Resources: Notes on Life and Language in the United States

Career Success | Accomplishment Before Human Relationships?

Posted by Lindsay McMahon on Wed, Mar 14, 2012 @ 08:26 AM

Follow your dreams a cultural assumptionWhat does it take to build a successful career? What would you give up to have a career that really fulfills you? In the United States, we say, "Follow your passion, do what makes you happy and forget what other people say." But does this advice make sense in non-western cultures where one's commitment to the family or the group means more than his individual place in society? This week I watched a TEDx presentation by Larry Smith, a well-known Canadian professor and thought leader in the fields of Economics and Entrepreneurship. Larry talked about the many excuses that people give for not seeking out their passion and or for finding their passion but continuing to work at an unfulfilling job because it is safe or it provides stability for their family. At one point in the talk, Larry asked, "Why would you seek refuge in human relationships as an excuse not to find and pursue your passion?"  In Western countries, many people tend to agree with this message.  I wonder how his point would come across in other cultures around the world?


Western Views Toward Success and Achievement:


I enjoyed Larrys' talk. I felt inspired by his argument. I am a believer in the importance of building a career that is a real and genuine expression of my talent even if that means that I occasionally have to put my goals ahead of some of my relationships. However, I come from one of the most individualistic cultures in the world. In the United States, we are often encouraged to make decisions based on what is good for ourselves, as individuals.  But what if you come from a culture where more of who you are is defined by the group?


Accomplishment Before Human Relationships | A Cultural Assumption?


Larry argued that we shouldn't give human relationships a higher priority than accomplishment. Would Larry's argument even make sense in a non-western culture where someone might create his entire identity based on his relation to others, his duties to others or based on his position in a group? Is the classic argument, "Follow your dreams even if it means that your family comes second" filled with cultural assumptions which place the western worldview as the norm? What happens when we create arguments based on norms that we assume to be true for everyone just because they are true for us? And how can we step back from our cultural norms and values and consider the values of another culture when we give advice to friends or colleagues from a different part of the world?


What Do you Think? Watch the Video





What do you think? I would like to hear your opinion! Where are you from? What are your reactions to this video? Are you inspired? Do you agree with Larry's points? Do you disagree? Please leave a comment below or engage with us on Facebook or Twitter.



Practical Tips for your Life in the U.S.


Photo credit: Tim Faracy of Bklyn

Topics: Cross Cultural Coaching

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