When I first showed up in Mexico I was given some advice.
It went like this.
An American & a Mexican formed a business partnership. They went for a meeting in Mexico City with a potential client. They prepared 3 pitches for the prospect. The American presented the first idea.
The client said “si tal vez. Yea maybe it could work. What else do you have?” The Mexican presented the second idea. The client said, “Claro que si. It could have potential.”
The American finished up the presentation with the third pitch. The client responded with a flat out “no”.
After the meeting, the partners were sharing notes on how the pitch went. The American shared first and was optimistic. The Mexican was not. The Mexican asked well, “What did you hear ?”
The American said “Well the first two options could happen and the third was no go. Two out of three isn’t bad.”
The Mexican convinced they had failed, explained, in Mexico, a “yes” is a maybe. A maybe is a no. And a no is a,
Go Fuck Yourself
Here are some of the other lessons I have learned.
1. Don’t make other people “feel bad”. There isn’t really a way to say sorry in Spanish. The most common expression for this is “lo siento”. This translates as “I Feel It”, indicating that some of the responsibility is on “it”. This has huge implications in management and relationships. I love it. I wish I could say it to my wife all the time. It would go like this. “WTF! Why didn’t you take out the trash? I would say “Lo siento. I feel the trash’s pain” I take it to mean, resorting to blaming others is almost not even in the language.
2. Understand the Escalation of Conflict. The United States is founded on this idea that everyone can sue everyone else. It is so ingrained in the culture. Just the other day, a lady left me a voicemail saying she was going to sue me because one of my people accidentally bumped into her in one of the yoga studios. I didn’t call back, well because, lo siento. That would just never happen in Mexico. The escalation of conflict in Mexico is pretty careful because in most situations you are forced to resolve your issues amongst yourselves. If you involve the authorities it is often just another competing group with needs. This kind of forces you to work things out.
3. Know what % of people around you are great. We showed up in our town not knowing a single person with a project to complete. To me it was really a study in human nature. Through the process of building Casa Om, I met probably 100 people and got very close to many of them. Of that 100, 17 of them were absolutely amazing. Eighty were just decent good people. And 3 of them were totally rotten. That’s a pretty good percentage. It should be stated that the rotten apples can easily poison the batch. Your job essentially is to keep the batch healthy.
4. Be ready to die
This deserves a post in itself. When we started the project, numerous people cautioned me about everything from the cartel to the drinking water to the ocean to the ATM’s. Some said I should pretend to be Jewish because it was safer. Others said Arab was the way to go. The list went on and on. It was like everyone felt this desperate need to share all the things they were afraid of. I was so scared I slept with a huge knife under the bed. At every noise I would pop up and run around like Rambo. I actually still do that…
Many months later, I found out the prior owner was a single woman who lived there by herself, for years. She had just put locks on the doors. The agent told her to. She said it would probably help to the get the place moving. Apparently she was less concerned….and I wasn’t serious about being scared.
I share the story to make the point that while common sense is important often times our fears of what is different outweigh the realities.
As we neared the end of our project we drove through Cancun looking for supplies. One of my guys pointed to a project he had worked on. He made a throat slitting motion across his neck. He explained the owner had run out of money on the project and cheated his sub contractors. He then wound up dead. Ironically I too had just run out of money on our project. The guys in the car laughed. I shifted in my seat.
This fear is a real one. I ended up working out a payment plan. In reality, I was treated so well by my team. I think the great insurance policy anywhere is to do right by people. I mention be ready to die because our survival instincts while imperative can also be a major blinder to the opportunities out there.
Finding peace in the nature of things, that we come, we live and we go is the most liberating experience in our lives. Without coming to peace with this, I fear we just come and then go. We never really live.