It's been a long week and there's been lots of introspection and mulling over ideas on my end. The thing is, this blog is eventually going to turn into something else. Living in Romania is not so much of a novelty anymore and even if it were, I'd rather become more involved than continue in the role of observer. As an observer, I notice things, but all I can do is point them out and then what, move on? I don't want to do that. But since I'm still observing, I thought I'd point out a few things, and maybe provide some form of direction where it's badly needed.
More than lack of money and influence, Romania and many Romanians are lacking in something greater: Values. I will expand on this next week, but for now I'm fairly confident that this cut and dry statement will hit the mark: The thirst for material wealth and social standing manifested in external displays of 'success' have replaced value-driven mores that can only be measured internally through an individual sense of fulfillment and well-being.
To be fair, this is not only a Romanian issue, it's common enough worldwide, but it's a chronic disease in countries where a values system was never really in place to begin with. There's much to be said about the hypocrisy of America, but that's precisely because the founding fathers included some very noble values -nowadays mostly ignored - in the American constitution. Though US foreign and domestic policy of late is contrary to most of those values, there are, in fact, many Americans who believe in them and try their best to be upright citizens by their very virtue.
Think of values like a compass. The only way you can reach your destination is by following that needle. Unlike a desire for wealth or power, where the needle would move erratically, now North, now South, the needle of your life's values is always pointing the right direction. Below I've outlined ten steps that will never waver as you and I try and change Romania.
1. Change Yourself – It starts with you. Not with your mom and dad. Nor with your brother, or sister, or friends, and never with your country. This is the most basic principle of positive change.
2. Take responsibility – If things go wrong, it’s easy to blame the government on everything. It’s easy to blame just about anyone or anything on any sort of personal failure, but it’s important to keep in mind that a) what’s done is done and b) it’s up to you to fix it. If you can’t fix what you broke, you apologize and move on, having learned a precious lesson. There is no point in dwelling on problems or in holding grudges; it will only keep you from achieving your goals –assuming that your goal is not to blame the government and everyone else for your problems.
3. Believe in yourself – One of the most repeated clichés in American English, one that is drilled into North American kids from the day they set foot in a school until they leave it. And when they do leave, Americans find it to be the mantra of every work place or institution. And it makes perfect sense, because if you don’t believe in yourself, nobody else will.
4. Don’t give up – No matter what stands in your way you always have the choice of facing the problem or giving up. As Henry Ford put it, “There are two types of people; those who think they can, and those who think they can’t. They’re both right.” Just keep in mind that there is a difference between being stubborn and being determined. Being stubborn means you put your pride ahead of your goals, but a determined person is humble and relentless. Here's a Romanian example.
5. Be humble – You might’ve heard the expression, “No man is an island”. In a broad sense this means it pays to keep in mind that what you have and what you have achieved is in part thanks to the efforts of others and that you have a lot for which you should be thankful. Give praise where it’s due and remember that at the end of the day, you’re just another human.
6. Help each other – Instead of wasting energy cursing the neighbour’s goat, pitch in for a goat of your own so that you can both benefit from a well mowed lawn while profiting from a couple of (goat) kids. Co-operation and collaboration in Western society was the key to nation building. We’re not adversaries and the sooner we understand that helping each other benefits each of us individually, the sooner we will start seeing those tangible changes we want to see all around us.
7. Fight for what’s right – If you don’t like a law, petition to change it (it’s allowed in our democracy). If you know that somebody’s giving or taking bribes report it. If you think that you were unfairly treated at a store, ask to speak to a manager. If a contractor does a crap job, make them do it again. And again. In a country where we see some type of injustice on a daily basis, standing by without doing anything about it is akin to participating in the deed yourself.
8. Don’t settle – “Lasa ca si asa-i bine” doesn’t exist in other countries. You can tell when you walk down clean streets, by gleaming buildings, and into perfectly arranged little shops. You can tell that even if it would have been easier to leave a door unpainted, or that it would save time to use a basic design, a “job well done” means that the job is done with pride and integrity, and an underlying promise of quality that goes beyond a price tag. Any thriving business in the West is successful because it over-delivers. If you make this a personal goal in your life, you’ll see it pay off.
9. Be a Doer – We usually have strong opinions here, unlike in the West where actions always speak louder than words. This site is an opinion. It can even be said that “words are the curse of our society, they are a substitute for deeds”. Let’s talk less and do more.
10. Lead by Example – The misconception that a leader should do less is all too common in this country. A real leader inspires others and achieves results precisely because he or she works harder than anybody else and for everybody else. Leaders are Doers. They are people who embrace responsibility. In fact, a true leader embodies every one of these principles day in and day out.
There's probably more, there always is, but this is a good start. These are things we can all be doing.