Lack of the familiar — an opportunity to create?

Recently, during a celebration at an Israeli consulate in Miami, I heard an interesting quote by Golda Meir, one of the most known Israeli prime ministers.  “Moses dragged us for 40 years through the desert to bring us to the one place in the Middle East where there was no oil,” she said once.  The speaker used the quote to continue his thought on how the Israelis had to be very creative to sustain their young country and how now they have one of the most advanced IT and medical industries in the world.  No oil?  No problem.  Let’s see what we can create out of the “lack of oil”.

This speech reminded me of my childhood.  When I grew up very few things were readily available and so whenever we needed something, we resorted to creating it ourselves.  Take that creativity and multiply it by the thousands and thousands of people and you get lots of inventions!

These two examples got me thinking about the experience of expatriation.  As expats we are constantly “giving up” things that are familiar and things that — in the past — have given us resources to sustain ourselves.  As we move, each and every time, we lose access to what got is where we were.  And even though it’s not easy, we pick up the pieces and move on to create something out of the lack of what we just left behind.  So with every expat move, we prove the resilience and the creativity of the human spirit.  We also prove that lacking something is the best way to create something new.

What do you think?  And what have you created in your life out of “lack”?

People who read this post also enjoyed:

Culture Shock Revisited or Is It Really All About Going Through the Stages

3 Reasons to Become an Expatriate

7 Habits of a Happy Expat

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4 responses to “Lack of the familiar — an opportunity to create?

  1. Ettienne Goutier

    This is so true. We do move into new settings, leaving behind much of what we were, achieved, built up. Yet we also take so much with us, and in the new setting we have to dig deep to find what it is that we left behind (is of no use in the new setting) and what is very useful. And what we create is then the combination of what we bring with us and what is lacking in the new setting. I.e. very much finding out who I am (done by learning about the new setting) what I have to offer, what I need to acquire, and how I am going to combine that (create) into something that will enable me to flourish in the new setting. And there are skills required to do this successfully, like skills to deal with tolerance and ambiguity, complexity, and uncertainty, non-judgementalness, inquisitiveness, relationship interest, emotional competence, etc.
    Being from Africa, I have witness this in hundreds of settings. And as you mention, it is often out of lack of something, that creativity stems. Example: poor people in Namibia do not buy life insurance and when parents die (often very young) those who stay behind are left with virtually nothing. But they do buy airtime for their mobile phones. So a life insurance company is selling airtime, and with every minute of airtime the subscriber automatically receives an amount of life insurance. There are many more examples from Africa, being and extremely innovative and creative continent.

  2. globalcoachcenter

    A great example, Ettienne, of creating a way to package a product (life insurance) that lacks demand. Thanks!

  3. Creating continuity when everything around me looks so unfamiliar is a skill in and of itself. If I simply hang on to everything familiar, I would be incapable of flexibility ever. Sometimes a small thing of my past or my culture of origin helps to maintain the link. Even as I write, the house my mother has lived in for almost 20 yrs is being demolished to build a new one. I asked for a door knob from the kitchen cabinet to create this continuity.

  4. As an Israeli I am touched by the quote you share here with us, about Golda Meir.
    It is true that Israelis tend to innovate and to improvise a lot. It is considered a quality here. As we also say “the change is the constant” so we see the improvisation as a good way to deal with the challenges we face.

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