Up in the Air with Clooney

Up in the air trailer

“The timely odyssey of Ryan Bingham (George Clooney), a corporate downsizer and consummate modern business traveler who, after years of staying happily airborne, suddenly finds himself ready to make a real connection. Ryan has long been contented with his unencumbered lifestyle lived out across America in airports, hotels and rental cars. He can carry all he needs in one wheel-away case; he’s a pampered, elite member of every travel loyalty program in existence; and he’s close to attaining his lifetime goal of 10 million frequent flier miles—and yet… Ryan has nothing real to hold onto. When he falls for a simpatico fellow traveler (Vera Farmiga), Ryan’s boss (Jason Bateman), inspired by a young, upstart efficiency expert (Anna Kendrick), threatens to permanently call him in from the road. Faced with the prospect, at once terrifying and exhilarating, of being grounded, Ryan begins to contemplate what it might actually mean to have a home.”

I mentioned in my blog The People You Meet – Consulting Lessons from Goldie Hawn that I had travelled a great deal. Many millions of miles actually in my consulting career. In North America, I have seen every major city, most minor and many 1-horse or perhaps better said 1-company towns. Ask any IT vendor in Canada where Florenceville, NB is and they can surely point the way. (McCain’s by the way) I have travelled all of Central America, most of South America, every country in Europe, all the populace ones in Asia and similarly populated South Pacific countries. I have only missed the entire continent of Africa and most of the middle east, but I suspect that before I am done I will include many stops from there also if not from work, then from some charity work I have been engaged with for many years.

When I was watching the Clooney movie recently, (yes it was on an Air Canada flight), I was approached by the Flight Service Manager who in apology for not being to grant an upgrade (Olympics) offered a first class meal and drinks for my convenience. The irony of that occurring while watching Clooney on the LCD pushing to attain his 10 million airmile mark was not lost on me.

So any consulting excellence blog needs to also talk about you. Your ability to stay sane with remote project work and to reap some of the benefits from your hard work and if you have a family, how to keep them intact.

So you will get some things in this blog that are deeply personal and a reflection of the harsh lessons that I have learned.

#1 – Quality Time

The notion of quality time with your family is absolute nonsense. You family does not need the trip to Hawaii first class on air miles points more than they need you there for the little league game, the music recital and the untimely death of the “franny” the goldfish.  The concept of quality time is a hoax. Quantity matters. When you accept a consulting role, do the math.  Some engagements will use words like: “Some travel required”. I’ve done “some travel”. I’ve travelled over birthdays, holidays, Christmas, new years, funerals, recitals, championship games, parent-teacher conferences and the like.  I can assure you that “some travel” must be better defined and carefully assessed. If I were to give you unsolicited advice (hey you’re reading my blog) here are the guidelines I would suggest.

  • projects over 1 year – Move – Don’t fly – Take the people you care about with you. If you have kids and the kids are little, they are much more adaptable than you think….
  • do NOT miss birthdays, holidays, Christmas, New Years, funerals, recitals, championship games and parent-teacher conferences. They are more important than you think….
  • establish a minimum amount of time that you will spend each month with everyone who is important to you, and plan work around that. If your job doesn’t allow it. Get a different job. I can guarantee you will regret it if you don’t.

#2 – Your alternate you

Now that sounds silly, but stay with me for a moment. In the movie “Up in the Air”, Clooney was special. His character Bingham I can identify with (although I think I’m better looking (:>) ), because everyone does know your name. You are treated with kid gloves, as “special” and for a while in my career I bounced around in a Gulfstream business jet,


that took off when I wanted and when it landed there was either a limo or a helicopter waiting to take me to my final destination…. and then you go home and the grass needs cut and your platinum card does not get you out of doing the dishes.  The alternate you. I must admit that I completely blew this one. I am giving advice not out of my success but out of my failure to keep a single version of myself. I definitely created two very different personae. The Corporate Executive/World traveller persona with a multi-Billion dollar project portfolio and the “Dad, the dog barfed on the floor again”  persona. The only advice I can give here is to make sure there is just one version. Either bring the exec home to the family or take the “dog barfed” attitude on the road, but don’t make two versions. If you do, someday you will wake up and find the people you care about don’t know who you are anymore.



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1 Response to Up in the Air with Clooney

  1. Pingback: Infinite Shades of Grey – A year later and a little greyer | Infinite Shades of Grey

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