The best thing I did was keep my dreams close to my heart my first year of doing business in Ghana.
As I made my first plays once I arrived in Ghana, people, especially well-wishers, and loved ones, became curious and began asking about what I was doing and how it was going. My parents were especially interested.
They begged and pleaded that they needed to know what I was doing; that it was bad that people would ask and they wouldn't know what to say.
But, I didn't give it.
The Immigrant's Child And Entrepreneurship
I understand that at a basic intrinsic level, the entrepreneurial journey is especially hard for immigrant parents to understand. Immigrant parents sacrifice so much for their children that returning to the life they tried to protect their children from, that of the struggle and hassle of being an entrepreneur, looks like a slap in their faces.
My cousin's story proves my point: he is the cofounder of Envyl, formerly known as Shypmate, which is an online platform that allows consumers in Africa to ship things quickly and affordably from the U.S. to Africa by paying travelers to fly with them.
Having lived in Ghana and worked for the company, I know that it is responding to a huge pain point in the African market. In fact, the platform received acclaim from the tech and business community in Africa and in Silicon Valley, and had a competent team and some initial capital to get it off the ground. Still, my cousin's father said to him: " so you went to school (undergrad at MIT and Masters at Cornell ) to be a shipper". If you know how African parents say these things and how they feel about anything but an office job, you know the sting and hilarity of his disappointment.
I imagine that if I told my dad that I want to sell sapor, ie. African sponge, and would do so as brilliantly and beautifully as Caroline has done with LUV SCRUB , my dad would not be happy.
Why Do We Share Anyways?
Entrepreneur and author Derek Sivers has a short awesome TED talk on keeping your goals to yourself. He explains that psychology tests show that when we share our goals, our mind feels like we have already accomplished it, making us less motivated to do the work necessary to actually realize the dream.
My reason for keeping my goals to myself is a bit different. It is not because I feel less motivated to work, but rather, I subconsciously seek validation and affirmation from those I share my dreams with, especially at the onset of the work, project, or idea. To the contrary,, sharing brings on the anxiety of having to perform and prove my ability, rather than social accomplishment. As such, relying on my internal compass to keep me motivated keeps me sane.
When I Did Share, I Was Very Intentional:
But back to sharing during my first year of business in Ghana: I did share.
1. I shared my aspirations, questions, thoughts with with my mentors. They were in my field of interest and innately valued what I wanted to add to the community
2. I shared relevant missions and visions with trusted business partners, employees, clients, and colleagues
3. I shared with friends who have the same vision as me and only if at a time when it would be beneficial to either of our work
But even in all of these cases, I have not shared the entirety of my aspirations with any one person, and not because I do not trust them or believe they will not support me. Simply, I do not need the external validation or anxiety to perform.
Year Two Looks Very Different
Year one, I listened and listened well, I hustled to see and do things with people who are in the ecosystem, I did a lot of things for free, I learned. Then, I took the time to silence the noise and keen into my own aspirations, just sitting with the complexities, challenges, and risks of the things I want to do. That time alone has made me more comfortable and confident sharing with a broader group now. I share not for validation or accomplishment, but for growth.
But still not with my parents. Not yet.