Aerial view of Los Angeles via Jay Mantri

I hit the streets this past week. Caught the 134 to the 5 to the 110 and ended up in downtown LA. Took 45 minutes for the 15 miles, but it was worth it.

I missed my evening routine: walking my dog from 7:00pm – 7:30pm, but it was worth it. I missed dinner with my wife, 7:30pm – 8:00pm, but it was worth it. I missed the latest installment of ESPN’s stunning documentary O.J.: Made in America, but it was worth it.

It was worth it, because, after months of conference calls, emails, GoToMeeting calendar invites, and sitting behind my computer screen interacting with new business partners, we all met in person for the first time. IRL.

Sure, we spoke about work. Our partnership. Our strategy. Our tactics. We got things done. But more importantly, we realized we could trust each other. We enjoyed each other’s company. We put away our screens for a few hours and connected without the crutch of 4G or WiFi. We debated the greatest father-son duos in sports history: Griffey, Bonds, Manning, Hull, without using Google for “inspiration.” We found mutually shared connections, without using LinkedIn. Shared stories from our recent trips to Cuba or Israel, no TripAdvisor needed.

Technology seduces us to sit behind our screens, crane our necks down at our phones in our laps, and hope for the best. And we can often accomplish much through it’s awesome power. We can learn a lot. We can achieve success in work and life. But the screen experience can never compare to the real life experience. The webinar with a sales prospect almost never produces as much progress as the in-person pitch. A shared Chrome browser is fine, but a shared kale salad kafta kebab will almost always result in more business value in the long run.

The quick double tap on Instagram generating a “like” on your friend’s latest dog photo is not the same as a walk in the park with your labrador, Marley. It’s much easier to generate hearts on Instagram than it is to pick up shit with your hand inside a plastic bag, surely.

I love my screens – small, medium and large. Most of us do. But I believe that there is nothing better, nothing more powerful, than a human connection in real life that can help you get from Point A to Point B, specifically in business relationships.

And this past week, around a crowded dinner table, I had a nice subtle reminder, a nice whisper in the ear from an old friend (real life) that was still lingering in the background. I’m here. 

Now the challenge is to find a healthy balance.