We have the power to make a difference in every way
I noticed an ambiguous trend when I was studying in Australia. Whenever there was a group discussion, the Australians would maintain full eye contact with each other while the Asians seemed lost.
I used to think that I was being left out on purpose and that inclusivity was being sidelined but as I stepped into the working world, I saw a similar trend. But this time around, I noticed, it’s the quiet ones that are on the losing end.
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I’ve always heard people say that we need to grab hold of opportunities we get and speak up boldly, and that individuals who are outspoken are well-liked and can be easily approached by many.
This got me thinking about people who are not bold or outspoken but are faithfully serving behind the scenes. They do a superb job though they are rarely in the limelight. I begin wondering what leadership means to people who work behind the scenes.
I suppose one’s attitude towards a job is very important, be it a big task that everyone takes notice of or a menial task that is easily overlooked, but my recent travel gave me a lot of insights into how ordinary people can appear to be extraordinary.
I was on a trip to Japan and I have to say that it was quite an eye-opening experience. Here, I found countless people who were happily engaged in “thankless” tasks but they were content with what they did and would approach it with so much enthusiasm and genuinity.
First, let’s talk about their front liners. Walking down the shopping streets, I saw sales promoters smiling and proudly holding cardboards to welcome customers to their store.
Right next to the door I saw a store worker enthusiastically giving out free cake samples. Throughout the time that I was there, the store worker – who was full of zest and good manners – would thank every customer who walked past the door.
As I continued to explore the streets, I saw three women sorting out piles of rubbish. The Japanese have a very good trash management system.
Though the island nation is renowned for their tech-savviness, rubbish separation is still manually done at many locations.
There were designated bins for combustible and non-combustible items, yet these workers still went the extra mile to ensure that the bins were sorted accordingly.
I also saw rubbish collectors energetically running from one house to another as they executed their duties. For a lot of us, this may come across as a mundane job but it amazed me that these people were doing it at such speed and fervour.
Next, I came across a road construction site and watched silently as the workers barricaded the site in an orderly manner.
Not only did they set up barricades across the parameters, they had also designated workers to stand around as an added safety measure and none of these workers looked tired, withdrawn or overworked. They were there – all smiles – just ready to do their job.
During my stay there, I’d often hear blaring sirens. Motorists quickly made way for special purpose vehicles – as do we – but what caught my attention was the fact that even ambulances slowed down at the pedestrian crossing.
As the pedestrians stopped to give way to the ambulance, you’d hear the words “arigato gozaimasu” over the hailers. Even a rushing ambulance driver was exceptionally courteous in thanking the pedestrians for giving way.
You’d think that they are just doing their job. So did I but one day, I was walking past a small park and stopped to take photos of some beautiful tulip blooms.
A passer-by gently approached me and reminded me to not step on the soil although I was one foot away from the plant.
We are probably so used to the “mind your own business” mentality but even the ordinary man on the street there cared so much about his environment.
The Japanese believe in shared responsibility. Something as small as taking good care of plants at a public park is taken into consideration. No wonder the world thinks highly of the Far East country.
It’s not about the task that you do but the heart and effort you put into doing it efficiently. Anything ordinary that sees extraordinary effort is outstanding.
We may not be the most eloquent people but when we go the extra mile to perform a task, we are out to “wow” people.
The two words that come to my mind whenever I think about the Japanese work attitude are “enthusiasm” and “diligence”.
These two character values are among those that make up our offerings to the youth, through our Leaderonomics Club – a leadership initiative carried out at secondary schools.
The Japanese express joy in every little thing they do. They give their best and are very diligent at performing their tasks. They invest a lot of time and energy to complete the work assigned to them.
Someone once told me that we either become “better” or “bitter” through our hard times. The only difference between the words is the character called “I”. I have a choice to determine my outcomes. I have the power to make myself better.
Diligence allows us to choose how we spend our energy. We can become bitter and spend all our time and energy complaining about our tasks or life’s decisions or we can become better as we put in some effort – or go the extra mile – to complete our jobs efficiently.
We have the choice to be exceptional – regardless of whether we work behind the scenes or manage the front line. Let’s make every little act count.
Ee Ling is part of the Leaderonomics Youth team. She loves reflecting on life’s beauty among the ordinary things to gain new insights in life especially when she is travelling. She is also passionate about youths, believing that there’s potential in each one of them. If you would like to know more about our youth initiatives and camps, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org