“In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.”
– Irish Proverb
My wife, Linda, and I have been in Grecia, Costa Rica now for three weeks.
We came here as kind of an experiment: The kids are off to college and beyond; the house has been sold in favor of a maintenance-free condo; and we both work independently and more or less remotely.
So, in an attempt to sidestep yet another Massachusetts February, we thought maybe a month in the sun would be a good idea.
My tan agrees; it’s been terrific for any number of reasons.
Perhaps most interesting, though, is how much we now know about living here compared to how little we understood just a few short weeks ago.
For example, we know …
… that there’s a bustling farmer’s market on the edge of town every Friday and Saturday (bring your own bags).
… that all humans (and a fair number of livestock) seem to be required by law to greet everyone they meet in the morning with a hearty “Buenos dias!” But, if you really want to be cool, just toss out a well-accented “Buenas.”
… that the kitchen and bathroom sinks aren’t supposed to have hot water. And that the way to control the temperature in the shower is by varying the amount of water pressure.
… that if you don’t want your computer keyboard destroyed by sticky ash from the nearby and recently active Poas Volcano, you had better keep it covered when not in use.
… that you should never ask a Costa Rican for help, directions, or any other type of assistance unless you really mean business, because they will not give up until they solve your problem.
And on and on. Some of the things we’ve learned relate to Costa Rica in general, others are specific to the town of Grecia.
So here’s my question for you: Am I a Costa Rican expert?
No. Not by a long shot.
I know next to nothing about the country’s politics, education system, or history.
I’ve never been to a futbol game; I’ve never driven a car; I don’t even recognize half the fruit they sell at the market.
And Spanish? Well, there’s not a precocious three-year-old native who couldn’t talk circles around me.
But, if you’ve never been to Costa Rica – let alone, Grecia, Costa Rica – I could drastically smooth your transition, save you a ton of missteps (not to mention cold showers), and guide you towards lots of great places to visit, eat and enjoy.
In your eyes, Mr. or Ms. Costa Rican Novice, I am well over the expert bar.
Do some people know more than I do? Sure.
But when you are looking for help, the question is not, “Who is the best of the best of the best?” It’s, “Who can help me solve my problem for a price that seems reasonable?”
Lots of professionals don’t see it that way.
They think they need to get better, learn more, gain additional experience, before they can work with clients, let alone think of themselves as expert.
I think that’s a mistake.
First, because the day will never arrive that a major news organization calls you up and says, “Congratulations, we’ve been watching you and have decided that as of today, you are entitled to think of yourself as an expert.”
It doesn’t work that way “out here.” There is nobody in charge; nobody deciding whose turn is next.
Second, because you are doing a disservice to yourself – not to mention the people who would benefit from your experience and perspective – by waiting for the day that you are finally “good enough.”
That day is already here.
The only thing missing is you … and your willingness to believe it.
I’ll be at the farmers’ market if you need me.
- Have you ever taken a cold shower in a foreign country? Send photos.
- Are you worried that people will accuse you of being a fraud? Don’t bother – they are too busy worrying about the same thing to notice you.
- You’re an expert – what do you think the third question should be? Please ask and then answer it, below!
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Another fantastic e-newsletter Michael!
1. Yes. But there are no pictures. (Your welcome)
2. Sometimes. But you are right and this newsletter was a great reminder.
3. “When are you coming home?” Massachusetts misses you! lol. Glad you are having a great time! Costa Rica is on our shortlist – now I know just the expert to call when we start planning.
2. I’m glad.
3. Another week (waiting for spring!).
What an adventure! So excited that you get to experience this.
Your articles are always well written. I love this one, too. Great point.
And I think this is almost always true: “But when you are looking for help, the question is not, “Who is the best of the best of the best?” It’s, “Who can help me solve my problem for a price that seems reasonable?” ”
Might not be true when the stakes are really high, like when you’re having a health crisis but, yeah, when you need some sort of service, it is definitely true. And having the service provider not be a jerk is probably way more important than their being the best of the best.
Thanks for your words of encouragement! Enjoy the rest of your trip!
Glad it hit the spot, Dawn. I totally agree on the likeability thing. I was on trip advisor yesterday and noticing how much the restaurant reviews are not about the food itself
You’ve reminded me of a concept I’ve heard a million times – but in a fresh, new and humorous way. This is SO timely for me, also. I always enjoy reading your newsletters. Enjoy the rest of your stay in Costa Rica!
I’m glad it was helpful, Tiiu!
