Posts in career
Why the 24 - 24 - 24 Rule Could Be Your New Best Advice
Estimated reading time: 5'

Estimated reading time: 5'

At my last job, we used to have this LED sign that said "Get shit donel".

If there's one guy that would fit most that description, I'd say it's my former co-worker Victor, who I had originally met in NYC.

He was in his twenties and he is an executive, with over 30 people under him.

He was incredibly dedicated, he worked really hard and when he taught you something, he was crystal clear and left no room for misunderstandings.

You always saw him running everywhere in the office, and you better plan ahead if you want to set up a meeting because his days are fully booked to the minute.

Of course, it raised my eyebrow.

 

"Back in New York, I was always really good at school, inspired by my very busy and successful dad. 

I always had shit to do, and that's where I got my work ethic from.

A typical day for me between 14 and 18 was: waking up at 4 AM, going to practice till 6, going to a different practice till 7.30, coming back home, making my sister breakfast, packing her lunch, taking her to school, going to school from 8 to 3, then going home, checking my sisters homework, making dinner, going back to practice, coming home, putting her to sleep, finishing my homework at midnight, then getting up at 4 AM to do it all over again.

At 21, I became the Founder and COO of an organic ice-cream shop.

I had studied Management, Finance & Marketing so my co-founders who did not go to school relied on me to create the revenue model, the business plan, organise events, deal with suppliers, vendors and distributors...

I had to do all of this myself while studying full-time, and when I did not know certain things that they don't teach you at school, like negotiating a distribution deal, I had no choice but to get on the phone and work it out.

Also in business, you gotta be quick. It's not school anymore, you don't have all the time in the world to Google around, or ask your classmates for help. if you're not fast, you're potentially losing thousands of dollars every day.

I was trying my best but I was young, inexperienced, and did not get any help, so we ended up losing all of our original investment.

I then started another business in the food industry with three of my best friends.

Same situation, they relied on me for every single thing, but that time, I knew exactly what I was doing and had make clear and reliable financial projections.

Thing is, after a year, we still weren't making any money and my co-founders lost patience and refused to stick to the original plan, which was to wait another couple months and see the results come to life.

They did not understand the numbers, they did not get the point of investing in marketing and operations, and because my previous business had failed, they were scared to see the same thing happen before their eyes and their savings go up in smoke. On top of that, they were coming from a low-income neighborhood and this was basically their only chance to have a better future, so they decided to fire me. My own best friends.

I did not want to go through that hell and mediate with lawyers. I had to pay back my salary and worse, completely disassociate with the company.

My name was erased from every single piece of paperwork, my face was scratched off the pictures, etc, when I'm the one who made every single business decision. From the color of the sofa to the items on the menu, that are by the way still unchanged today.

Years later, after following my business plan and projections to the letter, the business turned to be a success and my old friends and partners admitted their fault. We reconciled and they sent me a check with the money I had to pay back. I really needed it at the time, but I ripped it apart. 

They still call me every once in a while for business advice, and we hang out..."

Surprised, I teased him about his calm and mature reaction.

"I am not mad. i have a lot of emotions, but I am not easily mad.

Growing up, my mum used to teach me to breath and calm down before making judgments or decisions in the heat of the moment. I learnt to put my ego aside, move on and not carry bitterness around. 

My friends got my back two hundred times, but when there was 6-figures of money involved, they turned their back at me, that's completely understandable. I forgave them, even though I always want them to remember what they did.

In the book The Art of War, Lao Tzu says that if you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.

Thinking about the past is a waste of time and energy. I like to figure out what I've learned from tough moments but I don't need to know why. I just care that I'm doing the right thing."

 

Interesting. I ask what he means by "the right thing".

"The biggest learnings that I've made sure to implement since then, were that:

1. I have to separate business and friendship. When I talk business I care about the money. 

2. I cannot do everything by myself. I need a team, and a team that's involved.

3. Transparency is key: you show your team how you do things, they understand it and you can move on. i always make sure to communicate.

4. It is about the journey, I have learned so much, grown so much, and despite rough times, my life had evolved so much since then, and turned into a blessing. So I am thankful for everything.

5. When something really bad (major) happens to me, say I get dumped by a girlfriend or fired from a job for example, I use the first 24, next 24, next 24 rule:

During the first 24 hours, after my raw emotions come out, I reflect on my mistakes, my learnings, what I have to do to move on, my biggest takeaways, and then I don't think about it again for the next 24 days, then I do the same thing 24 months later!"

