Welcome IMMIGRANT ENTREPRENEUR listeners to this bonus episode. Over the last year I have published podcasts every other Thursday. Because the number of listeners has increased, I’m considering to publish weekly. In the meantime, please enjoy these bonus episodes.
I have interviewed one hundred successful business people – some for this podcast and some for magazines. Some run major corporations – last month I interviewed a female CEO of a company with 90,000 employees – while others work solo.
I wanted to talk about what these successful people have in common. You might think in a podcast about immigrant entrepreneurs, that the common factor is hustling, innovating, persevering, which all are crucial to becoming successful. But it’s something different and at least equally important. As hustling and hardworking Gary Vaynerchuk is, and as much as he talks about those traits, he equally acknowledges this factor common to successful business people.
What do they have in common? They got lucky. The question is – how did they get lucky? Did they win the lottery? Did they make their own luck?
Now, not everyone believes in luck. In fact, maybe you don’t. You may think that you can plan out and execute every part of your life.
To unpack this let’s turn to Howard Marks, a gentleman I interviewed this year, who in 2014, took the time to detail the many ways he encountered luck in his life. He included those details in a well-known essay he wrote, Getting Lucky.
Now Howard Marks has the right to feel lucky, because the company he founded, Oaktree Capital, has $100 billion under management, as a global alternative investment management firm. But he also has the right to feel he made his own way in life, because he’s always worked hard and he is one of the world’s highly skilled investors. In fact, Warren Buffet wrote: “When I see memos from Howard Marks in my mail, they’re the first thing I open and read. I always learn something.”
His essay, Getting Lucky, is long, but I encourage you to read it. I’ll include a link to it in my show notes.
One type of luck he talks about is ‘demographic luck” meaning for example where one is born, or perhaps how wealthy one’s family is.
However, Mr. Marks is not lucky because he was born rich. He grew up in Queens, New York, and was the first generation in his family to attend college.
His luck was that he was born in America, the son of immigrants. (I wish I would have known that when I interviewed him, I would have asked him about his story, and asked to use it for this podcast. I did ask him about his youth. He said: “I learned to work. I always had jobs.” That sounds like a young immigrant entrepreneur!)
In his essay, Marks writes about his response to comments made by Twitter founder, Jack Dorsey, who said: “Success is never accidental. No accidents, just planning; no luck, only strategy, no randomness, just perfect logic”.
“That’s all it took to get my juices flowing. I believe a great many things contribute to success. Some are our own doing, while many others are beyond our control. There’s no doubt that hard work, planning, and persistence are essential for repeated success. These are among the contributors that Twitter’s Dorsey is talking about. But even the hardest workers and best decision makers among us will fail to succeed consistently without luck.”
“What are the components of luck? They range from accidents of birth and genetics, to chance meetings and fortuitous choices, and even to perhaps-random but certainly unforeseeable events that cause decisions to turn out right.”
One of my interviewees, in episode 30, looked back in his luck in life. When Parviz Parvizi and his family escaped a war, 35 years ago, in the middle of the night, on horseback, through the mountains of Iran, they didn’t know if luck would be with them. And even, when his family finally made it to America, there was no ticker tape parade welcoming them, they did not know their future.
Today, although still young, Parviz has earned the right to reflect a bit. He was able attend to Cornell and then Yale Law, and today has created an awesome technology, CLAMMR. C-L-A-M-M-R, which I’ll link to in the show notes.
“Looking across time and space – globally across space and then across all human history, I think having a chance to grow up here, in America, at this time puts you in the top 1%, 5% of human opportunity? Just from the get-go. I guess as I reflect on that – well then – what did I do with that? How did I push the ball forward – for society? That sort of filters to – I should do something with myself that’s additive and creative – rather than be worried about – ‘did I take a financial risk.’ I think many Americans would think like me, but I guess I have a more palpable sense of the other direction in which things could have gone.”
The word palpable, (my new favorite word) means a very real almost physical feeling. What he’s referring to when he says, he guesses he has a more palpable sense of the other direction in which things could have gone,
Here is another interviewee, Due Quach, Episode 1, who talked about her misfortune being her good luck for the work she is doing today. Due could not even speak until she was 7 years old because of the trauma of being a Vietnamese boat baby in refugee camps. She then blossomed and was able to attend Harvard, then Wharton, and today instead of following a typical path in the finance world, she teaches inner city youth meditation.
One of the great things about being a refugee is that you have seen the worst that can happen in life. I don’t have the same sense of fear or risk avoidance that a lot of people could have …… Becoming an entrepreneur for me was a bit scary, but it wasn’t as scary as I would have been if I didn’t grow up with the childhood that I had.
So listeners if you feel some misfortune in your life, feel some very real hardship – find your good luck, appreciate your good fortune. Not after you reach your goal, but right where you are now.
Edrizio, from Episode 12, came to America as a teenager from the Dominican Republic, with his Mom and brother, and lived in the Bronx. He started out working for years as an airplane mechanic, then had the idea to attend college at Baruch in downtown Manhattan, started working on Wall Street, was able to attend the Wharton School for an MBA and soon after graduation, started Regalii which began as a super popular way to send remittances back to DR, but today is a platform for real time bill payment anywhere in the world. You can look at Eduardo as a big success today, but he told me that from a young age, he felt so lucky to be here, in New York the “land of opportunity”. When you rise from a teenage immigrant from Santo Domingo to be running his company, land of opportunity, is not a cliché.
Edrizio is one of my most quotable guests.
Here is how he explains what he gained through not just accepting his difficult circumstances, but not actually seeing them as that difficult, but focusing on his good luck of having so many opportunities, and challenges that helped him to grow.
What he gained as an immigrant, that helped him succeed as an entrepreneur. Let me repeat. What he gained from the good luck of being an immigrant, that helped him succeed as an entrepreneur.
“I love being pushed against the wall. I get a rise out of it. I love fighting back. So, even though under circumstances you are really stressed out, you feel like the sky is falling, I think certain people thrive on those circumstances. Most of the students at these institutions tend to thrive
Typically, in life, people find it easy to blame circumstances on others, but when you start taking responsibility to your own thoughts, your own situations, you shift from someone who is an effect of the world to someone who is a cause. I caused this to happen. When you do that, that’s when things start happening.”
When you take responsibility, when you become the cause in your life, that’s when things start to happen. It sounds the opposite of recognizing good luck in one’s life, but I hope you can see through this episode how they work together
In a future episode, I am going to go deeper into the subject of luck, with the help of Howard Marks – and the title will be WHERE IS EASIEST TO BE LUCKY, which is very relevant to immigrant entrepreneurs, and a question they ask themselves.
But this talk today was focused on HOW TO GET LUCKY?
And the answer is from my observation. YOU GET LUCKY BY RECOGNIZING THAT YOU ARE LUCKY. TODAY, not just recognizing, but having a strong feeling, a palpable sense, of your good fortune. There is power there.
Just like Howard Marks, Parviz Parvizi, Due Quach, and Edrizio de la Cruz all recognized their good luck when it looked from an external perspective, they were not lucky at all – you can do the same.
They were not born with anything close to wealth and privilege. In fact, they encountered hardships and had to work hard. But they recognized early on, before they encountered success, the great good luck they had.
So take action. Make a habit of keeping a record of all the good luck you encounter each week, even each day. The good luck of hardships as well as the good luck of the symptoms of success.
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See you next week, when we return with an amazing interview with an entrepreneur from Nicaragua