What Is Work? Success Through the Immigrant Mindset

"I was raised by two people who had lost their country," explains Glenn Llopis, a California-based entrepreneur with Cuban parents. "We were taught to see and seize opportunity."
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If you're down on your luck and ya ain't got a buck? Glenn Llopis wants to kick your ass - in a good way.

Llopis is a California-based entrepreneur, the kind of guy who could - and did - make it to the top of the corporate ladder by age 30.

But as he neared the top, Llopis found the view unaligned with his core beliefs about life - and good business - which he'd learned from his Cuban parents.

Entrepreneurship, self-motivation and community service trumped profit-for-profit's sake, he believed.

And so, heeding his own advice, he became an entrepreneur who's hell-bent on helping individuals and companies get through the current work crisis with their soul as well as their bottom-lines in balance.

He's written a book called Earning Serendipity, that's been noted here in "Living" for defining social responsibility and pro-activity as core elements of 21st-century success.

That may sound like heavy stuff.

But speaking to Llopis in person is a lot of fun - he sounds like the workplace version of news anchor Howard Beale from Network. Not mad as hell. But determined as hell to shake up our old-school "when will success find me?" approach to life, career and work.

American business has been focusing on the few versus the many. Immediate profits have trumped sustainable goals. No wonder so many of us are miserable - not to mention, jobless, under-employed and health benefit-less.

"We are so off-base," Llopis says, during a call from his office. "It's ridiculous."

The good news is that being thrown off-base offers us - the fired, the tired and increasingly soul-expired - an opportunity to create our own game.

And this is where, Llopsis says, his background has been invaluable.

"I was raised by two people who had lost their country," he explains. "We were taught to see and seize opportunity.

"In this country, you had a choice to be an entrepreneur. In developing countries, you had to be an entrepreneur."

As a geographical immigrant, your survival depends on your ability to triumph in new ways, languages and spaces.

That's true for folks landing in new work worlds, too. Some of us may underestimate how large a change this is. Others of us may become paralyzed by fear. The antidote to that fear is to take charge of things - to redefine our lives in the face of a new reality.

"People get upset when they don't have a strategy for change," Llopis says. Here are his tips on handling - and creating it:

Don't Wait!

The old way of thinking about work is one of wait-and-see: Perhaps things will get better. Perhaps the job won't disappear.

In the new work world? Fuggedaboudit. She who waits gets smushed. By change. Opportunity lost, aka: fate.

"You have to be responsible and accountable," Llopis says.

Responsibility begins with knowing who you are - and what you really want. Really-really.

In his speeches to business groups, Llopis likes to ask people: "If you just lost your job, and you had a choice to get it back, would you?"

A lot of them say, No.

This is true at heart, for many people who've been fired, he believes.

If you've lost your job, he insists, you've been given an opportunity. If you hate your job, that's an opportunity, too.

As the CEO of your life, you've got the ability - and the responsibility - to create the changes and values you seek, in- or outside of a formal corporate structure.

You'll want to put your passion into action, too.

Because, really. When was the last time you heard about someone realizing a dream by doing something they hated?

Reinvent yourself.

The old You worked for someone - or something other than yourself.

The new You is your own boss - and your #1 product combined.

"The first question to ask yourself is, 'What do I stand for?'" Llopis says. "Why do you wake up in the morning - what is your cause?"

A woman Llopis recently met said she wanted to "help people."

Nice idea, Llopis told her. But "helping people" was too general to be a cause.

On further reflection, the woman realized that what she really wanted to do was to work with underprivileged kids.

By defining her cause, she became the CEO of something specific.

Find Your People

In his book, Llopis identifies four types of people: Leaders, Lifters, Leeches and Loafers.

Many of us tend to hang out with the latter two types of people socially, out of habit, he says.

But as the CEO of our life, Leaders and Lifters are essential.

"Your friends need to share your cause," Llopis says. "Otherwise, you need new friends."

The woman who wanted to help underprivileged kids discovered that none of her friends shared her dream.

Ouch. Or was that a kind of wake-up call in disguise?

"That's a 100% opportunity gain," Llopis says.

Seek and Share Opportunity

"We live in an I-culture," LLopis says.

But the future of business - and happiness - is a matter of "we."

In addition to looking for ways to realize our dream projects, Llopis says, we should look for ways to create opportunities for others. People who haven't had much opportunity handed to them will often create the largest successes, he adds, quoting his father.

Given the choice between a favored team and an underdog, Llopis will invest his time with the underdog every time.

At the end of our chat, Llopsis sums up his views on success with an acronym as imperative:

Get Game

This translates to:

Be Grateful you have a second chance.
Stay Ambitious
Create Momentum
Use Entrepreneurial Spirit

Or, if you prefer a three-step process - there's this:

Don't wait for something to happen.

Make lots of things happen.

Give some away.

Sounds like a winning strategy to me.

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