7 Things The Fijians Accidentally Taught Me About Business (and Life In General)

fiji waterfall fijian business tips

Have you ever had one of those experiences that made you look at everything in your world differently?

This week, I’m very fortunate to be vacationing in Fiji – and I can tell you that my eyes have been opened to many new ideas, insights, and possibilities as a result of this trip.

By the way – research has shown us that a higher level of creativity occurs when we force ourselves outside our comfort zones. That fact is well documented in one of my favorite books of all time: The Medici Effect by Frans Johansson. It’s a must read for anyone creative or anyone in business.

When you open yourself up to new ideas, different experiences, and new cultures, all of your previous experiences intersect with all the new stuff and some brilliant new ideas and angles occur at the point where those two worlds collide. Seriously. Read the book.

A Quick Fijian Primer

I’ll write much more about the Fijian natives as time goes on. They’ve made quite an impression on me. But for now, let me just share with you that these are the kindest, most accepting, most sincere, and friendliest people I have ever had the pleasure of coming in contact with.

Accidental Business Advice

If there were one country not made for business, it would be Fiji. It’s a literal unspoiled paradise – and they know it. No one here has any intention of missing one tiny moment of savoring their surroundings to be bothered with anything as uninteresting as business.

So while I won’t be recruiting any of my future sales managers from The Fijian Islands, I have gleaned some interesting business and life tips from my new, very mellow friends. Whether they know it or not, their attitudes toward life and human relations have very real value in business.

 The 7 Accidental Fijian Business Tips

1: Fiji Time
On any given day in Fiji, you’ll hear talk of Fiji Time. The phrase doesn’t refer to a time zone, but rather to a state of being. When you hear someone speak of Fiji Time, it means slow as hell by non-Fijian standards. If you go to a market, plan on standing in line for a while… even if there are only a few people there. If you go to a restaurant… go well before you’re actually hungry.

It’s not the kind of slow service you may be used to that comes with a liberal dose of bad attitude. Far from it. In Fiji your service will be friendly, enthusiastic, sincere, and slow as hell. It’s just part of their culture.

They’ll even warn you about it. You might hear, “We’ll be stopping the bus here for 15 minutes… but remember, that’s Fiji Time.” So you cn at least double it to 30 minutes. After a while it becomes charming. You wouldn’t think so, but it really does.

While I struggle to understand taking life that slowly all the time, there is something to be said for occasionally slowing down, stepping back from a project, and approaching it from a different angle. There are even times when it would be wise to walk away all together – and try again another day.

fijian village

The Fijian village of Koromakawa where we spent the day.

2: Roll Out The Red Carpet
I’m not exaggerating one bit when I tell you the staff at our Fijian resort made me and my fellow Americans look rude by comparison. I’m also not exaggerating when I tell you that the native villagers far away from the resort almost made the resort employees look rude. (And they’re not rude. They’re wonderful.)

As my tour bus drove 2.5 hours inland to a Fijian village of 140 people, almost everyone we passed along the way stopped what they were doing, waved both hands high over their heads while smiling and yelling “Bula!” at us.

Bula” is Fijian for welcome, hello, good health, cheers, and pretty much any other warm, friendly, welcoming sentiment.

Men working on the roofs of their shacks, mothers holding their babies, farmers out in their fields, and even fisherman waist deep in the ocean so far away from the road that you could barely make them out – all stopped, smiled, waved, and yelled, “Bula!” at us. It was incredible.

Why are they all so friendly? These people know that every penny that a tourist spends in their country brings them one penny closer to a better life for themselves, their family, and their country. They sincerely appreciate it.

In one single day in Fiji, I was waved at, smiled at, and thanked more than I have ever been in any given month of my life. And for what? For buying food when I was hungry, drink when I was thirsty, and maybe a souvenir here or there.

What if you went to one fifth of that effort to welcome and thank those who patronize you? Imagine the impact that could have.

3: Get Gratuitous
Fijians are grateful for everything. On rainy days, they’re grateful that the rain will continue to make their pristine country green and beautiful. On hot, sunny days they’re grateful for the sunshine that allows them to work their fields and helps the vegetation grow. When visitors come, they are grateful not only for the money those visitors spend in their country – but also for the opportunity to meet those visitors and share with them.

Take time every day to find the gratitude in whatever circumstances present themselves to you that day. The Fijians would tell you that even in seemingly negative events, there are positive elements to be grateful for.

4: We Are Fam-i-ly
Please don’t say, “I got all my sisters with me.” Seriously.

fijian kava ceremony

A Fijian Kava Ceremony

Our guide this week, Ronnie, repeatedly called me (us) “family” as if it were a first name. “What can I do for you, Family?” “Take a look at this, Family.” “Are you having a good time, Family?

When Ronnie says “family” it still has three syllables. Fam-i-ly… not “fam-lee” as we often lazily say.

