Search for Dinosaurs, Find Yourself
“Authenticity means erasing the gap between what you firmly believe inside and what you reveal to the outside world.”
--Adam Grant, organizational psychologist and author
At the age of ten or eleven, I remember looking around Venezia Mestre railway station, which is in the Pan-European Corridor always buzzing with activity and important business since it’s a port for both freight and passengers, receiving 500 trains and 85,000 passengers each day.
A train arrived with the dramatic lock of the brakes. The doors opened and vomited all these people with backpacks and different scents and smiles from where they had been. I remember turning to my parents and saying, “When I grow up, I want to be like them. Travel, explore, be outside my comfort zone.”
I wanted to become a palaeontologist. This seed was planted before the movie, “Jurassic Park.” In fact, I looked at this bubbly guy on TV, an assistant paleontologist, thinking, how could he be that and afford an apartment in New York? A paleontologist is a scientist who studies the history of life on Earth through the fossil record. Fossils are the evidence of past life on the planet and can include those formed from animal bodies or their imprints (body fossils). Trace fossils are another kind of fossil. A trace fossil is any evidence of the life activity of an animal that lived in the past. Burrows, tracks, trails, feeding marks, and resting marks are all examples of trace fossils. In sum, it’s not a glamorous or remotely contemporary job, but I could only think of the treasures it held.
My dream was to venture to the Gobi Desert, a vast, arid region in northern China and southern Mongolia known for its dunes, mountains, and rare animals such as snow leopards and Bactrian camels. In the Gobi Gurvansaikhan National Park, the Khongoryn Els sand dunes are said to sing when the wind blows. The park also features the deep ice field of Yolyn Am canyon. And finally, dinosaur fossils have been found
at the red "Flaming Cliffs" of Bayanzag, where I would spend most of my
I initially took geology because of this dream of exotica, not because of the oil industry. I soon realized that making a living was going to be too challenging, and then I realized I would also miss serving someone. Who
would I do this for? A few kids?
Then I thought eventually, finding oil is a bit like finding dinosaurs, but everyone needs energy. Everyone needs light. In villages where kids did not have light, they couldn’t study. I could contribute to providing energy, which is a global need.
I took all the courses. I did a thesis for the Italian oil and gas company, Eni, headquartered in Rome and present in seventy countries. The company called me to come in for an interview after paying for the fieldwork required for my thesis. I earned the No. 1 spot in the class. My professor and my two ENI mentors told me I would have a job—my dream come true. Then I was a conscience objector in military service, one year as a volunteer, and they placed me at a Planned Parenthood-type equivalent with a gynecologist and psychologist. My job was to help less fortunate families and kids with their academic needs. Translation, driving. I could not be hired by Eni because I was performing this service and had to complete the year.
A week before I finished, Eni pressed for me to go to London for an assignment in two months. I was elated! My wildest dream realized. Carefree and celebrating my achievement, I backpacked in Australia for one month. When I returned home, my mom reluctantly delivered the news that I didn’t get in because I didn’t pass the interview. It was bone-crushing. My mind drifted back to searching for dinosaurs.
I was never informed why this happened. This is also a story for resilience. I was not going to give up. I found a master’s degree program in Scotland at Aberdeen, a center of global excellence in offshore oil and gas exploration, engineering and subsea technology. I knew I had to be better if I wanted to achieve my dream. Always believe, even if they whisper or shout, “It’s impossible.” Never let these words uttered by someone else penetrate. I applied, and I was accepted.
To make and save some money, before starting my first adventure abroad, I was working on a factory line cutting rocks, performing the closest job to being a geologist, then a friend informed me that Italian university had scholarships to study abroad.
I applied to University of Milan, and my application was accepted. In two days, I interviewed with professors, who granted the scholarship to me. If I had given up in Italy, blaming Italians (my people, by the way!), I
would not have moved forward.
Show up and do your best. I went to Scotland to study, and I became a sort of scholar of self-mastery, taking time for self-awareness and pushing myself toward challenging feats. I also found my future wife! (That story later.)
While studying, I interviewed for my dream job at BP and did not pass because I wasn’t even close to being good enough. My English was not adequate. I could study, do the exam, making it to the third round of interviews, and I look at that as a success, a steppingstone. I learned new skills in that process. In fact, note: When you go to an interview, you need to buy shoes six months before because if you wear for the first time at the interview, your face may be twisting in pain! …What a first impression.
Let It Resonate!
Search-and-Discovery is a Gift
Pursue what may seem impossible (like being a paleontologist running around the Gobi). There will be setbacks. More importantly, there will be opportunities for self-awareness and self-improvement. When your beliefs are aligned with your values, you will succeed.