For the scientific advances we all enjoy, we can thank India. They contributed zero. The number zero.
Until Arabic numerals, including zero, were invented, the Western world used Roman numerals, which were cumbersome for doing math:
Imagine how difficult it would have been to conduct business, much less create complex formulas for physics.
Mughal invaders took the new numeral system back to Central Asia. Then Arab invaders took it back to the Middle East. From there it reached Europe in time to form the foundations of the technology revolution.
Why does this matter? Because intercultural borrowing is crucial to progress. And basic knowledge might be more useful than specific inventions. For example, Japan benefited far more from borrowing the Total Quality Management System than they did from borrowing the transistor.
Do you have the humility to borrow ideas and practices from others?
Olaf the Stout was a Norwegian Viking king. He was a barrel-chested, powerful leader and a ruthless tyrant. His goal was to build a united nation out of the sea kingdoms.
Olaf recognized the value of Christian institutions for establishing legitimacy in nation building. He could see that church institutions made a country seem more legit. So Olaf pushed for Christianizing Norway.
Once he succeeded, the Catholic church felt the need to keep Norway solidly in the church fold. So they established Olaf as a symbol. After he died, they immediately canonized him. Now we call him St. Olaf.
Their strategy worked. As soon as Viking kingdoms were Christianized, they stopped killing, raping, and looting the rest of Europe. And symbols such as St. Olaf played critical roles in changing mindsets.
The strategy is common today. For me, Robert E. Lee had always represented patriotism and states’ rights. Recently, however, someone skillful in manipulating public opinion decided that Robert E. Lee will now symbolize slavery and oppression. Other examples abound.
::: The story makes me wonder: what do I symbolize? :::
This exercise is useful. I challenge you to try it: What do you symbolize?
I have a mission: to make you more innovative and successful. I have been preparing for this project for 35 years, when I began my own program of personal improvement. I was in high school, and had acquired my own Daytimer, and began setting personal goals. Juvenile goals. But I accomplished them all.
Imagine yourself as a Global Innovator. You have the traits needed to better solve problems and innovate through superior creativity and traits needed to confidently conduct international business through excellent intercultural navigation skills.
The best way to describe these traits is KSAs: Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities. My task is to build KSAs for success in you, as I have done for many others.
Since high school I have learned that setting goals is a very small part of success in today’s competitive world. So let’s keep the conversation going.
I have a system. But feel free to share your interests.
When I travel to a new city, I first like to breathe in the air of the new place. I enjoy the aroma of unique spices, unique plants, and millennia of accumulated sweat absorbed into the surroundings. It makes me a more educated person by expanding my sensibilities.
Here are a few more hacks to help you experience more successful business travel (this is a continuation from yesterday).
First suggestion. . . When you arrive, your suit might be terribly wrinkled. If you pack it right, it should be okay, but it might have unraveled when TSA agents rifled through your luggage. What I do: hang it in the shower and turn on the steam for a few minutes. This makes any suit look better. (Here is your cue to make an angry comment about how environmentally insensitivity I am. I may have killed baby seals. Go ahead and rant, I deserve it.)
The second hint: do something to experience the local culture. In my philosophy, you are trying to expand yourself as a human, not just do your job. Why not do both? When I visit a new foreign city, I like to do four things in order to feel I have really experienced it:
1. Visit a grocery store. I like to see how real people gather real ingredients to sustain their families.
2. Experience public transportation. I feel that I have not experienced a place until I have been jostled and rushed with the regular people on their commuter trains or chicken buses or motorized rickshaws.
3. Talk to real people and hear their stories. To be immersed in the lived experiences of laborers and shopkeepers, to glean morals from their stories, then to accumulate the stories, is to better understand how the world really works. Taxi drivers and resting grandmothers teach much more than 18-year-old tour guides.
4. Be inconvenienced and not complain. This reiterates what I wrote yesterday, but being able to fly through the air while someone serves you a cola is something that few people ever experience. It is not a basic human right. If you hit a cancellation or inclement weather or appalling customer service or a delay en route, think of it as a potentially interesting detour. Going off itinerary might be the road less travelled that makes all the difference in your personal development.
Third business travel suggestion: have a packing list in Evernote or other note-taking app. That way you can edit it during travel when you realize that next time you should bring some specific item.
Finally, talk to other travelers. New ideas come when you talk to new people. Traveling is your chance to do that. Of course, it entails two risks: (1) being the annoying person who won’t shut up, or (2) getting stuck talking to an annoying person who will not shut up. So be judicious.
A few years ago, I assisted an air marshal in wrestling a criminal passenger on a United flight over the Pacific ocean. My spontaneous efforts were not crucial, but at the time it was exciting to use dormant fighting skills.
I have traveled a lot, mostly internationally. I have visited over 30 countries. About 90 percent of the trips have been self-financed, so I have developed some strategies to make travel more comfortable and less expensive.
How does this topic relate to developing competencies for success? Because sometimes it is as important to pull weeds as to cultivate orchards. Traveling can sap energy needed to create the best version of yourself. Here are a few travel hints.
First, secure a comfortable seat for the flight. First class is rarely worth the price, but I need to be rested for meetings at my destination. I pay the extra for a bulkhead seat. My favorite is the window seat on the bulkhead, with more legroom than I could possibly need, and no one to wake me up as they climb over me to find a restroom. For a couple of years, I was able to always secure it for free because I was at some super-elite-level status through frequent traveling. But no more.
Secondly, don’t stress about anything. If all the engines quit and your plane is in flames and plummeting towards the earth, you can be nervous. But don’t have the same reaction because you were not the first passenger to board the plane or because you are stuck in a middle seat. Being angry about poor customer service or the many annoyances of travel will drain your emotional batteries without changing the situation. I adopt the Buddhist practice of prajna, or letting go of expectations, though I am not Buddhist.
Don’t eat airline food. Some research suggests that our digestive systems slow down in flight. So eating a lot can apparently exacerbate jet lag. Very few airlines serve astounding food in economy class. I take granola bars and healthy trail mix or nuts. I don’t drink out of airport water fountains because I don’t want to get sick during an important trip. I gladly pay the aggressive prices for bottled water because it is cheaper than dehydration.
Thirdly, take an engaging nonfiction book to read (preferably ebook on your tablet), and a notebook for jotting ideas. First, this prevents frustration during delays. When a boarding or takeoff delay is announced, many people around me become peeved. Their mood wastes energy and creates muscle tension. I pull out my ebook and flip to the bookmark. Secondly, traveling both takes me out of my routine and exposes me to new sites and sounds, so I am usually more creative. I record my new ideas in the notebook I carry. Of course both of them are on my iPad, which also has my e-ticket so it is in my hand as I wait in line.
These suggestions have powerfully improved my personal productivity. I have a few more great ideas, but I’ll save them for tomorrow.