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The gift of the outside perspective.

Many of us are immigrants in some place or the other. For different reasons, we leave our homes to make a life elsewhere. Sometimes we are fleeing terrible conditions, homes and communities ripped apart by war, and catastrophe. Or we might just seek new opportunities for a better life, or in a more indulgent way, enough distance from home to be ‘ourselves’, make our own way.

For whatever reason, many of us find ourselves as outsiders, at least for a time, or perhaps our whole lives in places we have chosen to settle in. This all too common experience, of being foreign, lends a texture to life, a perspective that we can perhaps examine and mine for its insights into the goal of getting what you want.

There are studies that insinuate that a large percentage of businesses are started by immigrants, ditto, the number of advances and inventions made. For instance, more than 40% of Fortune 500 companies operating in 2010 were founded by immigrants or their children – including the likes of Apple and Disney. For all the oppressive negative and uncertain climate globally around the topic of migration, we cannot deny that much good has come from people who moved across borders for search of a new life.

This ‘foreign’ experience is not just restricted to immigrants, people who move from one country to another for a better life. It is also felt by the traveler, as you encounter strange, new cultures and places. It is even felt, albeit to a lesser extent by the one who moves across metropoles, or from the rural country to the city.

There is a vibe and mentality that prevalent amongst these immigrants, the new guys. They are generally more heightened and awake than natives. Coming from different places and having different experiences makes everything new to you. You have to stay on your toes. You have to adapt to a system that has been running along without you, you are an outsider. You have to keenly observe and see where you can fit in and what opportunities you can take advantage of.

Many times, the odds are stacked against you. The same benefits and advantages that are available to citizens are not available to you. So, the immigrant does not depend on the system. He cannot. The system was not built for him. He has to make a plan, he has to figure it out. He has to grind, seek opportunities, make friends and connections, band together with family and friends, and do whatever it takes, within and outside the system, because his survival is dependent on it. He has to get creative.

The immigrant has to build from scratch and be vigilant against losing it all tomorrow. Because you don’t have the safety net, the comfort of home, and your people around you, you have to build something new. Plus, you may have come from somewhere that was amazing, before things changed and, in a few days, the country collapsed, and you and your family lost everything. You know better than most, just how fast everything can change. This drives you to work extremely hard, and prove yourself, so you become valuable enough to dictate your terms. So, you can build a life for yourself, a life you can be proud of. You don’t just want to eat today, you want to build some kind of long-term stability, you want to be antifragile.

It is this force that pushes you outside your comfort zone. The same one that brought you here, that will continue to work on you and in you and keep you relentless in your pursuit of success. It will hopefully inspire you to think, ‘what can I offer, what can I contribute? What are my passions and skills and how can I be valuable here? ‘. It will force you to take realistic stock of your circumstance and take full responsibility for it.

And it’s that experience, the cocktail of conditions that allow many immigrants to excel. The strangeness of your new environment that forces you to stay sharp and awake. That is your gift. Because, you don’t take anything for granted, you won’t rest on your oars, there is no one to support or catch you. You will hunker down and push. You will study, work, network, put yourself out there, take the menial jobs, do whatever it takes to survive and succeed. You will make a plan and play a long-term game.

The gift of being an outsider will terraform you into the person that gets what you want.