How many times have you gotten on a plane, then gotten off the plane, gotten into the car /taxi/bus/train and headed to the hotel? Then, gotten less than a decent night sleep, woke up, drank bad coffee and headed directly to the ballroom/conference room/window-less space to work for the day? Repeat 2, 3 or 4 days in a row. Add in a few meals, maybe one workout (if you’re lucky) and then do the whole thing in reverse to go home. Countless times, right? You can sleepwalk through the routine, especially if it’s a trip you’ve made before, right?

But what if it was different? What if you decided that the entire trip was going to be a learning adventure?

I had one of those this week. Here’s how it happened:

Step One:

Start the trip off in the right frame of mind. Before the flight do something inspiring – I don’t know, learn something? For me this time I attended a leadership talk given by a great friend and mentor with really practical advice. Head to the airport with your brain swirling about how you might be able to apply what you learned. Get through security and boarding without a hitch. Arrive at your destination early.

Step Two:

Meet a friend/colleague for dinner. In this case, it’s not about the food it’s about the company – so make it a really good friend, or close colleague. Talk about what is inspiring you, what you learned and what your plans are. Get so excited you don’t really remember what you ate.

Step 3:

Go to bed early and really sleep well. Wake up early and get a run in – clear your mind and ready yourself for a great day.

Step Four:

Find yourself a new thing to learn and some great people to learn it from. Maybe it’s a new way of doing something, maybe it’s a new subject matter altogether. Maybe it’s a different leadership style. Regardless of what it is, wrap yourself up in learning all about it. Then find the coolest people that are doing it and get on their calendar. Be relentless, show them you are smart and different and mean business. Once you get on their calendar, (and now we’re back to step four), meet with them and learn as much as you can about them and how they do whatever it is they do. Maybe you’ll get really lucky and they will ask you to shoot a video with them.

Step Five:

Have lunch, or drinks, or a coffee (or in my case a Vitamin water) with an old friend, and colleague. Reminisce, share stories, and learn something else. Be vulnerable, tell the truth, and ask for help. Bask in the familiarity, yet feel the time span and all you have learned within it. Be grateful.

Step Six:

Eat dinner with any of the fun people listed above in a great restaurant (and I mean a really great one). Drink good wine, eat dessert and enjoy the celebration of who you are with.

If they give you a cape, put it on and be the superhero you are.

Step Seven:

Participate by phone on a leadership call back at the office. Offer suggestions for changing culture. Drive process improvements to enhance business results. Enjoy the fact that your boss is being supportive and appreciative of your efforts.

Step Eight:

Meet with another awesome person that you haven’t yet met in person, yet have deeply connected with on the phone. Reconnect with her in person and share ideas, listen and learn. Stretch your brain to help her solve complex problems, meet her team, and figure out ways to take what you learned back to your team.

Step Nine:

More food, more dinner, more great conversation and this time include tequila (Patron Silver of course) and guacamole.

Step 10:

Lead a webinar in which you are introduced as an “industry thought leader”. Notice that the people that join the call are your cheerleaders from all phases of your career. Nail the timing perfectly – as though you actually rehearsed it that way. When you are done, order a salad for lunch. Have too much adrenaline to actually eat.

Step 11:

Write a blog, edit and publish it within an hour. Still too happy to eat.

Step 12:

Leave your new friends with a renewed sense of energy and excitement. Head back to the airport with dreams of the future, of possibilities and with salad in hand (to eat on the plane). When you get to the airport, skip the salad and eat frozen yogurt instead.

Step 13:

On the plane write down all the important things that you learned.

Adults learn by doing, then reflecting. Be sure to reflect.
Don’t forget any of it. Replay it in your mind. Think about your next steps, how to keep it alive and how to bring it back to your people at home. Introduce all the cool people you met on the trip to each other via email.

Step 14:

Upon arriving home, unpack your cape.

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