Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A little village in Fiji can show the world leaders a thing or two in racial relations and paying it forward

This Christmas marks a couple of milestones for me... my first overseas trip, my first Christmas without my biological family and Christmas Fijian-Indian style.

I am in a little village outside Nausori, which in turn, is outside of Suva (which I am sure everyone knows of), and staying with my partner's family (Mum, older brother, his wife, and their little son) and are here for ten days.

A little bit of background of the village. It is a village, consisting of houses, grog shop, DVD store, general convenience and petrol store, Police Post and community centre (to which the grog shop is attached). From what I can tell, the residents are either Fijian or Fijian-Indian background. One family owns the grog shop, DVD store, and convenience store... and that's my partner's family (Fijian-Indian).

Their house is more than 100 years old, and has been through 3 generations of their family (originally built by my partner's great grandfather). In fact much of the immediate land was, or still is, in the family name (no longer farmed by the family, mostly on agistment with other farmers).

Sam (my partner's father) built the convenience store, DVD store, grog shop and community centre. The Community Centre consists of a room, amenities, covered large open room and lean-to for more room, and has a pool table.

It was by his influence within the local government that he was able to get the main road from his store to his neighbours bitumen (when asked why he didn't continue with the bitumen from his store to the main road (Suva - Nausori) he replied simply that he only got the bitumen done where his customers come from.

His lasting legacy (he passed away about 2 years ago) was not the bitumen road, but the Community Centre, and more importantly, the pre-Christmas get together, to celebrate Christmas within the little community. Basically, every parent provided a present for each of their children, which would be given out by Santa. In the meantime, lots of Christmas music would be played over the speakers, and Kava flowed freely.

This year, of course, was the first time I experienced the pre- Christmas community get together, and I noted the following:
  • The Christmas music was both loud and very happy (no escaping it within the village)
  • A good solid mix of Fijians and Fijian-Indians were present, and sat amongst each other, not segregated
  • The MC of the event conducted a communal prayer (Christian based), ensured a Fijian chant was done, but most importantly explained to the children the importance of community spirit, respect for your neighbours, and helping each other.... in other words, he paid it forward.
  • Santa had an amazing tan, a wicked pair of Oakleys, and 2 missing teeth :)
  • Santa arrived on a back of a ute, in convoy with a couple of cars
  • Santa liked Kava
  • Every adult male was offered Kava by the local Fijians, and I had a couple of coconut shells worth (yes, it does taste like muddy water, it doesn't make you sleepy like say beer, and t does numb your mouth)
  • The level of respect my partner, her older brother, and most importantly, their Mum (Sam's widow) received by all and sundry was truly incredible, and a sight to behold. As a tag along, I too was offered and given great respect; something totally unexpected. It was very obvious that Sam's presence was still very much among them all.
  • I knew I was safe having some Kava with the locals, even with a well known ability of not holding my own with alcohol
  • I tried to learn some of the customs with Kava (saying Bula first, clapping the hands (cupped) once, drinking, and then clapping cupped hands twice)
  • Every child had a present (my partner made sure we had purchased a number of presents for some of the less advantaged families' children)... yep she understands the concept of paying it forward
  • A few families (Fijian and Fijian-Indian) provided the curry chicken and rice for everyone
  • The store provided the lollies for Santa to hand out
  • The night went on to 10:30pm with lots of music, and beer (the Kava ran out early evening) but promptly stopped so as to not annoy the neighbours with children.
  • The following day, a group of locals cleaned up the community centre, and life returned to normal.
  • This little aspect of life in a village is one that our world leaders should take heed of when dealing with the international and localised problems:
  • Two races interacted with each other, in the same way long term friendly neighbours do (and of course that's just what they are)
  • Religion did not impede on the day's events, with both Christians and Hindus peacefully enjoying their day together (yes, I know Hinduism is more a way of life, but you get my drift)
  • Regardless of wealth, or lack thereof, a community, with the right spirit and sense of respect, can be both wholesome and fun to be a part of.

