A few days ago I watched the documentary “Crocodile in the Yangtze”.
It's a documentary told by Porter Erisman, former American VP of Alibaba in China and how he experienced the rise of Alibaba, China's biggest Internet success story.
Watching this documentary brought back a lot of memories of my time in China. Many great times. But also many bad times. It also brought back one of the biggest life lessons I learned back then. And this lesson is so present in my life that I tend to forget it quite often.
It's the exact same lesson why you're reading this post. But more on this later.
Back in 2013 when I started publishing my thoughts online I thought about quitting many times. No one was reading my stuff. I didn't even have a proper blog when I started. I had no clue about how to start a blog. It sounded too complicated.
So I posted everything on my Facebook profile. At one point I thought that it might be a good idea to host my content somewhere else to bring it to the next level. So I got in touch with all sorts of blogs and asked them if I could write for them.
Needless to say that all of them said no. Some said maybe but you need to write for free and only write about the stuff we want you to write about. That sounded a lot like slavery. So I said no.
Honestly speaking I thought about giving up many times.
Even though I sent them my best pieces, all of them said no. I was crushed. I thought I'm just not good enough. That I should go back into my cubicle and do the stuff I learned in college.
But at one point I had to think about what I learned and saw in China.
What I learned back then was the fuel that got me going. The fuel that kept me pushing. The fuel that pushed me to start my own blog. To build my own infrastructure. To stop waiting for others to let me write for them.
What I learned while I lived and tried doing business in China was that it's never going to be easy. That it's never the right time to start anything. That it will always be hard. That there will always be a place where the market is “more ready” or better suited.
In China, if there is no infrastructure for what you're doing or want to do in the future, hell then you're going to build that damn infrastructure yourself. That's what I learned back then.
So what did you do if you were a Chinese factory owner and there was no express delivery service? Hell, you just started your own express delivery service and didn't wait for one to magically appear. You build your own infrastructure.
You don't whine about Silicon Valley being a better place for it. Or that your country being too challenging and too hard. Or that the market wasn't ready yet. You just do the damn thing. No matter what.
Sure, it's going to be tough. It's always tough. And it's always impossible. Until it is. Until you're pulling it off. Until your factory and your express delivery service work like a charm.
Until you built a freaking conglomerate.
And that's exactly what Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba, did in China. He built a freaking conglomerate.
There was no infrastructure when he started Alibaba. There was no proper online payment system. So he just built one called Alipay. There was no proper B2C trading platform (except Ebay but they did the same thing they did in the US, which didn't work in China). So he built one called Taobao.
There was no nothing.
And that's the most important life lesson I learned in China.
If there is no infrastructure, if the market isn't ready, if no one wants to hire you, if no one wants you to write for their blog, you just build your own damn thing. You don't wait for others.
You create your own job. You start your own blog. You start your own business. It doesn't matter.
What matters though is to remember this one thing. The one thing Jack Ma told his partners and employees over and over again:
“Today is difficult. Tomorrow will be even more difficult. But the day after tomorrow will be beautiful. Most people die tomorrow evening..”