A Word for a Troubled Season

Each year I choose a new word that represents my goals or the direction I want to take, or what I’d like to work on for that year. These words act as beacons to keep me on track in my purpose and short-term or overall mission.

They can also be chosen for specific projects, goals, or time periods, and right now, I’m calling on one for this season of change.

And, since I am far from the only one affected by this massively unforeseen event, I’d like to offer it as a strategy for you as well, especially to my fellow entrepreneurs, in the travel industry and beyond:

Pivot.

PIVOT: 1. noun. the central point, pin, or shaft on which a mechanism turns or oscillates. 2. verb. to turn on a pivot.

That was Google’s definition.

My turn:

PIVOT: action. To stop momentum abruptly, consider alternate directions, and choose one that moves us closer to where we want to be, all while maintaining balance.

We pivot to course correct in the face of trouble. We move from a pivot point one step at a time.

Taking steps, even baby steps, eventually leads to momentum. Momentum will carry us in the direction we chose, until we choose to pivot again.

My industry shut down almost overnight. This is about putting one foot in front of the other, and regaining control and the momentum to keep moving forward.

One foot in front of the other
One step at a time.

Default is not a strategy

I’ve learned over the years that a lot of my stress and despair in dark times comes from an absence of control in my life. When we are not taking control of our own lives, it means that someone else is, rendering us with feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. 

This leads us to default. We default to the inside of the box (that someone else built, btw), we default to other people’s decisions, we react (defensive strategy) instead of take action (offensive strategy).

Essentialism Book
If I could only recommend one book, it would be this one. Essentialism by Greg McKeown. Photo by @mthiker

My favorite book is Essentialism, and it has taught me the value of Design over Default. 

Design

Design, in this case, is the action of deliberately choosing the steps that align with and move us closer to our own mission or goals. The more we design, the more our lives look uniquely like us.

Default

Default, alternatively, is the reaction of acquiescing to the decisions of those around us for lack of our own ideas or direction. The more we default, the less our lives resemble us, the more they resemble those around us, and the further we move from our own purpose. 

Enter Global Emergency.

A lot of what is happening right now is completely out of our control, which does not give us a lot of room to Design.

Exhibit A: My JUMP Retreat in Tuscany this May 

I lead adventure tours, and I was supposed to host a retreat in Tuscany this May. Unless you’ve been living in a box (and maybe you’re better off that way at this point), you know that Tuscany, as well as the rest of Italy, is under lockdown right now. Of all places.

While the EU travel ban is “set” to lift sometime in mid April, there is an equal chance that it might not happen. For all we know, travel bans could end up being reinforced in the other direction because the virus is only now starting to spread in the US. We really have no idea, but one expert opinion that I believe to be credible says that this isn’t going to be over by mid April.

As Owner // Director of Fun // Creative Hat Wearer // Communications and PR Attempter // and ultimately – Decision Maker in my business, I alone had the great joy of determining the best course of action for my retreat participants and me.

Path of the Gods
Dreaming of better days in Italy.

Let me tell you something, this is hard.

Fortunately, I’m not actually alone, none of us really are. While I am responsible for the final call, I have consulted (besides all of the news updates) my best friend, my mom, my business adventure guide, my tour partners in Italy, and of course, my insurance agent. There was no clear consensus, no one knows what to do right now. Still, leaning on my people no matter the darkness has been one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned.

It does take a village. Keep your village close (just not closer than 3 feet for a while)

Ultimately, I cannot put the safety of my travelers at risk, and May is coming up fast. As my travel schedule for the second half of the year is already near capacity, I’m also not prepared to reschedule this itinerary for 2020.

I made the hard decision to cancel the trip.

Exhibit B: My travel website… that depends on… travel

You may only know me as Traveling Jackie, but seven years ago I started my adventure as an online entrepreneur by creating a niche website called The Budget-Minded Traveler. This website is my steady-and-used-to-be-growing-until-Coronavirus-showed-up, passive income generator. 

I count on that income.

Right now, the travel industry as a whole, as in, any business that depends on the right and freedom to travel (which includes me, my partners worldwide, my industry friends) is among the economically devastated.

Active Travel Tuscany
Scuba diving with adventure travel professionals from all over the world during an industry conference in Tuscany, 2018.

Enter “PIVOT”

Luckily, we were all born with brains, and (when we actually use them) human brains are known for being exceptionally creative.

I (and my counterparts worldwide, and maybe you, too?) have one of two scenarios to choose from right now:

1. Default:

Woe is me! Everything is going to shit! I “hope” this turns around soon so I can get back on my feet! I just don’t know what to DOOOOO! SOUND THE ALARM! Also, buy ALLLLLL OF THE TOILET PAPERRRRRR!!!!!