 

A week later, something major happened against my will and I had to put that saying into practice.  

Are you ready to try to first 24 - next 24 - next 24 rule, let go of your grudges and live in the moment?
What Wakes You up in the Morning?
Estimated reading time: 1'

Estimated reading time: 1'

I had it all.

An amazing loving boyfriend.

An exciting and challenging job.

Great salary and perks.

A penthouse apartment in a fabulous city.

Supporting friends. 

Evenings and weekends filled with exciting activities.

I had achieved everything I had been looking for.

But despite all that, something was missing and I didn't know what. I felt empty inside.

It was the 5th time I was moving to a new place, taking a new job, recreating a social life, hoping to find that missing piece.

I used to blame it on the weather. On other people. On anything that would take over my responsibility.

 

Mark Twain once said:

“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” 

 

And then I understood.

I had not answered the most crucial question:" why am I here"?

So I started to reflect.

And two words kept popping in my head: People & Places.

Those are always the first things I do when I get some free time: meeting people and exploring places.

So I started my side hustles:

Learning everything I can on digital businesses. 

Writing about people's stories and posting about cool spots around the world.

Inspiring others to be stronger, more adventurous, more open-minded.

I don't know where is it leading and I do not have a 5-years business plan quite yet.

But I'm working on it.

And I wake up every morning feeling a flush of happiness and excitement for the day to come, because I have a purpose.

And for me, that's the definition of happiness.

It''s Never Too Late, Trust Me
Estimated reading time: 1'30

Estimated reading time: 1'30

I met Liaf while waiting in line at a bakery in Stockholm, Sweden. He advised me which cake to take (you know how french people can be fussy about their desserts!).

"- My name is Liaf, it is a Norwegian viking name , it means "son of the lion" in Arabic. 

I used to be involved in Journalism, traveling the world (incl. the USA, Portugal, Tanzania, Cap Verde...) and meeting some of the most influential people in the political and entertainment scene, particularly in the States. At some point, I was approached by the CIA to become an agent, but I refused.

- Cool, I am also in the journalistic field, I said.

- Do you want to become the next Brandon Stanton?

- No, I want to be the first Helene Clabecq. 

- Trust me, it's never too late to start. 

I've had a rich life full of adventure, but at 69 years-old, I got a stroke and had a choice to make: either be old and scared, or do something about my mental and physical health. 

Obviously, I wasn't gonna let myself die. At the time, my daughter was taking a degree as a Pedagogue, and since the teacher seemed to push all the work and supervision to parents, I decided that I might as well study for that diploma too. I got it at age 72, aside to studying gender equity. Shortly after, I started a travel agency for seniors, and took 2500 of them to Portugal".

I expressed my awe.

"69 is the middle of life, it's nothing impressive! You need to take care of your "cabeza*" or you will slowly die"

This discussion reminded me that we are the ones setting limits to ourselves. Not only it is never too late to reach for our goals, but most of the so-called obstacles that we think stop us, are just excuses we give ourselves.

The sky is the limit.

_______

* "Head" in Spanish

Do you set limits to yourself? Which one(s) are you going to get rid of today?
Know What You Want & Maximize Your Time Accordingly
Estimated reading time: 3'

Estimated reading time: 3'

I met Hunter at a Friends-giving getaway in lake Tahoe, one of the most beautiful areas of California. We had rented a giant house by the lake together with 18 other people.

On the first day, while the group split into either skiing or hiking adventures, Hunter decided to stay home by the fireplace and read a book.

In the evenings, while he was the youngest of the bunch, 20 years old, he would warn adults not to eat sugar or drink too much... This caught my attention and I was curious to know why he was acting so mature.

"I just want to maximize my time and my health.

Alcohol dissolves brain cells, and brain cells don’t recreate after being made, while most other cells in your body regenerate after 5 years. I don't want to waste them at an early age. 

Last year, I would wake up at 8am and go to Business Administration classes. Then, I would go to my club and organizational roles. After a commute home, I would go to work as a pizza-delivery guy, then home again, do homework, play a video game and eventually end the day at 12-2 o'clock, in the morning i’d start again. I always needed to have energy, so I've always made a point to live healthily (sleep well, eat well, take care of my mind, etc). In college lot of students underachieve: it's more fun and less studies.

