Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Muse's "The Resistance" - The Perfect Soundtrack for My Euro Trip

I just finished up my trip to Europe. I spent several days in London, Paris and Zurich. It was largely gray, damp, but absolutely beautiful and architecturally romantic of course. At the risk of stating the obvious, a world away from my home in San Diego.

Throughout my travels, I walked the cities -- and I took the subways and trains; I never took a single taxi.

My constant companion on my trip? My iPod -- and the band Muse -- and their remarkable new album "The Resistance". While I have always liked the band -- I have seen them twice just this past year (including their phenomenal show in the desert at Coachella) -- I never fully understood them or appreciated their music. I always kind of considered them a poor man's Radiohead. Not anymore I don't. Now, I understand how original they really are right now. Now, I "get" it.

Their music is poetic, bombastic, romantic -- it is theater -- it is opera mixed with a healthy dose of Pink Floyd (to understand what I mean, listen to the song "Exogenesis: Symphony Part 1 (Overture)" from The Resistance. Really listen to it -- with head-phones. And, with the volume cranked up ... really really loudly.

Now, picture yourself walking along the Thames ... or the Seine ... in the cold autumn air.

Do you "get" it?

Thought so. And, that's the power of Muse.

That's what I did throughout my trip. I walked ... I listened ... and got lost in the music (that really does happen). Muse's "The Resistance" was absolutely the soundtrack for my Euro trip -- and a significant ingredient to the overall European experience (since they are a wholly European band with European-styled operatic MUSE-ic).

(One more thing -- if you ever get a chance to see them live -- do it. They are the single most impressive arena rock band on the scene right now -- ahead of U2 -- ahead of Coldplay. Ahead of everyone.)

"Rework"'s Forgotten Chapter -- The Power of Planned Serendipity (aka "GET OUT THERE!")

As readers of my blog know, I have been in Europe for the past week for business -- business conference, business meetings, press meetings, analyst meetings. In London, Paris, Zurich (yes, I actually made it to Zurich by train -- quite the miracle with all of the French strikes right now). These longer trips always give me a chance to step back, get away from the day-to-day details, get external feedback, look at the broader picture -- and reflect -- which is incredibly important for every business person (and every person in life, for that matter) to do. I have written about this before -- in a blog post (one of the few) that I actually believe is absolutely worth reading (trust me on this one -- click here).

The original reason for my trip? An industry conference (the Streaming Media Europe conference in London, to be exact). But, that raison d'etre for my European tour proved to be just the starting point, as it beget other meetings -- some planned -- some, not so much. And, all of these led to business discussions and ideas -- some planned -- some, not so much. This was the general concept for the trip -- build it, and utility will come! (Stick with me on this one folks -- there is a fundamental point here that I want to hammer home to each of you, because it is one of the single most important pieces of advice I can give.)

And, come it (utility) did! It has been an incredibly productive trip -- both in ways I can imagine right now, and in ways that I cannot. I am not trying to be enigmatic here at all -- I absolutely mean that. When I travel, when I put myself "out there", I am constantly reminded of the power of SERENDIPITY! The chance meeting, the chance conversation, the chance business idea that enters your mind because of that chance meeting or conversation -- that is the point. These chance/unplanned/unscripted meetings can be the stuff of opportunities that literally could change your company's and your world -- but you would never know that unless you planned to make those serendipitous moments possible. In other words, via the trip itself.

Huh, what? Planned serendipity? YES, ABSOLUTELY! I made myself open to possibilities that otherwise would have been wholly unattainable simply because I planned the trip in the first place! In other words, I put myself "out there." I didn't have a full game-plan; I didn't have a full agenda. I started with the conference. Then, I scheduled some meetings. So, I had a framework -- a skeleton -- but I knew that things would get fleshed out in real-time while I was there, which they did. Then, the ball began to roll -- which it always does (as long as you are proactive) -- and it rolls usually in ways you can't even imagine. And, this is how positive Black Swans are made possible, since you increase the odds of positive transformative events (i.e., Black Swans) simply when you put yourself out there and open to the world (rather than closed behind your desk). (To understand what I mean by Black Swan, click here to read my earlier post on the subject.)
Too often, we (and I am definitely speaking to myself here) get comfortable -- way too comfortable -- with our heads down and behind our desks. We are all working, because we have so much to do. But, especially for top management, we need to spend less time behind our desks, and more time simply being out there. Out there walking the halls with our teams. Out there with customers and potential customers. Out there with partners and potential partners. Out there with press and analysts. Out there with our board and our advisors. Out there ... well, you get the point. And, THAT point is absolutely critical.

On this trip, I had a chance to read "Rework", the great new book by 37signals founders, Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson. It is a book each of you should read -- it speaks to fundamental truths that are frequently overlooked. It is frequently contrarian and debunks other so-called "fundamental truths" about business success (and I generally agree with the authors in their debunkery). It is practical. It is compelling. And, it is an easy read (no long investment required -- I read it cover to cover in about 90 minutes). But, as much as I liked "Rework" (which I did), the authors failed to discuss what I believe to be one of the most fundamental truths of all -- i.e., the power of "planned serendipity." That is the missing chapter.

In fact, few books (or execs) sufficiently focus on this fundamental way to optimize the chances for you and your company to succeed -- which is to simply GET OUT THERE! So, plan your trip (but don't plan too much!). Buy that ticket! Yes, it is expensive. Yes, you will not be there in person for your team (but, that too is a good thing on occasion ... independence for both you and they).

I simply don't know precisely where some things will "go" as a result of this trip. But, I do know this -- I know that this trip strengthened relationships; forged new ones; sharpened my focus; gave me invaluable feedback I can take back to my teams; and started the wheels in motion for potential compelling opportunities that otherwise would have escaped me/our company had I not taken it (in other words, the potential for positive Black Swans). The rest is a mystery ... and how cool is that? That's what makes life exciting -- it's a box of chocolates, right?

So, re-think the amount of time you spend inside the office (and out). Rework. Chase that Black Swan ... and let it chase you.

(and, when in Europe, listen to MUSE as you walk the boulevards ... particularly "Exogenesis, Symphony Part I" -- wow, a cross between opera and Pink Floyd ... more on that in a later post).