I cannot do X because of Y… X could be the smallest task or goal, and Y could be any unrelated factor that is happening somewhere else in the milky way. In cases much closer to me, I have have seen people and also been part of the group of humans that find a reason or excuse for not doing things; even in situations where the reason is not a viable blocker.
I am focusing on this today because I just completed something that I previously imagined, planned, and choreographed on paper and in my mind without thinking that it would be practical: I had designed a situation where I could spend an open 5-day period (Friday 9am – Wednesday 6pm) to do something grand. In the past, and even when I had more support systems, like many others, I said that I could not expand my area of operation to cross borders and distance… here it goes:
I cannot take that job because I have children
I am too old and have real obligations; have a young employee without attachments do that task
I need to be home every weekend (even when those weekends are spent watching TV and cleaning yards)
[I will write more of these as they come to mind]
So, late last year, I decided that I do not want to be the guy who regrets for being ineffective. So I scheduled to conduct training sessions in Prague on the second week of January, and another set in Barcelona two weeks thereafter.
Last Friday, I caught a flight for Prague (I still cannot speak the language) and scheduled a very nice AirBnB so that I can live like a local. I arrived there on Saturday afternoon, did some food shopping at Tesco and stocked my kitchen. I related and got ready for the week (forcing jetlag). On Monday and Tuesday, I conducted training to a pleased audience that was asking to schedule future sessions for the future. Today (Wednesday) at 4am (GMT+1), Martin (yes, the same guy with a black Passat) came to my apartment and drove me to the airport. Between then and 12.35pm (GMT-5), I was in aircraft and at airports. I was able to keep track of my work as well as my upcoming home obligations.
I made it home having spent the 5 days far away and accomplished way more than I would previously have accomplished in 5 weeks. This made it clear to me that I can do even more than this, I just have to keep improving – that is why I love Kaizen
Walking along this bridge and to a place that everyone had told me to visit (Charles Bridge), I drew some conclusions about why I thrive when I travel and why it feels so different.
Initially, I thought that I was justifying a hobby or a feel-good and expensive hobby or childhood wish to be in moving things (I do enjoy the landing of aircraft every time). But I think that I found out why; and you do not have to spend lots of money to find this thing, I get the same effect by taking cold showers.
Traveling outside my area of comfort and auto-pilot existence creates a healthy rush that requires all the capacities of the brain to be awakened as everything in a new place is new and useful. When I landed in Prague, I did not know (and still don’t) how to even say Hello. I was not staying at a Hotel or some template experience that is predictable. I was being picked from the airport by “Martin” in a black VW Passat; who would show up 3 minutes after I texted him. It now feels more adventurous than it did at the time. I got to my AirBnB, later left to find a supermarket to do food shopping, and then returned home to prepare and go dance some salsa for the evening. I did not even have any local currency (I thought they used Euros until 2 days prior to my arrival).
So being in such situations, the body must take-in, understand, and integrate everything it sees. Nothing is assured around the corner and you do not even know how to smile. This is like when the freezing 0-degree water hits your head and shoulders in the morning, you want to run but you master the reaction and focus on the mission. Once you are beyond the sensory shock, your body’s systems are open and ready for business. At such times, any thoughts you have are privileged to be using a clear and ready brain. For those who work with computers, it is just like shocking a server by asking for information that it does not have in the edge-cache, not in memory, and does not even have a database view or query-plan for. It has to fire-up all the systems to build and serve the information. Now, once that system is warmed-up end-to-end, anything you tasked it with in the immediate is sure to get processed with the best possible resources.
So, when I travel to new places, my heuristics are not applicable anywhere, and so I must have an open mind even just for my won survival. This is what Flo used to call ‘an exposed person’. Someone who has seen his/her paradigms challenged, or who has seen contradictory facts apply. Someone operating at a higher level of thinking and ability.
From the very americanized part of San Juan, the tourist traps, the various clubs and random cars carrying speakers playing music ‘just like that…’, to the Caribbean roots and the attachment to Spain, there is a little of everyone in this place and so much for everyone.
It could be that I have become so good at assimilating, or I am taking the whole idea of minimalism and going with the flow a little too seriously, but I was able to easily get myself from the airport to my the AirBnB. Being that this is essentially part of the U.S made it a little comfortable, and a little uneventful. My phone did not even give me the customary welcome and alert about local telephone tariffs! I felt cheated to have flown this far only to be in the U.S. The fact that I had some left-over work and a call from a colleague on Saturday mid-afternoon made me wonder if I was squandering my time.
