My life has taken me to different countries, different continents, different cultures: Italy, Bosnia, Serbia, England, Nigeria, The Netherlands et al. During those travels, it is always exciting to me when my view of life is shaken by fundamental realizations that challenge my day to day beliefs.
For example, during my first trip to Europe, we crossed so many borders into so many different countries pre Euro, that money became so confusing to me that my mind locked up. 123,000 Lire, 5 Francs, £3 Sterling? What did it mean? It was during those multiple country, multiple currency visits that it hit me, at the tender age of 22, that money was just a way to get what you needed.
Nearly twenty years later, as we deplaned at the airport in Rome, we were swamped by Italians leaving for their month long holiday, and, of course, for those businesses that remained open, there will always be the break from 3:00 to 5:00 PM and those leisurely, wonderful, evening meals.
What struck me is that we, as Americans, too often see the things that happen to us on our way to our next meeting or destination as an unessential distraction. While, to those Europeans, be it in Bosnia, France, Italy or Spain, those interruptions are life. They stop and talk. They enjoy the trip. Because the journey, not the destination, is life.
A friend of mine recently forwarded me a letter from a business associate that described the secret to being a successful leader. To paraphrase his thoughts: a successful leader has the uncanny ability to embrace both philosophies. Great leaders most often have disciplined themselves to get huge amounts of work done in very short amount of time.
They also, however, have learned to hold onto the moment, to remain receptive to those with whom they have come in contact, to keep their minds open for positive interaction and to take advantage of the serendipity that surrounds each and every one of us every day. It has been my experience that by keeping open to every possibility, we often times find solutions to our most challenging problems. So, carpe diem.