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How 24 Hours in Malaysia Changed My Life

How 24 Hours in Malaysia Changed My Life

The first country I had ever gone to on my own, visiting no one and knew not a soul, was Malaysia. I’ve been there a few times now but I will never forget the first time I stepped foot there. It was only for 24 hours but those 24 hours changed my perspective and outlook on people and life forever.

They say that you grow the most when you’re out of your comfort zone. I have to say that I completely, utterly agree with this statement. Going overseas completely alone, not knowing how to speak the language and not knowing one single person in the whole country was definitely out of my comfort zone. I was 22 at the time and I must admit, I will never forget this trip. There were two people in particular that I had met in Kuala Lumpur, both who have left me with some valuable lessons.

The Taxi Driver

It was 2011, here I was just landed in Malaysia. I had no idea where I was going and was searching frantically to exit the airport. Where were all the signs in English? I just wanted a taxi and I found myself lost in the Kuala Lumpur Airport. After what felt like hours, I finally found the taxi rank and hopped into a cab.

“Where are you going?” The taxi driver asked. I buckled my seat belt as I replied, “I don’t know, where would you recommend?” There was silence. Then he laughed, “You don’t know where you are going? Who comes into another country and doesn’t know where they are going?”

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I was a little nervous when I responded. “Well, I was in Thailand for the last month and didn’t realise I could only be in the country for 30 days, so I left and am heading back there in 24 hours so I can stay another 30 days!” The look on the taxi driver’s face was priceless. Looking back, I can totally understand why he was so bewildered.

As he drove, I started flipping through a tour book. One of the “must sees” was China Town. “How about you take me to China Town and I can stay there?” Almost instantly, he shook his head. “No, no, no, you not stay in China Town… very dangerous place, especially if you’re alone.”

To be honest, at this moment, I realised just what I had done and a wave of panic rushed over me. Only I would jump on a plane and have no clue where I was going. Seriously, who does that? Now that this taxi driver knows I’m alone and have no idea where I’m going, anything could happen. I gulped. “Maz, chill out, he is so friendly and his eyes are genuine, nothing but good vibes,” a voice inside my head whispered.

The taxi driver must’ve felt my anxiousness so he started chatting to me. He told me of all the cultural differences and how to show courtesy to the elders. He taught me how to say hello and thank you, then we exchanged stories. I started to relax.

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The ride was really enjoyable and I learnt a lot in the half hour trip. He then offered to drive me into the city and stop at different hotels, while he waited outside until I found a place I liked. He didn’t charge me any extra than what we originally discussed. “Let me know what time you need to leave for the airport and I will come pick you up.” He smiled and waved as he drove off.

The Stranger on the Street

“Hello!” I turned around to see who was calling out to me, he was a tall, dark man that looked to be in his early to mid 30s. I was in the mall exploring Kuala Lumpur and was not expecting to be running into anyone. I walked faster. He followed and kept calling out to me. My heart started to beat a little faster as I quickened my stride. He still followed while calling out to me.

Suddenly a voice in my head whispered, “Maz, no one knows where you are and if something happens to you, how would they know what happened?” I cringed at the thought. What had I got myself into? Another voice popped into my head, “Maz, you don’t know anyone in this country and you could do with some company, go on and make a new friend!”.A strange feeling of calmness rushed over me. I stopped and turned around to the stranger.

We ended up walking through the streets while he showed me the sights. We went to a bar for a drink and he told me that he had been living there for the last 2 years studying. He told me stories of when he first arrived in Malaysia and the culture shock he experienced. He taught me of the cultural differences and their way of living. We had a great time and I learnt more about Malaysia chatting to him than I would have from walking alone.

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We left the bar and started wandering some more. He took me to wherever I wanted to see and he was such a gentlemen I felt quite at ease. A lot different to how I felt when he was calling after me in the mall. We then went and had some food, shared some laughs and he walked me home.

What I Learned

Before this experience, I had always been weary of others. I found it hard to trust someone and it took me a while to open up. I worried about people’s intentions before I even got to know them and was always quick to assume the worst before giving anyone a chance.

