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Two Monks

On his many journey Thomas Rose has often met and spoken with monks.

Two monks

Two monks on a pilgrimage came to the ford of a river. There they saw a girl dressed in all her finery, obviously not knowing what to do since the river was high and she did not want to spoil her clothes. Without more ado, one of the monks took her on his back, carried her across and put her down on dry ground on the other side.

Then the monks continued on their way. But the other monk after an hour started complaining: “Surely it is not right to touch a woman; it is against the commandments to have close contact with women. How could you go against the rules of monks?”
The monk who had carried the girl walked along silently, but finally he remarked, “I set her down by the river an hour ago, why are you still carrying her?”

Imgard Schloegel
The Wisdom of Zen Masters

More reads

Wisdom in Research


Ice-Breakers and Heart-Warmers

How I introduced myself to Facebook

Dr. Thomas Rose pondering his latest blog post.

Joining the GoG

There’s a fantastic group on Facebook called mySpeakerBusiness (I am afraid you need to be logged into Facebook in order to see the content of this group). The members of this group provide speakers with the information they need to make their speaker business flourish. A great idea!

The group was founded by Monique Blokzyl who successfully runs the Business Launch Portal. Have a look at their website – it has valuable content, too. The Facebook group
mySpeakerBusiness has a member list that reads like the Who is Who of Public Speaking. You will find input from award winning speakers like John Zimmer, Olivia Schofield, Peter Zinn, Florian Mueck and Alexander Lang – only to name a few.

Anyway, I am proud to have been asked to join the Gang of Gurus (now you know what GoG stand for) and while I was thinking of what is worth of bothering my fellows with, a very specific idea crystalized from my spaghetti thoughts. And since Facebook is so volatile and fugitive I concluded that this is the perfect trigger for (finally) yet another post.

Nice to meet you

Hello fellow speakers!

I recently joined mySpBiz and would like to say “Hi!” to y’all. Monique asked me to introduce myself to the community – well, here I go.

Speaking is neither my main pursuit nor is a speaking business my main income. I am a management and executive consultant (mainly in the banking arena).

Although speaking is a considerable revenue stream for me I am equally convinced that earning money with speaking is hard earned money indeed. Especially when we take time into consideration. Not the time for the actual talk, but the time needed for preparation. I roughly estimate one hour of preparation for one minute of presentation. Given for example a keynote of 90 min length we roughly face two weeks of preparation. Even if you get a four figure fee for your talk the income per month is not paramount – especially when you take into account related costs caused by traveling and running the back office of your speaker business.

IMHO making a living as a consultant is much easier – even though it can be very tough (and rough) to parley with CEOs, executives, and decision makers.

And here is what I have learned from my consulting business which directly influences my speaking business: There are many rhetorical skills we need as speakers – that’s a no-brainer. I am not going to debate on which skill is the most important – be it authenticity (thumbs up!), the management of eye contact, body language (highly overestimated, if you ask me), visual aids, or whatever Toastmasters taught us – they are all important and you all master them very well. But there are two things of which I think are crucial to everyone’s speaking business and these are: Expertise and Experience.

I’ve met speakers who talk about leadership who have never led a team. I’ve seen speakers talking about management who have never managed a project. I’ve listened to speakers on business development whose business is to spam others on Twitter. Been there, done that, got the T-shirt and burnt it already.

I need to be an experienced expert

(And you need to be one, too!)
The most successful speeches I’ve given (both financially and concerning audience feedback) always dealt with what I do day in, day out – although these are not the topics for which I am burning the brightest. However I brightly burn for triggering and delivering extraordinary ideas to ordinary people (like CEOs, executives, and decision makers).

Remember that when we talk to an organization we are talking to people. These people are dealing with a very specific set of challenges and problems and we need to deliver a valuable input which helps them solve their problems. They don’t give a sh#t about how many marathons I’ve run or how many mountains I have climbed. If I do not add to the pool of solutions they are looking for, then I’m off their minds before I’m off their stage.

Just my tuppence. Not necessarily yours. I know.

Nice to be part of the gang.

