What event or opportunity is meaningful enough to get you on a plane (or another form of transit)? With ubiquitous virtual conferencing platforms, why do we ever need to travel again? Why can in-person connections not generate the same intensity as those created on a screen? Why do groups that exist in a virtual platform hold in-person gatherings (online gaming competitors, Youtubers, etc.)? In my experience, there are planned connections that we can schedule when we gather in person. A friend or colleague we look forward to seeing. Then there is serendipity. The individual we sit next to at a meal or during a presentation. The one we discover a point of confluence with adds depth and dimension to our journey (and work). I have several in-person connections from attending the same conference for over ten years; our online chats archived on the conference app. I have few virtual friends that I connected with on-screen and shared contact information. Creating the necessary depth and dimension from a virtual connection is much more challenging.
I am attending the final World Domination Summit (an unconventional weekend for unconventional thinkers) in Portland, OR. After the pandemic caused a two-year delay, the summit re-launches to celebrate its final iteration. It would be convenient not to attend; a multi-year delay disrupted the cadence of the event and disjointed some of the networks of participants. But the group is remarkable, and the connections resonate. The event does not define me, but it expands my mindset. It adds crucial details to the unmapped portions of my journey. The flight there represents the front door of the odyssey.
If we move in the direction that the majority have traveled, the trail might look receptive and clear. If we travel against traffic, more obstacles might be evident. Both directions are viable but our mindset and perception may create more awareness of the terrain that is ahead when we take the direction less traveled.
Not every boarding pass gets us on a plane. We take for granted that a rectangular piece of paper with an airline logo printed in the corner allows us to board. What assumptions once re-examined might be transformative? How often do we pause in the middle of everyday activities to consider all that operate smoothly for us to advance without complication? One warning light can delay a flight for hours, even when the non-cooperating part appears to be less than vital. What is essential for your journey? Who have we taken for granted?
Any of us can make a promise, take a reservation, offer a guarantee. That is not the work that matters. How we perform when circumstances cause us to deviate from our promise reveals our real value. How we respond to missing expectations is what makes us memorable.
Sometimes the moment is not as we planned, but if we are committed we can create a memorable moment. More than once I have found myself enduring a long airport layover. The choice is to settle into a corner, connect to wifi, and hope time passes quickly. Or, I can go explore. Last week I spent over an hour running on the top level of parking garages as Houston International Airport (GPS running route screenshot above). After a little adventuring I discovered three of the parking facilities were connected via a causeway and exterior stairs making for a bigger loop. As I ran I watched the arrival and departure of everything from small commuter jets to large Airbus A380s. Because I opted to be a bit adventurous, I ran into a South American soccer team, rode an airport train that was comically slow and small, and gained access to an airport hotel lounge that had a phone which rang ceaselessly. All these events are far more memorable than most airport clubs, except for when I sat next to Dr. Oz at LAX but that is a different layover story.