My competitive pool is much smaller in Chile.
Granted, this is perhaps directly correlated to the fact that Chile has a population of about 16,758,114, of which, about 85% is urban dwelling… i.e. the majority of them are crowding my space here in Santiago.
But I spent days wondering, how many of these 16+ million are in the same competition pool with me? I’m not going to say that I’m schooled in what the AVERAGE Chilean person, man and woman, aspires to because I’m sure it varies from person to person and social bracket to social bracket. All I can really base my assumptions on are family members, either close to me or not, as I observe what they accomplish in life and what they set as priorities.
Back home in CA I’m from a very, VERY competitive landscape. We’re talking Silicon Valley, Sand Hill Road: the venture capitalist mecca of the world, Stanford University, Nasa Ames Research Center, UC Berkeley and the San Francisco Financial District all within a good 60 miles from one another. And I lived (and grew up) right smack-dab in the middle of that. On top of that, I was also living in the DIRECT outskirts of one of the most expensive cities in the U.S., where, according to this year’s Forbes report, San Francisco comes in as the 4th most expensive city in the U.S., following NYC, LA and White Plains, NY.
It comes as no surprise (to me at least) that my high school graduating class consisted of sons and daughters of bank owners, hedge fund owners, partners of VC firms, notable investors, reputable doctors and lawyers, etc, etc, what have you. And that was the crowd that surrounded me in a PUBLIC school of the area… I can’t begin to imagine the company kept at the local private schools!
The competition I felt throughout my years in California was fierce. Seriously, something I wonder if many Chileans can understand. Right now, couples I know are purchasing homes that cost upwards of $2 million DOLLARS. Yeah. Couples that are between 31-35 purchasing homes or even ASPIRING to purchase homes in that price range. And even if we never dreamed of doing such things, we still have/had a pretty skewed view of what it meant to be successful. Ok, so MAYBE not a house worth millions of dollars but a two bedroom apartment/townhouse/flat that costs ALMOST $1 million. Trust me, this is NORMAL where I’m from because unfortunately that’s our reality. We either strive to make it or … we keep striving to make it (fortunately I don’t have friends who are quitters.) And I believe that we ALL went through a kind of crisis between the ages of 27-30 when we felt like we’d accomplished only a fraction of what we set out to accomplish and we held our heads in hands because we felt like we were ‘lagging behind’ when compared to our peers.
When I lived in CA I had decided that I didn’t need to live in Hillsborough or Marin County or even in San Francisco itself. Perhaps it was because I felt overwhelmed by the ridiculous competition and I knew that if I wanted to be in that race I had to keep on studying and add another degree to the arsenal. Unfortunately (or not) where I’m from, every other person has a Masters degree of some sort and it was quickly becoming a state of Bachelors = high school diploma. The only exception to this rule that I personally saw was with innovative people who created either a new service or a new technology (and in Silicon Valley, trust me there were many!) I didn’t find myself to be particularly creative – not in a core-shaking kind of way – and I certainly didn’t attend a top-tier university and the combination of both of those ‘setbacks’ made me feel that the ONLY way I could remain in the competitive game was to keep studying… but then again, choosing to study resulted in another set of suffocating avenues I had to weave through. Primarily, which school, what to study and PRAY TELL how would I pay for it!!??
But now I’m here in Chile … something that I hadn’t planned on years ago when I was mapping out the would-be actions I wanted to take to arrive at the life I wanted to have. In fact, during high school, college and as I entered the work force, all my decisions were based on living my life in the U.S., just as I had been for as long as I could remember. My frame of reference was that which I noted above and yes, I would adapt myself accordingly (perhaps in a fashion I now see as “settling” when compared to what my peers were setting out to accomplish) but my life would reflect SOME aspect of what was the “norm” around me. Said norm being where even over achievers fade into the background in the highly competitive environment.
All of the above brings me to this: I’m starting classes at a business school here in Santiago in April and I decided to focus on Marketing. Whereas in the States I would have probably chosen an MBA program due to the competition around me, here I feel that I already have an edge given that my undergrad degree is from a U.S. university so I decided to do something I was actually interested in. And so I sit back and think that all my prepping in an UBER competitive landscape in CA is going to serve me well here in Chile. I speak fluent English and Spanish, I work in a multi-national company where I manage an entire region, I have an undergrad degree from the U.S. and now I’m going to work hard for a Masters in Chile. I’m already wired to be an agro competitor, no holds bar, the “I-will-not-allow-you-to-be-better-than-me-without-a-fight” kind of mentality that I HAD TO HAVE growing up where I did. I don’t think it will be easy to charge ahead and become a leader of some sort here in Chile and I know I have a LOT of things to learn before I become one.
But I can say I do believe, 100%, that my competition pool here is much, much smaller than it was in the SF Bay Area. My mentality and focus hasn’t changed, my environment has … and it will be interesting to see what I accomplish and learn because of that.