Life and leadership on the road

A couple of years ago my wife and I took a cross-country road trip from eastern Pennsylvania to southern California and back: a journey of 21 days and nearly as many surprising yet practical lessons in living fully and leading intentionally.

Right from the start, we had planned to camp at least some of the nights. Our first was in an impenetrable thicket of mosquitoes near the Mississippi River just north of Memphis. We were sorely exposed for a long time (with an emphasis on sorely). And erecting a tent with one hand is tough: even tougher, I tell you, when the other hand is continually swatting committed kamikazes! Our second was in a bake oven of a swale shared with enthusiastic chiggers outside of Houston. But we survived until dawn both times.

Affirmed: There are always those who disturb, harm, annoy, or try to thwart your purposes. But intentional actions can overcome most troubles by careful planning, preparation and persistence. (And sometimes by leaving the scene early.)

When we stopped at the Visitor Center after crossing into New Mexico, a sign warned us to stay on the trail: “Beware of scorpions, tarantulas, and rattlesnakes.” Upon which my wife unilaterally declared, “We are NOT camping in this state!” I wisely agreed.

Affirmed: Leaders requires followers. And unless you’ve got people willing to follow you, you’re just out talking a walk. Alone. Except, perhaps, for the scorpions, tarantulas, rattlesnakes and other predators. (Make sure your followers follow willingly.)

Heading south on Highway 35 into San Antonio, we dodged a washing machine (yes!) swirling in our lane, and as the last of our captive air escaped a few minutes later, pulled into a Walmart for two new front tires. Later, as we labored up the steep, boulder-strewn Cayamaca Mountains into California, our car overheated.

Affirmed: While the route to your goal may be well-planned and mapped, hidden hazards, hostile conditions and other unexpected surprises may arise. Deal with them directly. Break for correction, repairs, and replenishment. (Then resume your progress.)

Paralleling the Mexican border along Route 10, we were stopped three times by routine Border Patrols, each time questioning us whether we harbored any illegal substances, practices, or associates.

Affirmed: Living and leading with integrity avoids troubles of our own making. And don’t make jokes in front of enforcers of the law. (They’re quite serious.)

As we descended into the eight-laned civilization of southern California, our GPS, which spoke quite rationally to us on the Long Straight of Texas, became much more adamant on the exits we should have taken, and would have taken, if “she” (with her cultured British intonation) had been able to keep up with the continual flow of streaming traffic and exit ramps. But she couldn’t. And we couldn’t. So she then kept insisting we turn left through the median barrier to double back and correct her/our mistakes. So we terminated her and her wrongheaded advice.

Affirmed: Better to seek assistance from those who already know where you’re heading. We careened into a Wendy’s parking lot and called upon a local for help, who then ably, and with good humor, untangled our confusion and sent us further on our way. (Ask for directions.)

With the road’s challenges also came the benefits. We refreshed from our camping misadventures in San Antonio’s famed River Walk.  We explored and learned many wondrous things at Arizona’s Meteor Crater, Painted Desert, Petrified Forest and Pueblo Ruins. We glimpsed the rare and elusive Green Flash on the setting sun over the picturesque Pacific Ocean. And we reunited with our son living and thriving in San Diego.

Affirmed: Living and leading intentionally requires planning, preparation, flexibility, and, most importantly, action. Such purposeful action results in obstacles overcome, summits scaled, vistas viewed and aims achieved. (And a life well-lived and led!)

MasterPoint: Plan to act; act to lead; lead to live!