Author, Consultant, Executive Coach - Helping people and organizations grow into desired results

Monday, 26 January 2009

Happy Chinese New Year: The Ox

Gung Hay Fat Choy / Gong Xi Fa Cai

Today we enter the Chinese Year of the Ox and I wish all my friends, colleagues and clients a prosperous and healthy year ahead.

Last year was the Year of the Rat, the first in the cycle of 12 years in the Chinese calendar. I've read that Rat years are fast-paced, a time of new opportunities and fresh starts, of renewal through reinvention and also of upheaval.

Certainly in keeping with the theme of renewal and upheaval in a Rat year, 2008 saw its fair share of crises. In fact the events of last year call to my mind the purported Chinese curse, May you live in interesting times, as well as the old saw that
the same Chinese character (or ideogram) is used for both the words crisis and opportunity.

In keeping with the Chinese theme of this post, however, I'd like to examine a few of the phrases and concepts that have gotten a bit mangled in their East-to-West translation.

Crisis = Opportunity?

In my previous post I quite explicitly made the point that you have the power of choice over whether to view a situation as a crisis or an opportunity - something that I still hold to be true. However it seems that the concept does not have its roots in the use of the same Chinese character for both crisis and opportunity (see here and here for details).

Similarly there is no reference that can be found for a Chinese curse, let alone saying, May you live in interesting times. According to Wikipedia the expression may have its roots in an interpretation of a Chinese phrase that may be translated as follows:

the times produce their heroes

(pinyin: shí shì zào yīng xióng)

I rather like this, for several reasons: first off, it's not a curse(!); it neatly encapsulates the element of personal agency and choice mentioned above; I think it taps into the underlying truism that each age needs to produce heroes that are appropriate to the moment - with the presumption that each of us has heroism within us that's waiting to be manifested and shine through.

Rat-cunning & Ox-solid

The Rat year 2008 was certainly marked by upheaval and the start of a process of (forceable and possibly overdue) renewal - not least in the financial sector. The signs of continued global climate change were starkly evident. Not all was negative, though, as in 2008 America ushered in a new era marked by the promise of change and of hope by collectively saying Yes We Can.

The Ox year 2009, meanwhile, promises prosperity through fortitude and hard work.

It's meant to be a conservative year, one of traditions and values, of stability and growth where patience and diligence pay off.

It's a year of harvest - when we reap what we have sown and consolidate the progress that the Rat's speediness and destruction/renewal has produced, in which any recent setbacks or obstacles can be overcome.

Even if you put no store by Chinese astrology, I'd suggest that these guiding principles will hold you in good stead this year as people the world over learn how to be the heroes that their times require. We, as well as our communities and the planet, deserve nothing less.

In keeping with the theme, my next post will assess President Obama's inauguration speech to see what kind of Ox year he has in mind for America and, by extension, the world community.

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