I have spent most of life is Chennai, where cold means around 20 Centigrade (68F). I have heard many people tell me that Chennai has only 3 climates – Hot, Hotter and Hottest and I totally agree with that. With that as my only experience of cold, my first trip to the USA was in March 2012. The place I was visiting is Minneapolis. Talking about this place, it is usually 4 to 5 months of Winter when weather is always below 0C (32F). -20C to -35C (-31F) is very common. School children will play indoors only when the weather goes below -23C (-10F) and when it is above that, they play outdoors.
Earlier, while I was planning for this trip, my Team members in Minneapolis encouraged me saying, March is usually end of winter and will not be bad at all. With this encouraging information, I boarded the flight.
Back in Chennai, when it is bright and sunny, we always go out and play in a t-shirt. The day I landed here, it was bright and sunny day. Sitting in the car, I thought it is not bad after all. So, on entering the Hotel, I changed into a t-shirt and wanted to venture out. What I did not realize then was, even on a bright sunny day, the temperature could go to -20C (-4F) and need to be dressed in at least 3 layers to just step out of the Hotel!
Thanks to the Skyway system here, where weather controlled walk ways in the second level of all buildings made me avoid getting to the Street and face the cold. My office was only 5 minutes walk in the Skyway from the Hotel. I felt best way to enjoy the cold is not to experience it at all.
To make my weekend a good experience and to help explore Minneapolis, Nic, a team member here offered to take me for a tour of the University of Minnesota which is a great place. Nic has grown-up in Minneapolis and for him weekend weather of -5C was a warm day and he asked if I could walk with him to enjoy it better. I still cannot contemplate, what I was thinking then, but bravely said “YES, let’s do it”.
I was dressed in 3 layers and started the walk on a Sunday late morning. Nic was right. It was a wonderful walk and University of Minnesota was a great place. It was my first step into a University outside India. I did not realize it was over 2.5 hours from the time we started. During the walk, we were talking about culture of India and USA, educational institutions and most important weather conditions, all through shivering and panting for breath in the cold walk.
Me: It looks like you always have a very hard winter here. Growing up here, tell me about your non-school activities. Do you go out and play a lot during Winter or stay indoors?
Nic: Looking at this weather, you might love to spend a lot of time indoor, but my mom would always encourage us to play outdoor as well. If we tell her it’s very cold, she would ask us to layer up more and go out and play. Her mantra was – “It’s never too cold. You are not dressed enough…”. So, when we hear that, we bundle up with more layers of warm clothing and go out and play. In reality, bundling up with layers of clothing helps you to begin; when you get busy with the game, you dont feel the cold anyways!
Me: That’s a very interesting perspective. I can take hot days than cold ones, just because I have not experienced this.
After the walk, I was back at the Hotel and taking rest. It was a great day and an excellent walk with Nic. I thought about Nic’s mother’s mantra – “It’s never too cold, you are not dressed enough…”. That’s right. When I was walking with Nic for 2.5 hours with 3 layer of clothing, I never felt it was cold. In fact, as we were walking, I removed my coat as I was starting to sweat inside. It was the same me, who in Chennai would always need a blanket when it was 20C.
This mantra never left me and I realized that by shifting the focus to “you are not dressed enough” part, Nick’s mom has thought a huge life lesson. It is making me responsible of what is happening rather than blaming on external factors. It would be very common to blame it on weather and stay indoors, but setting expectation that let the external factors not control, is a big lesson. Moreover, if we are dressed enough, the weather is certainly not going to affect our activities. So, rather than focussing on some uncontrollable circumstances, question to ponder becomes, what can I do to prepare myself better, to face any situation?
If I was dressed enough… – if I am prepared to face a situation – This statement made me see what can be done by me, instead of seeing who can be blamed for the situation. It is easy to blame the situation and get away with it. It takes huge outrage to admin (and accept) that I was not prepared enough in a situation, but at the end of the day, that is what is needed to be done to improve.
To be successful, I need to stop blaming situations or people around and take it on myself to be more careful, more cautious and be prepared for sure, in short “be dressed enough”.
When I visited Minneapolis, I did not realize I would stay here, but now it is 4.5 years since we moved here and that means we have experienced 4 Winter season at Minneapolis. We are dressing enough and venturing out and believe me with multiple layered of clothes, Winter is fun and Yes, It is never too cold if you are dressed enough. It is never a problem if you are prepared for any situation. Thinking what can I do to overcome the situation makes me better for sure.