- Last week my sister-in-law in Thailand told me her gardener returned to his hometown for the Thai New Year and never came back. She says that this happens to her on a regular basis. She pays well by Thai standards and also gives her worker a free place to live. About every three years, after her worker has saved enough money to get by without working for a couple of years, he quits and goes into retirement until the money runs out.
- A day later I am reading a passage from Tiziano Terzani’s A Fortune-Teller Told Me: Earthbound Travels in the Far East. The events in the book take place in 1993, the year Terzani travels Asia by land because a Hong Kong fortune teller tells him not to board a plane (and to Terzani’s own surprise, he heeds the advice). While in Indonesia, Terzani laments that the country is developing economically, but that a disproportionate amount of the money is going into the pockets of Chinese expatriates, not local residents. He speculates that the reason for this is that the average Indonesian wants only to have enough, whereas many Chinese entrepreneurs emigrate to Indonesia specifically to get rich. Terzani summarizes his point with an analogy of two fisherman in the same village, one Indonesian and one Chinese. The Indonesian fishermen has a good day on the water, so after bringing in his catch, he celebrates by putting his feet up. The Chinese fisherman also had a good day, so right after he brings in his catch, he heads back out to sea to catch more fish.
- This morning on CNN on-line I read an article about Ma Yun (English name Jack Ma), one of the richest men in China. He was being criticized for embracing the Chinese work practice known as 996. Nine-nine-six refers to working from 9am to 9pm six days a week. Ma was not advocating ridiculously long work hours for everyone, but was pointing out that great accomplishments do not come from working a standard workweek. He was quoted as saying, “I personally think that 996 is a huge blessing. How do you achieve the success you want without paying extra effort and time?”
I wish that, during my working years, I’d been more like the Thai gardener and the hypothetical Indonesian fisherman. Ironically, had I spent less time at work, I would have done more gardening and more fishing.