Dateline: Acapulco, Mexico
Tra il dire e il fare c’e de mezzo il mare.
(Between the saying and the doing is the span of the sea.)
Most people want to do something with their life that has meaning, and yet many who are liberty-minded get trapped into a deep spiral of fear.
They substitute trying to understand the situation in the world for taking action to do something about it. They look for excuses not to take action, and try to explain away their paralysis by blaming it on external factors that are beyond their control.
As we traveled this week to Acapulco to deliver one of our Exobase workshops, I had the chance to talk to a large group of liberty-minded people struggling in this situation.
Making a move, starting a business — these are significant decisions in anybody’s life, and with all of the fearmongering that characterizes the libertarian blogosphere, it is no wonder that there is so much paralysis. We’re becoming scared of our own shadows.
1. Security is a problem
For people considering moving to another country to start a business, this is perhaps the most common worry I hear.
It’s true, the security situation in places like Latin America is different from what most Americans and Europeans may be accustomed to. But different doesn’t necessarily mean worse — it just means there are different rules of the game.
Guatemala’s official murder rate is very high, and yet the local upper class lives with few incidents because they know the rules of the game.
You don’t walk around, especially at night, you stay aware of your surroundings, you don’t show off your electronics while you’re in the car.
It’s a tradeoff — market opportunities exist in abundance in places with more problems.
But if you don’t have the stomach for that kind of living, there are plenty of options that are as safe or safer than most American cities.
Chile, where I’ve been living for almost seven years, is extremely safe and with no police corruption.
The criminal element, if they are going to steal from you, are going to do so quietly, not violently.
Precaution goes a long way toward defending yourself against petty crime too.
The same goes for Uruguay, and the smaller cities in Southern Brazil are quite safe as well.
Do your research, know what you’re getting into, but don’t let your fear of getting robbed by a criminal stop you from getting robbed by a band of them.
2. Other countries are susceptible to the crash, too
We live in chaotic times. In reality, times have always been chaotic.
The perceived stability of the the post World War II era was not only a fiction, but a strange fiction.
There has never really been a period of stability.The world has always been in a state of constant flux.
As Malcolm Muggeridge once said “there is no such thing as news, just old news happening to new people.”
Of course the system is a mess, and of course it is fragile.
Looking for mere robustness in the midst of this storm is a fool’s errand.
You need to accept that nobody will be immune from the long series of events that are coming as the world adjusts to new historical norms.
Instead, you must pursue a life characterized by antifragility, so that you can prosper and benefit in the tumult in whatever country you live.
3. I need to save a little more money first
No matter how much money you think will be “enough” to make the big changes, to move, to start your new business, it never will be.
You’ll always think of other things you need to protect yourself from, other contingencies you will need to plan for, and so the months and years will tick by one by one until your whole life is gone.
Stop postponing your life for lack of resources — go get the resources by providing value to the market.
4. I don’t speak the language
Spanish and Portuguese are not difficult to learn, at least at a basic functional level.
Latin America is full of opportunity, and many people in the business community speak English.
But you will learn faster by going and doing — necessity will drive you more than your hopes or dreams ever will.
Something many bilingual people won’t tell you, though, is that you will almost never feel like you have really mastered the new language.
You’ll always feel self-conscious when speaking it. You’ll always be aware of the differences in pronunciation.
So if you think you can wait until you’ve perfected your fluency until you make your move, then like with your financial resources, you’ll be waiting until it’s too late.
5. I don’t know what kind of business to start
When all other excuses fail, the last resort for most people is to say they don’t know what they would do if they did start a business, or they are afraid that their idea won’t work.
Do something you know. Form a hypothesis. It’s probably not going to work the first time or first way you try it.
Just like there’s no “enough” when it comes to money or “perfect” when it comes to your language skills, there’s no “killer” when it comes to business ideas.
Test your idea — better yet, test twenty ideas. See which ones show promise or some validation, then try to improve them.
You will learn a lot more about what customers want by putting something in front of them and gauging their response than you will by postulating, guessing, or even asking.
So stop planning, stop looking for the excuses, and begin the journey. It doesn’t start until you take that first step, that first risk.
It is frightening, but exhilarating.
There are a lot of people out there doing the same who will be there to support you if you just ask..
As Nixon Waterman put so eloquently:
Tis sweet in the idle dreams to bask,
but here and now do we our task?
Yet this is the thing our souls must ask
What have we done today?