Who are you when no one is watching? That’s what Bernardo Martinez will help you uncover with host Gary Schoeniger in this episode. Bernardo is the founder of Grow-Farms, a Mexico City-based startup designed to enable small and medium-sized farmers throughout Latin America to access global markets. Throughout the conversation, Bernardo makes it clear that mindset is essential to having your venture impact the world. From early childhood experiences to the value of finding your purpose, this is a fantastic conversation for anyone wanting to learn about the power of entrepreneurial thinking.
In the episode, Bernardo and Gary reference a few impactful books and documents. You can find those at the links below:
Ego is the Enemy—https://amzn.to/3RitqaR
Start With Why—https://amzn.to/3AnYIGd
The Road Less Traveled—https://amzn.to/3PMJvEs
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Read the transcript below.
Who Are You When No One Is Watching? With Bernardo Martinez
Bernardo, welcome to the show.
I’m delighted to be here, my friend, Gary. I’m excited to share many ideas I had in my mind to express and give the best of me to share with people.
Even if you are saying that, I feel like entrepreneurs are such a rich resource and are willing to share their knowledge and experience with other people. We don’t take advantage of that resource, and that’s part of what this show is all about. Thank you, Bernardo. I’m super excited to get to know you and learn a little bit more about your startup. You are in Mexico City. Do I have that right?
That’s correct. I’m in Mexico City, and it’s great. We share the same vision, and this is a great opportunity to share. Let’s give it a shot.
How did you become an entrepreneur? Do you feel like you jumped in the pool? Did you get pushed into the pool? Did you wade in the pool? Did you fall backwards into the pool? What influenced you in your life that set you on this path?
I will like to title this conversation as, “Who are you when no one is watching?” This is our main idea. We are the main character in our own movie. This will guide us to be authentic, to resign ourselves, and act accordingly. I will give you a small story. I was about to cancel this show. That was my 1st and 2nd thought, “No, I don’t. This is the moment to share what happened and represent completely who you are and what in real life is happening. You can share that as resilience as an entrepreneur.”
I woke up at 6:30 AM. I had a meeting with China. It was a tough and interesting meeting. By 7:00 AM, I had some bad news in my gas station. It is one of business. We got these problems in the gas pumps, and was a mess with our gas station. It can be stressful during the morning trying to find some technical guys and some suited to the machines. We all in our life have these obstacles.
By 9:30 AM, I have a call from Manny, an investor who is pissed off. He wants his money. Our agreement was HGC. He wants to move forward. He’s asking for some guarantee for me to pay him. He’s asking for $1 million. It has been tough. Besides getting stressed and my head blocked, I look at these problems as obstacles. I’m happy to share them because we, as entrepreneurs, are not afraid of the truth. We come from the truth, and we leaped to the situation. We focus on the solutions and not on the problems.
You are forced to face the truth.
That’s how we are made as human beings. I decided, “Why not take the show even though I’m going through stress or some situation and have a situation which I have to figure out now? It is what it is.” It happens to me, and it happens to everyone but not everyone shares the situation. As soon as I finish this show, I will go back. I will try to figure out this situation in the gas station. I will figure out this investor situation. I will calm him down. We will talk through it. I will figure out something. It’s as simple as that.
I have this call with this investor who is pissed off, and here I am, a few minutes later, talking and having some fun with you. We need to define exactly who you are when no one is watching and when you are with someone. I’m 100% focused on Gary, 100% on the business, and 20% investors. We need to define who we are in each situation and be ourselves. Don’t lose your mind.
Bernardo, you discover who you are. You have this compelling goal and are put through this crucible to get there. I define entrepreneurship as an opportunity discovery process. You are trying to figure out how to create value for others. You are trying to find this thing. In the opportunity discovery process, self-discovery happens. I appreciate your willingness to share that. That is what this show is all about. The good, the bad, and the ugly.
Going back to your initial question, Gary, “When did I find myself, and how did I begin as an entrepreneur?” As you mentioned, we always start with why. This is why it can be introduced to find it with purpose. Once you define a purpose, you can focus on one goal or reason, walking through that way. It doesn’t matter if you do what you love or don’t like, if you exercise for a living, work for a living, or clean garbage for a living. It doesn’t matter. We don’t focus on that. We focused on one purpose. We do anything that we need to do to get to that point.
Doing some introspection myself, I found a common denominator in all of my speaking or interviews. You have always been my brother. I have found a purpose through a situation in my life where I grew up with a brother with autism, and I have lived. He teaches me to think about others before me. To put someone in front of me as a parallel of purpose when I think about my projects, my objectives or even vacations. If I want to do something, I must always think of someone else. What will happen to him or how can I benefit this guy on my right?
