Succeeding in New Worlds
I’ve been reading James Clavell’s Shogun over the past couple of weeks – my husband recommended it to me, knowing both my love of history and my appreciation for a well-crafted tale.
It’s the fictional story of an Englishman, a sea pilot named Blackthorne, coming to Japan at the end of the 16th century. At the time, very few Europeans had visited Japan – primarily Portuguese and Spanish traders and a handful of Catholic priests.
For Blackthorne, Japan might as well be a new planet: he knows nothing, has heard nothing, of the culture, language, history, customs, and mindset. They are entirely foreign and bizarre to him, and there is nothing and no one to guide him.
Clavell does a wonderful job of evolving his hero as the book progresses. As I’m reading I’ve noticed that Blackthorne’s main tools for staying alive and, ultimately, succeeding in this new world are his curiosity, his willingness to let go of his pre-existing assumptions, and his ability to learn from his mistakes.
And I can’t help but think: those are also our main tools for staying alive (metaphorically) and succeeding in this new economic and technological world in which we find ourselves.
We need these mental tools as we look to discover how to build and operate successful businesses and lives in the 21st century, when so many of the assumptions that served us in the past may no longer be valid: assumptions about how we’ll work together and navigate through our careers; what our customers want and how to market it to them; how we’ll communicate and be entertained and informed.
Reading Shogun is a great reminder to me to get curious and stay curious; question my assumptions; be attentive to what isn’t working for me and look for alternatives.