I will forward to my husband, since he is always telling me the same thing! (then again, maybe I shouldn’t, because he will just give me one of those exasperated “I told you so” looks…)
What I want to know is — based on your experience, what are your plans for NEXT year?
Husbands, huh? We are so annoying.
And next year’s plan is more of the same, more or less!
I’m envying you and Linda skipping February. If course, if we all skipped February who would be left to clear the mountains of snow.
Anyway, for your questions, definitely #2.
Yes, I recommend this type of trip, Eric. As for snow, unlike leaves, at least if you wait long enough it cleans itself!
2. Hasn’t happened yet. Sometimes the opposite. They think I know more than I do which is the thing that really makes me nervous.
3. Question: How can I help?
Answer: listen 🙂
Love your #3. It’s so easy to forget that and just plow ahead talking about what we know.
So well put and just what I needed to read today! Answers…
1 – Not Yet!
2 – Never worried about being called a fraud, but always have a little bit of Imposter Syndrome…but, cool…not going to worry about it!
3 – How fast is the internet in Grecia?
Internet has been quite fast and stable. Not quite as many free wifi spots as back home when we are out and about, but we are in a relatively small town, so it’s to be expected. But I had plenty of zoom calls while here and it was as if I were sitting at my desk in Boston (other than the palm trees right outside the window!).
1 – Yes and with no lights either – in Club Med Cancun – no photos, thank goodness!!
2 – Not really, because I know that I only have to know just a bit more than my ICA
3 – When will you be hosting a live meet-up in Costa Rica? (Can’t really answer this one, but wouldn’t that be fun?!)
Thanks for your newsletters – I’m a lurker, but read every one and love how you tell a story that relates to business. I also love your sense of humour – so important in business!
3. I agree, a live meet up on the road would be great. There’s always the summer ice cream party in Westford, MA, I hope you can make it!
1. Yes – but no photos
2. No. -am straightforward with anyone about what I know and what I don’t but am willing to help them find what they need.
3. Today, National Employee Appreciation Day, how can I help those around me be proud of what they do know and recognize they know more than they think and can help our clients in many ways? Having an environment where they feel emotionally safe to reach out for training, answers to their questions, and not feel stagnant is certainly a great place to start.
I forwarded your newsletter to my friend whose family is all from Costa Rica. She was just a few days ago sharing the no hot water thing with me.
Have a safe trip.
Thanks Nikki! We are happy to trade the water temp for the air temp.
So….the Penguinos…? Recommended? or Stay away?? 🙂
Haha. No clue. I just took the picture. Seemed like something to avoid!
You were close on the penguins. It’s pinquino, with those two dots over the u that I don’t know how to make on my computer.
Thanks for the especially great issue. Though I keep hearing it, I still need to be reminded that knowing a little more than someone else is enough to start with. Great emphasis on being the right person to meet someone’s needs at this moment.
I’m glad it was helpful, Diane.
And thanks on the Spanish clarification. We were often confusing the Costa Ricans with our crappy pronunciation, to the point that even when the word was correct, they still didn’t know what we were getting at!
Your comments are quite good. A lot better than my girl friend who went to Costa Rica a few months ago. The thought area hit closer to home than I thought. Thanks for the kick.
Always happy to supply a kick!
Another amazing newsletter from the King Penguin of Newsletters – thanks for the reminders on not needing to strive to achieve ever greater expertise…
It helps that I am way taller than most penguins. They literally look up to me.
Yes I am not surprised 🙂 although they might just say, what an odd looking penguin, no flippers and just legs that go on forever and not look up at all
I don’t think of myself as an “expert” because the term conjures, for me, someone who is more focused on their expertise than on me, as a customer with a problem to solve. I prefer to hire a facilitator (how I describe myself- “family business facilitator”) whose attention is on using their talent and perspective to make it easier (facil) for me to succeed. But having done that many times, for my customers, when a newspaper asks me for comment, as an expert, I feel ready to serve.
This is a quality I look for in speakers I hire for the learning organization I run, or in a therapist, or car mechanic, or friend (I have no friends who are “expert” friends).
Good points all around, Ira!
1. I took cold showers in my home country growing up.
2. Not really but for some reason I have a hard time taking the first step.
3. How can I help you?
2. Maria – see if you can take some small first steps to get going.
1. Yes, a long time ago, before pictures became sharable via anything other than by hand or snail mail.
3. What they said; How can I help you?
1. So glad I came of age before all that!