To the Fijians, we are all family – and unless you do something bad to someone else, you will be treated as such. We were literally welcomed into the homes and hearts of the villagers we visited.

What impact would it have if starting today you began treating everyone you serve as if they were family? What type of effect might that have?

5: You Don’t Need As Much As You Think To Make A Difference
fijian villageAt the end of the day, you don’t need the biggest house. You don’t need the Mercedes or the speed boat in order to be happy or to make a significant difference in the lives of others.

Many of the Fijians we met live in shacks. Literal shacks. No air conditioning and very little furniture. Actual, literal shacks… and they are the happiest group of people I have ever met.

Your business takeaway: maybe you don’t need to get filthy rich. Maybe you don’t need all those fancy tools. What if all you need is an attitude of gratitude and servitude? And those are both free.

6: Never Forget Or Apologize For Who You Really Are
The Fijians have good memories. They remember and often speak of the fact that our American grandparents saved Fiji from Japan back in World War II. I was thanked for that this week as if I personally had something to do with it.

They know their own history and their own heritage. They honor the good and learn from the bad.

They don’t hide the fact that they used to be cannibals in the old days. They embrace it, learn from it, and use it as a springboard for the positive future direction of their nation.

We could all benefit by not hiding or ignoring our past mistakes. Instead we should examine and discuss them out in broad daylight so we can learn from them. We should also make a consistent effort to remember where we came from, remember those who came before us, and those who have helped us out along the way.

7: Share and Share Alike
In business, we often get stuck in acquisition mode. We focus on getting as much as possible before someone else does. It’s easy to get wrapped up in “get, earn, acquire” mode. Acquiring is an important thing… but it’s not the only thing. In reality, long term success rarely comes unless we give before we receive.

The Fijians are experts at sharing. Our guide Ronnie told a long but fascinating story about his grandfather as we drove to the village we visited. For brevity, I will skip right to the moral of the story. It is something that has stuck with Ronnie his entire life – and will stay with me for the rest of mine as well. His grandfather taught him…

“Nothing is really yours until you have shared it.”

The Fijians do that with their food, their time, their possessions, and their culture.

Can you imagine if the business world stopped spinning even occasionally to employ the same sentiment?

Fijian Intersections

fijian sunsetIf you’re like me, your business probably will not allow you to operate on Fiji Time and take life as easily or as slowly as the Fijians do.

But I think there are lessons to be learned here about the human side of business. After all, at the end of the day we are all just people dealing with other people. There is no rule that says that we can’t incorporate more warmth, respect, and kindness into our efficient and faster-paced work.

Remember that genius often occurs at the intersection where two different disciplines collide.

I, for one, have taken note from the Fijians and will purposefully integrate these 7 accidental lessons into my work life.

What about you?
What impact do you think applying some of these principles would have on your life?


About Gary Korisko

Gary is a battle-tested sales and marketing pro, copywriter, coach, and business strategist who teaches how to create worthwhile work on Reboot Authentic. Connect with Gary on Google+ and Twitter.

25 Replies

  1. rayray

    Great article thank you for sharing!

    1. You’re welcome, Rayray. Glad you liked it.

      1. Linny

        wow….. Gary, I love you.

        This is so great….

        You really observe my country well, and that’s very true.


        #cheers #Fijians

  2. Sounds like you’re having a great time in Fiji, Gary, and learning a lot, too. I think it is so valuable to get a different perspective from different cultures. I’m not sure I could do Fiji time, but I love the other lessons!

    1. Thanks, Bobbi. Funny you should mention not being able to do Fiji time. It’s the one thing about their culture that bothers me a bit. It makes for *VERY* long lunches. My wife keeps reminding me, “You’re on vacation… we have nowhere to be.”

      But still…

  3. This is amazing advice, Gary.

    I should have known that you would find no less than seven gold nuggets while you were supposedly relaxing in an island paradise. What I love is that none of these nuggets have anything to do with hustling, optimizing, or maximizing your giant customer base.

    Thanks for taking the time to think about everything you’ve seen and all the people you’ve met, and bring the rest of us, still home and working hard, some extremely valuable lessons.

    Don’t hurry home!

  4. Brilliant advise Gary! This is a proof that big city and big business are not the only places to learn from. Fiji time sounds like a perfect holiday attitude!

    1. Ava…

      Fiji time really does become charming after a while, but a while after that, you find yourself thinking, “let’s MOVE, people!” 🙂

      Still, it’s nice to experience new things and find lessons in unlikely places. Thanks very much for speaking up. I look forward to seeing more of you in the comments!

      1. I can imagine wanting to speed up after a while! By the way I linked this post to my latest blog post. I hope you don’t mind! Shall be commenting for sure, I’m kind of sad I haven’t commented before!

        1. Of course I don’t mind, Ava. I’m happy you want to share it. Don’t be sad… just get chatty! 🙂

          See you soon.

