In the bustling streets of Medellin, Colombia, an unlikely pair finds themselves in an immersive experience, embracing discomfort and relishing the unpredictability of a foreign culture. Stepping out of their comfort zones, they encounter challenges that become catalysts for personal growth. Discover the power of embracing change in this heartwarming tale of an entrepreneur traveling with his new bestie.
Change is scary but can be scary good. The only way real positive change happens is when there’s the right amount of anxiety, openness, and readiness that combines with an ‘enabler’ to make ‘the miracle occur.’
Prior to meeting my life partner, I was an emotionally removed obnoxious senior executive. 25+ years professional career loaded with affluence, entitlement. And emotional bankruptcy.
Then a ripple in the universe. My ex-sister-in-law calls, “There’s a problem with my sister, ya gotta get Twinkles, quick!”
Given past encounters, the 2kg, 6-year old chihuahua and I had feelings of mutual indifference. Contrasting personalities. ‘Tirade Tom’ vs. ‘Timid Twinkles’ and no budging.
In some ways, we were mirror images. Ok on the outside, miserable on the inside. The lap dog had never been on a walk. I remembered ‘The Jerk’ scene where Steve Martin drags his new dog out the front door against its will. The impasse needs to be broken.
Uncomfortable, but that would be the plan. That day everything changed.
Collar on, I dragged her out the door only to be met with downward dog, matador pose. Got serious when the cobra pose emerges.
Sorry dog, you do not have a choice, it’s for your own good (and my good too). Was not too tough for a 200lb dude to yank a 4lb dog out the door. Reticent at first, she grew to love it. The risk was worth it. Her confidence grew, felt safe, somebody there to help.
Pass Test One: Grow Through Change. Get Uncomfortable
New besties need some real accomplishment, a real challenge to add
intangibles to the CV. Let’s shatter some prejudices, live on adrenaline and curiosity, embrace daily variability and surprises.
Discomfort enables growth.
Go someplace you were afraid to go, learn to accept, embrace the rules of an unfamiliar culture. Be subject to a high level of scrutiny.
A brutal yet effective way to elevate our game.
Did some research, talked to friends, we decided to relocate to Medellin, Colombia. A curious yet virtuous ‘Mission Impossible’ begins.
As we went through immigration at Jose Cordova Airport, Medellin they always check your body language, same too as you enter customs. Especially with a dog!
This ‘El Jefe de perrita paquena’ was shaking from top to tail. Twinkles looked at me: “Gotta Shake it Off, Shake it Off.”
Pass Test Two: Embrace Change. It’s Ok to be nervous. Look confident.
Quickly realized that persona must change. No more ‘Tirade Tom,’ must become ‘Tranquilo Tom.’ Relax, go with the flow. An opportunity for ‘Timid Twinkles’ to realize her true state. Evolve to ‘Twinkle, La Princesa.’
When facing the torrent of change, everybody needs a stress reliever, so you fall back to your comfort zone. I said, “Vamos Twinkles, ir a parque.” And there we would learn a lesson critical to our integration. Enjoying a bucolic walk, Colombianas asked, “Como se nombre de la perrita?”
I replied, “Twinkles,” which was met by thorough confusion. Then realized there is no ‘kulz’ sound in Spanish, thinking quickly told them her name is Twinkle, como se ‘brilla.’
Expressions on their faces priceless, then they started singing (in Spanish), “Twinkle, Twinkle little star.”
Pass Test Tres: Keep growing. Unleash joy.
We are feeling increasingly more comfortable in our unfamiliar environment, but never TOO comfortable. As our fellow foreign adventurer, Ted Lasso said,
“Taking on a challenge is a lot like riding a horse, if you’re too comfortable you’re not doing it right.”
We ventured to Comuna 13, Medellin, known as the poorest area in town. It’s believed that notorious narco dealer, Pablo Escobar, invested insane amounts of money to repair this broken barrio. Apparently, he took from the rich and gave to the poor.
Proceeded to a back alley that had a series of small store-front restaurants, take-out only. Quickly spotted a place where hot dogs were the featured item. They had a sign, “Chihuahuas, el mejor amigo del hombre. De venta aqui.”
“Well, Chihuahua are man’s best friend for sale here, Twinkle!” She gave me a nervous look of “Que?”
They’re a mini value price hot dog!
I perched the chihuahua on the counter right next to the sign. Despite Twinkle having no idea what was going on, she looked nervous. As I snapped a pic, La Gente, (the working class people) got the joke and were laughing their ‘colas’ off almost as if to say, “We like these gringos.”
Paseo Prueba Quatro: Be likeable, find commonality, be ‘La Gente.’
So much fun, so much fulfillment from ‘doing what you think you couldn’t do, doing things you aren’t supposed to do’ was beyond euphoric.
Now this Prueba Cinco, muy cumplicado. Buckle your seat belts. Vamos a ‘coffee country!’
Rented a car, we drove to Manizales, tip of the coffee country. Magic of Colombia is its diversity of landscape, diversity of people. Start climbing the Andes foothills, then follow a riverside road that eventually leads to the Amazon. Maps claimed 4 hours. Sounds great!
Total nightmare! Dodging oncoming buses, hairpin turns, saying prayer crossing crumbling bridges, waiting for 20 minutes for one-lane road construction. At one point I asked Twinkle, “Would you rather die via mudslide or falling into the river?”
After three years we needed a break. Had earned a visa, knew we could return at any time.
‘Mission Impossible’ accomplished. Physically, mentally, spiritually.
Paseo Prueba Cinco: Transformed duo. Unleash new life.
Tirade Tom, Timid Twinkles returned home replaced by Tranquilo Tom (more patient, empathetic) and Twinkle La Princesa (more confident, bold, became even sweeter).
I was reading Thomas Wolfe’s classico “You Can’t Go Home Again.” An expat adventure of a disillusioned person who took a chance, moved to a foreign country, had an immersive experience, and returned a changed, more enlightened person.
I looked at Twinkle, said, “That’s us, I saved your life, you saved mine.”
Meet Tom and Twinkles...
Hi, I'm Tom. Stanford and Duke grad with a successful 25-year professional career. Started in consulting, migrated to corporate business, and worked my way to executive level. After years of high-level presentations, workshops, and keynote speeches, I got depressed and lonely.
That’s when a 2kg miracle, my furry companion, changed my life. She led me to a fulfilling path, increasing my empathy, humility, and coaching skills. Together, we embraced new challenges, getting unleashed, and finding new joy in our lives.
If you enjoyed my story, then checkout my website. I've got even more content for you to enjoy! www.getting-unleashed.com
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