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The Next Time You Travel…Travel With Fear

The Next Time You Travel…Travel With Fear
    Photo by Carolucyjones

    I was reading a Chinese travel book recently, by the Editor-in-Chief of the Chinese edition of Business Weekly and a FT Contributor, Xu Zhiyuan. In his preface, he quoted Albert Camus’ The Notebooks, on what travel meant:

    “What gives value to travel is fear. It is the fact that, at a certain moment, when we are so far from our own country we are seized by a vague fear, and an instinctive desire to go back to the protection of old habits. This is the most obvious benefit of travel. At that moment we are feverish but also porous, so that the slightest touch makes us quiver to the depths of our being. We come across a cascade of light, and there is eternity.”

    This struck a chord with me. I’ve lived and worked in 6 countries, whilst travelling to visit over 150 cities in the world. Yet, I don’t remember all of it; the travelling that had the most profound effect on me were also the ones filled with fear. It might not have been a jungle exploration or coming close to being eaten by a lion on the African safari, but more so, the sense of insecurity I had felt when meshed in unfamiliar geographies.

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    The instinctual response to fear is to get rid of it. The web is loaded with articles on how to get rid of fear. I agree that unnecessary fear inhibits the mind, but I advocate that we embrace the fear within us and transform it into fuel.

    Every time I had travelled or moved to a different country since I can remember, I was wrought with fear. Fear for the uncertainty, the language barrier, security, or simply, where can I buy breakfast. Every bit of travelling expended mental energy. Sometimes, I was so exhausted from trying to explain myself in frantic gestures in order to get a bottle of water from the corner shop because I couldn’t utter the local language, that I’d prefer to go thirsty. Other times, I was just afraid people would laugh at my strange accent.

    The fear made me feel uncomfortable, and embarrassed. Indeed, the reaction was to go home to what I was familiar with, or to go travelling only to a place I had been before and knew my way around. However, the fear also made me more alert to my surroundings.

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    A few years back, as I sat at Angkor Wat, breathing in the majesty of the ancient architecture and the spirituality of the construction, I also noticed little children dressed in rags, running around selling cold water for USD1. Their joyful little faces for having sold a bottle touched my heart. I could not understand why they were so happy, and that I was filled with void and emptiness for making many more times that money at my job. They had no food, and I had gourmet cuisine at my fingertips. The Cambodians only recently experienced some of the most traumatizing genocide and human tragedies in their history. I had never seen a war. I was overwhelmed with compassion for the less fortunate around me. Surely, poverty existed also in my hometown, and yet I had never noticed it before. I had also, not had the time to slow down and think about the life I was living, fooling myself that I was enjoying it, and allowing my pride to over bolster my ego.

    Travelling brought me out of my comfort zone. I questioned myself: my life, my plans, and the community around me. I asked what I could do better for me and for others. I searched within my soul for the darkness and ugly side of me that I needed to confront. I was shaken with fear not only for burglars and unclean food in a city I had not been in, but for fear of what my life’s purpose was in the bigger picture and what I might discover of myself. I fear for what I might unveil about myself on the journey, because old habits were easier to indulge in.

    Since that fateful day in Siem Reap, I had been planning my exit from a corporate job, and also started taking part in more charity work for children wherever I might be based. Life took a different course than I had planned with my illness 2 years ago but that’s a different story for another day.

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    Fear became a friend, and taught me to become sensitive to my inner voices, and empathetic to others. Fear brought about my self-awareness.

    Every time I travel, there is a nervous anticipation to what I might discover on the trip. Sunbathing on a beach or visiting the local museum alike, I let my senses open up to what the universe is trying to tell me.

    And so I urge you, the next time you travel to a foreign city, and you are scared of talking to a stranger, or how to get cash, allow the fear to consume you. Embrace the fear and let it open your eyes to things you did not think you would see.

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    Travel with sensitivity. Fear can be your friend. Be not afraid of it. 

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    Last Updated on July 8, 2020

    What Everyone Is Wrong About Achieving Inbox Zero

    What Everyone Is Wrong About Achieving Inbox Zero

    Ah, Inbox Zero. An achievement that so many of us long for. It’s elusive. It’s a productivity benchmark. It’s an ongoing battle.

