How it started…

I remember vividly a day in preschool, I was three years old but placed in a group with older children. In the morning, we were given a task of making a drawing presenting a sun, a tree and a house. We were supposed to hand over our drawings by mid-afternoon so that the best ones can be selected and rewarded.

I didn’t know how to draw any of these complex objects. I could have tried, but I wasn’t even sure if I was holding the pencils the right way, and I had that feeling that the whole game was set to favour those older kids who already had nice drawing skills — in other words: to disfavour me.

I made a plan.

I spent the morning looking at others while they work on their drawings, and I identified the kids who knew best how to draw each of these assignment objects. I narrowed my selection to three kids, one for the sun, one for the house and one for the tree.

Then came lunchtime, and I offered them a deal. I would exchange parts of my lunch, with each one of them, in return for them drawing for me. It must have been the first time anyone offered those kids something in return for their talents, so they accepted (except for the “house” one — there I had to go with my second choice).

The kid sitting across the lunch table, seeing that I would end-up without any lunch, took pity on me and offered half of his desert to me. Deserts were (and still are) for me, the only reason why someone would have lunch anyway. I accepted this kindness with a smile.

Everybody did their part, and I had a pretty good drawing. I looked at the other drawings and I was pretty confident “mine” was by far the best overall. I still remember that scene when I proudly handed the drawing to the teacher. She was sitting behind a desk, blinding bright sun shining behind her, and my hands reaching up, through the rays of light, to put the drawing at her desk. I can never forget the suspense, anxiety, excitement and joy of that day.

The teacher obviously knew. My parents we unsure whether to feel proud or ashamed, so they never said anything. But I knew I was proud.

…How It’s Going

I am still doing the exact same thing. With the difference that now it has a name — it is called being a startup founder.

Refusing to fail, I fought against the odds in countless situations. In some I won. Instead of beating them at their game where I’d be disfavoured, I made others play in my games. I partnered with people to make, together, something greater than ourselves. I skipped lunch. I made deals. I made friends.

More than 3 decades, 1 phd and few startups later, I want to share with you what I’ve learned, through introspection, along the way. I want to tell you about the attitudes that you can adopt to achieve such things. Many of them are avant-garde, counterintuitive and often at odds with the mainstream and with modern corporate culture. I also want to tell you about the emotions you’ll have to navigate.

I want to inspire conversations about uncomfortable topics.

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