Like most of us in the United States, I am an immigrant. Maybe not a first generation immigrant but definitely an immigrant. But it seems the further way a person gets from their immigrant heritage, the more they forget that critical DNA that lives within them. The DNA that strives for a better place…a better life, for ourselves and future generations to come…opportunity, resourcefulness, grit. We get complacent…satisfied. We don’t have as much DIRECT cause to do something risky, go somewhere different, work with very little with only a hope for something better. I will be honest. Most of my life, I have been satisfied and comfortable.
What a thing to say about yourself, huh? I have been satisfied and comfortable. I live in a country that made sure I had a basic education. I had the opportunity and received a college education. I have never had a difficult time finding a job even if I didn’t think it paid as well as I hoped. I have had shelter, access to medical care, protection and security. I even have access to grocery stores…places that I have heard from first generation immigrants are something that just doesn’t exist in most parts of the world. I mean…we have a whole aisle just for shampoo and conditioner! I can remember having foreign exchange students as friends in high school. They were OVERWHELMED just picking a shampoo. But yet…the reality is I have been satisfied and comfortable. I have wanted for little and had access to much.
The real question then becomes with all this access and opportunities at my fingertips how much have I taken advantage of? And I am not talking about the wide range of shampoo I can select. I am talking about opportunity…to create, to build, to impact. Again, until 3 ½ years ago, I didn’t pursue opportunity. I might have been tempted to move up the ladder of title without the hoped for compensation increase. But is that really opportunity or just a sort of “I was there” kind of response? I had never experienced the kind of pioneer-deep-in-your-heart-craving-for-better spirit until 3 ½ years ago…and now I can’t stop!
What am I talking about? I am talking about the DNA core that says “you were meant for more”, “you can do big things”, and “get off your butt”. When I became an entrepreneur, I didn’t have vast wealth to invest. Like my immigrant ancestors, I started my journey with “pocket change.” In fact, I started two businesses in two years for exactly $1000. Yep…I figured out that the start-up tools of one biz actually allowed me to leverage into the second one. I didn’t need the 10’s of thousands of dollars that some “experts” were saying. I didn’t need a line of credit. I didn’t need a business loan. Small resources…check. Big return…check. DNA engaged…check.
I also had to hit the ground running. I had to be willing to fall, fail and get a few bumps and bruises along the way. My immigrant ancestors didn’t come to this country for a vacation. They landed at Ellis Island. Got processed. Landed in the harbor of New York City. Immediately, had to find shelter and food. A job. And for the few that already had employment lined up, they got on a train to travel for days across country to Texas. There they had to find shelter, food and start that job. Most also worked, what we consider a side-hustle…they took their trade and worked from their garage, their kitchens, sewing machines. They grew gardens and sold produce. They worked after their “day” job at another job…and on Saturdays and after church on Sunday. Rest wasn’t in their vocabulary. Work was. Willingness to work….check. Actually hitting the ground running…check. DNA engaged…check.
Immigrants didn’t know anyone and few spoke the language but they figured it out. When I started my businesses, I too didn’t know people. I didn’t speak the language of being self-employed or a business owner. I didn’t know all the tax benefits. I didn’t know the best apps or tech tools to help me. But I figured it out. And just like my immigrant forefathers, I met some great people along the way. Clients. Collaborators. Support people. Experts. Coaches and mentors. It IS about who you know but you don’t have to know them all at first in order to start. People…check. Willing to learn…check. DNA engaged…check.
The journey to entrepreneurship has been just like my immigrant forefathers….pioneering to a new place, a new life, a new opportunity. It is all about what you make of it. And sometimes, when you forget that you have this immigrant DNA inside of you lose sight of what you are truly capable of. The core that makes you a pioneer towards new opportunity….return to your Ellis Island…return to that point of “entry” that makes you see potential…opportunity…resourcefulness…and a passion to work for something you can call yours. This country was founded on PURSUIT of life, liberty and happiness. Immigrants KNOW that this is the land of opportunity. You are HERE. It is time for you to pursue and take advantage of the opportunities. Get off your butt and “repay” those that paid a high price for you to have this land of opportunity. After all…this land is your land…this land is my land…now we have to make it produce for ourselves and our children and their children.
Always return to Ellis! Engage your immigrant DNA!