‘Your mind needs a hard reset if it sees only problems and not solutions to address them’, said Peter, a 50+ year outdoor enthusiast cum adventure sport instructor, an ex-Swedish Military personnel, an entrepreneur working with change management and a dear friend. Not too impressed at this point I asked him, ‘And how are we supposed to do that?’. He smiled and said, ‘Just like the phone factory reset option, just back up the positive memories and necessary applications learned through experiences and go for the reset, with a new outlook towards the problems and viruses of life’. Impressed with the follow up explanation, I was quick to respond with my slice of sarcasm dodging his offer to join him for MX/dirt biking at Shanghai yet again, ‘I will let you know when I able to locate my reset button’ as both of us laughed it off.
It wasn’t much long after, that I chose to go for the reset and reached out to Peter to join for my first MX biking experience under his able guidance. However, this reset wasn’t just about MX biking, it started a journey which was life changing for me in many ways. As I complete 2 years in China on this day of Dec 1, I am exhilarated in sharing this challenging yet exciting physical and emotional journey. I call it my journey of ‘Infancy 2.0’.
The first 2 years of human life are termed as Infancy. A period when a newborn starts from what is perceived as blank and experiences transformation in Physical, Social, Emotional, Cognitive & Language Skills under the care and guidance of parents or guardians.
The core challenges we perceive with most of the newborns are the ability to Move, Communicate, Adapt and Care (of itself). Ironically, we never move away from these core challenges all throughout our life, albeit it gets layered. If you don’t believe me, just list down all your challenges in life including work, those will fall in one of the 4 core challenges.
Move – If we were meant to stay in one place, we have had roots instead of feet – Rachel Wolchin
Most often parents put the newborn in a crib or similar structure. An infant is put in a crib larger than its size. This is to encourage its movement, but also restrict it with boundaries so that the infant doesn’t cause harm to itself. A newborn initially struggles to move within a crib. Gets stuck while trying to turn around, but with some help it tries again, till it starts exploring and reaching every corner within the boundaries set and starts feeling familiar in it. The growth of an evolving mind in an individual is also similar. Ensure you do not limit it much before the boundaries of the crib of purpose and at the same time do not fail to define the clear boundaries and wander too much, you can always keep resetting the boundary once you get familiar with the existing one.
On Dec 1, 2019, I moved to Shanghai in China. A place I was very curious but didn’t know much about. Even before I started settling here the world around changed upside down in little over a month with one of the worst crises seen in years. The pandemic happened before I could get my family to China. What this crisis affected the most was movement. My travel was and is still restricted back home to India. I got stuck in my first turn within the crib of Shanghai. Fortunately, there was help and encouragement from the guardians of this world of infancy in the form of my family, friends (both in China and India), relatives, colleagues, and my organization. I realized I was thinking way too much about the catastrophe which was even beyond my circle of influence. With my family not around, I was not much excited to spend time at home. Weekends, holidays, and annual leaves were all available to me in a country which was now out of lockdown situation. Maybe life gave me a chance to go for the hard reset. I went ahead with setting my Life KPIs. That’s when I realized my crib wasn’t Shanghai, it was the whole of China. As a passionate traveler, this was enough for me to go for what I had set to achieve. I visited all 31 Provinces, Municipalities and Autonomous regions of Mainland China in the 2 years that I have spent the country so far.
Moving is progression. Most of us aspire to move towards growing our wealth, health, knowledge, stature, and purpose. But the risk associated with moving is you can tend to move away from the same goals (often unintentionally) and left amidst challenges without clarity. In such cases never give up, look for those guardian figures around, if need be, to turn you around when stuck in the crib, reset, and start again.
Communicate – Good communication is a bridge between confusion and clarity – Nat Turner
When a newborn cries, it is difficult to know for a normal person if it is owing to fear, pain, or hunger. However, a parent with experience can have better guesses on that. Hence the same communication might leave different impression with different people. And if you aren’t that parent, refrain from taking guesses on topics beyond your knowledge or influence regarding other’s life. It is most likely unproductive and, in many cases, harmful too. Let’s take an example of the header of this article, people may interpret it as any of the follows:
‘A man enjoys his visit to all 31 provinces of China, while family is in lockdown in India’. ‘A media professional’s passion to learn the culture and market beyond data took him on a journey to explore all 31 provinces on Mainland China in only 2 years’
Both seem to make sense, right? But which one of the above would you want if this was about you? I assume it wouldn’t be tough to guess that. While we need attention when we try to convey our message like that crying infant, let us also give that positive attention when others try to communicate their angst, happiness, or opinion without judging at face value. It is essential to live the ethos of communication which seems to be marred nowadays. Mistrust, Hatred and Doubts attract the similar reactions. So does Trust, Love and Support, so choose which one do you wish associate with while communicating.
