I just returned from ten days traveling aboard an RV through Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons with my family. It was an off-the-grid trip that recharged my batteries and gave me enjoyable, quality time with my wife and kids. This time off also lead to several breakthrough business ideas and lessons that I thought I would share with you:
1. Rip-off and Duplicate: “R&D” is a widely-used term in Entrepreneurs’ Organization. Instead of the traditional meaning of Research and Development, it stands for “Rip-off and Duplicate.” The idea is that, rather than trying to figure it all out on your own or reinvent the wheel (which many entrepreneurs are known to do), it’s better to find process and best practices that have proven successful (and unsuccessful) and then modify them to fit your needs and circumstances. This is exactly what my wife did in planning for our Wyoming trip. She collected itineraries from several friends who had taken the same trip before and learned what they liked and what they regretted doing/not doing. By adapting their experiences for our trip, we saved a lot of time and were able to pack in a lot of wonderful adventures in our 10 days together.
2. Don’t Overlook the Backyard: A few months ago, while on a flight, my daughter met a mother and daughter from Australia who had been travelling the entire world for six months. In her conversations with them, they shared that their favorite place was Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. This is not the first time we’ve heard this. I’m continuously surprised how many families we’ve met from Asia and Europe on this trip who have traveled so far to get here and we had overlooked it in favor of places further away, even though we live so much closer. In looking forward and seeking the “new,” we often overlook or take for granted the things that are in our own backyard, be it places, people or experiences. For example, we might conduct a nationwide search for a new employee while overlooking an existing team member from within our organization who might be a perfect fit for the role we’re looking to fill.
3. Use your Built-In Camera: The human eye is estimated to have the equivalent of about 480 megapixels, far more than any camera we use. Too often we don’t take advantage of this built-in super HD camera and rely instead on technology to watch key life events. We worry more about preserving the moment than enjoying it, ultimately taking way more videos and pictures than we will ever be able to watch or enjoy. I’ll admit, I took a lot of videos and pictures during this trip and got my share of “Dad, not another picture” groans. Upon reflection, the most memorable moments of the trip were often when I just enjoyed it. This included our early morning encounter with a herd of Bison crossing the road and witnessing a solar eclipse, experiences that no camera could truly capture the magnificence of. Deeply engrained memories are created by engaging all our senses and I am going to work on doing a better job of watching events with my own eyes and creating more organic memories.
4. Following the Herd: Sometimes, crowds do know best. On a few poorly marked tourist sites, we decided to follow the crowd and it led us where we needed to go. That said, this should be done with caution. There were times when we saw a bunch of people pulled over on the road with binoculars and glasses. When we asked them what there was to see, they responded that they had pulled over because they saw everyone else had pulled over. Blindly following without asking the right questions can lead you astray.
5. Less Can be More: Living with four other people in 200 square feet of space for 10 days gave me some important perspectives. First, I was reminded that happiness is really not connected to material goods. Having less things (clothes, toys, gadgets, cars, shoes, bags, etc.) can be very liberating, especially as we traveled each day with all our possessions. Along our journey, we met many people who had sold their homes and belongings and were now happily living in their RV. They were fully mobile and enjoying life to the fullest. Although I didn’t bring that many clothes, I could have brought half of what I did and been fine.
6. Constraints Improve Creativity: Having constraints (space, monetary, etc.) forces you to be much more creative in solving problems and finding solutions, rather than just throwing money or resources at a problem. For example, we used duct tape and bungee cords in a myriad of different ways and a highlight of the trip was when we made an ice cream cookie pie in a frying pan over an open fire that will become a family tradition. We also got creative about recycling and waste, which you become aware of when you have to travel with your trash.
7. Over-Scheduling is Over-Rated: Somehow, we have come to associate being busy as being better. We spend our weekends running from activity to activity and have a hard time saying no, something that we often carry over into our vacations. I’m totally guilty of this. I tend to try and pack in way too much in a short amount of time; I over-schedule and then regret it. With only ten days to enjoy two of the most captivating parts of US, we knew we needed some sort of plan – especially since we had kids with us. And while we scheduled hikes, swims and other fun excursions, some of the best moments of the trip were the unplanned ones. This included the kids’ playing cards on my son’s birthday while looking for bears at sunrise on the side of the road; roasting s’mores; and playing “do you remember” from past vacations. Often, the desire to see and do everything ends up diluting the overall experience. We have decided to cut back on some activities this fall so that we can dedicate more of our weekends to “family time” instead of “divide and conquer” time.
8. Dare to Delegate: This entire trip would not have been possible had I not coordinated with team members, delegated my responsibilities and created processes and escalation paths that others could follow in my absence. For the very first time, I made the decision to completely walk away from my e-mail while on vacation, something that I was nervous about doing. I even removed my work e-mail from my phone. Making and acting on the decision to truly un-plug forced me to create long-overdue delegation processes. Was it a perfect process? No. But one should never expect a new process to be. Was it worth it? Absolutely. Now, I know what worked and what didn’t so I can improve the process for next time. One thing that this email-unplugging experiment definitely did was allow me to see the value of permanently changing how I interact with my e-mail going forward.
9. Detox from Digital: Related to #8 above, this was my first real digital detox. As with any detox, I experienced some withdrawal for the first day or two, but it subsided quickly by the third day. It also helped that most of Yellowstone doesn’t have cell phone coverage, so there really wasn’t even an opportunity to cheat; nor did I want to. It was a welcome change. There is a real fear that our technology has become an addiction and that our brains crave the dopamine in the same away as other stimulants. Without the constant distraction, I was able to read and write more attentively. It was also really nice to focus on and engage with my kids, play games and simply enjoy each other’s company.
A vacation away from the job is a great time to think more creatively and contemplate strategically about the future of your business. I highly recommend it!
Robert Glazer is the founder and Managing Director of Acceleration Partners, author of the best-selling book, Performance Partnerships: The Checkered Past, Shifting Present, and Exciting Future of Affiliate Marketing”and sought-after keynote speaker. For more information, please visit, www.robertsglazer.com.