After the non-appearance of the A and R man at the Dog and Parrot and the decision not to swap one air-conditioned office for another, I saved as much money as I could from my temporary job as a data input clerk, a position also known at the time as a Man or Woman Friday, and left England in September 1992.

I was relieved to be on my way. The job at the catering supplier was both mind-numbingly boring and punctuated with two daily doses of a large amount of stress.

I received orders from the telesales department, noted by hand with pen on printed forms.

I then typed these into the database.

When I was finished, I had to key them all in again; such was the checking process at the time.

There were then two windows in the day when I connected my computer to the company central database and sent the data via a modem over the telephone line.

The number of orders in the day could not always be predicted, and on a busy day it was a race against the clock.

The culture in the office was less than progressive, and reprimands never seemed far away.

Occasionally, I woke up in the middle of the night, worried and sweating.

Never again, I thought, as I boarded my Lauda Air flight from Heathrow via Vienna to Bangkok. This would be my first visit to Asia.

I had read a lot about Thailand before arriving and was hugely excited. My travelling partner and I negotiated the local transport and arrived in a guesthouse just off the Khaosan Road.

We had a great time in and around Bangkok visiting places historical, cultured and not so.

This was my first experience of western expats of the impecunious variety. Many of them were great, others boastful of the time they had been on the road and the things they done and seen, and frankly some of them seemed unhinged.

We left Bangkok and headed north to Chiang Mai, then travelled around the Golden Triangle.

It was a truly wonderful time, packed with new experiences and points of view.

Lighting candles in temples was familiar from my grandmother doing the same in Catholic churches in England, as was the smell of incense, but I’d never seen monks in saffron robes who weren’t allowed to touch women.

After several weeks of urban and mountainous travels, we arrived at a beach hut on Koh Phi Phi.

We soon got into a routine, eating, drinking and talking at night, rising when rested, shuffling out for breakfast, aiming to get back to the hut for some time on the beach before it got too hot.

During some of these moments, soaking up the sun and drinking in the view, I seemed to be in a new kind of mood; something unknown. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, so strange it was.

After some time, I realised I was feeling something I don’t think I’d ever felt before, ever in my life. I was totally, completely, and utterly relaxed.

I fretted about and wanted for nothing. All was well.

It truly was a joy to realise that I felt nothing and I just was.

I’ve no idea what the sales processing system was like before it gave me night sweats in the summer of 1992. I suspect it’s much better now. I also imagine much of the human work has been eliminated or automated. Nothing wrong with that.

Away from people of my own background, I was learning to deal with different approaches from people who spoke my language, and completely different ones from those that did not. Often, the latter were easier to deal with.

So, what did I learn from this and take forward into my business?

There is always another point of view. It may be difficult to understand the point of view, but if you can attempt to find empathy with the thinking that produced it, this may give you the opportunity to learn and benefit from it.

Also: Eliminate, automate, delegate. Relax.

 

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