So, on this Christmas Eve, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas, and a safe, rewarding and relaxing break.

Please take some time to pay it forward to someone else...

You never know where it will lead.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Pay it forward... how can I actually do this?

Back on the 1st of December I wrote a blog covering off the simple, yet very effective concept of "Paying it Forward". As a result of this blog, a number of people have asked me.... "how do I pay it forward?"

Hmmm... I really can't say that I have actually given the "how to" part of paying it forward any real serious thought... so I guess, now is as good a time as any.

Paying it forward: a simple concept of helping someone (usually unknown to yourself) by making one little part of their life easier/happier. This allows that person to achieve something better than perhaps they previously would have. They then are energised to do the same for someone else.... and so it goes... paying it forward.

How to pay it forward... a layman's perspective.

The main common theme behind the majority of all pay it forwards, is that they are normally quite often, off the cuff, or spur of the moment decisions, with little analytical thinking behind the action. So, exactly right what you are thinking, pay it forwards rely on your subconscious, your sixth sense, or what I refer to as your higher self.

So, I guess, paying it forward involves selfless actions on your part, without expecting anything in return. And no I am not suggesting for a moment that you be a martyr, as you shouldn't disadvantage yourself to the benefit of somebody else.

So how do you pay it forward? Let's look at some simple examples:
  • Topping up a parking meter before you drive off, giving the next parker something to smile about (perhaps helping them make that important meeting on time)
  • Positively affirming someone's decision, allowing them the drive to follow through on their chosen path (maybe, as a result, they apply for that new job, and get it)
  • Tipping the waitress if they actually did make your night that much more special/or even just saying thank you for someone else doing their job (you never know who may be watching)
  • Helping someone who appears lost/upset/confused/not well (speaks for itself really)
  • Tweeting that bit of information/linking one tweeter to another tweeter who needs a helping hand (and why would you do this... because you can!)
  • Share information if you can to someone who needs it... actually take the time to send the helping tweet, instead of worrying about your next self promotional tweet.

And yes, the last couple of ideas are based around http://www.twitter.com/ ... why? twitter is an easy to access, simple to use, application that can literally put you in direct contact with someone who is literally on the other side of the world... and that someone may actually need you to pay if forward.
So there you go... in almost any situation, there is the ability to pay it forward.

And remember... if you are the recipient of a pay if forward by a complete stranger, please be open to paying it forward to someone else, when the opportunity presents itself.

Good luck and enjoy paying it forward, as I do.

Friday, December 5, 2008

The power of the face to face meeting.

I love the internet, and I enjoy the various methods available to communicate electronically to people, whether locally, nationally or worldwide.

As a means for getting data from myself to one of my clients, email / internet are fabulous tools, and yes, email can be used (together with the internet) to build relationships and make the deals. A lot of people do business this way, but it misses a vital ingredient... the personal human interactive touch.

Depending on who's advice / research you decide to hang your hat on, anywhere from 60 - 75% of communication is made non-verbally; you know, facial expressions, body language and even the aura given. This is an amazing amount of communication found wanting in emails, instant messaging, texts and even tweets.

A simple face to face meeting can easily shortcut the sales / negotiation process, by paying careful attention to non-verbal signals. How many people have witnessed their client suddenly leaning back, crossing their arms and giving off a negative vibe? And if you weren't there at the meeting, and this meeting was being held in cyberspace... would you have picked up the clues? Most likely not.

However, being present at that meeting, in person, and staying alert to the non-verbal cues, places you in the box seat to counter any objections your client may have, implementing a strategy to get the meeting's direction back on track. Or simply, realise it wasn't meant to be... and no further time needs to be wasted for now (remember, don't burn any bridges).

Until mankind negates the core need to have close, physical personal interaction, face to face meetings / communication remains an important part of anyone's work and life.