that’s great, but what did you learn?

“Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness. How do you know this is the experience you need? Because this is the experience you are having at the moment.”

~ Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose

Although I’d like to share what I learned from our time in St. John’s, I think it best be described by prefacing it with “what did Newfoundland teach us”. It was she who was the teacher and we just the students along for the ride. The Professor Keating to our Welton Academy (it’s okay, take a moment to check it out on IMDB).

And just so we’re straight, when I say “teach”, I mean reinforce. These were lessons that I’d heard many times before, but our time spent in Newfoundland brought an immediate sense of clarity.

Now let me start by talking about the fog. I can honestly say I’ve never “seen” fog like this – at times it caused us to joke about feeling like we were on an episode of Lost, except our fog was white, not black. Or, as we incessantly checked our flight status hoping that “on time” wouldn’t suddenly change to “cancelled”, we wondered which one of us was going to be the first to be sacrificed for food. Check it out.

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A roadside view from the airpot…

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The view from the 7th floor of our hotel

Incredibly, what had been a thick wall of opposition just two days before suddenly morphed into a sunny sky the Tuesday morning our rebooked flight was to depart.

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Believe it or not, both of these pictures were taken from that same 7th floor of our hotel, just two days later.

It was as if The Universe had kept us there on purpose, each of us for different, but just as important, reasons.

Did I have an A-HA moment? Plenty! Did I learn something? More than one thing – so many more… about leadership, teamwork, social dynamics and friendship.

There’s an old saying we use at the office, whatever happens on the road stays on the road. Not a new phrase by any means, but a creed we live by nonetheless. When you travel and work that closely with three other people, you come to know and understand them better. Add a few more days onto that and you can multiply that experience by 100%.

During our time in St. John’s we learned about each other, shared stories we keep close to our hearts and related to each other’s struggles… it taught me that everyone is going through something. While the journey might be a bit different, we’re all doing the best we can – for ourselves and the ones we love.

We also learned about having a servant’s attitude. Now I’m not going to start quoting the Bible, but without a doubt over the five days spent in St. John’s our beloved Newfies (and I use that term with the utmost affection, admiration and respect) taught us what it meant to truly serve others.

You see, people hear “serving” or “servant” and they equate it with being subservient, with someone having ownership over you. But you know what the incredible thing is? Once you take yourself out of the equation, and that means getting rid of that pesky and persistent emotion on which we all rely, you can size up someone’s needs almost immediately and work to help them get what they want. Now that doesn’t mean curtailing to someone’s needs, no matter how ridiculous. It just means helping them get what they want to make whatever journey they’re on easier. At the end of the day, what is it going to hurt anyway?

Whatever we asked of the incredible hotel staff during our event they gave without question. “Our centerpieces didn’t arrive so is there any place we can get flowers?” we asked the day of our special luncheon. “Sure, me love, let me get me coat and I’ll go to the local Dominion and pick them up for you”, replied Mary, one of many amazing hotel employees. When we returned to the room to see which ones she had chose, we found them cut, watered and placed in beautiful vases for our special guests. This was one of many examples that reinforced the lesson that it truly is better to give than to receive.

Although we weren’t demanding by nature, because of the situation we found ourselves in we probably required more than the average client. Not once did they hesitate, roll their eyes or complain under their breaths, they simply gave. Why? Because we were in need and they had the power to help. They took themselves out of the equation and helped us; a true reflection of a servant’s attitude.

I also learned, and this was a big one, about teamwork and leadership. If you work in the corporate world, you’re probably inundated with buzz words like “team-building”, “accountability” and “adaptability”, but you never know how you – or your teammates – will react until put to the test.

Whether it’s a friendship, a work relationship or one you share with your spouse, you have to have each other’s backs. If someone falters, you pick up the slack. Not to hold it over their heads or in the hopes of advancing yourself or your career, but because that’s what a team does. Think about those teams who have won the Super Bowl or Stanley Cup. Did they point fingers at someone else’s mistake or say “that’s not my job”? No way… they refocused, jumped on board and supported the team. Ultimately, their intention was to do their best and also step in whenever a teammate needed them.

And as wonderful as our onsite team was, our team back home was incredible. When it became clear we weren’t making our scheduled flight, they sprung into action offering their help with anything we needed. Keep in mind, these shows were going on across the country and next weekend’s would be here in no time. Through intermittent communication they sent and answered emails on our behalf, coordinated scripts and meetings for the second weekend and assembled a backup team on the off chance we didn’t make it home in time to catch our morning flight to Winnipeg. When you have a support team that steps up and, instead of pressuring you for an answer, offers a solution, anything is possible.

As for leadership, you might have heard the old saying “the speed of the leader is the speed of the gang”? Well nothing could be closer to the truth. The leader, whether volunteered or elected, sets the tone for the team. If she is negative about a situation, the team will follow. If she is able to keep things in perspective and be positive about a situation, the team will be there right along with her. Luckily, our leader fell into the latter category and, thanks to her, we not only managed, but thrived, during our time in St. John’s.

We also learned about solutions – now this is a big one. Sometimes I find myself facing a problem with no problem, so to speak (oddly enough open-heart surgery – of which I’ve had 4, but we’ll tackle that later) and yet the littlest thing can act as a tree branch in the wheel of my bicycle.

But here’s the great thing about a problem, there’s always a solution. Instead of getting frustrated (and heading straight into the brick wall) think of a solution and go around it. It might take some thinking, brainstorming and patience, but it’s there. Be open to the possibilities.

Speaking of possibilities, it was on our first night in the hotel lounge that I joked I should start a blog to document all of our adventures. My teammates agreed and we started brainstorming names “low and slow”, “there that goes”, “Zen on the Rocks”, but nothing quite fit. The next day, as we parked our rental car in a vacant spot and headed up the street, we noticed this pillow in the window – which all the girls said reminded them of me.

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Inspired, we headed into the store, Johnny Ruth and Living Planet. They had T-shirts, jewelry, books… it was the perfect offering of local wares. And it was while I was checking out the bumper sticker rack we found our inspiration – simple script on a black background it read: Onward Thru The Fog. It was the perfect name for a blog about literally being stuck in the fog, while also a great metaphor for putting everything aside and just keep on going, no matter the situation.

It just so happens that first store we headed into was the same one Lobby Lady had recommended the day before. Just sayin’…

Although I was ready to leave on our scheduled flight that Tuesday night, I felt a pang of sadness to leave the place that had taught me – and I think I can safely say us – so much. I mean, it was a place where cars – we’re talking even transport trucks – would stop on the street, their operators offering a smile and a wave to let pedestrians pass. And where four young women without a clue of how to do get around on the downtown streets (save for a GPS) didn’t receive one honk when they made a wrong turn or took too long driving by an intersection to read the street name.

As we ascended in the air from the friendly skies of St. John’s, the sun shone brightly through the windows with one last warm goodbye. Although I’d like to think of it as this wonderful place giving us an all-knowing wink as if to say, “you’ve learned what you had to and although it’s time to leave, I have a feeling we’ll be seeing you back around these parts soon”.

I think it was the words of our EMCEE, Michelle, that captures this sentiment most eloquently when she said, and I’m paraphrasing here, “Just imagine Andrea… I know you wanted to leave right after the show on Saturday, but just think of everything you would have missed if you did!”

Truer words have never been spoken. Isn’t it amazing what can happen when you learn to let things go, savour the moment and enjoy the ride?

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