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Letters from Vietnam – Part 4
Or should it be: Lessons from Vietnam?
“There are three things extremely hard: steel, a diamond, and to know one’s self.”
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.
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.