"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." -- Mark Twain
It is Sunday morning and while sitting in my hometown "Piazza" started reflecting on my personal journey on two continents and the key foundation elements that started it all from such a simple unique location.
Coreno Ausonio, my hometown, is just south of Rome. It is a small quaint village of less than 1700 people. Its origin dates back to Roman times when they placed a mile marker in its current location. As a mountainous location at about 1000 feet above sea level, its stones were used by the Romans to build the famous Via Appia and larger cities such as Ercolana, Minturnae, and Pompeii. The origin of the current church you see in the Piazza photograph below dates back to the end of the year 300. For most of its history, the main source of income for the Coreno townspeople was the agricultural production of wine and olive oil. In fact, the name Coreno has its origins in Greek as the "Land of the Wine".
During World War II, Coreno Ausonio was in the middle of the Gustav Line set up by the Germans as a last attempt to defend Italy from the Allies. As civilians during this time period, my immediate family members experienced firsthand the horrors of war and on multiple occasions were placed in concentration camps in central Italy. Several of the difficult stories were recounted by my father in a diary that he started during the war at age 13 when the town was a major German battlefront location (due to its lookout ability to the sea and the valleys below).
In the 1950's, the region became a major industrial center in the production of Italian marble which was sold worldwide. With industrialization, agricultural activities have diminished. The older generations, including those of my family still make their own olive oil and wine while younger generations are moving away to the cities. The "Piazza", as it was in centuries past, is still the hub of the town activity for the remaining inhabitants. Every evening, for most of the year, you will find my father in the Piazza discussing the latest turn of events in Italian politics.
All the above traditions and history brought to mind my own personal journey from this small mountain town, initially to Switzerland, then to USA, and now back to Switzerland. From personal experience, here are the five key foundational elements to success:
- Believe in yourself - The first foundational element to success starts with what you believe and think about. Personally, have always been an "eternal optimist"-- believing that tomorrow will be a better day with new opportunities to explore and prosper from. Over time have learned that optimism can be detrimental to your success, if it is only daydreaming. Trial and error, lessons from life's mistakes, have evolved to a much greater focus on conscientious "realistic optimism". Even optimists need to understand and learn doses of reality that are part of everyday life. The key to success is heeding those life lessons and more importantly adjusting to a new direction when that door fails to open to the next opportunity in front of you. Incremental positive steps are what lead to a prosperous future. The overnight success story is pure myth that even if it happens, without a strong foundation, will not have substance to last.
- Always seek new knowledge - Curiosity is also an important foundation element to a successful future. Knowledge is power. This was the case in the past and with expanding connectivity, it will be even more important in the future. Knowing where to find the critical information and building a brand around that knowledge distinguishes careers. Start by broadly being curious about many subjects. Over time, fine tune the research to your passions and use the knowledge obtained to build your own personal and professional brand.
- Never limit yourself to your immediate surroundings - The world is getting smaller. Being born in a small town in the middle of a mountain (like me) does not mean that your options are limited. Quite the opposite, critical to your success is your ability to not limit yourself to your immediate surroundings. Opportunities may not exist where you are now, but if you search hard enough, nothing is impossible. The world is your stage. Act aggressively to find your role on it.
- It starts with a strong family foundation - Your immediate family is also a key foundation element to a successful future. On one level, they can be your personal confidant when trying to make that big decision. On another, they can be a support group when times are challenging. Make the time to ensure you are engaged with your immediate and extended family members. They need you as much as you need them. Go out of your way to reach out to that uncle, your parents or grandparents. They will not only appreciate the thought, but will also in return remind you that you are not alone.
- It is not where you start, it is where you finish that makes the difference - Believing in yourself, seeking new knowledge, never limiting yourself to your surroundings, and creating a strong family bond are all foundation elements to your start. When you end up in life is totally under your control. Each of the initial four foundational elements are building blocks to your future. What you dream about, you have the power to become. Dedication, willingness to take measured risks, and adjusting from wrong turns in the road will help you on your journey.
Above lessons were brought home a few years ago when I discovered my father's World War II diary and started transcribing it for our family into a book. As written in the epilogue of the final version of the family book, "reading between the lines (of this diary), this is a great odyssey through some very tough events in our family history. For our entire family, and especially my children, I hope you enjoy this journey. Life can be tough at times for us all, but on any of those days when you feel a little down and are worried about what's in the moment, remember what your parents and grandparents experienced (in our case through World War II) and how they were able to survive and thrive in building a better future for us all."
Leverage the above five foundation elements to take your life journey to the next level. Visualize your destiny and work every day to exceed your own personal expectations. Turns out when you motivate yourself, you also create a lot of positive energy around you that will greatly enhance your personal and professional success.
Explore. Dream. Discover.
The "Piazza" in Coreno Ausonio, Italy