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Editorial: Excess baggage

The business schools reward difficult complex behavior more than simple behavior, but simple behavior is more effective. ~Warren Buffett

Another lesson from my recent 450-mile trek on the Camino de Santiago in Spain is about baggage. As you might guess, when making this walk, you have to travel as light as you can to take the pressure off of your back and hips. I, for example, started the trip with a 12-pound pack, which included the pack weight. You do not have to carry sleeping gear, tents or food on the Camino de Santiago, so all I carried was clothes and some first aid supplies. I lived for 40 days with only two pairs of shoes -- one for walking and sandals for when the boots came off -- three pairs of pants, four shirts, three pairs of socks, three pairs of undies, rain gear and a sweat shirt. I frequently wore the same clothes two consecutive days after they had been washed. Living this long with such a limited amount of stuff showed me I just really do not need much. Honestly, it was so freeing knowing that everything I owned was in one little backpack. So many of us -- businesses too -- carry so much stuff with us, just in case it is needed someday. While that practice may seem sensible, the only thing it really does is load us down and inhibit our ability to just be. I have seen many businesses carry so many spare parts that they fill separate buildings. These building require security, insurance and so much more. These firms would be in so much better shape if they just let go of all of these extra parts. On the Camino, I quickly learned how all these extra things weigh you down. If I had carried everything I thought I might have needed on my trek, my backpack would have weighed 50 pounds or more. Many people tried to carry everything they possibly could and struggled under the weight of it. I even saw one person with a pack weighing close to 70 pounds. Now, by “stuff,” I mean both tangible and intangible things.

Tangible items you must physically carry, but even intangible things such as memberships and involvement in organizations can weigh you down mentally. The one luxury I took with me was my iPad Mini as it has a keyboard that makes writing much easier than on my phone. The physical weight of it was minimal, however, it was a constant mental burden. I was always worried about leaving my backpack alone for fear someone might steal it. If I would do the Camino again, I would leave this at home. Now that I have returned home, I am reflecting on how many boards I want to be on and how to eliminate as much stuff as I can from my world. I know that by having less of these things, my life will be better, more efficient and just easier. Now go out and see if you cannot reduce the unnecessary “stuff” you have around. I promise your life is going to be so much better if you do. You can do this! Dr. Osteryoung has directly has assisted over 3,000 firms. He is the Jim Moran Professor of Entrepreneurship (Emeritus) and Professor of Finance (Emeritus) at Florida State University. He was the founding Executive Director of The Jim Moran Institute and served in that position from 1995 through 2008. His newest book co-authored with Tim O'Brien, "If You Have Employees, You Really Need This Book," is a bestseller on Amazon.com. He can be reached by e-mail at jerry.osteryoung@gmail.com.

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