They’re absolutely wrong.

I mean, for a long time it seemed that it was about foreigner me not complying with the Mayan indigenous/mestizo culture, not being able to reduce myself to inefficiency and slowness. It still is incomprehensible to me: the lame excuses for tardiness, the promises that were never kept, the blaming, the irresponsibility for delivering a superior experience. And then the complaints that Americans work too much, are neurotically strung-out and how we didn’t have a good life, and we’re all imperialists. “Couldn’t you work less, Victoria? You’re stressing us out and the performance makes us look bad.” It didn’t occur to them that they might step up to the challenge.

No, if I am learning how to adapt myself, then Mayans also need a serious paradigm shift. It’s somewhat of a losing mentality. The poor here want to believe that the rich are inherently unhappy and frustrated with their lives, that work is monotonous and a necessary evil, and therefore it seems that they’re just intent on doing things semi-poorly, or at least fail to meet (much less exceed) the expectations of the client. “It’s-5:00-let’s-go-home” attitude.

Then, some many want to keep believing that they are victims of the system, and I keep hearing again and again about discrimination, about racism, about inequality. (Where have I heard this before? Oh right, the same people fighting for affirmative action in universities so they can get in with lower scores. Hey, everyone deserves a top-notch university education.) I get a sense that they feel like they’re the only ones who have gone through conflict and subjugation…that the world owes them… a lot. Toward special requests the first response is always a “no” and they charge expensive prices without wanting to build the infrastructure of quality and reliability and accountability. But despite how people convince themselves that they are happier than Americans, and email me forwards about how Americans really don’t have the good life, the mentality and the attitude toward productivity, service, (and everything that creates a healthy organization, indeed human relationships) is not only creating substandard mediocrity and underachievement, but also negativity. I mean think about it, to lack luster and distinction in everything you do, to fall short of expectations always, isn’t this a recipe for a life without passion?

The majority of indigenous Mayans that I’ve met interpret things opposite of what they should be. Industriousness and discipline comes first, then from that striving excellence results, and then the money follows. It’s not that Victoria is from one of the richest states in the United States and they’re in one of the poorest of Mexico and that’s what accounts the difference in success. No no no, it starts from the individual’s commitment from the start, what we ourselves can control, what objectives we can make happen every single day. And as part of the whole team, each of us has the opportunity to work nights and weekends the way I do. But they don’t want to, they flake, and they don’t deliver, or if they do it’s often with apologies. I’ve met people who are curious to learn…you can tell by the questions they ask, by the notes they scribble, the hunger they have for figuring out how to do something better… in Taller Leñateros, they want volunteers to do things for them. It’s hard to teach what nobody wants to learn for themselves. In fact, its gotten to a point where they expect free volunteer labor as part of their business strategy. This has got to change.

I believe: Each of us can make each delivery either disappointing or remarkable, from simple things like how we interact with one another… we have to strive to be memorable. Few people see the personal satisfaction of putting all that work in, the momentum, the impulse, and seeing the results unfold…I’m not even sure how to explain this phenomenon to them, the extraordinary satisfaction that comes from accomplishing small goals every day, and feeling confident, passionate and capable about one’s own increasing set of skills and the esteem and health that comes along with it.

It has little to do with what they expect of me—I demand more out of myself than any person here ever will—and it has to do with wanting myself to feel proud of the process and the distinctive result of my own labor. It absorbs me, it focuses my energy, it tells me where to improve and where to focus. Work is not a herculian effort that fatigues me, rather, when I’m in my element those ten to twelve hours of work passes quickly and happily. Especially when I’m presented with a challenge that is hard, but doable. Tell me again that something isn’t possible, oh yeah, we’ll see about that. I’m going to prove you wrong and make it happen. Tell me again that we’re not achieving a certain quota because we’ve already done everything we can do, and all my braincells reorient themselves to creatively seek solutions to overcome that barrier.

Have they not experienced that? Have they not ever felt the sheer elation and the rush of emotion of deserving the results of excellent input and the culmination of effort, sheer willpower, attitude and persistence? They’re wrong about work. In it, is satisfaction and happiness… and the good life.

You know, you can always tell a lot about culture by their favorite sport. See how Mexicans like soccer? That’s because they’re all too poor to buy their own equipment and in soccer, fifty kids and their cousins kick a ball around in the dirt and grass into one single goal. Black people, they’re all rumbling around with a basketball and throw it into a metal hoop in the inner city, you don’t have to buy anything. That’s why Chinese people play pingpong and tennis and golf. Everybody has to buy their own equipment.— My dad’s explanation of sports.

Tzotzil Words of the Day: lio’yote” here you are | “totik” dad | “metik” mom | “muktamek” grandma | “mu’tatot” grandpa | “juntok” uncle | “be’elik” food | “beo’tik” to eat

Spanish Words of the Day:imprenta” letter press | “libro cuyas imágenes saltan al abrir la página” pop-up book | “cartoncillo” compressed cardboard

“Every moment is not without its beauty”

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