A lot of people resist transition and therefore never allow themselves to enjoy who they are. Embrace the change, no matter what it is; once you do, you can learn about the new world you’re in and take advantage of it.
The more things change, the more they remain the same.
If living a long life will teach you anything, it is that the more you evolve, the more you experience, the more you grow, the more you are still you. I look sometimes in the mirror and wonder who that older guy is who stares back at me in judgment in the mirror. We look at each other for a second, and I wonder how he keeps aging, while I am still the same person deep inside.
A life journey takes us down all sorts of roads. Some amazing. Some boring. Others full of fear and trepidation. Each sculpts us in their own unique fashion.
We encounter others along the way. And like any road trip movie, we aggregate our ensemble of colleagues like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz or like Frodo in Lord of the Rings. We find the love interest, the comedic sidekick, the sage and the ally opponent. Among this cast of iconic characters, we proceed on life’s path, confident of a direction and certain of our course of action.
As I shared yesterday about my journey, I was positive where I was going, and was not even close in my prognosis. So today’s aphorism explores why that is just fine with me. Going down the path of life, you have transitions that come personally, professionally, romantically, financially, physically and psychologically. While all of these are to be expected, when those transitions come, you are always left with options as to how you will embrace that change and deal with it.
Attitude is the one string we have to play upon.
I have been fortunate to grow up around a family of world travelers. My grandmother made her way around the world in the 30’s and my grandparents on my father’s side took many extensive trips as well. Both of my parents would find themselves in remote corners of the world, so I heard stories, as a little boy growing up, about their travels, the experiences they encountered, the disparity of the populations of the planet and how they traversed those experiences.
I have found that the best of the journeys I have taken are the roads less traveled. When I venture into unchartered waters, I look to the people who I encounter and I genuinely expect them to teach me something. I ask questions. I observe. I explore and experience. Sometimes it gets too intense. I was in Beijing and we were celebrating the conclusion of a business contract of an associate of mine, and the table was doing shots of Maotai. This is a style of bailie, a distilled Chinese liquor that I am positive was made from gasoline. It was reportedly very very expensive and everyone would do a shot at the table (Combay!). The first shot burned fiercely in my throat. (I barely drink in normal life.) But I got it down. Suddenly they were refilling all the cups for a second shot. I tried to choke the second shot down, but I barely got a sip in my mouth, before my body was clear that this was not going to happen. I put my glass down, and my buddy whispered that they were going to judge me for not drinking. It was a sign of weakness. There was a moment. I wanted to do business with these people, and my body was clear that wasn’t going to happen. I finally decided they can think I am weak but that is better than putting this poison into my body to prove my strength to this table of businessmen. I accepted the laughing at me and decided I was not going to kill myself to prove anything. And I did not get my contract.
Was it because I did not go with the flow? I doubt it. But if it was, who cares? Anyone who judges a man by what amount of poison he is willing to consume in celebratory fashion is not a relationship I coveted, regardless of how much I desperately needed the business at that moment.
This example plays in counterpoint to today’s aphorism. The aphorism says to embrace the change, no matter what it is… and clearly I tried and failed. But the aphorism says that once you do, you can learn about the new world you’re in and take advantage of it. I learned a lot about Chinese culture from the trips I made back and forth to Beijing. I very much enjoyed the people, but I also learned that after Mao’s revolution and massive genocide of intellectuals, that innovative mindset had been significantly reduced in China and that they were far less respectful of intellectual property and unique ideas than the studio clients who had been my clients for years. (And I thought they were bad, but the groups I met in China were worse.) This said, the friends I made in China are amazing, and they will be my friends for life!
My lesson in all of the experiences was that I was not in my comfort zone, and while I loved the country and loved the people, my ability to do business in China would require a complete new strategy, were I to succeed. To this day, I have yet to make a successful deal in Asia. But this does not dissuade me from continuing to try. I needed to venture into unchartered waters to get a lay of the land. I needed to explore in areas out of my comfort zone to get a sense of appreciation of how their culture engages and what their expectations are.
I am about as far from perfect as one could be. My flaws continue to plague me. My fears continue to haunt me. My devout optimism continues to propel me into territories unknown. The guy who greets me in the mirror continues to grow older, regardless of how much I wish he would not. But the consistent variable is the person deep inside who remains a work in progress. Capable of seeing my many flaws as areas for continued growth as well as viewing my perpetual curiosity as being my fuel that will propel me into all sorts of uncomfortable territories that require my vigilance and attention so as to prevent experiences not of my choosing from arising.
Grab that large bouquet of balloons and let them take you where they may. Stay confident that regardless of where you land, you are still always you. Embrace the changes that arise in your journey, as they are inevitable.
But more than anything else…. Enjoy the ride. It’s the only one you’ve got and if you are not savoring it, you are missing out!