I met a woman recently who had never heard of pickleball.
We were in Scottsdale to attend an investment conference. She was smart, worldly, and yet unfamiliar with the game that’s increasingly replacing tennis across the nation.
A few minutes later, someone told me about par 3 golf.
“What’s that”? I said.
I don’t golf and so wasn’t aware of the phenomenon that people are increasingly playing shorter, nine-hole courses because they are faster and more social.
Lesson 1: We all live in bubbles.
It’s wise to appreciate how much those bubbles both provide and deny us opportunities.
Travel often forces you to confront that reality. Travel shortens the distance to new ideas and dislodges preconceptions about what you know.
At the same conference in Arizona, someone asked me what I’m doing. I said: building a media company. “You cannot make money in media,” he assured me.
A few minutes later, I met a guy who recently sold a controlling stake in the media company he founded for a reported $300 million.
Lesson 2: Nobody knows everything, and things change.
Video calls on Zoom are great, but without travel you miss out on serendipitous moments, especially the small details.
A few days later in Texas I had lunch downtown at The Capital Grille. The restaurant has wine lockers with brass name plates so the regulars can bring their own bottles to have on hand when they come to eat.
It struck me as something you would not see in New York.
But the next day I saw it at Zero Bond, a private club in Soho.
Lesson 3: You don’t know what you haven’t seen.
I met a municipal bond underwriter. The New York-based bank where he worked had been restricted from doing business in Texas because the bank decided not to finance makers of firearms after several shootings in schools.
It seemed like big news that I should have known. And in fact, I could have read about it anywhere. But it’s more likely to come up in a conversation in Dallas with people in the bond business.
Lesson 4: You see what’s in front of you.
A friend took me on a tour of the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport. He pointed out the exact spot in terminal C where you pass from a forty-year old section into the renovated area.
It was like seeing the line in the pavement where the Berlin Wall used to run. You wouldn’t notice it unless it was pointed out. But seeing it made you appreciate the enormity of the change.
The new building was assembled using modular components wheeled in during the night. Architects worked within height and weight limitations so the sections could pass under bridges.
Lesson 5: We pass through the world unaware of its complexity.
My Uber driver moved to Dallas three years ago from Washington Heights in New York City. He said he had accomplished little in his life until he moved to Texas. Since then, he found a job, bought a house and car, got married and had a daughter.
He said he was glad to have grown up in Manhattan because it provided him with a certain street-wise attitude. But he wasn’t going back.
Another traveler I met in the airport who had also moved to Texas seconded that point of view. He said nothing ever changes in New York City.
I told him that wasn’t true. For example, Wollman Rink, which is located at the southern end of Central Park, has been converted to host more than a dozen pickleball courts this summer.
“What’s pickleball?” he asked.
Lesson 6: Not everyone has heard of pickleball.