The psychology of immigrants has been always a great interest area for me. All my grandparents were immigrants and when they moved to my home country 70-80 years ago, they started a new life with almost nothing. My childhood is full of their memories and stories, mostly happy with some sorrow as well, lots of hardships with lots of hard work; all shaped a lot my thinking as a child. Fast forward into to 2015, when I was leading Windows & Devices business for Microsoft Turkey, we decided to a social responsibility program to empower people and as part of that program; we did a project in a Syrian Refugee Camp in southeast of Turkey to educate the kids in the camp to use computers and to write code for a better future. Even though I couldn’t speak the language of the kids, their eyes were telling me all the story, reminding me the childhood stories I was listening from my grandparents and parents. Hardship but Hard Work, Unknowns but Hope, Memories but New Starts. The "Psychology of Immigrants" and the "Sociology of Immigration" is beyond the scope of this writing (for those interested, it is an amazing learning area with lots of great academic articles), but for me there is a striking analogy of this with "All of Us". The world is changing so fast- both exponential and combinatorial – with lots of black swans happening ( How many of us could have guessed what happened in 2020 with Covid-19), that we are waking up to a new world every morning. And due to acceleration happening at extreme, we are completely moving to a new world. We are Immigrants of the Future.
Moving from the old to the new world require us to behave like an immigrant. We are all moving somewhere new, so it is good to have the mindset of an immigrant. When you're an immigrant, you must learn a new language, a new culture, a new way of doing things. These are exactly the attitudes and skills we need to bring to thinking about and shaping our future. We must be open to learning a new language, a new culture, a new way of doing things. VUCA world has never been so real and it is easily foreseeable that it will continue to exist. The nature, dynamics, speed with which things are changing (Volatility), the lack of predictability in the world & business (Uncertainty), the multiple, intertwined, confounding issues and forces at play (Complexity) and the fuzziness of our realities and our inability to discern clarity (Ambiguity) is becoming our every day life and it is up to us whether we suffer from it, live with it and get energized of it. If you are one of those who gets energized thru the transformation of the world, there are some things you can learn from immigrants.
Immigrants look for insights: Immigrants look for every opportunity to understand their new home and life. Even they cannot predict everything; they look for every signal, they try to develop foresight. The broader and more comprehensive sources of insights they have, they build greater confidence to build a new things from zero. They learn from their experiences (their history), they learn from their experiments (current life) and they build a new life.
Immigrants learn every day, lots of things and continuously: Immigrants are the best learners. In order to become relevant and stay resilient; they know they need to renew and reinvent themselves. And they know by heart and experience that this is not one time activity but continuous activity. They know that continuous adaptation is the only reality. If I coach people on career, I always say that career is like a bicycle. Sometimes you might go slow, sometimes fast. Sometimes it is uphill and harder, sometimes it is downhill and easier. The important things is you keep going, once you stop, you fail. Immigrants know this at best. Re learning, it is not only that it needs to be continuous, immigrants also know that it is across many areas. They learn a new language, a new culture, a new job and much more things we cannot imagine. So are we as future immigrants. Lots of new technologies, environmental changes, disruptions in business models, societal trends and many more. Industry lines are blurring, whatever happening in one industry impacting the other industries. Technologies are having combinatorial impacts. Like Klaus Schwab says in his great book on Industry 4.0, the changes happening technological, physical and biological spaces are impacting and driving each other. Most of the skillset we have today won't be required, most of the thing which will be required in coming years, we don’t know them yet. Immigrants are even maybe more lucky than us. They know what they don’t know. We are in a dawn of a change which still includes lots of areas we don’t know that we don’t know. We need to become intentional and continuous learners, in order to become relevant and stay resilient.
Immigrants look for new people and collaborate: One of the vivid memory I have from my childhood is how my grandparents were close to their families, friends and how actively they were building new friends. In those hard times, the support (whether physical or psychological) they were receiving and giving from/to each other was one of the most critical factors for their reinvention of themselves and restart of their lives. No surprise that Collaboration is one of the top skills cited in all academic and business journals mention as we march into the future. The change is so big that it is almost impossible one single person to survive alone. We need to collaborate more, support each other more and surround ourselves more with people who gets energized by the change. Companion with people with big ideas raises the level of our thinking, close contact with ambitious people gives us ambition. Cling to people who think progressively. Move upward with them. A person is not “pulled up”, rather he is “lifted up.” We are all immigrants, so we need to lift up each other.
Immigrants are disciplined and agile: I didn’t see or hear any immigrant story that was full of ease with no hardship at all. Very much on the contrary. But for those who successfully drove their journey were the ones who were very intentional and disciplined and agile in driving their change. So we should be. As said, the changes coming in next 20 years will be more than last 300 years. Our immigration to the future will be faster. We need to be better, more disciplined and more agile in driving the change. If we wont be intentional in this journey, we may find ourselves irrelevant. We should accept this fact and act accordingly.
Immigrants are optimistic: What I observed in most of the stories and memories of immigrants – and impressed me all the time- is the positive approach and optimism. As my granddad was always telling me in my childhood; a person is a product of his own thoughts and beliefs. In my previous article about thinking big to grow big, I mentioned that attitudes are mirrors of our minds. To activate others, to get them enthusiastic, we must first be enthusiastic ourselves. Be a crusader. Be a volunteer. When you see something that you believe ought to be done, pick up the ball and run. The future will be great, we need to act.
Over the years, I developed a huge respect and appreciation to all immigrants. I strongly suggest to talk to them and learn from their stories and experiences. We might not be aware but we are all immigrants of the new world shaping up. Most immigrants ended up in much a better place than they used to be. The call is yours: Do you want to become the victims or makers of the future?