Have Aloha Shirt, Will Travel.
It's been 2 years since my wife and 2 daughters packed up and left the place we dreamed to call home for almost 6 years: Hawaii. It was an extraordinarily difficult decision to leave behind friends, colleagues, a great company, ocean, blue skies, music, art and memories that still shed a tear every time we see the photos pop-up on our screensaver. I hope Hawaii herself won't mind me writing about her since she gave us so much, I'd like to share my aloha experience.
In those 6 years, I had an incredible chance to work with some amazingly talented people. I say amazing because I don't believe they truly know how smart, talented and wonderful they really are. One of my greatest experiences was living the company's brand values, and ours included one with the title of "Aloha". But Aloha is not just a brand value to use as a greeting. So I decided go looking for the real meaning behind the most famous Hawaiian word in the world. I read wall plates in hotels and condominiums that pointed to meanings of love. I researched its origin and found that it derived from the Polynesian language. I checked the local dictionaries and asked my colleagues and eventually found a nice written answer:
Aloha is for affection, peace, compassion, and mercy.
Phew, I finally could rest my mind... well not really. My brain recorded the visual and logical meaning of Aloha, but I was missing something. I didn't have to look far to find the real answer I was looking for.
"I stopped looking and concentrated on life around me on the islands. Then, it happened... "
I stopped looking and concentrated on life around me on the islands. Then, it happened... I started feeling it. Lucky for me, the locals I worked with and befriended, and the people I met on the island helped me with the real answer. The aloha spirit is one of deep origins... within all of us. It can come from an understanding that we are a small spot in the world, surrounded by the ocean, and that the ocean can decide our fate and should therefore be respected. It can come from an understanding that the beauty that surrounded us is to be appreciated. That peace is possible. That music and flowers can go together. That life is a precious gift. That people are a precious gift. It comes in various ways from people who demonstrate an uncompromising way of working together as a way of helping our brothers and sisters. It comes from a small cry for help that results in hundreds of helping hands. It comes from the big warm greetings from people who aren't afraid to hug and kiss you as a member of their family, even though they haven't known you for very long. It comes from people who share stories of their pain, happiness, and families with you. It comes in the form of a smile, a joke, a tear, or even sharing a manapua that was brought by someone who was late for class!
This is a feeling that can only be experienced when you approach it humbly. Once you do, you realize that in this large world, you exist as whole and that the people around you are your family, regardless of their background, color, height, weight, age, up-bringing, religion, etc. It's amazing that this small place in this earth has the wisdom to solve many of the issues I train at work, and the power to stop wars. This is the essence of aloha and for this gift, I am truly grateful to all the people I crossed paths with.
Now, being away from the place I called home for nearly 6 years, I realize the extent of what Hawaii's healing power of aloha can do. If only we could all bring aloha into our lives whether at work or at home, in any country or city, we can truly experience a dimension that can bring freedom, empathy, social awareness and happiness that is much needed in this world.
This is why I continue to wear my aloha shirts to the office in Japan. Though I stand-out (not something I'm comfortable with by the way), it's a reminder that aloha lets me imagine such a world by carrying that magic feeling throughout my day, wherever I may be.
PS: I wonder if I should start bringing my ukulele to work!
PPS: If you attend my training workshops on Emotional Intelligence, you might need to wear an aloha shirt on day 2 as we discover the true essence of empathy via aloha!!