As with anything in life, there are always ups and downs. There are times when you feel that you have done everything right and nothing can go wrong and there are also times when you feel that you have done everything wrong but have everything else in life go right. This paradox would perhaps be the perfect next chapter in my life, showing just how much can experience can be contained in a single moment, showing just how much a person can grow from a single moment in life that has numerous lessons to teach.
Yet I would not be doing my experiences any justice if I do not recount two experiences that I have had in life. The first being the lessons that I learned from being a survivor in America since I had grown up in Turkey and the next being the lessons that I learned from one of the most challenging days in my life. The link that brings these two tales into a single chapter is one that is as simple at it is elegant, it mirrors the one thing that marks my life and that is my unyielding desire to succeed. I recently won the Survivor Challenge: America. My name is not plastered on the newspapers or on any headline.
The radio news is not blasting my name out loud and neither does Times Square display my name prominently on its colorful facade. Still I feel that I am a winner. The prize money is nothing. The real achievement comes from knowing that I came from another place yet was able to overcome the challenges of living in America. I am not a special person and possess no extraordinary powers. I do not claim to be a superhero nor a genius. I am as average as the next guy and perhaps even below average as compared to the other. Yet I have won the Survivor Challenge of living in America.
I narrate this tale not to glorify my triumphant victory but to let the world know that we all possess the skills necessary to survive, not only in America but in other countries as well. This is my guidebook, if you will, on how one is to survive in other countries. When travelling or going to other destinations, my father always told me to travel light. I was always under the impression that he meant that I only pack a few necessary items and buy the rest of the things I need at my destination. While this is definitely a good idea for travel, it does not count much in surviving.
It was only when I became older that I realized that what my father meant was that I should leave all my troubles and worries behind. The problem with a lot of travelers and immigrants for that matter is that they often bring along heavy suitcases filled with stories of despair and lug along huge pieces of luggage filled with hope. Such a travelling arrangement only serves to burden the traveler and may even cause the person from the Bureau of Immigration to send one back from to his or her point of origin. No country wants to bear the burdens that travelers or immigrants bring.
The key therefore is in leaving all of those unnecessary emotions behind and if possible enter with an open mind and a light heart. Survivors, the same as those on that television show, are motivated not by sadness and other heavy feelings but are motivated instead by the thrill and the experience that they are about to face. In the case of the television survivors the motivation was a million dollars and probably other acting gigs, for other non-television folk the motivation is learning more about a new culture and perhaps embracing an alternative way of life.
Going to a foreign country is an experience to look forward to. It is about leaving everything behind and immersing one’s self into the unknown and perhaps the enjoyable. The second problem that people encounter when they enter any foreign country is the language barrier. This indeed seems to be quite a problem given the fact that not everyone speaks English or Turkish for that matter. Yet there is a universal language spoken by everyone, it is not the language of money (though I profess that many are quite fluent in that) but it is the language of kindness and humility.
When visiting a foreign country, one must always remember that he or she is the foreigner there and not the other way around. A common problem, especially among Americans, is the fact that they enter a foreign country thinking that it is another country that Uncle Sam has conquered. With that mentality, one can never gain the respect of the locals and even more problematic, never truly see the beauty of the culture of that foreign country. Kindness and humility on the other hand are currencies that need not be exchanged at the traveler’s kiosk. These are accepted everywhere and even repaid ten-fold in certain cases.
The locals in a foreign country are proud of their culture and country and will jump at every opportunity to show that to the world. By being kind and humble, one can easily adapt to the different culture. Kindness and humility can buy the one thing that is necessary for survival but something that money cannot buy in foreign countries, friendship. An open mind and kindness go a long way in allowing one to survive in a foreign country but there are other things that are needed if one is to survive in a foreign country. One of these things is patience. A guest is always at the mercy of his host.
A good guest gets along with his host. As cliche as this may sound, the key to survival is being patient and understanding. People live together in different countries and in different continents for a reason. That reason is that they have different cultures and beliefs. The beliefs of one country may not hold true for others. In Turkey, for example, people are generally kind and not overbearing. Any sign of aggression is deemed as hostility and is greatly frowned upon. When entering a foreign country, one must always remember to be patient first and try to understand the nuances of that particular culture.
It also greatly adds to the fun factor of the experience to surprise the locals just how much you know of their culture. Finally and perhaps most important of all the lessons, fall in love with the foreign country and in the foreign country, if possible. There is nothing which can motivate people to survive more than love. No other emotion makes people more patient, more open and more willing to give in than love. Loving a foreign country is like loving a flawed person; it makes it easier to accept the mistakes of another. No country is perfect but it is the imperfections that one falls in love with.
These are my keys for survival, travelling light, being kind and humble, being patient, and most important of all, falling in love. Anyone can be a survivor. If I can be a survivor, surely you can be one as well. Be in the deepest jungles of South America or in the Safari in Africa, as long as one remembers these four things to live by, surviving comes easy. This is what brings us to the next part of the chapter which outlines just how I was able to survive. Many are quick to remember one’s failure and slow to remember the redeeming moments.