When I was ready to leave for the airport, the taxi driver was running late and I started to worry that he wasn’t going to turn up. “Maz, you should’ve just booked a cab instead of depending on a stranger.” As I said this to myself a cab pulled up in front of me. “Maz?” He called out. It wasn’t the same taxi driver, how did he know my name?

“Maz, I have to take you to airport. My friend very worried about you making your flight.” He said with a look of concern. “Where is he?” I asked. I was a little nervous that another cab driver had come for me instead. “He was in a car accident, he is in hospital now but he called me because he was worried about you missing your flight. He promised you he would get you to the airport. Jump in, we are running late!”

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I was in shock. “Oh my, is he okay?” A complete stranger, was worried about me. This stranger was in a hospital bed after a car accident and all he could think about was keeping his promise of getting this random 22 year old girl to the airport? I was speechless.

The guy I had met the night before had walked me home, on the walk home I started running scenarios in my head. Should I pretend I am staying somewhere else so he doesn’t know where I really am staying? Is he going to try and hit on me or even force himself on me? I was preparing for the worst. Instead, he walked me to the door of the hotel, asked for my Facebook so we could stay in touch and he shook my hand and thanked me for the evening.

Here I was thinking up of all the worse scenarios in my head, letting fear rule my mind, when I didn’t need to be anxious, nervous or even pondering on such negative thoughts. It was definitely an eye opener. I learnt that our intuition knows best and if we listen to our guts, it is usually spot on. I learnt that when you open up to others you open up to opportunity and the universe.

We shouldn’t assume the worse in people especially before giving them a chance. Our intuition knows best and we can feel if someone is bad news or has bad motives. If I hadn’t trusted anyone or allowed myself to open up, that trip would’ve turned out pretty boring. We shouldn’t be so quick to judge. It’s all about perspective. Is the glass half full or empty?

Since then, I have taken this newfound attitude with me wherever I go and I tell you what, I have never made so many friends and connections with so many different walks of life. I’ve had a ball getting to know so many people from different backgrounds and some of which are now amazing lifelong friends who I love very dearly. The 24 hours I spent in Malaysia may have been short but it definitely was sweet. So sweet that it changed me forever.

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Last Updated on May 22, 2020

What Makes a Good Leader: 9 Critical Leadership Qualities

What Makes a Good Leader: 9 Critical Leadership Qualities

The word “leader” makes you think of people in charge, high-ranking people: your boss, politicians, presidents, CEOs…

But leadership really isn’t about a particular position or a person’s seniority. Just because someone has worked for many years doesn’t mean s/he has gained the qualities and skills to lead a team.

Getting promoted to a managerial position doesn’t automatically turn you into a leader either. CEOs and other high-ranking officials don’t always have great leadership skills.

So what makes a good leader? What are the characteristics of a leader?

Good leadership is about acquiring and honing specific skills. Leadership skills enable you to be a role model for a team in any environment. With great leadership qualities, successful leaders come in all shapes and sizes: in the home, at school, or in the workplace.

The following are some of the many characteristics great leaders exhibit.

1. A Positive Attitude

Great leaders know that they won’t have a happy and motivated team unless they themselves exhibit a positive attitude. This can be done by remaining positive when things go wrong and by creating a relaxed and happy atmosphere in the workplace.

Even some simple things like providing snacks or organizing a team Happy Hour can make a world of difference. An added perk is that team members are likely to work harder and do overtime when needed if they’re happy and appreciated.

Even in the worst situations, such as experiencing low team morale or team members having made a big mistake at work, a great leader stays positive and figures out ways to keep the team motivated to solve the problems.

Walt Disney had his share of hardships and challenges, and like any great leader, he managed to stay positive and find new opportunities. In 1928, Disney found that his film producer, Charles Mintz, wanted to reduce his payments for the Oswald series. Mintz threatened to cut ties entirely if Disney didn’t accept his terms, and Disney chose to part ways. But in leaving Oswald, Disney decided to create something new: the iconic Mickey Mouse[1].

The key is to break down huge challenges into smaller ones and find ways to tackle them one by one.

