About six months ago, I traveled to Vietnam for a much-needed vacation with my wife and some good friends. Little did I know that each day I would be pushed out of my comfort zone--sometimes just a little, and many times quite a lot. But regardless of how each day started, they always ended with exhilaration, happiness, and, often, a lot of sweat.
One day, for example, I decided to embark on a quest to find the best Vietnamese coffee in the Old Quarter of Hanoi. The making of coffee, as I soon found out, is a highly refined art in Vietnam, and they have some of the best in the world. However, embarking on this quest meant immediately being pushed outside my comfort zone.
I had arrived at the airport late the night before, so I wasn't sure what to expect upon exiting my hotel the next morning. I was immediately overwhelmed by the cacophony of sounds and sights--thousands of scooters zipping to and fro, looming tourist buses, voices over loudspeakers, and hordes of pedestrians walking up and down the street. Did I really see scooters with families of 4 and refrigerators and big panes of glass tied to the back? You bet I did, and the kitchen sink--there is no payload off-limits to these scooter-cruising families.
As I turned left to find that coffee, I quickly discovered that the preferred parking place of those thousands (millions?) of scooters is any available sidewalk. This meant that we pedestrians--including me--were required to put our lives quite literally in the hands of the drivers of those scooters whizzing by at 30 miles an hour as we were forced to walk in the street. This immediately put me way beyond my comfort zone and into scared-for-my-life mode. Although initially scary, I observed how others were navigating the streets and scooters and pushed myself to get into the flow. Soon, I actually realized that I was enjoying the just-barely-in-control chaos that is Hanoi. And the egg coffee I found at the end of my quest turned out to be far beyond great--it was truly sublime.
This experience--along with the many others I had I had in Vietnam--opened my eyes to the fact that, each time I pushed myself outside my comfort zone, I learned something important about myself.
I learned that if I push myself hard enough, I really can accomplish anything.
I learned to trust others more--all of those scooters were trying really hard not to hit me.
I learned that there are very different and very entrepreneurial ways of doing things that never occurred to me. Talk about outside-the-box thinking--Vietnam demonstrates entrepreneurship at its greatest and cleverest every day of the week.
With each passing day, I felt more at ease and at home. By the last two days of my trip, I was venturing out for coffee and walks without a second thought to the scooters racing just inches away from me.
I learned that the world is full of genuinely nice and welcoming people--a very humbling experience to say the least.