Understanding Japan (2): Structured mentality

January 15, 2017

By Eddy Montilla.

DRUM

An old axiom says: “We do what we think”. But if you are not entirely convinced of it, you can confirm it by watching some enormous Japan’s steel structures: They are safe, hermetic and framed like… the way people think in that country.

     The common use and selection of a word over others in a region is not something done at random or on a whim, but this selection represents the way of being and thinking of the people who live there. If you travel to Japan, frequent words that you will hear are “omou” (think), “yotei” (plan), “shinpai” (worried) y “anzen” (safe). These words can give us a clue about the basis on which Japanese personality is forged and established: Japanese people can only find peace of mind when all things are under control (I mean, everything is well planned and safe). Therefore, if possible, their activities should leave no room for improvisation. Let’s see an example:

     In Japan, the beginning of a new year is not in January, but in spring, when the fiscal and schools year really begin and new employees will make their “debut”. During this time, you can go to any ceremony and the person in charge of delivering the introductory speech will make quickly reference to the end of the winter, and above all, the arrival of the spring and well known Japanese cherry blossoms. In that regard, everything, every word is planned throughout to a point that you will find books to write speeches for all occasions: funerals, weddings, etc.

CHERRY-BLOSSOMS-2

     This kind of fixed and schematic mentality is instilled into Japanese people at early age until it becomes a feature of their personality and something very common. As a result of this, things should be inside a foreseeable frame. If something is out of it, anxiety and some kind of sense of unease will be haunting them, sometimes with terrible consequences. So, they will be working, as many hours as necessary until the unexpected and new situation turns into an old one, that is, something that can be handle according to the “handbook” they have for each case.

     Compared to other ways of thinking, the Japanese mentality provides one of the best chances for success thanks to its constant emphasis on planning, security and logical answers for problems. In fact, it has been the key that has kept Japan for so many years with a solid economic growth despite its situation after the Second World War.

     The other side of the coin, however, does not seem to be so good. Trying to keep everything under absolute “control”, trying to find perfection everywhere has created “uncontrollable” levels of stress that have pushed more than 30000 people every year to commit suicide for decades. If Tanaka, to cite an example, forgets the keys to open the place where a party will be held and Kawauchi forgets the drinking glasses, because of the delay that this situation creates, even though it has not started yet, the party will be considered a failure. And the most important thing: Since Japanese people do not forgive as quickly as they say “gomennasai” (ごめんなさい=I am sorry), Tanaka and Kawauchi will face tough times. Without any intention of falling into stereotypes, in the same situation, but with different people in a Latin American country, the party had probably started right there: in front of the closed door. Someone who, by the way, was not the person in charge of the drinking glasses would have gone to the house of a supposed friend near the place to get them and… at the end, everybody would have gone home joking about the problems they had to start the party, laughing and saying that they enjoyed the party a lot. This story can teach us that flexibility during contingencies is as important as planning.

     Japanese mentality shies away from uncertain situations. However, uncertainty might also be a “friend” when it comes to inventions. Note that most of greatest inventions that have changed the world have not come from Japan, but from USA, England, France, Italy and other European countries. Japan has improved them, as it has done with cars, bullet trains, etc.

     Finally, we can conclude that if some aspects that characterized the way of thinking and acting in other cultures, like a good dose of humor, flexibility and certain amount of drive in the face of the unknown is added to the Japanese mentality, we could have found an incredible method of thinking that can solve not only many of your personal problems, but can help to have a better world too.

Copyright 2017 littlethingsforall.wordpress.com. All rights are reserved.

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Hillary Clinton did not fail. Her political team did

December 13, 2016

By Eddy Montilla.

hillary

For winners, things turn into a bed of roses or, at least, can be seen through rose-tinted glasses. Even your enemies will become your friends, by the way, suddenly. But don’t lose if you don’t want to be surrounded by detractors and people who are not able to tell you how to win, but will surely give you a string of reasons for which you were defeated. Hillary Clinton’s defeat during U.S. Presidential elections is not an exception. From journalists to politicians, from a barber in his barbershop to his clients, many people in general were trying to explain why she lost to Donald Trump, on the grounds that she could not recruit enough voters from the Hispanic sectors, she could not attract women’s votes, etc.

     And the question is… What’s new about all of this? Are not the same things that sank her in 2008 against Barack Obama? We all know that Hillary Clinton has never been a charismatic political leader. She is, in fact, the product of hard work, a lot of money and fame. So, those reasons mentioned before, are somehow her political weakness, a ballast that she wanted, but couldn’t drop it.

     When the most evident part is only thought, subtleties cannot be seen or understood. These subtleties happened just days before the elections and cost Hillary to be out of the White House today. I am referring to the moment when her double-digit lead was reduced to 4%~5% after the FBI director, James Comey, decided to reopen Hillary Clinton’s email server case. This mere lead could have been enough for a politician like Obama, for example, and perhaps, even for Bernie Sanders if he had been in Clinton’s position, but not for her because Hillary Clinton had proved in the past that she is not a person who can unify her party around her.

