Pi’s Guide to How To Survive Work Trips (And why they suck)

I travel for work quite a bit. This past week, I was in Las Vegas, Nevada for the Healthcare Information Management and Security Show (HIMSS) with over 25,000 attendees and 460 software, healthcare and security vendors from all around the world. Three weeks ago, I was in Palm Springs, California for my company’s Global Sales Meeting, and a month before this, I was in Los Angeles and San Diego, California for a week to meet with my customers.

I remember my very first business trip in 2004, when I worked for Canon Business Solutions. It was the first time I’d been sent away on my own by my company for training in Toronto for two weeks. I remember my first morning, suited up, sitting in the hotel restaurant having the continental breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, sausages and croissants, reading the morning paper with my suitcase beside me. The road warrior, it was awesome.

I would like to say that there have only been a handful of memorable moments in my life that I would consider monumental. I’ve known people who think that every event from the mundane to the exciting are life memories, and perhaps rightfully so it might be true for them, but for myself there is something to be said about only having only a few events that I remember that make those moments special, near to heart and life changing. After all, having too much of something cheapens it doesn’t it?

I remember that moment as if it were yesterday, because at that moment, I’d felt like I’d made it, achieved my goal and was king of the world. To explain, I’ll need to rewind back a few years, when I was in elementary school. As a young chap all of 9 years old, I knew I wanted to go to SFU Business school and be a business man. I didn’t know what kind of business, just one where I drove to my downtown highrise corner office in a nice car, with my suitcase in shotgun, and me in a suit. I pictured leading boardroom meetings to a bunch of suits, talking all sorts of business. I’m not sure where I got this vision, since no one in my family was corporate. And also because I was 9.

Fast forward to today, 8 years after my first business trip and I have to say, travelling for work sucks. Like, it really blows. You couldn’t pay me to have a continental breakfast anymore. Seriously, they’re like powdered eggs and there’s never enough ketchup. Here are my reasons and how to survive a work trip.

1. You eat alone – When I was growing up, my parents always made my sister and I eat at the dinner table as a family. It was the one time of the day where we sat and talked and shared what went on. It definitely brought us closer together and it’s a tradition I’m going to keep with my future family. I can tell you that having room service with the TV on sucks. Even better yet, trying to eat airport food while waiting for your flight (Like I literally just did 15 minutes ago before writing this.)

How to survive it: Convince your boss to let a colleague come with you. Or make friends with other lonely travelling business people. I’ve met some pretty cool people with cool stories from all over through the years.

2. There’s no time for touristy stuff – I’ve been to SoCal 7 times now in the past 2 years for work. Did I get to go party or check out the beaches? Nope. I was just in Vegas (I’m actually still here, waiting for my flight) and I didn’t do anything other than meet with clients. You really don’t have time to do anything else other than work. It’s not good business to go to your 9am meeting hung over reeking like goose. And after your last meeting at 5pm, I go back to my hotel and prepare for the next days meetings, answer emails, put out fires and order room service.

How to survive it: Have your clients take you out. Get them smashed and if they reek like goose the next day too, it’s even playing grounds and your boss can’t fire you. Or just take a vacation and go back to do the touristy stuff

3. Airports – who has two thumbs and hates the commute?? This guy!! (Points at me with my two thumbs) Line up to check in. Line up go to though security. Take off my belt, shoes, laptop out of bag. No liquids, nothing over 100ml, oh, bags too heavy? Throw some shit away. Bag doesn’t fit in overhead? Gotta check it. Sitting in the middle between two people? One of them is fat and the other stinks? You land. Line up to go through customs. Line up to get bag. Nuff said.

How to survive it: Learn to teleport. Or get rich enough to charter your own flight. Either way, you’re not travelling for work anymore.

4. Ironing – They lied when they told me those dress shirts were wrinkle free. Where are they now when they’re wrinkled as hell?? I suck at ironing. It takes me like 20 minutes to iron ONE shirt.

How to survive it: Bring your mom with you.

