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Written By: Christopher Howell

I encourage people to look at a much wider definition of the word. I would tend to say diversity is ‘different-ness’ in any form. A good example of this kind of diversity has been experienced by every person who ever left behind the comforts of home and moved into uncharted territory that is at once stimulating, curious, and estranging. Issues of diversity are informed not only by your cultural background and context, but also by your religion, age, field of work, family situation, sexual orientation, personality, and countless other factors that make us unique. Diversity affects everyone.

It’s for this reason that diversity has become such a buzz word. The buzz happens because it’s all about how you handle it. It’s very much like the job a composer has when creating a great musical composition. If the composer understands what each unique note and dynamic mark is capable of in combination with the other parts, the result achieved is extraordinary. If, however, none of the parts is communicating with the others, we’re left with a cacophony.

On a personal level, it’s this understanding and acceptance of ‘the other’ which rests at the core of diversity. Whether we’re talking about navigating through a multicultural urban environment or uprooting and moving to a new foreign social context, it is necessary to set aside rigid assumptions about ‘the other’ and put oneself in the other’s shoes. So how do we make this leap? It’s often as simple as asking questions and being careful not to assume that what you see is necessarily what the other side sees.

Often in my workshops I give a magic lesson to the audience. I first present the magic and accomplish the ‘impossible’. The participants receive the same props but simply can’t manage. We look more carefully at the situation and realize that the assumptions they made about it actually blocked them from achieving this feat; a feat they suddenly are empowered to do which, moments ago, was impossible. The possibilities offered by ‘reality’ had changed in an instant.

It’s a great irony in today’s western individualistic culture that assumptions of same-ness have become so great. Wouldn’t you think if you’re encouraged to be an individual that everyone else should be as well? That’s not exactly what has happened. Some recent research from a business context might shed some light on our situation. 75% of Americans asked in a survey said that a company should be an efficient system with each person fulfilling his/her function while being paid for the tasks they perform. Fair enough.

But now let’s look at the other definition they could have chosen. In the Far East, less people voted for this first definition, and instead 66% voted for the second choice saying that a company is a group of people working together, with relations, and the functioning of the organization is dependent on these relations. Europeans tended to fall about 50/50. (Source: Hampden-Turner & Trompenaars).

This example is taken from business research but I would maintain that the same answer of ‘individual’ versus ‘relationships’ would hold true when also talking about society at large. In other words, perhaps if less people were focusing on imposing their individual views and more people were focusing on their relations and the communication that would therefore ensue, we’d all be a few steps ahead with regard to embracing diversity.

But speaking of individualism, you may be asking, “Diversity awareness, what’s in it for me”? The answer is, lots! The goal in being sensitive to diversity is to cultivate a culture of respect for people’s differences and understand that such an environment is beneficial to everyone involved. Three of the main benefits to a diversity-aware social group or organization are:

1) Flexibility. Being able to adapt and see the same thing in multiple ways allows a group to adapt to the ever-changing environment.

2) Increased creativity. Knowing that your reality may not be another person’s opens doors of before-unseen possibilities.

3) Quality of life. Everyone feels respected and heard, and so wants to give back to the group.

Diversity awareness is an evolution. We can't get there by snapping our fingers, and it isn't a matter of training people to have textbook politically correct attitudes. Instead it's a case of looking at the big picture of how we see the world, understanding why we see it that way, and then making sure we do our part to genuinely value difference and benefit from it.

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Revenge of the Right Brain
Written By: Daniel H. Pink
Edited By: Christopher Howell
Daniel Pink’s new insightful book takes a birds-eye view at our age, illustrating exactly why in the west there is such contemporary hunger for personal development and heightened focus on uniquely human qualities like creative thinking and conceptual communication.

In an article based on this book in Wired Magazine, Pink explains, “Beneath the nervous clatter of our half-completed decade stirs a slow but seismic shift. The Information Age we all prepared for is ending. Rising in its place is what I call the Conceptual Age, an era in which mastery of abilities that we've often overlooked and undervalued marks the fault line between who gets ahead and who falls behind.

Now that foreigners can do left-brain work cheaper, we in the US must do right-brain work better. Any job that can be reduced to a set of rules is at risk. If a $500-a-month accountant in India doesn't swipe your accounting job, TurboTax will. Now that computers can emulate left-hemisphere skills, we'll have to rely ever more on our right hemispheres.”

How else do you explain this? “Electric lighting was rare a century ago, but now it's commonplace. Yet in the US, candles are a $2 billion a year business - for reasons that stretch beyond the logical need for luminosity to a prosperous country's more inchoate desire for pleasure and transcendence.

 

In both business and personal life, now that our left-brain needs have largely been sated, our right-brain yearnings will demand to be fed. … To flourish in this age, we'll need to supplement our well-developed high tech abilities with aptitudes that are "high concept" and "high touch." High concept involves the ability to create artistic and emotional beauty, to detect patterns and opportunities, to craft a satisfying narrative, and to come up with inventions the world didn't know it was missing. High touch involves the capacity to empathize, to understand the subtleties of human interaction, to find joy in one's self and to elicit it in others, and to stretch beyond the quotidian in pursuit of purpose and meaning.

Want to get ahead today? Forget what your parents told you. Instead, do something foreigners can't do cheaper. Something computers can't do faster. And something that fills one of the nonmaterial, transcendent desires of an abundant age. In other words, go right, young man and woman, go right.”

