“This is going to be awesome! Let’s help these people out! I’m sure we can make a real impact here!” First day getting to know the NGO in Floripa and my mind was overexcited to get started. But being driven is good right? Well, in essence yeah, but I learned there are limits to it, and that’s when you start losing the fun.
My AISEC project over here was called SMART. Here you help a local NGO with their marketing, growing awareness about social or environmental issues in the area. Next to raising general awareness you could also create concrete campaigns to fundraise money or gather volunteers for example. I wanted to do it all. I have studied marketing and was bursting with ideas.
I worked together with an awesome Greek guy called Thanos, maybe the most crazy but also most relaxed and positive person I’ve met on my trip. Couldn’t have wished for better, really. We had many things in common and got along very well from the start.
We went to visit some poor communities and saw shocking living conditions from up close.
Flying into floripa here, giving you a good view over this wonderfully diverse island. Cool thing is that this island is also the capital of Santa Catarina.
We worked at an NGO who helped people in the poor communities with various social services. Never use the word “Favela” in Brazil by the way. It has a negative connotation and might get you into an annoying situation. Better use “community” or “comunidade”. The people we worked with were incredibly warm and welcoming, really engaging us in to local work they did.
We went to visit some poor communities and saw shocking living conditions from up close. A couple with three little kids living in a single “room” that was 3×3 meters, full of collected trash, rain leaking in from every part of the roof, missing windows, a humid stench hanging everywhere and some tapestries as beds. The crazy part is that they were even paying rent to stay there.
Great partner, great workplace with great cause, great ideas and heaps of motivation. This was going to be the best experience ever, nothing could go wrong. And actually, everything kicked-off well. We made a nice planning based combining the mission of the NGO and our skillsets, focusing on creating videos and website to reach out to new volunteers and potential partners. It was the perfect plan and was super excited to realize it.
This was going to be the best experience ever, nothing could go wrong.
Couple of weeks later into the project everything was going pretty smooth. We had filmed some nice scenes in the NGO and communities, made a couple of interviews, had started registration for google non-profits, wrote out the based content and plan for the site, setup application for a donation campaign, created visuals for an upcoming event and designed a new logo.
We had however also run into some delays, the NGO couldn’t provide papers to finish registration for google non-profits. They also had and old site that had been down for ages which they wanted to re-use. Communication with the company who provided hosting went incredibly slow however and we couldn’t get the credentials to start rebuilding the site.
I felt like we weren’t reaching our complete potential.
Marketing wasn’t all we did. It was always nice to lend a helping hand in daily activities with people from the communities. This also inspired us to do better.
With only a couple of weeks left, I was getting a little annoyed. I really wanted to finish the planning we made, it was so good after all. I started asking daily what the status was on the open items I underlined that we were running out of time. I also told my work mate that we really should press to get these things done. It’s typically Brazilian that things take a little longer, things are more relaxed, but this cultural aspect was getting to me. It’s not that I felt really shit the whole time, we still had lots of fun times in- and outside the project, but I felt like we weren’t reaching our complete potential.
Sitting behind my PC in the NGO on a sunny Tuesday, tweaking on some text for the site because I didn’t have anything else to do anymore, I felt really useless, I had lost my energy. I decided to take a break, sit outside and just reflect a little on the experience, after all it was nice and sunny Floripa day. From the moment I sat down and looked at the experience from a broader perspective I quickly realized that there was no reason to be annoyed. I was in sunny Brazil, on an awesome Island, working with great colleagues for a good cause, speaking Portuguese while having fun and inspiring people all around me. My drive and focus were slowly taking away the most important thing, the fun of it all.
I learned that fun and positive energy should almost never be put over reaching a certain goal. There are always exceptions, I’m not saying you should have a relaxing chat when lives are directly on the line but just listen to me here. Why would you race to finalize something while draining everyone’s energy and motivation? How well will that project grow further or be maintained if the road to it wasn’t fun or energizing? Would you love to put more time and energy into it when it has never given you any? I’ll leave that to you.
Fun and positive energy are quite contaminating, people pick up on it easily, but therefore you have to open up an show them how excited you are.
Nothing was more fun than being with good people and getting into local culture. Yes, caipirinhas are a very important part of local culture, and worth trying out alot.
Another mistake that I was making is that I wasn’t sharing my drive and inspiration enough. Fun and positive energy are actually quite contaminating, people pick up on it easily, but therefore you have to open up an show how excited you are. I was communicating to my work mate and the NGO coordinators in terms of functional goals. “We need the credentials to finish the website”, “We really need the papers to get registered for google non-profits”, etc. I didn’t really express my excitement for the project, I never inspired them WHY we should to this.
If you haven’t heard about the book “Start with why” yet, it’s an absolutely great read on the importance of WHY in setting goals and communicating your ideas. Check it out here.
Sitting outside there on that sunny Tuesday I decided two things. First, enjoy the simple moments more, I mean when was I going to have such an awesome experience again? Secondly, talk less about what should be done and more how awesome this experience has been already.
From there on every day was just simple joy. I felt more relaxed and found more fun again in being at the NGO. Joking way more with my work mate, taking more time to have a random chat with the people from the NGO. I relaxed into the Brazilian rhythm. We also found alternatives to the issues we had. These solutions didn’t involve input from the NGO but were still reaching our global goal. But that wasn’t the important thing. What was important is that I felt a good vibe again. Slowing down and enjoying my time actually gave me more energy. I was focused on the things that mattered and didn’t worry about stupid details.
I’ve learnt in Brazil that it’s not worth losing your positive energy for certain goals.
Its wasn’t the country that really did for me, but the people along the way that inspired me endlessly. Little polaroid here from a very fun, inspiring and intercultural night with great people.
Why would you ever lose the fun in your life? What’s the whole point of life anyway if you cannot feel some happy energy in it? I’m a big fan of having some bigger goals in life and striving for them, they will give long-term fulfillment in my opinion. But I’ve learnt in Brazil that it’s not worth losing your postive energy for them. Even further so, enjoying the moment and acting crazy from time to time makes you realize what goals you actually care for and gives you energy to go and chase them.