A long way back

by Steve Brock on March 18, 2011

Take a look at what people are doing on an airplane. You never know what you will find...

Do you ever get lost in your work?

There’s the good kind of lost, the flow kind, where productivity and pleasure merge and you’re doing good work well.

Then there’s the other kind. I notice this a great deal on business trips. With this kind of lost, you become so focused on getting to a place, getting through your meetings and then getting home that work becomes all there is. It takes its toll on you and sometimes the other parts and pieces of who you are get diverted or misplaced. Or even lost.

But sometimes, you can find them in the most unlikely situations.

As I write this, I’m on a long flight home, bleary-eyed and pre-occupied with all that has occurred in business meetings today and all I have to do when I get back to the office. Work, at this point, seems pretty all-consuming. But something very unusual happens.

I have to go to the restroom. No, that’s not the unusual part. It’s the return trip back to my seat that is different. For tonight, for a reason I can only attribute to grace, I pay attention to what people on this plane are doing.

This particular flight is loaded with kids and families returning from Spring Break, so I spot relatively few business laptops running Excel spreadsheets or iPads glowing in the cabin’s dim interior. Instead, I witness – I actually take notice of – the following:

  • A few movies
  • A few magazines thumbed through distractedly
  • A number of people eating, drinking, talking and sleeping
  • Several open books on laps and tray tables, grey words blurred on cream colored pages
  • An animated couple intent on their card game
  • A woman scribbling numbers on a square Suduko page
  • An elderly man in a multi-pocketed vest absorbed in a guide to North American birds
  • Another man writing down notations to a music score, green pen on yellow paper

 These last two capture more than my attention. As I pass by each in quick succession, something in me stirs. Even before I reach my seat, I’m aware of God using them to remind me that I too often lose sight of on busy work trips like this of one simple fact: There’s more to life.

I’m no birder and my piano composition skills are quite rusty, but I love, among other things, the outdoors and music. They bring fullness and an added dimensionality to life. Thus, as I witness people on this flight immersed in their passions, I’m reminded of my own, of pursuits and relationships beyond work that I too easily put aside, forget or ignore.


Next time you’re on a flight for business and you feel drained or a bit lost to yourself, pay close attention to the diverse things people are doing around you.

 You may be surprised at what you find.

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When our categories fail us

by Steve Brock on December 14, 2010

Life doesn't always fit into nice neat categories...

At what age do we begin to segment our lives?

Maybe it’s when we start school and we now have a “home life” and a “school life.” All I know is that my life has way too many segments or categories. I realized that just this morning.

I got in last night around 10:30 p.m. from a business trip that involved 14 hours of travel for eight hours of meetings. Not atypical. And while I think about, talk about and write about meaningful travel seemingly all the time, do you know how much I thought about the subject on this particular trip? Uh, meaningful what?

I was in my work mode. Everything got filtered through that lens. At the heart of meaningful travel lies openness, being open to all the nuances and small wonders around us. And on this trip, I was about as open as a fist.

Virtually everything on this trip fell into the category of work. Make calls on the way to the airport. Work on my presentation and other documents on the plane. Meet with the client for dinner and discuss work. Come back to the hotel and catch up on work email. Dutifully call home but in a somewhat distracted manner. Wake up, pack up, have breakfast with colleagues then go to the client’s office for a full day of presentations and meetings. Drive to the airport and debrief on the meetings. Get on the plane and work. Drive home.

Sound familiar? Every one of us who travels for business will have slight variations depending on our jobs. But the general theme stays the same.

Thus, if you’d asked me last night as I pulled into my garage if this was a meaningful trip, I would have stared at you with dull, glazed eyes as if I’d never considered the subject. Because with this trip, I hadn’t.

But then I got home.

I dragged my bags upstairs trying not to wake anyone. I noticed my youngest son’s door was open and that he had strung Christmas lights, which were still on, around his room. I snuck in and watched him sleep, his face appearing at that moment the same as it did when he was a small child.

It’s an opportunity I have virtually every day, but I rarely avail myself of the chance to watch my sons sleep. But the sudden juxtaposition from being away and a head-down work mindset to seeing my child and all the wonder contained in that sleeping profile made me realize something.

This trip was indeed meaningful. It just didn’t fit my category of meaningful travel because the meaning didn’t show up in the travel itself. It wasn’t until I returned from a trip filled with nothing but business that I realized that the deeper meaning lay right before me, head on a pillow, always there but never fully appreciated.

Until now.

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My last entry regarding my friend’s trip to Alaska and the power of treating our trips as an act of faith reminds me of two stories I heard when I was in Alaska several years ago. I’ll tell you the first one here and save the other for my next entry.

Bald eagle locking onto a fish. Note the appropriate ratio in size between the eagle and the fish...

The first deals with salmon and eagles, not necessarily in that order. Apparently – this was a story I heard, mind you – when a bald eagle swoops down over a body of water and latches onto an unsuspecting fish, the eagle’s talons lock into a grip on their prey that cannot be released until there is some countervailing pressure on the item they’re carrying or on the talon itself. This usually occurs when the bird lands and then relaxes as it eats its catch. But if it can’t offset the pressure that causes the talon to grip tight, the eagle cannot let go. [click to continue…]

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Meaningful travel basics: Travel as an act of faith – Part 1

by Steve Brock September 16, 2010

Travel is many things to many people, but have you ever thought of it as an act of faith? Doing so can completely change the way you travel.

Read the full article →