Conversations That Change You
Greetings, this is Carl and you are listening to Behavior Gap Radio the podcast for real financial advisors all over the world and this is another field report coming from India. I’m on day, I think three or four in India and it has been amazing and I wish I knew exactly how to frame my thoughts around it. Other than just to say, if you’ve got a chance to come to India, take it, come. You need to come and see this place. The warmth of the people, the energy, the contradictions that you’re sort of faced with each day, amazing, amazing. One of the things that I had a really interesting conversation last night, my event that I was speaking up wrapped up at about … I was done talking at about, I think it was maybe 9:15 or 9:30 at night and then there was dinner afterwards. I was like, “It’s 9:30 wait, we’re having dinner?” Everybody there, there’s somewhere around 100-150 people there and everybody had dinner. I was like, “Wow isn’t it a little late for dinner?” They said, “No, no, no, this is what time we eat.”
That started this whole discussion around work and work hours. Sitting at a table with a group of professionals in India and I said to them, “Is there a culture at all around play here? Do people go running, mountain biking?” I’m in the middle of New Delhi and I’m asking about mountain biking, right? Do they go play cricket, what do you do for recreation? Again, I’m sitting around a table with professionals, financial advisors and marketing professionals and the people who put on the event and they looked at me almost with kind of blank stares like, “I don’t understand the question, what do you mean recreate? No, we don’t have a culture of that here.”
Again, I don’t want to stereotype too broadly, I’m just sharing an experience I had with a group of eight to 12 people around the table. I asked, “Is this conversation representative of the professional community that you run in?” And they said, “Yes, we go to work early in the morning because when you add in commute time and getting to the office, we go to work early in the morning, we stay there all day until late at night. We go home and sometimes we have dinner at home or we have dinner at work. We have dinner late. We go home, we watch a little TV and we go to bed and we wake up and we repeat that six days a week.”
This was a group of professionals and I realized how it’s so interesting to me, and I don’t know exactly how to frame it. I don’t know how to think about it. I don’t’ know how to feel about it, but it’s so interesting to me. I told them, “Look, recreation, getting outside, spending time on my mountain bike or hiking or skiing, or now in New Zealand, on the water, is the focus of my life. I build work around that.” I realized I was having this discussion where I am, and I really don’t like this term at all but it’s the first time I had been in a position, in a situation, and in a location which makes it completely appropriate, I was talking about first world problems. How much time do you get to recreate? How much time do you take off?
They were saying, in fact, one of them said to me, “Carl, you need to understand, the crush here. There are so many people and it is so competitive that we just haven’t been focused on that at all.” You may play cricket through high school and then of course, you watch it on TV. The one guy said to me, “I’ve run a marathon, so did have a period of time where I was able to train for that, but now I’ve really got to be focused on work because it’s so competitive.” It reminded me of the thing you sometimes hear bandied about in the United States among university kids, professors will say to them, “You better study hard and you better work hard because there are,” whatever the number is, “100,000 people in India training for your job.” Right? It’s a really interesting thing to sort through. I’m trying to be careful around context and cultural understanding that I absolutely am ignorant of and I’m also trying to be careful around sort of the privilege that I have. It’s a privilege, it’s a blessing in my life that I’ve got space to spend time doing that.
Really fascinating. I guess all I’m really suggesting here is, travel has some massive benefits. Talking to people from completely different cultures about how they approach life has some massive benefits. That’s changed me. That conversation has changed the way I think about the world, it’s changed the way I think about my own life, it’s changed the way I think about money and time. It’s made me think all night about my own kids and the world they’re going to face in just even 10 years, how much different it’s going to be. One of the benefits of travel. One of the benefits of reading and understanding other cultures and having conversations with people about things and asking questions.
I guess, there’s no big conclusion, no moral lesson, nothing. I just wanted to share that experience with you. It was impactful for me as something to think about. When those of us in the first world throw ideas around like, hey make sure you’re … Again, that’s the world we live in. There’s no reason to feel … I don’t know what the … I don’t want to say there’s no reason to feel guilty, it’s just simply important for us to understand the differences, be aware of them, and what that means. What the implications of that are, I think are personal. I know for me, if I’m quiet and reflect on that experience, the implications will probably be different than if you had that experience and that’s totally okay.
The point is, first of all having those experiences, having conversations. You don’t need to travel to India to have them. Have a conversation with somebody who grew up in India. Have a conversation with somebody who grew up in South America, somebody who grew up in a different part of the United States than you did, just somebody different than you, right? First of all we should have those experiences, second, we should be aware of the feelings, the thoughts, the intuition, and allow those feelings, thoughts, intuition to work in us and notice what they’re saying to us and then be brave enough to listen to it, talk about it, sort of sort out what it means in our lives. Allow yourself to be changed by conversations with people who are different than you.
That wraps up another field report for Behavior Gap Radio coming to you from India.