As Shannon Stowell, CEO of the Adventure Travel Trade Association, said recently, “Hope is not a business strategy.”

2. Design:

PIVOT. My back is up against the wall, but I’ve been here before. Hell, I started this business, I know its ins and outs. I am creative, I have resources, and I have options. I am one of the lucky ones. I will course correct, regain control, and continue to move closer to where I want to be, one step at a time.

It’s time to pivot and design our next steps very carefully.

navigating marrakech
Navigating the unknown has always been my gift. Marrakech, March 2020 (before shit really hit the fan)

Your pivot

You may be thinking, “Okay that’s great, pivot, design, I subscribe. But what the hell am I actually going to DO?” 

If your back is up against the wall, push the damn wall over. It’s time to think outside the box. 

Perhaps these steps will help:

Step 1: Be clear about “where you want to be.”

Make sure you know what your goals look like for you (financially, relationally, personally, whatever it may be), so that when you pivot enough to see which path leads to that place, you’ll recognize it. Write it down, this is your goal.

Step 2: Answer this – What are you good at and how can it help someone?

Make a list of ALL your talents, then put a star next to any which are potentially marketable or simply necessary in these times. Try to steer clear of anything that depends on immediate travel or large crowds.

Alternatively, if you are the rock for your friends or family, take care of yourself first so that you can be available for them.

Step 3: Consider – What resources do you already have access to that might help you implement the answer(s) from Step 2?

Consider: people (colleagues, friends, your audience), financial situation (perhaps you have money set aside OR can find expenses you could cut back on to help cover bills for a while), internet-savviness, online software, time/availability, health, a vehicle, a willingness to serve, a fluffy german shepherd puppy that people would hire for cuddle therapy during cabin fever if you let them (raises hand).

Be. Creative.

Step 4: Reach out to your village.

Who do you know that can either help you accomplish this idea or at least be in your corner for support while you take baby steps in this new direction? Gather your village and ready your team.

Step 5: Harness that courage.

Be brave, take that first baby step. Discover renewed momentum.

Henry Ford quote

This is your chance to take a fresh step, what will you do with it?

Side note: If you wish you had more ideas, there’s a book for that (and plenty more where that came from). Silver lining: you don’t even have to leave the cozy confines of your self-isolation to get them, they are on audible

My pivot

Until the travel bans are lifted and we are safe to move about the cabin, my next step is not going to be dependent on immediate travel. We’ve already witnessed the effects of said strategy in Exhibits A and B. 

I truly am fortunate though, because I have recently broken virtual ground on a project that was slated to launch in September, but in light of recent events (and the flexibility to pivot), I’m moving it up. 

I feel like we should drumroll or something… this is not how I imagined I’d be making this announcement, but here goes:

I’m designing and launching a virtual (online) version of my adventure retreat. (Please, hold your applause for the comments below 😉)

This is the same retreat that I started in Ecuador and was supposed to host in Tuscany this May, and that for the past two years I’ve watched empower and change many lives (including my own… twice).

Because it’s virtual (delivered via online media and small group video chats), it’ll be B.Y.O.B., pizza, and adventure activities (I do have a creative plan for that), but the real good stuff, the personal discovery elements that make this retreat so powerful (that no travel ban can ever take from us), will be the same.

I had no idea even two weeks ago how much this decision would mean for me now.

You know what else? I’ve also started writing a new book.

This is me, pushing the wall over.

If you want to receive details about this retreat or any future JUMP Experiences, drop your name here and I’ll keep you in the loop.

Online Meetings
Connecting with my people all across the world, without leaving my living room. ❤️

Remember that you have a choice

“If you look throughout history, the biggest and most necessary changes typically come in the wake of crises, much like our most important personal changes often come in the wake of our traumas. There’s always growth in pain. And there’s always opportunity for creation in destruction.”

– Mark Manson, last week in this blog post

A couple days ago, I wrote a post about being brave and harnessing courage during this season. In it, I likened our current global emergency to an experience I had in a white water raft. I talked a lot about the flow of water. 

I considered using “divert” as my word, as I love the analogy of water diverting around obstacles in its path. There is, however, a big difference between humans and water: humans have a choice. Divert is a reaction, a default, whereas, pivot is a choice, a designed action that leaves you in control.

There’s no saying how many times we may need to pivot in the coming months. Just remember, we are not alone, and we always, no matter what, have a choice to go forward with action, balance, design, control, and newfound momentum.

Happy Hour
From my solo happy hour to yours, here’s to courage and better days ahead.