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12 Myths about Starting a Business

1 I need to write a business plan before I start.

No you don’t. Start-ups are so unpredictable that writing a business plan is a pointless exercise.  You don’t exactly know who your customers are or what benefit/value they get from your product/service. If you think you need to prepare a plan to raise start-up funding see point 3 below.

2 I need lots of business experience.

No you don’t. There is a little unknown principle called be, do, have.  But for some reason our society believes it is the other way around – have, do, be.  People think you need to have a certain amount of skills, knowledge, contacts before you can start a business (do) and be an entrepreneur/business owner.  A better way to live is first of all just be an entrepreneur then you will do all the things that entrepreneurs do and eventually have the necessary things you thought you needed before you could start.  Essentially fake it till you make it.

3 I need to raise lots of funding before I can start

No you don’t. This is a risky and unnecessary strategy.  What you need is a minimal viable product to send to potential customers to receive their valuable feedback. Then you can alter your product/service until it’s exactly what they want.  Let them guide you as in the end its customers that will eventually be paying you for it. If there is no demand for this product/service idea you will find out without wasting much time, energy or money.  An MVP is not just market research.  If you were conducting market research you would ask someone if they would find your product useful and they may respond yes – but there is a massive difference between what someone says they will do (during market research) and what they will actually do in the real world.

Why Everyone Will Have to Become an Entrepreneur (Infographic)

It used to be that entrepreneurs were the renegade cowboys out in Silicon Valley. Nowadays, you have to be an entrepreneur just to get and hold a job.

Consultants and freelancers are cheaper than full-time staffers with benefits, software developers overseas cost a fraction of what they cost in the U.S. and, by 2030, robots will be able to perform most manual labor, according to an infographic (below) from San Francisco-based startup organization Funders and Founders. Even employees who are employed in large corporations are encouraged to be “intrapreneurs,” meaning that they are in many cases given company time to come up with disruptive ways of thinking about corporate organization and practices.

 

10 Innovators Who Did More Drugs Than You Read

Stephen King

With certain writers it can be a little obvious, I’m sure right now you’re saying, “really?”, but if we take a look at the numbers its not all that surprising. King has published 50 novels and almost 200 short stories  which includes novellas, poetry, and screenplays. The publishing of his works started when he was 12 years old with a short story entitled, “Land of 1,000,000 Years Ago”. If we do the math that means completing the publication process for about 5 pieces every year; it doesn’t sound like a lot but publishing is far from a fast process. This kind of productivity can only be explained by one thing and one thing only, cocaine! King was so coked out that he acknowledged in On Writing in 2000, that he can barely recall writing Cujo.  But of course to counteract his extreme cocaine usage, King dabbled in some downers as well like Xanax and Valium.

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John C. Lily

Lily was a pioneer in the field of interspecies communication between dolphins and humans and contributed heavily to the notion that they possess a nonhuman intelligence. He created an isolation tank to test the hypothesis that if all stimuli are cut off from the brain, then the brain would go to sleep. Through experiments in the isolation tank, Lily delved into the realm of the human consciousness and all that can be achieved through a deep meditative state. In order to dive deeper into his consciousness Lily used the help of everybody’s favorite hallucinogen, LSD, relatively frequently during his experiments in the isolation tank and during his work with dolphins. But he claims to only have dropped acid (and the occasional ketamine dose) during his experiments that took place before the illegalization of those drugs; sure John, we believe you.

 

Sigmund Freud

The father of psychoanalysis and tons of other psychological concepts that are commonplace in our society, would have been a different man if it weren’t for a heavy coke habit. Freud regularly self-medicated, taking small doses of blow to manage his indigestion and depression. Freud even wrote essentially an ode to cocaine in his essay “Über Coca”, where he hoped that through this essay’s explanations, he would help the drug win a place in therapeutics with the likes of morphine and other widely used drugs at the time.

All Risk Isn’t Risky

Risk comes from not knowing what you are doing.
—Warren Buffett, businessman, investor, philanthropist.

