What a Year in Fiji Taught Me About Busi­ness: Meert

Fiji Sun - - BUSINESS - By Brian Meert Feed­back: maraia.vula@fi­jisun.com.fj

Brian Meert is the CEO of Ad­ver­tiseMint, a Hol­ly­wood based dig­i­tal ad­ver­tis­ing agency that spe­cialises in help­ing suc­cess­ful com­pa­nies ad­ver­tise on Face­book.

Ad­ver­tisemint has man­aged mil­lions of dol­lars in dig­i­tal ad spends in en­ter­tain­ment, fash­ion, fi­nance, and soft­ware in­dus­tries.

Brian is the au­thor of the best sell­ing, The Com­plete Guide to Face­book Ad­ver­tis­ing. Prior to found­ing Ad­ver­tismint, Brian built and sold Go­fobo.com, an on­line tick­et­ing sys­tem that rev­o­lu­tionised the en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try and is now utilised by Warner Bros. and Dis­ney.

Dur­ing col­lege, I at­tended an event when the speaker walked on stage and be­gan telling sto­ries about how he had been the chief scuba diver for Jac­ques Cousteau.

He be­gan show­ing pho­tos of Fiji and spoke about how he came across a strug­gling school that was in need of vol­un­teers.

I spoke to him im­me­di­ately after the

pre­sen­ta­tion to learn more. Six months later, I was on a plane headed for Fiji to work on the eastern side of Vanua Levu. Dur­ing my time on the is­land, there were sev­eral lessons I learned that have since helped me grow my ad­ver­tis­ing agency, Ad­ver­tiseMint. I wanted to share some of these lessons with you.

Be relentless

After ap­ply­ing to be a vol­un­teer, I re­ceived a let­ter deny­ing my ap­pli­ca­tion. I was shocked.

I had asked to work for free and had been de­nied. I asked why, and they in­formed me that I didn’t have enough ref­er­ences. I later dis­cov­ered that two stu­dents from my school had caused some is­sues the pre­vi­ous year, so by as­so­ci­a­tion I was be­ing dis­qual­i­fied. I asked how many ref­er­ences I needed, and they replied with a num­ber that shocked me: 15.

At this time I was only 19-years old and had only three pre­vi­ous jobs.

I re­ally had my heart set on going, so I quickly set out on my goal of 15 ref­er­ences. I con­tacted ev­ery school teacher I had since kinder­garten.

Ev­ery sin­gle one of them wrote me a quick ref­er­ence let­ter, and within a week, I con­tacted the or­gan­i­sa­tion to let them know I had 15.

Now was their turn to be shocked. Two weeks later they ap­proved my ap­pli­ca­tion.

The world will al­ways put ob­sta­cles in your way to keep you from your dreams.

You need to learn how to be relentless and to fig­ure out al­ter­na­tive steps to get what you want.

Knowl­edge is power

When I ar­rived in Fiji, there was no elec­tric­ity, TV, and in­ter­net where we were stay­ing.

After I was done teach­ing for the day, I was of­ten left with noth­ing to do ex­cept sit there, drink­ing co­conut milk or mak­ing some­thing out of bam­boo. The school had a small li­brary, and I even­tu­ally got so bored, I would break in at night and bor­row some books to read.

This is where my love for read­ing came, and I quickly be­gan to see all the things I had been miss­ing out on dur­ing school. I read clas­sics, busi­ness books, au­to­bi­ogra­phies.

All of a sud­den, I re­alised the tremen­dous wealth of knowl­edge that I was gain­ing at a rapid pace. Knowl­edge is power and if you want to get ahead, you need to spend time learn­ing from oth­ers.

Sim­plify your life

I’ve of­ten heard peo­ple say that if you want to be rich, you need to learn to live be­low your means.

Fiji taught me how much that was pos­si­ble. I lived in a small room, big enough for two cots and a sink.

This was far more than what many of the vil­lagers had, who slept on the ground in their bures. I was able to live very sim­ply and re­alised that dur­ing that time, I was prob­a­bly the hap­pi­est in my life. To this day, ma­te­rial ob­jects don’t re­ally mean much to me in life.

I’ve had no is­sues sell­ing my car, video games, or prized pos­ses­sions if it meant I could get a lit­tle bit fur­ther in busi­ness. Learn to live sim­ple.

It’s ok to re­set

My job in Fiji was to teach English to fifth and sixth graders.

Be­cause I as­sumed it would be easy, I didn’t pre­pare much. My plan was just to teach them what I knew. I ar­rived at school, in­tro­duced my­self, and pro­ceeded to work on get­ting all the stu­dents to like me.

For any­one that has ever taught kids, you know this is a fun­da­men­tal mis­take.

The next three months for me were hor­ri­ble. The stu­dents worked me over, and I strug­gled get­ting them on track and keeping class in order.

I was blessed that the Fiji school sys­tem is op­po­site of the US, so stu­dents had summer break a few months after I ar­rived.

It was dur­ing this time that I reached out to my sis­ter, an el­e­men­tary school teacher, for some help.