Are you saying that you grew up with a brother who’s autistic, and that taught you how to have empathy? Is that what you are saying?
That’s correct. It’s not empathy. It is to think about the benefit of others the moment you act. This is Napoleon Hill’s philosophy. You always act for the benefit of others, and as a reflection and a secondary effect, you will get also.
I have been saying this for decades. That’s the essence of entrepreneurship. You are going to get what you want by helping other people get what they want. People don’t get that, and we blind ourselves to opportunity because we are going through life trying to get our own needs met. I don’t want to pretend to be a moral judgment or whatever. I’m as guilty of that as anyone but you nailed it. I found this quote from Seneca, who wrote this essay on leisure in 62 AD.
He said something to the effect, “It is the duty of a man to make himself useful to his fellow man as useful as possible to as many as possible.” By doing so, he advances the welfare of mankind. I love what you said. Let me unpack that. How did you get to that through your relationship with your brother who had autism or has autism?
My brother did not open my eyes. I lived through it but until someone else that you admire or some book gives you the lesson, it opens your mind, and you realize, “This is how this works.” If you are not living is through it like working for him or keeping this guy safe when he was a kid or being a good big brother or being emphatic with him, etc. When I came by this book that many or everyone would know, Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich. He has this phrase that has become my mantra. This is my daily mantra. I read this every morning in my life.
It’s divided into 6 fragments and 6-paragraph and he says, “I will live accordingly to benefit others. There will be no benefits to me if I don’t work for the benefit of others. People will believe in me because I believe in them.” There’s this cycle of benefits that he proposed and calls the success formula. All these beliefs have been written before. It’s only for us to adapt, understand and believe them to act accordingly.
For these reasons, my enterprise. I have this new startup called Grow-Farms, which works with the mission to give the facilities and impose. These small and medium size companies in the agro sector in LATAM to make them export, get big profits and get to know new customers around the world. I have this focus on this certain market. I have obtained the attraction and the attention of different venture capitals or investors. Why? It’s because we have this mission. We have a specific mission to help others, and that’s why people believe in us. That’s why we believe in them because we think alike. We live in helping others. This is funny because it makes complete sense.
It’s the Law of Nature. It’s a natural law. It’s not something that’s enforced or whatever. It happens naturally. I want to back up for one second, Bernardo. What you are trying to do is help small and medium farmers in Latin America introduce their products to a global market. Do I have that right?
Let me go back to that document. Is that from Napoleon Hill’s book? Can you share that with us or can you share it with me?
I will share it with you. It’s written in Napoleon Hill’s book as the success formula.
Is that what got you on the entrepreneurial path? Did you have entrepreneurial parents? Did you have any other influence or was that it?
We spoke about purpose. I find my purpose for many other guys or people who cannot define their purpose as children, wife, dogs, or business as it is. You have to define your purpose. You move forward accordingly. You make me believe in myself to begin as an entrepreneur, to create, not be afraid to make mistakes and to move forward and push forward.
I believe that he was listening to other people believing in himself. There is this mistake, which you’ve mentioned around the world. In Mexico or LATAM, it is very well mentioned, which is a cliché. In Mexico, we say, “Don’t bother what people think about you.” In the United States, this phrase is often mentioned. Don’t worry about what they say about you. Don’t bother with what they are criticizing about you or your business. They think completely contrary about this cliché. I do think and believe that it’s very important that people think good about you because, in the beginning, the influence, comments, and beliefs from others are the ones who make you believe in yourself. When I was twelve years old, I got my first car.
You did what? Did you buy your first car?
I got my first car. At twelve years old, I went to my father’s office and stole a car. That’s it. I got my first car.
You stole it.
It was a 1980 Volkswagen. Do you know these small cars which looked like beetle?
When my father got to know that I got a car from his office and I was driving around, I went to my house, etc. He told me, “It doesn’t surprise me. Someday, you will have it. You have the capacity to do this and more to drive when you are young, to do some sport, to be athletic, to be a football player or whatever you want.” Besides getting mad, pissed off and, “How is it possible that you took this car,” he believed in me.” He believed in my capacity. These are some messages he introduced as stigmas in my brain that he believed in my capacities.
When I was eighteen years old, there was this program in the university, in the Tecnológico de Monterrey, which is called Play. It’s an international leadership program where you have the opportunity to represent 1 company and travel around 1 continent for 60 days. We are talking about Europe, Asia or South America and getting to know many companies and people and try to buy or sell or whatever you want to do with this company you represent with the help of the university. The university takes care of the hotels, planes, and meetings. We will pretend to experiment with these international business experiences.
