Traveling lowers the chances of heart disease; it enhances our creativity and the sense of happiness and satisfaction. It is also very efficient for relieving stress and anxiety – and the list of benefits goes on and on. And if we pay enough attention, it can be a teaching experience; we can grow and change the way we see things.
Rob Shallenberger: Alright, welcome back to our Becoming Your Best podcast friends, listeners. This is Rob Shallenberger and I hope you’re having a great day wherever you’re out in the world that today is going well for you. And if not, then hopefully this podcast can make a difference and help the day go a little bit better. So, I just got back from a trip to Peru and I wanted to share some of the highlights, some of the experiences that we had and the lessons learned that came from those. And I think one of the things about lessons learned is if we’re observing if we’re trying to think about what we see around us and apply it to our own lives, we can find a lot of things that we can draw on that can become our teachers and help us in the spirit of becoming your best to take our good and make it better in that quest for our best and what that looks like. So, in that spirit, I wanted to share four experiences with you, four lessons learned that I had while we were on our trip to Peru. And I’ve just got to tell you, first of all, it was fascinating to be back in Peru, just post-COVID if you will. They’re just reopening things and so we were at these different sites that are incredible, thousands of years old and we were the only people there, it really was amazing. Our guide said, “Typically, there would be hundreds if not thousands of people at these various sites.” And at one of them in particular, we were there at nine in the morning, we were the only group of people there. And it was amazing, it added a whole new element to that experience being the only people there at many of these different sites.
And so, with all of that being said, let me share with you four lessons learned from that experience, an epic trip. The first one is that we can do hard things. And I think we can all acknowledge that we’re going through different challenges that nobody else may know anything about. These may be very personal to each one of you, but I think we can all acknowledge and agree that we all have different challenges. For some it might be health something that they’re going through health-related; for others, it might be in their relationships with a son or daughter, with their spouse or a co-worker. For some, it may just be they’re in a funk right now in one of those lows in life and trying to figure things out. So, we all have these different challenges.
My first lesson learned from our trip was that we can do hard things, to press on, to never give up. And what I mean by that – this came on day two of our trip. It was Tuesday morning and we had just started a hike, it was an eight-mile hike, which in and of itself not too bad for most people but this was at 13-14,000 feet. And when you have that altitude in the mix, it makes for a very different experience than a normal hike. And in particular, the people who went with us were my wife, my 16-year-old daughter, and then my brother-in-law and his wife, and their 16-year-old daughter. And my sister-in-law, her name is Angie, a great, amazing lady, well, she had just recovered from COVID recently, and the lungs aren’t quite 100% yet, still has a little bit of a residual cough and just the lungs aren’t quite 100% yet. So, we’re doing this hike and the first two miles of the hike is very vertical, very steep. You gain 2,500 feet in elevation from already high 11,500 feet ,12,000 feet up to 13,500 to 14,000. And as we’re tracking up this hill the legs are heavy, it’s definitely a different animal than what I’m used to in hiking. And for her, it was really tough on her lungs. She’s coughing and since they’re not just quite back to their full capacity yet it was pretty tough. And I watched her and it was awesome to see her persevere through her challenges. You could tell that this was tough. The breathing was not coming easy for her with the coughing and then other things that he was dealing with and yet she pushed on. There was one time there were there was a little breakdown and there are some tears and yet she pushed on. And that was a great metaphor for me in life just watching her that we have these challenges, we have these trials, and then we have a choice. Do we push on – do we keep climbing – or do we stop, turn around, and give up? And what was so awesome was when we reached the plateau area after that initial grueling uphill, the views were incredible. And once it flattened out, it got a lot easier. It was no longer really burdensome on the lungs. And for the rest of the day, it was off the charts incredible. And after passing through these different villages, we wrapped up the day coming out of this canyon to this incredible vista where you’re looking down several 1000 feet into this valley below, and several 1000 feet above to these rising enormous mountains. The sun was setting, so you’ve got that orange hue of the sun setting on the far mountains. It was just one of those breathtaking views that you rarely get in life. And Angie was there to experience it because she persevered and pushed through that initial, tough, grueling challenge that she faced and we were all facing, it was just particularly difficult for her lungs post-COVID. So that’s lesson number one is that we can do hard things, persevering, pushing through them never giving up. We hear about that principle all the time and it really matters when it matters. When we’re in the thick of that internal battle, that’s when it matters, the gut check if you will.
