I am a big believer in vacations. We all need to get away, and vacations provide the opportunity to relearn old management lessons in new settings. For example, on our trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico, last summer, my son Stephen decided to play the role of family parks and recreation director. Previously, he served as our cultural services director, in charge of getting tickets for the internationally famous Santa Fe summer opera season.
I am not an opera lover, but in the spirit of being a "team player," I have been a punctual, if not enthusiastic, member of each and every family outing to the opera. I have to admit that early on I learned to appreciate opera. Ordinarily, I am a restless sleeper, but I quickly learned that nothing puts me into a deep and relaxing sleep better than opera. What are vacations for if not to catch up on your sleep? One warm July evening on this trip, however, I was actually captivated by Mozart's Don Giovanni. It was the first opera I did not sleep through.
Up in the air
On the drive back to our hotel, my wife suddenly informed me that we had to be up at 5 a.m. to participate in a hot air balloon ride that Stephen had scheduled. I looked at my watch. It was midnight. "I know it's early," my wife said, "but be a team player." The truth is that several months earlier I had expressed skepticism and firm resistance when the balloon-ride concept was first launched. "I can't think of anything I would less like to do than go up 5,000 feet above sea level in a wicker basket weighted down with two large propane tanks." My wife's response: "Be a team player."
Now that the dreaded day was here, all kinds of exit strategies occurred to me. My wife is a 3rd-grade teacher and can see through phony excuses with laser-like accuracy. None of my usual approaches worked--upset stomach, headache from sleep deprivation, and the sudden need to find a priest for a final blessing or a lawyer to update my will. "Be a team player!" was her response.
We all stumbled down to the hotel lobby, and there to greet us were the two balloon pilots and another crewman. I noticed that one of the pilots was limping and inquired about that. "Oh," he replied. "We had a tough little landing a while back. …