Thursday, November 27, 2008

RAMAK SIADATAN: Travel, Work and Politics

1. Can you describe a favorite travel memory? It doesn’t have to be extraordinary - simple is good, too – but what is a memory of some travel experience that you treasure?

Only one? Not fair. I have to give at least two. When I read this about seven or eight popped into my mind, and more since. I’ve been lucky – travel has happened for both personal and work reasons and I ALWAYS pull out a few memorable moments.

First one is extraordinary. 2004 Athens Olympic Games. My wife and I are attending the Opening Ceremony. Both of us have been life long fans of the Games and the Olympic Spirit. We appreciate the beauty of people coming together for the sake of something as simple as sport. We saved up for years, and in fact, weren’t even dating when we decided to make the trip three or four years earlier. So that moment when we were sitting there, with 90,000 of our newest friends, sharing in a global experience with the entire world represented not only the spirit of the Games that we sought out, but also the journey we had taken together over three or four years to get there. Just amazing. Chilling, really.

Second one is more subtle. I’m touring with my youth symphony. We are doing two weeks in Eastern Europe shortly after the wall fell in Germany. We performed in Vienna, Salzburg, Budapest and Prague. There was one night, eating dinner in a village outside Salzburg. A few of us wandered off to soak in the night air, and then the world just stopped. An amazing array of colors in the sky, everything was still and no one moved. I then turned to my friend and said, “did you just feel the world stop?” He replied, “I thought it was just me.” Then we sat in silence another thirty minutes. A moment that will never happen again, and you’re so thankful you recognized it when it did.

2. What is something you’ve learned from traveling - a lesson that you’ve tried to carry with you in the rest of your life?

Don’t forget about getting there and getting back. Traveling is more than just what you do at the destination. If it’s a personal trip, enjoy the pieces involved in putting the trip together. If it’s a work trip, appreciate the unique opportunity you have to go somewhere without spending additional dollars out of pocket. And then, if you’re on a plane to get there...enjoy the flight! If you’re driving, enjoy the drive! So much of my fun on trips has happened in transit. As a member of a college marching band, we took vans, buses, planes, private name it... just to get to a football game. And the stories from those trips are some of the best of my life.

3. I’ve been doing a bit of reading about work and careers lately, and came across this quote: “Jump, and a net will appear.” What does that say to you, if anything, and does it apply in any way to your own life?

A net doesn’t just appear. Someone needs to know you need a net, or you need to build the framework upon which the net can be placed. The “miracle” net is a rarity, and one that should definitely not go unappreciated. But in general, I think you build your own foundation as you go. When you are honest, caring, good to other people, patient, not cutting corners and thinking about more than just tomorrow, you are building safety nets with every move. I have definitely received my fair share of nets after jumping...and there’s a reason behind each one. The real “miracle” net for me, however, was landing in a family where despite not agreeing on most things, everyone agreed that raising my brother and I properly was always to be the number one priority. I didn’t jump for that net...they wrapped me in it before I ever knew how to leap.

4. Here is another quote about work and life choices that I recently discovered: “I must simplify my life, and whittle down what I do to the things that I am absolutely the most passionate about, or else I risk being stuck in mediocrity.” Similarly, what does that say to you, if anything, and does it apply to your own life?

Honestly, I like mediocrity. The little things sometimes create the funniest stories, or the coolest learning experiences. For example, rather than pay my bills online or mail them in, sometimes I just drive to the local/regional office in town to make the payment. Driving around town eats up time (and gas), but it’s amazing how many cool things I stumble upon while I’m out. Great conversations with strangers, bumping into friends, finding new restaurants...the list goes on.

That being said, the “big” things have their limits. And yes, I focus only those for which I have the most passion. Everything else is “nice to get to”, but without a few priorities it’s hard to keep control of your life.

5. The U.S presidential election is on Tuesday. By the time you have to answer this question, we’ll know the outcome of the vote. How do you think the result of this election affects how the world views the U.S.? (Or, if you prefer, how you personally view the U.S., or how the U.S. might view itself?)

I’ll chance being a bit risqué with my response. There’s an American cartoon show for adults called South Park. And four years ago, they had an episode about an election for a local school that was between “A Turd” and a “Douche Bag.” If you know enough American slang, then I don’t need to explain any further. But just in case you don’t know, let’s just say I’m never really thrilled with my presidential choices. I think the impact a President has on the United States is fourfold: 1 – Level of inspiration on the public. 2 – Ability to charismatically and smoothly interact with other world leaders. 3 – Selection of the Cabinet. 4 – Initial war-time decisions. That’s it. I don’t think the President has any real impact on the economy, jobs, anything. Mostly, a President is a source of motivation. People who are inspired will work harder and you’ll see self-fulfilling prophecy changing the direction of the country more than any decision the President makes. Likewise, be uninspired and people’s negative attitudes will reflect poorly on our country and our economy/markets. I think the world will have two views of our President-elect. Some will be inspired by the progressive step our country has finally taken. Others will potentially see an opportunity to take advantage of someone who is strong in his knowledge but lacking in his international political experience. Ultimately? I think the election itself will have more of an effect than the man over the next four or eight years.

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