Let me make sure I understand you. Was it your first year at Tecnológico de Monterrey?
Are you representing a company, did you say?
That’s purpose. Yes, you have to represent one company.
What is it you are trying to do? You represent XYZ Corporation, and what do they want you to derive from the travel experience?
In 60 days, you have to make some market research. You have to sell, buy or do whatever they want you to do as if you were an international employee for them.
You are representing this company. You are out on a discovery mission.
Getting into this program is tough because everybody wants to be in this program but they only select 25 students.
Out of hundreds of thousands. There are 120,000 students at Tec.
That’s correct. Everyone wants to be over there. I was selected to be one of these students.
Why were you selected? Is it for your grades? For what reason?
It’s because of insistence. I insisted too much, and the story will begin here. Two days before we traveled to South America, I was rejected from the program because of my grades. They thought, “Bernardo, you are not allowed to travel with us because of your low grades.” It what’s a huge impact on me because it was Thursday afternoon, and we were supposed to fly on Friday morning. At that present moment, things happen in the morning. I decided, “If you are not going to take me, I will go myself. I will take myself to South America.” They told me, “How is that possible?” “I don’t know but I’m going to make it possible.”
I came back to my house and asked my two sisters and my mom to sit at the round table and say, “You are going to quote the hotel from this country to this country.” I told my other sister, “Viviana, you are going to quote the airplanes from this country to this country. Barbara, you want to quote this and this.” I bought the trip in an hour, probably. At the same moment, I was designing a new plan for the company that gave me the sponsorship which I was going to represent. On that same afternoon, I asked for an extraordinary meeting, which I called over the board of directors, and they can buy and propose. It was like an X5 mission.
The target was to get ten meetings. Let’s call it that way. I’m going to bring 50 meetings. “I’m going to work all day long to meet everyone I can and do whatever is possible for you, guys. Now, you must pay me outside my university to do this job.” Long story short, they approved. They confirmed and sent me for 77 days to South America. I traveled around South America in 8 countries and 15 cities all by myself when I was eighteen years old. That was my first experience as an entrepreneur or employee because I had never become an employee. That was my only two months as an employee.
Were you 18 or 19 years old at the time?
I turned nineteen on that trip.
The school rejected you 24 hours or 48 hours before you are about to embark on this journey. You had already been connected with a corporation, and the mission was already clear and laid out. You went to the corporation and said, “I’m going to do this on my own, outside of the Tec program but you are going to have to pay me directly for it,” and they agreed to it.
Also, an extra amount. “Now, it’s going to be 40% more expensive but if you believe in me, I will do this. These are my objectives. For all my objectives or targets, I multiply by five, and this is what I’m going to do. Go forward, and I will travel tomorrow morning or Saturday or Sunday,” and they agreed. What I’m talking about is the mindset. It’s not what they asked you. It’s the mindset. I believe in myself, so I wasn’t afraid to share these beliefs with someone else. This tiny gap is the difference. I called it the two-minute shame. I am not ashamed of asking for this. I’m not ashamed of trying to solve these problems. I’m not ashamed of picking up the phone and asking for this favor.
That’s so powerful. People don’t get it. I think about this and talk about it all the time. There are all kinds of barriers out there but most of the barriers are in our own minds and they are barriers that we don’t even realize we have. There’s another component to this that I want to tease out real quick. Sometimes I’ve done stuff like that, yet I’m not confident. I’m scared. I’m half thinking it’s not going to work but I do it anyway because a lot of the time, it does work.
It’s pushed forward. We believe in pushing forward.
You try lots of little things, and sometimes it doesn’t work. Sometimes you get rejected. Sometimes people tell you no. That rejection in our brain is so potent that the thought of it prevents us from even trying. In psychology, there’s a concept it’s called the affect heuristic. We contemplate this negative outcome, and it instantly stops any further thought of that particular action. We don’t go forward and think about, “What if this company tells me no? What do I have to lose? Nothing. I’m going to be embarrassed for 30 seconds. Who cares?”
I love this subject because sometimes it’s called the ego. “Egos are our worst enemy,” as Ryan Holiday would say, and we have to understand this. Once we take ego outside of this, we take our jobs judgmental. It’s a phrase that we say. When you say, “I’m like this because I’m always afraid. It’s because I don’t like many foods or I don’t want to lose it because I’m like this, and you can’t respect me as I am.” At the moment, you judge yourself, “I am like this,” you lose again. It’s because you are closed, not accepting new ideas, new opportunities or new mindset to come over you and to evolve.
There is so much to unpack there. Keep going.
