LEADERSHIP LESSONS from the CAMINO de SANTIAGO!
In the words of the famous poet Robert Frost:
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference“
We all walk the same path – some are ahead of others because they start sooner, others take detours, some might even get lost, many push the pause button and stop for a rest, some even walk backwards to move forwards and almost all of us will help those we meet or pass.
So, what began as a convenient two weeks stopgap between speaking engagements on the east coast of the USA, ended up being the best gift I could give myself – to walk the Camino de Santiago – solo – through Portugal and Spain and be the only pilgrim with no guide book.
Because in the words of Helen Keller, ‘Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing at all’.
I could quite easily have called this article The Way, The Truth and The Light!
- Because if any of you have watched the movie, ‘The Way’ with Martin Sheen you would have fallen in love with the romanticism behind the storyline and the spirit of the Camino.
- If ever you wanted to spend time alone, go far from the madding crowd and feel like a liberated escapee at the same time, then I can highly recommend walking for miles and miles and miles on the opposite side of the world, because ‘The Truth’ is almost always certain to hit you in the face and at times like a sledgehammer! Because there is nothing left to clutter your mind, but truth.
- And finally, ‘The Light’ because we all need to not just light up our own world, but I believe we also have a responsibility to light up other people’s worlds as well. Those people who we don’t realise, perhaps, may need the light more than we do.
So, with that framing in mind, what did I really learn from a walk on the other side of the world? What were the truths that resonated? And what can I share to help put perspective in your world?
1. We all have a universal language
And it doesn’t include words. The power of a smile, the ‘I get it’ of a frown, the acknowledgement of a nod, the connection of a hearty laugh or the face palm thought of ‘What the hell am I doing?’
Some of us wear our hearts on our sleeve, some have nailed the poker face, whereas others wouldn’t be able to communicate at all if we cut their hands off.
Either way, we are all constantly speaking without words whether we know it or not, and for some of us, this awareness has the potential to really move the communication and personal branding needle!
2. Being present isn’t what you think
It doesn’t just mean ing intently or slowing down. When you aren’t present you aren’t focusing, you aren’t concentrating, you are daydreaming, thinking ahead and as a result you most surely will miss vital signs. Signs that if not picked up may mean you get lost, walk an hour up a mountain in the dark, find you have to turn around and come back down, only to walk back up again and take the turn you missed. So, learn to practice sensory acuity and use ALL senses simultaneously.
3. Less really is more.
Take stock of what baggage you are carrying around with you. In your car, in your bag, in your home, in your office, in your heart, in your head. What and who are you carrying and btw, more importantly, who told you to carry it, or them? When you freak out about giving a friend your suitcase to take to another city because you will be living for two weeks with a backpack weighing only 4.5 kgs and a bum bag, PLUS you are doing it on another continent, you soon experience the panic and control that materialistic stuff has over you. However, when you learn that all you really need is in that bum bag, and not even the backpack, priorities are brought into focus! So, shed…
4. Preparation is over-rated.
We don’t need to be ‘ready’ all the time. Too often perfectionism rules! And when we feel we need to be 100% ready, we don’t take action and therefore we often never achieve that lofty goal. As someone who is definitely no athlete or gym junkie, and whose walks are usual casual 5km strolls around my neighbourhood, my training for the Camino was non-existent! Hardly the preparation you would expect for someone who was about to walk 131kms over 5.5 days – but I
did it, and yet no amount of training could ever have prepared me! Sometimes, we just have to lace up our shoes and put one foot in front of the other – and notice ourselves getting stronger and stronger every day until we experience a breakthrough – whether that be physical, intellectual, spiritual, emotional or mental.
5. Don’t always to others.
Because they will share stuff through their filter. They might say, ‘Best you stop at the next town – walking further is too far’. For them, yes! For you, no! Or perhaps they have the best of intentions and tell you, ‘don’t stop at the next town’ and you wish you had! The same in life and business, we put too much emphasis on what other people think, so put your hand on your heart, or your gut, and to what you are saying to you. And then do that very thing! And don’t forget to look yourself in the mirror every once in a while and high-five yourself as well, for doing that very thing!