 

Among the several definitions of an “entrepreneur,” some are pretty good while others are downright terrible. Regardless, a common word among them seems to be “risk,” which is what truly defines an entrepreneur. The following simple definition by Merriam-Webster is one of the best: “An entrepreneur is one who organizes, manages, and assumes the risks of a business or enterprise.”

The focus then becomes understanding risk and how it factors into being an entrepreneur. “Risk,” as defined by the same dictionary, is the “possibility of loss.” What’s most interesting about this definition—and contrary to popular belief—is that it doesn’t impart a negative value judgment; the definition merely declares the possibility of loss. In other words, an event can have a 1 percent or a 99 percent probability of loss. Our response to and interpretation of those two levels of risk makes all the difference.

Entrepreneurs have a higher tolerance for risk than the average person when it comes to starting and running a business. According to the Kauffman Foundation, less than 80 percent of businesses last after their fifth year of existence. Moreover, according to Saratoga Venture Finance, less than 1 percent of businesses ever go public. Despite these daunting odds, entrepreneurs are not deterred from pursuing their goals.

This higher tolerance of risk among entrepreneurs, though, doesn’t tell the whole story. Entrepreneurs surely take on high probabilities of failure, but they don’t necessarily like to gamble. Instead, they take calculated risks, stacking the deck in their favor. They find ways to minimize or to spread the risk of their endeavor to increase the odds of their success or minimize the odds of loss. Entrepreneurs have the confidence in themselves to avoid and to overcome obstacles that could cause great loss, whether through expert knowledge, solid relationships, or even personal wealth.

For example, the media tend to emphasize the Cinderella stories of CEOs who have achieved great success despite unfavorable odds. However, a closer look at these stories often reveals that the CEOs took calculated risks and had solid backup plans. In his book The Reluctant Entrepreneur, Michael Masterson describes how Bill Gates is frequently perceived as a college dropout who took a huge risk to start Microsoft. Masterson criticizes this perspective and paints a very practical picture of Gates, one that portrays him as a methodical, brilliant youngster who always planned to return to school if his business venture didn’t work out. Perhaps Gates’s decision to leave Harvard would have been riskier and thus worthy of the media spin if he weren’t so smart and didn’t have the great financial resources that his well-heeled parents gave him.

In short, all risk isn’t risky, and entrepreneurs know this rule. Put another way, the reality of becoming an entrepreneur isn’t so much about the high probability or risk of failure as much as your ability to beat the odds. Ironically, the entire world has learned this lesson from the Great Recession. The opposite of this rule is just as valid. What people thought was safe is no longer as safe as they thought. College won’t guarantee you a high-paying job in the field you studied once you graduate. A corporate job doesn’t mean you won’t get fired. Enrolling in your company’s 401(k) plan doesn’t mean that you will have more money in the bank than when you started the plan. If the world continues on a path of economic decline, pursuing your entrepreneurial dreams will be less risky than getting a job. And that’s not such a bad thing.

13 Ways to Fit Travel Into Your Summer Schedule

Question: As an entrepreneur, how are you finding time/budget for travel this summer? (name one tip)

 

1. Make for a Happy Homecoming

“This summer, I’ve gone to Denver, L.A., Nevada, Orlando and Montreal so far! The key is planning the week of your return in advance. Don’t take any meetings; instead, spend that first morning easing back into your flow. Catch up on your emails and assignments. If you have focused work time during the week of your return, you’ll be all caught up and won’t feel burned out.”

 

2. Set Up Passive Income Streams

“I’m going to St. Lucia on my honeymoon this July, which has been a great motivator to finally set up some automatic sales funnel systems for my company. This way, I’ll have a constant stream of people coming to my site (and hopefully, buying my product) while I’m away. I’m looking forward to kicking back with a tropical drink and knowing that my income hasn’t stalled while I’m in the Caribbean!”

