Written by Felipe S. Ramos, an EO member and entrepreneur.
I remember it as if it happened yesterday. I received a message from a friend about a global entrepreneurs’ organization coming to the city of São Paulo. She invited me to meet the group, and let me know it was looking for entrepreneurs just like me.
It was a cold winter evening when I went to learn more about the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO). That night I read a description of the organization that I would eventually quote again. An article on Forbes introduces EO like this:
EO is basically the Justice League of the entrepreneurial world. This group has it all – not only do they offer forums and personal advice on a national scale, the organization also sponsors local chapters with their own meetings and amenities. There are even great healthcare options for members. On top of that, there are personal mentorship opportunities and huge networking events. It’s the ultimate toolbox for entrepreneurs.
When I read that EO is considered the “ultimate toolbox for entrepreneurs,” I instantly imagined a journey of discovery and adventure. In my head, I created an analogy of a passing train. Either I would board this train and join the organization, becoming a founding member in Brazil, or I would not get on the train, and instead go through my life without any major concerns or opportunities.
I am grateful that I chose to embark on the EO adventure. Countless moments of learning have taken place since I got on that train.
One of EO’s core principles is learning through the experience of other. To honor this way of sharing and growing, I have selected the six main lessons I learned as part of this global network of entrepreneurs.
Lesson 1. You are not alone.
Loneliness is a common characteristic of entrepreneurship. In the relentless pursuit of results, the entrepreneur sees himself as a solitary warrior. Even as business grows, it’s common for leaders to hide any fears, concerns, emotions, and connections.
Over time, though, I realized one benefit of joining a group of entrepreneurs: I could share the challenges that affect me day to day. I have brought personal and professional problems to the other members, opening up about every aspect of my life without being afraid of judgement.
The value of being able to rely on fellow entrepreneurs to help me when I needed it most is, without a doubt, precious.
Lesson 2. Nothing is more valuable than the exchange of experiences among peers.
We often talk to friends, family and colleagues about the most superficial things happening in our lives. At EO, I was encouraged to share the 5% that’s never shared with other members.
Exposing my feelings and challenges was very difficult at first. Over time, though, it became easier—something that I relied on. How wonderful it is to be able to count on a confidential process that lets me get out everything that’s haunting me without facing any judgment. Among the issues I’ve shared are problems with new business opportunities, dismissal of employees, life changes like having children.
I have learned that other entrepreneurs have experienced many similar feelings and challenges. I learned to value the exchange of experiences as a unique moment. I learned to use active listening to make these moments even more special, generating more learning at every opportunity.
Lesson 3. If you dream about traveling the world and having international influential, you must join a global organization.
For me, being an EO member means access to entrepreneurs from around the world. It means learning from different cultures and different perspectives. During my four years with EO, I have had the opportunity to represent the chapter of Sao Paulo during trips to Thailand, Greece, Dubai, Puerto Rico, the Netherlands, the United States, Hong Kong, Peru, to name a few.
I always make a point of meeting the EO members from other countries. This is one of the greatest riches that a global entrepreneurial organization offers. We have a broader world view through this constant multicultural learning. I always return to Brazil with a new perspective—a different way of seeing business and, above all, life.
Lesson 4. Go beyond your company to strengthen yourself.
This journey as a member of EO led me on a path of personal development that I could not have imagined. In addition to attending most EO events—I believe I have been to about 70—and having access to knowledge from a wide range of disciplines—from sleep science to starting a restaurant (thanks to a very rich conversation with Brazilian chef Alex Atala)— living with other entrepreneurs has given me an immeasurable wealth.
I now understand that I am not alone. The exchange of experiences is vital to my development as a person, above all else. I want to become a better man, a better citizen and a better father.
Lesson 5. Seek to join an organization that has values similar to yours.
One of the first things I noticed when I first met with EO is its very clear values. The organization makes it clear that it seeks members who share its values. I have heard from EO’s globals leaders that trying to recruit entrepreneurs who do not share the same values as the organization is ultimately a waste of money and time for them and for the EO team. That makes a lot of sense.
EO has 5 very well defined values: Trust and respect; thirst for learning, boldly go; make a mark; cool. I share these values wholeheartedly, which is undoubtedly another reason for my love affair with the organization.
As time goes by and experience builds, the entrepreneur inevitably ends up incorporating these five values into his DNA, and that is powerful.
Lesson 6. How to lead leaders.
One of the most challenging moments that I came across during this journey was becoming a president in the organization. I, at just 33 years old, would be the representative of the board of directors to lead the organization in the city of São Paulo. I would guide EO in becoming a benchmark in entrepreneurship in the Brazil.
In my view, leading leaders is one of the most complex and sensitive tasks within a management process. It is not about technical knowledge, but rather insight and awareness. EO is made of many brilliant people who are accustomed to being presidents in their companies. In this organization, we learn how to collaborate as a team of leaders.
I believe the main lesson I took away as president was that there is nothing I can not do. Mission given is mission accomplished and, with effort and dedication, I can realize my dreams in time.
Thank you for inviting me on that train four years ago. The journey so far has been marked by adventure, learning and unique experiences. I have so many new friends that I will take with me for years to come.
I’m not sure what the future will bring. One certainty? The value of taking on new experiences and conquering challenges along this entrepreneurial path.
Felipe S. Ramos is a born entrepreneur and leader. He currently runs his third business, Papo de Homem, in Brazil and is the Learning Chair of EO Sao Paulo. Follow him on Twitter, @felipemktg. The original version of this article appeared on his company blog.
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