Travel has a way of stretching the mind. The stretch comes not from travel's immediate rewards, the inevitable myriad new sights, smells and sounds, but with experiencing firsthand how others do differently what we believed to be the right and only way.
I can't agree enough with this quote by Ralph Crawshaw. I am always fed by seeing the world from the different perspectives that come with traveling around it, being temporarily away from the routines, habits and comforts of my home. Indeed, many of my best life choices and decisions have sprung from the thinking and reflecting that I've done while experiencing some other part of the country or the world, engaging in new conversations and reacting to new landscapes. I've often had my notion of "the right and only way" challenged and redefined by seeing how others live, work and play. I'm appreciative of the privilege to have had these experiences.
I'm currently having another one. For several weeks this summer, I'll be spending time in Portland, Oregon and in other areas of the northwestern U.S.
The trip is a combination of professional development, research in community building and city governance, and personal adventure and reflection. Because a number of friends and colleagues have asked me about the trip, I thought I'd say a little more about these three areas of focus.
While continuing to work full time at Summersault I'm also exploring how other technology companies do what they do, and seeing what I can bring back to our office in Richmond, Indiana to do what we do better. In many ways I have exhausted the professional development and training resources available to me in east central Indiana when it comes to leadership, management and building a business, and so I've been looking for other opportunities to build those skills.
As I meet with other entrepreneurs and technology workers in the northwest, I'll be trying to answer questions like:
- How do other technology businesses keep their business model strong and relevant in the evolving landscape of the information age?
- What kinds of environmental factors contribute to having a happy, engaged, creative team of staff members?
- How does the version of managing a team that I've cultivated over the years stack up to how other companies do it? What can I do better or differently, and what have I got all wrong?
- What kinds of things do other cities do to successfully attract and retain technology workers?
- How does Summersault's community involvement compare to what other companies do for their communities?
Community Building and City Governance Research
As a part of my campaign for City Council in Richmond, I've talked a lot about the need to help Richmond think differently about what it's capable of, and to help the community move forward with a fresh perspective. I've lived in Richmond a long time, though, so it's just as important for me to step outside "the way things are usually done" there as it is for other community leaders to do the same. We know that there are other cities around the world that are thriving and growing; some of them are similar to Richmond, some very different, but I think they all have something to offer when it comes to imagining new possibilities for a thriving Richmond, Indiana.
As I attend City Council sessions and meet with politicians and community builders in Portland, and as I travel to other cities in the region (while still working on my campaign back in Richmond), I'll be trying to answer questions like:
- How are thriving cities operating their city governments in a way that balances quality of life with economic realities?
- What relatively inexpensive, high-impact changes could Richmond, Indiana make to be a more vibrant and self-reliant place to live?
- What are the relationships like in other places between government officials, community activists, non-profit organizations and business leaders?
- What kinds of things do other cities do to successfully attract and retain technology workers? (As above for professional development.)
- If I'm elected to City Council in Richmond, what can I learn from others about how can I be the most effective in that role?
Personal Adventure and Reflection
My life and identity are deeply rooted in Richmond, Indiana. As a small business owner, community builder and property owner, and just as someone who has come to love that place and that land so much, I don't spend much time wondering what life would be like if I lived elsewhere.
But I also know that it's important to me to continue to challenge my own understanding of my identity and sense of what home is, if only so that I don't become stagnant in my thinking about how to improve and refine those things. And as I noted above, there's nothing more perspective-bringing for me than to see my life from the outside for a bit, to put it in contrast to how others live.
So, as I live somewhere else long enough to be more than just a tourist and to get a picture of myself in a different setting, I'll be reflecting on questions like:
- What is it about Richmond, Indiana that makes it home for me? Why do I live there and not some other place?
- What things about a neighborhood, a community, a city are important to me to have, and what things can I let go of?
- What parts of my identity and sense of self are done evolving, and what parts do I need to explore more, push on, challenge?
- How can I be the best possible member of the community I live in, the best possible friend to the friends I have, the best possible partner to Kelly, all while balancing my own hopes, dreams and goals?
- How can I have fun and adventure in ways that aren't available to me in Richmond, Indiana?
Get On With It Already
That's a lot of questions to try to answer at once, and who knows what I'll have time for in between working in the "Portland branch of Summersault," bike rides through the city, trips to the Farmer's Market, gathering with the surprising number of friends and business colleagues who live out this way, and just enjoying what the days bring. But I'll be posting some here about what I learn along the way, and you can also follow my adventures through Twitter and the photos I'm posting to Flickr.
If you have connections in Portland, OR or the Northwest and/or live here and want to connect, please get in touch!