Living Successfully: Five Lessons from Traveling in Cuba

JoyfulIsn’t it amazing how travel can change your perspective? This probably applies no matter where you go. Yet, I think observing the daily routines of people in another country brings unique perspective. Having a cultural benchmark can focus your thinking on what’s important in life. [Tweet This]

Recently, my wife and I went on a Go Eat Give educational / humanitarian group tour of Cuba. It was a truly unique and amazing experience! While there, our group had the opportunity to learn about the country from the Cuban perspective. We also had the opportunity to roll up our sleeves to work on several volunteer projects, including weeding at an urban organic farm, planting trees at a large metropolitan park, and participating in a community art project.

Overcoming History

Having had this opportunity to observe work and social life, I was amazed by the incredible resilience of the Cuban people. They continue to be vibrant, despite the hardships their post-revolutionary history has brought their way. I was also struck by the degree to which meaning and fulfillment seemed to pervade work and life for so many Cubans. [Tweet This]

Sure, it was clear that some people worked in stressful occupations. In particular, people who worked in the highly individualized production of Partagás cigar factory. They did not look happy, despite having one of the most prized jobs in the country! Yet, many others seemed to approach their daily routines with a sense joy and fulfillment. Musicians, performers, artists, farmers, and (yes) even some retail and service workers seemed genuinely engaged and happy in performing their work. Yet, in Cuba, nearly everyone, it seemed, found a way to inject some fun into work time! [Tweet This]

Live Now

Still, by and large, my observations supported the view that true career and life success goes well beyond the narrow money and power measures we typically apply. In fact, if you’re like a lot of career-oriented people, you may think that success means working hard, socking away lots of money, and delaying gratification until retirement!

Well, snap out of it!!

According to Ralph Werner, if you don’t invest in a full life today, that goal of happy retirement is likely to be a huge disappointment. Even more so, if you haven’t figured out what would bring you the most joy!

So, I’d propose you turn your ideas of success on their head, and pursue that fuller, richer life now!! [Tweet This] To that end, consider acting on these five life success lessons, drawn from the Cuban experience:

Make Your Private Enterprise Personal

Perhaps the most successful people in Cuba are the ones who are able to approach work as creative and personal expression. Certainly this includes artists who translate their creativity into revenue. Yet, even more striking, I think, were the owners of Cuba’s paladares, that is, privately-run restaurants that provide home made food in a personalized atmosphere with attention to guest satisfaction. Success lesson: Bring who you are to what you do, so you can give your clients a more personalized experience. [Tweet This]

Enrich Your Life with Social Engagement

One of the more interesting observations we made was the nightly gathering of groups of people along the Malecón, or Avenida de Maceo. While it was easy to quip that this represented Facebook, Cuban style, it revealed the deeper and universal truth that our communities sustain us. Success lesson: Make time for daily social interaction, be it via social media or in person – or both!! And don’t think of this face time as networking, but as sharing stories and dreams that deepen your connections with others. [Tweet This]

Actively Manage Your Whole Life

Among of the things we learned during our visit to an organic farm was that the sustainable fertility of the soil required active management, including weeding, pest control, and rotation of crops. Success lesson: Actively manage your life, including eliminating clutter, avoiding toxic people or situations, and cultivating new interests. [Tweet This]

Practice Your Dance Steps

While in Cuba, we noticed our tour guide practicing her dance steps during short wait times. She was not the only one we noticed doing this. Clearly, becoming a better dancer takes drill. Interspersing practice into your day, as time allows, helps you improve while adding enjoyable diversion. Success lesson: Invest time daily, even in small increments, in practicing whatever it is that you enjoy and aspire to master. [Tweet This]

Fire Up Your Curiosity and Entertain Other Points of View

Needless to say, relations between the United States and Cuba have been tense for well over fifty years, and we Americans have been treated to a relatively negative view. Yet, every story has two sides. With a more complete picture, we arrive at different conclusions and a better mutual appreciation. Success lesson: When you take time to understand the differing views of others, you can gain fresh perspective that will enrich your life. [Tweet This]

What CrossFit Can Teach You About Success

CrossFitIf a colleague told you a project was going to be a “slam-dunk,” you’d probably think your prospects for getting it done are excellent!! Similarly, if your manager tells you it’s “gonna take a Hail Mary” to save the business, you get that too. Even if you’re not a fan, sports metaphors are so pervasive that it’s hard to miss their meaning or lessons. Up to now, football, basketball, and baseball metaphors have been most common. There simply aren’t a whole lot of CrossFit success metaphors or lessons… Now there are! [Tweet This]

But wait! What’s CrossFit?

It’s kind of a craze. Still, if you’re not up on your lifestyle news, or if you’re not watching The Biggest Loser, here’s a quick overview. Basically, CrossFit is the “sport of fitness.” It is overall conditioning to prepare people for a high level of general (even elite) fitness. Among the activities it includes are: Olympic weightlifting, gymnastics, tire flips, rope climbing, dumbbell swings, handstands, pull-ups, box jumps, broad jumps … and oh yeah, running!!

Each day, select elements will be combined into a Work Out of the Day (WOD), which may be scored in rounds, repetitions, or time. Each group class run during the day does the same WOD, and scores are posted for all to see.

I’ve been doing CrossFit for two and a half years now, and found it more physically challenging than anything I’ve ever done. Reflecting on my progress, recently, I had the insight that CrossFit offers some great lessons for career success. Here are eight:

“Just Do It” is incomplete advice.

I’ve always admired Nike’s well-known philosophy, especially for it’s action orientation. Yet, when it comes to CrossFit, there is definitely a learning curve. Moves can be complex, so you need time to develop your skills. In CrossFit, if you “just do it,” you’re gonna get hurt. [Tweet This] Success lesson: Even though you may be eager to make your mark, success means investing time to learn. Make sure you know what you’re doing.
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