Well to be honest, I’m not really a ‘time traveller’. However, if flying North, then over the top of the earth (in a North-East kind of direction I guess?), then South and finally West for 30 hours, plus 9 hours waiting in ‘departures’ and crossing 12 times zones in the process counts for anything – then just maybe, I am a type of ‘time traveller’.
This year has been one of extraordinary travel: London (x3), Switzerland, India, China, Thailand and Russia. Before the year is ready to be consigned to the shelf there will be further trips to China (x2), Russia, Turkey, the UK, Argentina and Sweden…of course that is what is known but there can’t be too many others – unless someone out there knows how to turn rain-dancing into days-dancing and then shares that with me!
This time warp that I referred to is what it takes to get from Durban, South Africa to Hawaii. It is the 11th time I have done this trip and whilst I think that deserves some respect and sympathy, strangely none is forthcoming. Of course I go to work in Hawaii but somehow that too (work – Hawaii) falls on the rocks of oxymoron and elicits unwarranted (in my opinion) scepticism and ill feeling. It is hard to understand although I must admit that tales of hair blowing Harley Davison rides, horse riding, scuba diving and leisurely drives to the North Shore haven’t helped dispel the myth surrounding my trips. I argue that this is a crime infested island and every year I deliberately place myself in harm’s way for the sake of leadership development. You just have to watch Hawaii 5-0 to understand this but again no, no one seems to listen much less show some concern for the peril I face so bravely.
But as said, this is my 11th occasion to be part of a fine leadership programme hosted by the renowned East -West Center and I’m referring of course to the Asia Pacific Leadership Program (APLP). It draws high calibre participants from throughout Asia Pacific and is by some distance the most diverse classroom I encounter in the work I do.
Here then, in no particular order are some musings from my experience of having made this trip so frequently. They are thoughts that I hope will spark deeper reflections of your own as you live and practice the art of leadership.
Sometime you just have to go there and back to see how far it is. This novel idea isn’t mine but I like the notion it conveys. Often I have been asked if, in the case of a willingness to try something new, something different, if it will succeed or secure the desired results. The answer is, “I don’t know, you’ll just have to try it and see” or put another way, “you just have to go there and back to see how far it is”.
Life has to be lived forwards but can only be understood backwards. This too isn’t mine but it suggests that every now and then it is good to pause, look in the rear-view mirror and wonder. A kind of wonder that leads to understanding; understanding for the often-incomprehensible path trodden. Time travelling does this for me and somehow it opens the portal to deeper understanding as to the journey thus far – the everyday, the normal, and the routine. I think we call such a portal ‘perspective’ but talk of ‘time travel’ and ‘portals’ is much more fun!
Alone Together is possible. Again I cannot claim ownership of this oxymoron. However, it is a vivid description of 21 Century living and often when I am sitting in a tin capsule hurtling at high speed at a great height, ‘alone together’ seems apt. I am not a big talker when travelling and I can become engrossed in the ‘alone’ yet ever conscious of the ‘together’. I think that we need both and I somehow think that this oxymoron will, better than most, be descriptive of that time when we each have to face death as something intensely personal yet universally shared.
Happiness is not a place or destination. It is a state of being that can exist anywhere. Hawaii is often referred to as, ‘Paradise’ and it is not hard to see why – something that also doesn’t help my cause! However, being in Paradise doesn’t mean the end to pain, loneliness, heartache and suffering. Viktor Frankl, neurologist, psychiatrist and holocaust survivor suggests in his classic book, Man’s Search for Meaning, that life has to be lived with purpose. Happiness is something we grow inside out and it is not to be found outside in. Many ‘outward things’ masquerade as happiness but as many will attest, true happiness is a state of being rather than something we can acquire.
Home is where the heart is. Not once have I left home, no matter the destination, when I have not dragged my feet somewhat. You see my heart is at home and so leaving home always involves leaving some of my heart behind. It evokes those dark days of leaving home for boarding school – something I never really adjusted to as much as I enjoyed the environment once there. It was the leaving that was hard. It still is. It is the way it should be.
Life is a journey. This is the first sentence of my personal mission statement crafted many years back (oh so Boomerish I know!). It is followed by… ‘A journey shared’. My wanderings have unlocked previously unimaginable places and destinations. Before my ‘travel days’ really started, I remember yearning to travel – to see, experience, learn and grow from encountering different cultures and places – and I remember once expressing this yearning (and my frustration over a lack of travel opportunity) with a wise mentor. He listened thoughtfully before offering me the wisdom that if it (travel) was meant to be, it would happen but that I needed to live in the here and now, be present, and trust the navigation process. At the time it was sound advice albeit with an improbable rider, but how the road since then has yielded up the improbable! I have been most privileged. With that comes a responsibility to learn, share, be rooted and always, always appreciative. I work at such, not always successfully.
Here then are some simple musings from this Time Traveller. I hope they provide you with an opportunity to pause and find some of your own wisdom and insights from the road you have travelled.
Oh, and by the way…today I met a real live astronaut, an American who has twice been on the shuttle, Challenger. Who says there is no such thing as time travel?