The Plane Ride
It was finally over. An incredible journey that took me from the red double-deck buses of London, to a drunken late-night taxi ride to “Asia” on the streets of Istanbul, had finally reached its conclusion. There I was in a plane parked on the tarmac of New York’s JFK airport, waiting to taxi to the runway and embark on the final leg of my flight home to Detroit. I was riding an all-time high after 70 days of nonstop adventure, and was eager to tell any and everyone around me about it.
Enter Sandi, world traveler, social marketing guru, and my seat mate on the flight to Detroit. Our conversation, which started as simple small talk about our respective adventures in Europe, quickly transitioned into one of the most informative and fascinating discussions I have had in a long time (so much so that I began taking notes on my iPhone after the first hour of talking). The real meat and potatoes of our conversation began when Sandi asked me what I was going to school for (film and media studies, and marketing) and we started talking about the changing world of marketing in the Facebook/Twitter era. I brought up some of my favorite authors and entrepreneurs who have excelled in this new business model and was surprised to hear that she had read and followed many of the same people. Some of these new “influentials” in the social media era include:
- Tim Ferriss – world traveler, and NYT’s bestselling author of “The Four Hour Workweek” and “The Four Hour Body”, as well as blogger extraordinaire.
- Gary Vaynerchuk - Host of Wine Library TV, The Daily Grape, and author of “Crush It!: Why NOW Is the Time to Cash In on Your Passion”.
- Seth Godin - serial bestselling author and marketing savant.
- Tony Hsieh - CEO of Zappos.com and author and creator of the Delivering Happiness movement.
- Derek Sivers – Founder of the music distribution site CDBaby and advocate of assuming you are below average.
As it turned out Sandi was quite connected in the marketing industry in the Metro-Detroit area, and helps run a social media advising company called Insights-Group (who is also generously hosting this blog for me). She was the perfect person to talk to, and when we finally landed two and a half hours later, I realized that I had just made a valuable connection in my field.
And then I looked down and realized I was wearing the ridiculous skinny, bright red pants that I had bought during the course of my summer abroad…more on this later on.
The Masterminders Meeting
One of the key topics that Sandi brought up during our conversation is called masterminding. Originally documented by author Napoleon Hill, masterminding states that, “When two or more people coordinate in a spirit of harmony and work toward a definite objective or purpose, they place themselves in position, through the alliance, to absorb power directly from the great storehouse of the creative mechanism of each contributing mind.” Some of the most successful people throughout history owe their wealth to the concept of masterminding, including Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford, and Bill Gates.
As it turns out, Sandi had thought about starting a masterminding group for younger, college-aged individuals, and after our conversation on the plane, she decided to make this idea a reality. The group was organized through Facebook, and I attended the first meeting a week after arriving home from Europe. The meeting consisted of a few college-aged people as well as motivational speaker, Tom Harris, and Austin Szelkowski, who graduated from college and then decided to rollerblade across America…yeah I said ROLLERBLADE. He is currently in the process of writing a book about his journey, read the first few chapters here.
The first meeting was very thought provoking, exciting, and eye opening. The ice breaker question Sandi used to get everybody talking was, “If money was no object, what would you do with the rest of your life, and why?”
One of the other young members of the group answered, saying she would hop on a plane and head to London, with no real plans after arriving. Austin responded to her statement by asking if she had her passport ready to go, because he would put her on a plane the very next day. It was then that I realized what sort of people were sitting at the table with me. These are the type of individuals that are innovative, positive, and willing to put it all on the line for a cause they believe in. In short, the type of people other successful people surround themselves with.
Enter the Red Pants
Before I go any further about the pair of red pants I now shamelessly wear everywhere, I need to explain how they initially came about.
