The Meaning of an International Mindset

Poet Rainer Maria Rilke once wrote: 

Dove that ventured outside… knows what serenity is, for she has felt her wings  

pass through all distance and fear in the course of her wanderings…  

The ball that we dared, that we hurled into infinite space, 

doesn’t it fill our hands differently with its return: 

heavier by the weight of where it has been 

I am the dove that ventured outside, the ball that swung back, and also the girl who many years ago flew with her brand-new rice cooker from Taipei all the way to Oklahoma to study journalism. Years later, the ball that dared returned to Taipei, trying to help the young learn what “internationally minded” means and what global competence is.  

Serendipitously at our Business Climate Survey press conference in February – one of my first events back at AmCham Taiwan – a journalist asked me: “What is an international mindset?”  

This is an important question with an answer that could potentially affect Taiwan’s economic success as it strengthens its bonds with the world.  

The challenge of developing an international mindset was exemplified perfectly just a few days ago in an article by The New York Times. Among other issues, it reported that Taiwanese workers were hesitant to move to the United States because of possible cultural differences. Would this be a concern if all of us had better fostered international mindsets? 

Most definitions of “international mindset” will mention contact with different cultures, people, and markets that help us understand the world better, adapt to change, and make wiser decisions. To achieve this, you must first become an internationally minded person who actively seeks out said contact. 

My definition of an internationally minded person is an open-minded, empathetic person with intense curiosity and an insatiable appetite for learning; someone who doesn’t assume their way of thinking is the only way. Someone who wants to know what else is out there.  

That intense curiosity and appetite for learning are what prompted my move to the U.S. all those years ago. True, I held on to my rice cooker – I believe it’s important to remember who you are and where you come from – and I was apprehensive. But my desire to discover the world trumped my worries and apprehension, and my curiosity took me on a journey on which I’m eternally grateful to have embarked.  

That journey has also inspired me to encourage others to do the same. If we are to bolster Taiwan’s talent pool, we must inspire people to venture out with a curious mindset and find new ways to think, communicate, and conduct business.  

But just as the ball swings back to where it came from, we also need to attract Taiwanese talent back home and ensure they use their newfound knowledge to improve our industries. Businesses of all sizes should be receptive to learning and the free flow of ideas. That’s the last part of my definition of an internationally minded person: returning home and sharing what you’ve learned with others. That is what I’m doing now, and what I will continue to do together with AmCham.