Are you claustrophobic? I never thought I was until I found myself on my stomach 30 yards underground, inching through a tiny dirt tunnel void of light. It was one of the most unsettling feelings imaginable yet a cakewalk compared to what men far braver than I experienced 40 years ago in these same dark, stifling, horrifying rat holes. 40 years ago, these tunnels were crawling (literally!) with soldiers locked in battle during the Vietnam War.
Quick history lesson:
During the Vietnam War, the Americans controlled the air. The Viet Cong knew they couldn’t outgun the USA’s air superiority or bombing campaigns so they went underground, hand digging a complex network of tunnels that traveled hundreds of miles and was undetectable by the enemy. The living conditions were so horrible I dare not even call them “living” conditions. The battles that ensued were even worse.
My travels to Asia always leave me awe struck. The unprecedented business growth in China, the clash of Eastern and Western culture in Singapore, the massive infrastructure that continues to sweep across the Asian landscape. But a visit to this primitive war era tunnel system made the most impact on me.
As I wriggled though this tunnel, heart in my throat and stifling a scream, I began asking myself, “Have I ever wanted something so badly in life that I’d subject myself to this kind of torture to get it?” Outside the well being of my children, the answer is absolutely no. Yet for the soldiers who fought this war, be they the Viet Cong or the allied troops who burrowed after them, the answer is a resounding, unequivocal yes.
What is it in life that you want? What do you want so badly that you’re practically willing to bury yourself alive to get it?
The lesson I learned crawling through those tunnels is that for many of us, that question is unanswered. Through nothing but incredible fortune I was born in a country, to a family, and during a time that my day to day environment does not include similar wartime life or death scenarios. But if we apply even a fraction of the courage and intensity that Vietnam’s tunnels represent, our everyday goals and aspirations are almost laughably attainable. We’re just not digging deep enough to reach them.
PS on Vietnam:
Fast forward 40 years and Vietnam is a beautiful, friendly country and among my favorite to visit. The people are warm, Ho Chi Ming City (formerly Saigon) booming with international commerce, and a blend of ancient and modern that feels less disruptive than other regions.
If your business is looking to expand or outsource, this is a special market. You gotta take a long, hard look at Vietnam! I’m honored to have excellent business contacts in this region so if you’d like an introduction, feel free to contact me.