It wasn’t the same for me.

 

- Did your parents put that pressure on you to study and work hard? I asked.

 

- My parents never really pushed me, I continually reach for my potential alone. However, they did introduce me to various activities and raised me well. They would never push me but I was taught that if I wanted something I would have to work towards it. For example, my family burns wood in the winter to help heat our house. This meant I'd have to help split, stack, or bring in wood during the winter, from a young age. Yet as I grew up it went from a chore, to something that I could do to help. I’ve always given whatever I'm doing my all.

I used to be an A student, soccer all-star, and track runner until I hurt my feet and was not able to compete any longer.

But when you work so hard toward good grades, you lose the meaning, you wake up in the morning and think "why am I here right now, is this this even worth it?".

Fortunately, one day, my high school buddy bootstrapped a company and asked me to be part of the project.

He dropped out of school, developed a wearable tech company, sold it, and invested in what has become Leangap.

I believe that everybody should have the chance to create something meaningful, to develop their ideas, no matter what their financial situation is. So we created this summer program that helps students reach their full potential. We gather students from all around the world into one location. We have mentors which direct them as they combine their various expertise and ideas. By the end of the program they will have a viable business model, app, or prototype which they pitch to a panel of venture capitalists, CEOs, and successful entrepreneurs.

I found what I love, it gives me more meaning, and I'm helping kids do the same. I might go back to school eventually but right now I still spend all my time experimenting, learning and growing. That's all I can do for myself at the end of the day. There's so much information out there...

My biggest tip is: learn what you want to know, figure out what interests you, then maximize your time accordingly to do what you love".

What’s your passion & are you following it?
It's not About Virtual Reality, it's About Recreating the Real World
Estimated reading time: 7'

Estimated reading time: 7'

I met Isaac at a house-party at my place last year.

We did not have the most usual conversation on a Saturday night as he was telling me how unhappy he felt at work, and that he was considering quitting and going on a trip.

I encouraged him, as I always do with people who want to follow their heart, but you how it is, a lots of people dream of doing that and never actually take the step.

Isaac wasn't one of those.

The second time we caught up, he had quit the same day and was leaving the following week to Europe and Asia, on a one-way ticket. He was literally shrieking and jumping up and down, of excitement. Obviously, champagne was on me!

The third time we met up, he had just gotten back from his trip and was visiting LA, so he had to tell me the whole story over lunch.

 

“I’ve been passionate about programming for as long as I can remember.

At 13, I became obsessed with Scratch*. I really loved that you could make shit out of nothing, I was like that’s awesome, I can build my own world!

After 3 months, I built up a word-search game that got featured on the front-page of a website.

I wanted to do more of that, but back then in 2010-11, I didn’t know it was possible to do this for a living, I wanted to build websites and apps were not really a thing yet.

My parents didn’t know any of this shit so they couldn’t help me, they were like follow your passion but to an extent, and live a normal life after that aha.

A couple years later, I investigated and found a programming summer-college at Harvard that taught me a little more, though was very isolating because we were basically running a computer inside a computer, which took a lot of memory and slowed down the whole thing, preventing us from being able to actually build stuff.

Fast-forward to my first programming meetup in NYC. I dropped a note on the group and asked if somebody wanted to go with me since I was a high-school kid and didn’t know anyone.

A girl responded and we hung out over pizza. She did not go to college, so I was like “Wow is this something you can do?” It blew my mind. At the time, I was going to private school in NYC and everybody hated school, period.

A few months later, I participated in a coding boot camp over the summer. It cost a fortune and my parents didn’t want to pay…

 

“What do I do now?” moment nr 1:

I contacted the founder and asked if I could do an internship there. I kept emailing him till he finally said yes. Hustling my way in!

I love that when this guy wants something, he makes it happen and takes chances.

This internship was life-changing because it was still school, but everyone was coming from all these different backgrounds and actually wanted to be there and learn. These were real people, older, not just high-school shitheads… One guy was in the army, another one was a baseball player, one was a surgeon, etc.

We had this thing called “Feeling Friday”, where everyone would stand up and share their feeling of the week, and one time I started sobbing and say, “this is my home”.

When the summer ended, I had to go back to high-school for a final year. It was brutal. I had had a flash of how my life could be over the summer and it certainly wasn’t school.