She shipped me the paper­back and au­dio­book ver­sions of The First Days of School by Harry and Rose­mary Wong. It was ex­actly what I needed. I read the book and lis­tened to the au­dio­book mul­ti­ple times.

When school started again, the kids walked in, ex­pect­ing to get an­other year with their pushover teacher.

This time I was pre­pared and be­gan to tell them how this school year would be struc­tured along with the new rules and re­ward sys­tem that was be­ing im­ple­mented. The stu­dents’ mouths dropped and I be­gan what turned out to be an amaz­ing year of school.

The les­son here is that it’s ok to make mis­takes. When it hap­pens, you need to fig­ure out what is going wrong, seek ad­vice and fig­ure out what needs to change. Ev­ery suc­cess­ful per­son has needed to stop at some point, do a re­set, and get things back on the right track.

Fo­cus on peo­ple and re­la­tion­ships

If you ever go to Fiji, you’ll be greeted with a warm “Bula” or “Bula Vi­naka.”

This is the Fi­jian way of say­ing hello. Fi­jians have an amaz­ing abil­ity to put peo­ple first.

They start their con­ver­sa­tions with “You are the most im­por­tant per­son in my world right now” or “It’s amaz­ing to have this con­ver­sa­tion with you.”

They are warm and gen­uine.

I learned to be warm and wel­com­ing from Fi­jians, and peo­ple still com­pli­ment me to this day at my abil­ity to re­late with oth­ers dur­ing a con­ver­sa­tion.

One time, I was in­vited to a fu­neral in an­other town, even though I didn’t know the per­son.

When I ar­rived, fam­ily mem­bers asked me to sit at the head of the ta­ble and get food first.

I po­litely de­clined and said that fam­ily and friends should go first.

They turned to me and said: “You are fam­ily, and you are our friend.” Treat the peo­ple you meet in life in the same way, and you will build un­be­liev­able busi­ness re­la­tion­ships.

Ex­plore your op­tions

I chose to work in Fiji be­cause in ad­di­tion to teach­ing, I could also work as a vol­un­teer at the lo­cal clinic.

Both my par­ents are nurses, and I had ex­pressed an in­ter­est in be­com­ing a doc­tor.

I worked at the clinic in the af­ter­noons, help­ing check pa­tients in and help­ing with pro­ce­dures.

One day, a man came with a deep wound on his arm.

He had been in a ma­chete fight with an­other man. I was as­signed to clean his wound.

After about 30 sec­onds, I be­gan feel­ing light headed due to the con­tin­ual stream of blood squirt­ing from his arm. To this day, I still get woozy around blood, and I’m glad to have pur­sued busi­ness in­stead.

It’s a good idea to ex­plore ar­eas you are in­ter­ested in and know that say­ing no to one path now brings you one step closer to find­ing and do­ing what you love.

Take the road less trav­eled

In busi­ness, one of the big­gest tips I tell peo­ple is to look at ar­eas where oth­ers are not.

This helps de­fine mar­kets rather than going up against a lot of com­pe­ti­tion.

Dur­ing my time in Fiji, I would of­ten help the men from the vil­lage with tasks such as plant­ing crops, clear­ing a field, clean­ing, and pre­par­ing fish. As we worked, we would chat about all sorts of things.

One of the men was talk­ing about a nearby wa­ter­fall that was beau­ti­ful. I told him I thought he was mak­ing it up and wanted to see for my­self.

We ended up hik­ing two hours into the hills to see an amaz­ing wa­ter­fall.

In­stead of walk­ing back, he quickly took out a ma­chete and cut down two banana trees, then cut off the tops.

He tossed them into the river and we ended up rid­ing them down the rapids like tor­pe­dos.

It was one of my fa­vorite mem­o­ries from Fiji, and I would have never ex­pe­ri­enced it had I stayed on my nor­mal path.

Be open to new things and new roads off the beaten path. You never know what might come from it.

You are lucky

Dur­ing school breaks, I would of­ten head over to Tave­uni to ex­plore. It’s a beau­ti­ful is­land, full of wa­ter­falls and breath­tak­ing hikes, where Re­turn to the Blue La­goon was filmed.

I wanted to get a scuba cer­ti­fi­ca­tion and signed up at a lo­cal re­sort. I com­pleted my cer­ti­fi­ca­tion over the next three days and headed back to school.

Two weeks later, we re­turned to the is­land, only to see a large group of Aus­tr­lians who were there for a fu­neral. One week after I had taken my scuba cer­ti­fi­ca­tion, a shark had at­tacked and killed an Aus­tralian man in the ex­act place where I had been scuba div­ing for my cer­ti­fi­ca­tions.

Life is not al­ways fair, and there are no guar­an­tees.

I learned that ev­ery day I am given on this planet is a bless­ing. When you can look at life through that lens, you let petty squab­bles go quicker and fo­cus on the things that re­ally mat­ter and bring you hap­pi­ness.

Ev­ery ex­pe­ri­ence in life brings lessons that shape who we are. I will never for­get my time in Fiji, and to this day I keep close to my heart the lessons I learned.

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