Blue Highways Journey – Episode 11 – Loyalty

Claire Jennings was thinking about her first solo blue highways journey and she was nervous.  Adam Steele had made curiosity conversations with strangers seem easy, but she wasn’t confident in her ability to just sit down and talk with someone. All of her conversations at work were dealing with a specific issue. Here she had no agenda.

She sought out guidance from Adam. “All you need to do is find one person to talk to. Then when that conversation is done ask who else you might talk to. I call that having an expanding network.” Claire decided to use her Society of Human Resource Managers directory to find her first connection. She was surprised to find the first person she contacted was so eager to talk with her.

Claire’s initial conversation went remarkably well. She decided not to take notes or record the conversation because she didn’t want to inhibit the flow of the conversation. Once the conversation was over, she captured key insights as she recalled them.

Adam was right, the first conversation easily led to others. Claire made a conscious effort to talk with as diverse a group of people as she could. The question Claire never asked was: “Why did you decide to live here?” But that question was in the back of her mind. The towns she visited were lacking in all the things she enjoyed. Even though she never asked the question, it was answered in the conversations. As she reviewed her notes, Claire captured the parts of the conversation that felt important to her.

“I worked in a big city and had a great career. What I felt missing was my purpose in life. I found my purpose here.” 

“I love living in a place where you know everyone.” 

“I really feel accepted here. Being in a non-traditional relationship is not easy, but everyone here has welcomed us.” 

“I love the fact that there is no right part of town to live in.” 

“I had a lot of better financial offers when I graduated from college, but this was a place where I thought I could make a difference.” 

“When I was in Iraq, I felt what real brotherhood was like. I feel that same way with the guys I work with.” 

“I could have retired years ago, but I’ve stayed to help guide the younger women that work here.” 

Claire had many other similar comments in her notes. As she thought about each of them, one word kept coming to mind: loyalty. The people she talked with found this place to be one where they could be loyal to themselves and their beliefs. They could be loyal to their friends, their workmates and their community. They could be loyal to their life’s purpose and make a difference. They could be loyal to what they viewed as just.

Claire recalled her MBA class on leadership. It focused on loyalty as something leaders demand of those they led. This journey convinced her that was completely wrong. Loyalty is something that comes from within each person. It comes from living the life they want to live, not from the wishes of the life someone else wants them to live.

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“Loyalty cannot be blueprinted. It cannot be produced on an assembly line. In fact, it cannot be manufactured at all, for its origin is the human heart – the center of self-respect and human dignity. It is a force which leaps into being only when conditions are exactly right for it – and it is a force very sensitive to betrayal.”  – Maurice Franks (Attorney and Author)

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