19 May 2008, Zurich to Geneva, Switzerland
“… Over 50+ trips in the past dozen years, since I first came in 1996 to visit my aunt in Lausanne, then returned to work in Geneva in 1997, then again and again over the years — and today, to interview with Zurich, a Swiss but very global insurance company headquartered in Zurich.
Yes, this little ‘red brick’ in the middle of the map versus the black block I added to mark ‘L.A.’ — have been inextricably linked.
No doubt, my fate is intertwined with these two dots, pulling me back and forth over time, distance and destinies… MDN”
October 5, 2012, Los Angeles, California
Two items appeared today that reminded me of my jet-set days, current crossroads and past encounters with celebrated personalities Zac Efron and Hillary Clinton.
In today’s Los Angeles Times, I read about the release of “The Paperboy” directed by Lee Daniels and based on the Peter Dexter novel, which stars Zac Efron along with Nicole Kidman, Matthew McConaughey and others. Several years ago, while living bicoastal and commuting on one of the United flights between LAX to DC, I sat in the second row of the first class cabin behind someone who obviously was a celebrity. He sported a hoodie and sunglasses as he approached his seat in the first row, right side and next to the window. While on the flight, I glanced briefly in the reflection of the window to my right and noticed he was reading a script called “The Paperboy.” I didn’t recognize the script or the actor, though remember thinking he looked like Zac Efron, Jake Gyllenhaal or one of the handsome young Hollywood A-listers. As I got off the plane, I overhead the flight attendants say it was Zac Efron, and it’s good to see the movie has since been released and Efron’s star remains on the rise.
Starting in January 2009, as I began working for myself — I straddled the worlds of policy and entertainment between D.C. and L.A. — as an international trade consultant commuting frequently between coasts and abroad, and as an artistic entrepreneur pursuing my passion and with greats hopes of launching a creative career. In fact, I remember having to shave for each trip to D.C., carrying my suit bag which was a souvenir from the stately Hotel Prince de Galles in Paris, along with talking points for visits to the U.S. Congress and U.S. Chamber of Commerce, legal meetings and diplomatic functions. On my return flights to L.A., I would break out the ripped jeans, Garage Band software, iPod playlists and The Hollywood Reporter weeklies, which was more appropriate attire and briefing material for visits to Sunset Strip concert venues and Billboard Film/TV conferences.
Coincidentally, my United Airlines lifetime mileage was nearing 800,000 by 2010 (790,615 to be exact) — and as a long-standing Star Alliance and United 1K elite member, I felt I could continue the streak of jet-set travel and creative vision — and ultimately, keep the left and right sides of my brain engaged and in balance. This proved to be a greater challenge than I ever planned for or dreamed of.
Also today in perhaps what is another sign, I received belatedly the September 2012 copy of Condé Nast Traveler featuring Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the cover while on an official visit to New Delhi. It is the first copy I have received since I let the subscription lapse at the end of 2010. Perhaps, I should consider the cover story as an encouraging omen of favorable winds ahead.
I have admired, and on several occasions crossed paths with Secretary/Senator/First Lady Hillary Clinton — briefly while she was with President Clinton at the APEC Ministerial Conference in Jakarta in 1994 and the WTO Ministerial Conference in Geneva in 1998, more recently as a campaign supporter during her run in the presidential primary in 2008, and up-close as I took a picture for someone with her during the Vital Voices gala at the Kennedy Center in D.C. in 2005.
Since I was an intern at the U.S. State Department in D.C. and at the American Embassy in Vientiane Laos from 1993-1994, a global career had been my focus and Condé Nast Traveler was my monthly bible. I would eagerly await the exotic and practical tips, and annual rankings of global properties, airlines and attractions. I would base my bucket list on these listings each year, from stays at the magical Four Seasons Sayan in Bali and the St. Regis Grand in Rome; recharging at premium airport lounges after connecting flights from Frankfurt or to Singapore; and lofty views from the statue of the Cristo Redentor in Rio, Temple of Heaven in Beijing and the Great Pyramid of Giza in Cairo… check, check, check… and cut!
2011 also marked the first year since 1994 in which I didn’t take a trip abroad. I was moving too far “right brain” in creative yet local pursuits, and not making enough ground “left brain” in logical reasoning and structure. No more Condé Nast Travelers, no passport stamps, and a blunted perspective brought on by too much risk taking and passionate ambitions. By the summer of 2012 (coincidentally as I turned 40), things came to a head as my business partner and I closed the offices of Planet L.A. Records and have changed its operations. Personally, I realized it was time to regain control of my direction, destiny… and perspective.
“I think where there has been more travel, there is greater understanding,” Secretary Clinton tells Kevin Doyle in the Condé Nast Traveler cover article.
Clinton elaborates: “There may not be agreement — we may still believe that the political system of another country is wrong or the way women are treated is not acceptable — but we get closer to seeing the world through somebody else’s eyes, and I really believe that’s the essential step not only for diplomats and other government officials but for business people and for American citizens, because it helps us get perspective.”
Jonah Lehrer in his book Imagine writes:
“One of the most surprising (and pleasurable) ways of cultivating an outsider perspective is through travel, getting away from the places we spend most of our time… [and] According to the researchers, the experience of another culture endows the traveler with a valuable open-mindedness, making it easier for him or her to realize that a single thing can have multiple meanings.”
Perspective is critical — whether for a diplomat, entrepreneur, artist or outsider — to be more thoughtful, creative and effective. Perspective is a skill that must be constantly sharpened — whether through travel, cultural exposure or open mindedness to the world around us.
In hindsight, I was losing track of the global perspective I had worked so hard to gain over a decade — which hit an impasse last year with no meaningful travel. As a recent outsider to the entertainment industry, my unique perspective has been the greatest talent I can offer along with a passion to succeed. Indeed, these two elements (e.g., left or right brain, business or art, Hillary or Zac) are intertwined and can be complementary — just as I used to travel often between L.A. and D.C., Switzerland and the world, and between mind and space.
Thus, restoring that balance is essential. Momentum is moving in this direction as I will soon travel to D.C. and elsewhere for important meetings that will set a new career course and educational path. Nevertheless, entrepreneurship and artistic endeavors can still coexist, and perhaps be more focused by renewed perspective.
The Condé Nast Traveler article mentions that Secretary Clinton has traveled more than 800,000 miles to over 100 countries since 2008, the most traveled American foreign emissary in U.S. history. 800,000 — the figure immediately reminded me of my United lifetime mileage balance, and how that figure has stalled recently, and why that must soon change if I am to stay true to my professional ability, creative nature and worldly perspective.
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