Michael O’Brien

During my more than thirty years in business, some of my most enjoyable moments have been interactions with employees, clients and vendors. Some of the interactions remained superficial, but occasionally you can get to know someone better when you understand what shapes them as a person.

One of my pivotal life-changing experiences occurred more than forty years ago while serving in the American Peace Corps in India. Being immersed in a foreign culture for two years helped me appreciate the value of diversity and also put many of my own values in perspective.

As part of our cultural training we studied fairy tales to understand the cultural values they reflected. Many of the fairy tales you learned as a child—such as The Three Little Pigs—placed a high value on working hard to achieve success. In contrast, the Indian fairy tales placed a similar value on behavior that we would consider cunning or even conniving.

In other words, you have to understand where people are coming from before you can appreciate their point of view.