The Importance of a Personal Motto

4 07 2011

This being the first post of The Cultural Intelligence Blog, I eagerly welcome everyone to this public conversation. When we think about dealing with multiculturalism and the issues it presents, I have found it helpful to begin by realizing that all of us are different. There really is little to gain sustainably by thinking in terms of them and us. We are all “them” to someone.

Increased global migration and fluid trade borders are spreading multiculturalism in Europe and elsewhere. Several countries would appear unprepared. Professionals in the European Union in particular are looking to America for guidance on how to adapt their organizations to human diversity. More on that in a future post!

Understanding our own singularity helps us appreciate difference as an asset. One way to cultivate this concept is to apply a written definition to ourselves. After all, no person in the world can define us better than we do. No expert—no matter how ingenious—can possibly dispute the validity of our own personal experience.

Defining is like hand-crafting a customized platform, designed to anchor better than any generic, flat structure possibly could. Consider attire as another example: Does a “one-size-fits-all” t-shirt fulfill its promise? No, of course not. We are all different sizes. Likewise, each of us has an inherent self-identity. To define its dimensions—even as it evolves—helps us flourish in the surrounding world. By defining ourselves we become more effective in knowing when to seek or offer accommodation.

As a change agent I recommend that everyone have a motto—a personal brand vision statement. This is a great way to start off embracing differences among people and profiting by it—namely, to understand what makes you and your needs special and unique. It is a thoughtful way to communicate your core values to someone from another cultural perspective.

My personal motto is: “Mentors are not for answering our questions, but for questioning our answers.” What is your motto? What defines your value proposition to others, your outlook of experience, or the principles you live by?

I look forward to hearing from you!

Jason Berman




31 responses

7 07 2011
Claus von Ronnex-Printz

Treat others as you would want to be treated yourself. If you do nothing else then give people the respect and dignity we all rightfully deserve. That way I have successfully encountered many cultures from Indians deep in the Amazons to high profile politicians in Brussels without precisely being aware of their individual, cultural platform. Humor is often a good instrument as well. And I don’t mean bad jokes. But if you can laugh together you can often work together.

7 07 2011
North-South Communications

I like your observation about humor, Claus. It reminds me of what H.H. the XIV Dalai Lama said when he visited Latin America in the 1990’s. He said he especially loves the people of Latin America because of their wonderful ability to laugh.

7 07 2011
Daniel Lovely

Staying open-minded – listening and learning from everyone, even if that person completely despises my lifestyle. I don’t judge because I know what it feels like to be on the receiving end of a judgmental mind, it destroys communication and life itself. Walk the talk.

7 07 2011
Steve Warren

People are people. Relate through your commonalities but appreciate your differences.
— Steve Warren, Actor/Writer

7 07 2011
Eileen Kugler

My (our) way isn’t necessarily the “right” way. Everyone has wisdom to share and I need to be open to it.
Eileen Kugler – Author and speaker on valuing difference

7 07 2011
North-South Communications

I absolutely agree, Eileen. When living or visiting abroad, it is very stressful expecting people to behave as if they were born somewhere else!

7 07 2011

Felicidades Jason, excelente propuesta, estamos derrumbando los muros del siglo 21, gracias a la tecnología y los nuevos tipos de relaciones sociales, la diversidad y multiculturalidad son nuestros grandes desafíos, como nuestros patrones cerebrales se adaptarán a esta necesidad evolutiva la solución.

Jesús Blanco – coach, counsellor, trainer and writter

7 07 2011
North-South Communications

Mil gracias Jesús por tu comentario positivo.

7 07 2011

Dear Jason, many thanks for giving me the opportunity to let others know of my personal motto. It is a great question and thank you for starting the discussion on a personal motto; which prompted me to talk ’bout our saviour as I learnt if from my Lord Jesus Christ. I have also publicised it via my pages on Facebook and My Space.

7 07 2011
North-South Communications

Your most welcome, Maitreyee. Namaste.

7 07 2011

Thank you Jason.

We try to promote all classical musicians who play or sing Indian classical music from young to old and from upcoming new talents to the legends and living legends. Our blog and the website will speak for ourselves.

Warmest greetings from Wolverhampton, UK.

8 07 2011
Waleid Eldesouky

Working in London I’ve worked in cross-cultural environments more ofter that not. My motto….be proud of who you are and what you believe in, but at the same time embrace, respect and learn from the diversity of those around you! I made that up myself 🙂

8 07 2011
Theresa Barbaro

My personal motto for my life and my work (both are very intertwined), I borrow from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” My cross-cultural work involves Native American and African diasporan communities.

Thanks for this article, Jason!

