I’m in the USVI for Shark Week (this isn’t intentional, but I’m going with it). Admittedly, it’s more vacation than adventure this week, but sometimes it’s good to get away – and this is a great place to do so – even if only for an extended weekend. Sometimes thinking in ways that set you apart from others begins by actually getting away from others.
I’m a traveler and in a sense, pursuing new experiences and encouraging/assisting others to do the same is my day-job. How then do I take a break? I travel of course! (just not with a group). So for the next two weeks I’m attempting to flesh out some working ideas, catching some Caribbean sunshine, and talk to myself as much as I possibly can.
Some trips are educational; some are inspirational. This one is restorative. Here’s the premise for this week:
Brilliance is Found in the Pause
Necessity isn’t always the mother of invention – especially in today’s information overloaded workplaces. The space necessary to have an idea, much less run with it, can be hard to find. (I’m pretty certain this is why so many good ideas seem to live in the shower and not the conference room). So while you might readily agree that breaking from routine is valuable, most people are internally averse and even vocally opposed (some loudly) to doing so. Most folks don’t like to rock the status quo – especially when it comes to taking time off.
It may sound counterintuitive but working without pause jeopardizes your business, your creativity, your abilities, your health, and ultimately the life you’re working toward. Whether you’re an entrepreneur or a member of the rank-in-file, you can benefit by considering the following reframe:
There are hundreds (maybe even thousands) of folks that are doing what you’re doing everyday. If you want to be great, you’ve got to be much different than the others.
So what are you doing to differentiate yourself?
Consider that the average U.S. worker leaves almost half of his or her vacation days on the table. In fact, a recent survey reports that only 23% of workers used all of their paid time off in the last 12 months. Still think you’re standing out? Check out the infographic on the right.
Getting Away Makes Thoughts Actionable
The USVI is one of those places where you recognize you’re someplace different from the moment you step off the plane. We’re only about 45 miles east of Puerto Rico, about 1,000 miles southeast of Miami – so basically a handful of hours by air. But depending on what you’re working on, the USVI is perhaps a million miles away. Yes, it’s warm (and likely more humid), it has an exotic island name, and they do offer free Cruzan Rum shots at a kiosk in baggage claim, but there’s something more afoot here.
On more than one occasion – sitting on a street corner watching an election rally, standing near the grocery checkout line, watching sailors release their moorings – my thoughts and perceptions are as humorous as they are misguided. Just witnessing what others are absorbed in challenges my own perspective. Importance, stress, prominence, ego and even inspiration live on the passing breeze.
Fresh off a Dolomites trip, I reminded myself that opportunity occurs when I remain open to it – and so I resolved to…
Let Things Be
St. Thomas, and it’s capital city of Charlotte Amalie, has been called the most “unvirgin” of the Virgin Islands – and while I have a fairly good, conceptual meaning of what unvirginmight mean, I’m not entirely convinced it’s an accurate description. Sure, there are familiar brands, shopping malls and fast food here (it’s still the U.S. after all), but I don’t think you’ll mistake them for the one’s in your neighborhood. The vibe is distinctly foreign: familiar but the details are noticeably off, the colors slightly muted, as if the very concept of an American mainland brands have been corroded by Caribbean salt and decades of disregard. Even still, there is a comfort felt here.
Charlotte Amalie remains the busiest cruise-ship harbor in the West Indies, and staying in St. Thomas requires a bit planning around docking days. The cruise terminal and its obligatory tourist retail surroundings lies between the Marriott and the city center, testing your patience with both traffic and trade. With about 1.2 million cruise passengers disembarking each year, tourism is the primary engine of the Islands’ economy (the government is the second largest employment sector). So you don’t have to concern yourself with trying to appear local here; no one cares and everyone is happy that you’re visiting.
We’re splitting our time here – beginning our trip with five days of resort living with traveling friends followed by seven days on our own in a rental house. The resort portion was provided by the recently reopened Marriott Frenchman’s Cove (not to be confused with the neighboring Marriott Frenchman’s Reef, which still lies dormant, mortally wounded by Hurricane Irma).
Sitting directly on Pacquereau Bay, Frenchman’s Cove is the jewel of Charlotte Amalie. The property is designed to look like a quaint seaside village reminiscent of the Mediterranean coast, colorful cliffside condos overlooking a private beach.
The Cove offers 2 bedroom and 3 bedroom layouts with large kitchens and living areas, all of which have resort quality views. About half of the condos are individually owned, but you’re not likely to notice as the entire property is so well maintained. A small poolside restaurant offers lunch and dinner and the adjoining shop provides a variety of provisions – food, wine, and fresh coffee, to sunscreen, t-shirts, and snorkel rentals. The pool, which features an infinity edge for cocktail sipping and a water slide my niece and nephew couldn’t get enough of, was always occupied but never felt crowded or uncomfortable. Still, St. Thomas is all about the beaches and this one doesn’t disappoint. We spent more than one idle day completing the circuit from chaise lounger music and paperbacks to clear salt water to poolside bar and back (a round trip of maybe 20 yards) – drinking the ever-convenient 2-for-1 cocktails until the iguanas began talking back to us.
