A crash course in changing the world.
One of my students told me something wonderful last night, and I want to share it with the world.
It has to do with the power of positive thinking, improvised comedy, success in our endeavours, an advertising slogan used by a famous sportswear company, and the ritual humiliation of English teachers in high schools. It may also be relevant to students of Leonardo Da Vinci and Sun Tzu, but it begins with a question I really didn't want to answer a few weeks ago:
I personally dislike these shows. They detract from the educational objectives, put unfair pressure on the students, and anyway... I'm not good at drama. I'm an "old-school" teacher who focuses on serious stuff, not silliness like this. So I wasn't very happy about the idea of getting up on stage. And I was even less happy when my colleagues decided that we should base our act on "Snow White" and then expected me to play the lead role. So I resisted.
Resistance is a funny thing, we all do it, but according to sources as diverse as ancient Chinese generals, renaissance artists, and modern thinkers like Nicholas Taleb, it's not beneficial. I keep hearing, again and again, that the secret to success is to work with the opportunity that is in front of you rather than insist on how things "should" be in your opinion. As Bruce Lee apparently once said: If you're wedded to one outcome, you're dead.
Well, eventually I gave up. I accepted that the world had decreed that I would wear a dress in front of several hundred people, and focused my energies on making the most of the situation. I made some changes to the script, and the result was actually pretty good. I also learned a few unforseen lessons, and had to admit that the experience had been good for me. Like the shoe company says, "JUST DO IT!"
After the show I talked about it with one of my university cla**** . The students are mature adults in continuing education and a lot of our energy is devoted to career development issues. So this was a natural topic of conversation, and I hoped that it was beneficial to the students to talk about it.
So, yesterday we were talking about Chinese attitudes to success. We started with the traditional factors - destiny, luck, feng shui, philanthropy, education - and discussed how relevant they are in the modern world. And pretty soon we were talking about making your own luck, taking responsibility for outcomes, and so on. One of my ladies then told me something that really made me happy, so here it is:
A few days after the "Snow White" class, my student's boss announced he
wanted to form a new team within the accounting department to deal with
various issues. The staff were reluctant - resisting - and my student
recognised in herself the same behaviour that we had discussed in class.
The boss was asking "Who will be Snow White?" and everyone was looking
at everyone else. It's really tough to be honest with yourself and say
"I'm doing the wrong thing here, I need to change," but somehow she
managed to just do it - she volunteered to not only join the team but
also to take responsibility for it. She accepted the challenge before
her and became the team leader.
And she's enjoying it! She's glad she forced herself to stop resisting.
She's more satisified with her job, liking herself more, and she even
got an unforseen pay rise too. She was very excited to talk to her
classmates about how her career had taken a step upwards as a result of
something she learned from me.
And naturally I was delighted too. This is what people pay me for, so I really
feel like I delivered the goods for her.