We were very excited. Finally, we were going to have a team retreat. The destination? Corozal, in Belize. Since the team is spread out across the globe, this was an opportunity to spend some time together in person, and for some of us, actually meet offline for the first time! Instead of our usual Google Hangouts calls, we were going to get to meet each other and finally rule out that anyone was a serial killer.
Due to the awesome efforts of our marketing team, we also had some killer Fuckup Nights t-shirts.
So after a 30-40 min drive, losing someone on the way, and getting a fine from immigration, we were finally ready to cross the border from Chetumal to Corozal, Belize.
Important foreshadowing side-note: Belize’s official language is English.
So there we were, 12 people, who were uncomfortably energetic and excited for the trip to come in a tiny room with 2 police officers and no air conditioning, wearing t-shirts with the word “fuck” all over the place.
Ricardo, our Global Community Coordinator took the lead. The customs agent did not look pleased.
Ricardo gave him his trademark smile:
“Hola! Somos 12 personas! Oh, sorry. English, right? We are 12 people.”
The customs agent was stone faced. “Mexicans?”
“Yes. Well, not really, 9 Mexicans, 1 Argentinian, 1 Dutch, and 1 Colombian.”
“Fill out this form” he said gruffly, before handing us the form. “And listen, that t-shirt you guys are wearing, that’s considered offensive in our country, and you’re not allowed to cross with them.”
Ricardo came back to the team to relay what the police had said. Being the joker that he is, we all didn’t take him seriously at first. So we all laughed, but Ricardo assured us that this was no joke.
And that’s when we all collectively shit our pants.
The perfect storm of a healthy fear of the police + dealing with a foreign country many of us had never visited + the fact that the word fuck had put a target on our chest, had us kinda freaking out.
At some point a different officer approached us asking what Fuckup is. We explained that we’re an organization focused on sharing stories of business failure. He thought it was amazing, joked about his own failures, and wished us the best time in Belize.
We promised not to be the typical asshole tourists that only visit beachy destinations to get wasted and party like crazy. (We might or might not have held that promise during the second night of our retreat).
Luckily, after just answering a few questions, and handing in our filled-out form, we were allowed to finally cross the border.
We were officially in Belize, our rag-tag band of offensive rebels. Luckily we didn’t get to learn what the inside of a Belize holding cell looks like, and you can consider our lesson learned.
As we’ve learned many times before, the problem with our name is all about perception, and the solution to it is empathy.
We’ve had to skirt around the word “fuckup” many times, because it’s offensive enough for border crossings, for an airline that tried to kick someone from the team off a plane, for social media platforms that don’t let us run ads, and for the local laws in some countries.
So in the meantime, whenever we find someone who gets offended by our four-letter “f” word, we’ll keep trying to change the perception of failure, empathy, and connection, cause for us, that’s what’s really offensive.