There are, of course with everything in life, the silver lining and it’s there if you look hard enough.

1. Free trip!

2. Escape the rain of home for a few days.

3. The people you meet

4. Time to write and read

5. …

There are more, but I just heard my flight being called to board, so I’m ending it here before I get stuck here for another night. Then you guys will have to read about that. (OH yeah! That’s another reason work trips suck. Delayed flights.)

Do you travel for work? Tell me your pros/cons about it too, I’d love to hear what other people experience.

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Perfect Imperfection, Just the Way it’s Supposed To Be

It seems like everywhere you look these days, there’s something telling you that you need to be better, that you need to be smarter, thinner, wittier. There are endless self-improvement books to make more money, improve relationships and ways to find yourself, to find inner peace or to inject yourself with motivation so that you can-do. There are fitness classes focused around making yourself stronger, ones focused on how to eat, how to think and how to love. We are becoming transfixed on the idea that self-improvement leads to self fulfillment. And sometimes, it’s not the case. In actuality, if you do it for the wrong reasons, it can be just as detrimental as being materialistic and always wanting more, always fueling your ego and never feeling fulfilled, never content or happy for more than just a moment. Like sand, it slips away as soon as you hold onto it.

The will and desire to grow beyond what we have already mastered is one of the great human drives. Without it we wouldn’t have philosophy, spiritual practices, science or technology. – Main Shirp

While my own bookshelves contains many fix books, self improvement guides and coaching bibles, it is important to investigate our motives for having this desire. Too often that desire stems from the belief there is something wrong with us, that we are not complete. You can go see a therapist for years and pour your heart and mind out, and all that you’ll have at the end is a folder the size of your head describing what you’ve said; fears and dreams, thoughts and emotions, but nothing in it really holds true to who you are, nothing you put down on a sheet of paper can ever truly describe You. But we still try to attempt that one-sheet of self-description, so that maybe if we can truly describe who we are on paper, we can root out the problem and fix it.

Self-improvement feeds on our insecurities. If only I were this, if only I could do that, looked like this, then, and only then I would be confident and accept who I truly am. These crippling self judgments we make fuel addictions, loneliness, eating problems and perfectionism. In turn we combat these symptoms with the newest Band-Aid solution, another self-help program. But that never gets us any closer to the root of the problem.

The reasonable man adapts to the world. The Unreasonable man makes the world adapt to him. Therefore, all progress in the world relies on the Unreasonable Man. –George Bernard Shaw

Hating parts of the self is a symptom of a sick society. We all have parts of ourselves that we despise and we as a culture, can’t help but to focus on those parts. There is always something that can be improved on, whether be it physical or mental, spiritual or emotional. But are we focused on improving and bettering ourselves for ourselves? Or are we doing it to be accepted and to blend in with the crowd in our attention-deficit-disordered society where fame is fleeting and there’s always something newer, better, shinier that comes along? There will always be better, and there will always be worse. To constantly and always be looking for either is not a healthy way to live.

My life has been full of terrible misfortunes, most of which never happened. -Mark Twain

Nothing is ever good enough. And while these self improvement tactics work like temporary barriers that protect our fragile egos, they eventually wear out. You wake up without make-up and you don’t like what you see. And as long as the solution is simply putting make-up back on, you are cutting the weed but not the root. Without true and real self-acceptance, the dissatisfaction will grow back. You don’t see that you are already amazing and that change is optional, not mandatory.

If we would stop being so harsh on ourselves and show some compassion for our own mistakes and imperfections, we would be more at ease and improve in areas that are truly beneficial instead attempting to live up to an illusion. The majority of flaws that you see in yourself is virtually invisible to anyone else. Mostly because they are not focused on your flaws as much as you are, but also because the flaws you think are flaws in your eyes aren’t even issues in theirs. So who are you really improving for?