4 Charitable Entrepreneurs to Emulate

Business sometimes gets a bad rap for being cutthroat and selfish. However, entrepreneurs are some of the most influential leaders in our towns and communities—big and small. They have the potential to affect the people around them for good, and many do just that.

Whether you are just starting out in your business journey, or are already well established, we can all benefit from the positive example of those who have gone before. Here are just four examples of charitable entrepreneurs from whom we can learn.

Image Credit: www.dailyfinance.com

Image Credit: www.dailyfinance.com

1. Warren Buffet

As one of the richest men in the world, it is not surprising that I chose Warren Buffet as an example of philanthropy—he certainly has the means to make great contributions. However, unlike many of his wealthy counterparts, Mr. Buffet has taken a singular perspective on his personal wealth.

He believes that with his money comes a responsibility to society, commenting at various times about the failings of the market system (that has so handsomely rewarded him), and his disdain for inherited wealth and family dynasties. He has committed to donating the majority of his wealth to charity upon his death, leaving, as he put it in an interview on Charlie Rose, “just enough so that they [his children] feel that they could do anything, but not so much that they would feel like doing nothing.”

Congruent with his philanthropic ideals, Mr. Buffet is well known for his large contributions to charities. Perhaps most notable is his $31 billion donation to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a global charity dedicated to reducing poverty and expanding educational opportunities. As the man behind the largest charitable donation in history, Mr. Buffet certainly gives us all something to strive for.

Though we can’t all give away fortunes of that magnitude, I think we can learn from Mr. Buffet’s dedication to the cause of charity and seek to apply a similar perspective when it comes to our own money and success—however large or small they may be.

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2. Rick Schaden

Another notable philanthropist is Richard E. Schaden. Chairman of Consumer Capital Partners, an investment firm, and founder of numerous popular restaurants like Smashburger and Tom’s Urban 24, Rick Schaden is both a recognized entrepreneur and active philanthropist.

His efforts have been heavily focused on improving his own community of Denver, Colorado, where he and his wife, Cheryl, founded America’s Road Home in 2008. The foundation, which is affiliated with Urban Peak and Nexus C.A.R.E.S., works to raise awareness of family homelessness in Denver and the U.S.

In 2009, Mr. Schaden further demonstrated his commitment to ending homelessness when he donated $1.5 million to Mercy Housing Colorado for the construction of a 66-unit housing complex for previously homeless families.

In addition to his work to alleviate homelessness in Denver—where approximately 11,000 people are without homes—Richard Schaden also co-founded the Schaden Family Fund to sponsor local charities in Denver.

Though Mr. Schaden is certainly not alone in the world of rich philanthropists, his focus on helping his hometown of Denver is laudable. Too often, it seems, big money is thrown at big charities. While these donations are much appreciated and serve to do much good in our world, Schaden’s commitment to his own community is worthy of emulation. Whether you have a lot or a little to give, the greatest strides in overcoming social ills often come through local efforts.

Image Credit: www.telegraph.co.uk

Image Credit: www.telegraph.co.uk

3. Tony Hawk

When one hears the name, Tony Hawk, one’s first thought probably goes to skateboarding. And let’s face it: the man is a legend in his field. However, in addition to his prolific skateboarding career and entrepreneurial endeavors (like his popular video game series), Tony Hawk is also an active philanthropist.

In 2002, Hawk launched the Tony Hawk Foundation. Recognizing the need for more skate parks in the United States (where over 7 million people identify as skaters but only 3,500 parks are available for them to ride), Hawk created the organization in order to help communities develop local skate parks.

The foundation focuses on helping disadvantaged areas and fostering lasting improvements in society, preferring to work at grassroots levels with local communities to bring about change. Today, the organization has helped fund over 500 skate parks and awarded $4 million in grants.

What is remarkable about Mr. Hawk’s charity is how he connected his professional career with his philanthropic work. As a pro skater, Tony Hawk already had notable clout as an expert in the skating field. It was thus a natural progression to create a charity that supported this sport in positive ways. By doing so, Hawk is able to more effectively promote community improvement through the outlet he knows best.

