If you had asked me seven years ago what I would be doing with my life, I wouldn’t have had a clue. In 2007, I was struggling to keep my construction company afloat after the economic crisis wiped the construction industry off the map in Colorado and across the nation. It was all I could do just to keep food on the table while I watched my income dry up.
Fast-forward to the present, and I’m finishing up my seventh year abroad and I’ve gone way beyond what I ever thought was possible.
One component of blogging that many people trivialize is the simple fact that it is therapeutic. Sure, it’s a business tool, and I can leverage the power of the blog for both business and pleasure, landing me keynote presentation gigs, sponsored travel and earning me an income. But sometimes, such as the case with this blog post, it’s simply a chance to get something off my chest and to talk about things that I want to share with other people, just like any other writer.
I’ve done a few of these posts in the past; the most recent was when I turned 34 at the beginning of the year, talking about growing older and finding love, and someone who stabilizes me. I am not a fan of being alone; I could never be a solo traveler, simply because life experiences are something I feel are better off when shared with someone else who can appreciate it as much as you do.
I’ve grown more tolerant of others over the years. Most of this simply has to do with the fact that once you get out from underneath the thumb of the home country, you find that the rest of the world is not inferior. As that brainwashing and cultural programming finally falls away, you realize that it’s just one planet, filled with human beings, none of them better or worse than anyone else simply because of where they were born.
I’ve learned another language. Ironically, the same language that I struggled with when I was in high school during the one year that I took it, just before I dropped out to go work in the family trade. The difference was that I had a reason to learn Spanish here in Mexico; I was in love, and the only way to win her heart was to immerse myself in her culture.
I’ve gone native. I no longer associate with anything that relates to my home country. I don’t support the “war on terror”, I think 9/11 was an inside job, I don’t vote, and every time I see a news story coming from the United States I cringe. The obsession with celebrity and mediocrity, obesity and entitlement, the 99% hipster generation of instant gratification monkeys in meat suits… It doesn’t resonate with me.
I have a global point of view. I get my news from reliable sources, not from CNN or Fox News. I accept all religions equally, even though I myself am not religious. I also accept all points of view as equally deserving of respect, even if I don’t personally agree with them.
Cristina is the perfect example; she was raised religious (as was I), but while I’m absolutely and whole-heartedly an atheist, she still retains some of her religious views. I had to work my ass off to win her over because I wasn’t “of the faith”, and we still disagree on things…but that doesn’t affect our relationship because we love and respect each other.
I’ve learned how to work with anyone, regardless of whether or not we have the same point of view on politics, religion or anything else. I am a firm believer in professionals being able to put aside personal differences and find common ground in the work they are accomplishing. Just as much as the Eagles can’t stand each other when they are off the stage, but still perform together professionally. See my above description of my relationship with Cris.
I’ve learned how to be flexible. I had a business plan when I set out with Marginal Boundaries, and while I have hit all of the major goal points along the way, the company has also evolved in ways that I didn’t anticipate in the beginning. While I try to plan everything as far ahead as I possibly can, I also make sure that every door remains open.
I’ve learned how to be humble. The older I get, the wiser I get, and the more I understand that everyone in the world has an equally valid point of view that could potentially enhance my life and my business. In my youth, I would often blow people off, thinking that they didn’t have anything to offer me. Now, I try to listen to everyone, because ideas can come from any corner of the world.
I’ve become far more creative than I ever was when I was working in construction. I attribute this to the simple fact that the brain is like a muscle; the more you use it, the stronger it gets. I am a far more analytic thinker now that I was seven years ago, and I approach business projects as well as creative projects from a completely different standpoint. If you have ever been to one of my presentations, you know that one of my primary talking points is always the importance of research and development, and coming up with plans and strategies months in advance. That’s a directly result of years spent practicing analytic processing, mentally and beyond.
I’ve learned how to time travel. Just kidding. But I did learn to throw away my watch after a couple of years of living in Bulgaria back in the beginning of my journey. That allowed me to better adjust to the Latin way of life, where schedules and meetings are very rarely on time, and email communication is the least reliable form.
I’ve become more of an alcoholic. I think that’s just part of getting older; you naturally develop a tolerance to alcohol as you age. You also develop more of a taste for it. I hated whiskey and scotch when I was in my early 20s; now I love them. I’ve always enjoyed wine, but I appreciate fine alcohol and liquor more now than I did when I first left the home country.
I have shed all of my Americanisms. I’ve only been back twice in seven years, and to be honest, I have no plans on going back anytime soon, outside of any business trips that revolve around conferences and conventions. I am a global citizen; I don’t believe in nationalism, pledging allegiance to the flag, and putting “god and country” ahead of my own goals.
I’ve grown far more jaded and cynical that I used to be, and I have far less patience for ignorance and stupidity. I think that’s just part of growing up. The older you get, the less fucks you have to give, and I’m saving them for a rainy day, so I just don’t have a need to give away on petty issues. It’s just basic fuckanomics.
Ironically, this almost goes against the whole “I’ve become more tolerant of others” over the years from earlier in this post. While I’m more tolerant overall of other points of view, I’m far less tolerant of ignorance and stupidity than I used to be. If it’s a valid, intelligent point of view, I’m all for giving it equal amounts of respect. If it’s racism, bigotry and outright stupidity, I don’t have the patience.
And lastly, I’ve learned a lot as a businessman as a result of traveling around the world and working with people in different cultures. I would like to think that I have evolved to the point where I am now capable of uninstalling and installing cultural viewpoints as well as education at whim. The ability to evolve and adapt is vital to moving forward with the human race, and the only way that can happen is if you have an open mind and are willing to embrace change.
The world is what you make of it. For me, it is full of limitless possibilities and I can’t wait to see what lies around the next corner.