One year ago in Savannah, I made the decision to join the Hell Raisers II mastermind — a private group of high-level entrepreneurs committed to a year of membership in the hopes and belief that such a group would make our dreams possible. The prevailing wisdom is that such a group can speed your development. Support your accelerated growth. Think hive mind.
Still, I was nervous. I didn’t, one year ago, have the financial means to stay enrolled. In order to remain in the group, I’d have to double, triple my income. I’d have to make it up, each month.
Talk about challenge. Talk about risk.
Maybe the sweet languor I felt in the humidity gave me a sense of possibility. Or magic. Or a feeling of f*ck it, let’s try. What do you have to lose?
Turns out, a whole lot…
I lost an old self. A self I’d inhabited for years. A story I’d clung to for decades.
I lost an identity + a community I loved.
If you want to change your life, know it’s possible.
Know also that it requires ultimate sacrifice.
You cannot avoid pain.
Over my life, I’ve always traveled to make transitions. When you change the scenery, when you step out of your comfort zone even a little — you gain the opportunity to change your perspective. Especially when you are able to travel alone.
If you’re like me, you step out of the car, or you get off the plane — and your previous life evaporates.
Why, you have always lived in Thailand! Monks and katoey — lady boys — have always lived side by side! Time starts and stops here in Thailand.
Or Cape Cod, if that’s where you land. What else exists besides sand dunes and salt-licked beach grass, weather-beaten shingled-houses and the smack of the croquet ball? The insistent tinkle of martini glasses? The siren call of Madras pants and boat house square dances?
It all depends on where you stop. Wherever it is, life begins fresh. Even if only for a week.
You get a taste of what life could be like — if you lived in…Thailand. Or Cape Cod. Or…
I could write endlesslly about travel. About how you can use trips for extreme personal development. For accelerated growth and insight.
For today’s post though, I am going to focus on just a few simple tips. Anchored by images.
Remember that these days, you are your brand. If you are an entrepreneur or small business owner? You’re it. The only way to stand out is to identify and share your Signature Story. What makes you unmistakably you.
Don’t forget this either:
We are our stories.
TRAVEL can sharpen your sense of your own hero’s journey.
First, let’s start with 1. SURPRISE!
Right after the mastermind, I drive into Savannah late at night.
When I land at my destination, it is a new spot. Through a moist clump of leaves, past a loaded-down pick-up, through a latched and rusted gate — and there, right next to the cottage where I’ll stay — a strange beast rises out of the humid, dark mist. I can barely make it out…
Honestly? I am exhausted by the long, dark drive. Peeved by directional confusion. Yes and…as soon as I see the carved wooden life-size giraffe! I burst out laughing. How unexpected! What a surprise!
It is an utter delight.
That giraffe changes everything. That giraffe — reminds me that life is delicious. Full of whimsy and humor, if you know where to look. If you keep your eyes open. And your heart.
So I invite you — whether you are on a vacation, or you are in your home — look for, be open to, something fresh. Something surprising. Something that brings you unexpected delight, or wonderment. Be open to this experience. And see how one giraffe…can return you to innocence and pure joy.
Then write about it. Capture that fleeting sensation. And share it with your tribe. In a blog. A talk. A webinar. You might be surprised yourself by the response.
It’s all about engagement.
It’s not about templates. There’s no room for surprise in templates.
2. SPEAK TO STRANGERS.
Forget the old adage, Don’t Speak to Strangers! Engage. Interact. Learn the city, or town, or beach hideaway, through conversations with locals.
My first day in Savannah, I wander into the Sentient Bean. I know I can eat to my Paleo diet’s delight. It is her hair that inspires more conversation.
“You’re like Marie Antoinette!” I exclaim, unable to contain my joy. “Hippie style! May I take a photo?”
“No,” she says. “No pictures. My mother was a photographer,” she says.
“I hear you,’ I say. “I so get you. My mother was a photographer. Same deal. She drove me mad.” I pause. Pick up my almond milk latte from the other side of the counter. “Still,” I say, “with hair like that, it’s like you’re inviting a photograph. What if I take one and let you decide? You might like it. I won’t post it without your permission.”
For the first time, we truly connect. Lock eyes. She tells me how she lived in a van for a month. How she still ate vegan. There is so much more to the story. Clearly.
Yes and…I ask no more questions.
If we are to develop as writers — and all entrepreneurs these days must be writers — then such partial stories told by strangers are opportunities for us to fill in the blanks. To imagine. To invent.
Imagination = Innovation.
I show her the photo. “Oh,” she says. “I like that.”
She turns away, washes a coffee pot. Then swings around. Her eyes bright.
“Kelso is my nickname,” she says.
And I receive that like the gift it is meant to be.
If you learn to open yourself to those whom you encounter, to those who serve you, to strangers — you can’t help but expand your heart. And your sense of a place. Avoid this? And you miss out on the living nature of a city.
How many of you help others reclaim their bodies? Improve their health? Their presence?
How many of you also embody your language, your stories? If you don’t, yet — engaging in this way with the people and places you travel can add a new vibrant dimension. Once again, share about these moments. These encounters. Track the engagement. Experience your own heightened humanity.
3. READ. You want to experience wherever you travel with more depth? More layers. Read. Read books about the place — history, poetry, fiction. Guide books. Menus. Newspapers.
One reason I am drawn to Savannah — moth-like — is that I have a history with the South. I spent my last three years of high school in a small town in Alabama. Then, I learned that the South is full of natural storytellers. It’s more relational than the rest of the country.
In Savannah, I am a guest of the gracious and brilliant author, George Dawes Green (The Caveman’s Valentine, The Juror, Ravens). George also founded the global phenomenon, The MOTH storytelling series. All from his love of stories. Savannah is also the home of my literary idol Flannery O’Connor. When I visit here, I read works by my host, George, by Flannery, by other stunning local writers like Rosemary Daniell, revisit Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil — and the town takes on greater depth and texture.
Try it. You’ll be amazed at how a place unfolds — and becomes richer both in the present — and in your imagination.
Be forewarned: magic will ensue.
Once again, document. In images, in words. You are not only sitting on a goldmine of material for your “content” — you are constantly surrounded by stimulation and inspiration — if you would only look. Breathe. See. Hear. Touch. Taste. Feel.
I always say, You can’t move others if you can’t move yourself. This starts with setting. If you want to create a powerful scene, locate us in space and time. If you want to experience setting, then locate yourself in space and time by taking the time and energy to read about the place you’re visiting. Fiction and non-fiction.
Worried about connecting this to your message? Don’t. Let story come FIRST. Then let your story be context for your message.
Let us know if this inspires. Know this: the more deeply and intimately you engage with your surroundings, and with its people, the more alluring you yourself become.
Now back to my book, by candelight, to the music of cicadas…and perhaps a splash of bourbon…
Please share your slices of Surprise, of Speaking With Strangers, of Reading and enhancing our Summer Vacations + Travels in our comments. Let us all travel together. Tell us if you shared it in a blog, or live talk/event, newsletter or sales conversation. We’d love to hear about the effect, the results, the engagement.