Pulltabs, MacGyver and the Road to Self-Improvement

This is a guest post from Colin Wright from ExileLifestyle.com (you can find him on Twitter under @colinismyname).


I’m eyeballing the corkscrew at the other end of the counter. It could work. It HAS to work. Otherwise I’ll never be able to eat this damn pasta.

I’m standing in the kitchen, exhausted after 15 minutes of trying to open a stubborn bottle of olive oil, but to no avail. The cap is a complicated device, requiring the leverage provided by a frail pulltab to open, a pulltab that I immediately broke and have since been cursing in many creative ways.

There’s a steaming heap of pasta in a pot in front of me, freshly drained and quickly cooling off, waiting for me and my olive oil to whip up a quick pesto sauce so that I can mix it all together and enjoy a delicious lunch.

So close, but so far.

Minimal MacGyver

One of the issues I run into being a minimalist who travels frequently is that sometimes I simply don’t have the right materials at hand when I need them. In this case, a pair of pliers would be great, as they would allow me to grab the nubbin of pulltab left partway down the neck of the bottle and pull the stopper out of the bottle (as the creators intended).

But that’s not an option, and I’ve got to think creatively, on my feet 100% of the time. I need to be a MacGyver of the kitchen, of the road, of the mobile business world, and of any other sphere that I step into.

It’s frustrating and invigorating and occasionally embarrassing.

My plan is this: use the corkscrew to jab the offending portion of plastic, knocking it down into the bottle of oil and freeing up the neck so that the contents can flow freely.

The mechanics seem sound, so I latch the corkscrew to the top of the bottle and begin to twist the knob. The metal spiral shoots downward from the contraption, stopping briefly as it plows into the plastic stopper, and then slowly shoves it downward until, “PLOP!” it clears the neck and falls into the oil.

The Thrill of Success/Failure

This is just a small victory, but it’s one of a thousand that I’ve had since I sold almost everything I owned and started traveling 4 months ago. I’ve learned so much from every victory, and even more from each of the thousand failures that I’ve had when things haven’t gone exactly as planned.

By putting myself in uncomfortable situations, I’m slowly improving myself, making myself a better person and one more capable of dealing with big, bad situations when they arise.

It would not be the end of the world to have to eat my pasta without pesto sauce, but being put in a position where all of my needs are not immediately met – where pulltabs break and a hundred different kitchen utensils are not immediately available to remedy the situation – I’m forced to think creatively, quickly adapt to novelty and find as much satisfaction in the journey toward the solution as in the solution itself (otherwise it would be quite easy to get depressed very quickly).

On the Road

The road to self-improvement is not a straight shot, nor is it always even a road. Sometimes you have to climb mountains, tunnel under forests or build rafts to cross oceans.

So long as you learn from each and every external trial and personal ordeal however, you need not ever reach the end destination; you’ll be a better person for the experiences you go through on the way there, and that’s why the road exists in the first place.

About the author: Colin Wright is an entrepreneur who runs his branding studio from a new country every 4 months. You can read his thoughts about lifestyle design, entrepreneurship, minimalism and travel at Exile Lifestyle.

13 thoughts on “Pulltabs, MacGyver and the Road to Self-Improvement”

  1. It must be amazing to travel and own nothing. Kind of Jesus or Buddha like. Congratulations. I envy you!
    .-= Richard | RichardShelmerdine.com´s last blog ..Lessons From a Month of Meditation =-.

  2. Even MacGyver carried a swiss-army knife, I’d suggest a leatherman because it includes pliers. These and other ‘multi-tools’ can go a long way to providing both comfort and flexibility. Boot CD’s, duck-tape, rope, and knowledge of how to use them can take you a long way. Be prepared, as Sir Baden-Powell said, “for any old thing”.

  3. Wow… another Colin is out there! 🙂

    Congrats on getting that bottle of olive oil open! It reminds me that determination to succeed is another beneficial trait to have whether you’re just trying to open a bottle of olive oil, improve yourself, or reach a goal.
    .-= Colin´s last blog ..How to Get the Most Out of Your Time =-.

  4. Nice post Colin – great to have him Dragos! I can relate to your dilemma as we have also been living on the road for 8 months now. Traveling with 3 kids I have to also contend with their looks of suspicion and sometimes dismay when they hear me say something like, “see, we can use the face towel for that too! See, we don’t really need a….”. As they say, “necessity is the mother of invention”. At home we have friends who are architects and were hired to make a historic study of an island that for many years had been a leper colony. I remember their descriptions of the many tools these lepers had fashioned to perform tasks as they were losing appendages. Can you imagine, being on a small island with very few resources and losing the ability of your body at the same time. These very resourceful people fashioned many tools for themselves so they could keep on living. It’s so important to remember that we really need very little to get through life and certainly much less than we are led to believe in our western societies!
    .-= Carmen´s last blog ..Viva Mexico! Settling in Oaxaca, a Cultural Mecca -The Zaia Nomading Year Continues =-.

    • Wow, that kind of thing makes me happy to have everything I DO have! At least I don’t have to compensate for lost body parts (not yet at least!).

      Those kids will have an amazing knack for problem solving, I imagine, being travelers from such a young age. I try not to have regrets, but I most certainly wish I would have started to travel earlier, based on what I’ve learned already. Kudos to you for living the lifestyle that you do!
      .-= Colin Wright´s last blog ..For Real, I’m Going to Die on This Bus =-.

  5. Colin,
    My my youre really living! WOW! To have so many new experiences and to being aware enough to learn from each…Now thats Pretty awesome!
    Youre walking the Talk..and self improvement is exactly that…walking the talk.
    Great Job!
    Am heading over to your blog right NOW!

    Hey Dragos, Great guest post! Really enjoyed his perspective…very refreshing!

    Much Love,
    .-= Zeenat{Positive Provocations}´s last blog ..Footprints In The Sand =-.


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