When you focus on giving in areas that you are already invested in, the gap between entrepreneur and philanthropist is narrowed.

Image Credit: ideamensch.com

Image Credit: ideamensch.com

4. Craig Newmark

Finally, Craig Newmark, the founder of the popular website, Craigslist, seeks to use his influence on the internet to promote charitable collaboration. His organization, Craigconnects, is an online forum that allows other people and organizations to connect and learn from one another in order to bring about positive change in their communities and the world.

As the mission statement says on the homepage, Craigconnects is about “using technology to give the voiceless a real voice and the powerless real power.” The website serves many causes, including journalism, public diplomacy, open government, and voting resources.

Newmark’s charitable efforts are a good example of using one’s resources and expertise to promote causes. Moreover, we can learn from his innovation and creativity in modifying the original idea of Craigslist to create a forum strictly to bring together local do-gooders. Similar to Tony Hawk, Newmark takes advantage of his original platform and professional field to promote causes close to his heart.

Though you may not be a millionaire, your influence as an entrepreneur is felt through the communities that you serve and the people that you interact with. In our efforts to promote charity, goodwill, and positive change in our communities, we would do well to learn from these and other philanthropic businessmen who understand the importance of giving back, particularly when they have so much to give.

Jake Magleby has written extensively about effective marketing, sales, and financing strategies to help small business owners succeed in the fast-paced and ever-changing business world. He currently runs his own business blog, Franchise a Business, and takes inspiration from successful entrepreneurs like Richard E. Schaden.

 

5 Business Rules Worth Breaking — and 1 You Absolutely Must Follow

You can’t get through a semester of business school or a meeting with a loan counselor without learning the so-called unbreakable rules of business.  And, yet, some of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs ignored accepted business conventions.

Bill Gates, for example, attributes some of his success to reading, thinking, researching and being quick to call a dumb idea dumb.  But he’s never written a playbook for business success.  And Donald Trump, a perennial member of Forbes’ list of billionaires, suggests that rules don’t matter when he says “Everything in life is luck.”

Can only the lucky few get away with breaking the rules?  Or can anyone?  Can you?

Here are five business rules that successful CEOs have ignored:

1.  Never start a business with friends or family.

Taki Skouras, Jaime Brown and Joseph Brown wanted to work together after they graduated from college.

They opened a weight loss kiosk, and it failed miserably.

But their friendship and desire to work together remained intact.  They opened a second kiosk business, one that offered cell phone accessories.

Although they struggled initially, living together in a single room and taking home about $100 a week, they kept their faith in their friendship and the business.

Today, 10 years later, Cellairis has grown into a $350 million success, according to company spokesperson Andrew Park.

Dear Entrepreneur: Uncertainty is Natural

Response to a post by a newly minted entrepreneur on facing everyday blues and uncertainty in the first 6 months.

Dear Entrepreneur,

The fun thing is that you never know whether you’re on the right track or not. It is living life in small moments and the bigger picture at the same time.

You’re On A Trek

Imagine you’re on a trek. Keep looking at the peak every now and then. Are you nearer to it then you were before? If yes, keep focusing on the path, or make one that seems right. If the peak seems farther that it was before, realize which was the wrong turn and undo it. Ensure your team stays together, ensure all of them want the peak. Ensure each one of you wants to share the load while making your way to the top by sharing food and water among yourselves equally. The peak is the BIG PICTURE and your immediate path stands for the everyday challenges. Roadblock? Find a way. Thirsty? Find a stream. Leopard in your way? Knock it out (killing is cruel). One team member behaving like a douche? Show him the way down. Douche villager who is rude while showing the way? Still be polite (burn no bridges).

Losing steam? Look at the peak again! Breathe the friggin’ mountain air! Look at your strong legs, look at the clouds, look at the innocent birds chirping happily all around you- the world loves you. You love yourself. And you’re so strong that you’ve made it so far. You chose the mountain. You chose your team. You chose the path- built it, I’d say. You’ve settled in your niche, you know your purpose, you know where you’re headed. LOOK AT THE PEAK! And it will all make sense.

