Had a fabulous soiree for my book launch last night, hosted by my lifelong friend Dave Weisman and his beautiful wife, Jacqui, at their gorgeous digs on Leroy Street in northwest Washington, D.C. Friends from every segment of my life were in attendance, giving it the feel of wedding reception.
This capped a grueling week long jirga with my FINCA management team where we thrashed out some “allignment issues”, e.g., a pretty major investment in IT in the run up to a major expansion. People in Ops are worried that it may take a while for the snake to digest the frog; the IT team just wants to get on with it. I find these kinds of decisions to be the most difficult to mediate for a non-technical manager like myself. I have to go more on instinct than my limited analytical abilities.
To mitigate the stress, Yuriy, my Regional Director for Latin America, shared with us an anecdote from a woman he knew who had traveled to China in search of a cure for her depression. Like all of Yuriy’s stories, it stretches credulity but he tells it so well he makes you want to be gullible.
It seems the woman, upon arriving in China, was taken by mule to a remote, mountainous province, a journey that took several days. Immediately upon her arrival, she was told she would have to perform a number of demeaning, menial tasks, and that — very important — she would have to maintain a permanent smile on her face, or be relegated to even more arduous, demeaning labors.
Her first assignment was to draw water from the river, which was at the bottom of a deep ravine, which could only be accessed via a steep, narrow, winding, rocky trail. While she smiled bravely during the beginning of the descent, she soon grew cranky and tired, and the corners of her mouth settled into an embittered grimace.
Unbeknownst to the woman, her “hosts” were observing her through powerful binoculars throughout her descent. When she returned, she was scolded severely by her hosts, and told she would spend the next two days cleaning latrines. As unpleasant as these duties were, she did manage to smile throughout, and after a week her depression was cured, never to return.
According to Yuriy there is a scientific explanation for this: smiling introduces bio feedback to the pleasure center of the brain, releasing the endorphins which counteract the depression.
Try it! What have you got to lose?