Based on experience – I wish you well,
Herzlichst,  Ihr Dr. Thomas Rose

More wisdom for smart people (in German):
Dr. Thomas Rose: Sünden auf meinem Planeten – Kein Reiseführer für Indien

20 Things successful People Do Everyday

  1. 70% of all successful people eat less than 300 junk food calories per day. 97% of the all flops eat more than 300 junk food calories per day. 23% of all successful people gamble. 52% of all flops gamble.
  2. 80% of all successful people are focused on accomplishing some single goal. Only 12% of the all flops do this.
  3. 76% of all successful people exercise aerobically 4 days a week. 23% of all flops do this.
  4. 63% of all successful people listen to audio books during commute to work vs. 5% for all flops.
  5. 81% of all successful people maintain a to-do list vs. 19% for all flops.
  6. 63% of the successful parents make their children read 2 or more non-fiction books a month vs. 3% for the flops.
  7. 70% of all successful parents make their children volunteer 10 hours or more a month vs. 3% for flops.
  8. 80% of all successful people have regular body-checks vs. 11% of all flops.
  9. 67% of all successful people write down their goals vs. 17% for all flops.
  10. 88% of all successful people read 30 minutes or more each day for education or career reasons vs 2% for all flops.
  11. 6% of all successful people say what’s on their mind vs. 69% for all flops.
  12. 79% of all successful people network 5 hours or more each month vs. 16% for all flops.
  13. 67% of all successful people watch 1 hour or less of TV every day vs. 23% for all flops.
  14. 6% of all successful people watch reality TV vs. 78% for all flops.
  15. 44% of all successful people wake up 3 hours before work starts vs.3% for all flops.
  16. 74% of all successful people teach good daily success habits to their children vs. 1% for all flops.
  17. 84% of all successful people believe good habits create opportunity luck vs. 4% for all flops.
  18. 76% of all successful people believe bad habits create detrimental luck vs. 9% for all flops.
  19. 86% of all successful people believe in life-long educational self-improvement vs. 5% for all flops.
  20. 86% of all successful people love to read vs. 26% for all flops.

According to a post of R. Schrum.

Nice to read (German):
Dr. Thomas Rose: Sünden auf meinem Planeten – Kein Reiseführer für Indien

Had a long, hard day? Here’s a new perspective.

This is a picture taken on my trip to India in 2009. You can read about my trip in my book "Sünden auf meinem Planeten - Kein Reiseführer für Indien" available at amazon

If you have food in your fridge, clothes on your back, a roof over your head and a place to sleep you are richer than 75% of the world.
If you have money in the bank, your wallet, and some spare change you are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthy.

If you woke up this morning with more health than illness you are more blessed than the million people who will not survive this week.

If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the agony of imprisonment or torture, or the horrible pangs of starvation you are luckier than 500 million people alive and suffering.

If you can read this message you more fortunate than 4.6 billion people in the world who cannot read it at all.

For more information go to:
Dr. Thomas Rose: Sünden auf meinem Planeten – Kein Reiseführer für Indien

Letters from Vietnam (10): A lesson from the orphanage

Dr. Thomas Rose visits an orphanage in Kon Tum, Vietnam

Letters from Vietnam – Part 10

Or should it be: Lessons from Vietnam?

And here is my final Letter from Vietnam, which I am actually writing while having a stop-over in buzzing Bangkok. But the thoughts I want to share with you still originate from Vietnam. All happened in a town called Kon Tum, where I visited an orphanage.

The orphanage is home to about 200 children. Not all are actual orphans, some have been placed here by families who are not able to support them. Some families are too poor to shelter and feed an additional child, some families are in severe trouble because of drug and alcohol abuse.

As I was walking through the individual rooms I was several times “raided” by kids who were looking for some attention. Many of them liked to cuddle, which is nice but not unproblematic at the same time. We have to be very aware of the emotional impact on the children if these kind of encounters become the typical interaction with foreigners.

When I was hanging around there with kids sticking to my legs like wax it slowly dawned upon me that many of these children must have experienced a significant amount of misuse. And I was not even thinking of the most horrific kind of abuse – you can imagine what I am talking about – no, I was thinking about a specific kind of abuse that happens even in the best families and that is much more subtle to detect than the horror behind closed doors.

The number one kind of child abuse is denying them a healthy environment. In my opinion a healthy environment has three crucial ingredients. Stick with me for a while and you’ll see what these ingredients have to do with your business. The ingredients are:

  1. safety
  2. value
  3. predictability

Let’s have a look at each of them.