     And how did her political team respond to this delicate situation? With two terrible mistakes: First, to counteract by attacking the wrong target, Donald Trump’s wife, instead of attacking Trump directly. Second, to rest on its laurels by considering the lead as enough for a victory. These two mistakes were, in my opinion, the real reasons that made that election night one of the longest, if not the longest night ever for Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton.

This article was originally published in the digital newspaper World And Opinion with Eddy Montilla.

Copyright 2016 littlethings4all.wordpress.com. All rights are reserved.


The crucial mistakes of Dilma Rousseff in Brazil

November 29, 2016

By Eddy Montilla.

sao-paulo

Those who have watched the fireworks can understand better the turbulent career in politics that Dilma Rousseff has had in Brazil. A dazzling display of fireworks lits up the sky, people enjoy them and, minutes later, they cannot even remember their colors and shapes. Something similar happened to Brazil’s first woman president. If the almost incredible and efficient shinkansen cleaning system in Japan is subject of study in Harvard University, Rousseff’s case should be also studied because of its oddity. How could this lady go from a loved president to an impeached one, from a removed president from office to a forgotten president in her own land. Her two crucial mistakes can tell us the answer.

     First: Her inability to show, especially when dealing with problems that involved men, that she could be a person of strong character like anyone else In Brazil, corruption and bribery have always been acting like a pair of lovebirds. If during her presidential terms, problems related to these aspects had a huge impact, the reason must be found in her excessive gentleness towards some government employees, a mistake that was used by her political adversaries to take advantage of it. When she had to act like a hangman (in a figurative sense), she took an indulgent stance.

     Second: Not to be surrounded by people loyal to her. During difficult times for a president, loyal people will help him or her to stay standing. That was not Rousseff’s case since the more imminent her removal from office was, the more difficult to find people at her side was. In politics, of course, it is hard to foresee who is going to be loyal and who is going to be a traitor because the last one can be from your chef to your vice president.

     You do not cry over your mistakes, but learn from them. In Brazil, sooner or later, other women will hold the presidency of that South American nation. This is my recommendation for them: Be ready to become a hangman (in a figurative sense), if it is necessary, be careful of opportunists and traitors if you do not want to be forgotten or leave through the back door as Dilma Rousseff had to do.

This article was originally published in the digital newspaper World And Opinion with Eddy Montilla.

Copyright 2016 littlethings4all.wordpress.com. All rights are reserved.


(6) Six steps for a good job interview

July 27, 2016

By Eddy Montilla.

INTERVIEW

Not to be called for a job interview hurts less than the bad news about being rejected because those who belong to the second position usually say: “I was so close this time…” A lot of people see their dreams of working for a particular company evaporate because their mistakes during the interview ruin their chances of getting the job. If you are reading this article is because you will have an interview soon. Take a look at these steps before, and perhaps, they can help you.

Step 1: rehearse before the interview

     If you are not a person gifted in words, you should start from this point: Rehearse possible questions and answers to gain confidence and control nervousness. Confidence comes from the fact of having practiced in advance, which means you will be treading on familiar grounds, and this
practice will make you feel that it is not the first time you face this situation, so you will be able to have your interview without apprehension.

Step 2: Get dressed in accordance with the position that you are applying for

     Little things have the peculiarity of creating big impressions. A boss does not expect you to come wearing a suit and carrying a briefcase if you are applying for a carpenter job, but he does not expect you to come wearing a uniform and holding a handsaw either, especially if you are applying for a position that traditionally requires a formal dress code.

Step 3: show confidence without falling into the other extreme: overconfidence

     An immediate boss or supervisor is always afraid of an indecisive person who has been hired since his job will increase, and his salary will remain as it is. So, during your job, you should show that you are naturally strong and firm, a self-confident person about your job, but at the same time, a person who can also be flexible enough to listen to the others and reach an agreement. Except for those situations where theory and practical exams are required, candidates are not asked to show all they know during an interview. It means that words might be decisive, so make them your best weapon in the good sense of the word, but be careful with them too. You have probably heard about many people who got hurt with their own weapons, right? Therefore, avoid being overconfident and exaggerations when you have to talk about your capabilities. Do not sell yourself as one of the know-it-alls of this generation who can solve any problem, but as a person who can contribute to the firm’s success. People usually hate the first person because he or she could act dishonestly and love the second one because he or she helps without causing problems.

