Don’t Sleep On Planes Because You Never Know Who Will Be Seated Beside You

Man on a plane
Unsplash / Gus Ruballo

Traveling on planes can make all the difference in the world if we utilize it the right way. You never know who you might connect with just by having an open and honest conversation with the person sitting next to you.

After working in the sports industry for nearly a decade with the MLB franchise Arizona Diamondbacks and having the ability to travel all throughout the country, author and keynote speaker Zachary Hall of “Don’t Fall Asleep On Planes” elaborates on the key points of how to network authentically, create relationships, and make meaningful connections with those who sit next you.

You’ve done your fair share of traveling and still continue to do so. When was this idea born for your book, “Don’t Sleep On Planes?” And why did you think it was worth pursuing to get your idea turned into a book?

The idea for the book came after I was on a flight from Phoenix to Las Vegas in 2014 and was running late to get to the airport.

I was flying Southwest and had checked into the “C” group so I knew I was going to get a crummy seat in addition to being RUSHED to get to the airport. Yet things quickly changed as I boarded.

I only had a few seats to choose from and found a man wearing a Rolex so decided to sit there. I figured he had to be doing something right in life or there had to be a story behind it so I sat down.

After that I did a lot of thinking about where and how you meet “connections” be it friends, best friends, significant others, a handyman, someone to watch your kids, people you travel with, whatever and wanted to learn more. Through my life I like to believe the glass is ⅔ full and approach each day with that kind of joy.

Within “Don’t Sleep on Planes” my goal is for readers to find that maybe with a better/more positive approach to everyday interactions, those interactions could be more fruitful.

What was the research process for you like in writing your book?

The best part about writing a book about connecting with people is reflecting on the people that I have already connected with or had crossed paths with. I think outside of the “research process” of writing, the publishing process was way more difficult.

Be it figuring out how to take pages of notes and turn them into chapters, finding out sizes of covers and then figuring out where or how to have them designed properly, how or where do I sell the book, pretty much the business side of taking a manuscript and turning it into a product for sale.

How has your life changed since you’ve written your book? Are you envisioning what you might have in store for a future book?

I would like to say I was prepared for all that has happened or has manifested but while I may be an optimist, much of this has been amazing.

To start, I am having more meaningful conversations with people I look up to in my life. From coffee meetings, lunches, phone calls, social media shares (tweets, retweets, Instagram story posts, etc.) its been amazing to not only create a bit of a buzz but to see my circle help the buzz grow.

I have an idea now of what I want to do within this book’s potential and have ideas for a second book, but more importantly I am living in the moment and enjoying hearing from readers on how they feel after their read.

Booking speaking gigs, learning about the audiences in which I am being asked to speak to, and all of that has been incredible. I love knowing that more opportunities to encourage and inspire strangers to meet strangers is manifesting!

How can introverts apply the principles laid out in your book? Naturally, these types of people are drawn into themselves. What can they do differently to get the full effects of what you teach?

After publishing this book, this is one of the questions I have received the most. I am a natural extrovert and I understand that, but for those that are introverted, my goal was to just give them some tools and some encouragement on how to be the best YOU you can be when networking or connecting.

I talk about embracing your M.A.S.K. within the book (Mindset, Attitude, Senses, Knowledge) which helps you be more aware of where you are.

At the same time I dedicated an entire chapter to “Don’t be a jerk” which reflects on the idea that where you are at today, someone was there for you yesterday, when someone asks to speak to you about their tomorrow, be there for them today.

When you’re traveling on a plane, how important is it to connect with the person sitting next to you? How can that one conversation change your life?

When it comes to “having to connect” or feeling that you have to get someone’s business card or social media info or else… that isn’t my goal or point.

My point is partly, “fish where the fish are” and you never know “who is who.”

To that first point, if you are in a unique place or special event or within the red ropes, know that you are in a unique place to “network up.” There may be potential for you to grow your circle or reach if you take advantage of the moment.

To the second point, if you are at an event, a CEO doesn’t look like a professional athlete, so you need to do some probing or sharing in order to break the ice.

What acronyms do you live by in your life? And how do you make sure you’re staying true to what you wrote about in your book?

Two of them: Embrace your M.A.S.K. to that, I believe that we all wear masks, be it literal or physical. After working in sports I have seen firsthand how athletes, mascots, and employees have had to hit the “switch” when it became game time.

With that, we all can embrace our M.A.S.K.’s when we lock in our “Mindset,” have the right “Attitude,” manage our “Senses,” and most of all utilize our “Knowledge.”

When connecting with people or strangers, in an effort to get to the next stage you need to think about F.O.R.D

Talk about, Family, Occupations, Recreations, Dreams.

When you first sit down to write, how do you begin?

Whenever I would sit down to write, I would never sit down when I told myself “here is 30 minutes you need to write 1,000 words.” Instead, I made sure that when I had an idea I would grab note cards, maybe my notebook, my iPhone notes app, whatever I could to note the thoughts going through my head at that moment with the “Don’t Sleep on Planes” mantra.

What’s the environment look like you when you begin to write? Are you in isolation? Listening to a preferred type of music or genre? Or does it not matter when you begin your creative process?

When I started to write “Don’t Sleep on Planes” it was more of journaling. It started as a personal project just documenting my life and the amazing people I was connecting with.

When I would travel I would open my laptop up and write stories about the people I had encountered be it at airport bars, restaurants, TSA, airline counters, UBER drivers, whatever.

Then as it continued to grow I started organizing my thoughts a bit more which then became chapters. The hardest part of this process was making sure my voice came across within the book. I didn’t want to sound one way yet live another.

You’ve spent quite some time in the sports industry. Is there any athlete you modeled yourself after as motivation to start and finish your book?

When it comes to athletes or models, the craziest thing about working in sports is often times you get jaded by their actions or presence. What I do try to model my work or work ethic after is athletes that have the burning desire to not only win but make those around them better.

We are all on this planet for a short time and I believe our time here is better served making the lives of others better. When you see athletes that are selfless, you often find an athlete being successful. “The more you are willing to give, the more you are setting yourself up to receive.”

Would you say to write good work, you have to read good work? In that case what do you read? How much do you read? Who is your favorite author to model yourself after?

I firmly believe that to write a good book you just need to write! I have read many good books over the years but as I have grown older I find it difficult at times to read some of the larger books that we used to have to read in college or early on in our careers.

My mission in writing my book was to keep it simple and within an hour or so cover to cover. While the title is “Don’t Sleep on Planes,” the idea was the shortest most common flight is usually about an hour and with that readers could keep their interests within the book and not stray while also not being intimidated by it.

What’s a quote you often turn back to in your life or one you like to spread yourself to your family, friends, colleagues, or readers?

I joke a lot about 2 things.

1: Life is like eating an elephant, you just take one bite at a time. While your stomach says no, your eyes and heart say yes. You just have to take it “one bite at a time.”

2: I mention in my book, “Don’t Sleep on Planes” a quote that was given to me at my first job working at a roller skating rink from my first boss the owner of the rink, “In life, you can be a spark plug or a butt plug. One drives the world the other stinks. It is up to you if you want to drive or stink.”

Last question: How have the jobs you’ve worked up to this point prepared you for this moment of being an author and influencer?

Growing up loving sports, I always looked up to athletes as I knew they had a platform to impact and inspire. Having now worked in sports now for 11+ years as a performer, various mascots, and front office employee I have used my platforms to inspire and encourage not because I have a chance to be a hall of fame athlete, but because of the logo on my chest.

Now as an author and speaker, I am using the many adventures that I have taken in and sharing the stories not only through my book but in person to inspire and encourage others. TC mark

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