Once you accept the fact that you’re not perfect, then you develop some confidence. -Rosalynn Carter

Three Cups of Tea and a whole lotta Leadership

I’m in the middle of a book called ‘Three Cups of Tea’ by Greg Mortenson about an American climber in the late 80’s who attempted to scale the K2 in the Himilayas and failed. Near death he stumbled into a desolate village and through their kindness and self sacrifice, the villagers saved his life and nursed him back to health. Asking what he could offer in return, he received a reply of “We do not envy the restlessness of your culture and I think we could teach you a thing or two about peace and happiness, but what we desperately need is for our children to learn.” Thereon, he returned to his home in the States and attempted to raise funds to build a school for the small remote village. Though now, halfway around the world in a completely different setting, beneath the ever shining sun of Southern California with the sand and surf, the little frozen village in the Karakoram mountains seemed like a distant past dream, but he persisted and after a year and half ended up raising enough money to return to Pakistan to buy materials. (That’s as far as I’ve gotten) Based on a true story of Mortenson in the late 80’s early 90’s, his drive and leadership allowed him to help others in a way he never imagined that he was capable of.

Inside each and every single one of us, there is the ability to lead.

Whether we affect only ourselves, a small village or an entire nation, the leader within us yearns to be free and be heard. The idea behind a leader, is one who has an idea or goal and is able to rally people behind their vision and have everyone working towards that common interest. Whether you’re the General of an army or the General Manager of a store, you talk and people listen. I hear from my work colleagues or hockey teammates “Oh I’m not a leader, I couldn’t manage anybody.” But yet I see these same people speaking up in meetings with new ideas, making suggestions and plans, or playing their ass off on the ice while everyone is just cruising. Unbeknownst to them, they are leading by example and I don’t know about you, but I’ve always worked harder for a hard working boss than a lazy one.

There are 3 types of leaders in this world.

Pushers, Pullers and Pointers.

The Pusher sees the end goal and directs people towards it, giving just enough directions to get to the next step. This type of leader gets things done but morale of his subordinates is often low as they’re seen as tools to accomplish a feat. The Puller convinces her people along the way, coaxing them into doing the job although often very nearly does the whole job herself. The Pointer knows what his team needs to accomplish and simply points the way to the finish line, helping those who ask for it along the way. While there can be a never ending debate on which is the best, in my opinion, you need to have parts of all 3 to become a great and effective leader. All of us individuals have different buttons that make us our best and it’s up to our leaders to effectively find out what those buttons are. Unfortunately, life isn’t all like Staples with just one big easy button.

If you look within your own group of friends, you’ll find this trait too. You’ll have pushers, pullers and pointers. Everybody has those traits while few bring them out as true leadership. We are all leaders of something, whether it be small like your family, or large like a country, we all have the ability to lead, even if it’s for only a moment. Look at all the times when your friends say “I need help with this, can you help?” or when your colleagues ask “how do you do that so well?” or when a decision needs to be made and you made it. We all look to others to help us in our times of need, meaning we look for direction and leadership, but many times, our peers approach us in their time of need. You may not have realized it at the time, but you were a leader and you were able to make a difference even though maybe it was just to help a new hire find the bathroom. Like the climber Greg Mortenson, who didn’t set out to become a leader, through our actions and integrity towards other people we all have the ability to lead and influence others to make a difference in our daily lives.

Greg Mortenson surrounded by Pakistani children for whom he built the school for

 

I saw this video a while ago on leadership from a crazy dancing guy. It’s worth the watch. (Click link)

Live Long and Prosper (in happiness)

Why would any of us hurt the one we promised to take care of?

Lack of empathy is at the core of the problem. I was struck with what we are all up against while watching a Star Trek (Yes I’m a Trekkie) episode. Spock had volunteered to be possessed by an alien presence so that it could communicate with Captain Kirk of the Starship Enterprise.

As soon as it entered Spock’s body, its first reaction was, “Oh, how lonely you must all feel.”

You see, in the alien world, they were all connected to each other through telepathy so that each one could feel what everyone else felt. They were all emotionally bonded to each other. But as soon as the alien possessed Spock’s body, it realized that we humans are all cut off from each other emotionally. And it viewed our state as incredibly isolated and lonely.

