Poverty is a hard place to be. Many of us, perhaps most of us, as we started out in life, lived for years one paycheck away from poverty, with no savings. Yet people do rise out of poverty each day.
According to one my interviewees, poverty is big business. Apparently the various levels of government spend over 900 billion dollars every year, to pay for the food, housing, medical care, and other expenses for the poor. Yet the number of poor is not declining. In 2003 there were 23 million on food stamps and in 2012 there were 46 million on food stamps.
Yet immigrant entrepreneurs, most who experienced harsh conditions and poverty, are able to create not just success for themselves, but a pathway, a model for others to follow.
Despite language skills, a lack of connections, a lack of credit, or capital, they do break through.
So, how do immigrant entrepreneurs break through, how do they rise from zero to hero.
The one thing you always hear about, and I talk about it a lot is that they work hard, and work long hours. Gary Vaynerchuk who invited me to his headquarters in New York city twice, for interviews out-works everyone.
But what is the work they are doing. Often it is learning. How is Gary Vaynerchuk, who’s family came from the poorest European country of Belarus, able to teach so much about social media to his clients at Vaynermedia. He learned it. How is he able to create such riveting presentations? He studied pubic speaking.
How did Elon Musk learn about space rockets? He studied.
When Elon first came to Canada from South Africa he got the highest paying job he could find which was cleaning boilers at a lumber mill. Elon said: “You have to put on this hazmat suit and then shimmy through this little tunnel that you can barely fit in,” Musk said. “Then, you have a shovel and you take the sand and goop and another residue, which is still steaming hot, and you have to shovel it through the same hole you came through. There is no escape. Someone else on the other side has to shovel it into a wheelbarrow. If you stay in there for more than thirty minutes, you get too hot and die.”
So how do immigrant entrepreneurs learn
They ask important questions. They learn from other cultures. They read books. They pay attention to their experiences.
Do you have a big question that drives you?
All the time working, Musk thought that the most difficult thing was to be able to come up with the right questions. The questions that would drive him to study, driven him to learn, drive him to work harder than anyone. And drive him to succeed.
They learn from different cultures
Being from a different country and a different culture makes them more equipped with people’s kills than natives. They use those different cultures to their advantage. Instead of giving up because they do not know the native language, they use their knowledge from different other cultures and languages they have been exposed to while they were growing up to their advantage. However, it doesn’t end here. They learn the native language and use it to enhance their communication skills which allows them to deal with people from different cultures, ethnicities, and countries with more fluency. Moises Annicchiarico from Teachlr was a French national who was exposed to Italian and Venezuelan culture and languages while growing up and this helped him with his work a lot.
They learn from books
This is the reason they do not hesitate to read books and lots of them. It helps make up for the street knowledge they lack in the foreign land and makes them understand people and cultures better. Take the example of AJ Rassamni, born in Lebanon, now a serial entrepreneur who came to America at a younger age and worked days and nights to educate himself. He ended up acquiring the very company he worked for. Now not only does he have a company of his own but he has two books to his credit as well.
They Learn from experiences
It couldn’t have been anything but patience which would have prompted Gary Vaynerchuk to transform his father’s liquor store into a retail wine store. He learned the basic skills from his father, took in his experiences and transformed them to gain huge success to turn his small store in a flourishing business of his own. Being in a foreign land prompts these immigrants to learn skills and be more open to ideas. For them, learning is a journey that never ends for them and it prompts them to take on ways they are unfamiliar with. They do not shy away from struggle and hardships and grasp in all they can from people around them to make it work in the foreign land.
You may increase your chance for success, by:
Finding the question that will drive you to learn.
Being open to learning from the cultures around you, you may become more adaptable
Staying alert to your experiences, especially being alert to a pain point for which you can create a solution