Recently I was blessed with an opportunity to attend a company conference and celebration in Prague and it was invigorating in many ways. Many of which were unexpected and all of which fueled a new fire inside me to be curious about people outside of my normal circle.
A video I created for a company contest won the US portion and so I was able to represent it for the international portion at our headquarters in the Czech Republic. The amazing thing that I discovered was that the prize we won in the competition was just a tiny piece of what I came home with when it was all over.
The biggest piece of the prize was all of the many amazing new friends from all over the world that I was able to meet. From far reaching places like Vietnam, India, Philippines, China, Czech Republic, Russia, and Kazakhstan, these friendships opened my eyes to the incredible talent, passion, friendliness and similarities of the people all over the world. It was amazing to participate in the scheduled events with them, but it was in the unscheduled moments, the conversations long and short, that I saw how truly alike we all are. We had conversations not of politics or sporting competition, but rather of family, likes and dislikes, and very often food. Everyone cooked their specialties and I tried all sorts of food from their countries (I loved the dumplings from Kazakhstan, spring rolls from Vietnam and the chicken curry from India) and drank lots of Czech beer to wash it all down. Yes, we saw the typical tourist sites too during our off-time, but it was the camaraderie, the laughing, the hugging, and the smiles that I’ll remember most of all. It was not only our differences, but it was also the similarities that made this trip inspiring.
The reason I share this is that it reminds me of how important independent thought and action is in our lives. We could easily live each day with the media telling us how we should see the world or instead, we could step out of our comfort zones, out of our normal circle of friends, and out of the normal mindset we are being fed on the news and the internet, and really reach out to those who are different around us.
We need to feel empowered to be independent from the normalcy in the world. Step out, engage, ask questions, and be curious. One of the things I discovered was that people are genuinely curious about each other. If you want to know something ask a question and be open to questions in return. Not everyone has an agenda or underlying purpose, most often they just want to know more about you. Being independent and free from the pre-prescribed mentality that we are better or worse than others is extremely liberating and much more fulfilling.
In the end I would like to challenge each of you to do the following:
Turn off the news. While important to know what is going on in the world, be aware that this is only one perspective and often, the segments are chosen based on a desire to be provocative and not to show the full, beautiful world around us.
Turn off your smart phone. While walking the streets of Prague, my phone died after an hour and I had to navigate on my own all day without a map. I just let myself be free to enjoy the living moments around me. It was extremely invigorating, and empowering to explore in such an independent way! Imagine doing this intentionally while exploring your own town!
Step out of your circle of friends and meet someone new. Look for an opportunity to say hello to a new person from somewhere other than where you live. Seek out people with different cultures, traditions, and backgrounds. In doing so, you will learn far more if you are open to them!
Drop the fear. The vast majority of people are good, kind and sharing. A smile goes a long way, even if the language doesn’t!
All of this is easy to do once you start. The key is starting! If anyone wants to start a new conversation with me, I’d love to hear from you and continue to fuel my fire and help you start yours as well!
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