One of my favorite news personalities is ABC correspondent, Dan Harris. I once met the guy in a NYC bar, struck up a brief conversation and went on my way confident that he is the same character he would have you believe on television. I am in no way a guy that gets “star-struck” (okay, perhaps only by Sidney Crosby), so it was easy to enjoy my conversation with Mr. Harris. I found myself asking him inquisitive questions about mass media; interviewing the interviewer if you will. At the time I met him, he had been pigeonholed into reporting on many stories about religion and faith. Though not my favorite subject, I appreciated his ability to make each piece thought provoking. As I sat there, fascinated by his recollection of the challenges of media, I challenged myself to make sure I am always learning, and to make a more conscious effort to study those things that are completely foreign to me.
While this was not the ah-ha moment that pushed me into business school, it was one step on a journey that reminded me how I thirst to learn. I am lucky to have found a profession that affords me the opportunity to learn about many, many industries. My customers range from small “mom and pop” shops to Fortune 500 enterprises. With each account, I get to drive the marketing message, but only after I dive deeply into the brand and business model. In order to do my job effectively, I must be able to understand “how it works.” I pride myself on my study of each account and would feel comfortable having a somewhat in-depth conversation about each of my customer’s offerings.
With the fruits of studying each business model, comes the inevitable “noise” in my head as a byproduct. There is only so much space between my ears, and I have found quieting that noise helps to better organize those things I want to keep available in my brain. As I have recently turned 40, I have found this more difficult to do. So, like every other person plagued with a chronic issue, I made my way to my local bookseller for some quick self-help. To my surprise, there in front of my face, was a book by Dan Harris, 10% Happier. Not only was there a book calling my name but also Dan Harris wrote it.
I raced home and read the book in one night (full disclosure, it is a small and easy read). To my excitement, Mr. Harris was touching on the ideas that had recently troubled me. The general point of 10% Happier, is to focus on “the now.” At first, I was admittedly annoyed that Dan Harris would subscribe to what I perceived as “hippy-ish” philosophy. However, his argument was sound and if it worked for him why couldn’t I be more open minded?
Admittedly, I found myself to be a poor meditator. I am always thinking about what is next. However, these mindful sessions did help me shift my thinking. I realized that while I have always enjoyed the learning, I never took the time to enjoy the journey. Listening to a Podcast recently, I heard someone describe this in terms of mountain climbing. I have always assumed the peak is the greatest part of mountain climbing. However, if a helicopter were to fly you to the peak and drop you off, would the peak really be satisfying to the mountain climber? The journey to the peak is what is gratifying.
Having learned this lesson, I now try to enjoy the learning process that comes with our industry. Events are deadline driven, (at times) overwhelming affairs that challenge even the coolest cucumber from time to time. Focusing on the process has helped me to slow down and to see things in clearer way. So as we enter the NRF show this weekend (Retail’s Largest Show), I am ready to put my new skills to the test…Hopefully, Dan Harris would be pleased.