A safe environment means that you can always go home and independent of what you have done you will not have to fear any harm. Even if you have done something stupid you can go home and you can be sure that you will not suffer any punishment or damage. There might be some disciplinary consequences like a temporary withdrawal of some privileges but you can be sure that nothing will happen that you have to be afraid of.


A valuing environment means that you and your thoughts are always taken seriously. Nobody will ever make fun of you because you opened your mouth or come up with a new idea. People will laugh with you but never laugh at you. If at all they will smile at you and carefully listen to what you want to say. Your ideas and actions will be esteemed and the worst that will happen to you is the question: “Who sold you on that plan?”


A predictable environment is a place where you know what to expect. No (unpleasant) surprises. I wrote about predictability in my third Letter from Vietnam. It explains that under certain conditions it is crucial to be predictable. And if you buy that idea you will understand the value of a predictable environment. It means that you find shelter when you come back and you’ll never have to ask yourself: “I wonder what will happen…”

Lesson learnt

Since we have to be the change we’d like to see in this world it is our duty to create environments that are safe, valuing, and predictable.

  • We want to be a safe place for others to pitch camp. This will create an attractive force field around us both for our children and our customers. Always be a soft landing place for others who are reaching for your help or advise.
  • We will value the ideas of others without pre-judgement. When somebody says or does something that is not compliant with our personal philosophy we will actively listen and observe and not jump to conclusions immediately. Too often we judge something to be wrong only because it is different than the way we think or act. The world is a diverse place and only because somebody else is taking another road like you it doesn’t automatically mean they are lost. As Stephen R. Covey in his bestseller The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People wrote: “First seek to understand, and then to be understood.”
  • And finally we will make sure that people know what to expect when they approach us. When somebody asks you to do something and you accept the task you will never want them to worry whether they can rely on your promise. Imagine and create a clear picture of the person you want to be and radiate it into this world. The only surprise we impose on others is to under-promise and over-deliver.

Application of the lesson learnt to your business

Every person in a corporation is responsible for creating a healthy work environment. It doesn’t matter whether you are flipping burgers, answering the phone or make million dollar decisions from your corner office. Each of us is responsible to create a place where both customers and employees are happy to be. Here are a few final thoughts.

  • Create safety by encouraging your staff to make errors. Though be very proactive when it comes to mistakes. Make sure that your staff can approach you without fear when they’ve done something that didn’t work out. Failure is a necessary part of growth. If people are too afraid to make mistakes chances are that they will try to sweep their mistakes under the rug. If so, mistakes quickly develop into damages. It is your responsibility to avoid that by creating a safe environment.
  • Value and appreciate achievements always. Let other people know when somebody did something extraordinaire and encourage others to do the very same. Too many of us are trying to catch others with their pants down. To few are willing to publicly praise a good performance of somebody else. If you don’t create a valuing and appreciative environment your employees (and your customers) might be willing to find it somewhere else.
  • Finally make sure that people know what to expect when they call you or enter your office. Always show one and the same face to all. You don’t have to be available at all times but when somebody is asking for your help, advise or support always make sure that they didn’t come in vain. It’s all up to you: If you want to be a jerk, act like a jerk. If you want to be a paragon, act like a paragon.

And now go and BE the change you want to see in this world. For the children of Kon Tum I wish that they will soon enter a better place.

Children from the orphanage in Kon Tum, Vietnam

Children from the orphanage in Kon Tum, Vietnam

It was my pleasure to share with you some of my thoughts that were inspired by my trip through Vietnam with you, most valued reader. I thank all who replied and wrote personal notes to me. You kept me going and I am very much looking forward to meeting you face-to-face in due course.

Tạm biệt,
Herzlichst,  Ihr Dr. Thomas Rose

Letters from Vietnam (9): Be a “WOW” person

Junk Boat in Halong Bay

Letters from Vietnam – Part 9

Or should it be: Lessons from Vietnam?

As my trip through Vietnam draws to an end now I have still two ideas I want to share with you here – and many more once we meet face-to-face again in due course. This post is about “How to be a ‘WOW’ person” and I would very much like you to apply the lesson learnt to your business.