Uncertainty is Natural

Because no one is driving your life but you. You never know that you’re on the right track till the short term goals get fulfilled. Set milestones, they help you know that you’re on the right track. Product reached a certain stage? Good. People/Mentors appreciate the progress? Good. Team still motivated enough? Good. You figure out how you’ll make money? Good.

Believe

Understand the reason why you feel you’re back at Square One. Is it the progress at the project? Is it lack of team cohesion? Is it lack of financial security? If yes, then get things in order. List them, sort them out. Make sure the startup grows slowly but steadily. Is it purely emotional? Speak about it to your family, your better half. Feel loved.

The First Year Is Often Slow

It always is, because you’re out in the cold, trying to build something and making tonnes of mistakes. But you learn so darn much then, that helps you accelerate in the next year and after that. So don’t worry that you’re taking time, you’re learning in the process. But DO NOT get complacent and DO NOT take things as they come. You might need to initiate and lead and create and execute.

Where Is This Coming From?

From numerous conversations I’ve had with fellow business people, my own experience (2 years out in the cold till date), a number of blogs online and wonderful books I’ve read. You’re not alone, but you gotta do what you gotta do :)

Kick ass. Best wishes.

Sushrut Munje – Founder & MD at Hammer & Mop, a premium cleaning services company based in Mumbai (India). In love with efficiency and animals. Writes a non-commercial editorial series for StartupCentral on customer service insights.

Startup Weekend Isn’t Just for Entrepreneurs

Startup Weekend is the best 54 hours of my year. I’ve helped organize Startup Weekend Columbia for the last two years, and with this year’s event happening in just two short months (September 13th through the 15th), I started to ponder why some people are intimidated by the thought of attending.

I hear things like, “I’m not an entrepreneur” or “I’m not a developer” or, even better, “I don’t have an idea.” These are all objections I can easily combat by explaining what really goes on at Startup Weekends — and why they’re valuable for everyone. Whether you’re a high school student who’s never even heard of the term “coding” or a 60-year-old business professional with zero interest in joining a startup, Startup Weekend is for you. Here’s why:

High School and College Students

Why Attend: You need experience. You want fun. Startup Weekend has both. During the 54 hours, you’ll build new skills you never thought possible, you’ll be able to tackle a real problem and create a real business to solve it, and, better yet, you’ll have fun doing it. Columbia Startup Weekend makes an effort to combine work with play by providing games, kegs (for the over-21 crowd), and a host of other activities to liven up the weekend. If you have a great idea, Startup Weekend could even turn into your career.

Success: At the 2011 Columbia Startup Weekend, two high school students, Nahush Katti and Vikram Arunachalam Arun, blew the audience away with their concept for DoctorOn, a teleophthalmology company. The DoctorOn device consists of a small machine called iOn, which manipulates light into a slit and is designed to be attached to a smartphone, and an app. The DoctorOn team was recognized at Startup Weekend and has since gone on to participate in other pitch competitions; they’re on their fourth iteration of the prototype for the iOn device.

Recent Graduates

Why Attend: You either have a job or need one. Either way, Startup Weekend will strengthen skill sets that will help you progress in your career. If you’re interested in starting or joining a startup, this could not be an even better event for you — you’ll meet lots of startup founders and talk to people who are starting the journey themselves.

Success: Last year, Ryan Brennell led a team called Gladitood (formerly Woogah) and created a platform that helps conservation and humanitarian projects raise funds and rally volunteers from all over the globe. It’s a medium through which people can truly experience the world by engaging in communities everywhere. Gladitood received an honorable mention at Startup Weekend and has since been accepted into St. Louis’ ITEN and presented at 1 Million Cups.

Professionals/Business Owners

Why Attend: The other participants at Startup Weekend could be your future clients or employees. You’ll never find a better-targeted group of intelligent and driven individuals in your hometown. This is the number-one “networking” event you should attend all year. Don’t walk around trying to sell, though; get involved with a team and add value. They’ll remember you. If you happen to join a group that’s working on something you truly believe in, you might just find yourself in a new career.