When you remove the ego from you, you are accepting new ideas, new foods, new styles, new traditions, new cultures, and new mindsets to your body for you to keep evolving. What I want to show you are, I call it mind over body. When you are aware of the ego and the situation, you are now in control of your emotions and whatever comes to you.
The emotional tail stops wagging the rational dog.
What you have in your mind, you can control your reactions. Inside reaction, outside reaction, secondary effects, conversation, etc. now, you are in control. You have to think about these situations. I will give you an example. When I’m about to fight with the supplier, to discuss bad quality, etc. if I can control the situation, it means that I know what I’m going to tell this guy that, “This product you sent to me has a defect,” I know this guy is going to react in a certain way.
When I understand this reaction, now I’m in control because I know I can decide, “Should I say this or avoid saying this argument?” It’s called awareness completely. You have to remove your ego. You have control outside of your reaction, and now you are in control of your body’s reactions. You can control if you are mad. “Why are you mad? Shut up.” Talk to yourself. Calming down takes time. It’s simple as that. “It is because I feel hunger.” “No. It’s a feeling. It’s different. It’s mind over body. Let me show this feeling as we all understand that’s hunger.” I don’t know if I’m explaining myself.
I get it. I have a friend who’s a Special Forces Marine Corps, a sniper in Iraq and Afghanistan. When he was in the Special Forces training, he said he was shivering. He was cold so bad he couldn’t stop shivering. The instructor came over to him and said, “You can control that. You are focused on yourself, and that’s how you are going to get yourself killed.” It’s the same kind of mental thing. One question I also wanted to ask you, Bernardo. You mentioned Ryan Holiday. Is that the book Ego Is the Enemy? Do I have that right? Is that the book that you read?
That’s correct. I told you about ego, mind over body, etc. What I’m trying to tell, the main point of all this is that I want to get to one sure thing and a specific message. When you are in control of your body, it means you are in control of the chemicals that you can release into your brain. How can you use these chemicals in your favor? When you are going through a bad moment, an economical deficit, a good moment or you need a push, motivation, or to feel excited or you are going through depression, you can manipulate your brain to move forward.
We always move forward. I will give you a situation. A real example. Many years ago, I lost about $1 million in a business. I got this guy who manipulated my accountability. He took the money out. He stole another part, etc. I don’t judge him. It was my decision to take him in, which is my problem. I don’t judge others. Besides getting depressed and angered and motivating myself to get out of this big obstacle or dark place, I decided to start introducing good chemicals to my brain like dopamine and endorphins. How? Through small achievements and small manipulation of your brain like exercising 1 kilometer, 5 kilometers or 10 kilometers a day. It’s endorphins.
Going through small obstacles, I need motivation and get a little bit of doses of dopamine going through triathlons, IRONMANs, marathons or whatever achievements may give me peace. When I lost this money, the first thing I did was I went out. With the small amount of money I had, I bought a bike. I can exercise and meditate on the bike. I can get some endorphins on the bike. With that 100% of work and the intention of riding the bike. That’s the purpose because I had a purpose. I’m concerned. I’m aware of the benefits that it can bring. I started manipulating my brain to move forward. That’s why I don’t fall. That’s why I have been economically broken but have never been emotionally broken.
That’s so powerful, and I can relate to it. I swim 2 or 3 days a week. I get on an elliptical trainer once or twice a week but I recognize it for the same reasons. There are many days I go to the pool and don’t feel like it but when I come out of the pool, I realize I’m completely re-energized. I never come out of that feeling down or defeated. I always come out feeling energized and optimistic but never heard it framed the way you did. You are manipulating the chemical reaction in your brain. You are 100% correct.
It’s mind over body. My mind is more powerful than my body, and my body needs energy. How can I manipulate it to get some energy? It can either be chocolate for a moment but you know that chocolate will have a drop. It’s a concern also.
That sugar and those churros look really good now, but I know that it’s 3:00 in the afternoon, and if I do that, my energy is going to crash.
It’s to be aware and accepting of the truth. “I feel down.” Why? “I feel down because I broke up, I lost money or I’m not selling this product I want to sell.” I will teach you how. Let’s give my body some energy and endorphins. What can I do? Manipulate it. Those are the strategies I use myself to keep moving and pushing forward. That’s what I want to share with you and be specific because it works.
I’ve said this on this show before. Hopefully, the readers will forgive me. What you are talking about is so powerful. I want to bring out this idea that I heard from Warren Buffett. You are demonstrating this concept that I see over and over in entrepreneurs. Here’s the way that Buffett put it, “You got a guy over here with a 400-horsepower engine but he only knows how to get 100 horsepower out of the engine. You got a guy over here who’s got a 200-horsepower engine but he knows how to get all 200-horsepower out of that engine. He’s better off than the guy with the 400-horsepower engine.”
