I’ve received tons of feedback on my recent piece where I criticized America. While most of the public comments were supportive of my viewpoint, some of the emails I received were very critical. “If everyone wants to come here, then it must be an amazing country,” pretty much summarized the general argument.
There’s certainly some truth to it. While America is far from perfect, you can’t compare it to some Latin America shit hole like Honduras or some piss-poor Eastern European country that’s on the verge of collapse like my ex-homeland of Ukraine. America is still America. It’s still the richest country on the planet, a place where great innovation happens and great world-class companies are built (e.g., Microsoft, Apple, Google, Uber, etc). Regardless of what the haters are saying, it’s a place where an honest man can still build an honest living to a certain degree.
As a first generation immigrant, I’m eternally grateful to this country for accepting me with open arms while my home country (Soviet Union) was burning down and shattering into pieces. I know for a fact that I certainly wouldn’t have had the same opportunities had I stayed behind. Even with all problems and issues—and which country doesn’t have problems and issues?—it’s hard to think of another country that offers so many opportunities—regardless of your background, nationality, religious beliefs or race. This is something America got right early on and continues to this day. It’s meritocracy at its finest.
Thus, we are faced with a dilemma. On the one hand, you have this great and accepting country, a country where you will be never imprisoned for your political or religious views and opinions, a country where you can build the greatest business in the world, a country where you can essentially become rich from nothing—and not have heavyset guys in black leather jackets knock down your door and demand “protection.”
On the other hand, America is far from perfect for the reasons already stated. It’s a place that many would describe as “too capitalistic” and without the human touch that’s present in many other less developed countries around the world. Everything is meant to be bought and sold. Not to mention the thick level of political correctness that permeates all facets of culture and that leads to victim mentality and entitlement.
So, how, then, can you take advantage of everything America has to offer while still remaining sane as a man?
America’s wealth is no accident. American companies are able to grow fast and generate massive wealth for two main reasons: they have access to massive financial (capital) markets and they’re able to lure top talent from not only all over America, but also from all over the world. Not only are these people interesting in working for the next hot shot company, but they’re also willing to work long hours for each company in exchange for claims on future wealth (e.g., stock options).
America’s big cities like San Francisco and New York are well known for their wealth and innovation because they represent the perfect environment where wealth can be built.
That’s why it’s much easier to build a fast-growing company in San Francisco or New York than, say, Naples, Italy or Rosario, Argentina. The former two don’t have the deep capital nor the highly skilled labor pool, the two things that are necessary for building anything great.
America excels at marketing. Everything in America is a brand. There’s a good reason why the greatest brands in the world are American. There’s a good reason why the biggest personal blogs (and brands) are American. There’s a good reason why the rest of the world is always playing catchup to American branding and marketing innovations. (From my travels around the world, I can affirm that the rest of the world is woefully behind America when it comes to branding and marketing.) Let’s also not forget the biggest brand of it all: America and the American dream.
America is a business
America is not a country—it’s a business. It’s a place you come to monetize anything and everything, including things that are off limits in other cultures, like emotions and feelings. You can piss someone off and make money from the publicity and the corresponding ad-revenue. (That’s unique to America and select few other countries; in the much of the world, you can’t do that without serious consequences.)
The positive things about America such as the openness and money-making abilities are second to none. In a way, America is a huge shopping mall where everything is for sale. I’m not just talking about securely ordering everything online and having it at your door one or two days later (buying stuff on Amazon is the very first thing I do when I return to New York), pretty much anything is for sale.
And there’s the elegant solution to our dilemma: leverage America for what it’s best at, namely the hustling mentality and the skills to essentially make money from nothing, and then use those skills anywhere in the world.
The skills to pay the bills
Many people inherently understand this very well. When I lived in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, I met a cool Brazilian guy. At least I was told he was a Brazilian guy, because he looked, talked and acted 100% American. After spending some time talking to him, I realized that he actually grew up in the States, went to school, worked, and then at a ripe-old age of 27 returned to his homeland. After spending a year bouncing around Rio, he moved to a resort town and opened a cafe. He has no plans to return to America.
Another friend of mine whom I’ve known when I lived in Bogota, Colombia recently moved to New York and got a job at one of the big banks. He enjoys the hustle, the money and the chance to network with the best and the brightest. He’s also a huge fan of New York City with its myriad of restaurants, bars, lounges, plays, broadway shows, and tons of other entertainment venues.
But he’s also burned out from working 10-12 hour days and even some weekends without any overpay. He misses the old school life. He misses his laid-back lifestyle in Colombia. He misses the sweet and feminine Colombian women. So his plan is to spend a couple of years working, gain experience, make money, building a network and then “retire.” He wants to go back to Colombia and start something there.
This reflects my own experience as well. I spent around a decade—most of my twenties—working in Silicon Valley for all kinds of companies. In the process, I built a wealth of knowledge of experience as well as a great network that I can leverage from anywhere in the world.
After many years of working, I got burned out and bought a one-way ticket to Brazil. That was ten years ago. Ever since then, I’ve been traveling around the world and leveraging the knowledge and experience that I accumulated while living in the States.
I have very little desire to repatriate. Yes, the grass is really greener on the other side.
No soul-searching allowed
One of the worst things you can do is come to America to do soul-searching. Don’t fall into the trap. Because if you choose to do, you will certainly be sold something, something that you think you want, but most likely don’t. What will happen is that your hopes, dreams and aspirations will be monetized, leaving you frustrated and disappointed. It will sting. Hard.
You must come to America with a plan. Come to America with a strategy. Come to America if you want to conquer the world or at least a small market. For instance, although San Francisco isn’t my first choice of a place to reside (I actually hate the city with a deep, burning passion), I can certainly see myself living there if I actually want to build a technology company from the ground up. (Of course, I would bring my beautiful and feminine Eastern European or Latin wife with me).
Come to America and work for its biggest and fastest-growing firms. Learn how companies (startups) grow from virtually nothing to huge worldwide brands (e.g., Google, Uber, AirBnB, etc.). Learn how the vast and intricate financial system works. Form connections and network with all kinds of ambitious and bright people.
But if you don’t have a plan, there’s really no reason to live in world’s most politically-correct country that censors free speech—there are plenty of other great alternatives that offer a much higher quality of life at a tiny fraction of the cost. There’s little reason to live in super overpriced cities like San Francisco and New York when you could live for a fraction of the price and have ten times the fun in places like Medellin, Colombia; Bali, Indonesia; and Chiang Mai, Thailand (and countless of other amazing cities).
That means even if you make as little as a $1000/month, you can live very comfortably in 95% of the world outside the West. And the best part is that you no longer need what dog-eat-dog politically-correct super capitalistic cities such as New York and San Francisco have to offer. You don’t need America. You’ve already figured out the money-making game. You’re ahead of the curve.
Think of America as training for the real world. You come, you learn, you train, you pay your dues, you make your money (get your cut), and then you get the fuck out before you lose your sanity.
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James Maverick used to work in a cubicle as a code monkey in Silicon Valley. Then, in 2007, he quit his job and a one-way ticket to Brazil. Ever since, he continued to travel, visiting over 85 countries and living in more than a dozen of them. He loved his location-independent lifestyle and has no plans to live in America.