I just returned from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. It was my second time attending (see my blog from two years ago: Davos Revealed…). The circumstances behind going this year were quite different. It was an idea that came together just a few weeks ago, and an opportunity to spend some time with a key partner. So I put into practice something I’m working on (spontaneity!) and went for it. In contrast, in 2018 as a Schwab Social Entrepreneur, I had months to plan my trip. I set up dozens of face-to-face meetings with CEOs and other leaders, which I thought could be beneficial to the organization I lead, Water For People. It was the most exhausting week of my life, yet inspiring and productive.
This year was different. My week was mostly unplanned. I just followed the lead of the group I was with, which was fluid and dynamic. They organized key meetings throughout the week. The agenda was in contrast to how I typically go about my business. Normally, I schedule every minute and try to maximize my time at events. I feel if I don’t plan, I might miss an opportunity. Ironically, by not planning, more opportunities arose. In essence, I’m learning that my typical jam-packed schedule sometimes compromises my ability to achieve balance and presence of mind. At times my schedule inhibits my ability to create meaningful relationships because this requires the one thing that I often feel I don’t have — time. But in Davos I did have time.
It was with this framing that I decided to say yes to the invitation and to just go for it at Davos this year. The old me would have had so many reasons to say no: I don’t have a plan, I don’t have a zillion meetings set-up, I don’t even really know the people I am going to be with! But I trusted them. And I sensed it would be ok. My intuition kicked in and I bought the ticket.
It was definitely worth the trip! I went with the flow as a delegate of the SDG Circle organized by the 5th Element Group. The “one thing” I wanted to accomplish was to build a relationship with an important new corporate partner for our India program. Our India Country Director, Meena Narula, and I were together. The week provided numerous opportunties for us to spend quality time with our partner and the path forward is now clear. This could have never happened had we stayed on different sides of the world and tried to communicate via email/Slack/WhatsApp.
Being more mindful, less scheduled, and more open to serendipity allowed me to see and experience things in Davos that I had not done before. I spent time in the Equality Lounge and met several interesting people who all believe in the advancement of women. I am now friends with the other SDG Circle Partners. We stayed in the same chalet, ate together, and hung out while learning how each of us is trying to have positive impact on the world in our own way. This allowed for cross-pollination of ideas and there are several people with whom I will be following-up. I believe we can do even greater things together.
I am still learning how to be less “busy,” more mindful and open to new opportunities as they come into my life. It takes practice. I try to listen better. I notice more details. And I am finding more commonalities with people that are different from me. That makes life all the more enjoyable.