One of the most important consequences of our emotional isolation is that we cannot feel the way we affect others. And that creates the temptation to hurt others because in doing so we don’t feel the pain we cause. If we were connected emotionally to others as the aliens were, we would be far less tempted to do anything thoughtless, gaining at someone else’s expense. That’s because in so doing, we would be hurting ourselves as well.

Lack of empathy helps makes thoughtlessness possible. Since we don’t feel what other’s feel, we tend to down play the negative effects we have on others, and consider our thoughtlessness to be benign. We forget that even the smallest negative word or tone can amplify itself when directed to someone who has placed their whole trust in us. An angry outburst is regarded by some as a creative expression, that “I’m not holding any emotions back even if it means hurting yours and you should appreciate that.” Disrespect is viewed as helping our partner gain proper perspective on “how things should be, not how you are, because how you are is wrong.” And a demand is nothing more than encouraging someone to do what he or she should have done all along. None of these is seen as one person gaining at the other’s expense, because the one who is inflicting the pain does not feel the pain. But one thing is for sure, that when lack of empathy and understanding of the other persons position or thoughts are missing, resentment starts to build. More times than not, people don’t realize this and if they only did, it would all be avoided but only if they chose to take that path. The key really then, is to seek to understand and be understood. Acceptance will come.

Vancouverites Suck

I was born and raised in Vancouver, a true Vancouverite by nature. I drink beer, I play hockey and love the outdoors. I run the seawall, hike the Grouse Grind and never miss a Canucks game if I can help it. I wear jeans and a hoody to my office job (My CEO wears shorts and sandals all year), live and play in Yaletown and you can always find me on a beach or park when it’s nice out.

I’m also cliquey, a little stuck up, too quick to judge and have been told I’m a little unapproachable. I will be guilty of not remembering your name or face until I’ve met you 3 times, not because my memory sucks (although it does) but because I don’t bother trying. Unfortunately, that is the entire culture of Vancouverites as we are seen looking from the outside in.

For those of us lucky enough to be immersed into this environment at an early age, we gain and build solid friendships with those like us. For those who have moved into Vancouver from other cities, even ones in the vicinity like Abbotsford or Victoria, it becomes an almost impossible task to build that foundation of friends, especially if you’re starting fresh with no introductions or ties into any groups. And that’s just with the same sex. It’s even harder with the opposite.

All together, yet seperated.

When you look at trying to meet Vancouver women, I find mostly that one of the first things that they’ll ponder is “who do you know.” It’s almost a social status contest, where if you don’t know anybody in this town, it’s like you’re nobody. And if you’re somebody, they’ll date you for just who you are known as, without really caring much or putting much weight on who you actually are. You’ll only meet them if you’re a friend of a friend. Vancouver girls are especially guilty of this in my experience. I have a lot of single girl friends, older (between the ages of 26 and 30) most successful, beautiful, driven and ambitious, knows what they want and aren’t afraid to go get it. But they’re all single. It’s not that they can’t meet guys, they have plenty of suitors knocking on their doors, but then after a little while, all the guys start running, scared. These girls are intimidating. They know their worth and they portray that persona, or even worse, they think they’re something that they’re not and try to portray a false persona. As one of them said to me one time, “I can do everything myself. I pay my own rent, I bought my own BMW, and I work my ass off for everything that I have. I don’t need a man, I just want one.” Now, guys, what do you do when you meet a girl like this? You run. It’s great that you’re independent, and it’s amazing that you are driven and a go-getter. Girl power all the way, woo. The one important piece that you’re forgetting is that Men NEED to be Men. (Ok SOME men do. There will always be the standard deviation.) We like to be needed sometimes, we like it that sometimes, you’re helpless and call us to save you. Let us be the Knight we’ve all grown up hearing about. We like to play that role that we were born to play, so when you start messing around with the dynamics, we get lost and we run. We do this because you will continually remind us that we are not needed, because we see that you will flaunt your independence and self-sustainability in front of our faces. I’m in no means saying to be wholly dependent either, but I know a few girls who completely over-do it. We know that you will continually judge us, talk about us to your girlfriends and complain how there’s no ‘good guys in town’. We know that if there’s a problem, your first reaction will be to fight back and argue to gain your ego as opposed to looking inwards to see what the problem really is. Chivalry isn’t dead, he just high tailed and left because you flaunt your disdain for him.