I am just back from a boat trip in Halong Bay followed by a few days of mountain trekking through the North of Vietnam. If I had to describe my experiences with just one word it would be “WOW”! I’ve seen a world of wonders and I feel deeply grateful for all the beauty that crossed my way.

However, such trips are not hassle-free. There are delays, traffic jams, street hawkers, scams, power cuts, dirt, air pollution and too much litter lying around everywhere. And if you invest a bit of effort and hike to a local village off the beaten tracks you can have a glimps of an understanding what it means to feed and shelter a family with just two or three dollars of income per day. Not everything I saw is for the faint-hearted. But still, wherever I went there was beauty.

Interesting enough not everybody sees that beauty. I shared experiences with co-travelers and although we were in the same place at the same time the descriptions and reflections on what we saw couldn’t have been more diverse. Let me give you just one example.

There is beauty everywhere – If you decide so

I stayed overnight on a junk boat in Halong Bay. The cabins on the boat were surprisingly comfy but the main lights under the ceiling did not shine very brightly. There where two married couples with whom I had dinner after we had taken over our cabins. One couple agreed on the “fact” that the light in the cabins was rather dull. The other couple added with a smile that they think the light was pretty romantic. I am sure that you have experienced something similar as well: Two people (or couples) meet one setting and one says “It’s awful!” while the other one says “It’s awesome!” To no surprise it turned out during the evening that the first couple was rather dull, while the second couple was pretty romantic. Realisations like this always make my day because they manifest one of my core convictions: The recognition of our environment is a mere reflection of what we are insight. If we look at the world through dull goggles we see a dull world. If we look through romantic goggles we see a romantic world. And it is us and only us who select our goggles.

In conclusion, on this trip not everybody was as “wowed” as I was. This is probably because I am convinced that I am a “WOW” person. I assume that the word that springs to mind when those other people think of themselves is not necessarily “WOW”. Guess who’s having a better time? And what do you think of yourself when you think of yourself?

Are you a “WOW” person?

Do you think “WOW” when your name comes up?

Lesson learnt

The outer world has nothing to do with our inner feelings. People who blame others to make them feel miserable only lie to themselves. They hand over the responsibility of their own life’s quality to other people. They stop being in charge, they refuse to control their lives, and ultimately they see themselves as victims. It is important to understand that this is a choice. People chose to hand over the quality and outcome of their lives to others who very often couldn’t care less.

I implore you: Don’t chose to be a victim. Instead be the “WOW” person. Be the “WOW” person that others want to hire or want to do business with. It’s a choice. Always chose “WOW”.

Application of the lesson learnt to your business

There is a very easy way to be the “WOW” person everybody is looking for.

Always under-promise and over-deliver.

The unions would argue over that, wouldn’t they? But guess who has more happy clients, returning customers, loyal employees, or promoting bosses? The one who says: “Sorry, it’s 5PM. I have to head home to watch American Idol!” or the one who says: “If you have a problem, hand it over to me. I will take care of it. And I will not only do my job. When you receive the solution by me you will not only be content with my delivery, you will say ‘WOW! – that’s far more and way better than I was hoping for.’ Because I have decided to be a ‘WOW’ person.”

And now go back to your business and WOW somebody. Is your boss expecting that report tomorrow? Try to hand it in today. Do you have to make ten calls today? Stretch a little bit and make eleven. Don’t be afraid that your boss (or your clients) will put pressure on you and expect even more of you tomorrow. If you are a “WOW” person you’ll soon have “WOW” clients, “WOW” colleagues, and even a “WOW” boss.

Because only “WOW” people understand the true meaning of win-win situations.

And now go, and “WOW” somebody.

Tạm biệt,
Herzlichst,  Ihr Dr. Thomas Rose

Letters from Vietnam (8): Stay away from the elephants

Stay away from the elephants (if you are not stronger than they are)

Letters from Vietnam – Part 8

Or should it be: Lessons from Vietnam?

Are you stronger than an elephant? Or stronger than a heavy truck? If not I suggest you follow the Vietnamese philosophy of easy traffic.