    It’s also unnecessary.

    Don’t get me wrong, the way Inbox Zero was initially termed is incredibly valuable. Merlin Mann coined the phrase years ago and what he has defined it as goes well beyond the term itself.[1]

    Yet people have created their own definition of Inbox Zero. They’re not using it with the intent that Mann suggested. Instead, it’s become about having nothing left in immediate view. It’s become about getting your email inbox to zero messages or having an empty inbox on your desk that was once filled with papers. It’s become about removing visual clutter.

    But it’s not about that. Not at all.

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    Here’s what inbox zero actually is, as defined by Mann:

    “It’s about how to reclaim your email, your atten­tion, and your life. That “zero?” It’s not how many mes­sages are in your inbox–it’s how much of your own brain is in that inbox. Especially when you don’t want it to be. That’s it.” – Merlin Mann

    The Fake Inbox Zero

    The sense of fulfillment one gets from clearing out everything in your inbox is temporary at best, disappointing at worst. Often we find that we’re shooting for Inbox Zero just so that we can say that we’ve got “everything done that needed to be done”. That’s simply not the case.

    Certainly, by removing all of your things that sit in your inbox means that they are either taken care of or are well on their way to being taken care of. The old saying “out of sight, out of mind” is often applied to clearing out your inbox. But unless you’ve actually done something with the stuff, it’s either not worth having in your inbox in the first place or is still sitting in your “mental inbox”.

    You have to do something with the stuff, and for many people, that is a hard thing to do. That’s why Inbox Zero – as defined by Mann – is not achieved as often as many people would like to believe. It’s this “watered down” concept of Inbox Zero that is completed instead. You’ve got no email in your inbox and you’ve got no paper on your desk’s inbox. So that must mean you’re at Inbox Zero.

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    Until the next email arrives or the next document comes your way. Then you work to get rid of those as quickly as possible so that you can get back to Inbox Zero: The Lesser again. If it’s something that can be dealt with quickly, then you get there. But if they require more time, then soon you’ve got more stuff in your inboxes. So you switch up tasks to get to the things that don’t require as much time or attention so that you can get closer to this stripped down variation of Inbox Zero.

    However, until you deal with the bigger items, you don’t quite get there. Some people feel as if they’ve let themselves (or others) down if they don’t get there. And that, quite frankly, is silly. That’s why this particular version of Inbox Zero doesn’t work.

    The Ultimate Way to Get to Inbox Zero

    So what’s the ultimate way to get to Inbox Zero?

    Have zero inboxes.

    The inbox is meant to be a stop along the way to your final destination. It’s the place where stuff sits until you’re ready to put it in the place where it sits until you’re ready to deal with it.

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    So why not skip the inbox altogether? Why not put it in the place where it sits until you’re ready to deal with it? Because that requires immediate action. It means you need to give the item some thought and attention.

    You need to step back and look at it rather than file it. That’s why we have a catch-all inbox, both for email and for analog items. It allows us to only look at these things when we’re ready to do so.

    The funny thing is that we can decide when we’re ready to without actually looking at the inbox beforehand. We can look at things on our own watch rather than when we are alerted to or feel the need to.

    There is no reason why you need an inbox at all to store things for longer than it sits there before you see it. None. It’s a choice. And the choice you should be making is how to deal with things when you first see them, rather than when to deal with things you haven’t looked at yet.

    Stop Faking It

    Seeing things in your inboxes is simply using your sight. Looking at things in your inbox when you first see them is using insight.

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    Stop checking email more than twice per day. Turn off your alerts. Put your desk’s inbox somewhere that it can be accessed by others and only accessed by you when you’re ready to deal with what’s in it. Don’t put it on your desk – that’s productivity poison.

    If you want to get to Inbox Zero — the real Inbox Zero — then get rid of those stops along the way. You’ll find that by doing that, you’ll be getting more of the stuff you really want done finished much faster, rather than see them moving along at the speed of not much more than zero.

    More Productivity Tips to Get Organized

    Featured photo credit: Web Hosting via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Merlin Mann: Inbox Zero

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