The year is 2012 and a ripe 20 year old - feeling magnificent and prepared to take on the world made their first stop out of their country of origin. Where? Madrid.
Confident, independent and bright, the young man arrived in the exciting Spanish capital city and walks into a restaurant to grab dinner. While standing in line he was holding back smiles, feeling so proud having made it so far without help from anyone. The line moved quickly and preparing his supposed Spanish skills to order a beer and dinner, he noticed two types of beer and promptly decide on the “sin” kind, wondering if it would be similar to a beer brewed back in his rural hometown.
Arriving at the front of the line to order, the woman says “nombre?” This young man frantically looks for what his phone number is. The line is long and at a standstill, and people are losing patience. Someone slips up behind him and says “nombre means name, not number!”
Feeling more than "slightly" embarrassed he hurriedly gives his name, but says it so fast he has to repeat it three times. It is several days before he finds out the meaning of sin (without), and with that simple word it dawns on him what the true level of his Spanish has become - it's as basic as it gets - or worse.
Fast forward 4 years, the year is 2016 and the young man just started his first entrepreneurial adventure with his partner in Barcelona - after living and working throughout Europe for 4 long years.
The main reason for the narrative of these humble, and interdependent beginnings is to help give a perspective about entrepreneurial skill and a few hard lessons learned in the hopes that you won't have to invent the wheel again in this area.
The significance of these lessons are deep enough that every entrepreneur must have them. The question is: will you actually be able to incorporate this information in your own country of origin, or must you leave your own country to learn enough to be successful?
First Lesson: Limits Of Confidence
Confidence is a powerful skill for an entrepreneur to have.
That is until it turns into overconfidence and it can quickly become the downfall of an entire company. Once an entrepreneur starts to act cocky and believe they know it all refusing to take other ideas into consideration, it is only a matter of time until things start to take a turn for the worst.
This sense of overconfidence will push others away, making them not want to help you. And others may actually want to stand in your way. As an entrepreneur you will need as much help as you can get.
Living abroad throws you out of your comfort zone and forces you to start small, whether it be practicing Spanish with a 5 year old who speaks much better than you, or expressing your opinion to a boss even when you don’t recall the subjunctive form of that verb. This forces your confident self back down to earth to realize there will always be someone out there better than you, and smarter than you, which allows you to set the bar high, while knowing exactly where you stand.
Believe in yourself: but stay humble.
You alone will not create an empire, it will take a strong and powerful team. As described in the book, Good To Great, by Jim Collins, the greatest companies in history have some of the most humble leaders in history. This doesn’t mean they weren’t confident but they did made sure not to cross the line into overconfidence.
Second Lesson: Independence VS Interdependence
The truth is: as entrepreneurs we are all interdependent.
From our co-founder to our VP of sales, CTO, CMO, COO, CFO, CIO we need each other. They need us, we need them. We are a unique team that depends on each other to bring the best to the table - day in, day out.
The vast majority of companies are founded by two or more people, which is simply because the majority of entrepreneurs don’t know everything or everyone. You can be an IT genius but you might not be the best person to lead the sales team or vice versa.
When you move abroad it will take only a matter of hours until your level of dependence sinks in. From finding a place to live, to getting around, to ordering food or communicating about practically anything, you’re going to depend on a lot of different people for a lot of help.
If you never asked for help after moving abroad then you will end up in a terrible neighborhood - most of us have been there -done that. You will be eating terrible food and spending triple the amount of time communicating everything.
Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of power that shows you won’t let your lack of knowledge or experience hold you back. Time is the most valuable asset that anyone has. Don’t waste it by pretending you’re an independent know it all.
Third Lesson: Commit to Continued Intelligence
The average child takes classes during the school year and plays with friends all summer long. Most kids are smart and intelligent but what is often not realized is that an entrepreneur needs to also dependent on their own ability to continue their education. From high school to college to masters, none of this will matter if you give up on learning.
There is no summer anymore: learning cannot take a break.
As an entrepreneur you cannot stop improving. Your product or service, your finances, systems, hiring, management, training or even culture - can always be improved. It will be up to you to discover and implement these improvements.
Some of the best ways to continue learning is by always reading, listening to podcasts, watching videos or attending conferences.
There is no better way to learn - or to teach - than learning another language.
Starting from scratch takes a lot of dedication and motivation - which are two things every entrepreneur knows a lot about.
Learning a language is a lifestyle change.
So is changing your phone and computer language- to reading new books and talking to new people. For the real risk takers, consider switching your at the moment (ATM) language. To learn a new language and learn it well, takes a full commitment. Learning a language is no different from any other entrepreneurial pursuit - you commit 100 percent or you won't get there.
No entrepreneur has ever “made it” without going all in.
An entrepreneur puts all their finances, time and energy into the project because they know it’s the only way to do it.
If it is not possible for you to leave the country - at least leave behind your old self with those old habits and take a new look at your life. The choice is yours. An entrepreneur needs a new view - try and find one.