Today, I was fascinated by my flight attendant, Doris. She was older than the average flight attendant - I'd put her somewhere in her sixities. She had a gentle, soothing voice and for once I almost *wanted* to listen to the overview of the safety features of this aircraft.
It was a tiny plane so I got to watch her intently for most of the short flight. Her John Sandford book, the way she carefully picked out the cashews from her trail mix to eat first with her black coffee. The colorful yarn bracelet on her well-tanned and toned arms (seriously, for a mature woman, her arms were amazing). The bright pink lipstick she wore and the comfy-yet-funky black shoes she had on her feet.
I find myself doing this more and more; immersing myself in someone's microworld for a little while, in whatever brief period during which they happen to cross my path (anonymously or not).
And I notice that I find myself missing those subtleties sometimes in the online world.
I can't hear the intonation in your voice (and I'm big into the sound of voices; I have several favorites even among the people you know, but I won't embarrass them here by saying who). I can't see all of your mannerisms, your gestures, or hear the dry and witty way you tell a joke.
So for all the times I get asked why I hop on planes and shuttle around the country to visit events even though my job is driven by the interwebs, I'll say this.
The very best moments of my job, and often the most lucrative business-wise (even if not immediately), are at events or over drinks or a meal. The way Shawn Morton tells his story about the Man Orgy (you'll have to ask him about that) and I laugh until I cry. How I can laugh with Brendan Jackson about whether a pink shirt would have been appropriate for dinner.
It's about when Greg Matthews invites me into Humana's Innovation Center to see the amazing (!!) things they're doing like B-Cycle and the experiments they're doing to tie wellness into video games. And when we can laugh together about something completely other later on.
It's about when Chris Barger lets me hang out and drive fun cars, learn about the challenges GM is facing, and how then I can feel like every time he sends me a Tweet, our conversation has a definitively more personal dynamic.
People watching is about observing subtle humanity. And it never ceases to amaze me how compellingly different, unique, and interesting some people are. How energized I am each time I get the chance to connect with more people, in analog space.
Is it about some kind of immediate ROI? Does there always have to be an instant and relevant business context to these conversations and interactions? Heck no. Because someday, when and if I do business with the people I meet, we'll have already laid the groundwork. The relationship is first. The rest fits in where and when (and if) it should.
And no matter how digitally driven my business is, no matter how new the media gets, I will always relish the human and interpersonal connections that are at its very core.
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