Tuesday, March 20, 2012

China: What Can We Learn From Them?

My recent trip to Beijing confirmed what I learned on my first trip last year. China is a country in search of a vision. She doesn't really know what she wants to be. My driver took me on unplanned routes past new empty factories and housing developments.  They were built to emphasize the new growth of China, but are not yet affordable to the people. He took me past the national museum with the brand new statue of Confucius outside and said that the government was reintroducing Confucius because communism was failing. Capitalism has been introduced, but regulated unevenly; at times with a heavy hand and other times the government looks away. China has built brand new internal airports only to have them sit empty and still they intend to build the largest airport in the world in Beijing. Where are they going? What are they trying to be?
Mao's Mausoleum

There is no doubt of the growth in China. They are moving at a very rapid pace toward new technologies and innovative ideas. Their new architecture is amazing by any city's standards. But once you look past the surface, the growth is uneven and haphazard. This is a country in search of a vision; they don't know who they want to be.

Individual, organizational and national growth depend on a few characteristics; the freedom to grow, innovative ideas, resources to develop those ideas, and a clear direction. China has all but the last characteristic. Their history illuminates the development from fiefdoms, to a powerful imperial dynasty, then a strong communist state, and now, well, not really anything.

Any of us can learn from their challenges. I've met with countless individuals who had the freedom, ideas, and resources to be amazing at whatever they chose. The challenge was that they never chose. I've struggled with that same challenge. When there are so many avenues to choose to try new things, it's difficult to pick one because you worry you will chose incorrectly, or leave a good road behind.

However the poison of indecision is far more insidious than we realize. Trapped in not choosing a direction, we wallow in perpetual mediocrity, or occasion triumphs only to sink back into uncertainty. To achieve our best, we need a direction.

Sometimes, for me, it is as simple as picking a direction I really believe I want my life to move and taking a few steps. I've learned that sometimes it becomes very clear, very quickly that it is the wrong direction and I can retrace my steps and head another way. But I've clarified my direction and eliminated a road for the future. That is worth the attempt. Sometimes I choose well and it feels like everything clicks into place as I move toward my vision.

Ask yourself: what's my vision for myself, or for my organization or family? Is it clear to me? Is it clear to others? Once you have identified your vision strive for it with everything you have because all your energies will be focused in the same direction and you will more likely succeed.

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