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Think about the lessons you can learn from the mistake and jot them down because sometimes you win, and sometimes you learn.

2. Confidence

All great leaders have to exhibit an air of confidence if they’re going to succeed. Please don’t confuse this with self-satisfaction and arrogance. You want people to look up to you for inspiration, not so they can punch you in the face.

Confidence is important because people will be looking to you on how to behave, particularly if things aren’t going 100% right. If you remain calm and poised, team members are far more likely to as well. As a result, morale and productivity will remain high, and the problem will be solved more quickly.

If you panic and give up, they will know immediately and things will simply go downhill from there.

Elon Musk is a great example of a leader with confidence. He truly believes that Tesla will be successful, which he has shown many times through his actions. He converted 532,000 stock options at $6.63 each, their value on Dec. 4, 2009, before Tesla went public. It was a hefty bargain considering Tesla’s stock price stood at around $195 per share at that time. He doesn’t apologize for his beliefs and has drawn fire from just about everyone for his political actions.

You can’t instantly become a very confident person, but all the small things you do every day will gradually make you more confident:

  • List 5 things you like about yourself every day (something different every day), and you’ll appreciate yourself more.
  • Work on your strengths and do your best to enhance them.

3. A Sense of Humor

It’s imperative for any kind of leader to have a sense of humor, particularly when things go wrong. And they will.

Your team members are going to be looking to you for how to react in a seemingly dire situation. It would probably be best if you weren’t stringing up a noose for yourself in the corner. You need to be able to laugh things off because if staff morale goes down, so will productivity.

Establish this environment prior to any kind of meltdown by encouraging humor and personal discussions in the workplace.

As a president, Barack Obama exuded confidence and calm during stressful situations. But he was also known for his “dad jokes,”[2] his genuinely funny speeches at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, and appearing on Zack Galifianakis’s Between Two Ferns.[3] Obama’s sense of humor made him grounded, realistic, and honest, which no doubt helped during some tense moments in the White House!

Learn to laugh at yourself. Confident people laugh about their own silly mistakes, and when you do this, others will also trust you more because you’re willing to share your experiences.

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Be observant and learn from the jokes others make. You can also get a lot of inspiration from the internet.

4. Ability to Embrace Failure

No matter how hard you try to avoid it, failures will happen; that’s okay. You just need to know how to deal with them.

Great leaders take them in strides. They remain calm and logically think through the situation and utilize their resources. What they don’t do is fall apart and reveal to their team how worried they are, which leads to negative morale, fear, and binge-drinking under desks.

Great leaders do, in fact, lead, even when they’re faced with setbacks.

Henry Ford experienced a major setback after designing and improving the Ford Quadricycle. He founded the Detroit Automobile Company in 1899, but the resulting cars they produced did not live up to his standards and were too expensive. The company dissolved in 1901. Ford took this in stride and formed the Henry Ford Company. The sales were slow and the company had financial problems; it wasn’t until 1903 that the Ford Motor Company was successful and put the Ford on the map.

Get to the root cause of any problem so you can prevent it from happening again and learn from the mistake.

By asking “why” 5 times (or more) on why something happened, you can find out the key factor that caused the problem and can find the best solution to tackle the problem.

You’ll also learn how to prevent this from happening again in the future after finding out a problem’s root cause.

5. Careful Listening and Feedback

This is far more complex than it actually sounds. Good communication skills are essential for a great leader. You may very well understand the cave of crazy that is your brain, but that doesn’t mean that you can adequately take the ideas out of it and explain them to someone else.

The best leaders need to be able to communicate clearly with the people around them. They also need to be able to interpret other people properly and not take what they say personally.

The Dalai Lama, as a symbol of the unification of the state of Tibet, represents and practices Buddhist values. The Dalai Lama’s leadership is benevolent and aims toward truth and understanding, alongside the other Buddhist precepts. This is a great example for all leaders: if you want to give good directions to others, you have to get feedback from others to understand the situation properly.

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Encourage communication between team members and establish an open door policy.

Practice not interrupting team members when they’re talking. Instead, summarize what they say and ask for feedback after you have talked about your ideas.