Success: Eric Margheim joined the MedSocket group at Startup Weekend Columbia. MedSocket is a company dedicated to improving healthcare by connecting clinicians with the best health information available with two patented products: 1-CDS, a clinical decision support tool, and 1-Search, an innovative medical search engine. These tools provide clinicians with easy access to information at the point of care. MedSocket received third place at Startup Weekend and has since gone on to receive seed funding from Centennial Investors. The team now consists of five full-time employees and several part-timers, and it’s even been awarded a Small Business Innovation Research Grant.

Investors

Why Attend:  If you’re an investor complaining about the lack of great local companies to invest in, you must attend Startup Weekend. You could not find a better opportunity to vet potential founders, provide feedback before making an investment, and see an idea from conception to execution.

Success: Columbia’s first Startup Weekend winner was Zapier, a SaaS company that allows users to sync web apps without ever writing a line of code. Zapier went on to participate in Y Combinator, but local investors were able to see the potential first — and a couple of them invested.

Startup Weekend is a great opportunity for everyone, from high school students to CEOs. Participants get to hone their skills, meet other driven people, and drink lots of coffee. Look for a Startup Weekend in your town so you don’t miss out — it may just change your life.

Kelsey Meyer is the President of Influence & Co. and the co-creator of “Contributor Weekly.

The pros and the cons of living and working abroad for extended periods of time

This post is the first of a two part post about living and working abroad for extended periods of time.

When I got my online business to the point where it was bringing in consistent money in 2008, one of the first things I did was plan a three month trip outside of the US, to Costa Rica.  At that point I had lived in the Chicago area for about 12 years and I was ready for a change.  I had always wanted to travel, but up until that point really didn’t have the free time or money to do any sort of extensive traveling.  So when my business got to the point that I was making enough money to live off of, I booked a one way flight to Costa Rica and embarked on a life changing journey.

After about three months of traveling around Costa Rica, staying in hostels and experiencing more freedom and adventure than I ever had in my life prior to this point, I met a girl.  We hit it off well enough that I decided to extend my trip indefinitely.  Three months turned into a year.  A year turned into two years and before I knew it, I was a full blown expat.  I ended up spending nearly a year in the colonial city of Granada, Nicaragua.  Six months in Costa Rica.  Another six months in Panama.  I experienced a lot and grew a lot during this period.  This period was simultaneously one of the most exhilarating and challenging periods of my life.

In this post I want to explore both the pros and cons of living abroad.  Because although I don’t regret a minute of the time I spent abroad, it wasn’t always easy.  There are many advantages to living abroad, but there are many drawbacks as well.   This post will explore the good, the bad and the ugly, when it comes to working online as an expat.

First, for this post, let’s start with the good news….

The Dollar Goes Further –  One of the books that really inspired me early on was Tim Ferris’ “The Four Hour Workweek”.  In the book, Tim explains a concept he calls “Geo Arbitrage”.  The idea is simple, make money in one currency (the dollar in my case) and spend it in another, weaker currency.  Depending on where you go, if you’re making money in dollars, there are many places where the dollar will go much, much further , relative to the US.  At one point when I was living in Granada, Nicaragua I rented a one bedroom condo with a pool inside my condo for 500 dollars a month.  The pool was inside my unit!  Later I rented a two bedroom, fully refurnished colonial house, complete with courtyard and garden for 550 dollars a month.

Most of the places I have lived during my time abroad have had a lower cost of living compared to the US.  I’m currently in the Dominican Republic where a 10 mile taxi ride costs about 80 cents.  In Chicago that would cost me about 20 dollars.  Movies here are 3 dollars, compared to about ten dollars in Chicago.  Rent is cheaper.  Beer is cheaper. Entertainment is cheaper.  In general,  life is cheaper.

