Over the years, Adam Steele had been nominated for business awards. He turned these down. Business publications requested interviews with him. He turned these down. But when he got a call for an interview about his blue highways journeys, he accepted it. His rationale for doing so was that he could showcase the wisdom of the citizens he had met. The interviewer was Addison Browne.
AB: Why did you begin your blue highways journeys?
AS: I felt that I needed to become more grounded in the real America. In my position, it’s easy to get trapped in a lifestyle that is unrealistic. I also needed to clear my mind, and time in a car and being away from work will do that.
AB: Did the journeys accomplish what you had hoped?
AS: Much more than I ever expected. What I didn’t expect was to learn so much about how to improve our business. There is a lot of wisdom on the blue highways. When I started to realize how much I had learned. I’ve asked each of my team to also do a blue highways journey?
AB: Can you give me an example?
AS: We’ve changed our hiring criteria. We used to focus on degrees, pedigrees, awards and other signs of exclusivity. Now we hire for authenticity, commitment, caring, resourcefulness and other virtues that make a person whole.
AB: Was there one blue highway journey that stands out?
AS: Yes, it was the one where I took my children to a farm community where they engaged with immigrant children and they began teaching each other their birth language.
AB: What made that one so special?
AS: My children and the children they learned from have formed an incredible bond. You can’t believe the accomplishments of those immigrant children. I get letters from them regularly about their lives. All of them are making a difference in blue highways communities.
AB: What about your children?
AS: At first, they didn’t want to work in my business, but we worked out a deal.
AB: What was that?
AS: They agreed to join the business if I would create a business unit in a blue highways community in a depressed area. We were able to use the leverage from the economic infusion to get states to improve the infrastructure in the communities.
AB: Are your children running those business units?
AS: They are not. And that was at their insistence. They are doing jobs that anyone with their credentials would do. In fact, their connection to me is generally not known.
AB: We haven’t talked much about the impact on your business. Could you tell me more about that?
AS: Let’s save that for another interview. What I’d rather focus on for the final part of this interview is the character of the people I met.
AB: Okay, let’s do that.
AS: I expected to see a lot of down trodden people with grievances, the people that politicians call their base. That wasn’t the case. I didn’t see divisiveness. What I saw enriched my spirit for our country. These are genuine people who are kind and caring. They live gentle lives where compassion, faithfulness, graciousness, reverence and integrity are no longer out of fashion.
AB: That’s something I rarely hear.
AS: I know. We need better leaders in our country that more closely resemble the people they represent.
AB: Let’s end on that note, but I definitely want to do a follow-up interview.
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“In my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger that oceans, windswept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get there.”
– From Ronald Reagan’s farewell address as President