Airplanes have almost become a second home for me lately. I’ve been doing an increasing number of speaking workshops and events at locations across the U.S. – and to top it off, I’ve also been taking a lot of personal trips. . You’ve probably noticed how air travel is unlike any other mode of transportation. It has its own unique (and sometimes frustrating) quirks. But it has also taught me many valuable lessons.
When I board a plane, I usually say hello to the person assigned to sit next to me. I’m not the annoying type of seatmate who talks for hours on end without really saying anything, forcing my seatmate to engage in conversation whether they want to speak to me or not. However, our spaces are intermingled, so I at least want to offer a friendly greeting before we share a ruler-thin armrest.
On one of my recent trips – a longer plane ride to Italy – that is exactly what I did. I sat down and gave a quick hello to the guy seated next to me. Other than that quick interaction, we didn’t really speak at all. He did his thing and I did mine, each of us passing the time in our own way.
Toward the end of the trip we finally started a conversation. This man had an incredible story! He’d traveled quite a bit himself and shared some of his amazing experiences in different parts of the world. I could have sat and talked with him all day, but before we knew it, our plane had landed and we needed to go our separate ways.
Later, as I was going over the conversation in my mind, I realized that I could’ve had a really nice talk with this guy during the course of the entire flight, learning more about the various places he’d been and the experiences he’d had. But I didn’t. Instead, I missed the opportunity. Why? Because I didn’t open the door early enough.
Had I offered more than my standard greeting when we first sat down, maybe I could have heard more of his stories and experienced more of the world through his eyes. I love that sort of thing, listening to people as they tell me about the personality-shaping events in their lives. It’s fascinating to hear about all the places their different paths have led. Perhaps if we’d started talking earlier on our plane ride, I could’ve heard more, giving me the opportunity to grow through his experiences.
Think about that in your own life. What doors can you open so you don’t miss any opportunities? Can you share a conversation with the person next to you on the subway or bus? What about the person standing next to you in line at the grocery store, serving you at the local diner, or otherwise placed in your path?
Even though the connection may be short-lived, it might be worth making. Who knows? It may just open a door you never could have opened on your own.