I have just returned from a week in Beijing, China, where I was invited to attend a conference sponsored by the publisher who is translating and publishing Dr. Chapman’s and my book, The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace, in Chinese. The conference attendees were various Western business and organizational leaders and we were addressed by a variety of Chinese experts and leaders on “The Next Ten Years” in China. They shared what is happening now and the trends to come in demographics (moving from 75%+ rural to approximately 50% urban currently), the family unit (the impact of 33 years of the “one child” policy), governmental issues (7 of the 9 Politburo leaders will be changing this coming fall), and other cultural issues (religious freedom, the core values of Chinese families [education and achievement]).
I learned a ton, and have much information I could share, but I wanted to just give some of my initial reflections from my trip. They are not necessarily “new”, but they are reality-based:
*The world is huge. I flew from Wichita to Chicago, and then Chicago over Canada, Alaska, across the Bering straight, down Siberia, to Northern China. What was most impactful to me was seeing the hundreds and hundreds of miles of snow and ice in Siberia — with nothing else in sight as far as I could see, from 35,000 feet.
*There are a lot of people in the world and we are each unique. Beijing has 19 million residents, including 1 million university students and 7 million migrant workers from rural areas. I was able to experience the mass of humanity (to a mild degree) when riding the subway on Friday afternoon during rush hour. (I am thankful that is not part of my daily commute!) Yet, it was clear to me that every person had their own unique characteristics and their own personal story. Humbling.
*We are both relatively insignificant but also have incredible potential for influence. Each of us is only one of approximately 6 billion people currently living, and we are only alive for a brief segment of history. Really, in the scope of the big picture, none of us is that important. Yet, at the same time, each of us have numerous relationships and the ability to influence those around us, who can influence others, and the impact can be staggering. Keeping a balanced perspective of humility along with hope for change seems to be needed.
*While “little things” matter, not every little thing does. The difference between quality work and shoddiness is often the matter of a number of cumulative little details — either paid attention to, or not. So when we interact with others, or complete tasks, paying attention to the “little things” can have a significant impact on the eventual product or result. (I was amazed by the beautiful detail of artwork at the Forbidden City, the former residence of the emperors.) But, also, there are a lot of little things in life that can distract us from really experiencing what is important in our daily lives. (I went a week without hardly any news, and absolutely feel better for the experience, rather than being pummeled by an infinite number of details about things I don’t care about.)
Those are my first thoughts. I hope to share more later. In the meantime, I would encourage each of us to be thankful for the life we have — there are millions of people far worse off than we are.