Humankind as a whole seems to be built with the power to overcome immense struggle and endure conditions beyond our ability to understand.
Challenges before the path to success are what define our purpose and exemplify the power of our existence. I often think about the balance between the infinite and the finite. Limitations are the fundamental platforms for which define life and our existence. If we did not have limitation we would not have consciousness and without consciousness would not feel the value of progression and the reward of accomplishment and success.
Struggle and suffering are human conditions that not only exist, they are a breeding ground for determination. Its where perseverance thrives. Most success is culminated from many forms of stress, hardship and determination for a better and more qualified outcome. This does not undermine the reality that tragic events and suffering are harsh realities of existence, but beyond survival, we have a desire and overwhelming drive to have better, to do better and to be better.
Has our culture been mislead on the definition of success? Has monetary value and consumerism changed the perception of how we define our value?
In an effort to explore the answer to this, we have built some dialog with a unique individual to help seek out the meaning of self success and the drivers for a more qualified outcome. The birthplace of determination is far more vast than what meets the eye. You just have to look deeper into the souls of those putting heart and character above all else.
Through the building blocks of creating the brand Allmade Apparel, I was introduced to the plant manager of LIFE SA. This is the factory that sews all of the garments for Allmade.
Jeff Blatt is someone that is hard to describe with words. His drive and motivation have depth beyond comprehension. In 1984 Jeff left his love for Horticulture in the US to seek out a deeper meaning of challenge and push the limits of his being. Not knowing anyone or anything he moved to the country of Haiti. This was before the internet, and before most forms of communication to the outside world existed. He was working for Hallmark at the time and they decided to explore production offshores to reduce manufacturing costs. So with little hesitation and almost zero information, Jeff set sail to on a journey which would certainly change his life and many others.
You can imagine how different life is in Haiti. There is very limited economy and infrastructure. Working conditions are strenuous and supplies are limited. Running a business is even more challenging. Virtually everything you touch beyond agriculture, is imported to the island. The simplest of tasks in the 3rd world can prove to be extremely difficult. Jeff gave up all the luxuries and commodities that he was used to and went without power for over 15 years. I asked about his lifestyle to get an idea of how he shifted his thinking, his comforts and giving up friends family and all things that come easy. Since he was without phone communication and there was not internet at the time, he had little to no connection to the US. To mitigate this problem he ran a cable line from the airport across the main road to the place he was staying. Weeks of work just to have the ability to make a phone call.
Jeff got into the apparel business sewing contract garments for large US and worldwide distributors. He started his business which eventually grew to the point where he oversaw 1,200 employees and occupied four 25,000sf buildings. The amount of stress operating a company at this magnitude in any country is almost unfathomable. But to operate in the 3rd world leaves me speechless. When you run a company in the US, you come into work, flip on your lights and have power at any given time. For a manufacturing operation in Haiti, you are constantly depending on outside parts, materials and generators. Power and internet are not always a guarantee. If something goes wrong, you can’t simply run to the hardware store and pick up parts. You can’t call a technician to be out the next day. You learn very quick how to be self sufficient and build localized relationships.
Years after diving into the apparel industry and just as things were starting to work, Jeffs partner left for the states leaving him to run this operation on his own. Through struggle, perseverance and sheer determination, Jeff pushed through. These challenges have inspired me to look at my own life to help define what challenge and hardship means to me. Life changes very much when so many other lives that depend on you. When you provide jobs to people who are desperate for work it is both rewarding and risky. The fact that Haiti is so unpredictable with government policies and import export limitations, it is inevitable that things can and will go wrong. When there is no work, or issues occur from existential reasons, people lose jobs. And when you are the one responsible for people going without work, regardless if it is your fault, you have a target on your back. It is a dangerous position to be in. It makes me wonder reason behind why certain people choose to be responsible for this level of stress and self sacrifice.
Knowing how far people push the limits helps to bring humility and perspective to what we all go through, because at the end of the day life is always harder, for someone else. When I asked Jeff why he chooses to live this way, I was expecting a very long winded back story or life changing event had occurred. But his answer was simple. He replied, “I just wanted to see if I could do it, and I did” Your why doesn’t always have to be complex or pivotal. Having personal ethics and morality can build stepping stones to massive change. Jeff, like many other determined entrepreneurs, has a unique ability to sniff out opportunity within struggle. By living his life this way, it assures a more qualified outcome for people who need it the most. I am happy to learn from people like Jeff. It brings inspiration and hope to future generations and passion to those who may otherwise not pursue the their highest level of potential.