For some reasons I had to leave my country , quit my business and land at JFK in New York City in March 2010 to start a new life. It was a big deal to leave home, my culture and my language, but I believed that in America, I could truly reap what I sowed and that the measure of a man was his ability and determination to succeed. In America nothing will stop you but yourself. This was the land of boundless opportunity.
I had a little money and spoke no English. That’s how I first started to work for someone. Just like millions of employees across the world, I hated my job. The only difference between them and I is that I actually took the leap, though I still had a lack of language and money.
And you know what? It was the best decision of my life. Not only do I have ten times as much freedom as a result, and my income raised, it was an exhilarating experience to actually quit my job. It made me feel alive. There is a freedom in the U.S. to dream big dreams, the freedom to achieve based purely on merit rather than family background or previous wealth or social status.
To this day, whenever I tell somebody the story of me quitting, they’ll say something like “Wow, that’s really admirable. Most people would just stay and be unhappy for their whole lives. You actually did something about it.”
And when I hear this stuff, my ego expands. People give me all kinds of respect and it feels great – like I’m some ultra confident risk taker or something.
But I have a confession to make – that’s not the whole story. In fact, if you were in my shoes, you’d probably do the same thing without hesitation.
In the case of quitting your job (assuming you hate it), you are faced with the whole fear of the unknown thing. What if you fail and you’re worse off because of it? Fear of the unknown almost always overpowers the pain of staying in a job you hate. The small possibility that things could get worse will paralyze most people. But in some cases like mine, the pain of staying finally overcomes the fear of the unknown and shifts the decision to quitting.
The truth is that I wanted to quit my job long before I actually even was hired, because I never worked for someone. I was a boss myself in my country. But the fear of the unknown (new country, new language, no connections and peers) kept me pinned down.
…until things got worse.
First, I discovered that my “boss” would undercut me and not pay the salary we had an agreement for just because I was not willing to talk behind others back and provide some information on them.
Next, my physical health took a nosedive. I don’t know if it was the stress or my diet, because of the stress, but I just started getting injured easily.
I’d play tennis and both knees would hurt for weeks. I’d try going for a jog and my ankles would develop tendonitis. At one point, I had chronic pain in both ankles, both knees, both shoulders, and both wrists! I started getting depressed. All of these things kept piling on, and I felt like the only escape was to quit my job. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do when I quit, but anything looked better than my current situation – even the unknown.
Only at the point where staying in that job finally became more stressful than giving up my income was I able to finally quit.
A more effective way would be to find a better job , or my favorite, start a business. Guess which path I chose.
I knew immigrants are nearly twice as likely to start a new business than native-born Americans. Because the very act of immigrating is entrepreneurial, a self-selected risk taken in an effort to better one’s circumstances. It’s a mind-set. You leave everything you have and get on a plane. You can handle change. You can handle risk. And you want to prove yourself.
Being an immigrant provides you with a drive, one that never goes away. I still feel it today