Day 42: All Business

Dear friends – I am sorry I have failed to blog so far. Finally found a minute on our Aer Lingus flight to Dublin (no private televisions, otherwise I’d likely be watching a movie and relaxing my brain instead). Since day one, my journey has been 100% nonstop whirlwind business. I have not had a weekend, day or single hour free from taskmastering this television series. We are wildly understaffed, under-budgeted and under-scheduled. When people regard my trip with envy, I shrug because this has been all grind and no play – perhaps the most difficult job I have ever had. I have not been able to engage in the places traveled because I spend nearly 60% of my waking hours buried in a device. All things considered, I have been to some pretty incredible locations. I fancy it a sampler platter of countries and have every intention of visiting many of them again.

After a stressful prep period in Dubai (which I shall revisit in a later post), we started filming in Singapore. Definitely an awkward first date for the crew, network and show but I anticipate a strong first episode. You can see a video recap of our trip below. Singapore was incredibly friendly to startups and foreigners. Many people we met in the city were not native and moved there for a change of pace. Everything was pretty clean and tidy, not much stress or chaos as far as cities go. We were there during Chinese New Year which meant that many businesses were closed and costs for everything else were much higher. If you ever get a chance to eat stingray, please do – absolutely delicious. Special thanks to Ken, our local production manager and guide, for taking care of us so well.

From Singapore, we ventured to Istanbul. Dear lord, amazing city. So much history, such ripe culture. Video below as well. I’ve never been to a place that’s so ancient. My inner architecture nerd couldn’t contain itself. We spent almost all of our time on the European side of the city in a district known for nightlife and trendy youth. We met some very talented people and shared several evenings with them. There’s a lot of incredible opportunity in Istanbul, but it’s clear that history and tradition stand in the way of an otherwise progressive mentality sometimes. Many of the entrepreneurs we met were looking elsewhere to start businesses. We ate a lot of street food and drank the absolute best Turkish coffee. Smoke everywhere – everyone smokes and every restaurant or bar we went to was filled with it. Until ten years ago, most of the city was still heated by coal, so you can imagine how polluted it might still be. With ancient urban planning, traffic was untenable the entire time. Our local production fixer, Berk, was an outstanding gentleman and an absolute blast to hang out with. We were very well taken care of in Istanbul and I look forward to returning.

Our next episode to film would have been Stockholm, but drama ensued – our shows hosts, Emiratis from Dubai, secured the wrong visas and were not allowed to board our flight. We discovered this when the rest of the crew landed in Sweden. A damn shame we couldn’t film the episode because Stockholm is a remarkable city. Packed with gorgeous people, flawless urban planning, and a selection of the world’s best cuisine, whiskey and beer. Outrageously expensive, so it’s probably good for our budget that we couldn’t stay the whole time scheduled. Partly from the smoke of Istanbul and partly from stress, I got wildly ill and spent half our stay in my hotel room. Blessing in disguise that we didn’t film. The rest of our time there was spent in uber trendy coffee shops, bars and restaurants. Every detail of Stockholm is painstakingly designed. Interior decor junkies would cry everywhere they go – even fast food joints were ornamental and carried world class brews. I’ll be damned if I don’t spend a lot more time in Stockholm before I die.

We reached Dublin yesterday two days early to regroup. We will film the Ireland episode this week and plan ahead for our future tours of travel. We will head back to Dubai and Abu Dhabi after we wrap Dublin March 7 to edit and prep our second tour of four countries in Asia. With the Stockholm error, we will have to reschedule the rest of our show – and milk an extra country out of the deal to replace Sweden (which I personally cannot complain about). We’re reevaluating difficult countries to enter and film like India and Brazil. If all goes well, we may get the chance to visit countries on all 6 continents which would be wild.

I will do my best to keep you posted along the way. The closer we get to the end, the less planning I will have to do and hopefully be able to win some minutes back to write you. No promises of course.  But please know that I love you.

Dehumanize Stressful Situations

It is extremely difficult to see straight when the world is crumbling around you. Emotions overwhelm, logistics tangle and solutions feel farther away than ever. Sometimes it is necessary to strip the humanity out of situations. Disregard feelings and look at the numbers. Treat prospective casualties and gains as data on a page. Sounds very cold, but every once in a while you need to find your footing to get through. To make hard decisions, it helps to break them down in front of you and see them clearly. Emotions do not translate well onto a page – but statistics, dollar amounts, time and body counts do. Get the situation out of your heart and out of your head. Only then will you be able to think straight and act diligently.