I see what you are demonstrating although I don’t often see it articulated as well as you did, there is some mindfulness to entrepreneurs. They are constantly thinking about how to optimize themselves. That’s an underlying theme, and I have some ideas about why that is and around this concept of our perceived locus of control. Those are deeply-held unconscious beliefs about, “Who’s in charge? Am I as am I in control of my destiny, fate, luck or circumstances?”
It’s interesting to me because someone will tell you they believe they are in charge of their own lives but when you observe their behavior, you can see the disparity. You can see that they don’t believe that because they go home from their jobs or whatever, and they don’t engage in activities that align with that.
Representing all entrepreneurs, we are not controlling our bodies. We do not allow ourselves to get controlled by situations. We manipulate and control the situation as we don’t believe in the system. We create our own systems, and that’s the best way to manipulate or create the system. How? We often judge or go against or disrupt the system very commonly. You don’t feel comfortable with a group of friends or with a university system or XYZ. Why? It’s because we don’t judge it. We always see opportunities. We have another way of seeing things or criteria where we define them. There’s a better way to do this. A simple way to do this.
That’s why we always have this friction with systems and people. We grew up with people and tried it. Is that common? I think whoever’s reading this will identify themselves. We always have friction when we enter a group of people where they see it because we always see a different way of doing things and who goes against the system.
I’ve heard this described in the stages of adult development that most people get stuck in. It’s the third stage of adult development, which is the socialized mindset which essentially, our priority is to fit in and follow along. The next level, the fourth stage of adult development, is what has been described as the self-authoring mindset, where you decide, “I’m going to do something that you want to do, and I’m less concerned with what other people think.” It is a switch.
I want to come back to something that I want to draw out of your story that’s very common and easy for people to overlook. You are obviously a bright young man but what distinguishes the entrepreneur from the non-entrepreneur is a compelling goal. You started this conversation talking about a vision, about something you are shooting, aiming or striving for. Most people lack that.
Most people get a job and try to climb the organizational ladder or whatever but they don’t have that purpose-driven component in their life. I don’t want to get into all the psychological studies around this but when you are striving to achieve a compelling goal, your brain gets access to problem-solving abilities that aren’t otherwise available to you. What I’m saying is that your goal is acting on you. It’s drawing out of you.
Start With Why is a book by Simon Sinek. That’s a good teacher. He is one of my top gurus of beliefs. We have to define a purpose. Now, we have to be in control of ourselves and understand the situations. In the second layer, let’s call it, “We are not afraid of the truth,” because not everything is good or white or beautiful. When you are going to lose friends, you are going to be rejected from social circles. You are going to be rejected by investors, by companies or by clients, and it’s going to happen. It’s part of the road.
Going through the subject of problems, mistakes or losses, there’s this beautiful phrase I heard. I listened to it, which said, “Sometimes when you are in a dark place, you think you have been buried but you have been planted.” This phrase makes complete sense to me. I love this phrase. I’m going to adapt this phrase because I believe everyone has been through a dark side or a difficult moment but you have to understand that it’s only part of the road we are taking. When I got into this situation, I read a book called Unbreakable by Daniel Habif. Let’s say you go ten years for work, and what does Bernardo tells Bernardo from that present? The most common phrase he said for you, me, and everyone, and the focus on this is, “Everything is going to be okay.”
Breaking that down back to psychology, resilience is the term psychologists use but the source of resilience comes from what psychologists call our explanatory style, whether it’s optimistic or pessimistic. This is mindset stuff but the story we tell ourselves has an enormous impact on our lives or our ability to forge ahead in the face of adversity. On our ability to get up after we got knocked down. It goes well beyond that. Optimism versus pessimism influences our immune system.
People who are optimistic have lower cancer rates and cardiovascular disease. What’s interesting is that you could learn how to be optimistic. There is a hereditary component. Some people are born more pessimistic or optimistic than others but here again, the compelling nature of the goal that you are pursuing helps to foster optimistic thinking.
My guru on optimism is Robin Sharma. He introduced himself as, “I’m not optimistic. Now, let’s begin to talk.” He has a great mindset. He always tells us to be careful of how we talk to ourselves, as you had mentioned, Gary.
There’s a Buddhist thing, and I don’t know how old it is. It says something like this. “Your own thoughts on guarded will harm you more than your worst enemy but once mastered, they can help you even more than your mother and your father.” That’s the same concept but it’s back to mindset. I talked to one entrepreneur on my show, and he used the term belief management. I love that.
