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Deer in the Headlights Part 2

Here’s the short scoop on what was covered in part 1…

I’m on a plane to Kuwait. Super high tech military dudes in the business class sleeper pods where I have managed to parlay my dwindling frequent flyer miles to get a pod of my own.

They’re doing top-secret stuff – “If we tell you we’ll have to kill you”…

And me? I’m just talking about Green Beans & Ice Cream… it’s all good. 🙂

And after meeting lots of new friends in Kuwait, I’m in Bahrain, the country north of Saudi…

So now it’s my turn to deliver my keynote speech after the Prince of Bahrain.

I had 60 minutes to speak when I left South Carolina. When the Prince finishes the introduction (beautiful speech, but it was all Arabic to me! 🙂 ) I’m down to 30 minutes. Try tweaking your 58 powerpoint slides in 4 minutes folks. Lots of fun.

Ok. Green Beans are done. Delivered. And now it is time for questions.

The room is crowded with a group of Arabian folks wearing their regal Arab robes, the Thob, as well as a sprinkled mix of Americans, Brits, Aussies, and many other expats in their usual jeans/t-shirt garb.

“Yes sir, I have a question,” says a young man….

“Mr. Sims, what would you say about a company that hires private police officers to monitor its employees driving habits in their personal vehicles in their own time? It even goes so far as to fine them for speeding and penalize them and reduce their pay bonuses.”

I swallowed hard. 700 pairs of eyes focused on me to see my response.

“What company do you work for?” I asked him.

“I’d rather not say.” He replied, and the whole room laughed at once.

So, now you see how all the way in Bahrain, on the tip of Saudi Arabia, I came to find myself between the rock and the hard place.

If I sided with the company, the audience would not like my message. And if I sided with the audience, the company would be sure never to do business with me…..

All at once I had become, the Deer in the Headlights……

Think fast Bill!

I knew that it was now or never…………..

I knew that my hopes of helping companies to change behavior in the GCC would depend on how I answered this next question.

One shot.

That’s all you got kid….

(picture Han Solo in the background)…..

I decided that it wasn’t my place to tell the audience what was “right” or “wrong”. They needed the facts. They had to choose it for themselves.

So I did what my mom does: Tell a story that has a few turns and twists and winds up with a totally unexpected conclusion! 🙂

I decided to talk about…. boys and their cars.

I had dreamed for years about owning a Porsche but as a teenage guy in the 80’s – not gonna happen.

You could maybe afford a Camaro muscle car from the 60’s…..they were cheap and plentiful, (unlike now, where they are treasured collectors items).

Or if you were Henry Hester, whose dad was rich, you got a Jeep with a Nitrous Oxide kit and a 4 barrel carburetor kit. We installed it on his car as an auto mechanics class project.

For fun behind our High School, we’d go watch Henry pop wheelies and jump coke bottles. Since he had four wheel drive he’d jump them going forward. Then, for real fun, he’d jump them going backward. Cool stuff in South Carolina. Summer days were long and we needed things to do…. 🙂

From what I heard, sometimes Henry would go to the sand hills of South Carolina and he’d jump dunes running 90 miles per hour in his Jeep. No roll cage. No seat belts.

Far and away beyond my world was the Porsche 928.

First ever V8 front engine car. Big. Bad. Fast. $55,000. Far more than a kid from South Carolina could ever hope to own.

At age 19 there was a unique “Wrinkle in Time” (read the book!) where the US dollar had unprecedented strength in the world. It was 1982.

“Hey Bill, it’s Marv,” said my second brother and friend from Summerville, South Carolina.

“I found some lady named Caroline who’s from Summerville and she says she can get us a used Porsche for about $15,000…the dollar’s strong now and you have to pull the trigger fast….”


396 horsepower. No American emission controls. Genuine Porsche. Can you say PIC*?!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  🙂

On the other hand… $15,000. Is this a scam? How do you buy this thing? NICS* But at 19, who thinks about NICS?

“Sounds good Marv….you go first.” I said. He was 18.  But already a much better negotiator than I can ever hope to be….

“I’m thinking I’ll watch you…” he said with a smile, a charming laugh, and a daring note in his voice.

So I called the bank and they said sure they’d let me borrow $17,000 (oh yeah, Caroline forgot to tell me there were a few transportation costs).

Net net. Bank loans me money. I wire $17,000 over to Germany and pray that I get a car. Nobody co-signed for this. It was my baby.

I guess I am hardwired for risk. Right or wrong, it runs through my veins.

Three months later me and Marv are in Jacksonville……

A dark chocolate Porsche floats off the transport boat. It’s a moment in time I’ll never forget.

Seats are checkered flags. Literally oozing…. “I’m a Porsche.”

If you watch Transformers and catch the bond between boy and machine (the yellow “Bumblebee” Camaro) you will begin to glimpse this moment….

Driving back home…

We are on I-95. The speed limit is still 55 mph… everywhere in America.

But after all, this is a Porsche….I floor the gas pedal… what a rush!!!!!

Bam! Wake up fast bill!

