Decisions in Paradise: How To Be, or Not To Be
My name is Nik. I spell my name a little differently. But, with so many folks named Nicholas, Nicolette, Nicole, Nikoleta, Nikola, and more, I figure I’d let people guess.
Like everyone else, I periodically imagine what paradise on Earth would be for me. In my imagination, my trip to paradise includes having a wonderful, loving relationship, finishing my college degree, getting a meaningful job, seeing some of the rest of the world, and getting my dog, Leonard, housebroken.
Although I’d been working on all this stuff for what seems a lifetime, I couldn’t believe that they all came together for me within a three week period; although, I’m still working on Leonard.
Within two weeks of finishing my degree, I landed a job with great potential in a solid organization. All the investment of time, energy, and money in school finally paid off, not to mention I learned a lot more than I thought I would. The next week I reconnected with a former “friend”, that could prove to be the love of my life. Did I point out I’m still working with Leonard?
Adding to paradise found, my first assignment with my new company required me to travel to another part of the world—an island country of Kava, in the South Pacific to be exact. Now who thinks of the South Pacific and doesn’t image a physical paradise – white beach, gentle surf, swaying palm trees, tropical breeze – I sure did, and so did the prospective love of my life. We agreed the first trip would be strictly business. So, I would be traveling alone. Poor Leonard. If this assignment and our relationship worked out well, however, we could spend other occasions together in paradise.
My first week of work was entirely engulfed in a brief introduction to the company, HR procedures, organizational processes, overview of Kava, and flight arrangements. Although I received a great deal of help in putting together the trip to Kava, no one knew exactly what I would be doing there.
“You’ll be working with Alex, our director of strategic planning,” was the short, quick, and consistent response I got. “Very experienced, very demanding, very influential executive. What an opportunity for you!”
So, the following week I was off to Kava, to meet with Alex, my supervisor and mentor, for my assignment in paradise.
I hope the love of my life gets Leonard housebroken while I am gone.
My first reminder that life’s events are not as we perceive them to be is when I landed in Kava. What I found was that this part of paradise was a mess, at least where I landed. It was a mess all the way to our company’s office. It was a mess around the office.
I opened the door of the trailer, our make-shift office. The office was a mess, too!
Before I could focus myself to say anything, even to greet the receptionist sitting behind the desk, the hectic yet very welcoming voice rang out, “Greetings, I’m Alex.”
I was a bit surprised. Correction: I was very surprised. People never look like you picture them—nothing is like your mind ever pictures it—but I was way off with Alex. I should have known better, but I still answered, “Really? You’re not the receptionist? You’re not at all how I pictured you.”
“Really?” Alex responded, “How did you picture me……..” gesturing me to introduce myself.
“I’m sorry. I’m Nik,” I responded.
“You are Nik?” was Alex’s retort. “Wow! You’re not even close to how I pictured you, either.”
“So much for perception is reality,” we said in unison.
“Well, that was a wave of commonality in this sea of diverse thought, eh?” Alex quipped.
I quickly learned Alex loved metaphors.
“Yeah, let’s see if we can have many more of these we experience,” I answered, hoping my first impression was not my last.
Again with a hectic this time reassuring voice Alex said, “Oh we will.
“So, you’re one of the rookies they sent me from training camp. Get ready for some fun games. By the way, I am also the receptionist.”
“Let me tell you a little about Kava,” Alex continued, and with a note of humor and threat added, “And, make sure you keep your eye on the ball this time.”
Alex debriefs Nik about Kava.
Facts about Kava:
A significant island country in the South Pacific.
Over 50% under 15 years of age
Ethnic mix of indigenous South Pacific tribes, Asian (Chinese primarily), African, French, Spanish, and since World War II, a sizeable number of Americans.
Religions – Indigenous 50%, remainder closely divided between Christian, Buddhist, and Islamic.
Languages – Numerous indigenous, as well as English, Spanish, and French.
Petroleum, coffee, cocoa, spices, bananas, sugar, tourism, fishing, and natural gas, as well as inexpensive, quality labor.
High risk for avian flu
Terrorism, from within and outside the country
Governmental service – local, state, and national levels—including the military
Community based organizations
After Alex’s introduction to Kava, reviewing the potential risk associated with our location, and thinking I’m showing Alex my great observation skills, I declare, “That’s why the mess all around here. Some disaster hit this place. Right?”
