"Hi sissy," I say brightly when my sister picks up on the third ring. "How are you?"
I am sailing east across the Bay Bridge toward the Berkeley campus in our white van, Astro, for a day of coaching MBA students.
"I'm ok," she says -- and then reveals that she didn't sleep well the night before, on account of being so worried about my future safety and wellbeing that she couldn't help but stay up all night googling the dangerous places I will soon be cycling through.
"My latest fear," she says, as though discussing her new favorite ice cream, "is when you have a big truck on one side of you, and a sheer cliff face on the other."
"Maybe you could skip those parts? In fact there are a whole bunch of places that I really think you should consider skipping."
There is a levity in the way she catalogues her fears that belies the depth of her feelings. I am laughing, but more than that I am moved, humbled -- by her utter sincerity, by her love.
Before I know it, she is inviting me to re-imagine the constraints surrounding our 14,000 mile bike ride. She is inserting a bus here and a plane there, offering to meet me in Mexico or Guatemala ("we'll get an Airbnb on Lake Atitlán and we'll go swimming and we won't get worms at all!").
For ten minutes, she fills my imagination with how it could be.
I can only listen, mildly in awe of these new possibilities -- and her willingness to adapt her life, in order to help me fit them in. After all, she has a life of her own in Boston, which will move to Europe in the fall.
In the end, I ask her to put it in writing.
"Show me what you're thinking," I say, and she agrees.
If you've read the book Switch by Chip and Dan Heath, you're familiar with the concept of painting a vivid destination postcard to get people to want to follow you where you're going . -- the proverbial picture of a white sand beach in Hawaii taped to your work computer as a reminder of what's on the other side.
And that is EXACTLY what I found in my email the following evening, excerpted here:
Herein you will find a proposal-- nay, an invitation -- to reimagine what it could look like to take a year of your life for an epic adventure -- while supporting your partner, fulfilling the greatest depths of your professional destiny, AND preventing countless sleepless nights for your dearest ones (hi!) whose love for you runs so deep that I’ve deleted FOUR insufficient similes since I started writing this sentence!
Imagine that, instead of biking all 14,000 miles from Oakland to Patagonia -- you traveled by way of bike, train, bus, plane and boat, while running your business, uncovering new stories, and reveling in adventure with your partner, you sissy, your mom, dad, brother, best friends, and new friends. Imagine that you biked the beautiful parts -- down the 1, through the mountains of Costa Rica and the jungles of Colombia, and through the sweeping vistas of Argentina and Chile -- while taking your time to write, reflect, venture, and meditate in the spaces in between. IMAGINE running your business nearly full-time -- or, dare I say it-- finally unleashing the book that lives inside you and is simply awaiting your invitation to be born.
She then proceeds to give a month-by-month sample itinerary, complete with hyperlinks to relevant Airbnb's, like so:
October: Sissy’s got publishers calling her around the clock, so she sets up camp in cozy Huarez with a view of the mountains. Bruce sure is glad to find her and a dinner of roasted guinea pigs after biking eighteen bagillion miles uphill with just a jar of peanut butter for sustenance. Plus, he has the runs. :(
(Notice how many concrete details she includes -- right down to the roasted guinea pig!)
I share this not only because it's been on my mind, but as a demonstration of powerful "imagine" storytelling.
Just imagine how wildly persuasive YOU will be, when you keep three things in mind:
1. Paint a picture of the awesome potential future that awaits