As we turn the page to 2014, I looked back at my 2013, and discovered that amongst other things, I had traveled more than 600,000 air miles, with more than 480,000 of that total traveled on one airline alone -- Delta Airlines. To put this into context, the average globe trotting executive travels 100,000 to 150,000 air miles over the course of a year's time.
I don't travel because I simply like to travel. I love being home and being connected with what's going on in my family life, and my local community. I travel because it is the only thing that works.
On the one hand, if you want to understand the world, you have to go and experience it for yourself. Reading a domestic newspaper in the United States, as an example, will give you the U.S. perspective, and maybe even that writer's perspective, on another country or people (and it will be limited, possibly even biased). To quote my friend and mentor Quincy Jones, "you've got to go to know."
And on the other hand, if you want to do business and build relationships with companies and leaders here and around the world, then you have to go and cultivate and nurture those relationships, plain and simple. Email, video conference, teleconference, LinkedIn in and all the other amazing social media innovations are effective tools for communications, but they don't convey a person's character, or offer someone 5,000 miles away a sense of your personality, your values, or whether they even like you. Building those invaluable relationships, requires "showing up" in and around our world.
It was Rev. Leon H. Sullivan who first took me to Africa, and it was World a Economic Forum founder and chairman Professor Klaus Schwab that first inspired me to become a global citizen. Ever since that interaction, as a proud founding member of the Forum of Young Global Leaders (YGL), I have found that while I am so very proud to be an American citizen, I see myself as a citizen of the world too. When you do, the world becomes your family, and your interests and passions expand to compass your expanded definition of family.
One positive example of traveling and experiencing the world, has been the powerful impact of Global Dignity, which is now active in 55 countries around the world. I am proud to serve in this important work to embed a new language (of dignity) in our world, for a new generation, along with HRH Crown Prince Haakon of Norway, Professor Pekka Himanen of Finland, and YGL and young leaders from the Forum of Global Shapers, from all around the world.
Or take our HOPE Global Financial Dignity Summit, held on November 14th, 2013, and involving leaders from more than 20 countries, and every continent. Once again, these were personal relationships at work, in the business environment. Most of these delegates did not come because of the quality of the invitation itself, while it was quality. They came because they had a relationship with some of the individuals and leaders associated with the effort.
600,000 air miles over the course of one year is a small price to pay for the honor of calling the world, my new family.
2014 is waiting for all of us to 'show up,' in communities, cities, counties and places all over the world. Our world.
Okay, let's go.