5 career lessons learned on the fly

One PR pro discovered that the extra airplane travel was exactly what he needed to find a new perspective. Here’s how this ‘super-commuter’ finds his work/life balance.

5 career lessons learned on the fly

It seemed like a good idea at the time: Relocate my primary residence from New York to Florida in 2005, bounce between Fort Lauderdale and Manhattan and enjoy the benefits of both cities.

The plan was for me to “super commute” for a year.

Almost two million miles and 15 years later, I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.

I’ve spent countless hours navigating flight delays and cancelations, and commuting to and from airports, to say nothing of the approximately 3,500 hours (or 146 days) I’ve spent in the air. By the numbers, my roundtrips are the equivalent distance of the earth to the moon just shy of four times.

Numbers aside, my time in the air has been nothing if not instructive. Herewith are the five most valuable lessons I’ve learned while winging it up and down the East Coast.

1. “I want to be alone.”

Regardless of whether you believe Greta Garbo said, “I want to be alone,” or “I want to be let alone,” the lesson is the same. In a world where hyperconnectivity is ubiquitous, alone time is often at a premium. But, at 35,000 feet, where phones don’t ring and emails can be ignored until wheels down, you have a golden opportunity to stow your devices and spend a few hours of quality time on yourself.

Read that book you haven’t had the time to get to, meditate, listen to a new album, take a nap. It’s your time; use it as you see fit.

2. Cognito, ergo sum.

Plane time is also prime thinking time. I typically travel with a notepad and pen, which I pop into the seat pocket in front of me as soon as I sit down. When the time is right, I carefully think through my to-do’s—everything from household chores to work imperatives—and jot them down in order of importance.

It keeps me accountable. When I land, I’m ready to hit the ground running.

3. “Never work with children or animals.”

The trope, “never work with children or animals,” in which W.C. Fields was referring to the movie industry, applies equally well to identify the best spot in airport security lines. Try and avoid standing behind families with small kids (who take longer to get though security)  and animals (who need to be hauled out of their carriers).

4. Focus on the opportunity, not the geography.

Considering a job change that may require relocating is not always the easiest of choices. This is especially true if you have kids in school or other strong ties to your current location. Though spending more time in planes and airports is often not desirable, there’s something to be said for not bypassing the job you want simply because it’s not close to home.You really can have your cake and eat it, too.

5. Turbulence is part of the journey.

Not too many people relish turbulence mid-flight. Even if you’re not a “white-knuckle” flyer, it can be disconcerting when there’s nothing between you and the ground.

Turbulence is a component of the flying experience. It’s also part of the agency experience. In both instances, you should accept its occurrence as inevitable. Running an agency, or working for one, can have its fair share of bumps. Juggling clients in diverse industries and geographies, marketing and operating the business, and everything else that comes with building a firm, requires a cool demeanor and an upbeat outlook.

So, when turbulence interrupts an otherwise smooth path, calmly ride it out and keep your focus on sunnier times ahead.

Scott Sunshine is a 30 year-plus industry veteran and co-founder of Water & Wall. When he isn’t in the office, Scott is most likely on an airplane, making his twice-weekly commute between New York and Fort Lauderdale.


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