Before I made Aliyah, I’d never heard about “Israeli Chutzpah”. I believe this term is more recognized among English speakers since it’s quite easy to find the word ‘chutzpah’ being used in well-known newspapers. Below are some examples that I found with a quick Google search:
Don’t know what chutzpah is? According to Jonathan Howard in this amazing TED talk, “chutzpah is originally a Hebrew word, came to English via Yiddish. It often has a negative connotation. There isn’t a direct translation into English. So, people usually define it by using illustrative examples to describe what it means. The classic example is the guy who murdered his parents and then asks the judge to pity him because he’s an orphan”.
Here is one definition I found in the Oxford English Dictionary: “behaviour, or a person’s attitude, that is rude or shocking but so confident that people may feel forced to admire it”. Like everything, there is the good and the bad chutzpah. In this article, I’ll write about the good/constructive chutzpah.
You’re now probably thinking: “What does chutzpah have to do with my job search?”. My answer is: EVERYTHING! Mainly because Israelis were taught to have chutzpah as an attitude and we, Olim Chadashim, ‘poor non-Israelis’, recently arrived in the Israeli society, were NOT taught to have this attitude. So, you need to get acquainted with the subject and learn how to be as BOLD as Israelis are. As simple as that!
When in Rome, do as the Romans do!
As I wrote before, I inherited an Israeli family when I married Oren. This difference in attitude pops out every time I share with them a “no” I received from a hiring process. In the beginning, when they began giving me their advice (also a very Israeli attitude! Not always do I share things because I want advice, but Israelis give you advice without you even asking for it! But don’t you dare give an advice to an Israeli without being asked! Are you familiar with that?), I used to think: “they must be crazy, this is off limits!”. But then, I started to listen to their advice, began carrying out those that were less ‘off limits’ and obtained good feedback from other people!
Recently, Oren’s uncle from America (הדוד מאמריקה, an Israeli expression for ‘a wealthy relative from abroad’; but in this case, he’s really the uncle that lives in the USA) was visiting and I was sharing with him my main difficulties with the cultural gap between Brazilian and Israeli while looking for a job. He told me a real story that happened to him, as follows (with my comments/thoughts in parentheses):
“When I recently arrived in the USA, I went looking for a job in a factory. I was in the middle of the interview and the interviewer decided to show me around the factory. When I saw an employee struggling with a simple task, I approached him and said: ‘you are doing all wrong! Move, I can fix this’, but I didn’t know exactly how I would fix it”. (Me thinking: what? Are you nuts? Did you really want that job?). “It took me some time to fix it, but I succeeded and was hired at the spot!” (At this point, I was thinking: how sassy he was to say that he could fix it without even knowing what the problem was… what would happen if he couldn’t fix it? Well, the answer? He wouldn’t get the job, which he didn’t have it anyway… so why not to try to show that you’re ready to get your hands dirty?).
He continued: “We, Israelis, always say: ‘I CAN do it’, even if we got a NO for an answer. We believe in ourselves (self-confidence!) so much that, in the end, we WILL DO IT NO MATTER WHAT and will also convince the other person to change his mind and give you the ‘YES’ you’re waiting for”.
Jonathan Howard (mentioned previously) claims, that by mastering your own chutzpah, everyone can become more creative. He believes that creativity is a tool that, when used wisely, can solve some of the world’s biggest problems. Watch the video for some practical tips on how to apply chutzpah in your life. Or do you think it’s just a coincidence that Israel is the Start-up Nation?
Another interesting article (in Spanish… sorry guys) and video (in English, yey!), where the nice couple behind the website 2geeks1city (they love to write/talk about Digital Transformation, Innovation & Startups) interviewed some leaders in Israeli start-ups and asked them “What is chutzpah?”. I just have to say, it’s a must-see!
Want to read more?
- I found this article very interesting and full of good examples – “It’s not rudeness, it’s chutzpah” – an insider’s take on Israel’s start-up success
- This other article offers several insights, such as: “on a per capita basis, the Israeli high-tech and venture capital sectors are larger than in any other country in the world” – Chutzpah lessons from the Israeli start-up scene
- Last article, but not least, gives some ideas on how to develop chutzpah, more examples and the sentence below, that caught my attention – Why chutzpah is the new charisma – and how to use it to get what you want
Because this is what life is about, isn’t it? It’s about taking chances. When you’re eighty and sitting on your rocking chair, you’ll at least have a twinkle in your eye and a few stories to tell.
Since this attitude is very new to me, I’m still afraid that it can be misinterpreted as stubbornness or even rudeness… and yes, the line between ‘chutzpah’, ‘stubbornness’ and ‘rudeness’ is very thin. So, I investigated a bit more, I asked other people regarding boundaries for NOT being considered an offensive or pushy person. I got good answers and have been trying to act on it lately: always be polite as you’re used to, but go ONE action further. So, this is how I’m using my chutzpah – and practice makes perfect: we need to practice in order to improve whatever new skill we want to gain, and will probably make some mistakes along the way. And we need to learn from them!
I hope you enjoyed reading this post. Please, share your thoughts with me! Or share situations where you used your chutzpah and felt proud of it!