Mailing Addresses Around the World

I’ve been folding stuffing, sticking and sealing for the last two days.  As I worked, I listened to an episode of Surprisingly Awesome’s podcast called Postal Addresses.  It seemed appropriate considering this large mailing sitting in front of me.

I love mail, sending and receiving it.  I spend a lot of time at the post office or walking to the mail box.  The episode focused on how countries without a formal mailing system get mail.

At one point in the episode, the hosts shared a story on Mongolia’s new address system.  Mongol Post is using latitiude and longitude and a three word phrase to allocate an address to each specific location.  The technology is called What3Words.  For example, The Bridge’s conference room is located at match.lease.race.

They chatted with Michelle Borak, an American living in Mongolia.  She is not so keen on implementing the new postal endeavor, What3Words.  This is not Mongolia’s biggest issue.  There are bigger fish to fry in that country.  There are processes in place for mail, they just aren’t as established as a modern country such as the U.S.  They don’t have mail carriers, but the post office calls you when you get a letter or package.  Or you can send packages cross country via bus.  Or rogue cars (personal taxis similar to über).

what-is-most-efficient-is-not-always-the-most-effecI love her thoughts on this, considering our recent discussions of When Helping Hurts and doing good in a way that is best for the people.  Does Mongolia need addresses for every single person?  Nah, they have an informal system they are comfortable with.  It’s not the most efficient, but it certainly is effective without having to pay bribes or wait ages for bureaucracy to do its thing.  She has adapted to the ways of Mongolia and I can appreciate.  It may be a little inconvenient, but as an American who could easily push her views and perceived needs on Mongolians, she has taken a step back and embraced the way they do things.

To hear more about the postal situation around the world, check out the podcast (Michelle’s story starts at 20:35).

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Are you ready to hear one of the most important things Jay has ever said to me?  When I was an intern, he said, “what’s most efficient is not always the most effective.”  As an engineer, Jay knows efficiency.  As a control freak, I can appreciate efficiency as well.  Effectiveness is a little more difficult for me.  I often have to take a step back to see the bigger picture of how things will play out.  Yesterday, we had the kids come to the office for a workday.  One of our stations was helping with this mailing.  This meant folding letters, stuffing envelopes and sticking labels.  The perfectionist in me cringed when I saw a crooked label or disproportionate letter.
Does that really matter in the long run?  No, definitely not.  Do their smiles and joy of getting to be a part of this process matter?  My goodness, yes!  They loved it!

This is what we have to remember when attempting to do “good”.  When we are interacting with people.  When we want, more than anything, to take over and show them the “right way” to do things.  Take a minute to breathe and understand it’s about the process and not so much about the end result.  Are we all going to be great at it?  No way.  But baby steps matter.  Celebrate your small victories because it’s a process for us just as much as it is letting crooked stickers and misfolded letters go out in the mail.