I’ve been reading a new book given to me for Christmas that is a first person account of life in the Coast Guard during World War II piloting landing craft (Higgins boats) during amphibious landing operations throughout the Pacific theater. The book, Lucky Thirteen written by Ken Wiley, is a wonderful glimpse into the everyday life of those involved in the war, and it reminded me of two books I read years ago, Ice Brothers and Pacific Interlude written by Sloan Wilson, a man I met briefly in Winter Park, FL when I worked with his wife. Anyone interested in engaging accounts from the average serviceman’s perspective will love Lucky Thirteen.

A passage from Lucky Thirteen struck me when I read it, and made me realize how much the world has changed in the past 60 years, and especially so in the last 30. This quote describes a part of Ken’s life in Itasca, TX in the depression era of the 1930’s. “Kids flocked out to the wagon and followed it for a block or two, knowing that Mr. Gibson, the driver, would let us have ice chips that popped loose from the larger blocks he chipped away to produce the size desired” (p. 8).

I can not imagine kids today being so easily thrilled with something as commonplace as an ice cube, but back then, it was a treat to enjoy. Back then, electric service was not prevalent in that portion of Texas, as I’m probably sure was the case in most of the rural areas of the United States, so even radios did not exist. How many of us today sit around helpless when the power goes out for an hour or two? We have to readjust to a world that requires us to think more, where entertainment isn’t at the flip of a switch. This is one reason why I always enjoyed camping when I was in my 20’s and 30’s. It was a time that allowed more introspection and reflection on the life I was living and my path before me. Even today, when I travel I seek out a hotel that offers free Internet access or I meet friends at a coffee shop that has free WiFi so I can access e-mail or do some quick work.

Maybe for our own sanity, we should all seek out an electricity-free day at least once or twice a year. A day of realizing that life doesn’t necessarily need to operate at the pace we live it, that our company’s can actually survive a few days without us checking our e-mail. Maybe our employees would enjoy it also, if we came back from a vacation actually refreshed, in a better mood, and with some fresh ideas of ways we can capitalize on our strengths or our competitors weaknesses that will give our company a new competitive edge. Similar to what Bill Gates does during his biannual retreats where he reads through proposals submitted by employees of Microsoft. This time would allow us to get away from the “busy work” of our personal and professional lives and think more creatively about the challenges we face.

— Wiley, K. (2007). Lucky Thirteen. Drexel Hill, PA:Casemate.