I am writing this as I ride the Bullet ( Shinkansen) Train from Yokohama to Osaka. And as we fly across the beautiful Japanese countryside, I have time to think about the business lessons I have picked up on my vacation.P1010005

We came to Japan, with few expectations, plans or agendas; which was a delightful change of pace from my over scheduled, very cluttered life. With a loose schedule, it is hard to be late, so getting lost is an adventure and missing a train, an opportunity to explore the train station or surrounding community.

The Lesson: It’s OK to Take a Detour.

Build time into your schedule to explore different options, try new tools, software, and networking events. Something amazing may be waiting around the corner. And it not, you can always back up

The trains in Japan are terrific, clean, prompt and plentiful. You can get around the major cities, and even the smaller towns if you know which train to take. This is where my map reading skills come in very handy.

A native New Yorker, I grew up riding the trains. So the subway maps, with their multiple colors and numbers aren’t intimidating and I quickly felt right at home.

Heading back to our hotel, my son suggested we take the train line he was familiar with. While we would have arrived eventually, it was a circuitous route. Stepping back and looking at the whole map we found a much more efficient alternative.

The Lesson: Use a Map to Find the Shortest Route

Just as stepping back from the map gives you the big picture, in business, you need to step back and look at alternatives. The route you were planning to take, or the process you have always used, might not be the most efficient.


Traveling without a tour guide, we relied on maps and signs as we entered the train stations, and sometimes that just wasn’t enough. At first I was uncomfortable asking for help, unsure if the other person would speak English, and embarrassed, I didn’t know more then a few words of Japanese. What I discovered was how little language you needed when you could nod, smile and point!

We jumped on the wrong train at Yokohama Station. I figured out in time, but my husband Andy didn’t. As I waited for him to return on the next train, I asked several people which was the right train. If  I had done that the first time, we would have had a much shorter trip.

The Lesson: Ask for Help

We business owners are a proud and stubborn group, convinced we can figure it out ourselves. In many cases asking for help will save you from wasting a lot of time.

And finally, take time to notice the interesting things along the way.