Work Imitates Chinese Idioms
The problem with memorising hundreds of Chinese 4-character idioms (chengyu) is that they pop into your head at odd moments. Here are some that chart the first few weeks in my current job.
后生可畏 - You have to look up to the younger generation (literally ‘the later born are fearworthy)
I did some user testing and focus groups in the first week when we were planning an adwords campaign to find out what where they go to look for opportunities online, what their search terms were, and how they react to different types of site.
As I’m working for a very hip youth engagement agency, several of the people we got in were very savvy. Under 20 and they had established businesses and creative careers. It was when one of them said ‘I had a career change when I was 16’ that it hit me - ‘后生可畏’. And I felt a little regret that I spent my teenage years sketching around indie clubs and usenet.
三人行必有我师焉 - ”If three of us are walking together, at least one of the other two is good enough to be my teacher.”
That’s how Baidu translates it but the true confusion spirit of this is that there are always people around you that you can learn from, lots of others.
And yes, it’s not a 4 character idiom, it a pearl of wisdom from Confucius but like chengyu you can pepper you speech with confuscianisms to sound wise and impress Chinese people.
I was looking at different agency advertising/PR campaigns. Some agencies put a massive price on say 2 tweets, which I didn’t get. As my Twitter formation has mostly been in the capacity of someone working in social media, and thus who follows (back) a lot of ‘social media professionals’, I hadn’t really ‘got’ Twitter. In social media professional world the whole point of twitter is to follow as few people as possible, whilst getting as many followers as possible, tweeting Mashable stories in the hope of retweets and running like the plague or being standoffish if someone communicates with you. Basically getting as many people to listen to you while you ignore them. Actually I suspect half of them are bots.
II asked our resident ad expert, ‘why so expensive, no one really reads their twitter stream’. She looked incredulous. Apparently lots of people just spend the whole day going through their twitter feeds looking for interesting stuff and interacting with people who tweet.
Now I get it.
言多必失 - Too much talk leads to failure
Sometimes if you think something on the project sucks, it’s better to keep it to yourself and let it fly. Lesson learned.
随机应变 - Change according to circumstance
Useful skill to have, especially when everything changes from day to day, and you plans have to get rewritten every two days, and it always looks like crises are looming. This is the best bit of my job. So exciting when you’ve got deadlines flying around, targets, moving goal posts.
If you feel you need to work on your ability to 随机应变, I suggest you go and work in China for a bit. It’s only when you embark on your Friday evening to find that the weekend has been suddenly moved back a few days and you have to work the next day, or you walk into a room to find you’ve been relocated with no warning on a semi-regular basis that you get to relish the instability. Keeps you on your toes.
孤陋寡闻 ignorant and ill informed (“lonely ugly sparse knowledge”)
I thought this the other day but I can’t remember why. I was on the tube. Maybe I was thinking about my recent forays into advertising. Maybe not. I thought I’d include it anyway as it’s a cool phrase.
Please excuse my lonely ugly sparse knowledge.