Leave that aside, I was able to get myself back on track. I walked around the corner to the supermarket and felt a little like a local, and a little disappointed that no one wanted to speak to me in Spanish. What? I paid for this trip to come practice the language and culture only to repeatedly run into english-speaking people? I did some groceries, made myself a meal, got ready, and walked around the block to discover the ocean.
In the days that followed, I went Salsa-dancing and discovered the night-life, I walked several miles to viejo San Juan and reflected on many things on my way there and back (I might one day start adding audios to these posts), mingled with tourists and locals, joined Edwin on a bike-ride around the island, and even drove all the way to Ponce and back to the airport. In short, I made my way around this island and it charmed me. …staying true to its slogan!
This has to be the first step ahead of many to come. I have been talking about this for more than 10 years and so I am breaking the longest trail of excuses and procrastination.
I took time to ride a bike with Danys who was just launching his bike-tour business in Cienfuegos, Cuba. I was his very first customer and his new bike (intended for me) had a slow puncture. He inventively found a solution (Cuba creates necessity at every stage and fosters ingenuity). This experience added to the feeling of camaraderie that I generally got from the cubans that I interacted with over the 4-5 days. I rode around the many neighborhoods of Cienfuegos and feel like I was going back to a place that I already knew, but for the first time.
De verdad, “Cienfuegos es la ciudad que más me gusta a mí”
Pero bien, que dices ahora? That might sound like the wrong language for this, but before Strasbourg was Barcelona. And that is where the thoughts really came back to me. I was going back to Strasbourg, but I was also a very different person. Not only had it been 20 years, but all my insecurities of a 19 year old unsure if he would take off, taking the doubts of his math teacher too seriously were gone. All I had to do was to find my old hood and really reflect. Much like Charles Aznavour’s mes vingt ans!
Unlike Aznavour that is looking back treasuring his 20s, I was not. To be honest, this was partly a victory lap. Ironically, the thing that brought me back to Europe and Strasbourg this time is very close to the thing that brought the most doubt in my life 20 years prior. This time, I am a proven success in the field that many doubted that I would get close to, let alone excel at!
I am going to find and add pictures of myself in these same places 20 years prior…
Cela me fait à nouveau penser à Aznavour et à sa chanson dans laquelle il raconte son arrivée à Paris. Pour moi, ce n’était pas la première fois, mais un retour après 20 ans.
I spent the night in a boat… not that way. I was at this AirBnB in Paris and I could not wait for the next morning so that I could set my target on Strasbourg. That is a place that gave me chills years ago!
So, I almost opted out of this trip. It was at the beginning of the year and I was not too eager to get anything squeezed too tight into my schedule. Additionally, I had no dreams of visiting Spain as is was probably some version of France with the difference that I did not know more than 15 words in the language.
The stone that the builder refused, shall be the head corner-stone! This trip seems to have set-off a whole lot of marginally related events that have brought me to new ground. There was so much to experience, eat, see, and a day before we were to take the train to France, I found myself in the hotel-room watching TV in Spanish and actively listening to lessons on Youtube… that has not stopped even after 12+ months
Procrastination and perfectionism can sometimes seem so conventional and normal. I have always wanted to build a house to use when I visit my parents; that reflects me, is comfortable, and does not break the bank. The tiny-house movement had not gone ‘mainstream’ at this point, but I am that kind of guy – unconventional.
I was driving from Boston to Montreal and there it was! One rest-area on Interstate-89 has a green-house and a water purification plant – both are housed in this octagonal glass-house.
I kept it to myself as I was not even clear about what was intriguing about it. It took me a few days for all the ideas to fall into place. So, when I excitedly told anyone who would listen about my idea,
I will build a 700ft-sq house in 3 weeks even if there are multiple stages that each require a week to complete
I saved you the details, or I got you straight to the chase… Maybe there will be a post with all the details, the thrilling tales of shipping vinyl windows from the Home Depot to Kenya in my checked luggage. Yes, I carried some tools and materials in my luggage . Below is what I had at the end of 3 weeks just before I boarded by flight to return to the desk to write some PHP code (at the time)!
This is not one of those wooden houses that you see them put together in a week. It is made of stone from foundation to the window-line. The glass panes are in, the roof is on (the material was out of stock, but my logistics and project management skills got it all together).