Lessons from a Taxi Driver #1

Comfort_Hyundai_Sonata_taxi (1)

Image Credit: Terence. [CC BY 3.0] Via commons

I love talking to the taxi drivers in Singapore because I feel that there is much conventional wisdom to be learnt from them. Here’s an article about a CEO who learnt from a taxi driver in China.

It was a friday morning and my phone alarm didn’t sound off!! :(:(. Disaster. I was to be at a school by 7am to help conduct a training programme BUT it was already 7.20am. I quickly showered and called a cab and rushed down to the school. Little did I know that this cab ride would help set the mood for the rest of the day.

A cheerful uncle greeted me as I boarded the cab and we started off with the usual pleasantries: For some reason or another we began to talk about employment and the economy. The uncle told me he used to be GM at a large mechanical engineering firm. He got the position by working his way up over the years. The transition to a managerial position meant that he now had to focus more on managing people and ensuring their performance.

Lesson 1: Do what you love

Many people choose to study according to market demands. If there is a demand for lawyers, they study law. If there is a demand for accountants, they study accountancy. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this. Life is hard and you can’t always do what you want to do. Sometimes you just have to do what will earn you some money. But a high demand for lawyers now might not mean a high demand for lawyers in later years as all the previous positions have been filled.

Others however choose to follow their passions and do what they love. At my university, this was most apparent in the Arts and Sciences. Sure, the future for these students did not look like comfy office chairs and stable high income BUT they enjoyed what they did. Talking to a few of them, you would be captivated by their passion for a particular subject or topic.

Which is the better path? Which is the better choice? I think it all boils down to what you want in life. There is a chinese saying: “敬业乐业” : If you respect your job, you will enjoy what you do. There is much wisdom in this and this view is also shared by the Japanese. Check out this blog post from ninjagirls!

So, why is it so important to respect and love your job? The uncle told me the following things:

  • If you love and respect your job, you will give your 100%.
  • You will go to work with a smile
  • You will do more outside of your job. Ever wondered why the best students in University know so much? Because they are passionate about what they do. They have already devoured so many textbooks and articles that an average person would not.
  • Your bosses will see your passion and reward you accordingly

My ideal job would encompass the following elements:

  1. I can do what I love
  2. I can help society or contribute to the economy. This means that I am relevant. Are typewriters relevant anymore? I don’t think so. Not sure if typewriter experts have much job prospects in today’s world.
  3. I can earn enough to ( fill in the blank ). For me, I would like to earn  enough to support my family.

I think point number 3 deserves further elaboration because of the word “enough”. What is “enough”??. This will definitely differ from persons to persons. For some, $10Million isn’t enough while others would live happily on $100,000 a year( 100 x difference!). It all boils down to : Why do you want X amount of money? What will you use it for?

Life is not perfect and we will not always get what we want.But if you love what you do and you are passionate about it, I am sure that you will become successful. Why? Because nothing in the world can stop a passionate person. Wake up everyday with a smile!

Lesson 2: Be willing to try

The taxi uncle told me he had a daughter in high school. His constant advice was for her to try things before dismissing them. Have you ever eaten something you thought would taste bad but ended up tasting really good? We only have one life to live, why not savour everything that life has to offer? Through a constant process of trial and error we will then discover what we really like.

Maybe your new job seems “sucky” at the moment but who knows 2/3 years later you might come to really love it? If you tried your best at least you can quit knowing you did all that you could. Give your 100% at everything. Who knows what might happen?

Reality Check:

Doing what you love, contributing to society and the economy while at the same time earning enough to support your family and do what you want to do. Sounds like the stuff of dreams dosen’t it. Life is hard, and you will not always get what you want. Bills have to be paid. Food has to be provided. Expectations from family and partners to be met. Life is hard. But if you don’t try you will never know. Check out this video! 

Taxi Drivers: Both ends of the paradigm

Some of the happiest, joyful, contented and sanguine people I have met are taxi Drivers.

At the same time, some of the most angry,bitter and sad people I have met are taxi drivers.

Same job, same pay, same hours, different paradigms. Why is this the case?

I think this just shows that regardless of the situation you are in, one can choose how to face it. We can choose to be bitter and angry or joyful and accepting.

Happiness is a Choice:

Happiness is a Choice. No matter how tough life is, we can always be happy and thankful for the small things. Thankful for the fact that we have food on the table, friends and family who love us, thankful we have clothes to wear, a roof over our heads. Thankful for the weather, thankful for our lives, thankful for the things that we have. People will often say “If only this happens to me then I’ll be happy”. But you can choose to say “If only I choose to be thankful for the things that I have, I can be happy”. I’m not a really good writer, hence I am using this as a platform to practice so I’ll end off with a video: