Recently I co-wrote a best-selling career handbook in which I developed the chapter titled “When in Rome.” The notion of the chapter was about working in an unfamiliar environment and fitting in with the culture and new surroundings in order to maximize your efforts and time invested.
I conducted my own personal ‘Roman experiment’ a few years ago when I moved to Montreal from Calgary to live and work. Feeling confident in a general sense, with a solid grasp of the language, I felt assured I’d be successful, minus a few expected hitches. I was not successful. Not at all. Not even in the least, truly. What endured was a hostile experience that reminded me I was simply not from there and shouldn’t really try to be there. Eventually, I crawled back to Western Canada – tail tucked between my legs – where I celebrated what was my normal and gained a new appreciation for my home.
Fitting in is not always the best remedy to being displaced. It might well be, however, when you get hired to be part of a powerful team (corporate, athletic or other), but if you are hired for your uniqueness, then it’s best to celebrate your own differences and how they will be measured and marked when you stand out!
This month I am living in Arizona while I work on my next big career project. Survival in the desert in the heat of Summer may seem cruel and impossible to many. For me, it truly is a delight. Firstly(and yes, of course!), I love the heat. Secondly, I am not here to fit in. Hence, I am the anti-Roman, so to speak. I’ve transplanted myself into a place I am not legally allowed to stay; with this comes restrictions, but with it comes so many liberties. For example, this morning I woke four hours before my usual wake-up time just to go for a gargantuan hike in the Sonoran Desert. When I returned, I indulged in an abnormally large and heavy (guiltless) breakfast as I celebrated the four miles of trails I ground beneath
my heels. Then I headed to the pool for the next two hours where I slept and swam and even sat in the hot tub – yes, it’s 40 degrees Centigrade here!
Sometimes survival is about balking the normal and inviting the unusual. Tomorrow, following my work commitments, I plan to do what nary any Arizonian will do: golf at 2 pm! Oh, the joy when I show up and have the entire golf course (hopefully) to myself; I can’t count the mulligans I’ll be pulling!
Where there is a difference, there is survival. Out of abnormal, comes something fresh and new.
Peace, joy and difference,