Finding my “Wai” in Thailand

My husband and I just returned from a ridiculously amazing trip to Thailand as a reward for my work with Rodan + Fields this past year. On the trip, amongst all the fun we had, I learned a few important lessons from the Thai culture that will continue to influence the way I think about business and life:

1) Invest in people with small gestures of gratitude

I learned in Thailand that it’s not the big stuff that matters; it’s the little things. There, they show gratitude and respect by placing their hands together in a prayer symbol called a Wai (pronounced “why”). Whether it was hotel staff, market vendors, or elephant handlers, they would stop everything they were doing to Wai when we would interact. And always with a smile. Most Americans would be too busy, too engrossed in their cell phone entertainment, or just downright oblivious to make such a simple gesture, yet they did it consistently at every appropriate chance, and it never ceased to make me feel extremely special and appreciated! Couldn’t we all improve the way we treat those around us with a simple gesture here or there to go above and beyond? I guarantee, the recipient will remember your investment in them.

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2) Happy has nothing to do with how much money you have

Our first day in Thailand was spent touring the famous canals of Bangkok. The people we saw on the river banks lived in modest shanty homes with very few possessions, they bathe and fish from a polluted and dirty river, and they live day to day barely knowing where their next meal may come from. In the US, people in this state of living would be devastated and anxious about their future.   Yet, these people were seemingly unphased. As we floated by with stunned faces at their living conditions, they were smiling, waving, and fully enjoying themselves. It was wonderful to see that the Thai people disassociate a relationship between happiness and money. They simply don’t have to affect one another. And they prove that you most certainly CAN be happy without money. Another great lesson for us Americans.

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 3) Everyone can find fulfillment through giving

The final lesson I learned in Thailand is one I’ve always known in my heart, but it was beautiful to see it in action in another culture. In Thailand, children learn from a very young age, that no matter how little they possess, it is important to give some of it away to people less fortunate. As a result, our tour guide informed us that the wealthy people in Thailand feel a social responsibility to take care of the poor. This basic building block to the way people live and give in Thailand, I would argue provides a much more attuned social awareness than we have in the United States. It was admirable and something I was very eager to bring home and share with my own children. Overall, our trip to Thailand confirmed what I’ve always known: In the end, the mark we leave on this world has nothing to do with how much we have, but everything to do with what we give back.

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