9 07 2011
North-South Communications

I think its wonderful that you are working with diaspora communities, Theresa. To preserve cultural knowledge, traditions and language among diaspora is important work. Did you know that the rate of extinction among the world’s spoken languages is increasing? It is quite alarming. Thank you for all you do!!

9 07 2011
Alan Headbloom

As a baseline philosophy, I use this quote from Wade Davis, American/Canadian anthropologist: “The world in which you were born is just one model of reality. Other cultures are not failed attempts at being you; they are unique manifestations of the human spirit.” This addresses the ever-present human curse of ethnocentrism and its de facto twin, homophily.

Addressing the problem of crossing cultures and feeling like a fish out of water, I use two professional taglines: “Feel like you belong” and “Helping foreign-born professionals fit in, one word, one behavior at a time.” People can’t work in diverse and unfamiliar environments if they feel unwelcome and uninitiated.

9 07 2011
Iris B.

🙂 accept, adapt, smile, learn, share … don’t judge

9 07 2011
North-South Communications

Great advice, Iris! It is a very practical outlook. I would add that the best way to understand a culture and how they approach things is to learn their language.

10 07 2011
Sandra Aponte Salazar

¡Bravo, Jason! I have flipped the Golden Rule around a bit when working (or even playing) in cross-cultural environments:

Treat others, not as you would like to be treated. Do your homework and give them a nice surprise by treating them the way they would like to be treated.


a.k.a. @LanguageSurfer

10 07 2011
North-South Communications

Sandra, Yes! You get it! This is exactly the kind of wisdom we gain via acceptance of cultural diversity. There is a reason we have two ears but one mouth. Thanks for posting!

10 07 2011
Mauro Pecchenino

My personal motto:
“Try to work always with loyalty and respect all over the world”

Best regards

Mauro Pecchenino
(Marketing & PR Consultant)

10 07 2011
Jane Lash

Try not to use slang or colloquialisms (English) when teaching or speaking to ESL students.

11 07 2011
Jill Kettles

Depends on who I am talking to and what I’m talking about. No, that’s not right. I like the Golden Rule one but the best advice or sage words: BE YOURSELF. There’s no one out there better at you than you. If you can develop a good enough laugh, that also works.
But seriously one on one relationships really are crucial to a good work atmosphere. So…

11 07 2011
Jeffrey Jones

My Personal Motto That Guides Me In Life: Love, Light, Laughter

12 07 2011
Patrick Opitz

When in Rome, do as the Romans do.

30 08 2011
Sahar Andrade (@SaharConsulting)

Jason, congratulations!
My Motto: We are more similar than different so why do we insist on looking on how different we are rather than how similar we are – why look for what we lack rather than adding on what we have
Sahar Andrade, MB.BCh
Diversity Consultant& Social Media Strategist

30 08 2011
Ivonne Kinser (@IvonneKinser)

What a great blog and interesting topic! Thank you for sharing!
Here is mine:
Be daring, different, impractical, and be anything against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary.

30 08 2011

I have learned in cultural communications to treat others the way they would want to be treated. This effort would entail learning about other cultures. That said, the singular commonality in the world is that we all want to be treated with dignity and respect.

1 09 2011
Dirk Boersma (@DirkBoersma1)

Love thy neighbour as thyself, easily written down but a huge task to be completed. Sometimes I understand a little bit how to apply that.

Thanks for the blog Jason

1 09 2011

@Dirk Boersma: I agree with you as it easily said but very difficult to perform. I find Lord Jesus was a great teacher and His teachings are all inimitable albeit I know one or two great men tried to publicise Jesus’ teachings as theirs.

Lord Jesus taught us how to love one another. From the cross when He saw His mother and the disciple whom He loved standing near, He said to His mother, “Woman behold your son!” Then He said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home. That’s what we should be doing!

If we all obeyed and listened to Jesus’ preaching, there wouldn’t be any violence, hatred and other things. We will all embrace each other and in the process peace will encircle all the earth.

Thank you Jason for giving us the opportunity to pause for thought and contribute. I’ve learnt one thing: What can I give rather than what can I take?

Many congratulations.

Maitreyee Sarcar [Mrs] HF FRSA, UK

1 09 2011
North-South Communications

There are many belief systems based on faith and many based on evidence. I think the goal is inclusion: to respect all belief systems (both spiritual and rational) without exalting one tradition as superior over another. What is useful about a personal motto is that it comes from one’s own unique experience, and thus avoids the problem of hypothetical argument. The purpose of this exercise—to create a personal motto—is to realize our potential as leaders, not followers. Thus, personal experience is the best guide in this case.

2 09 2011

@Jason: Yes, Jason, you are right. Thank you so much for giving us opportunity.

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