I should stop calling it a coincidence that I bump into people on my travels. When I travelled for work, I had to be super sneaky. Work travel isn't the same as play travel. For many it is just airports, hotels and conference rooms. Kind of like travelling the world but only eating at McDonalds and having coffee at Starbucks. The Business person has 'been' to the city. I didn't have time to catch up with that many people. I didn't make time. Now that I am doing it in a more relaxed fashion, I can let people know where I am... and see who is there.
One friend and colleague I caught up with in San Francisco was at a conference learning about Big Data. We had worked together in my first job and stayed in touch(ish) through Facebook. Although he is an Actuary working in investments during the day, his alter ego is a musician. On the side of conference, he told the story of going to a workshop of the world's best player of a specific kind of traditional drum. He spoke of this man who is leagues ahead of anyone else yet is incredibly humble. He approaches the workshops as if he is the student. As if he can learn from each and every person that he teaches. A spirit of continual growth that had led him to another plane of mastery.
It turned out one of my best friend's brother-in-laws was in San Francisco too. An edgy, creative chap, he is a tattoo artist. He told me the story of spending hours and hours, over years and years talking to people as he created his art. Getting a tattoo is really painful, and he had to get good at talking people through. In this vulnerable state, he said he was constantly learning about people and their struggles. He has an awesome sense of calm compared to the rebellious stories of his early days. Each conversation becomes another growth opportunity. Even starting with the discussions he has with people who have come up with an image (after hours of study) that he needs to talk them out of (after years of experience).
Now in Las Vegas, my cousin's husband is involved in Dream Racing. An experience which gives people the opportunity to drive racing cars and super cars around the NASCAR circuit. He spoke about the difference between people coming to the track to learn, and the people coming to show off. No matter how good you are, you can always learn. Like the master with the drums. Like the artist with the tattoo guns. As soon as people get a level of confidence where the feel they are done, learning stops. Owning a Ferrari might put you at a disadvantage because of your strut. I know when I got a chance to do it two years ago, I just self-hypnotised. I did exactly what the instructor told me. Relaxed any resistance to learning that came from believing I could drive and wanting to prove it.
Like travelling in cities without letting people know you are there, learning without being open doesn't count. No matter what the stamp on your passport says. Equally, learning isn't a coincidence if you make yourself available to it.