Thursday, January 21, 2016

Cultivating Leaders

I love being able to work with a people from a variety of different backgrounds.  One of my favorite things in life it to help people understand that they are much more than what their circumstances say they are.  I consider it a privilege to walk alongside people and help them better understand their gifts, passions, and what Dad is calling them to do.

One thing that I have encountered recently is that people have very limited perspectives of leadership.   For most of the world, the leader is the person in the front, with all the power and authority to make decisions.  This is particular true for China.  Not to say that there is not a truth in the above description, but it severely limits the definition of leadership.  Some of the most powerful leaders are quiet people, diligently doing their work and being strong examples for change. They never said anything from the front but their character and influence has massive effects.  Take the Son, for example. He was not considered a leader by His contemporaries, but He clearly had influence and changed history.  

I am currently walking alongside a number of women who do not see their own leadership abilities.  I am trying to encourage them not to limit their definition of leadership, but look at the different ways that people follow their example.  I am longing for the day when these women can boldly say “I am a leader” and believe it. That is why I love this quote from John Quincey Adams:

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, become more and do more, you are a leader.”

This is the type of leader I want to be and actively encourage those around me to be.  Who are you leading?  In what ways are you inspiring others?   

Monday, January 4, 2016

4 Years

Today is the 4th anniversary of my move to Beijing.  It is hard to believe that four years ago I left California to start serving over here.  What a wild ride it has been.  I am never sure I will fully be able to articulate all the things that living in China has taught me. I know for sure that moving overseas has made me a better person. 

Here are some of thing that I have learned (or am learning to do better) since moving:

 Don’t take yourself seriously. 
Living in a new culture and attempting to learn the hardest language in the world, it is inevitable that you will make a mistake.  I can either be flustered by all the things I am getting wrong, or I can laugh about it and see it as an opportunity to brighten someone’s day.  As opposed to being embarrassed by the incorrect sentence I just said (“Today’s noodles” as opposed to the “see you tomorrow” I was attempting to say) I can view my Chinese cultural growth as a change to make other people smile.  I no longer easily get embarrassed by flubbing up words or doing something considered strange on the bus (which happens more often than you think 4 years in).  I look at it from the perspective of giving people a great story to tell over the dinner table.  When I think of it as spreading joy and letting people share a “you’ll never guess what this foreigner I say today” story, it makes learning a lot more fun.

    The way you know isn’t better, it the only way you know.
I am a person who loves systems and an order to wrap my mind around.  When I understand the system, something clicks in my head and I can work within the system with a better attitude.  Well, moving to another country with a vastly different political philosophy than your home country is one way to get the rug pulled out from under you.  Over my time here, I have come to understand that the system in one country is not (generally speaking) better.  It is my natural tendency is to default to the way things work “back home” and I can become frustrated with the reality in my current country of residence.  When I realize that the system is different, it helps quell my anxiety and allows me to be more patient.

This rule also applies to what is considered rude.  Rudeness is a cultural construct, being different in each country.  What is considered rude in America is most likely not considered rude here. I should not be angry with people against a standard they have never heard of.  I need to learn not to be rude in my host culture, not judge a different culture by the standards I grew up with.

People will surprise you.
I am constantly amazed by the stories I hear from different people.  Grandma sharing about her childhood during the 1960s, foreigner living in the country since the 1980s, taxi driver who has driven race cars professionally, people who no formal education who speak 4 languages.  I am surprised by the amount of skills and knowledge people around me have.

Listening is key.
The only way to learn the culture and to understand people’s hearts.

This one is particularly hard for me since I like things to be efficient.  Something that would take 20 minutes in America could take the entire day here.  Did the law change overnight and now the policy is completely different?  Yep, that happens frequently.  I have learned that it is my problem and being angry will not resolve the issue any quicker.  This is also the one that I need to work on every day.

Again, one that I am constantly working on but I have become much more flexible since moving to Asia.

How to receive hospitality.
It is a humbling experience to have people with less resources than you spend 3 days work of grocery money to make you a meal.  How do you thank people appropriately for that level of sacrifice?  Still trying to figure it out but I think it starts with recognizing the different ways that people help me.

Mistakes will be made, it is how you recover from mistakes that count.
How am I choosing to learn from each experience I encounter?  Will I act defensively when I fall short or learn how to handle the situation better next time?

Be humble.
I don’t have everything figured out.  Ask for help when I need it.  Come low into different situations, adopt a posture of learning and let people know I respect them through my actions.
   Focus on the positives.
In a city with 24 million people, it is often too easy to focus on all that can go wrong or all the things that I find annoying.  I am learning to celebrate the little things (the changing of the seasons, how beautiful clouds truly are, the different quirks of traffic, the confidence of people boldly jaywalking across a busy intersection).  I love it when I see something simple that so clearly represents this city in my mind.