Resiliency: What immigrants know
Thursday, February 13, 2014
Posted by: Barbara Francella
By Marie Quintana
realized that I was over-thinking the topic for this blog when I sat back and
thought about something that was completely obvious: Why do we forget how resilient we are? In fact, why do we not
embrace our power? After all, that is the one thing that has helped me achieve
much of my success. And I’m sure the same is true for many of you.
times we second-guess ourselves when, instead, we should remember that we have already
been through tough times. That means we’ve demonstrated impressive strength. We
know how to stay the course — and get to the finish line. To move forward, we only
need to make one simple step. In fact, its effectiveness could easily be
underestimated because of its lack of complexity. We merely need to remember — and
embrace — the power we’ve already exerted during difficult times in our past.
have had many experiences that helped us become stronger. For me, and many
other women, experiencing life as an immigrant presented challenges that were
turned into advantages. This is a process that began early in my life as a
result of navigating in two diverse cultures. It is an ongoing process and it continues
to this very day.
In his book
Earning Serendipity, Glenn Llopis writes with depth about the
"immigrant mentality.” He states, "The immigrant comes to America with nothing
but faith and hope, and he/she consequently views everything as opportunity…. He/she
sees every relationship, every job, every dollar and every day through the lens
a new culture is a situation that brings trials and adversity. However, those
same conditions also present many possibilities. Having to learn a new language
is a primary example.
Standing tall in a white dress
remember one particularly defining moment in my life — wearing a white dress in
first grade. I misunderstood the instructions regarding what to wear for "picture
day” and I arrived at school wearing an all-white outfit. I was excited that I
would finally fit in — only to discover that I was the only student not dressed
in colorful clothing. I stood alone that day and was teased then and for many
days to follow. In short, it was clear that I did not fit in.
also remember about that day is that it was the sheer power of resilience that
helped me stand tall. That experience as a child didn’t defeat me. On the
contrary, it prepared me for greater challenges and adversity that came my way
as an adolescent and as an adult.
and I came to this country with only one change of clothing. Even though we
were hungry, we were full of spirit, faith and hope. We knew that to achieve
anything, we had to take risks — but there was no risk that could be greater
than the one we had already taken by leaving our country and taking the step toward
a new life.
I have lived my life taking risks. I embraced the power that was instilled in
me through the adversity of life as an immigrant. I eventually realized that
all the challenges I encountered were actually disguised opportunities. Being
forced to start over meant that I was forced to grow. Now, after working for 29
years in corporate America, I am choosing to become an entrepreneur. I am
starting over yet again; I am taking new risks and, most importantly, I am
still turning challenges into opportunities. I am also still sharing both successes
and disappointments with my family.
can embrace and nourish their own powerful experiences. We can all tap into the
"immigrant mentality,” which is also "the great unexpected.” When we do this, Glenn
Llopis reminds us, "… generous favors blossom into friendships, odd jobs
blossom into annual contacts, coworkers blossom into supporters, bosses blossom
into advocates, friends blossom into partners and ideas blossom into
where you are from, it is vital to embrace your power by confronting the new
and the unexpected. I refer to it as the "immigrant mentality” — but it is
actually a vital insight available to everyone. Remember your adversities.
Recall the times when you didn’t allow yourself to be defeated. Embrace those
moments. And then move forward with confidence and resilience. After all,
you’ve already proven yourself to be strong by virtue of your past. So what
future challenge is so large or so daunting that it could possibly defeat you?
Marie Quintana is president of Tu
Familia, a company that provides digital services to the Hispanic community.
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