After much contemplation and concern, I finally took off from Toronto on Wednesday, May 15th. I was moving out to Calgary, Alberta to visit my sister and to see what opportunities I could create for myself over the summer. Of course I was nervous, but I thought I could benefit by shaking things up.
Have you ever sat next to someone on a flight and just known that you could have a good chat with them? Do you more often feel the opposite? I’ve felt both but on that day I knew immediately that I could connect with the character who ended up sitting next to me. I’m intentionally one of the last people to get on flights as I like to reduce the time I spend in that giant metal tube. But this guy had me beat as he was one of the final passengers to make it to his seat.
As he arrived he had a bag that needed to be passed over me to put at the foot of his seat. He said, “I’m sorry” as he squeezed past some other passengers jockeying for overhead storage space. As I stood up from my aisle seat I said, “Please don’t apologize. We don’t yet know how we might be able to positively influence each others’ lives”. He chuckled quietly and sat down.
We didn’t speak for several minutes. I fell asleep after take off and got into my book called, “Flow – ThePsychology of Optimal Experience”. But shortly after that something magical happened: these two strangers on a flight from Toronto to Calgary… started a conversation! It was immediately interesting.
Several minutes into our talk he casually mentioned that he was a musician and told some incredible stories about sharing the stage with locals in the Philippines, auditioning in front of public officials in China and playing ping pong. I shared some travel stories of my own from when I did military logistics in Uzbekistan and my bike tour across Canada. The conversation was fast and I felt as if there was not enough time for me to communicate all that I wanted to. As we spoke I made a conscious effort to listen more than I spoke, which has been a challenge for me in the past. I was rewarded in those few hours by hearing and learning many things from an exceptional individual even though I didn’t yet recognize who he was.
We spoke about creativity, running, unexpected connections, cancer, entrepreneurship, cycling and many other things. It was invigorating! After reflecting upon this experience I found it ironic that during our talk I was in a ‘flow state’ which is when one loses sense of time because they are having an optimal experience. It just so happened that I would read about precisely that the following day in the book that was in my lap during most of our conversation.
This gentleman looked like he was in his early 50s and had clearly led an extra-ordinary life. There was something about his energy, and his conversation style that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. He was soft-spoken and full of vitality. It was a complete pleasure to have spoken with him.
Just before landing, I asked if I could keep in touch with him. He said yes, so I took down his email address and gave him my card. As people were scrambling for their luggage I said to him, “Do you remember how I said that we might positively influence each others’ lives at the beginning of the flight?” He said, “Yes, I was just thinking about that.” “Well I think that’s what we’ve just done!”, I concluded with excitement that my earlier statement could not have been more correct. It was a fun moment, and then he gone. He got swept away with the stream of disembarking passengers as I had to turn back to collect my – almost forgotten – bag.
Before I made it to the luggage carousel, I plugged his name into Wikipedia. I had to find out who this person
was. So I entered, “Dan Hill” into my iPhone. Ooooh it was Canadian award winning singer / songwriter, Dan Hill. Ah, I see!
This brought a smile to my face because I was then even more grateful that he had been so open and generous with his time and space. Here’s an entertaining story that he wrote for the Globe and Mail about how one of his Junos was stolen!
So the next time you are on a flight and feel like having a chat, be sure to do so. You never know who might be sitting next to you or how you might be able to positively influence each others’ lives.
His advice for me given all that we talked about was to finish my book! Thank you Dan. I am writing again and will do so this year.