  5. First time I’ve seen cannibalism mentioned in any post in the online marketing / business niche. Well done, Sir! Well done! Plus, I’m jealous because I spent my vacation at the Great Wolf Lodge.

    1. Ha! I hadn’t thought of it in that way, Mike. That is pretty funny.

      Great Wolf in KC? If that ever happens again, you let me know. I’m not far away. Sounds like an opportunity for a coffee or a beer 🙂

  6. Lee J Tyler

    Bula, Gary! Thank you for bringing us along on not only your long deserved vacation, but for all of the valuable intersections and ideas you shared with us! I imagine their health rate is much higher as I doubt Type A behavior would be found anywhere in such a warm and calm environment. How is it that you bring so much to your followers while on vacation? You have shared so much that you can own the phrase, “Nothing is really yours until you share it.” Thank you for all you have shared with your Fa-mil-ee 😉

    1. Lee J Tyler

      I imagine their health rate is lower…

    2. Lee:

      I’m not sure about their overall health as a nation, but I was told by several natives that their alcoholism rates are among the lowest in the world. Not sure why, but maybe the overall happiness and gratitude have something to do with it.

      Speaking of health… quick funny story. I just now got home after about 20 hours of buses, planes, and airports. This morning when Ronnie (yes, the same guide mentioned in the post) dropped us off at the airport he said, “Now, Fam-i-ly, when you exit the bus, know that there is a big step down to the ground. First, I don’t want any of my fam-il-y to get hurt… and second – it’s Saturday here in Fiji and the hospital is closed.”

      Man, I love that place. 🙂

  7. L C

    Looks like you’re having a great time, Gary. But, you’re also doing some deep thinking over there… Some of us just cannot stop the thinking process, no matter where we are, right? Gotta get the Medici Effect now. Invention at the intersection of divergent ideas is a fascinating place to be. Thanks for the suggestion. Have fun!

    1. LC – I’m long since home. I’m back to work – the sunburn has faded to a tan – and all is back in rhythm.

      Enjoy the book. It’s one of those I refer back to over and over.

  8. Great lessons! I had a similar experience with the 10 weeks I just spent in India, especially re: #1 “Fiji Time.” Although in my case, Indian Time.

    #5 is a challenge. Success is intoxicating. I remember back in my old job I had an excel spreadsheet that mapped out how I was going to get an early promotion. I didn’t even really want the extra income. Right now my goal is to make enough from my business to get by. I’m sure that goal will trend upwards, although I certainly hope to curtail any excess drift.

    1. I’m glad in rang true for you, Amit – and it’s interesting you found similarities in India. We were told that over 40% of the residents of Fiji are Indian.

      #5 is a challenge for sure. The cool toys and tools are nice… but the more I see truly spectacular people who REALLY pull of great human feats, the more I notice that a large number of them aren’t about (or at least don’t have) the *stuff*. Interesting.

      Thanks, Amit. Good to see you!

  9. Katie

    Superb article and beautifully articulated. I spent six weeks in this impressive country and fell in love with it. I believe that the Fijians have got the balance between life and business just right. They truly are remarkable people.

  10. Vani

    As a young (oh! well 44 is young 🙂 Fijian living o/seas but planning to start a small business back home, I was looking for articles on Fijians setting up a business in Fiji and came across your article. At first I thought, oh! my is this about Fijian-owned business becoming failures (as we do have a saying or joke rather that “A Fijian business is set-up to fall-down”).

    But I was pleasantly surprised and as I read I was literally in tears, as you have clearly captured and articulated what being Fijian is…from the young kid in the village to a globe-trotter like myself – what you have observed and shared here clearly struck a cord with my inner core and yes, I am forever grateful and thankful to be born a Fijian. Thanks for sharing your experiences, but I do get it after a while the Fijian time does get to me, and I am a Fijian! 🙂

    Cheers! Vinaka.

  11. Google

    As a younger (oh! well 44 is younger 🙂 Fijian residing o/seas but intending to start a small company at home,

  12. Bill Talalima

    Bula Gary, this is a really nice post, everything mentioned is so Fijian. I’m glad you’ve enjoyed your visit here in Fiji. Fiji time!!

  13. Dawn McCarthy

    I loved the article you wrote. It describes the Fijan civilization perfectly. I am interested in the book you referred to regarding the Medici effect. It sounds like it best depicts my life in a whole. I get bored easily without challenges. I visited Tonga many years ago where I had sent my son to a boarding school for reform from the feminist movement in the USA. He became a Mormon in his life experience and I experienced the South Pacific. I fell in love with Fiji so much I bought land there. I plan to have a prosperous life there. I also plan on building a business there…all on Fiji time. It may not be the fast paced business I am used to in NYC, USA, but it will serve it’s purpose of gratitude and generosity. Fiji is true gift to the world. It changed me. I have been a successful business women from New York City and will always be. I can make a business in Fiji successful and it will be on Fiji time. Loved what you wrote regarding their history. I believe in true reflection we find salvation. Thanks!

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