Jul 21

Letting Bad Things Happen

It’s been a while since I read the 4-Hour Workweek but there is one key idea I got from the book which has stayed in my mind and I believe has served me well, particularly when I travel.

“Oftentimes, in order to do the big things, you have to let the small bad things happen”.

Whenever you try to go after your dreams or complete an important goal, bad things will happen. Phone calls and emails from potential clients may go unanswered, resulting in missed opportunities for work. You may also miss an important family event, or a visit from a relative you haven’t seen in years. (All of these things happened to me on my last trip).

If you’re a responsible adult, chances are you will never find a truly convenient time to travel, or get married, or go back to school, or learn a new language. There will always be some other important task you should or could be doing instead.

I am amazed at the number of comments and emails I received in my travel blog during my absence, comments I would have loved to promptly reply to.

This is one of the hardest things for most of us to deal with and it wasn’t until I read the 4HWW that I felt like I was finally given permission to let a few small things fall through the cracks, in order to complete a task of greater value.

I chose to make my recent trip to France a top priority because otherwise, it would have remained forever in my ‘someday’ list, along with many other someday dreams and wishes I’ve been postponing for years.

I arbitrarily set the date of April 1st as my departure date and sure enough, on the last week of March, several urgent matters popped up which made me feel guilty, irresponsible and scared about going overseas on an extended trip.

Except for a leaking water heater, I can only vaguely recall what were the emergencies I had at the time that threatened to derail my travel plans, which shows how unimportant they were in the first place.

As it usually happens when I travel, I received a few requests for freelance work (good jobs) exactly on those few days when I didn’t check my emails, either because I was traveling between cities or because I didn’t have a reliable Wi-Fi connection or because I was simply to tired to power up my laptop at the end of the day to check messages.

When I finally checked my emails a few days later, feelings of guilt and frustration swept over me, “I should have notified everybody I know ahead of time, I shouldn’t have let three days go by without checking emails, I’ll never be a ‘digital nomad’, I could have…” and then I remembered Tim Ferris words: “bad things will happen”.

It is important to get in the habit of allowing bad things to happen, sometimes, in order make room for life changing experiences and the truly important tasks that will make a difference in our lives.

I am not advocating that you ignore important deadlines or fail to complete an assignment in time or ignore your financial obligations. To quote from Tim Ferris again:

“Be focused on work or focused on something else, never in-between. Time without attention is worthless, so value attention over time”.

– Is there an urgent ‘to do item’ you can purposely let go or ignore for a few days? Try turning an urgent item into a non-urgent one and push it to the bottom of your to do list.

– Take an important, non-urgent item (important to you that is) and turn it into a crisis. Start working on it first thing in the morning and don’t allow any interruptions until you finish.

Some phone calls or emails do not have to be returned right away. Really. Make it a habit to let bad things happen. Feel the discomfort and do it anyway.


    • Stacy on July 22, 2010 at 7:47 am

    This is so true. Everytime I plan to spend a weekend working on my projects there’s usually a baby shower, a visit from a relative or some family event to wipe away my time.

    Thanks for reminding me that I need to take time for those ‘someday’ goals.

    • Debbie on July 22, 2010 at 12:59 pm

    I always liked John Lennon’s words: “Life is what happens when you’re making other plans!”
    No matter what we plan, there will always be things to throw us off course.

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