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March 17, 2020

Connection: A Mandatory Life Skill

Today, I’m lying on my couch, writing this, looking out my window up at the sky on a perfectly sunny day. I’ve postponed my personal travel and retreats, and am recalibrating. What happens next? What can I offer now?

I have 9 years of experience operating a global business and managing remote teams. I’ve learned how to roll with the punches and learned how to heal from punches I didn’t see coming.

Any business owner and entrepreneur knows, we have to knuckle down and learn navigation techniques if we want our dream job to both take root and take flight. For example, I’m an engaging writer, a creative, a passionate teacher, an avid traveler. Synching these skills and expertise into an experience I can create for others means I also have had to improve skills such as math (accounting, budgets, payroll) and technology (marketing, SEO, web development) – all subject areas that are well beyond the scope of things I love to do.

Then, because I’m an owner of an international travel company, this adds an entirely new dimension of responsibilities to my participants and clients: response to infectious spider bites, treatment for unusual skin rashes, meeting 14 different dietary requirements in countries where rice, beans, and chicken are more or less the primary food options at every meal. Tropical floods, power outages, and surprise cultural holidays that shut down commerce on our regular business days.

Crazy/stressful? Yep. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The experiences I’ve been able to create, as any salty traveler would nod in agreement, have been truly life-changing, transformational, and . . . awesome. Travel changes you. Connection with others changes you. I always, always want to be in a role where I help make this happen for others on journeys of personal growth and life-shifting experiences.

And I’m good at it. I excel at creating meaningful connection with those I meet.

So . . . reclining in my living room with my laptop, reflecting on the spectrum of experiences I have had places my thoughts here:

That, currently, many of the skills I have above aren’t being put into use, soooo what can I pull from my arsenal that IS of use to others now? One thing I know is true:

We all need to feel lighter.

We all need to feel the love. To feel good. To see the value in things and people and places.

A career in travel and education means I’ve connected with those from many walks of life, easily adjusting my countenance, habits, and expectations to meet my surroundings and present company:

Hanging out with local rice farmers drinking moonshine, laughing at crude jokes.  Sleeping in mosquito nets in rooms with unsmooth cement floors while making genuine friendships, and not splashing out much more than a couple of dollars. (Or rupee or cordobas or pesos or euros or rand).

Or, dining finely. Drinking bold red wine deeply. Feasting on fresh oysters and cold champagne. Enjoying the luxury of leather armchairs in satin dresses, while laughing whole-heartedly in 5-star terraces under the stars with millionaires.

I can see their faces clearly as I share those examples… any of those companions I can easily send a friendly hello to today and receive a friendly hello right back.

My point is, it doesn’t matter the outside context of our social or cultural situation.

It was real-life connection, and connection is a mandatory skill for every single one of us, no matter what our role in life.

On a personal note, things have definitely flipped upside down for me in the last few years. From business “fails” and setbacks to unexpected family loss, natural disasters, political crisis, personal anxiety…. So much has sucked the air out of my lungs for a minute. So much has sucked, period.

But what happened? I learned.

All of these hardships I experienced taught me lessons on how to get through them. I learned how to zoom in on my own habits, beliefs, and approaches. I learned how to disentangle myself from my own worry and confusion.

I learned how to reach out when I needed help.

These challenges also taught me empathy for those going through similar losses, changes, and unexpected shifts. Every hardship has fortified my ability to help others, which has always, ALWAYS been my purpose.

Since volunteering as a writing tutor in high school, then on to teach secondary English in the UK. Then becoming a lecturer in English, Writing, and Leadership at universities in Australia.  Founding two international companies where my business embodied personal growth, education, and social leadership and travel to South Africa, Cambodia, Thailand, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Indonesia and Canada and beyond.

Our lives are packed with learning and right now we are all being forced to sit down, be still, and take a minute (or a few weeks) to learn. To listen. To listen to ourselves.

To reconnect.

I know the light that social distancing casts feels like a dim one… and while this may be touted as a dream for the introverts amongst us, I’m not fooled. Even introverts need connection in some form.

We are all human.

Twenty years in 40 countries have taught me many things– but one important thing stands out:

We are bright lights that can brighten the shine in others.

We can connect. We can see the potential in others and help them build a step-by-step process that taps into that potential with confidence. We can inspire.

Right now, things are nuts. Let’s be honest. I think more than ever, we need connection.

I want to offer that to you. I always have moved through life with my arms and heart wide open to others, but I want to offer this especially now, when it seems our society is tearing at the seams with imbalance and disconnect.

If you find yourself treading water, trying to keep the panic just below the surface, reach out to others.  Someone else out there knows what it feels like to panic from sudden change or misfortune.

If you need something solid to hang on to, if you need structure, centering, and clarity while humanity scrambles to find calm and order again, then reach out.  There is someone else out there who knows what it’s like to suffer unexpected loss or to lose your footing (in life, love, and business).

If you need personal well-being and mentorship, then I hear you. I’ve leaned into this kind of support for myself, and I most definitely wouldn’t be where I am without my back-up of mentors, coaches, and supporters.

I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t looked inside myself, nurtured my strengths and decluttered the self-sabotaging habits. This is a daily, continued practice.

Don’t let the widespread panic, fear, and isolation darken your days. We are all on this path together.

Seek connection.

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