Black Gringo Vol. 1: Doing Business in Colombia - Nothing worth having is easy
Ok, where do I start? 🤔—hmm, let me see — here! 👇🏾
I normally only write about my expertise— mobile app development. Buuuutt, it’s been a little over a year since I left my role in Developer Relations at Apple and while I have still been quite active in that world (I’m still consulting 😬), its not my main focus right now. Right now, I’m working on something totally different, and totally scary, and totally new and I totally left a great gig to do it. And to be honest, I don’t really know what is going to happen over the next year….. BUT, right now my main focus is mental fortitude and fighting off the panic of anxiety and self-doubt. The thought that MAYBBEEE, even after all the careful planning, saving, creation of fallbacks, safety nets, and contingency plans, that somehow I made a HUGE mistake — or many, really, really small mistakes. The types of mistakes that in the perfectly wrong circumstances, could somehow all align to result in MY CERTAIN DEMISE ::: said in evil villain voice… mwahahhaaha::::
So this post are for all the people who have, or are looking into following their dreams. The people who want to take that leap in creating/doing something extraordinary — whether it is traveling the world, starting their dream business, or committing their life to bettering the world. This post is for the people who know there is something great inside of them that’s waiting to be summoned but are terrified of the thought of failure.
The Purpose: Purpose.
The reason I “left” tech was because I wanted to do something radically different. I left to push myself, challenge myself, expand my knowledge and, of course, feel fulfilled while doing it. The idea, quite simply was: LIBERATION. The ability to control my own destiny and one day be able to tell my (yet to be conceived, haha) kids, “Yea, your dad did that, and it was a huge success!” OR, “…it was a huge failure, but these are the things that I learned!” I concluded that both were acceptable outcomes.
When people take these types of leaps, friends and family always encourage you, support you and inevitably ask you, “Wow, why are you leaving Company XYZ to do something SO different — aren’t you scared?” My answer was “Not at all — this move was long overdue.” And, I really meant it. I had very little sense of fear/doubt in my decision. In my mind, it was time for me to move on. And when I did, wooooo ‘lawd, it was a wonderful feeling! It wasn’t great because I hated my previous job, but it was great because I felt like I was finally taking my life into my own hands to learn, grow, explore, and embark on an adventure that I really, really believed in and cared about (more on that coming soon)…
So, I packed my bags, moved to Colombia and began working on something that I thought could be a “legacy” project or a life defining project of sorts. I made that move thinking that this is going to be the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. I had no experience in the industry I was trying to innovate in, I didn’t speak any Spanish, didn’t have any partners, etc. I was quite literally starting from scratch. With ALL that being said, I still was super excited, and confident about my plans. So, after arriving in my new home of Cartagena, Colombia, I took my first couple weeks to just, well, vacation (read: PARTY, haha), which was a glorious welcome to my new country. After a few weeks, it was time to get down to business because as we all know time is money! I started the process of incorporating my company, applying for an Investor Visa (which in Colombia requires a minimum investment commitment, gahhh), opening a bank account, meeting with business owners, lawyers, people in the industry, getting introductions, etc, etc, etccccc. I was feeling like this was such a positive start!, This is the type of excitement and energy I moved here for!
… And then…. “it” starts happening…
When you make career shifts, you understand that you need to have a certain level of patience and perseverance. There is a lot of learning, and a lot bumps and lumps that are taken along the way. So the process of doing things like finding a good lawyer (which was NOT easy— story for another time), starting the company, visas, learning business etiquette and culture of a new country, etc was all par for the course. And, even as much of these items took much longer than I anticipated (5 months just to get paperwork that would take 10 mins on the internet in the United States, gaahhh) , I figured it was just part of the game — I guess….
But then, one day you look up and you’ve been working on this THING for a year. A YEAR! And you’ve learned a lot, like A LOT, but you don’t have much to show for your year of phone calls, meetings, legal fees, and general money you’ve sunken into this “dream.” Don’t get me wrong, I think growing your knowledge base is super important (hello, intellectual property!), but when your bank account is in a steady state of decline because you’ve been investing, investing, investing, and there isn’t any actual BUSINESS, you start feeling a certain level of angst. Then, that angst begins to grow, and grow. To make matters even worse, you’re starting to feel increasingly isolated. You start to see your family much less, you’re talking to your close friends less frequently, your love life starts to suffer, your nephews and nieces start getting older, you get NEW nephews and nieces, you become a god-father, and you’re starting to wonder if missing these things for your “stupid dream” is even worth it. And, that’s when you start talking yourself into a panic. “What THE FUCK am I doing?!”… “WHO THE FUCK told me to move to Colombia?!”… “Why would you start a business in an industry you're not an experienced in?” (again, more to come soon ;-). You start thinking that there is a thin line between visionaries and fucking idiots… and… wait.. has your ignorance caused you to not even consider the possibility that you are the latter?
The Dark Phase
THEN the unthinkable happens, you start to ACTUALLY CONSIDER quitting. What would it take for you to start winding this little “social experiment” down, and cut your losses? Maybe it’s time to be more realistic and programatic with your career? Manager, Sr. Manager, Director, Sr. Director starts to not sound so bad. You start thinking of ways to re-integrate yourself back into your previous world. What cities have the best job opportunities? What companies would you consider working for? What, where, how, do you GET THE FUCK OUTTA THIS before its too late?
And that, my friends, is the beginning of what I call the “dark phase.” Preparing for your “inevitable” failure. This phase can last for a few hours, a few days, or if you’re like me, longer. What makes it more intense is that every setback, delay, challenge that rears its ugly head while you are in this period becomes evidence that you DID make a mistake. You came into this knowing that this whole thing wouldn’t be easy, and you had prepared for that. The challenge was supposed to be part of the fun. But THIS— this, is different. These setbacks aren’t just challenges, they are ACTUAL SIGNS. Signs from the universe that are telling you “RUN, run and save yourself while you can!”
Ignore your doubters — especially yourself!
Don’t listen to that cynical, fearful, doubtful, panicked, and IRRATIONAL voice in your head. The voice that looks at challenges as signs to run, but ignores completed milestones as signs to push on. The voice that tells you that because something didn’t go as planned, the whole ethos of your vision is wrong. The voice that tells you that even though you spent months (or years) planning EVERY SINGLE DETAIL and building in time, money and contingency plans IN CASE things don’t go exactly as you hoped, that you need to bail in the face of adversity. Listen to the voice that says “I’m built for this shit!” The one that says that you put your heart into starting something that you believe in, and you believed it in it SO MUCH that you made a huge career change when you could of played it safe. The one that says, who better to do something extraordinary but you? We all get tunnel vision. We all can get to a point where we feel like the walls are closing in on us. We all get anxiety. We all doubt ourselves — it’s normal. Stay strong and remember you got to where you are because you are dopeAF.
So when things get really difficult, believe in yourself. Believe in your dreams. Believe in your preparation. Believe in the process. Believe in YOUR vision. And, when you feel like you can’t breathe, take a step back and tell yourself… “Nothing worth having is easy.”