Being alone in a foreign country struggling to speak a second language is a different kind of alone. Every time I speak I feel insecure about my accent and simple daily activities make me feel vulnerable. With no friends and family nearby, the sense of your own insignificance is a transformative experience. This has to be the best damn recipe for growth!
The first Thursday that I was in France, I hosted a webinar with 5,000 registrants and about 500 attendees were on with me LIVE. That kind of thing lights me up so when I wrapped, the adrenaline high was real. Obviously, I went out for a glass of wine.
I walked a few blocks down the road from my apartment and stumbled into a cute wine bar. I sat there with a book, ate dinner with myself, and people-watched. The sommeliers who work there got curious I think, and when they started talking to me, we realized we had a lot in common. We’ve been hanging out together since.
They’ve been super kind and generous, and they introduced me to some of their friends. Last night I had dinner with one of them, his name is Jean-Yves. He feels like hanging out with my big brother.
The first night I met Jean-Yves, I called him the professor. Of five or six people that I was with, he was the one who was the most patient with me as I spoke slow, terrible French. I noticed this immediately, so then, no matter who I was speaking with, I found myself looking his way for validation and corrections. “Does that make sense? What’s the word for that again?” It’s been frustrating for me to see how far back my capacity to speak this language has slid after having once been fluent, but last night we spoke for four hours straight and I only had to ask those questions once or twice.
For me, the experience of going back to beginner levels – and then seeing how much progress I can make with just a couple weeks of practice – has reminded me a lot of the process of entrepreneurship and leadership development.
When we decide to become entrepreneurs, we enter a contract with ourselves, where we agree to undertake new experiences at a rapid rate. We throw ourselves into figuring it out as we go. Yet, so often this creates tension and stress because we’re hard on ourselves. Cognitively, we know we can’t bypass the learning curve, but emotionally it’s tough to be a beginner.
I can’t explain how happy I am that I took this trip and feel like it’s worth noting for anyone who’s curious that it was by no means simple. I would have preferred my husband come with me but he couldn’t, and the decision to set out into a foreign country on my own for six weeks was, at first, met with skepticism. When we make decisions that are different, the reaction we receive from others can make it even more scary. But when you decide to listen to yourself and see it through anyway, what waits on the other side is life experience and personal growth that’s beyond what most people get to experience.
Whether we’re talking about starting a business, making that next growth investment, or following your other wildest dreams, fortune favors those who are brave enough to think for themselves and make one decision at a time, even when – especially when – you don’t have all of the answers. Because we’ll never have all the information we want from the beginning. We don’t get to know how it works out before we decide to dive in. All we can do is use what information we have, recognize the limitations of the information we don’t have, evaluate the risk-reward dynamic, and decide to make one move at a time.
The greatest reward that I wasn’t expecting has been meeting new friends and feeling accepted and supported. It’s been making me think a lot about how the only thing that can soften the challenge of personal growth is an awesome community. It’s perfect timing for this reminder as we prepare to launch Strong Brand Social Club – the only place on the internet that will help brands dominate their digital marketing, design their brand’s social impact, and develop their leadership capacity. If you’re brave enough to grow your business in a different way that will make the world a better place, we’ll be Jean-Yves: here with explanations, validation, support, and a bottomless pit of patience.
In your corner,