TAKE OFF YOUR CLOTHES AND GO WITH THE FLOW
I just spent a week in Bengaluru working with partners on a high level leadership program for an international company. Having never been to India, I was in learning/new experiences mode from the moment I got in my cab from the Bengaluru airport to the hotel and realized my driver wasn’t wearing shoes.
Like Marge Simpson said when she saw an indoor street sign at a restaurant, “Whatever!”
It was a super fruitful three day program. The leaders from all over India had a crash course in having difficult conversations, building trust and aligning their work with their values. I learned how well our humorous, interactive style at Boom Chicago for Business gelled with the more academic teachings of this Indian-based team. But for me the biggest learning came during the cab ride from the training venue back to the hotel.
Because of Bengaluru’s infamous traffic, the ten minute jaunt to the session became a tedious 45 to 60 minute journey on the way back. Sitting in the middle lane of a three lane road and going nowhere, my host suggested, “Should we get out and walk?” His colleague and I quickly agreed. But as I waited for the cab to pull over to either the right or left curb, they both opened the door and jumped out into the CRAZIEST STREET SCENE I HAVE EVER WITNESSED. Quickly reading the writing on the wall, I jumped out too.
Immediately I was surrounded with a swarming sea of sounds, vehicles and people. Motorcycles and motorized tuk-tuks weaved between slow-moving cars and buses, and they were all honking their horns in what seemed more like an angry mating call than an actual request for someone to move. Dodging between it all were bikes and pedestrians dressed in a stunning mix of suits, sandals, colorful sari, shorts, and jeans. On either side of the road was something I got used to seeing there: sidewalks that weren’t quite finished. Each was part red sand, part chunks of concrete and cinderblock, part piles of oddly-shaped metal and 100% useless for walking. Like the old expression, “My way or the highway,” our path was “Highway or terrify-way.” No? “Highway or death-defy-way”? No? I’ll keep working on it.
My mind took me back to the first time, back in 1994, that I went to a sauna in Amsterdam. A good female friend invited a male friend of mine (whom she was dating), and me. We were to join her and a friend of hers to whom I may or may not* have been attracted. We said yes.
Now, I knew that the sauna would be a co-ed situation. And yes, this ran in direct contrast to my American upbringing where bloody violence is fun cinematic entertainment for the whole family, but nudity is to be avoided at all costs. But I figured a mix of towels and darkness would allow my red-white-and-blue sense of shame to survive. What I didn’t realize was that the changing room was also co-ed. So when we walked in and the two women starting taking off their clothes like it was an 80’s sex comedy, my brain had to deal with the situation and had to do so quickly. I had two choices:
- Freak out.
- Decide that since everyone else was 100% cool with the situation, maybe the situation was actually 100% cool.
I went with (2) and went with the flow. Acting like it was something I did every day of the week, I got naked in front of my good female friend and her good friend slash my friendly acquaintance. I acted like it was normal until it became normal. And for me, the rest is sauna history. I now sauna every time I can, and it’s always 100% cool. I mean. Except that it’s really like 90 degrees in the actual sauna part of the sauna.
Cut back to the busy streets of Bengaluru, 2019. Looking in front of me, my host was gently guiding a motorcycle with his hand as one would guide a wayward child on a tricycle. Behind me his colleague was fully immersed in a phone call even as she made life and death decisions involving millimeters. And she was in heels. Both were 100% cool with it.
So I went with the flow, and acted like this too was normal. And it was awesome, exciting, perhaps a bit more dangerous that I would order in a restaurant, but definitely not as dangerous as, say, trying to sneak into Porky’s in the classic 80’s sex comedy of the same name.
Now sure, you can’t go with the flow if your gut tells you the flow is flowing somewhere malicious or mean or dishonest. That’s called mob rule, and if you want to see it in action, check out the Joker movie. Or go to a Trump rally.
But if your gut is worried about embarrassment or failure or even danger that only you, the inexperienced person, is worried about, I suggest you take off your clothes and jump out of that cab. You’ll be pleasantly surprised how normal new experiences can be if you just treat them like they feel normal from the start.
When is the last time you told your gut to shut up and deal with it when you did something fun, exciting or slightly risky? How did it turn out? Let me know!
As Director of Creative Content, Pep does it all: He’s a high level event host & facilitator, writer, stand-up comedian, public speaker, coach, and developer of innovative corporate programs. A co-founder of Boom Chicago, Pep’s passion is using comedy to make hard-to-communicate messages land and stick, as featured In his 2012 TED talk, ‘Fight, Flight or Make Your Opponent Laugh.’ Pep hosts events like TEDx Amsterdam, The Next Web Conference, The Nordic Business Forum, and the Spin Awards to rave reviews, and he was nominated for an Emmy for his writing on America’s long-running television show, Saturday Night Live.