Everything Is Different –  The first place I spent an extended amount of time in was Granada, Nicaragua.  This city couldn’t be more different than what I was used to living in the US.  There is a novelty to living in a place that is radically different than where you grew up that, at least in the beginning, is intoxicating.  In Granada, horse drawn carriages still line the streets, the buildings are all colonial and most were constructed several hundred years ago.  Spanish is the native language and most locals don’t speak English.  Of course this novelty wears off after awhile and the reality of where you’re living sets in.  But in the beginning, this change of perspective is expansive and enlightening and I think one of the most positive aspects of traveling and experiencing other cultures.

Beautiful Women (And Men) Who Want To Date You – This one of course only applies to the single readers of my site and I don’t want to focus too much on this aspect of international travel in this post.  But the reality is that many countries that I have traveled to in Latin America and the Carribean are filled with attractive singles, many of whom are intrigued with the idea of dating a foreigner.  I have dated several latin women during my time abroad and could probably write an entire book about the pros and cons of dating latin women, but since we’re still focusing on the positive side of traveling abroad, I’ll focus on the positives.

I have no doubt dated better looking women abroad than I have in the states.  As a foreigner you’ll by default be perceived as having higher status when you travel to many countries.  This of course doesn’t mean that everyone will want to date you and sleep with you.  I have been rejected just as harshly and painfully while traveling and living abroad as I have in the states.  But if you are relatively decent looking man or women, who isn’t past their prime, you should have no problem finding a wide range of potential singles to have relationships with, if you’re open to that.   Of course to really connect with someone from another culture you’ll need to have a basic grasp of their language, get to know their culture and make an effort to assimilate into their way of life.  But if you’re open to it, dating someone from another culture can be one of the most eye opening and exhilarating experiences of your life.  And it can help immensely with the next item on my list, which is….

The Chance To Learn A Foreign Language – There’s no better way to learn a foreign language than to immerse yourself in a foreign culture.  I took a year of Spanish when I was in high school and within about a year had forgotten pretty much everything I learned except “come se llama”.  When you travel and spend extensive amounts of time abroad you’ll be forced to interact in whatever language is native to the country you’re traveling in.  In my case, I’ve spent the most amount of time traveling in Latin America and would consider myself fluent, at least in conversational Spanish, at this point.

Learn another language is like being give the keys to a whole different lens and will allow you access to learning about people and cultures in a way that simply isn’t possible if you don’t speak the local language.  It’s also one of the most rewarding things you’ll ever do.  There’s just something so exciting about sitting down and connecting with someone in a new language.  In my case, I feel like I have access to an almost different personality.  There’s the old American me and the new latin Aaron that I become when I’m intereacting in Spanish.  It’s hard to explain, but you’ll know it when you experience it.

You Will Grow As A Person – There is something about immersing yourself into a new and strange place that will force you to grow as a person.  This category really fits into both the pro and con part of living abroad at the same time.  If you never move out of your comfort zone, it’s nearly impossible to grow as a person.  Of course there are plenty of ways to do this without ever leaving your native country.  But when you travel abroad to many places you can’t escape moving out of your comfort zone.  My first several months living in Granada were some of the most scary and exciting months of my life.  Other than my new girlfriend, I knew very few people at the time.  My Spanish was horrible at this point and I was literally afraid to leave my house for awhile.  Just going to the local supermarket was a challenge.  I experienced major culture shock!  Of course, I got over this.  I made new friends, my Spanish improved greatly and over time I became very comfortable in my new environment.   But it took a while, and I attribute this period to one of the biggest periods of growth I’ve been through in my life.

 

I’m sure I could go on and on about other positive aspects to traveling, but I have a date with a hot latin women in about twenty minutes, so I’m going to sign off for now.  Although in my next post I’ll explore some of the downsides of traveling and living abroad, I want to stress that I think the positives by far outweigh the negatives.  But, in an effort to be as sincere and straightforward as possible, in my next post I’ll explore some of the downsides of living and working abroad.  Believe me, there are plenty!