[US to Argentina] Crystal Clark: What I Learned When I Threw Out My To-Do List

06-11-2013 posted by Acypl

You get the call and you are excited, nervous and overwhelmed simultaneously. ACYPL just called and invited you to be part of a delegation to a country you’ve never visited.

Being a planner and list maker by nature, I began to research the country I would be visiting in less than 2 months and began creating detailed lists. What projects would need to be completed at work before I could leave, who could cover necessary tasks while I was out of the office, what would I pack, what the weather would be like where I was going, and what would I take as gifts for the hosts and elected officials I would meet.

I learned it was winter in Argentina where I would be visiting, I needed Argentine Pesos and a few recommended vaccinations. I began to check items off my to-do list as the departure date inched closer and closer, but the stress of leaving the comfort of my home and busy schedule weighed on me more and more as I completed tasks. I knew I was prepared for business meetings, I enjoy my job at Johnson & Johnson, and had been briefed on our presence in Argentina. There are 724 fellow J&J employees in Argentina and all 3 sectors of our business are represented. I packed my business suits and gifts, wrote my Outlook out of office message, and before I knew it I was on a flight to Washington DC to meet my travel companions. I was ready and briefed, and my to-do list was fully completed.

However, little did I know that all the preparation couldn’t prepare me for what I was about to experience. I have been spending nearly every waking hour with 6 people who were all strangers to me less than 4 days ago. We’ve all slept together on a red eye from Miami to Chile, wore the same clothes for nearly 2 full days in each others’ presence and enjoyed adventures in another country where only our escort speaks the language. I now know what each of them will order at lunch to drink, how they like their coffee and if they prefer aqua con gas or sin gas.

We’ve meet some amazing business leaders, politicians and heard about the challenges and opportunities for Mendoza. However, the inner personal skills or so-called soft skills I’ve fine-tuned during these last few days will always stay with me. Last night during dinner (where dessert was being enjoyed at midnight in the Argentine style) my heart swelled as we all laughed and I felt as if I had a new political family. We weren’t Republicans, Democrats or Independents, but young political leaders who were all here to learn, expand our horizons and share our experiences with this beautiful country.

We’ve just completed part 1 of our trip and will begin part 2 in Buenos Aires today. Being the list maker, this week I’ve decided to let my lists go (well at least most of them) and to enjoy my company, appreciate this opportunity to learn and to live outside of my everyday comfort zone.

The world is so much bigger than my home, my office and my lists.

Crystal Clark is the Manager of State Government Affairs in California for Johnson & Johnson.

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