What is the cost of not pursuing our passions and taking risks? This was the question that lingered in my mind after hearing Dominic Barton's inspiring story of perseverance and adaptability. As he shared his experiences of pushing boundaries and confronting risks, I couldn't help but wonder how often we hold ourselves back from achieving our dreams due to fear of the unknown.
I was really inspired by Dominic Barton's advice to his 20-something-year-old self on taking risks and being persistent in pursuing our dreams. I learnt that it's crucial to push ourselves out of our comfort zone and try things that may seem scary or uncertain from Dominic's story.
The relationship between Canada and China began to deteriorate in November 2018 following the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in Canada. Dominic was asked by the Prime Minister to help improve the relations, however it is contradictory to his original plan. Yet, he recognized the potential impact he could make and felt a strong urge to help solve the problem. "If I were to look back on my life at 90 years old, I couldn't live with myself if I didn't take this opportunity," said Dominic. His bold action resulted in a productive dialogue with President Xi, allowing the countries to rebuild communication and cooperation.
I used to strictly follow the Chinese motto「凡事預則立，不預則廢」which advocated waiting until feeling fully prepared before taking big steps. However, Dominic's story showed me that this mindset was actually hindering my progress. I realised that there is no perfect timing and if I had waited until I felt completely ready, I might have missed out the opportunities behind. Though it's still important to do research before making major decisions, at a certain point, you have to follow your intuition. So if you're feeling hesitant to take a risk as I do, I hope Dominic's advice can give you some inspiration - it's better to push your boundaries and confront risks!
During the Q&A session, Dominic was asked how he was not losing hope in the face of adversity. His response was simple: hold onto your passions, no matter how difficult the journey may be.
He shared his own story, saying that even if life is 99% different from what we want to achieve, it is still worth pursuing our passions," said Dominic. It took him 25 years to achieve his ambition, during which time he received little support from his colleagues and was given only a limited budget to develop the public sector practice at McKinsey. The advice also helped him when he was serving as an ambassador. He faced a situation where a recommendation made to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was dismissed during a meeting. He realized that he couldn't just hope for a positive outcome; he needed to adapt to the situation while staying focused on his goals. Being nimble and adaptable while keeping sight of our goals is key, and it's what helps us achieve success.
Dominic's experiences highlighted the importance of persistence in achieving our goals. Despite facing opposition and setbacks, he persevered and ultimately succeeded. His story serves as an inspiration to never give up on our ambitions, even when others may not believe in us or when our goals may seem impossible.
As we embark on our life journey, don't forget to embrace challenges and take risks, even if it feels uncomfortable at first. By stepping out of our comfort zone, we can fully experience and appreciate life's fragrant moments. Let's not settle for just being spectators, but actively seek out the intoxicating scent of blooming plum blossoms!
To conclude, I would like to share an old Chinese saying: "If plum blossoms do not experience the bone-chilling cold of winter, how can they exude a fragrance?" (「不經一番寒徹骨， 怎得梅花撲鼻香？」) Enduring the harshness of winter is painful but that's how we become the man in the arena :)
We had the pleasure of having Dominic Barton, the current chairman of Rio Tinto, in our Joint Discovery event. He shared his experiences and takeaways as a chairman, former Canadian Ambassador to China, Global Managing Partner of McKinsey, and business executive.
While reflecting on his career and challenges, he highlighted the importance of being receptive to feedback and collecting a broad spectrum of perspectives. "You often get contrasting advice," he said, "but still ask for it. Then you make the call. You won't always make the right decision, but all leaders have had failures...you learn as you go."
He also shed light on another significant piece of advice he received, which completely altered his attitude toward his career. While he was reexamining his purpose in his profession, his friend encouraged him not to be caught up in the way other people valued him. "We're not here to be evaluated," he said, "we're here to make a difference."
As the former Canadian Ambassador to China, he was also asked about Canada's stance on its role in the world. He stated that Canada is a country that celebrates differences and adopts a "defend, not to impose" approach. Although Canada deeply values their relationships with other countries, it is also a "domestic-focused" country in the sense that the government places heavy emphasis on quality education and unifying different social groups within their communities. As a land of diverse ethnic groups, Canadians take pride in their hospitality and respectfulness in embracing diversity.
As the upcoming leading generation, to maneuver our way through life, we must always be open to receive constructive feedback and be willing to come in contact with unfamiliarity.