Little victories

Hong Kong, Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China

I just finished my second morning at the Algorithmic Trading Group. Damn, I love my work. It is just so cool to see people getting it, to see how they are connecting the dots when presented new perspectives.

Last week I wrote how proud I was that I heard from my client that the company culture had really changed after last year’s 3-day seminar. But by working again with the same group this week I could really experience the difference myself. The difference is huge. And what my client said was completely true: the problem we had last year is completely gone. There is no real difference anymore between Chinese and Western staff.

A year ago my assignment was to bridge the communication gap between east and west. In eastern cultures there is a pattern of hiding behind a wall of silence when something is asked. In western culture this is experienced as frustrating, impolite, anti social and awkward, to name a few. We just don’t get it. “But there is nothing you can do about it” is the dominant western discourse. What I found out is that the Chinese guys would like to speak up but they have never learned how. They all could see the benefits but we also found what caused the silence: Chinese parents slap their children into obedience. It is hard to speak up to your boss when you have been conditioned to never argue or disagree with your parents.

The cool thing about this year’s training is that we can build on the results of last year. It like meeting again a person who used to be overweight and who turned out to follow up all the tips on diet and nutrition you gave him and has lost a lot of weight. It opens up a lot of new possibilities when the most pressing limitations are out of the way.

This year I want to give them insight and tools about how to stay present and open under pressure. ATG writes software to trade on the stock market so basically they program the computers in such a way that their computers do all the trading. Obviously success is not always guaranteed and monitoring the developments can be a high adrenaline game with not too much time and room for a very soft and mindful approach to (potentially costly) mistakes. But the alternative, display of anger and impatience, can be quite destructive too. How to create the conditions that everybody feels free but alert and not consumed by fear of failure and punishment?

My aim is to empower the team and give them insight in their individual personality structures and how personality structures function in general. We are all caught up in something we think is our identity or our ego. We should not take the ego too seriously nor too personal. When we see our own fears and protection mechanisms and see that they are not fixed but fluid we know we can change. When we know this and see the fears and protection mechanisms in others at work we can have compassion instead of responding defensively.

I was reflecting a bit on my work and my journey this morning. I try to help people open their hearts and make them aware of their potential. I am convinced that when we live from our hearts we can and will make a difference. At the same time I sometimes have doubts about my impact on the world, especially when I have a hard time finding participants for my workshops. To really see a difference in the people I have worked with is tremendously encouraging to me. It was not just the 18 staff of ATG who changed. Another Dutch friend in Hong Kong started a meditation group and has been practicing almost daily. Two other people participated in a meditation course and are also still involved. Little victories. That shit makes me very happy.

I look forward to the last day with the guys and ladies of ATG.

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