6. Knowing How and When to Delegate

No matter how much you might want to, you can’t actually do everything yourself. Even if you could, in a team environment that would be a terrible idea anyway.

Good leaders recognize that delegation does more than simply alleviate their own stress levels (although that’s obviously a nice perk). Delegating to others shows that you have confidence in their abilities, which subsequently results in higher morale in the workplace, as well as loyalty from your staff. They want to feel appreciated and trusted.

Although Steve Jobs was known for focusing in on the smallest of details, he knew how to delegate. By finding, cultivating, and trusting capable team members, Jobs was able to make Apple run smoothly, even when he had to be absent for extended periods of time.

To know when and how to delegate work to team members, you have to be very familiar with each of them:

  • List out all of their strengths, weaknesses, and personalities.
  • Talk with your team members more to know about their passion and interests.

Take a look at this guide and learn more about delegation: How to Delegate Work Effectively (The Definitive Guide for Leaders)

7. Growth Mindset

Any good leader knows how important it is to develop the skills of those around them. The best can recognize those skills early on. Not only will development make work easier as they improve and grow, it will also foster morale. In addition, they may develop some skills that you don’t possess that will be beneficial to the workplace.

Great leaders share their knowledge with the team and give them the opportunity to achieve. This is how leaders gain their respect and loyalty.

Pope Francis has been unusually popular with many Catholics and many non-Catholics. His position isn’t totally traditional, which is part of his appeal, but he also has admirable leadership skills. Pope Francis’s TED talk[4] drew attention because he encouraged leaders to be humble and to demonstrate solidarity with others. This inclusive, kind, and respectful style of leadership is incredibly important for any situation.

It’s important to spend time talking with other team members individually to understand them.

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Find out team members’ current challenges and try to give feedback and encouragement so they will grow and do better.

8. Responsibility

Great leaders know that when it comes to their company, work place or whatever situation they’re in, they need to take personal responsibility for failure. How can they expect employees to hold themselves accountable if they themselves don’t?

The best leaders don’t make excuses; they take the blame and then work out how to fix the problem as soon as possible. This proves that they’re trustworthy and possess integrity.

Howard Gillman is the chancellor of UC Irvine. You might have heard of how the university rescinded a bunch of acceptances, and then changed its mind[5], This past spring, an unusually high number of accepted students decided to matriculate; the school initially responded by rescinding offers over things like missed deadlines. But the college realized this was a mistake and reversed its decision. Gillman and the university accepted responsibility and decided to move past their earlier bad decision.

Always ask yourself what you can do better or what you should change. Take responsibility and think about what you can do better to prevent this from happening next time.

9. A Desire to Learn

It’s safe to say that all great leaders will have to enter unchartered waters at some point during their career. Because of this, they have to be able to trust their intuition and draw on past experiences to guide them.

Great leaders know that there’s always something to learn from everything they have experienced before. They are able to connect the present challenges with the lessons learned in the past to make decisions and take actions promptly.

You can either recall what you’ve learned from your memories or search your notes (ideally, a software that you can access anywhere with things well-organized).

Warren Buffett, one of the richest people in the world, has mostly made the right calls. But in dealing with huge amounts of money, Buffett has also made several multi-million (and sometimes multi-billion) dollar mistakes. He has stated that buying the company Berkshire Hathaway was his biggest mistake[6]. From that poor choice, he realized that it was unwise to pursue “improvements” and “expansions” in the existing textile industry. Despite mistakes like this, Buffett has invested wisely, and it shows.

To effectively learn from the past, write down lessons you’ve learned from any mistakes you’ve made. Have all the lessons well organized, and when similar things happen again in future, take these lessons as references.

The Bottom Line

Leadership traits are learnable. If you practice consistently, you can be a great leader, too.

Make small changes to your habits when you work with your team, wherever that may be. Most of us aren’t presidents or CEOs, but we all work with other people, and our actions always impact others. This gives every person the chance to develop leadership skills and to stand out from the crowd.

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Featured photo credit: Markus Spiske via unsplash.com

Reference

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