Hundreds of sky scrapers protruding from the horizon. Flashes of light resembling some stroboscopic laser show. All at 2 a.m. The cities there truly do not sleep. Working around the clock to build skyscrapers to keep up with the infrastructure demand of Chinese cities, the work ethic there is mind boggling.

This unwavering work ethic was evident in our truly amazing guides. Instead of just dropping us off at the airport, we would be ushered right up to the counter, our tickets taken care of. When traveling into congested areas, we felt like sheep being herded by our protective shepherds. They committed to memory what we liked to drink at restaurants so we wouldn’t have to even ask. If we liked something a lot (shrimp rice ball things were divine), before I knew it I had a fresh platter of it in front of me.

I wanted to ensure they knew how thankful I was for their relentless drive to serve me and the rest of our group.  When I thanked them, I was surprised by their response.

“It’s my job.”

That’s it. No “you’re welcome.” No “it’s my pleasure,” but “it’s my job.”

A determined pursuit to go above and beyond, all the time. To give effort less than optimal was not an option. It was in keeping with what I’ve heard about Chinese values and culture. They touted the American pursuit of creativity, innovation, and challenging conventional learning methods. This pushed my thinking… Why does it have to be an either/or approach?  How can I make sense of opposing perspectives that seem to challenge each other?

Either approaches lead to great things and should be employed.  Disequilibrium: let the sheer disruption of our thinking inspire us to solve a problem. Make a great discovery.  It’s our job.

Photo cred: CC: rishibando

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