As a blog that looks at tech and business and organizational and social issues, I think I can get away with talking off-topic without really being off-topic. More importantly though, I value travel highly. I associate well with people who have chucked in a good job to pick up a backpack and see a chunk of the world that is more real than any resort destination. A country and population and slice in time that has grime and crime and interesting adventures. I work well with people like that too, as perhaps a side-effect of working for an Australian company west of London as the first job post-university that I chose, rather than it choosing me. Travel brings out the best and worst in people. It also really makes it pretty obvious what you are getting when you interview or collaborate with a traveler in a business environment.
Generally as corporate working people travelers are quite transparent as to what they want and what their goals are. This makes travelers an important part of a team. Not every person who has traveled like this will fit your team, but that's OK, because it will be more obvious who fits and who doesn't. Getting mixed up in difficult situations in places where you have no control and only hand-waving as a way to communicate can strip away a lot of stupid ego. So that is why I wanted to read Adam’s book. He’ll make a great employee and entrepreneur and CEO and floor-sweeper, and he'll do the one that makes him happiest, not the one that necessarily makes his ego tingle. And we can all learn from that.
As Adam experienced, you find out a lot about what you are good at in surprising places. Shepard, from North Carolina, and educated on a basketball scholarship up in Merrimack New Hampshire, was, not surprisingly, pretty good at hoops. But put him in the middle of Guatemala volunteering to help with kids and he tells us in plain, easy to read English how not only did this become one of the most memorable things ever, it helped him realize how he worked in a team. Or maybe how he didn’t. He certainly tells us how he can identify clearly the team players of the volunteers, the people great in their roles, the people he would pick for their enthusiasm, and the others who were there just until it was time to be somewhere else. And Adam was self-aware enough to know that in that moment he just wanted to be an individual contributor. Collaboration and team work wasn’t working for him. So, he made another brave volunteering decision and went to dig ditches for water projects alongside locals in Nicaragua, because there is not too much planning and collaboration to do.
In doing so, Adam learned more about what makes workers tick, and equally how important it is to ensure people have accountability in everything they do. A water pump, which you’d thing would be treasured and cherished in a small village without a clean water supply just dies and becomes scrap when nobody feels accountable for its upkeep. Finding the ways to give the right people ownership, was by the sound of it an important lesson.
In “One Year Lived”, you can read about a 30-year old man, Adam Shepard, who drops everything to go and travel, absorb as much experience, language and learning as possible. And along the way he works out what he’s good at and what seat in the eventual boardroom of life, corporations or politics he’ll occupy.
Adam has kindly offered some free e-books for download for anybody that shares this blog post over the next 48 hours. Make sure you follow and mention @consected in a Tweet or add a comment linking to your post below and I’ll send you a link to the book. Just be quick. And take a look at the One Year Lived website for great stories about the book and more information about the author.
A post from the Improving It blog
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