Forbes.com: Embrace Immigrant Values to Succeed!21 Jul 2011
One might like to imagine that things were different in an earlier, gentler, and wiser era, but the history books tell us otherwise: there never was a golden age when immigrants and immigration were universally popular in the United States. In the 1840’s and 50’s, anti-immigrant sentiment spawned a political movement that became the “Know-Nothing Party,” and in the 1920s, Congress responded to public pressures to restrict immigration by sharply limiting the ability of Asians, as well as Eastern and Southern Europeans, to make a new life in the United States. Even back in the early days of the Republic, English speakers worried about the growing numbers of German settlers and whether their language and values might prevail.
That said, few Americans would now dispute the undeniable benefits conferred on our nation by the brains, brawn, entrepreneurial spirit, and sheer dynamism of the immigrants who made our country what it is today. Immigrants dug the Erie Canal and opened the western frontier, just as they later built the Transcontinental Railroad, linking the vast expanse of our nation from the Atlantic to the Pacific. They worked the mines, built the steel mills and the auto industry, and fueled the growth of the richest and most successful country in the history of the world. Hindsight, as they say, is 20-20, and looking back, it is easy to see how much better off we are due to the contributions of our immigrant forebears.
Not everyone is prepared to admit it, but immigration remains a vibrant motive force behind America’s economic growth, and our leadership in the knowledge economy. As we have noted several times in this space, immigrant entrepreneurs played a pivotal role in building the high-tech colossus that is Silicon Valley – and their brainpower has fueled scientific innovation and job creation throughout the country. So what is the secret of their success?
According to Glenn Llopis of Forbes.com, immigrant values laid the foundation for many successful companies and careers here – and native-born Americans would do well to watch and learn from this example. (See Why Employees Must Embrace Their Immigrant Values to Unleash Their True Potential, by Glenn Llopis, Forbes.com.) Llopis suggests that in the headlong rush to assimilation, we left behind an understanding of ourselves as hyphenated Americans, and in the process lost touch with our immigrant values.
We need to reconnect with these basic principles, Llopis says, arguing, “the immigrant perspective will be at the core of America’s economic and societal reinvention.” What does he mean by this? Llopis explains:
“America’s corporations have not fully realized the true strength of their talent pool potential given the great melting pot that exists in America. In so many aspects of our society, leaders are waiting for solutions rather than creating them. Immigrants are naturally wired to create economic opportunities. Now that America is struggling economically and is now learning how to reinvent itself from developing countries throughout the world, America’s corporations and their employees must not only be more entrepreneurial in their mindset, but also more culturally intelligent about themselves and the demographic shift in the U.S. This is the only way for our economy to grow and prosper organically and for people to continue to create new opportunities and cultivate innovation.”
Llopis contends that in a changing world, Americans need to adjust to new realities if they hope to succeed:
“America’s corporations have historically taught their employees to think linearly (inside the box). Employees must now be taught how to rewire themselves to think with circular vision (outside the box) in a manner that allows them to live their authentic immigrant values in the workplace. We all must embrace the survival mentality of the immigrant in order to continually innovate and thrive in America…”
It is precisely this “survival mentality of the immigrant” that is absent from most Americans, Llopis believes. In short, today’s Americans need to be constantly on the lookout for potential opportunities for profit and advancement – to be so thirsty for success that they squeeze every drop out of even the unlikeliest of opportunities. As we summarized in a post on a related Llopis article:
“What we need to learn from immigrants, according to Llopis, is the art of ‘earned serendipity,’ the luck that comes to those with the sharp eyes and good sense to see an opportunity when it comes their way, and to recognize the potential for advancement that’s latent even in mundane tasks. It comes from staying hungry – not getting fat, happy and complacent, not standing idle, waiting for a bigger opportunity to come along, but making the most of all the little opportunities that will lead to bigger and better things.” (See: Forbes.com: Think Like an Immigrant to Get Ahead, MurthyBlog, 05.May.2011.)
We see certain opportunities and miss others, Llopis says, because of the ways we’re conditioned to think. You can only act on opportunities if you recognize them as such, Llopis argues; embracing the carpe diem mindset of our immigrant forebears will sharpen our focus – so we won’t miss the opportunities that are right in front of us!