had to encounter it.

Each car that came upon the orange cone had to decide what to do. From outside the parking lot some chose not to enter it assuming the orange cone meant it was full. Others ignored it and drove right on buy. From within the parking lot a car would drive right up to it and then have to make a decision how to get around it.

Car after car would approach the cone, stop, and then ponder the situation. Each one had to change its path to avoid hitting the cone. That single orange cone that didn’t belong in the middle of the entrance became the most respected item in the parking lot.

As I watched the difficulty of the cars moving past it I smiled over and over again because no one knew the cone had been randomly placed there by a person who had no authority to put it there.

This cone served no useful purpose. All it did was to irritate those who were trying to enter or leave the parking lot. As the afternoon progressed I kept thinking someone was going to pick it up and move it off the middle of the road...no one did. I soon realized that when others, like me, see an orange cone in a roadway, they think it was put there for a reason.

At the end of the day after chuckling all afternoon at this lone orange cone that got in everyone’s way, I had Lori come back to my office and watch a few minutes to show her what she had caused to happen. Sure enough, we watched as a car drove right up to the cone, stopped, and then decided to navigate around the cone on its right and then cut back to the left sharply to get out of the parking area.

We laughed together as a second car approached the orange cone.

Orange cones have a way of changing the direction of a person’s life They can be irritating. They can force a person to do something they don’t want to do, even to change a longstanding repetitive habit. Orange cones can represent change. Despite slowing people down, once they are removed the world is often a better place because of the construction that was done while the cones were out.

Most orange cones have a purpose. Some do not.

My challenge to you today is to do something that causes something to happen. You have the power to change the direction of the lives of others. A single act by you might make a difference that causes another to stop, ponder and assess, and then to move their lives in a better direction.

What is it you need to be doing to impact the life of another?

Worse case, especially if you feel your life is getting boring, go out and purchase an orange cone. Place it in a safe location in a busy parking lot. Then you can sit by and watch what it does to alter people’s lives.

Never underestimate the power of a single orange cone. I know of one that changed the direction of countless lives one busy Friday afternoon.

Just a thought...

Rick Kraft is a motivational speaker, a syndicated columnist, a published author, and an attorney. To submit comments, contributions, or ideas, e-mail to rkraft@kraftlawfirm.org or write to P.O. Box 850, Roswell, New Mexico, 88202 - 0850.