Cultural immersion in Qufu, China: Part 1 of 4
In May 2014, K2 Corporate Mobility's founder and CEO, Nick Plummer, left for four weeks of total cultural immersion at a retreat run by Shaolin monks, in the UNESCO world heritage city of Qufu, China. Now back in Singapore, Nick shares the business drivers behind his decision.
The background to my trip
Having settled in Singapore three years ago, I felt that my integration in to Asian life- running a business and raising both of my children, was quite deep.
However, the more that K2 Corporate Mobility’s business in China grew, the less I felt I knew about the country, region, or philosophies as a whole. I came to the realisation that my western form of thought, far from free, existed only as a product of my being conditioned in a certain way- learning, business, life experiences and influence from family and friends.
One of the definitions of success is sacrificing to facilitate your goal, and as I began to spend more time in Asia, I came to the realisation that not only was it essential for me to reflect upon my Western ideals of business to succeed, but that an alternative view on life may also help me to become a better human, father and partner to the mother of my children, Teresa.
So, given China’s place as the birth of philosophy, and economic powerhouse in the 21st century, I took the decision to break from the business for four weeks of isolated cultural immersion- embarking on a four week course in a Shaolin retreat in Qufu, China.
Extract from my diary: Part 1 of 4
More often than not in the months leading up to starting K2 Corporate Mobility, 80% of people that I had spoken to about my business plan told me in no uncertain terms that I would fail. I reassured myself that they didn’t have my perspective on the opportunity, market knowledge or experience, but the seeds of doubt acted as a consistent reminder and driver to work harder than ever. How similar it feels as I start week one of my course in China.
The course is located in Qufu, Shandong province, which is both a UNESCO world heritage site and the birthplace of Confucius. The region has a population similar to that of Boston, USA, and I will be staying with Shaolin monks- practising Buddhist schools of thought.
Week 1: 26th May 2014
My very modest room is appointed with a single bed (no mattress to speak of), very thin old sheet and a table and chair from which I’m writing. It is at the back of the school, with great mountain views. My days begin, rising at 06:00, to join fellow students for a breakfast of appointed rations- two boiled eggs and a sachet of soya milk. Almost everybody has taken the opportunity to say hi and welcome me, which has been a great relief.
Days are filled with back to back classes- both physical and mental, all led by Shaolin Masters, who are mesmerising to watch. My fellow team mates have introduced me to the many ropes and various idiosyncrasies of life in the school- timings, bowing, eating and washing clothes, as well as helping my body adjust to the stretching regimes. They are brutal!
Every activity starts with a mile run around the school complex, so we cover at least four miles a day just running. Since I’ve been here the sun has been in full glory, with mid-day temperatures of 25-28 degrees.
Classes vary- one morning was in the mountains, where the lead Master, Master Jow, demonstrated some Win Chug moves (a fighting technique), slow, precisely placed hand defence movements, followed by an hour of meditation with just the morning sun and gentle breeze to concentrate on. Other classes involve an hour or so of kicking and punching each other in the legs, arms and stomachs, although I quite liked these as the pain very quickly leaves. Thursday afternoon ‘power training’ starts with a 2 mile run before heading up Temple Mountain, running all 950 steps to the top. This is followed by more steps, and 2 hours of squats with a rock.
I have found some activities this week very frustrating, unable to master some basic kicks and punches. Luckily many of my class mates had the same experience in their first weeks, and offered me support- they theorised that after spending twenty years using your body from the neck up (i.e. head only), it comes as a shock to my arms and legs. Hoping next week is better, I’m as far from my comfort zone as I have ever been in my life. I’ve made a point of staying positive, but feel such a burden on the master’s time- I need to know that I can follow and learn the instruction more effectively so I can start to enjoy the training. Very grateful for the morale boosting bag of goodies, packed by my partner Teresa.
About the article: This is the first of a four part series on Nick's stay in China. Part two will be available on Monday 14 July 2014.
About the author: Nick Plummer, CEO, K2 Corporate Mobility
Nick has 25 years' experience in the global mobility industry- founding K2 Corporate Mobility in 2002. Nick currently lives with his young family in Singapore, focusing and driving business growth in APAC. In his role as CEO, Nick has led K2 Corporate Mobility's strategic development, opening eight offices and now employing almost 100 people globally. He continues to lead relationships with K2's clients, proud that 80% of K2's first year customers are still engaging our services one decade later.