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4 Things Japanese People Taught Me

4 Things Japanese People Taught Me

Several years ago, I spent some time in Japan. I was a Japan Fulbright Scholar — the Japanese government invited me to their country to learn as much as I could about modern day Japan and its people. I had an absolutely wonderful time and it is still very much impacting my life today. Though I learned many lessons while I was there, I would like to share these 4 with you:

1. Have Integrity 

Integrity is not as easy to come by these days as it used to be. Honesty, doing the right thing, and having pure motives just may not be evident everywhere we go. However, that doesn’t mean that you have to follow suit. Do what is right, even when no one is looking — that is the definition of integrity I heard many years ago. You see, when I was in Japan I went to see a baseball game. While there, during the second inning I needed to go to the restroom. I accidentally left my new digital camera in the stall hanging on the hook. When I realized what I did, in the seventh inning, I went back. The camera was still hanging where I left it. Now, I am not saying that people didn’t think of taking my camera, but they didn’t. Integrity. Sometimes, thinking of how your actions will affect others really is important. I was ever so grateful no one took my camera that day!

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2. Be Clean

Here, in America, it seems that everywhere I look I see trash on the ground. At camp grounds, at national monuments, even just walking around the neighborhood. There is trash everywhere. I must say, while in Japan I not only noticed that there was little to no trash on the ground, but commented on that to my guide. She simply replied that if you love where you live you take care of that place. Children even spend the last 30 minutes of every school day cleaning the campus, they do not have Janitors (it was wonderful to see children taking care of their school’s campus). What a novel idea, take care of where you live/work/play. I say that this starts in the home. Teach your children, if you have any, to pick up after themselves. Teach them where trash goes. Don’t pick it up for them (even though that would be much quicker) instead train them to take care of this wonderful place that we live in. My father used to tell me, “we may not live in a mansion, but we don’t have to look like we live in a pigsty.”

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3. Be Polite

Everyone I met while in Japan was polite and kind. They did know me, yet treated me as I was a respected guest. I must say, in light of the divisions that are occurring here politically, we would do well to remember to be kind to one another. The Golden Rule really needs to be put back into our lives much more. Who knows, maybe one kind word or deed you do today could affect someone in a huge way you never know about.

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4. Have Pride in Your Country

This kind of goes with the prior thoughts above. We live, in my opinion, in the greatest country there is. Yet, there are those who try to destroy others’ property through rioting. That would not happen in Japan. While I was there, it was very evident that the Japanese people love their country, speak highly of their country, and fly their flag proudly. Now, I didn’t say that everyone agreed with things their government did all of the time, but they separated their thoughts from pride of country. We too must get back to that place where we remember how great it is to live in these United States of America!

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Last Updated on April 8, 2020

Why Assuming Positive Intent Is an Amazing Productivity Driver

Why Assuming Positive Intent Is an Amazing Productivity Driver

Assuming positive intent is an important contributor to quality of life.

Most people appreciate the dividends such a mindset produces in the realm of relationships. How can relationships flourish when you don’t assume intentions that may or may not be there? And how their partner can become an easier person to be around as a result of such a shift? Less appreciated in the GTD world, however, is the productivity aspect of this “assume positive intent” perspective.

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Most of us are guilty of letting our minds get distracted, our energy sapped, or our harmony compromised by thinking about what others woulda, coulda, shoulda.  How we got wronged by someone else.  How a friend could have been more respectful.  How a family member could have been less selfish.

However, once we evolve to understanding the folly of this mindset, we feel freer and we become more productive professionally due to the minimization of unhelpful, distracting thoughts.

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The leap happens when we realize two things:

  1. The self serving benefit from giving others the benefit of the doubt.
  2. The logic inherent in the assumption that others either have many things going on in their lives paving the way for misunderstandings.

Needless to say, this mindset does not mean that we ought to not confront people that are creating havoc in our world.  There are times when we need to call someone out for inflicting harm in our personal lives or the lives of others.

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Indra Nooyi, Chairman and CEO of Pepsi, says it best in an interview with Fortune magazine:

My father was an absolutely wonderful human being. From ecent emailhim I learned to always assume positive intent. Whatever anybody says or does, assume positive intent. You will be amazed at how your whole approach to a person or problem becomes very different. When you assume negative intent, you’re angry. If you take away that anger and assume positive intent, you will be amazed. Your emotional quotient goes up because you are no longer almost random in your response. You don’t get defensive. You don’t scream. You are trying to understand and listen because at your basic core you are saying, ‘Maybe they are saying something to me that I’m not hearing.’ So ‘assume positive intent’ has been a huge piece of advice for me.

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In business, sometimes in the heat of the moment, people say things. You can either misconstrue what they’re saying and assume they are trying to put you down, or you can say, ‘Wait a minute. Let me really get behind what they are saying to understand whether they’re reacting because they’re hurt, upset, confused, or they don’t understand what it is I’ve asked them to do.’ If you react from a negative perspective – because you didn’t like the way they reacted – then it just becomes two negatives fighting each other. But when you assume positive intent, I think often what happens is the other person says, ‘Hey, wait a minute, maybe I’m wrong in reacting the way I do because this person is really making an effort.

“Assume positive intent” is definitely a top quality of life’s best practice among the people I have met so far. The reasons are obvious. It will make you feel better, your relationships will thrive and it’s an approach more greatly aligned with reality.  But less understood is how such a shift in mindset brings your professional game to a different level.

Not only does such a shift make you more likable to your colleagues, but it also unleashes your talents further through a more focused, less distracted mind.

More Tips About Building Positive Relationships

Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

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