A common occurrence on an ordinary day

An old woman uses a crosswalk in order to get from one side of the road to the other. Before she has even set one foot on the zebra crossing a 30 ton heavy truck breaks and comes to halt in a safe distance. From the other direction a bus had approached and this bus comes to a standstill, too, so the old lady can now safely cross the road. The truck is laden with groceries that are urgently expected in a supermarket a few kilometres away. The bus is full with people who are on the way to their next appointments. Behind the truck as well as behind the bus all traffic comes to halt. Dozens of vehicles and people freeze in order to let one little lady cross a street. The vehicles and the cargo must be worth millions and the time is ticking away for all the busy people.

All for one little lady.

Have a guess in what country such scenarios usually happen. Here’s a hint: It is NOT Vietnam. This description sounds rather like what we experience in the Western world – in the so called civilised or developed countries. In my homeland, which is Germany, you can observe scenarios like that everyday and everywhere.

With which single word would you describe the above scenario? In Germany we call it “Rücksichtnahme” which in English (according to my favourite online dictionary dict.cc) translates to consideration, thoughtfulness, attention or considerateness.

I think all these translations don’t hit the bull’s eye and are somehow misleading. Keep on reading and I’ll tell you why.

To my opinion, what really happens here is that the drivers are taking care or looking after someone who is smaller or weaker than they are. That is a beautiful task to do. For the kids among you: In the hilarious movie Hook this thought has been augustly uttered by Peter Banning when he took out his sword and tried to figure out who would be the new Pan:

Now I want you to take care of everything that’s smaller than you.

To me, this is one of the noblest things one can do. In my list of values looking after the small has a high ranking in priority.

And now let us take a leap to Vietnam

Crossing a street in Vietnam is an adventure for the timid and a piece of cake for the brave. If you want to cross a street in Vietnam and keep standing at the sidewalk waiting for the traffic to come to halt you will die. Literally! I mean it. You will die. One day you will die of starvation. Because nobody will stop for you to cross the road except if you are willing to boldly take action. Not even traffic lights will guarantee that the traffic comes to halt for you.

And as every journey starts with the first step crossing a street in Vietnam is no difference. You start crossing a street by setting foot on the very same. Then slowly but continuously move forward – in short, be predictable. And as by a miracle the traffic will flow around you. Lots of honking still, but not the slightest physical encounter with the millions of motorbikes dashing along.

Does this mean that “Rücksichtnahme” is not a virtue in Vietnam? I wouldn’t say so. In fact, Vietnamese people are very considerate and caring, helpful and generous. But when it comes to traffic “Rücksichtnahme” simply doesn’t rank high in the commuters’ list of priorities.

And here is the difference between German and Vietnamese traffic philosophy.

In Germany we care for the weaker. In Vietnam they beware of the stronger.

Personally I would still rank the German way higher than the Vietnamese way – but that is just me. If I tell Vietnamese people about this thought – especially when it comes to traffic – they usually shake their head and reply that the German behaviour doesn’t make sense, it is inacceptable and causes too much of trouble. “Nobody would ever get to work on time!”

Staying away from the stronger is a good way to stay out of uncontrollable trouble. And interestingly you do this by applying consideration, thoughtfulness, attention and considerateness.

Does this ring a bell?

Truck on muddy Ho Chi Minh Trail

A safe distance from the bigger ones is a good idea to stay out of uncontrollable trouble when riding along the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

Lesson learnt

It doesn’t matter whether you are timid or brave. You need to pay attention and be considerate in both ways of life.

Here’s a tip for the timid: Get rid of your timidity without losing your softness. Timidity gets you nowhere. And for the brave: Always be considerate when you take these bold steps in your life. A bold elephant can easily crash a mouse, even if it didn’t mean to.

And just before I enter my flight from Da Nang to the capital of Vietnam, Hanoi, let me give you the …

Application of the lesson learnt to your business

Firstly, understand the difference between controllable and uncontrollable trouble. I’ve written about the joy of finding controllable trouble in my last post. Uncontrollable trouble is something you want to avoid.

Secondly, make it a virtue for your business always to look after someone who is smaller than you. You can only win. At the same time stay away from the elephants (as beautiful as they are).

It is a wonderful thing when you look after someone weaker or smaller than you. But never blindly expect this behaviour from the people around you. Some are so obsessed with their way that they have only little understanding for the agenda of other people.

In short:

If you want to dance with an elephant, expect it to lead.

