Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Take a Step Back

An often overlooked life lesson is that sometimes to take a step forward, you have to take a step back. This has never been more evident in my life than in the past year with life's pace ever increasing. For many years clarity was often found through analysis of others and applying it to my own life. One of my favorite pastimes is "People Watching", which is the is the act of observing people and their interactions, usually without their knowledge. I am not doing any formal scientific research or collecting data, but I do take mental note of individual and group behavior. I love to watch how people react to various situations and sometimes the best place to watch people is at the airport while waiting for a flight. I continued my analysis of things in Brazil during my two months there and reached many of the same conclusions that I reach here in the United States. Again I have not performed any statistical analysis of my studies, but Columbus author Jason Barger has. He studied and best observed people at the baggage claim and in airports throughout the United States. Welcome to the "Step Back from the Baggage Claim" movement. It has received rave reviews from national and international media sources and The New York Times says "It's evidently contagious".

The Business of the Airport
I had the opportunity to meet Jason about a year and a half ago now at a Business First Awards Luncheon where he was the keynote speaker. His message was simple, but it defined everything that I had been witnessing and putting it practice. It summarized my actions and the actions of others into a concept that I grasped immediately. That concept was to "Step Back from the Baggage Claim" of our lives to understand why we are doing what we do. Jason spent seven straight days flying 6,548 miles to seven different cities living in the airport the entire time. He studied 10,000 minutes of observations at all four corners of the United States and in his book he details how our air travel can teach us about our lives. The airport metaphor leaps to life with funny and inspiring anecdotes that raise the question, what kind of culture we are creating and living in.

Ever since I sat in my Operations Management course taught by Bruce Greenfield learning how to best identify bottlenecks and issues with a process while making "Magic Books", I have contiually evaluated everything in my life. From my morning routine of showering, breakfast, etc to the driving routes I take to work I have torn apart every process to ensure I am maximizing my time management. I have many irons in the fire so to speak, perhaps too many. Working Out, Working, Coaching Basketball, Volunteering, and being the President of a Service Organization all keep me very busy so I must maximize my time. Aside from my personal processes, I often analyze how our accepted practices affect other people.
That is where the book helps bring clarity to the unclear. I cannot do the concept or the book justice in my description of it, but its something that I would highly recommend. I have shared the book with more than two dozen people and I have received nothing by positive feedback on it. I have had the opportunity to get to know Jason personally since the time I heard him speak, exchanging ideas, and looking for continued ways to "Step Back" in my own life. To explain the concept is to first envision the scene from the airport baggage claim.

When you get off the airplane and head to pick up your bags, what is the first thing you do (other than use the restroom!)? You look at the conveyor belt to see what is the best place to collect your bags and you stand as close it as possible. Think about it. There are hundreds of bags that come off of each plane and there is not enough room for everyone to stand along the Baggage Claim. This means that some people have to climb, reach, and crowd the baggage claim in an effort to grab their bag. When people do this, it often angers those that are standing alongside or at least results in a dirty look. But who is at fault? Perhaps its the person reaching over but what about the process? What if we all took a step back from the baggage claim and walked forward when our bags were in sight and grabbed them. That would make more sense right? Perhaps we are all to blame for the madness around the Baggage Claim. I told you I could not explain it in such a way that does it justice, so here is a video that helps clarify the message!

After viewing the video, you can see why I would like Jason. He is a former Division III basketball player who has a shaved head, see any similiarities? But the concept is what I am drawn to most. The concept is simple in theory and its analysis in every aspect of life. To prove it, Jason has customized his original book and message into a special edition of the book for Business, Healthcare, and Education. How do you get started? You can buy the book on his website (click the link, it would also make a great Christmas Gift!), but you can get started now by doing a quick self assessment. Step Back. Be Available. Embrace Creativity. Take Flight.

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