By Wendy Kendall On July 30, 2014 · Add Comment · In global talent
Tell us something by way of introduction about yourself. How would you describe your career now? What brought you to this point – the main steps of your journey to where you are now?
I think it all started at college in Cambridge. I was drawn like a magnet to Italy – Italian music, Italian history, the Renaissance above all. I wanted desperately so speak Italian. So I think the courses I chose were all skewed in that direction: Renaissance thought, Tudor history (papacy struggles, influence on Italian music and thought on English courts). I was in the college choir and we sang lots of Italian music. I then wrote my PhD thesis on music at the courts and country houses on England 1560-1630. When I finished it I was off to Switzerland (first lover) and then on to Italy. A British Academy Travel Fellowship allowed me to study Italian court music in Bologna for two years, and then I said bugger all this academic stuff it’s not for me, my book on English Renaissance music was published by CUP, so I took off over the Apennines and found a very cheap ‘casa colonica’ (villa farmhouse) in the Etruscan hilltop town of Volterra, and translated Italian Literature into English, wrote my first novel (fruit of a New York sojourn in the multi-ethnic Lower East Side of Manhattan) and farmed wine and olives.
After about five years, when I had perfected my Italian and learned all I could about Italian rural life (another book), I got the bug for the Far East, I knew there were many more cultures and languages over there, more to learn, and I needed a new partner after a civilized ‘divorce’. I was already thinking of an Asian partner, not another version of me.
After a sticky year in Japan, where I loved the culture but felt alone and not competent enough in Japanese, I was urged by friends to go to Hong Kong. They came to the airport to collect me in a big car and among them was a Hong Kong Chinese who more than caught my eye. We clicked in the car, I fell in love with my other half on the way from the airport, and that was it. We’ve been together 28 years.
The importance of that meeting was that I could join in Chinese local life. We lived together in a one-room apartment in a Kowloon housing estate for one year, together with mother, sister, and nephew. I’ve written about the experience in my newly published novel, Chinese Walls (also about Hong Kong and London professional life). I had to do everything differently, I had to fit in, I constantly had to learn not to reject strange foods like durian,1000-year-old egg, chicken claws, pig intestines, and customs such as incense worship of ancestors, piles of votive fruit, temple visits, lucky numbers, money giving in red packets at Chinese New Year etc.
I drew from all this experience when I worked at HSBC as speechwriter for Asia and the handover of Hong Kong to China, and then as boss of my own strategic communications company in various Asian countries. I evolved my own system to join the business networks – say yes to everything, join in karaoke (I hate it), eat 12-course banquets (ditto), pretend to get drunk in China, Korea and Japan to please hosts etc. I teach and coach that same system in my Asia workshops and Masterminds for Western companies: ‘courage’,’ empathy’ and ‘resilience’ are the watchwords. Oh and learn at least some phrases in every language to become friends. They love it, even in Burmese or Mongolian.
What does having a ‘global career’ mean to you? How has it changed your life or your perspective?
It’s given me a window on the world: on geo-politics, on social and cultural differences and in what resides our common humanity. It’s allowed me to be a bit of flirt in every language (not a seducer, just a flirt), to empathize with emotions, to solidarize with the poor and underprivileged, and above all to make lasting friends, relationships and contacts.
Did you ever think you would have a global career? Was it one of your aspirations?
I’m not sure that the career side of it was an aspiration. That sort of crept up on me. Each new country I added to my portfolio of business or travel writing became another part of my ‘globalised’ business experience. Three years ago I found myself with books on several Asia countries (and Italy and New York), and was advised by a digital marketing guru friend that I was in the perfect position to convert my ‘Asia expert’ status into ‘world expert status’ on the internet. The idea was and is that I have a lifestyle of my choice eventually (peace, nature and writing books) but a constant cash flow for this ‘retirement’ from a global digital business, with occasional lucrative speaking engagements and interviews if and when I wanted them. I am about 70% of the way down that path.
Your challenges and difficulties
What did you struggle with most when you moved your career abroad and how did you overcome that? Fear of dipping my toe into the cultural waters and looking a fool, being rejected, not finding any job fulfilling enough to warrant taking such a huge risk (eg jumping from Italy to Japan), loneliness and possible failure. My biggest dread was going back to the UK with my tail between my legs and telling my friends and family it had all been a big flop.
What did you learn about yourself as a result of growing your global career?
I learned that the greatest joy in life is making connections. EM Forster said ‘Only Connect’ and he was absolutely right (he went to India to do it). Once you have made that essential connection, you are ready for what is almost a love affair with the country or foreign situation of your choice. I learned that courage and risk-taking (calculated) were vital to experience new worlds and succeed in them. I also learned you have to be both patient and resilient when things don’t go your way (as they often won’t). ‘Go with the flow’ is not such a bad motto!
Do you have any regrets about moving abroad with your career? Would you do anything differently in future?
I have absolutely no regrets. Going abroad has defined my life, and eventually you find out that you haven’t lost your own country, you’ve just gained many more. In fact, overseas postings make you look with more interest on your own country, as if it were one of those foreign lands in which you had to study the citizens and their customs. I’ve gained the knowledge for many books, and now more novels from being often overseas and travelling. The sheer curiosity and excitement have kept me constantly young both in mind and in outlook. They’ve also kept me inspired with new ideas.
Just now I’m about to publish a novel in Amazon paperback and Kindle about love and corruption in the corporate world of Hong and London (Chinese Walls), and in September a Journey Through South Korea from 1988 to today (Phoenix Rising). This is in addition to my recently published cross-cultural introductions to Asia business, Master Key to Asia and Master Key to China, which are basically the fruit of my Asia business and life experience.
Your Strengths and Talents:Which of your top 5 signature strengths do you think you use the most in your global career at the moment?Love of learning (no.4)
“You love learning new things, whether in a class or on your own. You have always loved school, reading, and museums-anywhere and everywhere there is an opportunity to learn”.
Which of your top 5 signature strengths would you most like to develop further over the coming year and why? Zest (no.2)
“Regardless of what you do, you approach it with excitement and energy. You never do anything halfway or halfheartedly. For you, life is an adventure”.
I would like to embark on even more ventures in the form of JVs with countries like Australia and New Zealand, US and Canada. I want to bring a lot of energy to these new markets.
How has moving abroad helped you to develop your talents and abilities overall?It’s given me the key to countless cultures and religions, languages and extraordinary spiritual customs and traditions.
In summary, what encouraging thought sums up everything you think about having a global career?Go Global, Think Local.
David’s website is at:www.davidcliveprice.com
David’s podcast link (Asia Business Network)
Introducing My New Novel Chinese Walls To Be Published 23 July 2014
Master Key to China