You have to manage your beliefs, and that’s what you are talking about. Being aware of them and being aware of the impact is unbelievable. Do you know what’s so cool about this stuff to me, Bernardo? We are almost an hour into this conversation and haven’t even talked about your business yet.
We are talking about mindset and beliefs. It’s our human nature. We are trying to understand our human nature. The problem is that we are being taught by schools, universities, our parents, and cultures how we have to think. That is one of the things I wanted to discuss with you. We are the creators of our own beliefs. We have to be the creators of our beliefs.
I want to be optimistic. “I am an optimist.” Can we look forward? We have been limited in our beliefs. Why don’t we allow ourselves to imagine extraordinary things? Let’s imagine extraordinary things, and I see myself, Bernardo, as a billionaire because I have this project who had the purpose to impose a massive amount of companies or farmers in LATAM. We have started doing it and have a huge impact and recognition from embassies, chambers of commerce, and farmers themselves.
We are trying to share a formula that is not written or designed by us. It was written many years ago. When you start to adopt it, that’s great but for this, we have to release all the beliefs that people introduced to us and be the creators of our own beliefs. I will give you an example that I love to share always. When you ask someone, “Who is the person you most admire in your life?” the most common answer is my father because he worked for me. He taught me. He kept a line for me.
It makes sense but when you are unconscious of it, you have to spread your ideas. “What I most look about my father is I thank his love or his effort to give me whatever I needed to live and survive. I like how he works,” and that’s it. Stop because there are many peoples outside who are better than you and your father. That’s for sure. At this moment, when you can separate someone you like as my father and you only take the good thing out of him, start building and bringing into your mind different beliefs from different people and make them your own beliefs, now, my friend, you are in control of the situation.
You are not self-limiting. You are not constraining your vision for what could be.
At that moment, you are thinking bigger because if you have this lifestyle and these beliefs, then you are thinking bigger than him. He wants to take whatever comes out of him and take the best out of different people to become the best version of himself. It is important. To do this, you must separate for a certain time out from social media or your circle of friends. You must move out of the city if necessary, study in a different country, or whatever you want to do. When you come back, you will see that the only thing that changes after 6 months or 1 year or 2 years between this time was you.
Building on what you are saying, it’s also helpful to get out of the influence of your family and the people that you are familiar with because those things influence you in these subtle yet powerful ways of which we are not aware. There was a great book written back in the ’80s called The Road Less Traveled by a psychiatrist named M Scott Peck. I read this book five times.
What he said was that he talked about the importance of rejecting the worldview of your mom and dad, rejecting at wholesale so you can see the world through your own eyes. You can then adopt whatever beliefs back you want but that was an eye-opening thing. I want to come back to another comment you made. Here’s how I think about entrepreneurship. I look at this whole thing through the lens of humanism. This belief in ordinary people doing extraordinary things.
I see that human beings are no different from any other living thing and that we are all born with the capacity and the desire to become all that we can become. It’s the self-actualizing tendency. When I listened to your story, it reinforces this idea that we zoom out and forget for a minute about whatever business you are trying to do. We can come back to that in a minute but if you zoom out and listen to Bernardo’s story, what I hear is a human being trying to self-actualize. That’s all it is. You are trying to become all that you can become. There’s a concept that I’m enamored of called desirable difficulties, and that’s what your vision is. It is a desirable difficulty.
I have been trying to surround this conversation because it doesn’t matter what I am doing. The only important thing here is, “Why am I doing it? How am I doing it? How am I going through the bad moments and the good moment, and how is my mindset into it? The what if is not necessary. We can go through my business. We can go through what I’m doing and what are the good impact with what I’m doing. The more interesting, and it has been an hour of talking, discussing the why and the how of our mindsets and our purpose. We can be whatever we want because if this business doesn’t work, we will move forward. We will find another business with the same why and the same how.
Let’s go back to the chemistry in your brain. There is something that psychologist Martin Seligman calls The Hope Circuit. I won’t bore you with all the details but if The Hope Circuit in your brain is open and this has to do with 5-HT serotonin and those chemical process in the brain. You are going to find a way but if The Hope Circuit is closed, people can hand you solutions on a silver platter, and you won’t recognize them. This is all happening at an unconscious level in your brain. The researchers describe that they define hope as the belief that the future will be better than the present, coupled with the belief that I have the power to make it so.
We all have the capacity to do that. That’s why I don’t like the word entrepreneur. It’s in our instinct. It’s in our blood. We are all entrepreneurs. We all have the need. We all have the capacity to survive and create great. We have been limited in the values of our life and our beliefs. We all have these capacities but the problem is that we are in our comfort zone.