Across the bay lies Water Island, a 500-acre oasis without a single hotel, store, gas station, police station, hospital, church, or taxi. It’s only a 10 minute boat ride away, enjoys a curious history (the Army’s Chemical Weapons Division lived there in the 1950’s), and is currently home to some 160 residents in the throws of recovering from Hurricanes Irma and Maria – making Water Island a gumbo of old and new… which has me thinking…
Old Knowledge and New Ideas
To be original, we all must step out of our comfort zone and dare to insist our idea is worthwhile even though it’s different. Developing the right approach for success takes stamina and an open mind.
Many successful entrepreneurs and executives spend a great deal of time expanding their knowledge – at the very least, staying up-to-date with fresh information and making insightful connections that might result in a creative idea that propels them to success. Keeping up with the latest innovations and research keeps you from stagnation.
Embracing newness, however, goes beyond being a student of career-related data. Newness requires you to remain open-minded and try new ventures, expand your network, and experiment with opportunities when they arise. Discovery requires an element of novelty. (See a theme developing here?)
Take an Excursion
The most popular excursion on the island is the VI Cat, a 54-foot catamaran that takes vacationers on a snorkeling excursion to Turtle Bay with all equipment, snacks, pirate tattoos and unlimited drinks from the open bar included. It’s based at the Marriott, and though we really considered it on the one-day no cruise ships were scheduled to be in port, we decided to take the passenger ferry over to St. Johns instead.
St. John is the smallest of the Virgin Islands and other then the local resorts which remain closed (ostensibly under reconstruction well into next year), and a few noticeable hurricane guts, is open for business. Cruz Bay, the town on the Western side of the island where the ferry lands, is a destination all to itself – and you could spend a memorable lazy day between it’s colorful and varied restaurants, bars, and shops. But it’s the scenery and apparent isolation that’s inescapable here.
The Virgin Islands National Park covers about two-thirds of the island of St. John, so despite it’s relative close proximity to St. Thomas, you really feel like you’ve left the world behind. After brunch and some tourist shopping, we hitched a ride on a taxi (a pickup truck with bench seating installed in the bed) and headed for Trunk Bay.
Just so that you don’t think I’m overselling it, the Travel Channel claims that Trunk Bay is considered the most beautiful beach on the island and often called the most pristine in the Caribbean. It’s in the National Park and even has a 225-yard-long Underwater Trail of reefs to sightsee along. I spent a half-hour gently chasing a tarpon (good practice for my shark encounter later in the trip).
Everyone we’ve met along the way (most of which are curiously from someplace else but now call the USVI home) has been enjoyable – which is an astonishingly gentle reminder to…
Widen Your Circle
Working diligently alone won’t get you as far as teaming-up with other professionals who have good ideas and expertise. You’ll accomplish your goals faster when you collaborate with talented people and listen to their notions, adding to them and discussing how to make improvements. This can happen in a conference room or steakhouse table, but in my experience they pale in comparison to bonfires, swim trunks, trail heads, dirty gear, and a cold drink under starlight.
We’ve met some wonderful new friends here and shared unforgettable experiences, but it was during a conversation at the St. John’s Brewers Taproom that the simplest of comments brought forward yet another valuable reminder:
“I like living here, but I love what I’m doing.”
Aim to Serve
There’s nothing wrong with wanting personal rewards that accompany success. Expand your vision of success to include serving people, though, and your ideas will travel further. At the risk of being taken out of context, here’s the reframe:
No one cares about your concerns, they care about what your concerns can provide them.
The most successful people in the world use their creativity to help others. They find solutions to problems and improve people’s lives. Because they help people, their products and services are always in demand. (As a bonus, they’re often happy to be making a positive difference in the world).
We followed our day in the sun with cold beers and cocktails at Longboards, watching languid traffic along the dusty street from the open-air deck. If being a million-miles from my usual stress is the goal, I reached it here – then went well beyond at The Lime Inn – best spiny lobster I’ve had… like, ever.
And so it’s with reddened skin, briny hair, and a full belly that I bring this post to a close with…
3 Things You Can Do Right Now to Make a Change
1. Get Actionable
It’s one thing to know you want to be successful, but it’s something else to understand how to achieve your aim. Often the voyage toward accomplishing your goal isn’t entirely clear. To get actionable you’ll need the framework (and the flexibility to alter it as necessary along your journey).
If you’re a regular reader then you know where I’m going here:
2. Be Present
A positive attitude is too often overemphasized. While it’s great to be positive, it’s also necessary to remain level-headed – mindful and present so you recognize opportunities and potential pitfalls so you are ready to manage them when they occur.
3. Abandon the Bandwagon
New concepts don’t spring from popular modes of thought. To think of something fresh and exciting that makes you successful, it’s best to question current fashionable ideas. Approach the everyday theories you face with the attitude they might be right or they might be wrong – don’t simply resign to going with the flow.
Question ideas. Explore things from different angles. Go someplace where crazy thoughts and the time and space to run with them aren’t out of place.
These are my thoughts as week one comes to end under a starlit Caribbean evening, dark waves below the bow and warm breeze in my face.
The adventure continues…