The Rice Paddy Mindset and How to Get Out of It

Malcolm Gladwell wrote in his book “Outliers – The story of success” that many Chinese across the world, be it in Asia or the States, are the decedents of rice farmers in China and that very unique rice culture is still being passed on to generations. Rice paddies are a complicated system that requires careful planning and constant attention. If you have seen one on your leisurely trip to the countryside, you would be amazed by the size of rice paddies: they are very small. This determines the harvest comes in small doses too. In order to boost production, Chinese rice farmers had to use the meager land twice each year. Apart from that, rice paddies are of high maintenance. The farmers need to constantly look out for factors that might destroy or dwindle production; even watering the crops takes special efforts as, “two seconds of over-watering could destroy the entire paddy”. rice

The methodical construction of rice paddies

Gladwell went on to cite an old Chinese saying, “No one who can rise before dawn 360 days a year fails to make his family rich”; that is the rice culture we inherited from our ancestors, a culture that promotes hard work or even, excessive labour. In the modern time, we could still see this culture everywhere in the workplace: a colleague who works late into the night or has takeaway lunch at his/her desk so he/she could finish the proposal on time, and we can’t help but ask, is there any way we can get out of this rice paddy mindset and realize a balance between work and play? Poor work-life balance breeds stress and it undermines our productivity. This conversation has taken place in our agency this week, and we’d taken on the task to share with you some of the best ways to de-stress. johnny

Everybody would remember this iconic scene from The Shining; gist of the story, all work and no play makes you go insane.

As our consultant Rajesh pointed out, firstly we need to make a distinction of good stress, called “eustress”, and bad stress and learn there are different ways to deal with them. Eustress is the positive cognitive response to stress that gives one a sense of fulfillment or other positive feelings. For instance, a bride might be anxious about her wedding, or an expectant mom is stressed out about her baby. Bad stress on the contrary is destructive; it undermines us and puts us on edge. However both types of stress can be resolved by turning to a good friend for a meaningful and motivating conversation, or spending quality time with someone you love. My colleague CP, who is currently also taking a degree course and claim to be facing twofold stress, cautions against lapsing into unhealthy habits such as excessive smoking or alcohol binges as a form of de-stressing technique. His word of wisdom is “Stress is a mental condition that is serious enough in itself and should not be exacerbated by physical damage.” He also recommends heavy weight lifting as “the adrenalin rush and a sense of reward absolutely smashes all negativity”; our consultant Carrie and Associate Director Melinda recommended similar intensive workouts to re-attain energy. Our Managing Director Jim also chimed in. He believes it is important to “switch off”, our digital devices and ourselves once a while. “A successful and profitable business does not come from a team of exhausted employees; only energized people product good values for our clients.” gym

This nice lady is working out real hard.

Another problem people have with maintaining work-life balance is, they always couldn’t find time to de-stress. The key is to always schedule such activities into your entire schedule. The truth is, following a fixed schedule is always easier than trying to squeeze spontaneous activities into one. Here is a good Ted talk that teaches how we can change our attitude towards stress and make it a positive thing.

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