When a new guy approaches you, your first reaction will be “I not talking to him. He can’t pick me up. I’m not that easy. What a creep. I can’t believe he even had the audacity to say hi to me.” As opposed to “seems like a normal guy, let’s just chat with him to see what kind of person he is.” Most of the time, I talk to random strangers just to incite some sort of human interaction, whether it’s a girl or guy, old or young, I have no interest in dating you, I just want to pass my life on earth interacting with interesting people when I’m out. But Vancouverites seem to think that every interaction is a door to something that they want no part of, even before they know what’s behind that door. My friends just told me a story, that her and her girl friends go out all the time for drinks, dressed to the 9’s. New outfit, new shoes, hair did and all. Then she tells me they go to a lounge in yaletown and just bitch about how there’s no guys around. I asked her “was it all girls in the lounge?” she said “no, but all the guys there look weird so we didn’t bother.” That’s a common response, a common Vancouver answer. Girls if you want to find a decent guy, you’ll need to strike out a few times. Some WILL be weird. I apologize on behalf of the male sex that not many of us are normal, actually, none of us are. But none of you are either, so we’re fair on that one. Not everyone’s for you, but you’ll never know until you step up to bat.

I visited Toronto a few years back, and I was shocked at the difference in culture on the East coast. I was at a club with 3 of my girl friends and we were standing by the bar, bobbing our heads and enjoying the music. They were flanking me, on either side. In Vancouver, you can bet no one would come talk to me, especially other girls. I mean, which Vancouver girl would walk up to one guy with 3 girls? None. But in Toronto, I was approached by multiple people, guys and girls, who had no other ulterior motive than to chat with me, learn about where I was from (apparently I ‘stood and dressed like an out-of-towner’…it was probably my snobby Vancouver attitude.) and just to know another human being. It didn’t matter if I looked weird, and it didn’t matter if they were 5’s or 9’s. It was infinitely refreshing and I’ve tried to bring that attitude back home to Vancouver. The girls weren’t trying to hook up with me and none of the guys were staring me down. It was just a friendly, open and inviting conversation. One of the girls who came up to me eventually pulled her boyfriend over to meet me, and after a conversation around the Canucks and the Leafs, he bought us a round of shots. I was shocked! That’s what being a Canadian is all about, but in Vancouver, we’ve somehow forgotten that Northern hospitality that we’re so greatly known for around the world. I can say that I’ve had similar experiences in Chicago, Los Angeles, Sydney, Hong Kong and Hawaii and I’d love to see it here at home.

 

Change has to start somewhere. This is a cultural issue that every Vancouverite is aware of, but yet nobody does anything about. Start the change today. Make a point to talk to a random stranger, young or old, man or woman, if even something as short as saying hello on the skytrain, and maybe in time, we can make a shift in how we interact with each other in this cold, rainy, dark city. We’re alone and locked inside for the majority of the year but wouldn’t it be nice if when we were all together in a social place, that we are actually social? At best, you’ll gain great new friends like I have with my buddys from Abbotsford and Victoria. At worst, you’ll get a weird look. Screw those people anyways. What have you got to lose. Let’s start not sucking.

The Year in a Nutshell

Goooooooodbye 2011. Sitting here, trying to think of what to write that could sum up 2011 in one short cleverly written phrase, I’m stumped. It seems as though so much had happened this past year, but somehow I end the year basically in the same spot I was in when I’d started the year. Does that make for a failed year? Not really. Does it make for a successful year? Guess it depends on your half full half empty philosophical stance.

