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when do we listen to the naysayers?

It’s been interesting to note the responses/reactions that come from friends and family when we tell them about our plans and hopes for 2010. I think the younger people (I’ll define as roughly age 30 and younger) react and the older people respond. The difference is probably less about age and more about personal maturity, but for the sake of easy identification I think of them as youngsters versus oldsters. Reacting in surprise versus responding with wisdom.

A few months ago we got a crazy idea to live someplace new for awhile. We’re not thinking long-term- and no we’re not going to move to a foreign country and start making babies for citizenship. We thought for a start that we would move to Europe for a year or two so Ali can get some international experience, and I can take a sabbatical without pressures to continue my own business to contribute to our financial health.

Our closest friends had more of a response than reaction to our news – they had the advantage of knowing about our plans for a big move and lifestyle change in the near future. Those we talk to on a regular basis are also privy to our personalities as they play out in real life situations. Closest friends said “of COURSE you’re going to move to Europe.”

Other friends, peers, acquaintances – the youngsters – often seem to have a mixture of surprise, complex confusion, and a slight jealousy about our decision. It’s a mixture of “no way! you can’t do that!” and “oh my gosh, you guys are going to have so much fun.” Often the youngsters are the ones who immediately demand to know logistics. How are we going to find work? When are we leaving? What about the photography business? What country do we prefer? What are we going to do with all our stuff? Youngsters are bemused.

I’ve been most fascinated with the response from the oldsters. More experienced people in our lives sort of sit back in their chairs and raise their eyebrows. As if the five year old sitting in front of them is earnestly wishing for something that’s probably inaccessible. And yet these oldsters know that sometimes five year olds are capable of doing much more than we expect, defying circumstance to somehow get to the cookie jar way up on the top of the refrigerator. I think the oldsters’ response is best summed up as amused.

Then there are the people in our lives whose first response is “You can’t do that. There are no jobs in Europe” or, “No one’s going to hire an American because it’s too expensive to get them over there.” I’m calling these people the naysayers, because they are completely convinced that it’s not a good idea for us to pursue this plan.

Up until now, I have waved aside the concerns of the naysayers. One of life’s major tendencies is that thinking negative will bring you down. I’ve experienced that firsthand in the past couple of years, and I’m now fighting hard to surround myself only with positive people. I love people who talk about what’s possible, and talk about ideas to make the impossible come about. I am bogged down and taken captive by people who are mean and small and judgmental and see only limits to their lives and to other people’s dreams.

The reason I am writing this post is that I have noticed that the naysayers sometimes come from places of experience. We know very few people who have real connections abroad, and not a lot of people who have experience in technology or start up companies in Europe. We’re making up this thing as we go along. So when the few people we connect with say it’s not really going to happen, I have to start to pause and ask — is what they say true?

(Who needs a brilliant analog circuit designer?)

I don’t know… I guess the question is this: when do you start to listen to the naysayers?