A Whole New Mind: Moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age, published March 2005 by Riverhead Books. The above is a selection of highlights from a recent online article from Wired Magazine online. Displayed with permission of the author. © Daniel H. Pink.

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Adding Magic to your Job Hunt
by Christopher Howell
First published in Focus News, The Expat Information
and Lifestyle Magazine
Summer Edition, 2005.

If you were to start reading an article about embracing the job hunt in Britain as an expatriate, most likely you wouldn’t be expecting to see the word ‘magic’ in the second half of the sentence. I’ll admit, at first glance the obviously functional task of looking for a job and magic hardly seem to be two things you’d put together.

My work is to show people that they are not passive receptacles to outside forces, but instead are skilled magicians who actively create their realities. They can apply these reality-altering skills to a spectrum of ‘real world’ topics. In the context of this article in particular, we’ll be examining how magic skills can literally transform the journey of an expatriate’s job hunt.

Let me first explain what I mean by “magic”. Magicians create illusions for their audiences by altering the information that is perceived. This allows the magician to make seemingly impossible things possible. From this idea, I can say that all people are magicians in the sense that they have this power to alter the information they perceive and therefore can change their reality.

A demonstration:
I’ll give an example from a recent job seeker’s workshop. I took three different-coloured flags (yellow, red and blue). I assigned each one a separate symbolic meaning. The yellow flag represented the internal factors when striking out on the job hunt: i.e. personal opinions and expectations. The red flag represented external factors we can’t control: i.e. economic movements or company agendas. My assistant from the audience held onto those yellow and red flags.

That meant there’s one flag left for me to hold onto. My blue flag was the magic one that represented the relationship between the other two. This relationship is a two-way street: 1) INPUT – how you filter the information you’re taking in and, 2) OUTPUT – how you project your internal world onto the outside.

Understanding the magic blue flag is crucial when approaching a job search. That flag therefore disappeared from my hand and reappeared tied between the yellow and the red flags in the hands of my assistant! The magic blue flag was in place!

The power of assumptions:
So what’s so important about this blue flag? I often illustrate this point by teaching a simple magic trick to the audience. At first, the trick seems impossible to them even though they see me doing it with ease. We examine the situation more closely and realize that the false assumptions they were projecting onto the situation were actually blocking them from reaching the goal of doing the trick.

The solution was achieved by examining our assumptions about the situation, not by changing the situation itself. The same goes for ‘real life’. In the job hunt: often if we change our perspective, the ‘new reality’ that we discover can be surprising.

By learning this simple trick, we learn the importance of three points:
1) Questioning your assumptions: because wrong assumptions can make possible things impossible.
2) Being flexible to change your perspective: by asking questions, it can show you a whole new reality.
3) Knowing that beliefs are self-fulfilling prophecies: as Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think that you can, or that you can't, you are usually right”..

The world outside is always changing. This means it’s necessary for us to keep learning. Keep asking those questions. The importance of this is even greater as an expatriate. Not only may you be clinging to assumptions from the past about your job or the hunt itself (remember these assumptions may or may not have been correct), but also as an expat you’re bringing those assumptions with you into a new environment. This factor magnifies the importance of the three above points.

Tools for the job-seeker:
“Ok”, you tell me. “All this is very well and good, but what about the red flag? Those external obstacles that are standing in my way?” What about the block that may be preventing you from getting a foot in the door of a certain company? Or a slow economy that has diminished the need for your current field of expertise?

I’m not pretending for a moment that obstacles don’t exist. But my point is that magicians get around obstacles. To reach the goal, you need to stop focusing on the obstacles you assume are in place and instead explore all the possible ways in which you might be able to reach the goal. If your eye is focused on the goal, you actually can’t see the obstacles in the way. In this way, they disappear. It’s a decision about what you focus your attention on. To make those obstacles disappear with respect to the job hunt, I’d recommend the following tactics:

• Be creative with expanding your network
• Don’t discard options you know little about
• Brainstorm new possibilities
• Question beliefs you may have “brought from home”
• Remember that constant change calls for constant learning

All these objectives require flexible thinking. Try and get out of the ruts of thought that we so easily form in our daily lives. Question why you’re thinking the way you’re thinking.

Thinking skills for achievement
With this flexible state of mind, you can more easily embark on a practical three-step process: First, decide what it is that you want (there might be numerous versions of this). Second, as you move forward towards your goal(s), be sure to stay alert to what your senses are telling you and be careful of how you’re filtering that information. How is your past or how are assumptions influencing the way in which you’re decoding the information you’re taking in? And is the feedback telling you that the goal may need to be altered? Third, use your flexibility to keep changing what you’re doing until you get where you want to be.

Your magic
People tend to think of reality as a fixed thing. I, as a fellow magician, would suggest instead that reality is actually three things: what we know, what and how we feel, and what and how we perceive and think. None of these elements is fixed. Together all of these aspects play a major role in how you approach the job hunt as an expatriate, and can lead to surprising results.

Often you are not in a position to define the external factors that may play a role in influencing the direction of your job search. But by taking on board the concepts of magic we’ve explored, you are always in a position to use that blue flag and affect the manner in which you interact with the outside elements. This decision could very well help make impossible things possible.


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© 2004-2012. The Project Illusions name and concept are property of Christopher Howell. All rights reserved.