I’d met some intruiging people in 2011. Some who’d showed me amazing things I’d never knew existed, who let me into their lives and  shared with me their experiences. An unknown quotist once quoted ‘Some people enter our lives and leave almost instantly. Others stay and forge such an impression in our heart and soul, that we are forever changed.’ This year had both kinds of people and I’m grateful for all of them. There were some friends who I’d gotten closer with this year, and others who had distanced. Some who moved back home for good, some to just visit. How, exactly, I have been forever changed is still unknown. I’m old enough to know that nothing is ever finite, that what is today, might not be tomorrow. I’m also old enough to know that who I am today, makes me into who I will be tomorrow, that if you want change, it has to come from within. It’s always a choice. I’m thankful that I’m also young enough to not have experienced everything yet, that theres so much more to look forward to.. or not look forward to. Good with the bad, right?

Professionally, I’ve almost taken the entire year off. Not to say I haven’t worked hard, just not as hard and focused as I know I’m capable of. Truth be told, I’m suffering from the worst ailment that can strike a professional. Contentment. What I should do vs. What I want to do. If we never want to be more than who we are exactly today, exactly right now, do nothing. Learn nothing, read nothing, challenge nothing. Ouch, that was what I did in 2011. But I know it won’t be this way in 2012.

I’m not sure what kind of year I’ll have in 2012, just as I’m sure you have no idea about yours. I’m excited for it though, and I’ll take the bad with the good. I’ll take the people, the lessons and experiences and whatever else comes my way. It’s what makes it worth living.

“Life is simple and life is not. Life is simply what we make of it ourselves.”

Happy New Years Everyone!

The Truth (as i see it)

Have you ever played the whisper game? You sit in a circle and whisper something in the ear to the person beside you. By the time it gets back to you, your original sentence of “I scored a hat trick and threw my gloves up in the air last night” has been mangled into “I nailed a fat chick and puked all over her hair last night.”

(LOL)

The truth is, that Truth is in the Eye of the Beholder. You hear all the time, that are 2 sides to every story, but really, there are 3. Your truth, My truth, and the real Truth.

When I was younger, I’d try hard to change the minds of people around me to My Truth because that was what I believed to be true, and if I was right, then you were wrong and that was that. Through my bullishness and constant barrage of ‘facts’ or ‘hear-says’, I would eventually convince my counterpart to concede. Wow, how stubborn I was, because even though they conceded to my ideals or thoughts, they didn’t truly believe or respect My Truth so nothing was gained. We see this everyday from the small and insignificant (what flavor a jellybean really is) to world issues (North Korea, Afghanistan, Vietnam, USA, USSR and every other war that has happened…in ALL of time). The issue is when one side has created a truth in their minds which they believe to be true and are too stubborn to see any other truth. I’m sure Kim Jong Il is a great conversationalist until you disagree on something.  (Maybe he’s ronery) What I’ve learned is that there is actually only One Truth. What used to be My Truth and your truth is simply just my opinion and your opinion with Truth skittering on edge.

With opinion, people go on to lay thick the eloquence on their convictions and beliefs on everything from politics to morality…and usually, they are very adamant about those views, saying them like they are actually the truth, not just “for me,” but truth, period.  Can you really blame a person though? The natural and first instinct of any living creature is self preservation whether it be life or pride, happiness or ego. If ones truth (opinion) threatens your happiness or your life, you will do all you can to fight against it, deny it and create your own story, gain followers and make that your truth to save yourself. How wars are started. (Even Star Wars)

Your best friend or your worst enemy won’t stand a chance against ‘The Truth’ that you believe.

Sadly this is the same with rumors, which are simply the skewed opinions and ‘truths’ that stemmed from people in between you and I. Like the whisper game, did I really sleep with a portly princess last night or was what I said somehow transformed before it got to your ear?

As I’ve gotten older I’ve realized that changing minds about truths and opinions does nothing. A person might not share the same Truth as you, but you still see it as your Truth so the least they can do is try to understand why you see it that way. Who knows, you might be right, you might be wrong, but in the end, we are the only ones that can change our mind of what we believe.