For the past 12 years I’ve had the privilege of working and living more than 2400 miles away from my native land. The experiences garnered throughout these years have made me into a better person, more effective leader and aware global citizen. Here are four fabulous lessons I learned from my time in the West Indies:
- Open up. Forget the A/C and open up those doors and windows. More importantly, open up yourself. Don’t close off the sun, breeze, neighbors, and all those opportunities outside. Sure … at times it may get uncomfortable but it’s worth it. Live life with an open door, mind and heart.
- Being different may describe you but doesn’t define you. I appreciate the frank manner in which people in the West Indies describe others: chinee, dark, white, red, indian, shorty, tallman, blondie, thick, etc. But I most appreciate that people usually don’t take offense to those terms – it is just a description after all. While stereotypes do exist (gotta be real), I learned in a very personal way that what you do is more important that what you look like. Actions are what define us.
- Go brave. Whether it is donning a tiny carnival costume, exploring the islands, meeting new people or owning your own insecurities … just DO it. It took a few weeks in Trinidad & Tobago to get over years of personal limitations related to body insecurities and self-imposed inhibitions. While I’ve always been a fairly confident person, I finally felt completely comfortable with all my imperfections. I finally realized that being genuine, real, honest and relatable is what makes up real beauty and what drives greater success in life.
- Social currency is the most valuable kind. It is true … who you know makes a difference. Always work to build positive relationships and help others when you can. Being in a position to help others – and actually doing it – means I have a positive balance in my social currency account from which I may withdraw should I need assistance. Word of advice: You also have to know yourself. Are you a valued colleague or a sponge who appears only when you need something? No other time better uncovers the sponges than Carnival time in Trinidad & Tobago. I’m looking at you free fete and costume seekers.
The writer, Laura Lee Kong, now resides in the U.S.