3 Reflections on the Past 2 Years.
Two years ago today, MEA had to shut down due to the announcement of a global pandemic. What an anxiety-producing time! A year later, I wrote this blog post about all of the pandemic pivots we made.
While my musings of a year ago were organizationally focused, today’s reflections are more personal.
1. We launched MEA soon after my 57th birthday—around my “Saturn Return,” which, for those who follow astrology, is an auspicious time for doing new things differently than in the past. I saw this new venture as a legacy. I no longer felt attached to the ego-satisfying success and fame that had marked my leadership of the boutique hotel company that I started thirty years earlier. As I prepared to launch MEA in early 2018, I knew I was discovering and unleashing the great work of my life. My old passion for madness - that ego-driven, I “can do” anything spirit of leaping tall buildings in a single bound - was being replaced by this new awareness that I could be a conduit or a channel for something greater than me. I felt awake and alive. Slowly, I began to live by a new ethos, “I am what survives me.”
2. When the pandemic came along two years after we’d opened, it was easy to fall back into my old ways: with me on center stage playing the archetype of the hero—I would save the day. And, yes, during that treacherous time when we closed the campus for more than half a year, we were still paying all the staff, and it wasn’t clear when we’d be generating revenue again. To say the least, I was occasionally a bit freaked out (especially since my bank account was leaking cash for all kinds of other reasons). Thankfully, with my co-founders Jeff and Christine by my side, I was reminded of the African proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.” And so, together, we made many swift, decisive, and collective changes in 2020 and 2021. We were indeed “moving at the speed of collaboration.” In the process, we’ve created our own “swerve culture” that respects and knows how to pivot. And, while I’ve occasionally fallen back into the “guru trap” (the guru knows all and does all), I’ve marveled at how MEA has become a magnet for fellow pioneers on this shared journey and how much we can learn from (and help) each other as leaders of the company.
3. I’ve lived most of my life accelerating the speed on the treadmill in the gym. I do it for the sake of my health and to test how fast I can run. But little did I know I’ve also been on the “hedonic treadmill,” a metaphor for our human tendency to pursue one pleasure or goal after another—an idea built around the idea that once you’ve attained one thing, it doesn’t feel as valuable, so you look for the next dopamine hit. Perhaps you’ve felt it as well—being constantly distracted by the new shiny object in the distance. Fortunately, over the past two years, I’ve given myself the chance to get off the treadmill and enjoy a walk on the proverbial country road, whether that’s meant “spying on the divine” in nature with my dog Jamie, enjoying 1:1 yoga with Teddi, or doing a week-long digital detox in the wilderness amongst ancient cave paintings. In the entrepreneurial world, the emergent often feels urgent. Being a pioneer in the new “midlife wisdom school” and “regenerative community” categories can prompt me to jump back on the treadmill and accelerate my speed. I have to be careful. Fortunately, I’ve got a lovely Gandhi quote posted as a reminder on my laptop: “there’s more to life than increasing its speed.” So, today, I’m joyously smelling the roses more often than I did when leading Joie de Vivre or Airbnb.
And, here’s a few of my ruminations in a short video.