As an international leadership speaker, I get to travel to many places both near and far, some familiar, some not so much. Being the kind of person that I am and the work that I do, I would consider myself a fairly international thinker. Recently I had the opportunity to speak at the 9th World Business Conference in Tehran, the capital of Iran. This is a country I’ve always wanted to visit, but I wasn’t prepared for what I would find.
What comes to mind when you think about Iran?
Terrorists? Oppression? Poverty? Burning hot desert?
If so, you aren’t alone. A lot of people, especially in the West, have strongly-held notions of what this very ancient country, originally known as Persia, is like.
I was shocked to learn that virtually all of the ideas we carry around about this country are flat out wrong.
Here are my top 12 mind-blowing misconceptions about Iran.
1. We are much more aware and interested with what’s going on with them than they are with us.
Not by a long shot. I was offline during the nearly 24 hours of travel it took to get from Vancouver, Canada to Tehran. When I landed I had no idea about President Trump’s latest tweets, but that was one of the first things I was asked about. The Iranians are keenly aware of what is happening in America, perhaps more so than some Americans I’ve meet. And certainly the average American knows next to nothing about what is happening politically or socially in Iran—beyond what makes the occasional headline.
I also assumed that because the government controls the TV, all they can watch are religious shows and the Iranian equivalent of Fox and Friends. Moreover, because the government has banned Facebook-Twitter-YouTube etc., I assumed the Iranian people weren’t on social media. The fact is that with Internet work-around apps, every Iranian I met was fully aware of the top Western TV shows and movies, and were regular consumers of every type of social media. They explained to me how it was done quickly and easily and within minutes I went from having no access to full access.