On the edge of starting my T-Mobile leadership job in Nashville, I flew to San Francisco yesterday in order to speak at Linkage Inc.’s Best of Talent Management Summit. After exactly 24 hours in town, I am wondering why I waited so long to visit this amazing place.
I arrived at night on Tuesday, lacking context or a sense of direction as I stared at the massive Bay Bridge from my 16th floor hotel room. Hungry from 10 hours of airplanes but too tired to explore, I settled for takeout from the generic Subway shop across the street. I knew that today would bring with it many hours to explore the city by daylight, and sought to push through a deep sense of loneliness as I pursued a restless sleep.
My morning began with a 5:30 wakeup call and a visit to the hotel gym, where I ran into a fellow Linkage speaker (Misti Burmeister, founder of Inspirion Inc.) and had a good sweat on the bike. Endorphins thus released, I headed upstairs with new vibrancy and got dressed before enjoying the complimentary breakfast. Then it was down to the Linkage zone to finally meet numerous employees from the organizations whom I had emailed for months, including Linkage Founder and CEO Phil Harkins.
After enjoying Phil’s morning keynote, I grabbed my laptop and headed to the breakout session room for my workshop called “Empowering the Emerging Organizational Heroes.” A whopping seven folks ended up in attendance, but for the most part they were engaged in the discussion and our conversation had great value. The best outcome of the session was meeting Yves Lermusi of Checkster, a Belgium native turned San Francisco resident who was kind enough to drive me around the Golden Gate area for a couple of hours during the afternoon. Yves and I enjoyed conversation about life, death, family, faith, business, recruiting, coaching...all amid the backdrop of the amazing Pacific Ocean, which I had never seen until today. Our new friendship solidified, Yves eventually dropped me off a park not far from Fisherman’ Wharf, and I enjoyed a scenic two-mile walk back to my hotel.
There was so much to take in as I walked, sweating more than I wished. Informal musicians with great talent and street performers with tenacious enthusiasm dotted the landscape. A highlight was “the bush man,” who got his rocks off by hiding behind a series of leafy branches and surprising people as they passed by.
I took note that the city seemed a great place to be in love. You needed to be holding someone’s hand. I wasn’t, of course, but could feel the hope and enthusiasm amid so many passersby.
Back up in my hotel room I could still hear the notes from the saxophone player faithfully performing on the street below. The street musicians and the homeless persons that are sprinkled throughout the streets of San Francisco form an interesting contrast to the affluence and potential that otherwise characterizes the city. It is a reminder that life hangs in fragile balance, that paradox is paramount, that humility and gratitude are prerequisites for catching any glimpse of a larger meaning within the incredible cities or the remote venues of this world.
I concluded my evening with a long walk through Chinatown, highlighted by a solitary meal at a restaurant recommended by the hotel’s concierge. I was enthralled with how many businesses were still going strong in the evening, and contemplated my sense of being the minority in this district without necessarily feeling negative about such a status. The visit added more fuel to my ongoing fascination with the Chinese people and desire to eventually visit China. Their beauty was captivating.
I hop on a plane early tomorrow morning to return to Florida, my creativity stoked by yet another opportunity to visit a city—like Nashville and Chicago—that seems to drip with energy.