I spent the first two weeks of my February at the New Zealand Chinese Association Leadership Development Conference. Aside from being able to leave the country for a little rest and relaxation, I was able to network, collaborate and get to know 40 ambitious future leaders mainly from New Zealand, Australia and nearby Fiji.
We’re often told by the mainstream media and our history textbooks that everyone has a different story. That despite being hundreds, even thousands of miles away from each other at any given time that our narrative is different. From the hardworking mother in India, to the overseas Chinese college graduate in New York, to the expatriate American in Rome, our stories are played up to be diverse, each struggle different from another.
The mainstream media is wrong.
I believe that everyone has a story, and that story is shared by everyone around the world with everyone you meet. Our stories may be different – upbringing, life events, locations, beliefs, and parents, to name a few, but the narrative that which we speak is much the same. The hardworking mother, college graduate, and expatriate are all desiring something similar: a chance to be heard.
For my five days at the conference, I shut off my phone (there was very little WiFi to be had and signal nonexistent) and tried my best to listen to the stories that my new found Kiwi friends had to share, personal and national. Remarkably the stories were not that different from the ones you heard stateside, and many other ways, very different. From the similar desire to migrate and succeed in America, to the very different experience of being told by a recruiter that you should change your ethnic name to be more of an attractive hire, the experience was eye opening. I too, as the only American at this conference was also able to tell my story, the one of growing up in America as a Chinese student, getting into social media while others were in engineering, law, and medicine, and being able to succeed.
My world is a little bit more broad because of the stories I heard. But you don’t need to fly across the ocean (it doesn’t hurt) to be able to broaden yours. Start at the next networking event you go to. To tell your story, here are some ideas:
Listen: You have two ears and one mouth and two sets of eyes. You were made to listen and look, and talk less. To learn another’s story, listen more and speak less. Too often we speak – I being very guilty of this – and we miss the opportunities to hear something remarkable.
Be meaningful: You can ask what the other person does. You can ask where they are from. Ask what they believe instead. Starting from the heart and asking the meaningful, insightful questions connects you better than any occupational question ever can. We can always have more facts, but we can never stop feeling for the rest of humanity.
And finally, be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle (Plato). In attending this conference and meeting the amount of people I did, I realized even more that many are fighting a tough battle, whether it be for their job, family, or education, to name a few. Help make someone’s life better or someone’s day better. Better yet pay it forward and encourage someone to be better than they have ever been.
So with that, I leave you to network, but even more so, to tell your story. Let’s begin today, one narrative at a time. You may realize that we share more than you thought we did.