Travel, Learning and Lettuce Seeds

I’m rapidly approaching my 40th flight of the year, so I think it’s time for a confession:

I have zero idea how an airplane works. 

Every single time I’m in the air, I have a brief moment of panic – wait, how is this many-ton piece of metal FLYING? This makes NO SENSE.

It truly freaks me out every time.

I guess my first response should be to say thank you, Wright Brothers, Boeing, engineers and all smart people who figured out how to allow me to travel the world in a huge tube that stays afloat in the air. You guys rock.

My second response is to think about the unknowns. There are so many things I don’t understand. So many things I can’t explain.

It’s lettuce seeds all over again.

Years ago, my work team and I began having lunch together every day. And at some point along the way, we discovered the best question of all time. Ready? Are you sure?

Where does lettuce come from? 

What is a lettuce seed? Where is a lettuce seed on a full plant? How does it grow?

I beg you, do not google this. It ruins the fun.

There are so few things that we willingly keep unknown. With computers in our pockets, we immediately assume we can know the answers – and in many ways, we can. But what about imagination? Creative problem solving? Relying on true experts for their expertise?

What about the old days when we actually had to meet people, hear their stories and cobble together an answer from real-life experiences?

What if we cared more about the learning process than about being right?

I’ve met so many incredible people while I’ve been traveling and the ones that impress me most are the ones that have mastered lettuce seed thinking. They know that there is always more to learn – that we can never master everything.

They know that they don’t know. 

I’ve been trying to cultivate this attitude as I’ve popped in and out of cultures on a weekly basis. I’ve realized that the only way to be successful is to come in ignorant and hungry as opposed to researched and assured. I’ve learned to take on a posture of listening and learning and wondering and meeting. It’s how I’ve met so many people. It’s why I love befriending cab drivers and waiters.

If there is one thing I have learned so far, it’s that I still have so much more to learn. 

The travelers that frustrate me are the ones that act like they have it figured out. Like they know what’s going on and have a slew of answers. Newsflash, folks. We don’t know anything. Start from there and you’ll have a much more exciting travel experience, I promise!

A couple years after the lettuce seed lunches began, I started conducting cultural fit interviews for new members of my team. Essentially, I would sit down with candidates and get a vibe for who they were as a person, attempting to understand how they would integrate into our work environment.

I have to imagine that people either loved it or hated it.

Because I asked them where lettuce comes from. I wanted them to be creative and be able to embrace wonder. I wanted them to know that they didn’t know the answers, and to know that that not knowing was not only fine, but great. (I also asked them what their spirit animal was, so yeah, clearly I was an excellent interviewer…).

In traveling, I’m learning to be a better traveler. I’m learning to be a better learner. And I’m having the best time doing it.

PS – I do google things every now and then. Let’s not be crazy.

PPS – After over a year of talking about lettuce, I not only learned how it grows, I actually grew some myself. I’m calling that a victory.

 

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