Celebrating the Year of the Rat

By Eugene Clark
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, January 28, 2020
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Tourists take photos in front of the main light group themed on the rat during the Yuyuan Spring Lantern Festival at the Yuyuan Garden in Shanghai, Jan. 10, 2020. [Photo/Xinhua]

For the last several years I have written pieces on the various lessons for businesses in the Year of the Rat. Here we finally are in 2020 and another Chinese New Year has begun. It is a year that has special appeal and application to me given I too, was born in the Year of the Rat.  

Although the rat is often viewed in a negative light in the West, this depiction fails to account for many of the rat's positive features. In a similar vein, people engaged in business are often and unfairly viewed in a negative light as well. It is important to recognize that most businesses around the world are small family-owned businesses, which have created the most jobs. People in these businesses have made a courageous and risky decision to start a business. They work incredibly long hours and must adapt to a rapidly changing and increasingly competitive environment. We need to boost the image of business as well as people who are engaged in business so that this generation and future generations will see it as something good and admirable to do.

While a rat may appear unattractive on the surface and evoke negative feelings, a serious look shows that rats have many attributes that people and businesses would do well to emulate.

Rats are industrious and energetic. Rats are hard workers. They keep busy, are energetic and enthusiastic. 

Rats are also alert. In fact, they are always alert. They constantly scan their surroundings and are quick to take advantage of any opportunities. When no opportunities are present, they use their smarts to devise a solution.

Rats are smart and learn from experience. A big part of this comes from their hard work and their constant search for solutions. As a consequence, rats tend to be constant learners. This is especially vital in a knowledge economy. A common term that is used is "rat cunning" and refers to the ability of rats to devise a solution, find a way or make a way to achieve their goals and get across the finish line. This characteristic is illustrated by a common Chinese belief that the Rat is the first animal in the entire Chinese Zodiac. The story goes that it was the Ox which was meant to be first to the New Year's party. However, the clever rat tricked the Ox into giving the rat a ride and just before they arrived, the rat hopped off and became the first guest to arrive at the party.

Rats are innovative and creative. It is not surprising that many artists, such as Mozart and Shakespeare were born in the Year of the Rat. Indeed, being curious, industrious, alert to opportunities, bold, hard-working, adaptable and smart are all important characteristics for success in business and many other careers.  

Rats are resilient and adaptable. As clever and quick thinkers, they are able to thrive in every type of environment, whether urban or rural. For this reason too, those born in the Year of the Rat are able to excel in many spheres of activity and professions, including the creative arts, medicine, research, education, architecture, fashion, photography, entertainment, and finance just to name a few.

Rats are survivors and successful business people have grit. They are not afraid to fail because they know that each time they fail, they learn something new. Like all of us they sometimes fall down, but they find a way to get back up and adjust to different circumstances. In a business context it is interesting to note that the last Year of the Rat was in 2008 which was marked by the Global Financial Crisis. Thanks in no small part to China's role in cooperating with other major economies, the world survived that crisis and millions of people around the world escaped poverty as the result of China's efforts in sustaining global economic growth. Today, the world is again facing economic headwinds. We need to use the Year of the Rat to remind ourselves that we have within us the ability to adapt, survive and work our way through these problems just as we have done before.

On an individual level, another major survival strategy is to stay healthy. We should all use the Year of the Rat to recommit to looking after ourselves by eating nutritious food, sleeping well and getting regular exercise.  

Wishing you success and happiness in the Year of the Rat!

Eugene Clark is a columnist with China.org.cn. For more information please visit:


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