Welcome to our ‘Conversation Starter’ series, that aims to introduce you to business owners around you, and to help get to know each other better.
Through these questions, we want to learn more about you. Not just your challenges and what you’ve experienced along your entrepreneurial journey. But the person that you are, beyond your business…about what makes you, you!
We realize that work does not always define us and things may not be what they seem. Often, we tend to work with people we know and trust. Most work partnerships fail because people hold back and don’t openly speak about what they want, and think.
As business owners, we have to show up and make ourselves known, if we want our business to grow. For some people, it is easy. For others, the idea of networking and social gatherings is not something they look forward to. In a world where people ask you right away, ‘What do you do’, what if it were more about who you are and what your story is?
How much fun would it be to first encounter people without knowing what they do? Just meeting them and finding out what you may have in common and what you can learn from each other. Work and business opportunities could come second, naturally.
Here are a series of icebreaker questions answered by the people that inspire us. We believe the answers to these questions can help start conversations in a different way.
- As business owners, we’re constantly networking and meeting new people. Let’s say you’ve just met someone for the first time. What’s the first thing you’d like to know about them?
I would like to find out what excites them, what wakes them up in the morning, what gives them energy and purpose. I would like to find out how they are in their day-to-day life, as people tend to behave formally or professionally when talking about work. People usually light up and speak passionately about things that matter to them when asked about their day-to-day life. With this, I can see the person’s truest self.
- We know you’re super busy – as all business owners are, no doubt – but when you’ve had the time to squeeze in some TV-watching, what’s the last thing you watched? What made you choose that particular show?
As a business owner I try not to watch TV, otherwise, I’d be behind work. However, I recently watched an old TV series called Miss Fisher’s Mystery Murders. What I liked most about the story is how the protagonist, a feminist in the roaring 20s, gracefully deals with issues of gender bias, threats, and discrimination, while having some fun. I also follow Doctor Who. It is filled with humor and adventure, yet demonstrates the best of what humanity can be.
- Before you decided to go solo and be your own boss, you must’ve worked for someone else. What advice would you give your previous manager?
I would like to first thank my managers for all the opportunities they have given me, to help shape the person I am today. Many of them were dedicated and hard working. If I were to impart any advice, it would be to continue the good work and to not lose sight of the bigger picture in life.
- A resume can only tell you so much about someone. Often, the most interesting things about that person can’t be learned from those pages. What do you think is the most interesting thing about you, that your resume wouldn’t tell us?
The most interesting thing that my resume will not tell you is that I have an artistic and musical streak. As a young girl, I was classically trained in playing the piano, though I haven’t played for 20 years now. My love for music extended to dancing salsa for over 10 years and I had learned it from many countries in Asia and Europe. Along with that, I also love to sing, mostly jazz and musicals. The last I had performed on stage was 20 years ago.
- What gets you out of bed every morning? What is it that excites you, or is meaningful to you?
My reason for getting out of bed changes every day. One day, I get excited about my meditation practice. Next day, it might be a trip to a place I had never been to before. Another day could be facilitating an exciting session about intercultural communications and cultural intelligence for eager professionals.
I get out of bed because life is exciting.
- We’ve all got different talents and skills. It’s what makes us unique. What do you think you’re amazing at? And what are the things you’re not-quite-the-best at?
I’m good at connecting with people from a wide range of backgrounds and making them feel comfortable to open up to me. I make friends fairly easily.
I’m not good at staying in one place for long, in terms of attention and location. I’m a very curious person. Anything that seems interesting or weird or different will draw my curious nature like a moth to light. Because I find many things interesting, it is difficult for me to stay focused for long.
- Building a great team takes time. It’s not easy to find the right fit – like, the people who share the same work values, have the same vision for your business and have a sense of humor. If you were granted a wish to hire any 5 people – people you know, celebrities…anyone – whom would you bring into your team?
Chief Innovation Officer – Satya Nadella
Chief Finance Officer – Christine Lagarde
Chief Diversity Officer – Malala Yousafzai
Chief Inspiration Officer – Simon Sinek
Chief People Officer – Oprah Winfrey
- If you woke up one morning and found yourself on a deserted island, which three things would you want to have with you? Why?
- Satellite Phone – so that I can always stay connected.
- Writing Materials – so that I can journal my days and capture my observations on the island.
- Knife – for multiple purposes such as cracking open a coconut, building shelter, building a raft, etc.
- Inspiration can come from anywhere…a picture, a bike ride, the lyrics of a song, a pet, or even a gorgeous sunset. But people have the power to inspire us like none other! There is always someone we look up to, someone we admire. Who has inspired you in your life, and in what way?
My mother. She didn’t have the opportunity to attend a university, but never fails to make use of every minute of her day to learn something new. She’d always carry around a book to read and a small notebook to write thoughts and ideas. It was because of her that I got into the habit of carrying a book with me everywhere I go.
As my brothers and I left home, my mother dedicated herself to charity work. Be it collecting donations for orphanages or old folks homes, or to fund nuns and monks on pilgrimages, she would always have a hand in leading or organizing charity and religious activities. While I have been busy in my career, her humanitarian and charitable streak burns strong within me. There are many more qualities that a small page cannot fill. She is the most inspiring person in my life.
- What’s your spirit animal? If you haven’t ever given it a thought, the time is right now!
Once long ago, a yoga teacher read my fortune using ‘The Medicine Animal Cards’ and the animal that appeared to me was a deer. The Medicine Animal Cards tell the story of a deer defeating the most ferocious of all monsters through gentleness, grace and kindness. The deer represents grace, gentleness and unconditional love. It is also known to be sensitive to its surroundings and possess strong intuition about people and situations. I cannot vouch whether I possess these qualities. Nevertheless, they are noble qualities that I aspire to achieve.
- What characteristics do you admire the most in a person?
Kindness is most important for me. Other characteristics are inclusion, compassion, and contribution to humanity or the environment.
- We’ve all been impressed by someone’s skills and wished we could have them too! If you could have a new skill at the snap of your fingers, what would it be?
Being a super polyglot, and being able to speak all of the world’s major languages fluently.
- What’s your idea of a perfect day?
Early rise for an hour’s vipassana meditation, followed by a calming yoga session and a healthy breakfast. I’ll spend the day reading, writing, dancing salsa, singing, enjoying the sunset and having many laughs with friends and family.
About Ling Ling Tai
I’m on a mission to support people, teams, and organizations in developing intercultural skills and to cultivate inclusive cultures; a place that gives everyone the opportunity to become their best self. I do this through training, facilitation, speaking and consulting.
5 reasons why I started my own podcast
- To create public awareness of the importance of learning and development
- To connect with other experts in the field and expand my network
- To build my digital brand
- To give value to my listeners on the importance of personal and organizational development
- I just love podcasts!
We hope this interview with interculturalist, Ling Ling Tai, helps break the ice and foster familiarity. Now that you know a little more about her online, you could make things more interesting by connecting offline!