Taipei Trip – A Cameo Collection

1. I meet the first EVA airline representative and she makes me smile. I board the plane and the flight attendants each welcome me with a smile, one by one. It’s my first trip across the Pacific. I decide to pay attention to the insights that turn up. I sense that the desire to delight customers has a unique expression and depth in the Chinese culture. You can find many places in the US with extraordinary customer experience and service, mostly when you are ready to pay. In the US it’s a culture of excellence. Excellence and the desire to delight may produce similar results but they get there differently and the after taste they leave is different.

2. There is nothing wrong with wishing to delight. The West has thrown this baby out with the bathwater in the name of liberation. There is something natural about the desire to delight customers, to make things as pleasing as can be. It’s natural to take pleasure in making other people happy and comfortable. But this was not part of the culture of Israel and of being raised in a Kibbutz. Part of me is still learning that it is okay to enjoy delightful service.

3. When I arrived in Taipei, my suitcase was still being held in Seattle. The TSA found something suspicious. Perhaps it’s the rice milk I carry for breakfast. It gives me an opportunity to practice what I preach. No point in getting upset. Getting angry with the airline is a total waste of time and energy. I travel heavy because I like having everything I need in hand for my seminars. In the first 24 hours in Taipei, I discover again that I can manage with little. The suitcase arrives the following morning at 9:30am when we are already in session.

4. Coming down the elevator in the Agora Garden Hotel in Taipei, the notice says “10 people; 700 KG”. We often talk about “thinking outside the box” and even “thinking anew inside the box”. It’s more important to think about what defines the box. Perspective defines the box. For a start, this elevator size in the US would be considered sufficient for three people perhaps four if they are willing to squeeze in. So how, in heaven’s sake, will 10 people get in this small elevator? Second, where in the US will you find 10 people with the average wait of 70 KG (154 lbs) or less? Our frame of reference defines our perspective and the perspective defines the box.

5. The Agora Garden Hotel is quite international. I counted more than 10 apparent nationalities including: Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Dutch, Swedish, German, Italian, French, Spanish and an Israeli. What do they all share in common?
a. They all have breakfast which is how I hear the languages.
b. They all want to improve their opportunities.
c. They all hope for success and for a better tomorrow for them and for their families.
We are not so very different after all.

6. I perfected the jetlag free method (I’ll write about this in the future), so I don’t have jetlag. I just wake up at 3:30am. It’s a great time to clear my mind and collect my thoughts for the strategy meeting that will begin at 8am. Working away when a large part of the city is asleep provides me an entry into the unconscious life of this place.

7. I have an extra day after the strategy summit to explore Taipei. Taipei is a place full of contradictions:
– Lots of fast movement and inside it, there is something slow
– welcoming hospitality and a sense of alienation
– ancient beauty and modern industrialism
– roughness together with softness and friendliness
– struggle and fortitude
– generosity and self preservation

8. According to the National Geographic Traveler, about 85 percent of the people living on the island of Taiwan consider themselves Taiwanese, or benshengren (“this province people”). Two million people who followed Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist government to Taiwan when it evacuated from the mainland in 1949 are referred to as daluren (mainlanders). Taiwan’s indigenous minority are called yuamjhumin. The history of Taiwan is multilayered. Indigenous people lived here for centuries. The 15th century saw Chinese immigrants from the province of Fujian. In the 14th through the 16th century Japanese and Chinese pirates used Taiwan as a stronghold. The Portuguese established a trading settlement in 1590. They were followed by the Dutch in 1622 and later the Spanish. The Island continued to experience much strife and struggle as one wave of occupation followed by another. My short experience here is of an intense vortex of many influences. Like the Yin and Yang, they each appear to be gathering for a fight before they collapse into each other and mesh inside a swirling embrace.

Here are some shots from the National Palace Museum, including a large picture of the Taj Maahal.

These are shots from my room on the 11th Floor of the Agora Garden Hotel, looking at the Taipei 101 tower, the tallest building in the world.

© Aviv Shahar

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