Tạm biệt,
Herzlichst,  Ihr Dr. Thomas Rose

Letters from Vietnam (7): When I travel…

Rice Cutting in the Central Highlands of Vietnam

Letters from Vietnam – Part 7

Or should it be: Lessons from Vietnam?

Travel teaches toleration

Somebody once said “Life is a book. And if you don’t travel you only read one page.”

This is wonderfully true.

Travelling is not about getting from point A to point B. It is about being on the way. It is about sucking the marrow out of life. It is about finding the balance between experiencing and learning as much as you possibly can and letting go. Travelling is not holiday. It’s a journey. And if you do it right it has many destinations.

Let me share some of my travel experiences that may seem as a flipside of a pleasant journey.

When I travel …

When I travel

  • I get dirty.
  • I get an upset tummy.
  • I catch a cold.
  • I get a sunburn.
  • I get eaten by insects.
  • I get ants in my pants.
  • I get lost in the alleys.
  • I get stalked by street hawkers.
  • I fall for scams.
  • I’m asked for my name a million times.
  • I find hairs in the bathroom that don’t belong to me.
  • My eyes hurt from the air pollution.
  • And – as everybody else – I suffer from the three undeniable truths about travelling.

Am I looking for those experiences? Definitely NOT! I am not striving for such experiences, but I am tolerating them. Such experiences are ultimately the only way to make the most of my journeys. Only by tolerating a list of negatives I can create a list of positives, that btw. is much longer than the one above.

Lesson learnt

It’s an old cliche that we can’t have light without shadow, that there is no mountain high with out a valley low, and that we can’t enjoy a jungle without being carried away by tiny nasty creatures.

I feel a bit sorry for this cliche. It has been beaten up and misused by many motivational speakers. But still, there is an undeniable and deep truth in it:

You can’t have one without the other.

My personal favourite of this cliche is the following: It doesn’t matter what decisions you make, you will always have to pay a price. If you don’t want to pay, you’re not getting anything. So many people try to cheat their way through life. But I am convinced, in the end, it doesn’t work. Nothing is for free. And even if your decision is to spend the rest of your life on the sofa – you will have to pay the price.

I have a personal theory about the prices we have to pay in life. I strongly believe that the sum of the prices we have to pay in life is a constant. It is one given quantity that is pre-defined for each our lives.

There are two ways to pay your debts

One way is to make many payments during the course of life. The other way is to pay everything at once, usually at the end of your life. Which one do you prefer?

Let me shorty explain the difference between these two kinds of payments. The iterative payments I call toleration, the one payment in the end I call regret. Which one do you prefer?

If we opt for the first way of paying we make a lot of decisions and take bold action towards life. We take responsibility for what we do and what happens to us, we act accordingly, we pay the price (like learning a lesson, taking a course, overcoming fear, trying something new, …) and we move on. In other words we accept the flipsides of life as the currency to create a good one.

If we prefer the second way of payment, i.e. if we pay one big price at the end, then we were obviously too afraid to have made some keen decisions when we still had the time to do so. This is regret. You know that regret shows its ugly face to you when you ask yourself questions like: “I only wish I had…”

I don’t think that this is a state of life that we should ever experience. It’s the toughest and saddest thing of all to realise that time is running out and that it is now to late to get dirty.

So, once again: Which one do you prefer?

Application of the lesson learnt to your business

Don’t waste an opportunity.

Life is full of opportunities. If you waste an opportunity you are effectively wasting life.

Same with your business. There are hundreds of opportunities. They usually come disguised as problems. And this is exactly what you should looking for: Problems. Most of all look for problems of your clients. If they have a problem you can be the problem solver. Customers are willing to pay huge amounts of money for someone who takes care of their problems. If you are an employee then become a trouble-shooter and don’t be a trouble-maker.

When companies hire they have only one question in mind: “Is the candidate sitting in front of me solving my problems or adding to my problems?” All other questions circle around exactly this one. Assessment centres, questionnaires, interviews, evaluations, checking your profile on Facebook – the only question why hiring companies are doing this is to find out to which group you belong: Creator of problems or solver of problems.

Which one do you prefer?

And now go and find some trouble. Look out for problems. If you find a problem don’t complain but act on it. It is the ultimate way of living a better life and creating a better business. And if you are a good problem solver clients will be more than happy to come back to you over and over again (and hand you heaps of money).