Let’s talk about that. You know who wrote about that, and you would never expect this but Karl Marx wrote about the benefits of being entrepreneurial. We are steeped in this dominant cultural paradigm that teaches us to think like employees. The underlying values there, the deeply-held mindset, beliefs, and assumptions, are such that we come to assume that someone else is going to teach us what we need to learn and do to be successful in life.
That assumption never comes to our conscious awareness, yet it’s influencing our decisions in a way that has an enormous impact on our life. If you think about this from almost the moment you set foot in school, and then there’s a little bit of a difference. You got an advantage. You went to Tecnológico de Monterrey, which is one of the most entrepreneurial universities in the world.
For most of us, the moment we set foot in school, we start to assume that someone else is going to tell us what we need to learn and do to be successful. What, when, how, and where to learn. The story that you told about the trip that got pulled out from Monterrey and you did it, in spite of. That was an entrepreneurial thing to do. That was a transitional moment. It’s like, “I’m not going to let somebody else tell me what I need to do to be successful.”
I have disbelief, which I always share with my girlfriend, my parents, and my family. I don’t believe in titles. When they say, “I don’t believe in titles,” it means I don’t believe that I am an engineer. I don’t believe in the title of boyfriend, marriage or husband, etc. Why? I don’t need to tell a woman or this woman which I respect, admire, and want to be with her that, “In order to respect you, I need to be your boyfriend instead, I respect and believe in you. I want to be with you. That’s why I will become your boyfriend.”
Let’s go back to the university. The purpose of me going to the university wasn’t to get a title. It is not to be an engineer and have my title, “I’m an engineer.” No. I went to university to learn how to think as an engineer. Second, I got a title, which I don’t know where it is because it doesn’t define me. It defines how I think as an engineer. Having a title doesn’t define anything. You don’t know what is in the pike of it. Did I explain myself?
Let me put that in slightly different terms. You went to school for the knowledge, not for the credential.
That’s a good way to say it, yes.
What I want to point out there is really important. It’s easily lost on people. That’s the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. People who are extrinsically motivated do things for a separable reward. They do it for money. They do it for prestige. They do it for a letter grade or the adulation of others. Whereas people are intrinsically motivated, they do things for a purpose. It’s like the task itself is the reward.
What the literature shows here is that people who are intrinsically motivated outperform people who are extrinsically motivated. My point is that our systems of education rely on extrinsic motivation, carrot, and stick, punishment, and reward that undermine your intrinsic desire to learn. You found a way to flip that script, and that’s what enabled you to stand out, “I’m not there for the diploma. I’m not there for the credential. I’m there for the knowledge.”
It comes from The Golden Circle, written by Simon Sinek. The why and how comes before the what. It makes complete sense. A tropicalize and adapt this idea, as they don’t believe in titles.
I want to go back to something you said that you don’t believe in titles and you don’t embrace the word entrepreneur. I liked that and understood why you are saying that. This goes back to something that Marx wrote about that what a lot of people don’t realize is that the desire to fulfill human needs through our own effort is an essential part of what makes us human.
Karl Marx wrote that in the 1840s, and that’s not just in some of us, that’s in all of us. You don’t have to be an entrepreneur or a business owner to do that. You can embrace that in any job. In my view, we should all be thinking about how to make ourselves more useful to more humans in our spare time. Don’t quit your day job. You don’t have to drop out of school or quit your job but you should always be thinking about, “What am I interested in?”
Here’s the thing. You expressed something similar but I believe that after interviewing hundreds and hundreds of entrepreneurs all over the world, we all show up with interests and abilities that are unique to us. What’s interesting is that we tend to flourish. We tend to become optimally engaged when we find ways to use our interests and abilities in ways that serve the greater good. The suboptimal experience unfolds when we are in a situation where someone else is telling us what to do in exchange for a paycheck. We tend not to flourish in those environments.
It’s a really interesting subject. I love the subject. That’s why I don’t like the word entrepreneur. That’s why you didn’t get to know. You were trying to find the title. How do you call them now?
I’m working on my second book and coined the term entrepreneurials. It’s like Millennials, only it’s used to describe a new breed of thinker. I’m trying to get people to think beyond startup. You are going to need to think like an entrepreneur to adapt and thrive in this changing world. The only way you are going to thrive is by being entrepreneurial. I don’t care if you are a sixteen-year-old kid or a full-grown adult. The more useful you become to other humans, the better off you are going to be. That’s it.
It’s as simple as, “We are just humans,” my friend, Gary. We have a survival instinct. Many millions of years ago, we were asked to plant and eat whenever we could. Now, we have found a common comfort zone where we work. We have a stable income. We eat. We work and repeat that. I believe that we will have the capacity to create a new business, create our beliefs and act accordingly.
