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Redefining Success: #1 Never Gain Elite Status on any Airline

Aaron McHugh

red carpet

Redefining Success

Airline’s love to woo us with the allure of elite membership status.   They promise shorter lines, a six-foot stretch of red carpet we can walk over and the hope of free upgrades to roomier seats.

Here is what I learned the hard way

The only people who achieve Premier, Executive or Admiral status end up living a life similar to George Clooney’s character, Ryan Bingham in the movie Up in the Air.

Ryan spends less than two weeks in his own Omaha, Nebraska bed each year.  The movie profiles his almost tunnel vision pursuit of reaching the ten million mile mark with his airline of allegiance.

The tragedy of his story is that his quest for elite membership unfolds as a lonely reality of solitude and isolation.

After almost ten years of business travel, I’ve learned that if you have crossed the airline’s elite membership ticker tape then you’ve just lost at least 50 days of your real life each year.

Doesn’t having a wallet full of elite airline membership cards seems like an attempted payoff?  Shorter lines and red carpet walks are a poor trade for the days and nights spent away from my real life.

Up in the Air

I revolt instead

What if we redefined success as never gaining elite status on any airline?  What if instead, we found a way to structure our life in such a way that stopped short of that reward?

Could we instead travel one fewer trip each month?  What if success was defined by not being rewarded for being away from home?

How close to the line can we walk? 

I shuffle my air travel between two to three carriers and successfully achieve no elite rewards.  Yes, I enroll in each of their reward programs but I attempt to never achieve the Premier, Elite, or Aviator, statuses.

My story

I travel a fair amount for my day job and end up spending 40 to 60 nights away from home each year.  Just even typing it I feel the conflict inside.  I love my family and love my friendships that await my return each trip I spend away.

For some business travel can be a nice deviation from their real life.

For me, real life beats any business trip.  I work for an international software company.  I travel because it is a necessary requirement to meet our current and future customers in the comfort of their conference rooms and offices.

Face-to-face meetings enable for a human connection to occur.  I utilize web conferencing technology like GoToMeeting or Webex regularly, but I also know when you simply have to be there in person.

I view it as a trade

I trade days and nights away from my family for compensation that enables for care of my family.  Some weeks I’m not so sure it is a good trade.  Using the principle of Dollar Cost Averaging for Life I settle in for the trend over time.

As you read this you see the precariousness of my goal.

I travel a lot but I value being at home.  I value caring well for my family and I am away from home a week or more each month.

The world will always tell us what constitutes success, but most of the world doesn’t live a life I want.

Redefining success empowers us to pursue our own target versus accidently achieving one that leaves us like our friend George Clooney.

How about you?