There is nothing like the developing world and a dear friend to humble a person. I should know. I was recently in the developing world with a dear friend, and needed a little reminder of the big quality of humility.
Before entering the holiday season, I took a glorious two weeks off. Two and half years into starting and owning a business, I was in serious need of a break, intellectually, as well as emotionally and technologically. So off to Indonesia I went in search of adventure and rest. I will spare you the details of the stunning surroundings and beautiful culture that was waiting for me halfway around the world. That’s not why you are here. Instead, let’s talk about how the universe was kicking my butt.
No more than two days into my trip, Stephanie, my travel buddy, asked to talk. Evidently, I had spent the last two days telling her what to do, informing her when she was wrong, negating her points, and generally not being a very good listener. This news hit me like a ton of bricks. Was I really doing these things? As I sat with this information, I realized, yeah - that fits. I spend every single day making decisions for my household and business, coming up with the right strategies and insights for my team and my clients, and generally being accountable for making the right decision and saying the right thing at the right time.
Can you relate? Relatable or not, this attitude of authority didn’t seem to be serving me in the ways I thought it was. After this conversation, the world around me presented me with a series of messy examples of how I am, in fact, not always the authority I like to think I am.
“Do you know how to ride a scooter?”, asked my friend. “Uh yeah. Anyone can ride on the back of a scooter.” No sooner than the words came out of my mouth was I falling, in slow motion, off the back of a PARKED scooter. Smacking my helmeted head against the gravel road.
Soon thereafter, I was elated with my very first surfing experience. As I celebrated my MASTERY of the sport, I fell off the surfboard in about 3 inches of water, tweaking my ankle in the most awkward way. Four weeks later, the swelling has yet to go down.
Next, we headed to a beautiful temple, famous for its holy water baths. Once I finished receiving spring fed blessings, I moved to step over a stone barrier, from one side of the baths to another. In front of a crowd of people, I clumsily slipped and plunged, with arms flailing, into the baths, my sarong billowing up over arms. Red faced, and disheveled, I stood up in the three feet of water and took stock of the new cuts and bruises on my wrists and ankles.
A few days later, we were hiking to the island’s most beautiful waterfalls. Did you know that I am an avid hiker? I live in Colorado for heaven’s sake. I’m sure you won’t be surprised to hear that nature does not care where I live. I ended up slipping and falling down about six feet of mushy, heavily rooted jungle “pathway”, scraping the back side of my leg from ankle to knee. I can also tell you that waterfall water doesn’t feel much better on an open wound than salt water.
Last but not least, three days before my return Stateside, I got the slightest hint of food poisoning. And well... you know how that goes...
After each of these incidents, I had the distinct feeling that there was a lesson to learn amongst all of the pain nature was inflicting upon me. Was my rigid, know-it-all approach to my vacation making my body rigid, and therefore less able to navigate new territory? Was authoritative thinking stopping me from accepting that life in Indonesia is not like life in the US, and I needed to open my mind in order to successfully navigate my time there? I think the answer is yes.
So why am I telling you this? Dear reader, client, potential client...potential friend! I’m telling you this because in my professional career I preach humility. I teach self awareness. I facilitate change. And yet in those very moments of newness, I experienced a lapse in the qualities I hold dear. And maybe you have too.
After all, our business environment is not unlike spending time in a developing nation. It is well known that the pace of change has accelerated at rates which we have never seen. Because of this, we are often operating in unknown environments. New business lines, new products, new people, new terminology, new technology. And all the while, we are adapting. Or are we trying like hell not to adapt so that we can maintain our authority?
Thanks to my time in Indonesia, I am reevaluating my own authority. I now know for sure that I have no authority over nature, over other people, or the changes in my environment. What I do have authority over is me. My level of openness. My level of engagement. My level of curiosity.
As we go into 2019, I want to challenge you to check your perceptions of your own authority. Are you trying to control things that are outside of your control? Are you asserting your authority to avoid uncertainty? If so, just pay attention to it. Awareness is a great first step.