It’s very simple, so simple that it scares people. In the end, you leave behind a story, that’s it. If you are really effective at telling that story, others will believe in you and something that you do in your current life will live on without you for the lives of others to come. If this is the way of the world, then hotel managers can learn something from this worldview to manage better, and consistently offer and add value to their staff and their brand.
That couldn’t be starker, or more true, for one of hotel management’s greatest living managers, Chip Conley. Many of you know the story, but here’s some context.
Chip Conley, former CEO of Joie de Vivre Hospitality, gave what was probably the most important keynote address of any conference, while opening up FailCon in San Francisco on October 19. It was a story about how he had to stop managing the successful hotel chain he managed, and find the things in life that he is passionate about, and really find a new self for himself. In doing so, he found crucial life lessons in how to be a better manager.
Conley has gone through two recessions (and this one, globally speaking, is actually more like a depression). His son landed in federal prison for eight months. He lost a relationship. One of his best friends committed suicide. He was not happy as Executive Chairman and Chief Creative Officer of Joie de Vivre, of one of the coolest hotel chains in the world, after it had been bought by Geolo Capital. And then one day in 2008, an infection that started after a broken leg got infected became so severe that Chip Conley died. Business, quite simply, got serious.
"I had a death wish; I didn't want to be the identity I was anymore," Conley told the crowd. He had an experience during a really poor time in the economy and he learned about psychology and leadership. It turned out that his own mid-life crisis put him in the proper place to deal with the really disastrous economic crisis we are all living through now.
Here’s the video, but if you want to know why we are writing about it here, skip the video and read on.
At some point in 2008, Conley, who was dealing with several life pressures that would have made anyone want to give up on more than one occasion, gave a talk at a hotel conference and collapsed on stage, and died. His heart stopped beating.
What the man could not do for himself, something did for him. He learned a valuable lesson -- that there was something entirely important about finding the things in your life that bring you pleasure and happiness, and to do them, to take them up as your personal activities of choice, to really live through them. Or, quite simply, you are not living.
He explained that it was important to have good "psychic hygiene," or to take a "big psychic bath together," so that we understand the reality of life. "We need a catharsis," he said. That crisis, for him, created creativity.
The reason that this is important to anyone in any industry is simple, I think. I think it points to exactly why we live -- the world, for all that it could be, is also a kind of series of problems that need to be solved. We can’t just fit into roles and get life solved or life done. We need to take on a challenge that depends on finding meaning.
And the solutions to those problems are often meaningful in themselves. But they are empty solutions if they really do not provide meaning for other people who might also use those solutions to solve their problems.
Refinements on standard operation procedures, or simple features to smartphone apps, are not really going to create meaning. And they really are not that necessary in the long term. But realizing something essential and truthful about yourself, will certainly affect the people around you. And, eventually, through healthy business stewardship, so too will you have an impact on your customers and the people who engage with your brand.
There is also an even greater lesson in Conley's speech to people wishing to take in the insights from those who have failed. The lesson is that perhaps you really need to go through some crisis or a problem before you really can have the kind of understanding that would, in turn, help people believe in the solution you are building them. A solution is a kind of stamp of the soul of its creator. If you really have seen the muck. if you really have been at the door of your own demise, or been through some really hard times, that will come out in your ethos, and in your passionate work and attention to detail. Anything done with meaning, ends up being done for good.