My life is no different. I am only human and I too have made my own mistakes in life. Though I sometimes have the tendency to move on from failure and perhaps forget, there are many who are only too quick to remind me of my past. Learning from this, I have vowed to treat each failure as a learning experience; One that makes me stronger and makes me better. This is the lesson that I learned from what some people would consider as one of the worst days of my life. As I mentioned in the previous chapter of my life, I have wanted to become several things.
I have come to a point in life that many people have not. I have made a firm decision to recommit myself to pursuing my dreams. While there are those who believe that with an ounce of luck and a ton of persistence anything can be accomplished, I believe that there is no reason to expend so much energy and rely on luck. I believe in taking hold of my destiny and carving out a future for myself based on the decisions that I make in life. Life is simply too short and too precious to be left to luck alone. Such was the sentiment that I had…until I woke up that day.
It started the moment I woke up. For some inexplicable reason, my dog, Sammy, decided to chew through the electrical cord and ended up getting fried in the process. Normally, I would have just felt really sad at losing Sammy who had been with me through a number of breakups and the drunken lonely evenings that followed, but I had gotten up late for one of the biggest presentations in my fledgling career and the only chance I had of creating an excellent impression with my bosses. I hurriedly got out of bed to take a quick shower. It was decidedly the best part of my day.
Uneventful and normal, just the way I like my days. God had decided differently, however, as I stepped out of the shower only to realize that I had no dry towels. Sammy, in his infinite wisdom, had apparently decided that his last act on this earth, save the suicide, was to soil all of my towels with his scent. It was to be one of this many parting gifts to me that day, as I was about to realize. Managing to hurriedly dry myself off like Sammy would have done, I managed to find a pair of slacks lying around that was pretty clean. Not long after that I was fully dressed and ready to go.
Mental checklist of deodorant, wallet, keys, phone all done, I nearly forgot my shoes. It was amazing though that Sammy didn’t forget my shoes as I slipped my feet into a pool of his saliva that had accumulated inside the only decent pair of shoes that I had. Despite all of these pitfalls to start my day, I did finally manage to get out of my apartment and into my car. Only then did I realize that the best part of the day was just about to begin. “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” as the age old adage goes. This is probably the object and the lesson that I learned this day at work.
It is in line with this experience that I realize that leadership Training and Education is more effective when it is instilled and taught early on in a person’s life by the school system as opposed to later in life by the respective companies and firms. It was because of experiences like this that I was able to salvage what had turned out to be the worst morning of my life into what was to be one of the best days of my life. One of the things that I realized this day was that I was able to turn the day around by using some of the lessons that I had learned about leadership.
When everything goes wrong, it is often difficult for one person alone to make everything right. This is when leadership played a key role for me. A leader communicates directly with the individuals, develops internal relationships with them, inspires and motivates them to accomplish the company’s objectives. Leadership, therefore, is the ability to increase the group’s performance in line with the objectives of the corporation or company. This means that an organizational role may include different objectives but have now become non-personal in order to become more effective such as by adding a personal touch to it.
As such, I was quickly able to call up my office and ask my other team members to aid me in my presentation. In so few words, I was able to convey to them that it was a “freak” day for me and that I would really need their help on this one. True enough, the team members were able to understand the predicament that I was in and they were soon working on the other parts of the presentation that I needed to complete. It was also during this time that I realized that I had employed a democratic style of leadership.
While the democratic leadership style is often described as participative and is generally the style preferred by modern management and employees, the leaders who use this style tend to share authority with their employees, involving them in decision making or organizational planning. Democratic leaders show concern for their employees, especially in matters that directly affect them in the workplace. This is the leadership style that lets the employees or people participate actively and show their potential in order for them to achieve their own goals.
I did do my presentation well that day. Despite everything that happened, I was able to pull through thanks to the support of my team members. Aside from learning that I had a style of leadership that was best suited for my work, I also learned that I was an “Alpha Female” so to speak. Though there was so much that I had to deal with, quick thinking and good office relations had helped me make it through the day. After that experience, I was pretty much sure that there was nothing in life that I could not accomplish.
I guess this was not exactly a failure but then I again I did make myself that solemn promise to treat each failure as a learning experience and that is how I made it. It was the perfect day in all aspects by the way. My best buddy dies in a freak electrical cord chewing incident, I dry myself off from the shower by shaking vigorously, and I find that I don’t even have any shoes to wear, all of these events on the one day that they shouldn’t be happening; the day that I was supposed to make my dreams come true. I realize, as I stand there waiting, that this was not only the perfect day but it was also the wrong day.
Sammy had somehow left with a last laugh. He had taken a page off of my calendar and I realize that my date was for tomorrow and not today. I guess it is experiences like this that make my life more interesting. The single day out of thousands that I have in my life yet it all manages to occur in that single moment. Several math theorists would probably call this statistical clustering or the law of large numbers yet I feel that by some certain luck of the cosmos I was the one single person in the entirety of the Universe who had to endure such a challenge. Of the many I was the lucky one…