The second lesson was, it’s about the journey AND the destination. So, sometimes in life, we say, “It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey.”. I’ve heard other people say it’s about the destination and not the journey. Either way, you look at it, what I’ve discovered, again, is that it’s about both. This journey of life is both enjoying the journey, being present where we’re at, and also looking forward to the destination. And both are amazing if we look at them both in the right context. So, for example, we got off this train, we took this train from where we were staying over to what they call km 104, kilometer 104. You cross this bridge, and then we pick up on the last eight miles of the Inca Trail. And some people go and do three or four-day hikes alone on the Inca Trail. So nonetheless, we did this hiking, and it was beautiful. We were talking about this very concept on the hike, the journey, the destination and we were just talking about enjoying the journey and looking at these waterfalls that we’d see off to our left, or we passed through this old Incan village and again, we’re the only people there. So we were just really trying to live in the present and enjoy that incredible vista, and view, and the waterfalls behind us. It was just breathtaking, hard to even describe. Well, as you keep going on this hike, eventually you hit this max altitude point – the climax of the hike, so to speak – and it’s called the Puerta del Sol, the sun door. And when you crest the mountain top the ridge and you come through the sun door, the Puerta del Sol, probably one of the most incredible views in my entire life as Machu Picchu unfolded right there in front of us about a mile and a half beyond where we were standing and below us. And over to our right, again, just these rising mountains, low valleys, these clouds came over and just encompassed the mountains. It’s hard to visualize that, but it was incredible. That was the destination. And so that was where it really hit me again that the journey was awesome, getting there was amazing. We had so many good memories, discussions, and things that made the journey awesome. And oh man, was it rewarding getting to the destination. When we came through the Puerta del Sol and actually arrived at Machu Picchu, it was such an incredible experience to be at the destination. And I think life is similar. You’ve heard us talk about vision and roles and goals and pre-week planning – these are all designed so that we can enjoy the journey of life. We don’t look so far into the future that we miss what’s right in front of us here in the present. At the same time, we don’t just wing it day to day with no eye towards the future. Being able to articulate what our destination looks like, what does the very best version of ourselves look like? That’s important. We have a place to go and there are some places and some times when we actually arrive. You achieve a certain goal, you accomplish something you check something off your list and it was meaningful, it was powerful in your life. And there’s a deep satisfaction that comes with the destination. My good friend, James Lawrence, the iron cowboy, just finished running 100 full distance triathlons over the course of 100 days. Well, there’s a lot to be said for the journey and there’s a lot to be said for the destination. So, it is a good reminder in life that we need to enjoy the journey and also have our eye on what the destination looks like.
Now the third lesson learned is to get outside. It was so fun having our daughters there, our 16-year-old daughters. Like any teenager there, they have their friends here and they have their life that they’re involved in. Well, there is power in getting outside. And one of the favorite comments that I heard on the whole trip was from my niece, who after this amazing hike that I just finished describing a few minutes ago, she said “This is actually pretty awesome. I didn’t realize I would like hiking this much.” And that was a statement. I mean, it was awesome to hear her talk about her experiences as we were outdoors there experiencing things. And so, there’s a lot to be said for getting outdoors and making time for whatever suits you. But there is a power in being amongst the trees, being by a river, a beach, up on a mountain, somewhere just away from people in nature. There’s something magical about it that it does for your energy spiritually – across the board there’s a lot of ways you can describe it. But I think universally, we would all agree that there’s something magical about being outdoors. Now, keep this in the right context that I’m trying to portray it right. I’m not saying if you’re in Phoenix, go hang out on a 120-degree mountainside for eight hours baking. I’m saying get out of our normal routine indoors, where we spend a lot of our time and actually get out and breathe some fresh air. Enjoy the scenery that is around us in so many different parts of the world.
I’ll just give you one example of this. Our last day there where this was really driven home to me was after driving these crazy, treacherous roads through Peru, we got up to about 16,000 feet in our van that we had the whole week with our guide. And we did this short hike, it wasn’t a long hike, it was about a mile and a half each way but it felt a lot longer than that. We climaxed out or peaked out at about just under 17,000 feet and that’s the highest I’ve ever stood in my life. Of course, we’ve flown higher and all that, but that’s the highest I’ve ever stood. And it was amazing. It’s called Rainbow Mountain. So imagine yourself on a peak, and you look to your left, and you see a ridgeline as well as this massive mountain that is multicolored. So you have a little bit of maroon lines, there are these blue lines, brown lines. And it’s just the different forms of the metals that make it such an amazing mountain. And again, typically the guide said, “There’d be hundreds of people up here, if not in the thousands.” Well, there were probably 50 people up there and this was the most people we saw the entire week in a single place. So imagine looking to your left and seeing Rainbow Mountain, and then turning to your right and there’s a massive expanse of mountains there that are glacier-covered, so they’re just white. One of those mountains goes maybe up to around 21,000 feet. And so, it’s just this big white mountain, still glacier cap all the way across and it’s probably with the windchill 35 degrees or so. And the wind’s blowing pretty good. And as we were standing there, it was one of those experiences where we were talking about getting outside. We were breathing this fresh air, not much of it. Not much air up there, but we were breathing this fresh air, we were looking around and it’s just hard to describe. It really provided a different perspective on life. It really helped clear my mind, it helped me see my life through a new lens and in a new light if you will. So I think there’s something to be said in my experience of getting outside, getting outdoors, away from people where it can be you, and maybe a handful of people with you just to breathe fresh air, get a clear perspective on life, and see things in a new light. So, if you haven’t been outside in a while have been on a hike or bike ride or walk I encourage you to do so. It’s very refreshing and invigorating for the mind.
