How to Move from Local to Global with Your Expertise
**This is a guest post by Caroline DePalatis (see her bio below)**
You’ve undoubtedly heard the expression, “Think global, act local.”
In so many ways I agree with this approach. In fact, I’ve been doing so for about 25 years. And in doing so, I’ve found great fulfillment and purpose.
For the lion’s share of my professional career, I have been on or led a team of people reaching out to international students – now focusing on international wives, couples, and families. We assist them in basic felt needs (temporary housing upon arrival, learning English, for example) as well as more relational needs (feeling connected through 1:1 relationships, community and activities).
The half-time approach
But a few years ago, as I was approaching my 50th birthday, a friend passed a book to me he had found helpful. Half Time by Bob Buford addresses the question, “What do we do with that second half of life?”
I could see the value in the book. The target audience for Buford’s book was likely men (note sports analogy) who had spent the first half of their working career slaving for corporate America. These men had not pursued their passion but, rather, had followed “practical” careers. We know this story all too well.
Buford offered a range of ideas of how to make the second half of (working) life matter, focusing on the pursuit of significance. He hit a nerve and the book became a best seller.
Why this approach didn’t work for me
For me, however, the book was a mismatch. For one, I’m a woman. Not that I can’t get into the sports analogy. But it doesn’t quite resonate in the same way as it would for a middle-aged American man.
But more significantly, I had done the whole process backwards.
I was an eager idealist coming out of college with a degree in international relations. I wanted to change the world! This began with a job at a nonprofit, then moved overseas with a teaching position, some travel, missionary service, work as a leader in business and education, graduate school, freelancing as a translator & interpreter and, finally, working as the local team leader for a nonprofit Christian ministry outreach to international students for two decades while raising my three children.
You see, much of my career has involved service, and in terms of sheer dollars, it hasn’t been particularly lucrative.
The benefits of pursuing your passion first
Maybe it was naïveté. Still, I just couldn’t go the corporate-America route. Something in me didn’t see that as an option. With hindsight, I now realize that is indeed a valid option as long as you have your focus right. At 22, I wonder whether I did.
I see the benefits of the approach I’ve taken have come in the form of trust and relationships. Thousands of them, literally all over the world. Through my work with International Students, Inc., I have been able to “reach the nations from my own backyard” on a regular basis. Modern technology has only aided my ability to communicate well with these friends once they leave our area. It’s been sweet.
Over the years I’ve equipped others to do the same, some locally and some through my parent organization who serve elsewhere in the U.S. and abroad. Although most of my impact has been local, it has had a global reach on a few different levels.
Still, I kept sensing there was more.
Getting back to that “Half Time” thing….
As I pondered this issue of significance, I asked myself two questions: Will I keep doing the same thing, or will I press on to the more? How can I have even greater impact in the years ahead?
As I considered this question, I realized I wanted to take the experiences and skills I’ve learned and cultivated to the next level. I wanted to have greater impact on a wider scale. And, as soon-to-be empty nesters, with my husband’s retirement from high school teaching within sight, we envision ourselves in four–five years becoming less dependent upon location and more able to both live and travel abroad. That is where we’re headed.
Expanding our reach
So, I came to realize that developing a solid platform and audience through blogging, video and other channels just might be the way to go.
I did some research and decided to join the Tribe Writers Course and community. That was in August 2015. It remains one of the best decisions I have made. This incredible group of people has encouraged, challenged and motivated me. Although we’re spread all over the map, the online communities connected with Tribe Writers are active, with people willing to help one another out. And the annual Tribe Conference is, hands down, one of the best events I’ve ever been to. You can read more about my most recent experience here.
I’m a relative newbie to the whole blogging scene. In May 2016 my husband and I launched CultureWeave, a for-profit venture (with a nonprofit heart). This is known as social entrepreneurism.
At first, we wanted to simply share the scores of international / intercultural experiences we’ve had through story. But now we’re focusing our efforts around this key vision statement:
Every parent should raise children to be globally engaged citizens.
In truth, we believe our world cannot afford not to. This is especially true in developed countries. Our children will face massive challenges we can’t even begin to imagine. It seems crazy now; just think what we’re passing on to them!
So, this is my (our) clarion call. We have done the work – raising our own children, experiencing life in other cultures, working with internationals in our own, teaching the next generation – and we have a pretty strong understanding of the needs young people, both American and from around the world, have. As well as the challenges they face.
