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.
When I was 16, I was asked by family friends to help them for a summer on their farm. On the border of Nevada and Utah, the farm was hundreds of miles from the city, near an old Pony Express trail. I ended most days viewing the most beautiful sunsets I have ever witnessed. I have since experienced exquisite sunsets in the South Pacific, the Caribbean, and dozens of other places which could not compare. The dust from the dry country roads, stirred by cattle trucks and harvesting machines, somehow amplified the colors in the dusk light. Sunsets are not what I most remember, however.
The family lived in a place so remote that no broadcast signals reached the farm. They couldn’t watch television or listen to the radio. So I listened to the three available albums on cassette tape: Blackout by the Scorpions, British Steel by Judas Priest, and Pyromania by Def Leppard. All I heard was a limited slice of hard rock during that hot summer of hauling hay, moving massive irrigation pipes, and repairing fences.
The takeaway is the way the music changed me. I don’t think it was inherently good or bad music, but it was limited. I forgot Mozart after a couple of weeks, then I eventually forgot about Van Halen. I started to believe that those three albums represented the entire culture of the world. Through being completely immersed, my worldview changed. I still laugh at myself when I think of my mindset shift that summer.
This can happen to self-learners. Because we study only what we want, we can insulate ourselves from variety. If you want to be educated, you must expose yourself to a variety of viewpoints, particularly those with which you disagree.