“Gone fishing.” Or, for me, “gone walking” would be more accurate. It’s a time-honored way to get away and re-energize.
Now in the third day of my weeklong vacation and I’m finally noticing a change. It started this morning when I put on my favorite wide-brimmed hat, a slather of sunscreen and my walking shoes. I just walked. And walked. And walked.
Having just completed a number of intense business negotiations and a series of back-to-back trips, I really needed this trip. I admit I started to get a little paranoid when Diane MacPhee, a personal coach for advisors and a former advisor herself, said twice in one conversation while we were both at the T3 Technology Tools for Today conference that I should remember to find some time for myself in between all the hustle and bustle of a successful business life. “Go get a massage or something,” she called as I rushed down the hallway to catch one of the conference speakers.
As began my walk on the beach this morning, I noticed my thoughts were thinking me. The old gray matter kept running through its endless mental checklist, which included problems to solve in my business, people I needed to thank, tasks that were left incomplete before my flight left Kansas City (including this Marketing Maven contribution), and a to-do list that never seems to end.
I thought about pulling out my iPhone and dialing in to the Monday Morning Huddle my team always holds on a weekly basis. That’s the curse and the blessing of living in a digital world – we can be connected just about anywhere to anyone whenever we want (or don’t want).
Somehow the winds and the waves prevailed and I just kept walking. Soon I began to hear the sound of the gulfs and the waves. I noticed the kids playing on the beach and how beautifully emerald green the water is in the Florida Keys.
I stopped for a morning latte and it tasted so much better than the one I had chugged down in the airport the day before. The wind brushed across my arms. I closed my eyes and smelled the saltwater air. I felt my lungs rise and fall. As my daughter ran up beside me smiling, I noticed anew how beautiful she is, as she tugged at my arm and asked to stop at the little island gift shop.
Today, we as business owners and successful professionals are more distracted than ever due to information overload, the speed of information, and the ability to stay connected 24/7.
"One of the great paradoxes of the Digital Age is that we humans have never been so connected yet disconnected at the same time," says Steve Saenz founder of Fusion Impact Marketing, a distributor of video email and communication tools for financial advisors. "The very tools that have brought us together when it comes to communicating have pushed us apart when it comes to interacting with others. Like it or not, we live in a high-tech, low-touch world. Our daily diet consists of rich media sound bites, which are coming at us like heavy snow on a windshield. Some would argue that we are approaching 'whiteout' conditions."
Saenz is an advocate for the use of video on websites, blogs and social media sites. He is also an evangelist for the use of personal video email and for video conferencing as a way to cut through the digital noise and help people connect in more meaningful ways. I’ve been on a couple video conferences with Saenz and a handful of others in one of the virtual meetings he routinely hosts; it’s nearly impossible to multitask and get away with it.
SELF-CARE BOOSTS HEALTH AND CREATIVITY
We don’t yet know what the long term effects of multi-tasking will be but we do know this – there is a practical limit as to how much stress the human body and mind can take before it starts affecting our health.
"As the digital world presses in upon us, people crave visual beauty and tactile experiences that help them feel more centered and connected," Saenz said.
Perhaps that’s why I feel so much more calm and centered tonight. The Florida Keys are a visual and tactile feast. And the benefits of unwinding are already bubbling up: As I walked back from enjoying a lovely sunset dinner on the beach with my husband and daughter, laughing and generally horsing around, a really great business idea just occurred to me, out-of-the-blue. I sent a shorthand note to my business partner along with a silly photo of the three of us standing next to a statue of a giant shrimp.
PERSONAL RESILIENCY MAKES US MORE AVAILABLE TO OTHERS
Dr. Ed Jacobson is a psychologist, business coach, consultant and public speaker who works with financial advisors and organizations to help them to identify, plan for and achieve “important goals that truly matter.” He speaks frequently on personal resiliency and self care for financial advisors.
“I agree that we’re increasingly tethered to each other by technology, to the point where we sometimes have to make a conscious decision to untether ourselves for a while,” says Jacobson. “And I certainly appreciate and enjoy how quickly we can send and receive information from almost anywhere in a flash: it feels miraculous, every time! But I’m not sure that technology truly connects us to each other, in ways that matter.”
“It’s great that we can upload and download wedding and new baby photographs, and use VOIP to talk with each other. When do talk in person, or email, or VOIP with each other, it’s important that we connect – that we’re able to say what’s on our minds and in our hearts, that we feel not just listened to but heard and understood. I’m convinced, more than ever, that those are fundamental human needs, all the more so due to the stress of the Great Recession. And that takes more than technological “connectivity.” It requires good listening skills, patience and presence, caring, and not rehearsing our next response while we half-listen.”
Of course being on vacation – or just getting away – can create a more perfect environment for connecting not just with ourselves and our best ideas, but with the important people in our lives. I’m embarrassed to admit, for instance, that it never really registered for me before today that my teenage daughter doesn’t like and has never liked strawberries. It’s pretty clear I wasn’t really listening. “Really? You’ve been telling me this for years,” I asked incredulously as my husband nodded in tandem with my favorite gal. What else have I totally missed through multi-tasking and being driven by a results-oriented business agenda? Being present and really listening is a skill that we can all perfect.
BEING MINDFUL AS A VACATION SUBSTITUTE
Adam Galinsky, professor at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, says that detaching from a familiar environment can help us get new perspectives on everyday life. "Not just taking time off from work, but actually getting away from where you live is really important, because that's the only way that you can achieve perspective," Galinsky says. And immersing yourself in a different culture in an unfamiliar place, where there's a whole other set of social norms and customs, makes people have a better sense of who they are.
But we don’t necessarily need to leave the country or go on a long vacation to reap similar benefits in health and wellbeing. Jacobson and other psychologists and researchers have found that just being mindful generally can help us feel more balanced and creative.
According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, a famous teacher of mindfulness meditation and the founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, mindfulness is being “paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” My husband and I reminded ourselves of this as we watched some college students on Spring Break at the sandbar café last night and got a big smile out of their antics.
CONNECTING EXPERIENCES = CREATIVITY
Steve Jobs, who according to Wikipedia “is widely recognized as a charismatic pioneer of the personal computer revolution,” said creativity is just connecting things. “When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn't really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That's because they were able to connect experiences they've had and synthesize new things.”
Time for me to turn off the computer, stare at the waves, and think on that a bit. And, Diane, about that spa treatment … it’s scheduled for tomorrow.
What are you doing to become more personally resilient and creative? Your ability to connect experiences and synthesize new things is vital.
SHARPENING THE SAW
Of course, advisors cannot live on vacations and mindfulness alone. We all have to “sharpen the saw” on a regular basis. Here are a couple suggestions:
-- Register to attend the 2012 Business and Wealth Management Conference being held in September in Denver. This will be the second year that Bob Veres, Dave Drucker, Joel Bruckenstein and Jean Sinclair have organized and hosted this event. I heard nothing but rave reviews about the 2011 conference. It is being billed as “the next generation conference experience.” Early bird discount expires March 15, 2012. Here’s a code to save $100: SWIFTVIP.
-- Register to attend my BrightTalk Thought Leadership webinar. It’s free to attend but you do need to register. Date is March 21, 2012 at 1:00 pm ET. Topic is: Marketing that Works for Financial Advisors Today.
-- Watch Joel Bruckenstein interview the Fidelity Robot and view other video interviews captured live at the T3 Conference. Visit the new T3 Video Channel.