Michael Paterniti describes 13 years living under the spell of a tiny Spanish town

As summertime comes to an end, we found this delightful story by Michael Paterniti about how he turned a trip to Guzman, Spain into something much more–for his life, his work, and his family.

It literally hit home to me, obviously because we’re based here in Spain. And less obviously because Enlightened Leadership came into existence because I (also American) found “my place” in Barcelona, far away from my home in New York City. And though it made not enough sense at the time 16 years ago, though I had studied Spanish for years, I decided to stay anyway and recreated my whole life and work around it.

As Paterniti writes,

“And suddenly: tiny Guzmán on its hill, its skyline a cubist jumble but for the bell tower of the church and the square turrets of the palacio, as the 17th-century manor house is known….Let there be no doubt, time had had its way here. You might have looked upon this place — and its detritus — and moved right along.
But something happened to me. Even now, I’m not exactly sure what….

I have a friend who once told me about the first time he ever took a ferry to an island off the coast of North Carolina, and how he knew, right there on the ferry — with the salt spray and the light off the ocean — that he’d come back to this same spot every year. He’d come to relive that feeling of leaving his old self behind. That annual renewal, the reacquaintance with the person he felt himself to be on that island was something he wanted to organize his life around.

Similarly, Guzmán instantly and improbably became my place. It made no sense, practically speaking. Even if I didn’t live 3,000 miles away, or if I spoke Spanish, or didn’t have a baby at home, it wouldn’t have made sense. And that was part of its tug too. I was certain this town had secrets to tell — and that maybe my best self was there to be found….”

So if you’ve found your “place” too, wherever it is, and however often you go, we challenge you to bring it back home with you—that fuller sense of being alive and being so much more connected to your true and best self.

That’s the self that’s at the heart of great leadership.