Tạm biệt,
Herzlichst,  Ihr Dr. Thomas Rose

If you want something do be done quickly give it to a busy man.

Letters from Vietnam (6): “That’s the best thing that happened to me” is usually a lie

Letters from Vietnam – Part 6

Or should it be: Lessons from Vietnam?

We all lie. Most of the time to ourselves

You must have made the following observation as well.

You are talking to somebody and he tells you his story. He recently went through some hardship. Be it that he lost his job, got through a divorce or had to cancel his holiday. When he gives us the details of the course of this experience then there is usually a twist and something completely unexpected but gratifying turned out to happen. If he lost his job he might have found a better one and he concludes that he didn’t like his old job anyway. After the divorce he met somebody far more attractive and the cancelled holiday gave him the opportunity to engage in a highly interesting project at work. What ever happened, all those stories end with the same phrase:

“This is the best that ever happened to me!”

This is usually a lie.

The last time when I lied to myself

Before I explain why we lie to ourselves let me tell when I last lied to myself. It only happened yesterday.

I am currently in Cambodia and yesterday, after visiting the breathtaking site of Angkor Wat in Siem Riep, I was travelling by bus back to the capital of Cambodia, Phnom Penh. During this trip we had a forced break due to a flat tire. The tire was fixed for 3US$ and the passengers could stretch their legs. So far, nothing extraordinaire. It happens all the time.

Most bus drivers usually make some extra money by picking up locals and giving them a lift. After the mentioned break I came back to my seat and it was occupied by an old Cambodian lady who the driver had allowed to embark. I tried to tell the lady that this was my place and that I would like to have it back. After all, it was a good seat.

My seat was a front seat and I booked early to make sure that I will have a seat that gives me the best opportunity to observe the flying by nature. Front seats are not only better because of the view. The further you sit in the back the more unpleasant the ride over these bumpy roads will become. If you sit in the back of a vehicle, especially behind the rear axis, you will find yourself most of the time under the ceiling. Far from my understanding of a pleasant journey. There was only one disadvantage about my front seat, and this was the air condition that I couldn’t regulate and it was freaking cold their.

Unfortunately I couldn’t make myself clear to the lady, she didn’t understand what I wanted. And I didn’t want to make a big fuzz about it so I took a seat further in the back. The ride was bumpier there and the view was not as good. However, the regulation of the aircon worked and I could shelter myself from the freezing breeze.

Then I concluded: “This is the best thing that happened to me on this journey!”


This was not the best thing that happened to me. I only changed my priorities. After all, picking a front seat was the consequence of some thoughtful reasoning. How can something that was out of my control and that happened by pure accident suddenly be a more favourable situation for me?

The lesson learnt: Why we lie to ourselves

We lie to ourselves because it eases our minds. We give up and conclude, that what we wanted is not that important anymore. We came in second and now we rationalise why that is such a great thing.

Now, don’t take me wrong.

I am a keen supporter of the idea to always look for the best even when things get rough. I am strongly convinced that there’s good in everything. And we should never stop searching for exactly this. But we shall not fool ourselves in convincing us that missing the target is something that we should have aimed at in the first place.

Application of the lesson learnt to your business

The application of the lesson learnt to your business is pretty easy though it may come as a surprise. Here it is:

Don’t be an easy quitter.

When we convince ourselves that it was a good thing not to reach our initial goals, than we abandon our plans, we hand control over to others and we give up. Rationalising is natures way to ease our pain when we don’t hit the target. Let’s not get fooled by that. It’s fine to have your Plan B ready, but you shouldn’t quit Plan A all too easy. If your business idea doesn’t work in the beginning then you should at least give it another ten tries. You’ll become better with every shot. And only when you have failed at least ten times you are entitled to accept that it’s not going to work.

And by the way, the number of attempts “ten” and the word “failing” are highly debatable. After Thomas Edison’s seven-hundredth unsuccessful attempt to invent electric light, he was asked by a New York Times reporter, “How does it feel to have failed seven hundred times?” The genius responded,

“I have not failed 700 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 700 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work.” Thomas Edison.

And now go, and try once more. Failure is an attitude, not a result.