Hey Earth to bill you have 700 people wanting some intelligent answer and you’re stuck in the 80’s…

So I tell the young man in the audience…..

“It’s not for me to decide what is wrong or right in your culture. Only you and your leaders can do that. But I can ask a few questions that may help you find the right road. Is that ok?”

“Yes.” (Whew. First step of negotiation has been accomplished!)

“So, yesterday in Bahrain I was passed on the highway by a 14 year old driving 142 mph in a Mustang GT….(wow I should’ve never sold my Porsche!) …. so would you say that you guys have a problem with unsafe driving behaviors?”


(For the record the GCC has 2 or 3 times the driving fatalities of western countries. And according to the insurance companies, if you’re going to crash they’d rather you die. Because fixing broken people costs way more than burying dead ones. Sorry for the harsh analysis… but this is how the insurance industry views it.)

“Ok, so, you guys have 2 to 3 times more people dying and being injured from unsafe driving behaviors. Are you happy with that? Do you want that to continue or not?

“We want to change it!”

“So, if you’re 14 and you drive a Mustang GT at 142 mph what do the police here do to you?” I asked.

“Zero. Nothing. Nada.”

“So, the government doesn’t set any real consequences for unsafe behavior?”


“When I was 19 I managed to own a Porsche 928 for about 9 months before I had to sell it and settle down and get married. I got more than a few speeding tickets. And here’s what I learned in that short amount of time. If you speed it will cost you money in fines and eventually your driver’s license.  While I didn’t like it, punishment taught me to stop that behavior, at least for a little while!”

“So, your employer has to pick up the broken human pieces for those who are bleeding by the road. These are real, powerful, NICS for them. So, I think they are addressing the problem in the only way they know how… punishment. Would you agree with me?”

“Yes.” he said, and there was only a glance and a half smile to tell me I had connected with this bright young man…..and then he faded into the audience.

“Now, what I would rather see is a system to positively reinforce people for the right behavior since punishment only works short term….”

“If you want me to talk more about that please raise your hand ….”

699 of 700 hands go up……

And then the Prince of Bahrain tells me my 30 minutes is up…


I hate it when that happens.

I never got to make my point. But maybe it was better that way. A few people told me that they admired me for how I took the question, and how I helped the audience to find their own answer…

I felt good but realized there was more ground to cover here…..the question I never got to answer is “How could we use positive reinforcement to change driving behaviors long term ….?”

Maybe next time! 🙂

*Thanks to Aubrey Daniels!

8 Responses to “Deer in the Headlights Part 2”

  1. July 1st, 2010 at 2:47 pm

    Buzz Powell says:

    Hello Bill. Great story! Reminded me of the “Cliff Hangers” of long ago movies, which left you wanting more. I’m sure your audiance felt the same. I for one would sure like to hear Part 3.

  2. July 1st, 2010 at 3:41 pm

    Cloyd Hyten says:


    Keep them coming- you are a very entertaining writer! Bahrain- that’s pretty exotic. Do they even eat green beans there?

  3. July 1st, 2010 at 4:40 pm

    john says:

    Great story.

    I liked how you handled the awkward situation and how you showed both professionalism and quick whit. Most of all you did not run from the question but instead answered the question with a question causing the audience to create their own opinion but now looking at it in from a different angle. Changing how one looks at something often changes their perspective. Is the glass have full or half empty? It is still has the same amount of liquid in it, just one is positive and one is negative. We are often taught not to answer a question with a question but in many situations such as when dealing with children this is one of the best ways to get people to think, re think and communicate.

  4. July 1st, 2010 at 4:51 pm

    Jonathan A Floyd says:

    Great story…..I drove a 82 928 just last year…unbelievable machine

  5. July 2nd, 2010 at 1:33 am

    Constance Morris says:

    Dear Bill,
    Please tell Cloyd Hyten that Indians eat a number of different green beans as do all Aisians…the long bean, a little longer than a 12 inch ruler is common and tasty but cooked very differently than Americans make them.
    I love this story because it has suspense and you are a very good story teller and good at living thru them. Quite a feat in itself.
    Also, I like John’s comment about the glass. We always talk about half empty or half full but what about just having the glass. no one thinks about the fact that some people in the world don’t have a glass. Period. What about that perspective? Some are just happy to have a glass no matter how much is in it. Like the curve ball?

    Constance M.

  6. July 3rd, 2010 at 8:26 am

    PAMARTHI says:

    Dear Bill

    It was great trip to you visiting Kuwait and then Bahrain, atleast you have made a little beginning in the GCC, hope you will be successful in the near future.
    “How could we use positive reinforcement to change driving behaviors long term ….?”
    this question continuously rings in my ears.

  7. July 4th, 2010 at 7:31 am

    DMR.SAHIB says:


  8. July 6th, 2010 at 9:17 pm

    Jorge Salem says:

    Great story !!!, the way you approached the answer I think was the right way so you didn´t get in conflict with them, I’m sure you had the right answer from our point of view and I guess was a tricky question but you are really something in front of a crowd, I enjoyed reading you and learning from you, that’s the best.

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