Adapt – The key to success is often the ability to adapt – Anthony Brandt
Straight out of the womb of the mother, the newborn is exposed to a surrounding which is much different than the surrounding it was familiar and used to till then. It is now exposed to a different world. Glaring lights, staring eyes, forced cuddles, at times overprotected, at times left to itself. Observing and coping with a pattern set by the world around, it adapts eventually, which I assume is not always to its liking.
I am a vegetarian pampered for most of my life with at least one time home-cooked meal during the day. Language of communication has never been a challenge in my life so far. Travel plans have always been with family, till China happened. I was now in a place where only 0-5% of the food options listed in the menu of restaurants are vegetarian. Most of the communication and conversation happen in Chinese. I didn’t know China beyond Beijing, Shanghai, Sichuan, Panda, the Great Wall, Shaolin Temple, Alibaba and Tencent when I arrived here. Many wondered how I even imaginesurviving at this place with these kindly of basic challenges for survival. For someone who didn’t even know the number of provinces in China, knowing their names was a distant dream. Here I am today taking the pride to have travelled all 31 of them in the mainland in 2 years. Adapting was the key to not only achieve this but enjoy the experience while doing so. Having witnessed the borders and influences of India, Russia, North Korea and Vietnam in the provinces/regions of Tibet, Heilongjiang, Liaoning and Guangxi respectively, to experiencing the culture of Mongols, Kazakhs, Tajiks and Uzbeks in the provinces of Inner Mongolia and Xinjiang. From spiced up cuisine of central China provinces of Sichuan, Chongqing, Hunan, and Guizhou to sweetness loaded food of eastern China in places like Shanghai and Guangdong. The thick noodles of north and the thin ones of south. From the Hanging Avatar mountains of Hunan, Pandas of Sichuan, to beaches of Sanya and desert of Gansu. I even managed to get a Chinese driving license which allowed me a motor bike tour across 4 provinces. As much of a fairy tale that this might sound, it required, research, going out of the comfort zones, staying without much food at some places during travel, sporadic stringent measures on health checks and nuclide acid test requirements and many other challenges. It was a journey of adapting with a leap of faith and I am glad that I only gained from of it. I received a positive reciprocation from a wonderful world of people around. As a professional, I am into a business of communication and people. This immersion not only provided me real life cultural and lifestyle insights but see the business-related data points come to life like penetration of e-wallets in remotest of places in Tibet, Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia and also availability of food and other goods delivery in such places.
We all are exposed to challenges and changes in life and at work very often, where we are tested for our ability to adapt. The purpose of adapting is not only to familiarize with the surrounding but also to embrace diversity and show respect to others’ choices and way of living, which is a huge leap towards harmony.
Care – One’s care for other represents life’s greatest value – Jim Rohn
The newborn needs care but can differentiate the level comfort it gets from that expression of care from different people. It smiles at some, it cries at some, it finds peaceful sleep in some arms, while wants to instantly jump out of others. Here, I will use the cliche of the so often repeated yet meaningful announcements in airlines of ‘securing your oxygen masks before helping others.’ We sometimes find ourselves dealing with challenges in relations, health,well-being, and finances. Resolving these are essential for mental health. In case of differences of opinion at work and relations, revisit it after applying reset to yourself and try to find solutions with the 3 ’I’ approach. ‘Introspect’ and correct if you are wrong, ‘Ignite’ your passion in other if you continue to see merit in the point you are trying to drive, ‘Ignore’ if you fail to reach consensus rather than landing in a conflict situation. Healthy body is prerequisite for a healthy and active mind in the long run. The equation is straight forward – burn out the calories you consume. On finances, while building assets do not forget you are the core asset of your life. Supporting your physical and mental health and related expenses are also asset building with long term returns.
While my mental health was supported with pursuing my passion, I ensured it is complimented with healthy diet and regime of workout and sports. Periodically I also kept checking on the ability of my body to cope up with activities that challenge both mind and body. I was glad to find out that both my mind and body didn’t disappoint me. I attempted some adventurous activities which I had never done before in my life like Dirt/MX biking, Sky Diving from 4000 meters, Via Ferrata Mountain climbing, Waterfall rappelling, Wake Boarding and Skiing in addition to endurance sports and activities like Half Marathon, Football, River Hiking, Lawn Tennis, and the regular workouts. Fortunately, I have never worried about cooking in the kitchen for having done Culinary and Hotel management, hence that life skill too came in handy here in these circumstances.
Taking care of health and well-being is a discipline of life which is binary. If you fail to take care of yours, it is very unlikely that you would be able to influence to build that discipline in others
The dichotomy of human life is it is an excellent example of overcoming the challenges of Move, Communicate, Adapt and Care to evolve, yet we can never overcome it completely. The answers to the challenges are also in the experiences of your life, just remember to reach out to the guardians if you get stuck by yourself in the crib or be one when you see someone else in that situation.
Author Kartik Vishwanathan is the Head of Investment Strategy – Mindshare China. Through this article, he shares his experience on 2 years of his life in China.