From East to West


Nine years is neither a significant, nor insignificant, period of time. Though it sure is close to 10 years. No matter if you are for, against, or just repeating a misquote about the 10 year or 10,000 hour rule to expert’dom, it makes for interesting conversation and even a nice infographic. And can there be a right answer?

Either way you slice it, I’ve spent the last nine years since graduating from college in China. It has been an incredible experience. And with the recent completion of a contract, I was given a gift, a chance to go anywhere.

I chose to spend more time in America for a lady. And since May, I have spent all my time in America, save two weeks back in China.

This time has enabled me to look back and reflect on the past, but more importantly, to reflect forward into the future.

This means I have been able to reflect on who I have been and who I am. It has also given me the chance to make sense of what I have done and where I might go from here.

Three weeks ago, I arrived in Honolulu, Hawaii to start a stint at the East-West Center as a Professional Associate in the Asia Pacific Leadership Program (APLP). For the next four months I will spend a significant amount of quality time with my 30 classmates. In the five months to follow we will disperse ourselves back across the Asia Pacific to continue our learnings as we return to our communities or make inroads into new communities.

We 31 range in age from 25-45 and hail from 17 countries: Bangladesh, Brazil, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Kyrgyz Republic, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Philippines, Thailand, Tonga, and the USA.

APLP is a self-titled leadership program, and one of the many ways the program has been further described to us is as a collaborative educational experience that also promotes individual outcomes.

From day one we started the conversation recognizing we are a diverse group. Diversity, or difference, is not just based on our countries of origin, since many of us have experiences far beyond the borders of our birth land. Similarity does not start and end with being in the same room and everyone speaking English.

A diverse, informed, and collaborative community of action, requires a common language. To use the same words of the same language does not mean we understand them in the same way. And, to date, we have done well to prove this.

But it has been through the conversation, thus far, as we get to know each other and start to develop our common language, that I am so excited to see what will come next as our journey together continues to unfold.

While I have spent roughly the last 10,000 hours of my adult life between China and America, accumulating a diverse set of experiences, I don’t consider myself much of an expert on anything. But I am starting to recognize that to make a difference today is not necessarily dependent upon being an expert in the niche.

The leadership we exhibit through the duration of this 9-month program – and beyond APLPland – will have much to do with the approach we take to navigating an increasingly complex world. In this world, our challenge will not only be how we connect the dots, but also how we make sense of the dots, the lines, and how they relate in every way imaginable. And to do this, we need to be prepared to ask the right questions.


I’m quickly realizing that one of my favorite parts of the post-writing process is searching for images that compliment my posted prose. Through the process of browsing for images and learning more about where they come from, I find fun and interesting ways people have chosen to visually verbalize a topic from a different vantage point.

The image above (and below) is from a designer named Yang Liu who was born in China and has spent a significant amount of time in Germany. Learn more about her through an interview here. See more of her East Meets West imagery here. While this link includes a few repeats, it also includes Yang’s take on the evolution of transportation over the last three decades. I think the below is an interesting take on connections and contacts.



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