Experiences on the Camino

If you are searching for meaning in your life, then this article is for you.

In September 2015, I walked for 40 days, covering one thousand kilometer, on my own and at my own pace, as I needed a break from corporate life. More importantly, I did it because I could! For the first time in my life, I had the time and the motivation to get fit along with the need for clarity of thought, fast!

The “Camino” is a route that takes any person ready to walk (or cycle) to  Santiago de Compostela  in Galicia, north-west of Spain. There are several routes originating all around Europe and of course ending in Santiago.

Engaging in such a journey is always a shock to one’s system, physically and spiritually. Breaking the routine and spending 7-9 hours a day in nature focus internal thoughts and help bring answers to each pilgrim, spiritually motivated or not.
Here are my learnings: (some might see a relevance to business)

  1. Running is not always helpful. On the Camino and in life. You go too fast, you generate blisters and have to wait for the others…
  2. Let go!You don’t (always) need to control everything. Things happen and they are generally good (trust is a great value!).
  3. Follow the signs!The Camino (and life) is full of arrows and signs that you need to spot and recognize as such. Stay alert.
  4. Accept to lose yourself!You get lost, you make errors, its all part of the Camino, part of life. You will discover new territories.
  5. Knowing where you are going really helps!Clear destination and regular measurable progress increase energy and chances of success.

The Camino made me appreciate what I’ve got and the life I have built. Being deprived of something is the best way to make you appreciate its true value.

Overall, spending time in nature, accepting to live your life at 4km/hour (for a short while) is really hard! but when you detox from our hectic world, you get energy from the world around you in an exponential way.

So,…what are the parallel in business life?

Business life is mostly on the opposite side of that spectrum: limited time to think and lots of problems to solve. It’s about control. “Letting go” is generally against corporate nature. “Getting lost” is rarely valued in business.

At the same time, we need to reconnect with the feelings encountered on the Camino to be better leaders, I think. Who wants a leader who doesn’t know where he is going, multitasks, is running out of air, takes energy from others and gives little back? (This is purely hypothetical, of course).

I’ve been “high” on the beauty of nature and physical exercise for 40 days! Walking has got virtues that don’t need to be explained further. Endorphins create a state of euphoria (at least for me!), clarity of thoughts, and so forth… Business life asphyxiates leaders, literally. (I recommend reading some of the work done by Tony Swartz of the Energy project).

In addition, allowing time for a process (rather than rushing it), enables better decision making (doesn’t mean we need to procrastinate, but short cuts are not healthy).

Building on the previous point, having a clearer perspective on which priorities are important to you and your organisation helps set goals that everyone can recognise and measure progress against.

Finally, recognising the value you bring to a role and an organisation generates energy (as opposed to trying to be someone else, which creates frustration) and the combination of that energy with clarity of thought is a very robust personal drive to success.

I realise that “my Camino” is a journey happening inside my head and heart and didn’t stop with reaching Santiago; As my good friend (and coach) Khurshed Dehnugara from Relume remarked “ there is a before, a middle and an Exit” on these experiences and you have to be ready for the learning of each phases. He was right.

I have to work hard to keep the feeling alive as human nature is dragging me to my old habits. The “Camino” goes on…

PS: for those of you interested in taking a break on the Camino, I recommend a book by Jean-Christophe Rufin ‘Immortelle Randonnee’, in French and I believe also in a German translation. Lots has been written on “the Way” but happy to help anyone plan their “physical” Camino.

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