It is common for all of us what it feels like to be in a foreign country. The rollercoaster of emotions while abroad leads us to the famous and familiar culture shock. We have all somehow experienced the honeymoon, negotiation, adjustment and mastery phases. Now, it is time to go back to our home country and face the last phase of the process: reverse culture shock; that last stage in which the feeling of missing the foreign culture takes over our lives.
Although reverse culture shock is usually an experience with more lows than highs, I believe that we are here to break trends and statistics. I am convinced that the reverse culture shock can be a very positive experience. This is, at least, what I have been experiencing firsthand.
It is needless to say the current situation in Spain may make our reverse culture shock even harder. However, I am convinced that it is actually quite the opposite, and we are facing a time full of opportunities where any little contribution can have a great impact. I do not mean to sound arrogant but I am one of those types of people who regard problems as opportunities for improvement.
We have never had a time before when our actions could yield such a positive impact on our society. The only barrier that we have is in convincing ourselves that we can do things, that we can contribute, and that it is necessary to help each other so that together we can deal more efficiently with this difficult situation. Moreover, Spain definitely needs our help, our positive energy, and contribution; whether we are in Spain or abroad. This is what encouraged me, when I was still in California, to start a new endeavor, juntosalimos (www.juntosalimos.com), a platform to help each other and all kinds of Spaniards (citizens, with politicians, with companies), through ideas on how to deal and overcome the crisis that is devastating our country.
Thanks to new technologies and open source philosophy, the barriers of entry to create such platforms are very low. I am sure that motivation counts just as much as skills, at least, to start prototyping rapidly. I do not want to expand on talking about juntosalimos but I would like to talk a bit about the story behind the idea. This will illustrate what I mean when I say change and attitude is in the eye of the beholder, and that it is quite easy to give things a try.
As humans, we need triggers that push us to accomplish goals; a motivation, an inspiration or simply something that we see around us that requires our action. In my case, it was the fact of waking up every morning and checking the online Spanish newspapers. No matter which one I read, they were always covered by negative news: risk premium, bailout, unemployment… I am sure that you can guess the headlines. I started wondering whether or not anything positive was actually happening in Spain. A quick research on the Internet allowed me to quickly see that many positive things (at macro and micro levels) were also occurring. Nonetheless, it seemed as if few people were interested in sharing them.
Better with someone else
Look around you and see how many dynamic ideas are put into play by a single person. None? Right! Making things happen requires collaboration; teaming-up with bright and motivated individuals. That is exactly what I did. I joined forces with my partner in all my endeavors. Miguel, my brother, an outstanding young professional, is motivated as much as I am to revert the current situation, and fully committed to make of our country a better place.
Get on with it!
Thankfully, we are in a technology era where building webs or apps (at least rapid prototypes) is fairly easy and economical. We can rapidly test our ideas and hypothesis by “making stuff”, rather than engaging in lengthy market research processes that usually end in discouraging us from carrying out our idea. That is what we did. Firstly, we created a video that could inspire our society by showing positive things (you can view the video here: www.vimeo.com/juntosalimos/promo -Spanish version – and here: www.vimeo.com/juntosalimos/promoen – English version -). We also built the web platform that was actually an experiment for us since we could see whether or not the video motivated and canalized the solidarity and enthusiasm of our people.
Launching is always a moment full of excitement. All the hours spent “in the garage” building your project come together in that moment where you start sharing and sharing with the outside world. In our case, we spread juntosalimos by using simple tools such as email, Facebook, and Twitter so that our advertising costs could be reduced to zero.
Keeping it up!
I think that the key to making things happen is a formula of two variables: enthusiasm and tenacity, keeping working on the idea and using the “highs” to keep the momentum and the “lows” to learn from mistakes and make the team more effective. I have been frequently asked what is the sustainability model for juntosalimos and you can guess my answer. We do not have income; it is all about effort, enthusiasm and passion for what we are doing.
The final step of this short story is what we call L&L; Listening and Learning. Listen to what your users have to say about your project and learn from them, since their voices will implement change. We make them feel they are in charge of the project because in a sense, they truly are. At the end of the day, they are those who share their ideas and help each other in juntosalimos. For that reason, we have now “pivoted” (if you follow the Learn Start-up model this concept may be familiar to you, otherwise it just means to change the course of the project) juntosalimos, and you will see that we are trying to help solving personal problems where our ideas can have a quicker and more realistic impact.
All in all, we have in front of us a blank sheet of paper, to take our pen and start contributing with, as we say in Spanish, “nuestro granito de arena” (to do one’s bit).
What I would like you to keep in mind
To summarize, I would like you to retain five key ideas:
- Look for your trigger. Think about what you can do around you and how you can make it viral so that your actions spread and have a bigger impact.
- Team up with motivated people who share your vision.
- Be courageous! Do it! Launch it! You will probably have to learn a few things or your partner will, but do not wait to have all your uncertainties resolved because that will never happen.
- Be prepared to face ups and downs. Use the ups to increase the motivation and the downs to learn and to make the team stronger.
- Be ready to learn and listen to what your users say. That’s the only way to succeed! I am sure that your project will end up being something different from what you had in mind initially.
I hope these lines have motivated you to start doing things for Spain. Regardless of whether you are living in Spain or abroad, I am convinced that your creativity and imagination can be key in overcoming the current situation and heavy environment of pessimism. Moreover, you are already part of a network full of bright and enthusiastic minds that will help your endeavors come true.
I am sincerely convinced that with your help, juntosalimos de esta!
Felix Gonzalez Herranz is a passionate Spanish entrepreneur. He was a Fulbrighter at Stanford University from 2010 to 2012 where he obtained a master’s degree in Management of Science and Engineering. He also holds an Electrical Engineering and Computer Science degree from Universidad Politecnica de Madrid (Spain) and TELECOM ParisTech (France) and has professional experience in the telecom sector. His passion for innovating and creating new things leads him to be continuously thinking about how to improve the status-quo. Felix is passionate about helping others define and launch their personal ventures by sharing with them his experiences and knowledge. Hence his current volunteering mentoring activity at Stanford University and his experience at Singularity University as Teaching Fellow. You can reach him out by email: firstname.lastname@example.org