Alex’s eyes spoke, “No kidding, slugger.” But kinder and more informative words came from Alex’s mouth that said, “No, not some disaster. It was some disasters—fastballs being thrown from all sides, so to speak.”
I asked my first stupid question, “What kind of disasters have they had here?”
With some chiding, but great patience, Alex replied, “Don’t they teach about things that happen in the rest of the world at your college, or did you get hit by a pitch?”
“They do,” I answered, “but like everybody else, I guess, it if doesn’t affect me directly, I don’t pay much attention.”
“Every day, in many ways, you’re affected directly by things that happen in many parts of the rest of the world,” Alex responded, this time with less patience. “I bet what happens in Kava impacts your life at least three times a day, every day. You may not get all the fly balls, but you’re still in every part of the game”
“What happened here was…..
“How did the folks deal with all that?” I interrupted with amazement.
“Too much, too many, and over too short a period,” Alex answered with sigh. “Add to that the diverse composition, beliefs, attitudes, and ideologies, and you’ve got a melting pot boiling over.”
“Or, everybody thinks they can pitch, eh?” as I took a swing at metaphoric statements.
“Good one,” Alex stated. “Yep. Now, let’s get to work on our game plan.”
Alex began to define our mission and my assignment:
“Our company is considering establishing a greater presence here in Kava,” Alex started. “That greater presence could take various forms, based on what’s good for our company and what’s good for the people of Kava. You and I get the chance to analyze, synthesize, and prescribe regarding that decision.”
“Because so many disasters happen here?” I questioned. “I think I can write up this recommendation in two words, ‘Forget It’”.
Again with great patience, Alex explained, slowly and deliberately, “I guess you can just take your ball and go home. But our organization chose to play in this game and you chose to join our organization. If you really want to play, you will have to take your turn at bat. There are no designated hitters in this game.”
I rephrased my thoughts, “OK, we want a greater presence on Kava, because so many disasters happen here.”
Alex answered, “Yes, but even more. Certainly, one reason is that whatever happens here affects us there. I’ll make sure you understand that as we create this study. As you’ve seen recently, disasters happen at home, too. We can avoid, deny, or ignore them. We have to turn them into opportunities. Another huge reason is the founder of our company, Chris Morales, has a deep-seeded commitment to doing what is right. Not because of the economics, or politics, or recognition, but because it’s the right thing to do. Our organization is far from perfect, but we keep trying to upgrade who we are, what we do, and how we do it. Chris believes we can’t keep taking more from Kava, if we don’t give more back. Chris wants to live up to that Morales name. And, the third, maybe most consequential reason is the government of Kava, and I’m sure indirectly a bunch of other organizations, are asking us to bring our business “culture” to Kava.
“Why is their government asking our company, a for-profit business, to help them with their, uh, social needs?” I asked.
“There are also three big, basic reasons, for that,” Alex answered, “and loads of other minor ones.
“First of all, through our growth, our company has demonstrated that we can develop and manage a very effective, as well as highly efficient, organizational structure and processes. That includes all aspects of the company; marketing, finance, purchasing, technology, human resources, physical resource, transportation, strategic planning, leadership, etc.
“Secondly, the goods and services that come from Kava, have a significant impact on our company, you and me, and most folks back home, as well as people all over the world.
“Last, and certainly not least, as Chris has preached and demonstrated, ‘In the long run, economics drives everything.’”
Alex concluded with, “So, are you ready for your turn at bat?”
“I guess,” I answered will all the confidence of a first-time skydiver. “But, I wouldn’t mind if you’re the leadoff hitter, at least for right now.”
“OK, then. Keep your eye on the ball,” Alex instructed, “because here’s what we, by that I mean you, need to do first.
“All those fresh new critical-thinking skills you developed in your education should be applied, because I want you to write a not-too-long Part I to what will be our company’s plan about how we have a greater presence on Kava. I think Part I of the plan should discuss at least three areas; organizational processes, human resources, and ethics.
“So, how to be, or how not to be here,” I joked, “That is the question.”
“That’s right, Hamlet.” Alex joked in return, “Although I think was Milton not Shakespeare who wrote Paradise Lost. Let’s see if we can find it.”