"I'm an immigrant," says Solomon Joseph, a hospital assistant with a startup dream. He came to the U.S. three-and-half years ago, "Legally," he hastens to point out.
He wasn't sure how to engage with people in this new culture.
When he went out socially and told people he was from Pakistan, they asked him if he was a terrorist. "We're not sure we should talk to you or not," he recounts. "We don't know if you have something around your waist." As a Christian, Solomon was a minority in Pakistan where people could be closed to him, responding with fear. In the U.S. the situation was different but the response was all too familiar.
So he bent over backwards being nice and putting himself last. His co-workers put a lot of demands on him and he felt he had to say "yes" because he wanted them to like him. Socially, he made friends with people who shared his faith, but struggled to create a broader social circle.
Solomon describes the class as a fun and safe learning environment.
He remembers an assertiveness assignment to keep your voice strong and say "no". He tried it out at work when a colleague asked him to do something when it was time to go home. Previously, Solomon would have stayed late and taken care of it. But instead, he used his new found assertiveness skills. "I told him, 'I understand what you want. I can't stay, I'm going to go.'" They were shocked. Solomon says it feels really good, "Pushing boundaries, putting my opinion first. [Saying] what I feel and how my time really matters."
He's kept his assertiveness going. "I'm not anymore a yes sir or yes ma'am guy. It feels relaxed. Whatever I said I said. That's my opinion. I have my right to be heard." He says it's empowering to be able to speak up for himself like that. He thinks people don't like him as much at work and the change is hard for them, but he doesn't care.
Solomon is going out a lot and making new friends. A few weeks ago, he was at The Blue Light with a group of Jaunts. Some people were hanging around the pool table, but not really playing. "I was like, should I ask or not? Who cares! I should ask." Solomon said, "Hey, are you using this space? If not, we can play." They all started talking and ended up taking a group photo.
Solomon wants to launch a startup, importing high-quality, custom-made suits from Thailand. He went to the SaaStr annual event earlier this month, which he describes as an "epic party" for VCs and VPs in the startup community. "That was the biggest Jaunty help for me. To be in a party and make connections with hard-to-reach people."
Had he gone to the event before Jaunty, he would have been insecure entering a high status party. Instead, with his Jaunty training he felt really confident which surprised and impressed the CEOs. He went in excited to get as much information as he could. "For me, approaching someone wasn't difficult. I put myself out there meeting incredible CEOs. I was able to express my opinion and what is my plan. Then I got some good ideas from those VPs and VCs." They exchanged contact information and someone from New York told Solomon he likes his idea and wants to sit down and talk with him about it. He also got some great guidance from someone with a background in clothing imports. He says it was, "...Great talking with someone about the potential of my startup dream."
Solomon believes, "Anyone who comes to Jaunty can be the spotlight of the night. It doesn't matter who you are, what people think of you. It's what you think of yourself. It really matters what you want to do."
He shared a quote from New York Times Bestselling romance novel "Cold-Hearted Rake" by Lisa Kleypas. "Desire is always better motivation than fear." Solomon loves this idea. To him it means, "Fearing a situation doesn't matter. If you have a desire to do something you will do it." All of us at Jaunty have no doubt that Solomon will.