A few weeks ago, I did something I wasn’t sure I’d ever get to do – fly to Europe, and visit Hungary, the birthplace of my grandparents. My daughter and I spent two weeks in Budapest, with a day trip to Vienna, Austria and another day trip to Bratislava, Slovakia thrown in for good measure.
If you ever get a chance to visit another country, especially another continent, I highly recommend it. The experience was amazing. I loved hearing the Hungarian language again. My grandmother and mother spoke it, but the only times I would hear a lot of it would be at Christmas when we visited my grandmother’s church and ate dinner at the church hall. I also kicked myself for never learning more than a couple of words like kicsit (little), lánya (girl), and köszönöm (thank you).
Coming from the United States, a young country by European standards, I marveled at the centuries old churches, medieval castles and even Roman ruins! I also learned much about Hungary’s dark history. The country was on the losing side of two world wars, and was controlled by the Soviet Union after World War II until 1991.
One of the sites we visited in Budapest was the House of Terror Museum. The building in which the museum resides was used both by the Nazi Party and after the war, by the Communists. The museum details how both the Nazis and the Communist Party interrogated, tortured and killed thousands of Hungarians in the basement of the building. This video gives a good overview of the museum:
On the bright side of things, we ate some fabulous food in Budapest, including chicken paprikas, goulash, palinka, and Kürtőskalács, otherwise known as a chimney cake. That doesn’t count the fabulous schnitzel we ate at Figlmüller’s restaurant in Vienna, or the delicious garlic soup and gnocci-style dumplings we had at the Slovak Pub in Bratislava.
What does all this have to do with business? Here are a few lessons I learned:
1. Step out of your comfort zone – Flying across the Atlantic Ocean and spending two weeks in a foreign country was a big step out of my comfort zone. That’s what we have to do in business too. It’s only by stretching yourself that you grow. There are a variety of ways you can do that. It could be public speaking, like giving presentations at a networking group or doing a Facebook live, or even hosting your own workshop. It could mean hiring a coach or investing in a course to help you improve some aspect of your business such as marketing and sales. Whatever you do, make it a point to do something at least once a month to push yourself beyond your limits.
2. Be open to new experiences – I didn’t know what our itinerary would be in Hungary. My daughter planned the entire trip and would only tell me the day before or even the day of what we were going to do. The result was a delightful surprise. I had no expectations, so I greeted each experience with an open mind. It was truly enlightening. You can do the same thing in business. Be open to new opportunities that come your way. And especially, take notice of the ones that scare you. Often times, those are the best opportunities for growth and the ones that could take your business in a new, more lucrative direction that you may not have ever considered otherwise.
3. Be grateful for the blessings in your life – During a tour of Budapest, we visited a memorial to honor the Hungarian Jews who were killed during the Holocaust. However, our tour guide noted that many critics argue the statue whitewashes history by downplaying the role Hungarian authorities had in the deportation of the Jews. Relatives of those killed created their own memorial right in front of the statue, sharing mementos, candles and pictures of Holocaust victims.
Viewing this memorial, and places like the House of Terror, gave me a new appreciation for life in the United States, and how much we sometimes take our democracy for granted.
4. Have fun – One of the things we got to do in Hungary was visit a pinball museum. For one price, you got to play as long as you wanted on vintage and modern pinball machines. It was a blast! (Note – the ones from the 1940’s are NOT easy to play.) That’s what you need to do in business too. Take a break from time to time and do something that’s silly and fun. It’s important for your mental health to destress and lighten the mood. That could be as simple as a 30 minute break in the middle of your day to watch silly cat videos, or taking a 2 week vacation to somewhere you’ve always wanted to go!
5. Reward yourself – This trip was a reward for all the work I’ve done over the last 10 years to build my business. Now I can say, “I’ve been to Europe!” Although I wish we’d had time to go to Paris. So sad to hear about this week’s devastating fire at Notre Dame Cathedral. I believe, as business owners, we need to enjoy the fruits of our labor. Take part of your profits and spend it on yourself, at least once a quarter. That’s the lesson I learned from Mike Michalowicz, entrepreneur and author of “Profit First.”