Step 4: control your emotions and show a happy countenance

     After his exam, Oliver said to his friends: “I did it badly in my exam!” Then, when everything has finished and he’s checking the answers, he responds correctly to almost all questions. I am sure that something similar to this story has happened to your friends or perhaps to you. It is a good example about how emotions without control can ruin our projects. The point here is not to be free from pressure or nerves (everybody has such kind of feelings during a job interview), but to find a way to control them. Besides, do not forget to smile since a smile and happy countenance can work miracles. Remember that nobody wants to work with a person whose face looks like a pit-bull terrier.

Step 5: Handle your answers in a way that you do not highlight your abilities and needs, but your contribution to the firm’s success and its needs.

     This is probably the most important step, and despite that, the most underestimated. During a job interview, people tend to respond and talk giving the impression or suggesting that they can do this and can do that. It is something like… “I have studied a lot, have a lot of experience and I am, therefore, the perfect candidate for this position”. However, a boss has a different approach to this situation. I personally believe that in most cases, he is wrong, but on the other hand, I know that, putting it in quite practical terms, he is right when he thinks that the only perfect person is the owner for being the owner and the person who can do many things is himself because he is the boss. It is absolute illusory to think that you can get better results by acting and talking about your skills, accolades, etc., like other candidates do in order to impress the employer. Show your contribution, your flexibility to work in group and individually, your commitment to the company, etc., and you will have better chances to get the job.

Step 6: Be punctual

     I do not think it is necessary to explain this subject in great depth: If you are late when things matter most, you will also be late for daily things at office. To all of this must be added the stress caused by haste.

     This paragraph has nothing to do with the steps mentioned before, but with the words thanks. If I am lucky and my pieces of advice helped you to get the job you wanted, rather than an e-mail to say thank you, I prefer that you donate 1% of your first salary for a donation to charity.

Copyright 2016 littlethingsforall.wordpress.com. All rights are reserved.


USA: The problem of black men killed by police must be seen from all angles

July 17, 2016

By Eddy Montilla.

PROTESTERS

When you try to find a solution for a problem and you only look at it from one angle, what you get at the end is a wrong or a partial answer. This is exactly the situation that the U.S. government, mass media and people in general have every time that a young black man is killed by police. They focus their attention, comments and bias either on the black killed man or on the white officer who killed him. When two black men, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile were killed in different incidents, but only separated by an interval of hours, the mass media quickly informed that 123 people have been killed by police so far this year with official figures showing that young black men are 21 times more likely to be killed than young white men. In cases like these ones, Many people always take to the streets in protest against what they call clear racism. Some people, like Micah Johnson, who killed five police officers in Dallas’ shooting, are looking for retaliatory actions against white police officers. And all of them are absolutely wrong because they only see or can only see one angle of the problem: A WHITE police officer killing an UNARMED BLACK man. They are only thinking about racism. How about the other angles?

     Police officers take action based on judgments. If their calculation is wrong they can be killed or they can erroneously kill an innocent man. They do not base their actions on racism as many people believe, but on figures, and in statistical terms, who has the greater proclivity for the use of force and murder? Obviously, this argument does not entitle an officer to shoot a black person during a situation that “looks suspicious”, but it will give you an idea (if you put yourself in his or her place) about the difficult dilema they have to deal with: To shoot or being shot. I do not defend or approve any action that leads to the death of any person since it is an horrendous act regardless people’s color, actions, etc. However, it is not inconsistent with that to say that police officers are not killing black people because of racial prejudice as many people think or say. Police officers who daily deal with cases where black people are involved are not the best. I know that, you know that too, but they are not the bad guys of the movie either. They leave home and do not know if they will return until they ring the bell, which means that they live day by day under constant stress. It is very easy to criticize when you are not the person who is in great peril. Put yourself in their shoes and you will see and feel different, you will understand that there are more angles to see when it comes to solve this problem.

     Whenever USA is shocked by cases like Alton Sterling’s and Philando Castile’s, people do not waste time to label them as “unarmed and innocent black people who were brutally killed.” Unarmed? Probably right. Innocent? Absolutely wrong. Many of these black people who have been killed are far from being angels, just to cite one example, these two young men whose death sparked immediate national protests were not precisely role models or something similar: Sterling’s records show that he had been arrested in the past for aggravated battery, criminal damage to property, marijuana possession and for carrying an illegal weapon. Castile had not felony convictions like Sterling had, but Minnesota police had stopped him for driving without a muffler, for not having an insurance card, for driving after revocation of his driver’s license, and so on. They accused him of minor traffic issues dozens of times. The fact of having committed a crime (either a single misdemeanor or murder) can not justify the decision of shooting a person to death. That’s not right. But it is not right either to protest in the streets in the way many people do, defending those killed people as if they were a portrayal of Mother Teresa simply because they are not, at least, that is what they criminal record shows.

     Racism exerts significant influence over a police officer when deciding whether to pull a trigger or not against a black person in the United States, but this is not the only fact that causes the problem. It is not the problem itself. Economic and social inequality, the wide gap between the haves and the have-nots and low levels of formal education might well be the real reasons of the loss of so many lives. Now the important question is with people’s attention directed towards the tip of the iceberg, will they be able to dive to the bottom and find the crux of the problem and its solution?

