Being Alert To The World Around You

Being Alert To The World Around You

There are so many amazing things going on in the world, often all around you.

However for so many reasons it is possible to miss them.

These can include things like:

  • being busy
  • not remembering how things used to be
  • not properly observing the world around you

When you step out onto your local street what do you see? Is it a mundane or a magical place?

Now imagine that you are in a foreign country- how does it feel? I imagine your senses are heightened.

I worked in Japan for two years and cycling to work was a feast for the senses. I would take my bike out from my complex of apartments (optimistically called ‘Rainbow Town’). I would cycle along a broad cycle lane, watching the morning unfold around me. Families on the way to school. The smell of the sake breweries along the route. The neon sign of a cheap rotating sushi restaurant that I would promise myself to visit for dinner. Three parallel train lines, run by three different companies, carving up the city. The deep storm drains ready for a natural disaster (the school I worked at was a shelter in the Kobe earthquake). When I arrived at work I would be greeted by the amazingly friendly caretaker. We hardly spoke a word of each other’s language but she would giggle and treat me like a celebrity and maybe smuggle me a hot, sweet potato, wrapped up in silver foil. I would stow my outdoor shoes in a little locker and change into my school slippers. Then I would head to the staff room. If I was lucky a teacher would have made a trip that weekend and a little gift (a custom) might be on my desk- a new specialty of the region for me to try, perhaps.

As I have been out of the UK for six months, my return has made me better able to notice things in my own country. Plus I’m living for a bit in a new area of London, so many of the things around me are new. Last weekend, we took part in Open House, a brilliant scheme where you get to visit all sorts of amazing buildings in London- from famous places like the Foreign Office and the Lloyds Insurance Building to tiny, more humble sites. I got to visit a toll building at the start of a major canal. It was manned by volunteers who painted a brilliant picture of what a thriving place it had been, taking in goods from all over the world in London and then distributing them around the country. It brought home to me again how what we personally see, experience and understand is but a small part of what is out there. On the same day as I got to learn all this history, I had just as novel an experience in a McDonalds that I only went into to get out of the rain. I was amazed to find that not only could you order via a touchscreen without ever interacting with a member of staff but that you could then have your purchase delivered to your table. McDonalds also had free wifi and phone charging points. Even a few years ago all those things would have been novel- now to many people they are commonplace.

Think of a place that really means something to you. How do you experience it? Can you learn something from that and apply it to the way you generally experience the world?

If you can, I think you will find the world an even more amazing and magical place.

You might wonder what all this has to do with influence. Well, in order to influence anything- whether a person, a situation or an institution, you need to first have some understanding of it. You can only develop such an understanding by learning to observe properly and not being satisfied just by what you see on the surface.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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