As we read and hear statements such as “The center of gravity is shifting towards Asia”, “The future is in Asia now”, I started pondering: Are we becoming Asian?
While questioning my own identity, I came up with the following moto:
Be happy with your achievements, work toward a stable long lasting impact.
It appeared that my drive was taking center stage and not my nationality or geographical location (not even Singapore)*. My interest then, stirred towards the notion of time. It is not an Asian concept or property however as I lived in Singapore, I noticed that my understanding of time had been evolving**.
One could say that I am getting older but it is not the only truth. I have come to view time more as a cycle and less as a linear concept. Doing things with the long run in mind and trusting that good deeds will pay off in the end starts to make more sense to me now. This is not something one can experience on a short assignment, but it is something one can understand.
In Asia, this notion prevails. For example, in business, one can be taken aback by a decision that is not in the manager’s first interest. Try to see the bigger picture and you will notice that such resolution is often selected on its long term benefits.
Another concept that challenged my understanding was: How do “past” “present” and “future” interact with one another? At first, to me, it was very sequential and even if I adhered to the notion of cycles (eg: seasons), I was not seeing how “past” and “future” could interact.
I could see however, different cultures attributing different levels of importance to each concept (past/present/future…past/present/future…past/present/future…). Again, this has an impact on business in a cross culture environment. For example, one could say that the British culture gives quite a large importance to the “past” (eg: long lasting set of traditions, the notion of precedent in the common law..).
In Asia, time seems to be more fluid. Even in Singapore, with its use of the common law and its set of rules, “past” and “future” tend to mix, spin, feed from one another. Singapore is openly “future focused”, yet equally demonstrates a high level of respect and attention to the past (Pioneer & Merdeka generations). “Past and future are the reason for what we do now”.
This is starting to make sense…
Lastly, science came to my rescue one morning, as I listened to the radio: a geologist was explaining how his study of past tsunamis (frequency of events in a soil sample) helped him apprehend the future (possible next event). As a result, he was then able to influence the present (necessity or not to move local population)… The light came to me! This was a real and practical example that perfectly illustrated what intrigued me, ending my investigation on that topic.
Through this article I wanted to illustrate and share a Cross Culture topic and highlight how interesting and varied the interpretations could be. Being in Asia helps being more aware. The different ways of understanding and using concepts (in this case time) are great tools when one needs to be creative in the face of new challenges (at work or otherwise).
On that basis, and thanks to time itself, I think I am becoming a little more Asian.
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