Life Is A Highway

The new Pixar movie “Cars” rocks and zooms to the all-night driving tune by Rascal Flatts called “Life Is a Highway.” This classic hero’s journey storyline, cut from the same light saber as Star Wars, sure made my brain light up all night long! You can set your tripometer to the fact that I got my communication kicks on Route 66, when my girls took me to the new Disney movie for my birthday. “Cars” will get you where you need and want to go. And, yeah, I turned double nickels, like the speed limit on many highways.


Have you had a bad communication breakdown on your talk highway recently that pushed you to find yourself in spite of yourself, like the hero in the movie…Lightning McQueen?

My engine is roaring and my spirits are soaring because my newly released book TALK TO ME, aimed at better communication, also uses the car metaphor to get on the right talk track. In fact, I used driver’s education, driving blue and burnt orange cars, opposing lanes of communication, the two-way vs. one-way communication highway and all sorts of driving stuff to drive home good communication tools!

So, naturally, my hopes were desert-wide and sky-high that the movie would run true to the communications system that took me four years to make, too.


Oo-h, I wasn’t disappointed Mater…like Ta Mater. Here’s how everything turned out…Sh-Boom…like Real Gone in CARS:

1. Sally was the pretty blue Porsche, an attorney who left L.A. to find some true friends so she wouldn’t feel so isolated, lonely and blue. She definitely was an Empathizer-type (E-type) communicator.

2. Most attorneys are Instigator-type communicators…as are Engineers. In my “typecasting” system, Sally was an Empathizer extrovert (ETE) or “SEER” … a very rare communicator type. Her male equivalent is the very smart movie hero Forrest Gump…or Edith Bunker of the long-running sitcom series “All in The Family” fame.

3. Sally was the owner of The Orange Cone Drive-In Motel…too cute a play on those orange cones we all dodge on the highway that raise our blood pressure. Her motel just so happened to have the four communicator modes (Emotions, Beliefs, Behaviors, Talks) sketched above the entry door…a circle cut into four quadrants. One grand time I saw the modes drawn in a rock drawing in an Indian rock dwelling in Sedona, Arizona. (In TALK TO ME, the 38 diagrams used are actual mental “road maps” to better communication.) Go Lightning!

4. The racing hero, Lightning McQueen, was a flashy red sports car but without real headlights so he had trouble seeing during dark times. Yes, definitely he was an Instigator (I-type) communicator, a LEADER in my talk system, and he was at first heaven-bent on winning at all costs…including… winning even when he lost relationships. He had to get lost, in order to find himself!

5. Mater was the lovable tow truck Yoda-type master with buck teeth who was once blue but became gray and rusty. Bored or frustrated Empathizer energy has the affect of turning them from gold to rust. Mater helped open up McQueen’s heart or adopt the strengths of an Empathizer, to help him throttle down the stress level of “It’s all about ME….I’m a legend in my own mind…Sh-Boom…Lightning McQueen!”

6. Tow truck Mater was an Empathizer communicator who wore his feelings on his sleeve…or fender in his case. He saved McQueen from his own blind ambition, when he said to McQueen, “I made a very good decision when I chose my best friend…YOU.”

7. Doc was a racing legend, a Piston Cup winner thrice over until he wrecked and everyone on the circuit forgot about him faster than old oil spilled on the driveway. Doc was an Instigator-type communicator who was also an introvert (ITI) because he retreated into his dusty garage to emotionally cope and not deal with how out of
the dust of loss springs new growth opportunities.

8. The young and elder race car drivers admired one another and formed a bond when Doc told McQueen, “You know what you have when you’ve won The Piston Cup? I’ll tell you what you’ve got…what you’ve got is an empty cup if you’ve not got friends.” As an Instigator communicator who is a natural-born elder leader, Doc helped his fellow novice Instigator McQueen…find his heart and put his head and heart in the race.

9. Yes, Sally and McQueen fall in love. So you have a female Empathizer (E-type) communicator marrying a male Instigator (I-type) communicator. Very typical of how we all like to mix it up in life! And of course, as we all know ‘opposites do attract’…BUT can they last?!

10. Yeah, I cried when Lightning stopped just shy of the finish line in The Big Race to do unto another…what he would like done unto him…and pushed the “old one” home in celebration. Just goes to show that some things you can’t buy…such as friendship, truth and love. The big deals in town.

11. The old town is born again into a new town. Change requires promoting the best strengths of the old town while developing and creating new parts from the exciting unknown.

12. Everyone drove themselves sane…and lived happily…now and not after all The Piston Cups were won.

You gotta’ see “Cars.” And when you do, view it with these questions in the back of your mind for later. What type of communicator or talk vehicle are you? Are you a sensitive-type communicator or Empathizer who drives a blue car … or an insensitive-type communicator or Instigator who is accustomed to driving a red car?

You can’t be both! Sh-Boom!!

Take a drive on the two-way communicator highway…and come home to your biggest talents and friendships that roll past the potholes of this life.

Dr. Dennis O’Grady is a Dayton, Ohio, communications psychologist and professional speaker who is the author of the newly released book, “Talk to Me: Communication Moves to Get Along With Anyone.”

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