Saturday, July 18, 2009

Make the Moment

A few years back, a client asked me to create some material for their new-hire training program. Since they were in Australia, they asked me to fly out, spend some time on the ground–have a walkabout, and then begin my work.

It was my first flight across the Pacific, and you should also be aware this took place before 9/11/2001.

My Qantas flight from Orlando, Florida to Sydney, Australia lasted about twenty hours (in actual travel time). That’s a long time for a guy that is 6’ 5” to stay seated in the coach seat of a 747. I got up a few times during the flight to stretch my legs. On one of my breaks, I stopped in the galley and chatted briefly with one of the flight attendants.

He asked a few questions about my trip, where I was from and if I had ever been to Sydney. Soon, I discovered the "attendant" was actually the captain. He invited me to the cockpit to visit with the crew. They told some jokes, we shared stories and they used the back of several napkins to map out directions to all the best Sydney pubs and beaches.

I returned to my seat and was awakened a few hours later by a real flight attendant. The captain wondered if I wanted to view our landing from the cockpit. Do I stay in this little chair and crane my neck around my fellow passengers to watch us land sideways, or see Sydney harbuor through the panoramic cockpit windows. Let me think about that one for a minu… Done.

It was, needless to say, one of the most incredible work assignments of my life, and the flight was just one part of it. Sydney is a vibrant city perched on a magnificent bay, and Australians are some of the most hospitable people on the planet.

Writing the material was a snap and a real pleasure… because of the people, not because of the beaches, the pubs, the technology or the Koala bears (although they are cute).

Did I feel challenged to learn everything I could and give them my best work? You bet.

Did I feel connected to them in a way that would not have been possible online? A smile and handshake are so much nicer in person. It’s also much more enjoyable to drink an Aussie beer by the Harbour than in your office. Trust me.

Were they some of the best collaborators to work with? Absolutely. In fact, the governor handed me the Olympic torch so I could be photographed with it before him. I had no clue who he was until much later.

Will I always be a raving fan and champion of Qantas, Sydney and Australia? What do you think? Yes, Yes, Yes. Paint my chest blue with white stars anytime.

I still think about that Qantas crew. I wish them the best and a g'day, where ever they are. Thanks for creating a great moment in my life. Now, let me think of how I can return the favor today, with someone else...

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