6. You can’t go past the basics.
It doesn’t matter in what context. In my 4.5kg backpack there was nothing I needed I didn’t pack. There was nothing I had I didn’t use. I went basic, so it made living very simple. When your number one priority is dry socks you really know you are hanging with the movers and shakers of the world 😉 No complicated choices, just the knowledge that if the basics are covered – sleep, walk, eat and then rinse and repeat, then I would achieve my lofty goal. What are the basics we are not rinsing and repeating every day, the small print we are not reading, especially when it comes to our finances, our relationship, our careers, our business growth – and our socks?
7. The Camino will always provide.
And so will life if you are open to noticing. There was always a bed for me (perhaps it was a top bunk in an albergue where there were snorers and communal bathrooms, but I slept and was clean and warm), there was always food (even if it was cabbage soup or bread rolls I had squirrelled away in a serviette the night before and used for my breakfast before anything opened, or the sweet grapes and apples I helped myself to from vineyards and orchards as I passed!) and there was always someone to connect with – fellow pilgrims of all nationalities, ages and faiths that you would continue to meet along the way and who filled your need for connection and safety before you continued alone. Ultimately, it is about having faith that everything will always be OK.
8. There will always be rainy days.
And some more torrential than others, as many of us know… but these are the times where we can’t give up – where we have to dig deep and problem solve, or in other words be resourceful. I couldn’t control the three days of rain, but I could decide to enjoy it and really feel the rain, like we did when we were kids. I could also make sure I didn’t get blisters by thinking outside the box. So ingeniously, whilst ducking hailstones and tracks that were fast turning into mini rivers, I devised a
plan. I found two blue plastic bags and after replacing soggy wet socks with dry socks, I slipped my dry feet into those amazing plastic bags and then slipped them into my soggy wet *waterproof* shoes. Did it work? You bet it did! I was the pilgrim with the ‘blue plastic bag shoes’ and that became my uniform for the remainder of the Camino – I had the basics covered. So, what are you waiting for? Get back up on your horse if you’ve slipped off! GiddyUp!
9. Plan B – You may have to walk backwards to move forwards
Sometimes the best laid plans of mice and men…. means that we end up actually getting blisters! Means that the friction hurts too much. Means that we might cry because things get so very uncomfortable we don’t want to move, yet we have no choice. You might try different things to create momentum – if snowploughing on tip-toes down a hill might not work, then giving Monty Python a run for his money and walking backwards down a mountain might just do the trick. Then again wearing thongs (flip flops/jandals) might be another option, even if different feet muscles pay for those nine kilometres in bad footwear the following day. Whatever makes you comfortable in the moment… there is ALWAYS a Plan B.
10. Make the call and make it early
Decision making is a dilemma at the best of times, but waiting and waiting accomplishes nothing. ‘Which is the best way? Which is the shortest way? Which way did others go? Why do I have to choose?’ All self-talk that gets us nowhere fast. Sometimes we have to make a decision and run with it (or walk with it) – not stand still wasting time, justifying one way over another. In the end it may matter, but in the end it may not! I chose left and never gave my decision another thought. What choices have you got in front of you right now that are causing you to be immobilised when the outcome will more than likely be the same?
11. Measure the right things.
Sometimes we are so focussed on the big goal that we don’t measure, or value, the smaller steps. Completing the Camino was great, and being able to say I walked 131.5 kilometres in 5.5 days is awesome, but what my Fitbit also showed me was that I had walked 199,600 steps. Every single one of those steps was an achievement. Every step had a story and I am sharing 12 with you now. What are the stories you will tell, the messages you will share, the lessons you will learn, the small steps you can take, that when done and appreciated, will get you to a point of completion and celebration. This is critical to success across the board – we can’t just measure the final number.
12. Celebrate YOU!
Too often we don’t celebrate! We don’t celebrate us! Our accomplishments, our successes, our achievements. We’ve been taught not to. Children should be seen and not heard! Stop showing off? Who does she think she is? People not wanting us to #playBIGGER in case we leave them behind. But we need to give ourselves permission to do what we want to do and be OK with being proud of what we’ve done. We need to give ourselves permission to realise we can indeed flyer higher and we don’t have to fight for the scraps on the beach with the rest of the flock. To name and claim our awesomeness!
Be Bold, Brave and Brilliant
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