I want to take a moment here and address the elephant in the room that the so called Brazilian Gringo is not in Brazil. To complicate things further I’ve been intensively studying Russian recently, which draws into question where my allegiances really lie.
For the past few weeks I’ve been taking Russian classes at a local language school, participating in the June Italki challenge and I joined the 3 month #Add1Challenge to make sure that I achieve this goal. To top it all off I quietly launched braziliangringo.com.br and have been making daily videos in Portuguese documenting my progress with the language.
There are many things you might expect to read on a blog called Brazilian Gringo but hearing that the author is learning Russian probably isn’t one of them. This isn’t the first and certainly won’t be the last time that I do such strange things, but I assure you there is a method to the madness.
Before I explain what this new site is all about, I want to give you some behind the scenes updates to give you a better idea of what is going on here.
At the end I also put out a request for reader feedback. If you want to skip everything else here is the link for the short survey.
My Post World Cup Existential Crisis
Like many people who were in Brazil during the World Cup, I was dazed and confused after watching Brazil lose 7-1 to Germany in Belo Horizonte. My faith in Brazil was shattered and the next day I woke up and realized I didn’t love Brazil anymore. I wanted nothing to do with Brazil and decided that it would be the best for both of us if I went somewhere else.
OK that’s not actually what happened at all, but how many Brazilians do you know who’ve been grumbling about leaving Brazil since the World Cup ended?
Regardless of the World Cup I was leaving Brazil anyway to attend an entrepreneurship camp in Lithuania, then onwards to South East Asia to learn new skills and get mentorship from experienced digital entrepreneurs. A death in the family brought me back home to the US in January and I ended up sticking around for a few months to learn more about my family.
Over the last year I somehow found myself in a dozen different countries doing a dozen different things, sometimes all at the same time. That might sound like an ideal lifestyle for some people, but the reality is that I was lost and confused and woke up every day asking myself, “What the **** am I doing here?”
I struggled to keep this blog updated because I was learning things that didn’t seem like they had a place inside of the narrative that I had constructed as the Brazilian Gringo character. Rather than try to find a way to explain what I was doing or why, I took the easy way out and decided that I would just explain it all later.
Also since I had no idea what I was doing myself I wanted some space to figure things out without having to constantly be explaining myself and admit that I was lost and confused. Upon hindsight I realize that having an existential crises is a pretty normal thing and not something that I needed to hide from people. I probably made my life a lot harder than it needed to be by not opening up about what I was going through.
Regardless of what was going on inside my head, I wasn’t doing a whole lot publicly with this site. A lot of people who had come to expect some kind of consistent content output here were let down by my absence. Some days I would wake up and check this site hoping to see a new post only to realize that I was the one who was supposed to do that.
In order to consistently publish here I need to write from a perspective that stays consistent regardless of where I am in the world. Much of what I write is inspired by what I see around me, and if I’m not in Brazil then its not as easy to write about Brazil. I suppose some people don’t care where I’m at as long as what I write is interesting, but I had a hard time overcoming that in my head.
I’ve worked through a lot of these issues and updated the About Page to reflect a broader perspective that does a better job of explaining what I do and gives me the flexibility to write about pretty much anything.
On becoming a more authentic and genuine writer
To a certain extent I’ve been wearing a mask pretty much every time I publish something on this site. I created a character that I thought would be useful for people to read about that I also enjoyed playing. It was a character that was based mostly on who I was at the time, though constrained in scope and exaggerated in some areas.
When I was at lower stages in my development it was necessary for me to play such a character. I had a fragile ego and needed to protect myself from criticism by deflecting all responsibility onto the mask instead of taking full responsibility for my actions. That wasn’t a very mature thing for me to do and I’ve since outgrown that mindset.
In plain English this means that I was promoting Brazil as if it is the best place on earth, while my actions indicated that I believed otherwise, since I was making all these plans to go to other places. While much of what I’ve written is still valid and useful, not all of it was authentic because it was written while wearing a mask.
To be clear, I still love Brazil and think it is an amazing country. I learned more about humanity in the three years that I lived there than I ever thought was possible. Though it is still very much a mystery to me, I have a lot of admiration for Brazilian culture and the interactions it inspires between people who operate within it.
