Can paradise and productivity exist in the same place? I’m not so sure, but then maybe it’s not a good idea anyway. I have been vacationing on the Big Island (Hawaii) for over a week now, barely checking email and not working on any of the projects I’m involved in. As much as is humanly possible, I’ve been off the grid.
This morning I did my usual 3-mile power walk at 6:00 a.m. (that’s when I’ve been waking up since I got here). Every day I’ve been passing by a group of workers trimming a hedge of native plants along the path I take. It has been 8 days and I think they’ve moved about 20 feet. They cut a plant, then stop to talk and laugh until they feel compelled to cut another plant. I’m assuming they started when the sun came up because doing this task later in the day would definitely be insufferable due to the heat and humidity. But at the rate they’re going, I suspect when I come back next year, they will have finished the job and be starting over (sort of like painting the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco). Nevertheless, they seemed happy working in a powered-down mode.
It appears to me that the climate and the culture of Hawaii are not conducive to the frenzied way we all work on the mainland. In point of fact (can I say that?), you can always spot a mainlander by their purposeful walk–always in a hurry to get somewhere by a certain time. In just 8 days my body has slowed to where the lava moves faster than I do (it’s not flowing right now). I have to admit; it has taken me several days to get my brain up to speed to even compose this blog. You simply can’t get away from the culture and the climate. Everyone is definitely on Hawaiian time.
So could I ever start a business here? Perhaps, but I know it wouldn’t be anything like a business I’ve started on the mainland. Why? Because Hawaiian culture does not view success and wealth in the same way the mainland culture does. A number of our native Hawaiian relatives (I’m technically not a tourist) have businesses, but it appears that here the business is not all-consuming like most are on the mainland. In fact, while the business may be a necessity to create income to support the family, it does not take precedence over the family. One of our cousins owns a successful contracting company in Kona that is quite busy with masonry work using lava rock on all the islands. In addition to this business, he created a non-profit that supports the maintenance of ancient Hawaiian traditions and rituals. Despite the fact that he’s running two businesses, he took off an entire day to prepare a luau pig in the traditional Hawaiian way (stuffed with lava rocks, wrapped in banana leaves, and buried in a fire pit over night–the process is much more elaborate than I’m recounting here). He did this to support a three-day reunion of the Hawaiian side of the family with their mainlander cousins. We were treated like royalty and never made to feel like we were taking up too much of their valuable time.
The Hawaiian Islands have programs through the university and the communities to promote and support entrepreneurship and innovation. But those who choose to stay in the islands or return to the islands after time on the mainland typically do so because of the culture and lifestyle that puts a premium on family and friends and makes work a means to an end, not the end itself. In some respects, we probably could use a bit more of this attitude on the mainland.
In a few days I’ll be back in California facing a huge inbox and list of "to do’s". I hope that when that happens I can stop and remember what’s really important and do a better job of prioritizing my work.