Tạm biệt,
Herzlichst,  Ihr Dr. Thomas Rose

Letters from Vietnam (4): Know thy zippers!

Letters from Vietnam – Part 4

Or should it be: Lessons from Vietnam?

Know thyself

“There are three things extremely hard: steel, a diamond, and to know one’s self.”
Franklin, Benjamin

How true that is. Since we are so close to ourselves we have great difficulty to unbiasedly observe our true “me”. It’s like biting your own teeth, or like describing your glasses without taking them off. Everything that we perceive we perceive through our own filters, i.e. our experience, education and upbringing. Since we are usually not aware of our filters, we find that what we think of ourself equals reality. Other people, who don’t have our filters, observe something completely different when they look at us. This is reason enough for a good debate between two people, like husband and wife, or boss and employee.

This is especially true when it comes to our weaknesses and vulnerabilities. And we will focus on those two elements in this post.

Know your weaknesses and vulnerabilities

So far I have seen a lot of places here in Vietnam and I am enjoying myself very much, even though I miss the people I love and who couldn’t come with me. I have moved hotels within one city, I have stayed in different cities and I always carried my belongings in my backpack. To be precise, I have two backpacks. A small one for day travels and excursions and a bigger one for everything else I need here. When I am hiking the larger backpack accommodates the smaller one, so that I have my hands free to make wild gestures at barking dogs.

These backpacks hold a vast number of pockets. Together with the pockets in my trousers they add up to around twenty, a big deal of them protected by zippers. Every pocket has a specific assignment that I have chosen. There is a pocket for a knife and a lock, one for sanitary tissues (if I accidentally touched something scruffy), one for ATM receipts, tickets and paper mementos I want to keep, one for shoes, one for slippers, one for chargers and adapters, one for the Leatherman, one for small money, one for big money – and if I tell you more I will have to kill you.

My responsibility as a self-reliant traveller is to organise and to keep an overview of the pocket’s content. When I pack my possessions I make sure, that everything gets where it belongs to. Only by doing so I have everything quickly available that I might need.

But to be honest: I am a terrible organiser. The analysis of my personal motivations show me clearly, that organising is one of my weaknesses (On the plus side I’m at my best when flexibility is a demand).

This weakness turns into a vulnerability when I’m in a hurry. Sometimes I have to pack quickly (yes, I’m always late, too) and it has happened more than once that I carried my backpack with a zipper widely open, making my stuff an easy target for any pickpocket.

Hence my…

Lesson learnt

Know thy zippers!

Not only do I run around with my zippers open (not THAT zipper!) I do inapt things when I fumble with my pocket’s content, too. I had bystanders pointing to bank notes that I dropped, credit cards lying under the table, mobile phones in taxis and on chairs, sunglasses falling of my accelerating bike, and only two days ago I left my camera on the dinner table. And mind you, did I mention that I even forgot my passport in my last hotel in Saigon – Gosh! If my bottom wasn’t fixed to my back, it would still be sitting on the motorbike.

Fortunately I haven’t had any loss so far. But note, I am free from loss not because I am such a smart traveller. I owe my luck exclusively to the Vietnamese people who are extremely helpful, friendly and honest. I imagine that in many other countries people would have taken advantage of my stupidity. I feel blessed and I feel grateful.

So, what do my zippers have to do with your business? I’d say quite a lot.

Application of the lesson learnt to your business

The blemish of my organisational skills makes me blind to the details that ultimately secure my safety. Organisation in it self is a weakness of mine, and when certain circumstances join my weakness turns into a vulnerability. If I am vulnerable I can be attacked and even worse, I can lose.

And the same is true for your business. There might be certain areas of your business that – for what ever reason – you have not paid sufficient attention to. Like knowing everything about yourself is tough, knowing everything about your business is tough, too. We are simply too close to ourselves and our business. What helps is an external view or tools that help you reflect on your business and circumvent your personal filters. Tools that will help might be SWAT analysis and/or a change analysis. Contact me, if you need more information.

For now let me close with a thought for the still fresh and young 2013: Don’t get overstressed with your weaknesses. Just make sure you know them and get help. In short:

Count your blessings, not your blemishes.

Tạm biệt,
Herzlichst,  Ihr Dr. Thomas Rose