The Immigrant Advantage

It’s a story straight out of Treasure Island. A person coming from nothing who sees an opportunity to make it rich. They take that risk and go on one of the greatest adventures of his or her life. For most of us in the United States, our families haven’t been in this country for more than a hundred years. For some of us, not even fifty years. However, even with the United States being founded by immigrants, people to this day don’t always tolerate those from other lands. Making up rhetoric like “They’ll ruin our culture!” or “They’ll take our jobs!” With statements like these all too prevalent, they are often overlooked as pure xenophobia. However, these statements could be the sprouts of something bigger. Why is it that people are so afraid of immigrants taking their jobs? Is there something intrinsically characteristic about immigrants that make them more successful?

If there is one single factor, it’s that most immigrants didn’t grow up with a silver spoon in their mouth. Noting my grandfather’s childhood, he told me he had to boil the water for his showers and corn husks were more often used than toilet paper. Later on, his baby brother was murdered. He came to the United States in the 1950’s. This all happened before he was 25. Needless to say, he didn’t have the easiest life. Through all this struggle, the life he lived gave him an advantage. He knows what pure struggle is, and that there’s no other cure for it than an undying work ethic. It’s what got him on the boat to come to the USA and meet my Grandmother. It’s what has allowed him to work in landscaping for the past sixty years and be one of the best in Arizona. It’s what helped him raise my mother. He had the work ethic and the strength to keep himself going.

Above: Albert Einstein (hometown Ulm, Germany): Albert Einstein was considered unusual or gifted, depending on whom you ask. However, his theories of General & Special Relativity were considered as “Jewish Propaganda” at the time. He eventually left before the NAZI Party overtook the country. His scientific theories were quite possibly the greatest advancement in the field of Physics since Isaac Newton four-hundred years prior. Image originally from Einstein.biz.

His humble beginnings didn’t just teach him to work for what he wanted. It taught him to be grateful for what he already had. Knowing very well that even in the worst situations, he could still have it worse. There’s things that matter in life, and there’s things that don’t. It’s our job to decide what we’re gonna consider as important or not. Sure fancy clothes, wing-tipped shoes, and Ferrari’s are amazing luxuries… but they’re just that. Luxuries. So long as we have food to eat, water to drink, clothes on our back, and the love of our family, we will ride out any storm and prevail through any hardships that may come our way. When you adopt this mentality, you ultimately become more risky. Why wouldn’t you? As long as your essential needs are met, everything is expendable and losing these luxuries become nothing but trivialities. The more risks one makes, the more likely one is going to pay off… big.

Above: Steve Jobs (family from Homs, Syria): One of the biggest success stories immigrants point to is Steve Jobs. While not being raised by his biological parents, his adopted parents were Second-Generation immigrants from Armenia. After dropping out of college, he and his partner Steve Wozniak built one of the largest and most successful technological companies in the world. Image originally from Apple.com.

Coming from little also teaches you that even when you don’t have anything… clothes, money, shoes, family, friends, anything… you still have “your word.” Your word, or assurance, is quite possibly the most valuable commodity anyone can have, second only to your time. So long as you can promise things and hold yourself accountable, you’ll never fail. It shows that you have integrity and that you value the time and resources of another person. It shows that you are willing to go the extra mile (or ten) to make sure something is working the way you promised it to. When you have the reputation of being a man/woman of your word, you become bulletproof. Nothing can stop you.

Above: Gary Vaynerchuk (hometown Modern day Minsk, Belarus): His family was able to escape from Soviet Russia because of a trade deal with the US: Wheat for Jews. After working at his father’s liquor store in Springfield, New Jersey for 30 years, he successfully built their online division to become the largest eCommerce wine business. Image originally from WineLibrary.com.

Looking at these traits, there seems to be a group of people who also share these traits. Those who lived during/fought in World War II. WWII happened right after the Great Depression. Needless to say, the money that was once available during the “Roaring 20’s” vanished, leaving an entire generation of people who were used to rolling in money… penniless. Those that survived the 1930’s were the ones who weren’t afraid of change. They didn’t need luxuries to live, and they were willing to do anything and everything it took to provide for their family. When the war came, these people already knew what needed to be done. Either they were gonna win, or they would never see their families again. The Great Depression & WWII shaped the foundation of what it meant to be a true Red-Blooded American. You either kept your promises, were grateful for what you had, and worked yourself to the bone, or you were dead.

That’s why people are scared of immigrants taking their jobs. They realize that the same internal flame that burned within their parents and grandparents, burns within these “foreigners.“ They’re so hungry that they’re willing to do the jobs no one wants to do, and they’re so humble that they’ll take whatever they can get and move forward with it. It’s the mentality that won WWII, and it’s the mentality that makes immigrants some of the most successful people on earth.