I have heard somewhere, ‘the human mind is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be kindled’. So true. Our mind is not limited in what it can learn. There is a whole wide world to explore, things to pick up, things to ponder about and as important if not more, things to be able to lose, fashionably known as unlearning.
In the series about my experiences in this new country, I want to share with you a very important attitude difference that I have not ever read in a culture studies book. The attitude that stems from security, that allows you to divorce yourself from what you do and be able to look at your own work objectively.
When I was in India, I had heard that people in Finland work on a single project for months on end. Sometimes it can even be a few years. My reality at that time told me, they will be passionate about that project, will know everything there is to know about it, but will be super protective about it too. I told myself, never ever mention to a Finn that your project is useless/ outdated/ waste or anything even a fraction as insulting as these words. Cmon, this was what he is doing for so long, calling it worthless will be like calling him worthless!
Right? Yes, they are passionate and know everything there is to know. They understand links, they know history, they get the technical, they’ve analysed everything in and around the project. They do a thorough job, no doubt about that. But they are not super protective about it. They are the first to admit when the project lacks in something (I wonder if that also comes by knowing it well) or if they have made a mistake or even if the project is irrelevant or outdated. They know that they are not the project, if it does well, great. But if it doesn’t, then they have failed, they are not failures.
It’s not the same back home. Self image is so linked to the work you do, that if someone criticizes the work, they are insulting you personally. You are your work. It has probably the biggest part to play in who you think you are, and what others think of you. Ofcourse you have to protect it. At the cost of being defensive about your work. At the risk of being trapped inside an ivory tower. Jeopardising the work or the company. Putting your learning on hold. Guard it with your life, lest someone should correct you.
I don’t want to be listing what all India does wrong. I just want to try to learn the best things about this new culture. I want to be secure and objective like these people (whoever they are, Westerners, Finns or my company people). I want to be learning each day. I don’t want to spin my own web and get stuck in it. I don’t want to be the personification of the ‘not invented here’ syndrome. I want to take risks, and I want to be able to fail well. Gracefully accept my ‘developmental areas’ and not euphemise them. It’s for no one else’s benefit, but for my own.
So here’s to one new realization and one new unlearning. I don’t have to carry around the legacy of defensiveness. I can dump it somewhere, and breath in the fresh, cold, crisp air of being a secure worker, an open person and a constant learner.