July 7, 2014

Life & Business Lessons from a Week Unplugged

Just back from six days with Katie – unplugged – in the Canadian Rockies. It was great to get away. It was a much needed respite to reflect, refresh, recharge, rethink, recommit.

The setting was glorious. The think-time was priceless. But honestly, unplugging was hard – harder than when I’ve done it in the past. Not sure if it’s just that the habits (read “addictions”) are more deeply ingrained or if it was because of the pace I’ve been running this past year. Whatever the case, it was a challenge being offline and out of touch. But what a great and powerful week we had. Here are just some of the life and business lessons I took away from the trip:

 

Moderate hikeA “moderate difficulty” hike is only moderate if you are in excellent shape. I don’t who the joker is in charge of writing marketing copy and hiking guides for Banff National Park, but he’s not hanging out with enough out of shape consultants from the midwest US. And his definition of the word moderate doesn’t jive with mine! Hear me panting, gasping for oxygen as I type this. So I learned that 40-minute sessions on an elliptical at sea level are not adequate training for moderate hikes in the Canadian Rockies! And my wife, the athlete, learned to laugh at me while I was trying to keep up with her.

Beyond all the other distractions and interruptions, it really is Email that’s the ultimate time sucker and brain drain. For all the things vying for our attention, whether it’s social media, perpetual news feeds, sports, online shopping, the annoying co-worker, you name your sin/addiction/favorite time wasting activity, there is no doubt that Email is by far the most intrusive, powerful and disruptive force of all. Sure it was good for me to be away from social media – particularly twitter. But getting away from Email was amazing. I was truly awakened to the reality how much of not only my time, but my mental bandwidth, was stolen from me by Email. Stolen. It’s the painful combo of the constant need to check it along with the disruption and work that ensues after receiving Email that makes it so deadly. It saps our time AND messes up our minds! Email is a productivity thief, and I am not only committed to calling it what it is, but am making serious changes in the way I handle it going forward.

Les and MikeWe need older, wiser, more experienced people in our lives. I think most of us believe this. I certainly do, and I’ve benefitted from several great mentors in the past. But many of us falsely think that we’re either too busy today or that everything we’re doing is new so there is no need for more mature (read “older”) people in our lives. Well, I’ve got a new friendship that’s reminding me of how much I can learn from a very smart man who’s been around the block, in fact, many different blocks, a whole lot more than I have. Les Hewitt called me about a year ago after reading my book. He’s an incredible, generous, wise man with more credentials and ideas that I can list here. He’s known as The Focus Coach, and is a bestselling author and international speaker. We are working on a significant event together that you’ll be hearing more about in the near future. But I bring him up here because Les and his wife live in Calgary and they chose to invest a day with Katie and me up in the mountains. What a treat to hike with Les and Fran, to hear stories of their childhood in war-torn Ireland; to hear about their marriage, their parenting experience, the ministry they do together, and the various iterations of the incredible businesses they’ve built.

I must carve out more time to read books, not just blog posts. I learn a ton from my favorite GoTo Gurus whose blogs and newsletters I devour. But I have not made time to dive into enough books recently. And the week unplugged provided a great opportunity to read an essential (forgive the pun) book by Greg McKeown called Essentialism – The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. This book was exactly what I needed and what I hoped it was when I ordered it! I’ll do an in-depth review of the book in a future post, but for now, the strongest endorsement I can offer is that I am buying copies for clients, friends and family members, and even asking my high-school kids to read portions of it. There is so much wisdom and practical help in Essentialism for today’s crazed executives, entrepreneurs, sales managers and salespeople that I can’t recommend it strongly enough. And I am changing my early morning routine to incorporate time to read books, not just blog posts.

Travel is important for growth and Canada rocks! Something happens in my brain when I travel. It’s hard to explain, but traveling, while it has its hassles for sure, is energizing. From the people watching in the airport to a couple hours staring out the window at 35,000 feet, traveling makes me think and stimulates my creative mind. I get my best ideas on airplanes, and especially after this last trip, am committed to avoiding wifi on upcoming flights unless it’s beyond urgent that I connect with someone. Why further feed our connectivity addictions and do the same stupid time wasting Email checking, internet browsing or mindless television watching when we’re up in the sky?

Let me close with a shout out for Canada.  I love the country, its people, its cities and now I can include its mountains and national parks. What a gorgeous place we visited. If you ever get the chance to see Lake Louise, Emerald Lake or the surrounding area, do it. And like my many previous visits to Canada, being exposed to not only Canadians, but so many international visitors, helped me appreciate how limited and American-centric my worldview can be. I conclude this last trip more convinced than ever that travel is critical for our personal growth.

Emerald Lake Lodge