“It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.” The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R Tolkien
I just got back from New Zealand and one of our stops was "Hobbiton" near Matamata. It got me to thinking about Bilbo, Frodo, and . . . traveling.
From the quote listed above, I think Frodo and I are a lot alike . . . and I hate to say it but . . . he, and I, have got it entirely wrong. Reading the quote from Tolkien implies, on Frodo's part, a level of foreboding about traveling, a concept I understand. (This despite the obvious fact that Hobbits, at least of the Took variety, still go wandering.) However, looking at travel from this perch of fear or trepidation invites a number of negative outcomes . . . poor preparation (in my case, over packing), over focusing on possible negative outcomes (what if the plane crashes?) and, perhaps, in some cases, utter avoidance of travel altogether.
I recently got yet another reminder of the value (Oh, universal spirits, how many trials will it take for me to remember this lesson?) of my tendency to over-prepare and not travel light. What do I mean by "traveling light?" I mean taking only what you need, valuing the experience itself over hauling, maintaining and acquiring "stuff," putting your value in the people and places you visit rather than a self-absorbed concern about how being prepared, efficient, or avoiding a sense of failure.
In examining my case, and how I view it as a "dangerous business" to go out the door . . . here are the cold hard facts. First, I packed a "carry on" that I did not open once in three weeks of travel except to stuff my son's coat into it. (By the way the coat was unused, and one I insisted on him bringing) Second, I brought three pairs of shoes and wore one the entire trip. Third, I brought 4-5 pairs of jeans (for casual ware) but wore shorts everyday but two days--and only one pair of the jeans.
You see, when I travel I am consumed with taking everything we will need. I've had too many stops to purchase things that I already own because we have not considered all the circumstances we might encounter. In my defense, we had planned a long alpine trek that we did not do in the end. This might have justified the coats and the shoes . . . but not the jeans . . . and I can't ignore that it's not the first time I've returned home with a significant amount of unused items.
Traveling about, contemplating the over-affluence of my packing, makes me contemplate the other times in life that we over-prepare and don't take this life-journey as lightly as we could. As I return home other worries rise to my mind . . . work, financial, health, family, household . . . but how many of them are really things I need to spend mental energy "packing" for "just in case?"
Leaders (they are human after all) do this as well. Preparation (mission statements, budgets, strategic planning, new work processes) become the focus of their energy.
You see, in Frodo's case I know the end of the story. He'll be fine and have had a bit of an adventure in the process. Yes, he will lose friends, suffer and celebrate, change and grow. But none of it would have been better if he had focused on the danger at the start. My story's not that different. There is a pattern repeated over and over in my own history . . . and the worry of the adventure does nothing to lead me to better outcomes. Planning is a good thing . . . but irrational worry is not.
So my dear Frodo, it's good to have a map, a few things thrown into a knapsack, a bit of lambas bread, and . . . if you must, some Longbottom Leaf, but then step out the door and go on your way.