Life Learnings from +7 Years in Brazil
It was June 2009, my son was 1,5 years old, and life was smiling at me in a way that one can feel a good performance, family and job-wise, when… suddenly, Brazil knocked on my door.
I had gotten married to a lovely German Brazilian woman, so undoubtedly Brazil had already been part of my territory in a couple of occasions; personally and also thanks to work I had been having various visits to Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Floripa in the previous 3 years.
During all those times, it was clear to me that Brazil was a different country – a country that was tough; a country where, in order to succeed in it, it required resources (money and connections), an eloquent brain a and driven personality in order to orchestrate the navigation through it; and last but not least one must harvest the skill of persistence.
If Brazil were a sport, it would definitely be a marathon. A marathon for which one must train every day; knowing that today you may have running shoes, but tomorrow it is only your shorts that come along; very little can be taken for granted, so one must count on your own willingness, you own strength and your own internal drive.
As a European, I learnt that it is easy to take things for granted; to suppose that things are clearly defined and that these things work properly, and of course that people will do such things in an expected way, or perhaps expressed in another way: that the local rules will be understood precisely and that they will be well dimensioned, calibrated and with clear definition and the repercussions if not followed properly were tangible; all of those with very small room for interpretation, and again taken for granted – as Yoda may state “far from the truth those are I learnt.”
If the behavior of currencies can produce an x-ray of countries’ economies, I would like to share the following chart, where the EUR makes Brazilian Real (BRL) range from 2,2 to 4,5 points in 4 years from 2012 to 2016, in other words, a European could have his/her euros worth more than double in that period.
In addition to the latter, one may wonder, had the country changed during those times? We cannot deny Brazil has gone through many changes, from Lula to Temer with a sweet impeachment of Dilma in the middle of it to say the least, but if you had a look at the people, the cities, the business those people work for or that they run, have they diminished their performance so significantly to degrade their value so much when compared to other world economies? Well, I will let economists answer that question.
My today’s pondering is not specifically to depict economic aspects of Brazil as the main focus.
In fact, I would like to shed some light on the importance of “focus” in Brazil, preceded by the fundamentals of “choice”.
Certainly, this country has the depths of wonders that other countries yearn for. However, the idiosyncrasy of Brazil brings a very deep entanglement of problems that its locals have learned, for many years, to deal with on a daily basis. These problems, when faced by foreigners, who may be used to certain standards, can be somewhat frustrating, exasperating, and, in some cases, can be enough reason to leave the tropical geography – I will be very honest when I tell you that the latter has crossed our minds on various occasions, exactly for the reasons above mentioned.
On the other hand, and as time went by, for the crazy “gringos” who decide to stay, time becomes a medicine, an energy source to endure and to help us develop a feeling, a skill, call it what you will, a strength to like, appreciate and even enjoy these tropical lands.
Furthermore, the local people, the sense of true nature, the smiles, the local flavors, and the hugs create a very genuine energetic bond with those living in it – it all gathers and it helps to build a broad connection; a bio-mindful connection. For those who watched AVATAR, I could borrow some of the explanation that describes what the Na’vi feel in Pandora; thanks to the connections they all have with trees, almighty EYWA can connect them all.
Having said all of the above, it is not all sunshine and rainbows. Brazil brings new and old challenges back to the game, day after day. Without a doubt, Brazil creates a scenario of overwhelming situations and contexts where one must ponder between “Effectiveness” and “Efficiency” at all times. In certain European countries like Spain and Germany to mention a few, you really need to be efficient at all times, whereas Brazil demands much more to be effective in your endeavors because the objective of survival is much more present.
My time here has brought different learning moments and achievements at various levels; from personal to professional. To put things into perspective, I saw the amazing birth of my Brazilian princess, Kiara, when my startup was in the midst of battling for the second round of funding. Or earlier in our Brazilian adventure, not too much time after leaving Barcelona and our arrival in Rio, I had to take to court the company that initially brought us here.
During these years, reinvention has been a particular DNA piece I have cultivated within me and interiorized as years went by. The result? A lot of emotions… they helped me leave the numb feeling of Europe behind, and turn the “ALIVE” sensors heavily on.
Even if difficult to synthesize, if I could summarize Brazil in a sentence, I will borrow a piece from a couple of my Italian mentors who were convinced about it and so told me, “Jose, Brazil is not for beginners”.