Rod and I woke-up hungry in Flagstaff, Arizona. The morning sun hung low in the sky and the air was crisp. With very little money in our pockets we made our way to the local grocery store and bought what any adolescent would buy to sustain them for the next 500 miles or so - a hostess cupcake pack and a 4oz carton of milk to split between us. After eating our ‘nutritious’ breakfast, we got on the bike and headed East on route 40 toward Vega,Texas.
As we continued on the road the valley gave way to thick forests and a more mountainous milieu. We could noticeably feel the cold chill in the air as we climbed higher in altitude. I looked down at my exposed hands clenched to the bike handles; they were red and starting to go numb. We were un-prepared for the extreme temperature change. After about 15 minutes I could not take it anymore and pulled the bike off the road. In a stroke of genius (or more likely, pure survival mode), we took our socks off and donned them as mittens. Well, I thought, this was a heck of a way to start the day…cold and hungry.
We rode on, huddled on the bike with our makeshift mittens, until we crossed into New Mexico. Something majestic occurred as we crossed state lines; the terrain was still high, but flat. The forests had thinned-out and we could see for miles across the horizon and into the deep valleys below. By late afternoon we were approaching the city of Albuquerque. What a spectacular site to behold. The city rose out of nowhere from the vast valley. Mountains flanked it on either side. The bright blue New Mexico sky stretched out behind them to set a limitless backdrop. Rod and I should have pressed on to make good time before it got dark, but the picturesque sight entranced us. We pulled over and just took it all in. In fact, by the time we drove down the side of the Colorado Plateau, through the city and back up the other side of the mountains, we had to stop again. The sun now was beginning to set and the deep blues, purples and oranges that exploded from the sky were absolutely amazing.
That night, when we reached Vega, we each had a snickers bar for dinner. We were exhausted and headed to the nearest motel that looked to be in the price range of such financially savvy travelers as ourselves. I haggled with the owner to give us a more “economical price” for a room, given our tight budget. Finally, after a little back and forth, we got the room for $7 (early evidence of my negotiating skills). As I settled into the grubby bed, I remember saying to Rod, “What an awesome day!”
I reflect on these 575 miles of the 3,300 mile trip to remind us business leaders that sometimes we get caught up in the day-to-day activities and challenges at work. More often than not, we should take time to “just take it all in,” or to be cliché, “stop and smell the roses.” Sometimes it’s the best thing to do, because it helps us refocus and reenergize. I believe that the age old saying, “it’s not about the destination as much as the journey,” is analogous to the work environment. Each organization has goals and objectives to meet, but goals can be restrictive. In the literal sense, they set an end to what leaders can achieve. I'm not advocating being irresponsible. I'm not suggesting working today with no thought of what the consequences will be tomorrow. What I am advocating is enjoying the trip of building your organization, your team and your leadership style –take time to reflect on how far you have come and the possibilities that lie ahead.