Defeat Things That Overwhelm You

You can accomplish amazing things when you have no fear, no distractions and nothing to lose. I am by no means an expert on any of those three things, but I am working hard to learn. Starting with distractions. Too many distractions on a regular basis – total loss of control – is overwhelming to me. Email plays a big role in that for me. Though it’s only been a week or two, I’ve found myself considerably less stressed out and thereby far more productive without email buzzing in my pocket. In all of my studies, I found that the smartest men and women in our era and history long before it knew how to focus on things that matter. I think part of that also has to do with ignoring or saying no to things that overwhelm or otherwise hurt you. I am a huge proponent of trying new things in new ways. But if something doesn’t work out for you, why keep doing it? Why let it keep happening? Especially if you don’t like it or if it overwhelms you? Do something about it. Shut it off. Tell him or her to leave. Be honest. Or just say, “no.” Whatever it takes to lift that burden on your shoulders and get on with your life.

Listen To Your Body

I’ve spent my entire life putting work first and my body second. I practically didn’t sleep in high school and college. I cannot afford to do that anymore. And neither can you. Put your health first. If you don’t, you won’t live long enough to get your work done or whatever it is you think is more important. Stop moving, rest, take the day off if you need to.

Time OR Stress, Not Both

In college, sleep deprivation and stress pushed my heart to the edge and sent me to the doctor one too many times. I’ve made very long strides to take better care of myself since then. Lately, I’ve been sleeping an average 7.8 hours per night if you’d believe it. I’ve always tried to be a badass and keep things cool in spite of the pain. Looking back, the number of times I boasted to peers about all-nighters makes me sick. Anymore, I keep it as cool as possible for my health: playing things down and taking situations less seriously has the magical effect of helping you actually take situations less seriously.

Over the years, I’ve learned one thing about personal investment in your job, projects or activities overall: you can give it all of your time or give it all of your stress, but not both. The cumulative tax on your body and mental health is not sustainable. If you find yourself stressing out about your work, give it time away. If you find yourself completely entrenched in working hours, find whatever way possible to breathe and relax as often as possible.

If you can’t find a way to be at peace with the way you’re spending your time, start considering serious damage control. Life is too short to sell your time, health, happiness and your soul.

Keep Your Eye On the Prize

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by failure, errors, bugs, hurdles and drama. Rough patches and setbacks are never fun. You can either throw up your hands, whine and get beaten down by them – or you can look past and move forward. Focus operates hand-in-hand with success. If you keep your eye on the prize and ignore the rest, you can still cross the finish line in good time. Do what you can to put the stress, pain and drama aside for the time being. Go for a walk, eat a meal, take a nap – whatever it takes to cleanse, reset and get back on the horse. Man up, get the job done – and then complain.

Listen to Your Body

I spent the better part of my high school and college years fighting my body and pretending to be immortal. For that, I was rewarded with threats to my heart and notable memory retention deprivation. We’ve only got one body (as far as I know), so what’s the point? It’s like using a million-dollar prize for firewood and burning most of it up in one fell swoop. Damn shame. Why not listen to your body and take care of it? If you’re tired, sleep. If you’re hungover, don’t drink more. If you’re hungry, eat. If you’re sick, rest. Simple logic far too often ignored. Very shortsighted to ignore these signals in favor of making a good impression at the office, meeting a deadline or proving a point. Especially dumb to put your body to the test as some public point of pride. Why I bragged about how little sleep I got in high school is beyond me. Don’t do it. It’s dumb. Take care of yourself!

Just Ask

We preoccupy ourselves with speculation. More than half of our stress comes from inferred details that may not even be true. We can keep working ourselves up over nothing. Or we can just ask. Ask the truth. Try to get to the bottom of things. You don’t need to be confrontational. If it helps to fight ambiguity with more ambiguity to sound less direct or confrontational, that’s fine. However you do it, just do it.

Exercising A Healthy Attitude

Positive Attitude (comics)

Charles Swindoll said, “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” It’s all about attitude and what you take personally. If you don’t let things bother you, life rolls on pretty pain-free. I do not promote ignorance, however, so people with an inherent “whatever” attitude disappoint me with how disconnected they are from the people and issues around them. You need to care – often care a lot – to make a difference in this world. It takes the balance of a monk and the stamina of an olympian to put your heart everywhere and nowhere at the same time. It’s exhausting and you need to make sure you stay in good shape to keep the balance alive. My brother said it well: “If you don’t have the energy to be positive, it’s impossible to be positive – your health is your first priority.” Your reaction to life depends solely on your frame of mind. If you are mentally or physically beat to hell, it’s pretty difficult to muster a positive reaction to anything. Make a point to sleep well, eat well and take real breaks. Take care of yourself. With a healthy mind, you can meet life with a healthy attitude and virtuous reactions. Otherwise, you will foster an exponential geyser of negativity that will only drag you down and keep making life worse.