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Resiliency: What immigrants know

Thursday, February 13, 2014   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Barbara Francella
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By Marie Quintana

I 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.

Many 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.

We all 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.

Related: "Forget the ‘isms’ and embrace yourself”

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 of potential.”

Entering 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

I can 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.

What I 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.

My family 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.

Consequently, 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.

All women 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 enterprises.”

No matter 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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