So, how’s it going with the blog?
Well, we’ve got close to 90 blog posts up now. I’ve been consistently releasing one per week for the last year and a half. I believe the power of consistency will lead towards success, even if it takes time. Just. Keep. Moving. Forward.
I’ve also just written and published my first book, Jumping Out of the Mainstream: An American family’s year in China. And it’s getting a rather encouraging response!
Most recently, I’ve been gaining some really good traction on Medium.com, growing from 36 to over 1500 followers in the last month alone, and the trend seems to be continuing. This has led to an increase of subscribers on our blog, pushing us along towards the milestone of 1000 true fans.
We’re also working on developing our first online course, YourFamilyAbroad, a how-to guide, sharing what we’ve learned to help other young families accomplish what we did.
Facing the challenges head-on
But honestly, all this has not been easy! I’m still working 20 hours/week with International Students, Inc., mostly focused on leading up a team to run our local outreach (which I love!). Even though I am making my first money from CultureWeave (through book sales), I am nowhere near replacing my salary, my first goal.
And, although I’ve always loved technology and feel quite at home figuring things out, I’ll admit – learning the ins and outs of WordPress.org has been challenging and, at times, continues to baffle me.
As I built the first version of our website, I remember letting out many wails. My husband and greatest champion would encourage me: “Don’t worry. You will figure this out. And someday it might even come easy to you!”
At the time, I wanted to throw something at him. But I know he meant well. And, for the sake of marital harmony, I refrained. I’m so glad I did.
More recently, I’ve found a fabulous local WordPress Meetup group, run by some helpful people, and this is making the tech side of my journey more manageable.
The bottom line: Transitioning from local to global involves intention, effort and daily work. Every. Single. Day.
So, what can you learn from my journey?
If you identify in part or whole with my experiences, then let’s connect. If you want to move towards truly global impact in whatever field, we share a common dream. At the very least, we can cheer one another on.
But there are three key ideas I’d like to leave you with here.
(1) Stop putting off your dream! Act!
Even small steps each day make a difference. If you want to develop a writing habit, write for 10 minutes each morning.
“But I don’t have the time,” you protest. No, you just don’t make the time for it. Even with little kids hanging around your feet and in your arms, if you want to make it happen, you can. I know a ton of women (in this case) who do.
A favorite story of mine is that of the writer John Grisham. Know him? Did you know he wrote his first widely recognized book, The Firm, while working as a lawyer 60–70 hours per week? He started small but put time in every day, even when he didn’t feel like it. Look where he is now!
(2) You don’t need to have it all figured out.
It’s great to have a vision that pulls you. I know I do. I see my husband and me traveling and living abroad, encouraging hundreds, maybe thousands of returnee international students & families to their home countries, all the while writing and managing an online platform to help American parents (especially) raise globally engaged citizens.
But it’s taken us about two years to figure that out. Really.
Enjoy the process, and let it lead you. Stop being so focused on the product that you miss the laughter, lessons and leadings along the way!
(3) Find community. Online and local.
I cannot emphasize enough how having a consistent community – albeit much online – has made all the difference. I mentioned Tribe Writers earlier. Within that group there is also the Tribe Builder’s Network. I’m also part of Social Change Nation, Fizzle and Networking for Nice People. All of these are solid groups of people who want to make a difference.
I need these people. And, of course, I need people locally, who encourage me. My husband is #1, for sure. But I also have a group of friends who cheer me on, as well as a community of people I’ve developed through my local outreach to internationals.
In fact, I’m pretty darn certain I wouldn’t have been able to begin a book in November 2016 and got it published by early September 2017 without some amazing support along the way. One was an early morning writing buddy. The other was the online community through NaNoWriMo. These, and so many other friends who are reading the book now and encouraging me cause me to press on.
How about you? Do you desire to turn your local impact into something global? What’s your story?
You can read more of Caroline’s writing at CultureWeave.com and on Medium. If you want to be part of the solution, download our free ebook, You can be the Bridge: A CultureWeaver’s Manifesto, and get started today!
Caroline DePalatis is Founder & Chief CultureWeaver at CultureWeave.com. She has worked in the field of international education and service for over 20 years. A graduate of Stanford University and the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, she’s still doing much of what she was trained in: bringing people of the world together. A committed Christ-follower, Caroline longs to shine the Master Designer’s awesome creativity expressed through the cultures, languages, peoples and places of our world.