And the fourth and final point, I don’t want to get into politics in any way, but I think this was an important lesson learned for me. And that is to get involved in our communities in our country. At least get out and vote, at a minimum. And here’s why I’m saying this is so important: Peru while we were there, they’re having their presidential elections. And so, we were flying out we had just flown to Cusco, from Cusco to Lima. We’re in the Lima airport waiting for our connection back to the US and the polls closed at 7 pm. And as soon as they closed at 7 pm the entire airport erupted, people were clapping and cheering. And it’s awesome that they’re that engaged. There were two people running for office. Now, again, this has nothing to do with your political leanings one way or the other. What I am suggesting here though, is they had two candidates, each one appeared to have their challenges. One of them in particular, though, very openly was running with a socialist agenda. He wants to mimic what has been done in Venezuela, Cuba, North Korea. And clearly, that doesn’t work. I mean, just crazy what his platform was, and yet he ended up winning the election.
And let me just give you an example of how crazy some of his policies are that he’s describing. He wants to ban foreign tourists from coming to Peru and he thinks that those sites in Peru should just be localized to the people of Peru. Now, tourism is one of the most important aspects of Peru’s economy. And these are sites that impact people from all over the world and they come from all over the world to see them. He ran on the platform that there’ll be no poor among us. Well, his path in getting there, that’s a whole different discussion. But what I’m suggesting right here, and what was the lesson learned for me was, these people all had a chance to vote. There were people there who voted for him enough to the point where he got elected. In Peru if you look back in their histories, the late ‘80s, early ‘90s, it was a place of terrorism, it was a tough place, there was very little tourism. And they’ve really gone through some massive transformations and progress in the last 20 to 25 years. And just like Venezuela, you can lose all of that within a couple of years with certain policies in place. And history is a great teacher and it tends to repeat itself. I love what Ronald Reagan said – again, I don’t care about political leanings one way or the other – he said is “All it takes is for good people to do nothing. And freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.” Now, what I’m talking about for the people of Peru is literally their freedoms. He wants to privatize or socialize their oil and gas, their airlines, and bring that all under state control. I don’t know if they know it or not, but they’re losing their freedoms. And it’s the exact same thing that happened in Venezuela, Cuba, North Korea, Bolivia for about a decade. And so, we in our own country, wherever that is – and I know there are people listening to this and other countries – have got to be involved. We can’t passively sit idle and expect to reap the rewards of freedom.
And so, the lesson learned for me was, it doesn’t matter what our political leanings are; all of us are trying to preserve freedom and freedom requires action. So, get involved in some ways, share your voice, and at a minimum, vote. So this is not a political rant or political thought at all; this is just about preserving freedom and being involved. It’s important for us to do that because otherwise it can be lost so quickly, and freedom is much more fragile than many of us might actually realize.
So, I had an amazing trip, I hope sharing some of these lessons learned has been beneficial for you. Just to recap, we can do hard things, never give up. Just like my sister in law who pushed through the breathing, and then opened up to this amazing vista and interview that we had up on top. Number two is it’s about the journey and the destination. Number three is to get outside, enjoy nature, let it improve our perspective on our own lives and breathing that fresh air, and see things through that lens. And number four is to get involved in our communities and our country, at a minimum vote. So it was a great week, wonderful memories for us and I always try to take things from around me and incorporate them into my life, lessons learned, what I can do to be a better person, and I hope that you’ve benefited from me sharing a few of these with you as friends as family and as associates, as I would call you since you’ve made the effort to tune into this podcast.
So, thank you for being here. We appreciate every one of you. Our vision for becoming your best is to reach a billion people. That doesn’t happen by accident that happens when you share things whether it’s the Do What Matters Most book, whether it’s pre-week planning, whether it’s a course that you’ve attended, we’re all in this together. And this is about sharing tools and resources that will help us move towards becoming our best. And I’ll wrap up with this: we very specifically chose that word becoming. We didn’t name this become your best because we believe that while we’re here, taking a breath every day, that we are on a journey of becoming. And if we don’t, in most cases in this journey of life actually arrive, well, there are always things that we can do better and improve on and that’s the whole spirit of this. Becoming your best. So with that being said, I hope you have a wonderful week, a great day, and thank you for all you do.
Leading authority on leadership and execution, F-16 Fighter Pilot, and father