I was in my hotel room when I took off my shirt to wash. And then I realized. I don’t have another one to wear.
The shirt I took off was already soaking in water. And I was standing bare in the middle of the room.
It was 6 in the evening, -20 degrees Celcius and snowing outside, and I was in Shenyang, China. I was about to go out to get something for dinner. I missed my lunch that day. I was starving.
So while staring at my thin black jacket on the couch, I had a choice to make. To sleep without dinner or go out in that thin black jacket for food while risking myself with hypothermia.
Earlier that day, I lost all my luggage. And this is the story of what happened next.
For a vegetarian like me in a country like China, food options were severely limited. I had only two options, hot kimchi or bland rice.
I was in a country where I didn’t speak the language. I had nothing but a laptop bag and some money. Plus, I was on a project that needed much of my attention.
When I used to work with LG Electronics, I traveled to China several times. In 2005, it was my first trip to China with four of my colleagues. We traveled from Pune to Mumbai, Mumbai to Delhi, Delhi to Shanghai, and then Shanghai to Shenyang.
We landed early morning in Shenyang after about 26 hours of continuous travel. Totally exhausted, we were waiting for our bags. And while every other passenger was gone, and all my colleagues collected their bags, I was still waiting for mine.
You see, the plane we boarded from Delhi was going to Osaka, Japan, via Shanghai. And it turned out that during the domestic transfers in Shanghai, they missed transferring my luggage. So, I haven't been to Japan, but my bags have been there!
After all the necessary formalities and some paperwork, the airline staff assured me of returning my luggage in about three days. And we were so exhausted that we had no energy and interest left to argue with anyone. So, we left for the hotels.
I only had my laptop bag, phone (not even smartphone), a little cash, no credit card, and passport. Fortunately, I also had a thin jacket on me, which was kind of helpful in -20 degrees Celcius and snow at that time.
It was a struggle. But I managed with whatever I had for the next few days. So, when I think about it, I smile at how I managed those three days.
Resourcefulness in our daily life might be a little less dramatic than Apollo-13. But still, it is definitely one of the most remarkable and must-have traits.
The thing is, we don’t always have to wait for something to go wrong. So, if we want to build resourcefulness, try creating artificial constraints when doing something. And then, see how you cope with that.
I often limit my social media posts to 150 words or less, or sometimes I put a time limit for my videos. For instance, can I make it exactly 1 min 25 sec long, not more, not less? Sometimes, I say "yes" to a few meetings that are scheduled at odd hours. Then I work around my schedule to accommodate them. The point is, when we practice like this, we learn to exploit our limitations.
Sometimes, all you need is a new perspective. So, gamify things to practice resourcefulness daily. Let your limitations fill you with strength rather than depleting your power.
The more we constrain ourselves, the more resourceful we become.
It’s kind of unfortunate that most of us live in a world so full of resources that we have actually brainwashed ourselves into a world full of scarcity. But, it doesn’t have to be that way. While resourcefulness is not a shortcut to success, it is how we should approach our life. It’s the mindset and practice that we must build on to progress.
I have a simple formula; strong need plus creativity plus perseverance equals resourcefulness.
Strong need + Creativity + Perseverance = Resourcefulness
Then, on the third day, the airline staff called. She told me they got my bags, but I must collect them myself. They cannot deliver it. So, I stopped whatever I was doing in my R&D lab and went to the airport.
My bags looked exhausted. But I was relieved to get them back; finally. I had several packets of ready-to-eat food, which made the rest of my stay comfortable. Whatever was left of it. That night I had a proper dinner, and I was also able to sleep peacefully.
It was the first and last time I lost my bags during travel.
But those 72 hours captured one important learning, and it is this — “Resourcefulness is the ability. To use what you have, to get what you want.”
Resourcefulness is the ability to use what you have to get what you want.