There are lots of things that I’ve thought about over the last seven years of traveling and teaching and following stories through my company, Global Next. There have been more people, places, wars and revolutions than I could ever write about here. But I thought I’d share seven insights – in honor of Global Next’s seventh anniversary. Here are the top seven:
- Do not trust the media. They might have part of the story right, but rarely do they give the full story, both sides or comprehensiveness. Having visited more than 40 countries in the last seven years, I have learned the value of chasing information, asking hard questions and getting better answers. The problem will always be, many people won’t like the information you get. But that doesn’t change the information.
- People will take advantage of you. If doesn’t matter where you go, or what the culture; if you have it in your mind to invest in the lives of others, people will take advantage of you. So if you want to invest in the people of this world, just hold loosely to your things, your money and your heart – because they will be taken, and they will not be given back to you in the same condition in which you offered them. Be wary – be wise, but don’t expect the world to take care of you.
- People don’t change. This statement makes so many people mad – so I will qualify it. People do mature – at varying rates. People do learn things. But generally, what you see is what you get. So, don’t become so surprised when people continue to act the way they’ve always acted or don’t do what you hoped they would. A colleague of mine recently told me (and I’m sure I’m paraphrasing badly) “You can polish a piece of dog poop all you want, but it won’t turn it into a brownie.” True.
- People pretty much want the same things no matter where you go. From Paris to Kabul and from Rome to Kashmir, people want hope, respect, connection and purpose. Oh, and maybe an iPhone 6. And if, in this world, you find a friend who truly understands you, who is who he says he is, who bothers himself to care about things bigger than himself, don’t let go of that person. They don’t come by very often.
- Packing lighter is always better. Be clean. Wear deodorant. But seriously think about whether or not you really need to bring something with you when you travel. The less I travel with, the happier I am. Think “hobo with a bindle on a stick,” only with a little more class – and hopefully with a little more life purpose. (And yeah – look up the word “bindle.”)
- Be action oriented. I know a lot of dreamers and thinkers. I know lots of people who say, “One day, I’m going to….” or “Wouldn’t it be great if…” Dreaming is not the same as doing – and from the last seven years, I am so glad that I put plans to my dreams. That I bought airline tickets with my hopes, that I organized leadership conferences with my ideas and that I chased new stories instead of sticking with just the old ones. Go. See. Lead.
- God is better to me than I deserve. In safety, in providing opportunities to learn, to experience other cultures, to have my perspective shifted – in all those ways and more, God has been good to me. I have memories and perspectives that I would never have had if I had just stayed on my couch. And with all the perception of global instability, God has been with me and protected me through it all. And not because of me – but because of who He is.
Bonus Insight: Buy paintings! This is the best souvenir collection I ever started. I have more than 40 paintings hanging in my house from local artists from the places I visited. They mark special events (meeting a senior leader of Hamas in Damascus, interviewing bin Laden’s chief of security in Yemen, spending Passover in Jerusalem, meeting Abdul Edhi in Pakistan covering the beginning of the revolution in Ukraine, working with Ary Rasool in Iraq) and remind me of why I do what I do. As long as they hang in my house constantly telling their stories, they will not let me rest for long before going back out to chase stories and do my best to pour myself into something that matters more than me or my comfort.
Global Next Art Gallery: http://www.globalnext.org/global-art-gallery/
Global Next: http://www.globalnext.org