This article was originally published in the digital newspaper World And Opinion with Eddy Montilla.

Copyright 2016 littlethings4all.wordpress.com. All rights are reserved.


The United Kingdom: With politicians made of ice, its future is more uncertain

July 11, 2016

By Eddy Montilla.

LONDON-ELIZABETH-TOWER

The most similar thing to the relation between The United Kingdom and the European Union is a kid who received a toy: At first, the kid is always playing with the toy; later, he gets tired of it and put it aside. He breaks it up into pieces, just for curiosity and, at the end, he will be crying because he cannot fix it.

     The most important representative leaders in favour of the “Brexit” (British exit from the European Union) Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson and Michael Gove broke the United Kingdom up with their propagandist comments and political manipulation, and now all of them may suffer the same fate: To disappear from the political stage without being able to prove they were right in doing what they did or what is worse, without paying for their mistakes. Nigel Farage, who was the leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP), was the first who ran away. Faster than an ostrich, he rushed out and left the awkward situation they created themselves to the others. Farage made the soup too peppery and he did not even try it. He created a social and political predicament and did not know how to solve it. Boris Johnson, the spokesperson who gained adherents with his flamboyant style and personality to vote for the exit of the United Kingdom from EU in the historic referendum, changed the tone of his speeches to one more moderate and conciliatory, a clear sign that they were unprepared for the situation, that they never imagined a victory. And what was Johnson’s trophy for that? A word thrust from Michael Gove who decided to remove his support. Gove had from the beginning clear intention to play the game together until certain time, and later, to play alone for a bid to be the next Prime Minister. He only wanted to take advantage of David Cameron’s resignation and the uncertainty created after the result of the referendum. Now that Gove was eliminated from the contest, the Secretary of Justice might be remembered as one of the worst political leaders in his country and perhaps, because of the widespread repercussions throughout Europe, in other countries too.

     The United Kingdom´s history has seen better Prime Ministers than David Cameron. However, let us be fair: Compared to these pseudo-politicians mentioned before, Cameron looks like a genius because he is firmer in his convictions. The latest actions taken by Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson and Michael Gove after the referendum show political ignorance, disloyalty and, above all, lack of responsibility. They are undoubtedly politicians made of ice. People in the United Kingdom must be glad that summer is here!

This article was originally published in the digital newspaper World And Opinion with Eddy Montilla.

Copyright 2016 littlethings4all.wordpress.com. All rights are reserved.


Muhammad Ali (1942-2016): The greatest boxer out of the ring

July 3, 2016

By Eddy Montilla.

Many people like watching boxing because they cannot fight or because of the internal streak of sadism of human beings that creates pleasure when they see a person hitting another, pleasure that becomes sweeter since they are not the one who is receiving the punches. Cassius Clay Jr, today known as Muhammad Ali, proclaimed himself “the greatest” in boxing. Despite his impressive record (56 wins and 5 losses) and his sensational victory over George Foreman, his loss against Joe Frazier in that historic and gladiatorial bout makes me question his self-proclamation. Sugar Ray Robinson, Mike Tyson, Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao and perhaps two more other boxers can be solid contenders for the title of “the greatest”.

     Where I do not have the slightest doubt about Ali’s greatness is out of the ring. From the beginning, Muhammad Ali was fantastic and frequently praised for his boxing talents. He was an Olympic medalist in Rome with a genuine boxing style at 18. He won, lost and reclaimed the heavyweight title, but he had to wait, in my opinion, until the summer of 1996, when the world saw him trembling because of Parkinson’s disease, to receive the respect he really deserved. Ali suffered himself the ambiguity of being one of the USA’s great boxing figures and being a black person precluded from using the same public facilities as their white neighbours. Ali had to fight against racism too.

     While many famous boxers ended up in prison for homicide (Carlos Monzón) or have ruined their lives in the world of drugs and alcohol (Julio César Chávez, Mike Tyson, etc.), Muhammad Ali fought for black people’s basic civil rights. He was a man committed to social causes, he devoted himself to humanitarian work, a United Nation Goodwill Ambassador who preferred to lose the best years of his career rather than fight in the absurd Vietnam War. As a boxer, Muhammad Ali will always be remembered for his “big mouth” before, during and after his bouts, for his speed and agility inside the ring and for his famous quote “…float like a butterfly, sting like a bee…”, but those who know all things that he did for many people around the world have more reasons to remember him for things that are truly important. These people can bestow the title of “the greatest boxer out of the ring” on him. Nothing better than that.

This article was originally published in the digital newspaper World And Opinion with Eddy Montilla.

Copyright 2016 littlethings4all.wordpress.com. All rights are reserved.