Daily Archives: March 15, 2012

A secret advantage to expatriation and immigration that no one seems to know

By now many of us have listened to Steve Jobs’ Stanford commencement address and nodded in agreement.  After all who can really disagree with this:

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.” 

As far as advice goes, it’s inspirational, it’s moving, and it makes you want to just get up and go for it.  Right there and then.  Right away.

And then you don’t.

You don’t because life gets in the way; because old thinking – the “other people’s thinking” — surrounds you like fog on an early morning; and because overcoming years and years of conditioning by your parents, teachers, society at large and your own sabotaging voices is just too difficult.

A personal story: When I grew up, the thinking in my family, my society and my surroundings was clear – my future was decided for me.  With all the best intentions, of course, my parents ignored my natural talents (“who can make a living doing that?”) and directed me towards what they truly believed will secure me a safe life.  No one paid serious attention to what I wanted – the prevailing “truth” was simply that it was not wise, possible, or appropriate.

And then came the transformative event.  I immigrated.  I moved to a society where the culture was completely different and where the barriers of my upbringing didn’t exist.  It was like taking a tree from a nursery in a pot and then transplanting it into the ground where the pot is no longer constricting its growth.  The tree is now free to spread its roots anywhere it wants.

Looking back I now realize how much of a gift it was to shed those barriers.  But like Steve Jobs said in his speech, we are better at connecting the dots looking backwards.  It took me a good 20 years to get back to what I truly am good at, to what I love to do, and to what I am passionate about.

Immigrating and expatriating transplants you out of the pot.  You leave the familiar – and with that you leave the things you learned about yourself that may not be true.  You have an amazing gift to break out of the barriers, to reach deep down your soul and yank out the stuff that’s been either ignored or repressed or dismissed.

But wait.  There is more.

There is the tricky part, of course.  While I am beginning to develop those repressed and ignored talents again, it is so difficult to allow myself to declare ME to the world.  Because the nay-Sayers are still there — both from my past and my present.  This is the biggest piece of that pot that’s still stuck to my tree’s roots.  Not a day passes by when I don’t hear variations of the following:

  • “How can I possibly be that?”
  • “It’s too late.”
  • “Better stick with what’s been done and with what’s safe.”
  • “I am not an _______.”

Recognize those?  It’s other people’s baggage that you are still carrying.

So here is a tip.  Start small.  Start slow.  Forget about the grander “how” of doing it and forget about the destination.  Instead concentrate in the journey.  Do something small each day and nurture the inner child in you that’s hasn’t been allowed to come out and play.  Let the roots of that tree go wherever they please.  You’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain.

“Have the courage to follow your heart and your intuition.  Stay hungry.  Stay foolish.”

I am feeling in my heart now that this is becoming a major part of my coaching practice.  This journey of re-discovery of who I am – of going back to who I was meant to be – is informing all of my programs.  So if you feel like re-discovery is what you are hungry for and if you feel like you want a hand, I’d love to help you.  You can join a group program that will focus on this (see Expat Women Academy) or you can get in touch with me for individually-tailored coaching.

I’d be honored to share your re-discovery journey with you.

And remember – not everyone gets to shed the pot by moving.  You do.  It’s an amazing gift.  Use it.