On the plane ride, my seat companion asked if I was from the area, and I told her I wasn't, but my grandparents had been born and raised there. We were in 3C and 3D, coming in for a landing in one of those big city/small towns in the heart of the Midwest. I'd never been there before, but I knew the place well. It might as well have been my home town. Outside, the thermometer read a steamy 95 degrees, weather that never fails to produce the best tomatoes and sweetest corn you've ever had. My seat compadre asked where I was staying. I said the Marriott. "It's a REAL Marriott," she declared. "Just went to a 50th anniversary party there and it's the real deal."
It struck me then, that wherever you grew up, whatever you loved about that place, those things never leave you. If your town had a real Marriott, or the best clams, or soft serve ice cream, or trout fishing, that's a matter of record and a source of pride. For the rest of your life you have this touchstone. You travel the world, come home, and feel your chest swell when you tell a visitor, as my waiter did, that the pot roast is a guarantee. He also recommended the new meat loaf which was getting rave reviews. I was feeling lucky and nostalgic, so that's what I picked.
So here we are, returning from Labor Day and hard won summer hiatus, the usual Tsunami of fall activity upon us. Since I didn't write new posts summer, I have been feeling the added pressure of being rusty with the keyboard, and devoid of inspiration.
This week, my writing muse showed up in the form of a plate of meatloaf, with thyme roasted carrots, garlic mashed and string onions. I can't begin to describe how that brought me back to ground zero, me. I rediscovered my inner sense of home, a calming personal touchstone. My real self at a real Marriott. And I didn't even think I was hungry when I sat down.
Why are your personal touchstones important, especially heading into a busy fall? On an earlier plane ride, a sales VP for medical devices told me he had been home only one day in three weeks. His kids are 15 and 17. The 17 year old will be off to college next year. "Well, at least I love what I do" he said, with a heavy sigh and a half smile. "I'm hoping to get home more this coming year." I wanted to say, but didn't, "Go home NOW."
As the calendar turns, it’s going to be real important for all of us to stay grounded to home and those touchstones. We need to find ourselves, continually, in the things and people that matter. This shouldn't be summer vacation event, a feeling we have in three days at the beach. We need to always go home, literally and figuratively. Remember who we are and what matters. If you don't, you will eventually lose it, and pour toxic stuff all over people, creating chaos instead of calm.
As a leader, you have to be grounded and happy to be a beacon for your organization. Otherwise, how can you guide other people to achieve greatness?
Summer was productive here. I am excited to tell you about some new, exciting new research and programs we are launching later this fall. Our team has done incredible work over the last few months, between trips to the beach and the mountains. All that- coming soon.
For now, I am going to slice a tomato and put some sugar on it, like my mom used to do.