Here’s how I think about that. This is the basic premise of social psychology, and it goes back to this self-actualizing tendency, which is that human beings are opportunity-seeking, growth-oriented organisms but at the same time, we are stability-seeking uncertainty-avoiding organisms. Most of us default to stability seeking, and we neglected discovery. I don’t think it’s one or the other.
It’s too easy to fall into the trap of the good enough, becoming the enemy of the great. It’s a tension system. Both of those forces, the desire to explore and grow, are in every living thing. If you walk outside, you are going to see a little plant trying to grow up in the concrete crack. That’s an every living thing but that desire can be thwarted and easily thwarted by comfort.
Sometimes someone will create a book of ego is the enemy, and comfort is the idealism. I believe so. It will come soon.
To that point, I also believe that for a lot of entrepreneurs, access to money is harmful to them in the beginning because they go out and buy things and start doing things with the money they should be doing. It’s good to be hungry. It’s a Steve Jobs saying, “Stay hungry.” I want to be respectful of your time, Bernardo. Tell us where you are in your journey with the company you are building.
We are building a company which is called Grow-Farms with the mission of becoming the bridge between small and medium-sized companies in the agro sector from the LATAM with the world. We are creating this marketplace for agro. It is an AgroTech where we are delivering or offering an internal service. We are offering door-to-door logistics. We are offering factoring, financial services, and verified users.
What we are trying to do is to digitize the full supply chain in the agro sector and give you all that knowledge and the resources for you to export. There’s this big gap in LATAM where 15% of that farmers don’t have the knowledge to export. Even worst, these companies depend on bigger companies or brokers to sell their products. We heard this phrase from a farmer who said, “How’s it possible that we live to put food on your tables and don’t have food on our own tables?”
We are listening to this, and it’s nonsense. Something is wrong with this system. If something is wrong, we have to solve it. We are given all the knowledge and all of the resources to these specific companies. The small and medium-sized farmers to export, open new markets and get to know new customers. That’s what we are building. This company is a technology company, a tech company, and we are offering an internal solution for whatever you need to export and get and win a big profit without intermediaries.
It has been a real success. We have been selling millions of dollars. We have been recognized by Brazil, Spain, Mexico, Argentina, and Colombia in only a few months. We are convinced and believe that we are doing the right thing with the right purpose in the right way. We are doing something big and are trying to take this to the next level. That’s what we are doing. This is called Grow-Farms.
That’s such a great story, and I will wind it down here. I would love to talk to you for two more hours, and maybe we can do a follow-up at some point but what have you learned about yourself in this journey so far? Can you sum that up? Is there one takeaway that you’ve learned? You’ve already revealed a lot but is there one thing you would want to share with people that you learned about yourself?
I want to share two phrases. One of them is that we push forward. We always push forward. We believe in pushing forward, and second, we are not and don’t be afraid of the truth. We are not afraid of the truth. We are not afraid of losing. We are not afraid of winning. We are not afraid of sharing or creating, and we are not ashamed of asking for favors, and solutions, proposing, and talking the face to someone else. We are not afraid of the truth, and we push forward. We played the rules as it is.
That’s so fabulous, Bernardo. I love this story. I can’t wait to share it with the world. There are many nuggets. I love what you are doing with Grow-Farms. Don’t get me wrong. I love the idea that a lot of people think, specifically in higher education, that entrepreneurs are just people trying to make money. It bothers me. I get that there are people out there who only care about making money but that’s part of the message you are trying to put out there. If these are ordinary people, there’s a purpose behind what they are doing. They are trying to solve problems in the world.
I think of it like this. The purpose of a business is to create and distribute useful things to the world. It’s not to make money. If you do that well, the money will take care of itself but if you are focusing on making money, your decision process is going to be inside out, and it’s not good. It’s where we started in this conversation. It’s about you got to serve other people.
I interviewed a blind entrepreneur once who started a television company that enabled blind people to watch television with their ears. He told me, “People will give you all the love, all the money, all the fame you could ever want. You just have to help them figure out how to get what they want.” Let’s leave it there. Thanks so much for joining this show. I can’t wait to share your story with the world, and let’s stay in touch.
I’m happy to help and share, Gary. I appreciate very much this conversation. I learned a lot. I like talking to you and the way we introduced ourselves. I appreciate it, my friend. Hopefully, you do well, and we hope we can share it with someone else who would listen to us.
- Think and Grow Rich
- Ego Is the Enemy
- Start With Why
- Belief Management – Past Episode
- The Road Less Traveled
- The Golden Circle