Tales of Life & Death – Dealing with personal uncertainty

Someone I love is fighting with cancer. I have therefore decided to make that person, their life, and their battle my priority over the next few months. Under the name “Tales of Life & Death,” I’ll be sharing more from this journey.

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In my conversations of the past few months, people have repeatedly applauded my decision to prioritize the health of said loved one. Upon hearing the diagnosis in late November, I hit the brakes on my own career, left the company I helped co-found, and temporarily relocated to where the patient is living. As much as it looked like a tough decision that would merit applause, it really was just the most obvious thing I could do – and wanted to do. 

Apart from the fear I felt for the patient, the entire situation evoked a lot of personal fears. I was anxious about how this would all play out for me, about how long I would need to put my own life on hold, and when it would it be morally and ethically justifiable for me to continue with my life. Let alone what life would hold for me once I was ready to hit resume. 

The past few months were not easy. Being unemployed was a frightening thought. Having to deal with a serious illness of a loved one is insanely stressful. And as a social person, knowing that I’d find myself in an environment where I didn’t know many people was scary. But there I was, knowing I was entering a difficult period in my life that had no clear timeline. 

As I was embarking on this journey, a friend advised me to approach this new phase in my life with curiosity, and not so much with anxiety. Yes, there were all these things that I knew were coming and that scared me – the “known knowns.” But there were also so many things that I didn’t know were coming my way – the “unknown unknowns.” How could I know how this period would change me the better? How could I predict how my priorities might change? I just couldn’t.

But in an attempt to prepare myself for these good things to enter my life, and to train my eyes to see them, I sat down and wrote an extensive list of how this entire situation could end up being a blessing. I was basically trying to “brace for impact.” Being away from China might make me appreciate it more. By taking velocity out of my life I might be able to gain clarity of thought. Facing serious illness might help me see what truly matters in life, and what doesn’t. 

Now, three months into the journey, the patient’s situation has become stable. We were able to move from chemotherapy (carpet-bombing the body with chemicals) to a much less aggressive therapy called immunotherapy (more like a “sniper” that goes after the bad cells). At the same time, the past three months have allowed me develop a business idea that I deem worth pursuing as my next project. 

My loved one’s journey isn’t over, but it is now at a point where I can allow myself to hit resume – a moment I didn’t expect to come so fast. Equipped with a lot of élan, I look back on the past three months not as time that I lost, but a much needed break to make sure I am not just running in my life for the sake of running, but that I am running into the right direction to begin with.

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Tales of Life & Death – Celebrating the Chemo

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Someone I love is fighting with cancer. I have therefore decided to make that person, their life, and their battle my priority over the next few months. Under the name “Tales of Life & Death,” I’ll be sharing more from this journey.

The best piece of advice I got in the days leading up to the start of the chemotherapy was that we should “celebrate the chemo.”

I was talking on the phone with a good friend who beat breast cancer a few years ago. And as we were talking about her experience going through chemotherapy, she said that most important thing for her was to start appreciating chemotherapy – despite all of its nasty side effects and the burden it puts on both the patient and the family.

I was really surprised, but also curious to understand why. As my friend put it, the days/weeks during which the patient receives chemotherapy, are basically the time when the fight against cancer actually matters. Yes, chemo is full of chemicals that fuck up your body, but the chemo is also what makes the difference in the patient’s fight with cancer. If it wasn’t for the chemo, the cancer would keep doing its thing. But it’s because of the chemo why the patient is getting a chance. 

It’s a curse, but it’s also a blessing. So why not fully appreciate the blessing-side of it?  

I really liked this change of perspective. And one of the first things I did was to call the patient and to call the people around the patient to let them know that we should all look forward to the chemotherapy. That we should celebrate it, cherish it, appreciate it. And so we do. Chemo week has been the week we are eagerly longing for.

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Tales of Life & Death – The Beginning

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Someone I love is fighting with cancer.

I have therefore decided to make that person, their life, and their battle my priority over the next few months.

My focus, attention, and even my physical presence will be channeled towards that person so I can support them with all of my love and energy.

As I am studying more about cancer – and the fight with it – I am equally learning more about life and death.

Over the coming weeks, I will be sharing more about this journey with you – under the name “Tales of Life & Death.”

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China Musings #18: Taking Chinese Companies Global

Having worked cross-boarder out of China for the past 15+ months, I learned a thing or two about what it takes for Chinese companies to be successful on global stage. Below my conversation on this very topic on the China Accelerator podcast. It's a dedicated interview of 35 minutes in which I share perspectives and anecdotes from my time in China.

Podcast link: https://goo.gl/1rYzxJ (or check on iTunes)

0:00 Welcome Back and Introduction 
1:50 Introducing Omid Scheybani 
2:50 How Omid came to China and why he stayed 
4:45 Chinese perceptions on Global Markets 
8:15 Chinese Tech going Global and shift in Chinese exports 
12:27 Diversity in Chinese Business and need for intl. Talent 
14:57 Omid’s Advice on working for Chinese companies 
17:55 Challenges for Chinese Businesses going global
19:25 Adapting to Chinese Business Norms 
20:00 Treatment of intl. Talent 
20:25 Perspectives of Chinese products in intl. Markets 
26:34 Lightning Round Questions 
29:19 Spread of Chinese Products to intl. Markets 
33:31 Closing thoughts

Speaking at a Retail Summit at Google Beijing

Speaking at a Retail Summit at Google Beijing

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China Musings #17: The Elevator Lady

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A few weeks ago I used an abandoned freight elevator in my WeWork building.

Door opened and – to my surprise – there was a person operating the elevator, in tie and uniform, with a chair, a table, a table cloth, a plant, and her tea mug. She stood up to greet me as I walked in, hit the button, and then sat down. And once we arrived, she stood up again to "guide me out" with her hand.

I was so surprised, and I also felt really sad for her. The air was sticky, the AC wasn't really working, the elevator was small and metallic, and all she was doing was to stand up/down and hit a button. It felt so lonely. I alter learned she did so 6 times a week, 10 hours each day. 

The mere use of "bodies" for such mundane and mindless jobs is unfortunately very common in countries where there is such an oversupply of workers. I noticed it in Indonesia, and now again in China. And for some reason most of them end up working in such "security/guard"-type of roles where a simple uniform is meant to radiate authority, which yet perishes in sheer incompetence.

I told myself that there is not much I could do, but I promised myself that I would bring her flowers next time so she could upgrade her lonely plant.

And last Wednesday I finally had a chance to buy a bunch of flowers on my way to work and give them to her. I didn’t know how she would react, and I was worried about making her very uncomfortable with the gesture. Still, I felt it was a worthwhile thing to do.

Thankfully, despite initial disbelief, she accepted the flowers gratefully. And ever since, we have become friends of some sort. I’ve made it a thing to use the freight elevator instead of the employee elevator, we’ve added each other on WeChat, and every once in a while we exchange small messages: she would send me pictures of her flowers, and I would let her know that it’s raining outside and that she is not missing anything.

This experience was a great reminder that some things in life only require a small effort, but could have a big impact on others.

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