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The Immigrant Professional’s Mindset – Embrace it for Greater Success

 – Ram V. Iyer

Immigrant professionals are some of the most successful people in the world – Albert Einstein, Alexander Hamilton, Henry Ford, Sergey Brin, Ayn Rand, Elon Musk, George Soros, Rupert Murdoch, Ariana Huffington, Elie Wiesel and many others. There is something about the way they view the world that enabled them to become super-successful, famous and wealthy. It is a unique mindset driven by their circumstances, where they came from and their imperative to succeed. Every one of these people is an IMMIGRANT and a PROFESSIONAL. Every one of us can achieve greater success by embracing elements of their mindset.

When we study successful people, we usually focus on what we can observe. For example, most people observe that successful immigrant professionals work hard. They emulate them and work hard but many do not achieve the same level of success and then wonder why.

When role modeling successful people, we rarely find out WHY they work hard. That would reveal their mindset – what is within them that makes them WHO they are and WHY do they do what they do. That would reveal their internal motivation that fuels them to continue working hard even when circumstances are difficult – it is too hot or too cold, you are sleep deprived, everybody else is going home, etc.

An immigrant professional’s WHY could be self-talk like “Failure is not an option as I have no home to go back to” or “I don’t have local credentials, so I have to make up with hard work.” It is the combination of sustained hard work, their motivation and other factors that make them successful.

Mindset: Each of us acts based on our personal mindsets. Think of it as the programming that runs in the background for all of us. Many experts believe that up to 95% of the decisions most people make are made unconsciously by their mindsets. Few of us consciously seek to understand what influences our mindset or modify our programming. Many people simply live life ‘on autopilot’.

A person’s mindset comprises their beliefs, values, self-talk, assumptions, mental models (how they view situations and the world) and principles. Those are heavily influenced by his or her personal circumstances, environment and life experiences. A person’s mindset may empower or disempower him/her. If you make changes to some of these foundational items, your actions (and therefore results) will be very different. If you change your LIFE LENS through which you see and perceive everything, you could see things differently, make different decisions and have different outcomes. That is why two people who look at the same situation may have different perspectives and act differently.

Change your mindset, change your future

For example, a newly-landed immigrant may seek to network with everybody at a gathering based on a rule that “The larger your network, the higher your chances of success”. On the other hand, a long-time immigrant at the same gathering may network with a handful of people based on a rule that “The higher the quality of your network, the greater your chances of success.” Both are immigrants but with different mindsets and actions.

Most people accept their current mindset as a given, and something that cannot be changed. They might say, “I am just this way.” Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck labeled it as a ‘fixed mindset’. There is an alternative. You can try to achieve more by understanding and modifying your mindset – your programming, your life lens – by developing a growth mindset and, specifically, embracing elements of the successful immigrant professional’s mindset.

It is a whole lot easier to succeed if you modify your programming than mindlessly emulating the actions of successful people – like ‘work hard’, ‘wake up early’ and ‘aim higher’ – when your mindset drives you to do something else. It is akin to dieting for a day or two and getting discouraged by the lack of weight loss as compared to making lifestyle changes that changes your diet and results in weight loss and a healthier you.

A person’s mindset is a combination of their beliefs, values, self-talk, assumptions, mental models (how they view a situation, their lives or the world) and principles. Those are heavily influenced by his or her personal circumstances, environment and life experiences. A person’s mindset may empower or disempower him/her. If you make changes to some of these foundational items, your actions (and the results) will be very different. If you change your LIFE LENS through which you see and perceive everything, you could see different things, make different decisions and have different outcomes. That is why two people who look at the same situation may have different perspectives and act differently. For example, a newly-landed immigrant may seek to network with everybody at a gathering based on a rule that “The larger your network, the higher your chances of success”. On the other hand, a long-time immigrant at the same gathering may network with a handful of people based on a rule that “The higher the quality of your network, the greater your chances of success”. That’s a subtle distinction that results in very different actions.

Even fellow immigrants can benefit by embracing elements of the mindset of successful immigrant professionals. Non-professional immigrants (tradespeople and those without formal education) too can become more successful if they embrace elements of this mindset. In-country migrants and locals/natives, many of whom seek to emulate the success of the ‘successful immigrant professionals’, can benefit from embracing their mindset. Some of them may be highly motivated but for most others, developing the constant eye for opportunities and the desire to succeed can do wonders for their life trajectory. We are finding that the mindset of these immigrants is similar to that of entrepreneurs, explaining why these immigrants are some of the most successful entrepreneurs. So, entrepreneurs can benefit from studying and embracing their mindset. Even businesses, communities and nations can benefit by embracing the same mindset.

I am co-authoring with Dr. Marshall Goldsmith on the mindset of successful immigrant professionals. In it, we will distill the insights from research, extensive interviews with immigrant professionals from across the world and our own experiences (I’m an immigrant professional). From this book, you can learn about specific aspects of the immigrant mindset and incorporate them into your own mindset. Remember, you can best attract that which you best understand.

If you are an immigrant professional or have a view about immigrant professionals, I’d like to interview you for the book If you know successful or struggling immigrant professionals with a story to tell, please have them reach out to me. You can visit the following page for more information about the book and contact information – https://www.ramviyer.com/books/immigrant-mindset.

What are elements of YOUR MINDSET that have helped you and which of them have hurt you? Let’s start a discussion here. Write down what you think below.

I coach and conduct workshops for entrepreneurs, business owners and business leaders to help them achieve greater success – based on my personal experiences, interviews, research and thinking. If you are interested, please reach out to me.

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