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Slug Bug Black, No Tag Backs
by Kevin Eikenberry
The first time I ever heard this phrase was last winter, when, while I was driving my son suddenly slapped me and said, "Slug bug silver no tag backs." I was confused as to what he said, why he said it, and why he hit me! I soon learned that this is a game played to pass the time in a car. When someone sees a Volkswagen Beetle (the "slug bug"), they say the phrase, insert the appropriate color, and hit (or hopefully just tap) the other person.

I thought the game seemed strange, and asked Parker where he had heard of it. He said, "Everyone knows that game Dad." I turned to my wife, and she knew the game too. Apparently I was the only one in the dark! I grew up playing lots of car games, but apparently this was one that never made it to our car. After that initial introduction to the game, it has become an on-again off-again event in our car, that someone would see a Beetle, and utter the catchy phrase.

The Long Drive

Last week, though, Parker and I set off on a long car drive together. We decided to make this an ongoing game during our trip. We would keep track of how many times we "tagged" each other. I am happy to say that I won. (Ok, so I'm a little competitive.) In Parker's defense I will say that it was easier for me to win because some of the time he was reading or playing his Game Boy as I drove. It is hard for him to see the "slug bugs" when he wasn't even looking out of the car!

We got creative, tagging for billboards and other pictures of VW Beetles. It was a fun game. At some point as I watched the other side of the Interstate for "slug bugs," I got the message.

They are Everywhere!

A few years ago we bought a new car. We loved our new black Ford Expedition. Right after we bought it, I began to see Expeditions everywhere! On ads, in parking lots, on the streets - they were everywhere. It was amazing! It was as if everyone had decided to buy an Expedition at the same time that we did.

Of course, this is not true. There were Expeditions on the road before we bought ours but I didn't notice them. Why did I experience this? I noticed them now because I was paying attention. In the past, I didn't care, so my mind just filtered them out. I've shared this story with others, and they have had a similar experience; perhaps you have too.

Then it was Expeditions, now it is VW Beetles. I'm looking for them, and I'm finding them.

The Reticular Activating System

The technical reason why this occurs is due to a part of our brain called the reticular activating system (RAS). The RAS is like a filtering system for the brain. It helps us sort what we see, and brings to our consciousness those things that we tell ourselves are important.

This is why two people can go to a movie and have entirely different experiences. One person feels the power was in the relationship in the story, another is touched by something else. If you've ever experienced that - or even had very different experiences yourself to the same movie at different times, you can thank your RAS.

The reticular activating system helps us explain assumptions, and prejudices, and lots more in our lives. We can thank the RAS for helping keep us from being in constant sensory overload. All of these things could warrant an essay, but let me share what I learned while watching for slug bugs.

We See What We Are Looking For

That's it - that's the message. We see what we are looking for - that is the job of our reticular activating system. It comes as a part of your human package. What a great thing! Even better though is how you can use this capability. As humans we get to choose what to look for. Optimists look for the silver lining, and see it. Pessimists look for the rain, and they find it. We get to choose.

If you are looking for opportunities, you will find them. If you have goals set, the answers to the obstacles will be found. We see what we are looking for.

Last week, I was looking for slug bugs, and because of that simple game, I am now looking for a whole lot of new things in my life. What are you looking for? Is it a conscious choice?

Think about those questions today. And think about them the next time you see a VW Beetle - it will probably be sooner than you think.

Slug bug black, no tag backs!

Kevin Eikenberry
The Discian Group
kevin@vantagepoints.net

Kevin Eikenberry is a speaker, trainer, author, and President of the Discian Group - a learning consulting company committed to helping Organizations, Teams, and Individuals reach their performance goals through learning. For information about the Discian Group or its products and services, visit our website at Discian.com

� Copyright 2002, Discian.com. All rights reserved.

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