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Letters from Vietnam (5): Plan as you like – life will tweak your nose

Anti-theft system to secure my belongings when I travel.

Letters from Vietnam – Part 5

Or should it be: Lessons from Vietnam?

Plan for the worst, expect the best

Or as Benjamin Frankling once put it:

By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.

When you go on a journey to Indochina you need to prepare. Be it vaccination, travel documents like flight tickets and visas, or planing your route and making a list of the places and things you want to see. One major concern of travel preparation is all the stuff that goes into your backpack. Over the course of my trips I managed to travel more and more lightly, and still I feel that I am carrying too much. Many things that I carry with me I have never worn or used. Especially my first-aid kit is literally untouched and unchanged since my trip to India in 2009. I need a plaster once in a while or some iodine, but thanks to my guardian angel nothing serious has ever happened to me. Well, I broke a rip once when I was thrown off by a camel. But even this misfortune could have ended much worse. So you won’t hear me complaining.

I daresay that there is a parallel between my first-aid kit and our lives: The things that we dread the most rarely happen in real life. They only happen in our imagination. We often expect the worst and prepare for the best, i.e. we worry too much and we prepare too little. I suggest we turn that around: Let’s prepare for the worst and expect the best. The worst that can happen to us is that we are over-prepared. In business that is rarely a bad thing and when you travel you simply add a little weight to you load.

Prepare as you like, however, there will be situations that you didn’t have in mind when you planned your journey. Life will come and tweak your nose because for the open-minded it is full of surprises and wonders. After all, isn’t life what happens when you are planning something else?

How I secure my backpack when I am not in the hotel

When my luggage is in the hotel while I am running around exploring the area, then I want my belongings to be safe from theft. One thing is for sure though: I will hardly be able to fully protect my belongings against the determined burglar. The only thing I can provide for is that it takes as long as possible for the snatcher to get hold of my possessions. At least I make sure that he will have to use some tools to seize my property.

The way I do it when I travel is by use of a Kensington security slot. I am always carrying a small netbook on my journeys and before I attach the Kensington lock to my computer I first fix the lock to something heavy or something fixed on a wall. I then thread the cable through a couple of loops of my backpack. Next I store the netbook deep in my backpack and close the backpack as tight as possible. And if I don’t forget I even check my zippers! 😉

And then life tweaked my nose

I did so when I was in Duong Dong the other day. I had checked into a hotel but the room we agreed on wasn’t ready, so the owner assigned me another room. When I was ready to explore the island of Phu Quoc the next morning I secured my backpack using the technique described above before I left. Since I couldn’t attach the sling to something fixedly mounted on the wall I threaded the cable through a heavy chair standing nearby. At the reception the owner told me that she is going to prepare the other room and that I shouldn’t worry. Everything would be fine.

When I was coming back a couple of hours later I opened the door to my new hotel room and was very much surprised to see my backpack standing next to the bed – still tightly fixed to that heavy chair. The lady of the house, who weighs hardly more than 45kg, had carried both pieces over a tiny staircase from the fourth to the first floor. When my surprise settled I had to laugh: My well planned and crafty security measures have been completely futile.

Lesson of the day

Life happens when you’re planning something else, right?

We can plan as much as we like, life will tweak our noses. There will always be happenings and occurrences that we couldn’t have thought of in our wildest dreams. Does this mean we should prepare less? I don’t think so. Instead draw your lessons from what happened. After all, school’s never out.

Application of the lesson learnt to your business

There are three keys to a successful business:

  1. Preparation
  2. Preparation
  3. Preparation

Prepare for your next meeting, prepare for your customer, and prepare for your employees, colleagues and associates. Prepare your speech, your presentation, your document and your spreadsheet.

But most of all: Prepare for the unexpected. That sounds like a contradiction, but it isn’t. More often than not you should have a “Plan B”. Ask yourself: What is the worst thing that can happen? And then be surprised that most of the things we fear never come to life at all.

And finally: If Plan B fails, I suggest you run through the alphabet.

Tạm biệt,
Herzlichst,  Ihr Dr. Thomas Rose