Balancing Support and Challenge

Fortunately, there is more to life than work, but that condition requires people to structure that time. One structure is the Sunday excursion. Recently I went on a Sunday excursion to Miyajima Island near Hiroshima, Japan. This event reminded me of a few points about taking on new challenges.

Communication Abilities

A point of success for the trip is access to expertise. Whether at work or on an excursion, people provide essential sources of knowledge and fundamental abilities. Lacking any ability in the Japanese language, we were grateful to have communication capacity through my guides: two graduate students from the University of Hiroshima who met us at the train station.

Local Knowledge

A valuable piece of local knowledge was finding one’s way from the intercity trains to the part of the station where we found the local train to the ferry terminal. Although one may have a general knowledge of train stations and mass transit systems from other cities, each location has its special quirks. There are shortcuts that make a difference and shortcuts that are just a bad idea. It helps to be with someone who knows the difference. The capacity to adapt general principles to specific local conditions allows people to make the most of a situation.


A second point of success is to recognize and adapt to the local systems. There are specific ways to line up for entering the train when it stops. Queuing is important in Japan. Without careful attention to the way people attend to one another and take turns, it’s easy to step on toes figuratively as well as literally.


Miyajima Island is a prime example of a site calling for respect in that it has deep spiritual significance for many of its visitors. For other visitors, it has significance as an historical and architectural site. Both perspectives intermingle. A happy meeting of these distinct agendas becomes more likely with a spirit of mutual respect.

Broaden and Build

I came to Japan to plan research collaborations but also took time to experience a few high points of culture. People learn most effectively when they feel confident when facing a new challenge. Some challenges are delightful, such as eating okonomiyaki. Some are more intimidating. It is a delight to have guides to provide some support when addressing new challenges.

So, it is a good idea to remain open to new experiences. It is also a good idea to accept help from knowledgeable people when help is offered.

How do you handle adventures?


  1. Dear Dr. Leiter:

    I think that the key to such experiences is to always keep respect. To recognize that we need help from others is a part of it, because we give recognition to their contributions at the same time we take the knowledge they give to us. Communication is then a matter of human condition, and charity becames a core value, not in therms of richness or poverty but in a trascendental balance in which both participants feel themselves better.

  2. Heriberto
    Thanks for your observation. You make an excellent point about respect that is an essential element of connecting with people around the world.

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