I got in trouble all the time because at this point I couldn't care less. The principal thought I was crazy so I got hooked up with the school psychologist, and I was able to skip the worse classes I had to chill with her and chat about our common hatred of the place.

Eventually, I managed to get an internship to skip all the other classes I hated.”

This is what happens when the educational system insists on putting people in boxes rather than trying to understand why they misbehave…

“At that point, I had to apply to college as my parents were pressuring me so I did this for a year, but I was dreaming of San-Francisco, the geek heaven.

I asked the founder of Flatiron for contacts and he helped me get an internship in SF. My plan was that they’d love me so much they’d hire me, but of course, none of that happened. They were giving me no responsibilities whatsoever and at the end of the internship I had no plan B, but I still had a place so I decided I’d just figure things out and it would work out.

I spent a year doing freelancing, being a Postmate-career, using my savings, but at some point, it just wasn’t going to pay my rent".

I could totally relate to this…When you sign up for a place on a long-term, it says a lot about your intentions and commitment, and it gives you a push to make things happen.

 

“What do I do now?” moment nr 2:

"I did a lot of networking, went to hackathons and ended up being approached by this guy who was looking for an engineer to launch his start-up. That was a month before I’d have to go back to college for want of anything better.

His app was pretty cool so we decided to give it a shot. We moved to the Tenderloin (NB: the worse neighborhood of San Francisco, frequented by drug dealers, criminals, and prostitutes).

After we got fundraising, I became a co-founder, we used the money to get a better lifestyle, we hired people, tried to make it work but it just wasn’t going anywhere.

I was in a social cage, it was a mindset thing, all I could think about. As things were going downhill, I met this cute girl, and we literally lived together for an entire month. I was craving social interaction at that stage. On a Friday, she came home (which also was out office) early and we started to hang out. My co-founder freaked out as he saw that I was phasing out, asked me “do you really want to do this, you’re not focused?!”, and he let me go the next day."

It happens SO often that when you don’t want something, you fail it on purpose so that somebody else takes the decision to end the situation, and sets you free.

 

“What do I do now?” moment nr 3:

"I left and chilled on my friend’s boat in Sausalito. It sounded like a dream but it was pouring every day and there were no bathrooms…

So I got a job in a startup.

My boss was difficult and I could not deal with it anymore – to be honest, when I quit, I first one to leave but since then almost all my coworkers walked the walk.

I was planning on traveling to Europe and South-Asia with a friend but on the first night, she got a call from her boss and had to go back home right away. She ditched me.

 

“What do I do now?” moment nr 4:

Isn’t it interesting to notice that every time you face an obstacle, and things don’t go the way you planned, this actually gives you a chance to level up?

Well, I had no return flight and had gotten rid of my apartment in San Francisco so there was no way I’d turn back. It was slightly exciting and slightly terrifying.

I went to 9 countries in 5 months (Prague, Spain, Italy, Germany, France, Switzerland, Thailand, Vietnam, Japan…), did some freelance, traveled and taught kids some English. Even though I originally wasn’t planning on coming back, it felt very temporary because the language barrier made it difficult to have meaningful conversations. So I came back.

Now, I’m switching my career to Californian politics, housing, local stuff. It is more meaningful. I’ve had to live in unsafe and uncomfortable places and areas during my life, and I want to make a difference for others. 

Also, housing really is a centerpiece of understanding America’s decay. Once you understand that America’s problems are totally made up and we’ve brought this on ourselves, you find ways to fix it.

We don’t have to be in a shit show.

Our environment doesn’t have to literally burn in front of us. We just need the courage to say that we failed and it’s time to try something new.

In fact, I’m not really switching from programming at all. I see these things as tools — as means to an end. It just happens that programming and creating apps are a great way to reach people.

Before having to face all those "What do I do now moments", I think I was afraid of what was going on around me. You look around and it’s hard not to be scared. But that’s how they get you. That’s the only way Trump will win, is if we become scared and desperate. I’m not afraid anymore because we’re screwed by our inaction. 2017 was a year of roller-coasters, 2018 is a time to act. Go do whatever you need to do!

____

(*colored blocks that you drag & drop like puzzle pieces instead of typing codes)

Would you rather build your own virtual reality or recreating things on the real world?
— Isaac Rosenberg