One of the first things I noticed upon arriving in Europe was the way people dressed and most people’s attention to fashion and looking presentable. Most Europeans, if I may group an entire continent in one generalization for a moment, seem to pay close attention to the latest trends in fashion, and in many cases are a few years ahead of trends that eventually end up in the USA. I don’t consider myself a fashion expert, by any means, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see these style of shorts, which are hugely popular overseas, make the jump to America in the next few summers…
But anyways, back to the red pants. I first saw somebody wearing a pair of them in London and made a passing remark to a female friend next to me that I was going to buy some of those pants before the trip was over. This was initially intended as sarcasm, and remained that way for awhile, but as we made our way farther east across Europe, I started seeing more and more of these red pants. It wasn’t limited to just the young people either, there were many old wrinkly folks well into their 60′s, who had no qualms about rocking a pair of bright red slacks. I finally made the purchase in Rome after lucking out and finding a pair that not only fit me (I’m 6’5″), but that were also on sale. It was meant to be! I tried them on, and almost didn’t buy them, but then I looked in the mirror, thought of what all my friends back home would think of me, and then quickly dismissed it, realizing that this trip was all about going for it and taking risks. Little did I know, these pants seemed to have a plan of their own, as every time I wore them for the next 4 weeks something crazy, ridiculous, or downright hilarious would happen.
These moments kept running through my head during the Masterminding meeting and I continued to wonder how I even ended up at a table with so many inspiring people, after being dressed like a fool on the airplane.
The word “myopia” came up at one point and this really resonated with the thoughts that were running through my head after the meeting. Myopia is defined as a “nearsightedness, lack of imagination, foresight, or intellectual insight.” In other words, it is a mental state that hinders us from thinking clearly, creatively, and freely. During the meeting, we talked about “alcoholic myopia”, meaning that after we drink a certain amount of alcohol, the little voice inside our head that tells us what we should and shouldn’t say, goes away and we can truly speak our minds (which may also lead to unforeseen consequences).
I’ve since realized that my red pants act as the sort of “alcoholic myopia”. Everybody has a mental block or internal “wall of shame” that they construct when they are in an unfamiliar or uncomfortable environment. For some, this wall is taller than others. The red pants work like the alcohol, in that, they knock down that mental block and allow me to think clearly. They allow me to say the first thoughts that pop into my head, and do the spontaneous things that I first think of doing, but later dismiss. This sounds absurd, but let me try to explain it further.
So then I started thinking why the pants work like they do…what sort of magical power do they possess that allows me to throw caution to the wind, be the real me, and let the ideas flow freely. The conclusion I came to is that they make me look so ridiculous (or downright good looking), that I no longer care about anything I say or do, because I already look as dumb as possible. Anything I say or do will only improve the situation.
So THEN, I started thinking what else allows me to reach this sort of mental clarity to think clearly and uniquely. God knows, I can’t wear those damn red pants for the rest of my life. I’ve decided that the times I think and work best is when I am in a new, challenging situation, and have no choice but to ignore the mental “wall of shame” and just go with my first thought or idea. The plane ride home next to Sandi forced me into this sort of free thinking. I was finally having a conversation with someone about a topic that I was innately interested in and passionate about. My brain was hitting on all six cylinders instead of the usual two. I thought the conversation was fascinating and informative, and then when we finally stopped talking, I looked down and realized I was wearing those obnoxious pants.
It wasn’t until I spent the whole summer traveling and living out of a backpack, and then returned home and went back to work, that I realized I haven’t been put in a fun, new, and challenging environment in a long time. Sitting in my bland office all day with nothing on my agenda, and the endless supply of distractions on the Internet at my disposal, has corrupted my brain. As soon as I took a step away from all these daily distractions in Europe, and was put in a challenging environment where nobody spoke my language, I was forced to adapt and rise to my full potential.
This is something that I am now striving for personally and in the workplace. It is something that I need on a daily basis. It is my RELEVANCE. I’m tired of going to work and class and not being forced to think outside of the box. I’m ready to take the next step, and be faced with a problem or project that I can’t put off until the last minute and still get it done.
I didn’t initially “get” what the Masterminding meeting was supposed to accomplish. It wasn’t until I got home and was trying to convey what we talked about to my mom, that I was able to work out the broad concepts we discussed, and see why in fact I had been so happy the past two months in Europe.
Can’t believe that all started with a pair of red pants…