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This may seem weird to say but you should try it

This may seem weird to say but you should try it

May 28, 2009

"That's just the way it is."

By now, you probably know that I spent a good many years travelling the world. Taught marketing at a university in Barcelona, managed teams of Orange pickers in Greece, played Ultimate Frisbee on one of the Dutch national teams and even managed a health and personal development center in Spain before returning to the states.

But there's something interesting I noticed that I think you'll find fascinating.
I've talked about this with authors and CEOs from eastern countries and they found the same thing fascinating '

Here in the U.S. we tend to view everything as either good or bad. Think about it. Everything is either heads or tails ' black or white ' yes or no ' hot or cold ... etc. To tell someone, 'I don't know' or 'Well, we will just have to wait and see' is just like putting a sign around you that says, 'Don't talk to me. I'm clueless!'

Blame it on the media or our fast-paced culture, but we not only want an answer right away, we want a conclusion about what that means just as quickly. I remember thinking that as soon as the government bailed out the first financial institution last year, within minutes the media was trying to analyze whether the move would help the economy. Everyone knew that it would take months to determine the answer, but we couldn't wait! We wanted an answer right away.

East v. West?

Contrast that with Eastern cultures who consider it impulsive for someone to quickly assess whether something is good or bad. For someone to say, 'I don't know' or 'I need to think more about that' is considered wise and prudent.
Here's a story I love to tell that illustrates my point.

A man named Sei Weng owned a beautiful mare which was praised far and wide. One day this beautiful horse disappeared. The people of his village offered sympathy to Sei Weng for his great misfortune. Sei Weng said simply, "That's the way it is."

A few days later the lost mare returned, followed by a beautiful wild stallion. The village congratulated Sei Weng for his good fortune. He said, "That's the way it is."

Some time later, Sei Weng's only son, while riding the stallion, fell off and broke his leg. The village people once again expressed their sympathy at Sei Weng's misfortune. Sei Weng again said, "That's the way it is."

Soon thereafter, war broke out and all the young men of the village except Sei Weng's lame son were drafted and were killed in battle. The village people were amazed as Sei Weng's good luck. His son was the only young man left alive in the village. But Sei Weng kept his same attitude: despite all the turmoil, gains and losses, he gave the same reply, "That's the way it is."

My point is that as leaders it's okay not to have the answers right away. It's okay to say, 'I don't know' sometimes and it's okay to see things in shades of gray and not always in black and white. And sometimes it's okay to wait to see how things unfold before determining whether it's a good thing or a bad thing.

Sometimes, that's just the way it is.

Taking you from where you are to where you want to go,