Shanghai can be the perfect place to coast through life, with teaching jobs requiring little mental effort, three meals a day delivered to your door, and the "confused laowai stare" that you can use in everyday situations to avoid responsibility for your actions. But what if you actually want to rise above your lowest expat impulses of laziness and debauchery? We sat down with Mila Dorosh of MotivateShanghai to see what they're doing in the self-development arena.
What is MotivateShanghai?
MotivateShanghai is an organization dedicated to helping people develop themselves. We're a community, and we do events about self-growth and development. Once a week on Tuesdays, we invite different speakers to host a workshop for two hours on different topics. Facilitators can discuss anything from wellness to personal finance to coaching and leadership, so you always get to meet like-minded people focused on improving their lives. We also have different social media groups where we talk and share information, but we're more offline than online.
That's great that it's "more offline than online." Why do you think it's so important for the focal point to be offline meetings and to have that face-to-face interaction in a city like Shanghai?
The whole Motivate idea started a few years ago when our founder, Adrian Cahill, basically was feeling alone. Shanghai's a big city and can feel really cold and grey. People here want to connect with each other, so Adrian started hosting these events in his apartment with a small group of people, and it was very homegrown. People loved it because they were making connections based on real topics, not just like going to one of those networking events with your name card...
And tossing your card into the fishbowl, right?
Exactly! We advocate connecting with people through something meaningful.
Shanghai is such a multicultural city. Do you see any difference between the way that locals and "westerners" approach the idea of self-development?
I see more difference between personalities, not between cultures or races or genders. Some people who are extroverts will be the first one to jump in when we ask for volunteers, you know? But other more introverted people will come and they'll be very shy and won't talk to anyone, but they'll be taking a lot of notes and will ask the most interesting questions. But we don't like putting people in boxes. The whole point of our events is to step out of your box.
What is it about Shanghai that makes stepping out of your box and self-development so important?
Shanghai is a dynamic city. There are lots of opportunities, but there's also lots of competition. Living here as an expat, you cannot not change. New people are always arriving, so if you're not evolving then someone can easily sweep right in and steal your spot or take your place. So in Shanghai particularly, self-improvement is huge.
Is it true that Motivate donates some of their event fees to Lifeline, the community call center? Why did you choose that particular charity?
Yes! We donate 10% of our event profits to Lifeline. The values of Motivate and Lifeline are very similar, so it makes sense for us to support them. They're all about uplifting people, and being there for them in times of crisis, especially for English speakers in Shanghai.
How can people join the MotivateShanghai community?
That's very easy! We have a detailed website, and you can find us on Meetup or follow us on WeChat at MotivateShanghai. We also have a YouTube channel where we post interviews with our speakers. You can join one of our events almost every Tuesday around 7PM at WeWork Nanjing Lu. Be sure to RSVP a few days in advance because our events often sell out, and attendees who RSVP early receive a free meal from Sproutworks.