This post is part of a series in which LinkedIn Influencers share the best advice they’ve ever received. I DECIDED TO SHARE
“Be sure you take time for walks.”
“What?” I thought to myself. “Me? The person who heads to the gym to get a workout in as efficiently as possible so I can get in to the office?”
It’s the last thing I expected to hear from my new “boss.”
Hussein Enan, the CEO of Insweb, the early online insurance marketplace founded in Silicon Valley, was now the chairman of and partner in the company I was starting, Women’s Financial Network.
“It takes a lot of energy to do what you’re doing,” he said. “Are you ready?”
Having started several companies before himself, Enan knew how much effort and sheer persistence it took to get a new company off the ground, and he knew I would face moments when those walks would be critical.
Still, it was a zen insight that caught me by surprise: “Take a walk.”
As I speak to you, there are so many other pieces of advice to share – focus, listen more than you talk, know who you’re doing business with – but it’s that time during walks when you can stop and reflect.. to improve your decisions, your behavior, your priorities.
It’s advice that would come in handy in so many ways.
Take, for example, Women’s Financial Network. It was starting to get known for helping women financially. And now, we were working through a strategic partnership with a major media company that would give us national presence. Exciting stuff. In an effort to get the deal done, we took on the additional work of drafting the contract, at a substantial cost.
And then, the Internet bust occurred. Remember that? Companies were pulling back on all sorts of things, just as we’ve seen over the last few years: little investing, little hiring. I figured the media firm would back out of our partnership for sure.
And then, about two months later, as we still worked to shepherd the agreement through, they pulled out. They had been impacted too much themselves by the economy’s turn and couldn’t take on any new projects, they said.
OK, painful. But the worst occurred when I looked on their website a few weeks later only to discover that they were now using some the ideas we had offered-up as part of our partnership. I wanted to shout to the world: How could they?
I then remembered Enan’s advice: take a walk. Not to run from the problem but, rather, to step outside the problem by stepping outside the office.
That walk was critical. It led me to step back: would shouting to the world really help? Did I have the money to fight? Fight based on what? And, let’s face it: I’d rather have more friends than enemies. Not the direction I wanted to take.
And then, during that same walk, I had the ah-ha that would help re-focus my energies: form a strategic partnership with a brokerage firm to complete our goal of offering direct investment services. We did.
As I’ve come to realize, taking a walk can be essential to success in so many ways: birthing your next best idea, identifying the solution to a big challenge on the job, or just de-stressing so that you can connect with others more effectively.
Indeed, we spend so much time sitting in the office, staring at the computer screen or finding ourselves distracted by multiple voices and opinions, that taking time out almost becomes essential to success.
Taking a walk can be a bit like mental yoga. You open yourself up and create space and time to digest what is happening around you. Are you bringing any biases to your views or decision-making that deserve a re-think? How are others responding to you? If it’s not as you’d like, what might be standing in the way?
It’s also a great time to integrate ideas that you may have heard over the course of the past few weeks or months. What are the little nuggets you’ve picked up – the “ah-ha” moments from meetings or conversations – and how do they all fit together? Chances are, a good walk will lead you down the path to a stronger conclusion, and one more in sync with who you are.
A short hike can also be a great way to bond with someone. How many times have you heard about golf outings? Why not a walk? It takes less time and still provides the ability to talk without running out of breath.
Finally, I find a long walk at the beginning of the year can be especially beneficial. Every year, I create my own “Annual Plan” of personal and professional goals. This year, I decided to take a walk in my local park near the water to ponder some of the items in my plan: What did I really want to focus on in 2014? What activities were diversions and what were essential to my personal and professional goals and passions?
Today, on occasional walks, I go through a mental checklist of the items in my annual plan and ask myself how I’m doing.
I’ve discovered what Hussein revealed: that your best ideas, your best solutions, your best “you” will emerge in a walk. Not only that, if you put some energy into it, and perhaps add some inspirational (but quiet) music, you will have also succeeded in a fruitful workout as well.
About the writer
Jennifer Openshaw is a nationally known consumer financial expert. The author of The Millionaire Zone (Hyperion) about the social networking strategies of the wealthy, she also serves as president of Finect, a compliant social communications platform for the financial industry.