I recently returned from my second visit to China. It was a wonderful trip, from San Francisco to Beijing to Nanjing to Shanghai to Los Angeles in about 10 days.
Travel always makes me ponder existential things, and this time was no different. Here’s what I came back with:
If we let it, travel can be a very broadening experience. It can expand our perspectives and stretch our minds.
This part isn’t anything mind-blowing.
But I also realized travel can make us bat-shit crazy. Waiting by our gate at the Shanghai airport, Allison and I met a guy who was driven nearly insane by the very same cultural differences that we found so intriguing.
What a difference perspective makes.
Whether we realize it or not, we all have a perception of what’s “normal.” Our “normal” always gets defined by the circumstances around us on a daily basis. We don’t mean to do this; it’s just how our brains work.
But our particular brand of “normal” isn’t necessarily normal at all, is it?
I think about the family we met in the Hutong village in Beijing who took us into their home for a meal. The patriarch of the family was a kung fu master who trained with Jet Li.
His “normal” is nothing like mine, that’s for sure.
So here’s the big realization…
“Normal” is always relative.
A light-bulb moment like this is jarring, but this kind of disruption can also be a very good thing.
When I accept that other people’s “normal” is different from mine, I suddenly become less judgemental and more open — both pretty good things, I’d say.
Of course, at work the same thing happens. Every person in our team, department, or company arrives with a slightly contrasting version of “normal.” Though it’s usually not as dramatic as Josh vs. Kung Fu Master, it can still be surprisingly striking.
Everyone has a slightly different kind of normal, and this can be a very good thing.
If we let it.