“Hey man, can you hear me?” I asked.
“Yeah, I can hear you along with a really loud karaoke version of Justin Bieber or something.”
Thus went my first experiment in location independent skype-based consulting. I was sitting on the mezzanine overlooking the lobby in the Sheraton, Hong Kong. My wife and daughter had crashed a few hours earlier, working hard to adapt to the 12-hour time change from NYC, and the 15-hour flight.
For the next few minutes, I wandered around the mezzanine, laptop in hand, headphones wrapping my ears, trying to find a location where the free wifi was strong enough to carry the skype signal, I could plug-in long enough to last the 1-hour call, but the guy in the lobby crooning along with his guitar was muffled enough to allow me to carry on a reasonable conversation through what I now know is not a noise-canceling mic.
My location-independent workflow takeaways:
- Free wifi doesn’t necessarily mean “in your room.”
- Buy a really good noise-canceling headset if you don’t want to sound like a total amateur on consulting calls
- Try not to schedule clients within 72 hours of completing a 15 hour flight with a 12 hour time difference. It creates a lot of tension between your obligation to serve them well and your relentless desire to sleep.
2. Coinus Interruptus…
Seth Godin has been preaching the end of interruption-based advertising for some time now.
And, because NYC’s Times Square has been cleaned up and I tend to operate in a world where the marketing is driven more by conversation than interruption, I’d forgotten how truly annoying non-stop, personal interruption advertising can be…until I spent 3 days bopping around Kowloon in Hong Kong.
The first night, I ran downstairs to grab a bottle of water and a sticky bun. In the two blocks it took to get there and back, I was harangued, pestered and sometimes followed in an effort to get me to buy a tailor-made suit…6 times, a copy Rolex watch…4 times, copy handbags…twice (um, I’m a dude), and sex…once.
I blew it off and had a good laugh, recalling a not-too-distant past when Times Square had a similar vibe. Plus, these folks were jut out there trying to pay the bills.
But, after three days of being interrupted on the street, along with my wife and daughter, it got really annoying. I began to lose compassion for those were only trying to earn a living. And, “no thanks” eventually turned to “no, stop following us.”
I don’t like when my buttons become so pushed that my compassion begins to shut down. But, that’s exactly what happened.
In the end, though, I’m glad I had the experience, because it brought back what Seth was talking about. It reminded me how much of the business world still tries to build entire brands on the basis and interrupt and repeat…and how annoying and cloying that can become over time.
3. Dead relatives…
Hong Kong is an amazing city, maybe the only one I’ve ever flown over and gotten that same sense of expanse and density you get when you fly over NYC and realize just how big it really is.
It’s electric with people, aromas, sounds, stuff to buy, try and do. And, the more I explored, the more I found myself comparing everything to NYC. The streets are so much narrower, the prices even higher, the ferry’s a lot faster and smaller, the people speak faster (seriously, I never thought I’d say that), the blend of ancient and ultra-modern so much more transparent. And, it wasn’t long before “different” yielded to “better or worse.”
We’re all bent to compare and contrast.
Part of the way we give context and meaning to a new experience is by contrasting it with old ones. We put on “relative” lenses, looking how x experience is relative to y similar experience. There’s no way to get off the relative express, nor should we entirely seek to.
But, I began to wonder, after a few days in Hong Kong, how much of my current experience was being lost by my constant automatic contrasting with similar experiences in NYC. I began to feel it was taking away from my ability to just explore the moment, what was going on before me, without regard to how it compared to the past.
So, I created a practice of checking in and asking, “am I hear I this experience, or off trying to compare and categorize it?” And, if the answer was the latter, I’d take an extra beat to let go the comparison, to kill my relatives, even if just for a moment, in a attempt to be more engaged with my absolutes.
4. A matter of perspective…
On the last day in Hong Kong, we took a train, then a cable car to Lantau Island to visit the Po Lin Monastery and the world’s largest outdoor Buddha. Sitting atop 268 steps at 110 feet tall, it was striking. And it’s elevation drew a shroud of clouds as we approached. The picture above was taken by my daughter from the cable car.
What happened between leaving the cable car and getting to the top of the steps, though, was an exercise in oddity.
But, this post is getting long and I’m still a bit whacked out on jetlag. So, I’ll share the details in my next dispatch next Monday.
And, here’s a tease from our first day in Bali, too, which is when I’m writing this…
Driver: “Where are you guys from?”
Us: “New York.”
“Really? I thought you were from Europe.”
“You’re not really big, like most of the Americans I drive…”
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