I look forward to spending many more years in Brazil and around Brazilians so that I can get answers to some questions that still continue to perplex me.
Overcoming the challenges of living in Brazil
While Brazil is great for a lot of things, there are still a lot of things that could be improved about the country. Education, crime, corruption, bureaucracy, city planning, infrastructure projects, the list goes on and on. Many of these problems have deep roots and affect the lives of everyone who steps one foot towards Brazil.
Most people living in Brazil would rather not have to deal with these problems and don’t want to spend a lifetime trying to fix a broken system. Moving to another country is a solution that many people have turned to as it allows them to instantly enjoy benefits that were otherwise unattainable back home.
Moving abroad doesn’t solve all of your problems and often it just creates new ones. Everything comes with tradeoffs and is not a one size fits all solution by any means. But for those who desire greater economic prospects and security it might make more sense to go somewhere else rather than continue to battle it out in Brazil.
Since coming to Brazil I’d been working on building a location independent income that way I could have the freedom to go somewhere else if I needed to. Teaching English was a way to keep the lights on while I was figuring out this entrepreneurship stuff in the meantime. I was able to learn enough about starting an online business by reading blogs, listening to podcasts and participating in online communities.
At the end of the day there is no substitute for being able to spend time in person with people who’ve done what you want to do, which is why I went elsewhere. Being able to ask questions, get specific feedback and get the behind the scenes look at what it takes to build a successful online empire was an invaluable education that I couldn’t have got if I stayed in Brazil.
That’s not to say that there aren’t a lot of Brazilian entrepreneurs worth studying from. Many of them live in Belo Horizonte and I’m fortunate enough to have been influenced by some of them as well. But if you ask them who they learn from, they’ll often mention how they’ve traveled abroad to learn from foreigners too.
On doing the work that only you can do
I went off in search of mentorship and got it, many times not in the way that I was expecting. The lesson that I learned again and again is the need for focus. The greatest business idea in the world doesn’t mean anything if you don’t focus on it long enough for it to work. Ask any successful entrepreneur and they’ll probably preach about the virtues of focus.
What nobody else can figure out for you is exactly what you should be focusing on. Just because you can make a lot of money with an idea doesn’t mean you should do it and just because you’re passionate about something doesn’t mean you should try to build a business around it.
So I turned my search inward and spent much time in meditation and quiet reflection to try and figure out what I should be spending my time on. What I found out about myself is going to shock you. Are you ready for this?
I like spending my time challenging myself and learning weird things then writing about it and making videos inspiring people to do the same. Regardless of where I am, those are the things I want to be spending my time on, and thanks to the internet it’s never been easier to make money doing these things.
It’s a pretty obvious insight but I had been ignoring that truth about myself for some time, leading to unnecessary existential angst. Whenever I was doing all of these things with my time, life was good. When I diverged from that path I made my life harder than it needed to be until I got back on the path.
The New Direction for Brazilian Gringo
As I mentioned at the beginning I’ve been studying Russian pretty intensively and launched BrazilianGringo.com.br to document my progress.
A lot of Brazilians read this site and one piece of feedback I’ve gotten from them is to make more stuff in Portuguese. I’ve been meaning to make a Portuguese version of this site for a while and learning Russian was finally the spark that got me to do it.
The plan right now is to show my progress over the next 90 days and grow the audience of Brazilians interested in learning foreign languages and traveling, then finding interesting ways to connect that audience with the English speaking audience we have here.
There are a lot of ways we could go from here, but since you’ve been a reader for a while I want to include you in the decision making process. I’m not planning on going in a drastically different direction with this site, but I do want to narrow down the focus a bit more.
If you’d like to take part in deciding which direction this site is going to go, you can do so by filling out this quick survey. It will only take you a minute or two.
After a few days of gathering feedback I’ll send out an email announcing the results. If you haven’t signed up for the email list yet, right now would be a good time to do that so that you’re in the loop.
I look forward to reading your responses and embarking on a new adventure together.
To be continued…