Wow, it’s been over a month since my last post. It’s been such a crazy ride I don’t even remember how many ups and downs there have been. It all started a month ago when I reached a very low emotional state, feeling lost in where I was going and what I was doing. I realized I had put too much pressure on myself to find my path and what I was supposed to do. For my first month in Brazil I went to the co-working space almost every day and sat at a desk trying to figure it out. I read, I wrote and I jump started a couple of business ideas without thinking them through properly and more importantly without questioning if it really was what I wanted to do. I felt the pressure of limited time and resources, I saw my savings diminishing, and I pushed myself, I tried to force my “transformation” to happen. I even made a schedule of which hours to focus on what, completely losing the bigger picture of questioning what I was actually doing and why. I ended up feeling even more lost and confused and realized it wasn’t working, I needed a break.
So I followed my own advice of breaking everyday patterns and changing environments to gain new inspiration, I needed to do something that would put myself outside of my own comfort zone and create some new thinking patterns. I bought a one way bus ticket to Ubatuba, the surfing capital of Brazil between Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paolo, without knowing where I was going, what I was doing and for how long I would be gone. In Ubatuba I immersed myself in pristine nature, hiking along deserted paradise beaches, deep jungles, rivers and waterfalls. All to the soundtrack of Spotify’s instrumental playlist “Deep Focus”, which made it all the more magical.
I spent about ten days completely by myself, intentionally avoiding social gatherings to have time to just feel and be. During all of this time I placed only one question to myself – how do I want to feel? It has always been more important to me how I feel about myself and my life than what I do, so this made sense to me. I started picturing myself five years from now, and then ten years from now. Not in terms of what I was doing, where I was or what I had, but in terms of how I wanted to feel and then worked my way backwards trying to figure out what would make me feel that way. It was a very powerful exercise that took place on and off in my mind during these ten days, as I had my morning coffee and yoga on the beach just outside my dorm room every day. The feeling of how I wanted to feel became so strong when I attached visualized life events and components to it, the emotions saturated within me and lifted me. I started to feel peace and trust in that I would reach that feeling. I now have a physical scene in my head of where I am in life ten years from now that I can visit in my mind at any time and that wonderful, warm feeling comes right back to me and calms me down.
Then, when I had just reached this newfound peace and hopefulness again, I had a relationship crisis with one of the persons that mean the most to me, which completely crushed me. I was filled with uncertainty and hopelessness again and questioned everything, including myself and what kind of person I was. For days I was just in a haze and couldn’t focus on anything, I just felt so empty and sad. In a constant low I couldn’t appreciate anything. Then just like the Universe knew exactly what I needed, on the day when I was at my very lowest, we got back home in the evening and one of my best friends from Sweden stood there in the lobby with his backpack smiling at me. I couldn’t believe it, it almost felt like magic. Two days later we were home cooking dinner and the bell door rang. They asked me to open and there stood another very good friend from our tight group of friends. I was so overwhelmed I froze and just stared at him. Without even knowing it, these two amazing persons and close friends made a complete turnaround of my spirits. Over the next ten days I dropped everything and together we went on incredible adventures, excursions and had long, delirious nightly discussions about life and our own situations, while sitting on the streets of Rio drinking beer. The four of us are all going through major life changes or challenges, and even though they are of different character, our emotions and fears are similar and we found strength and inspiration in each other. These ten days reconnected me with the insight of how amazing it is to be alive and healthy, and how magical life can be when spent with good friends.
One after the other, they both left Rio, and even though I still had my best friend and our Botafogo apartment family in Rio, there was an emptiness. There was also the usual back to reality realization that I still have to find my “calling”, and I wasn’t sure how. Uncertainty and fears started coming back. “Where am I going?”, I kept asking myself. I felt stuck. I decided to take a break from creating stuff and started just learning. I started reading a ton of articles about both relationships and life changes. I came to the realization that to understand what route to take I have to understand myself better first. Even though I’ve done tons of personality and values tests before, I had never really connected the results of what kind of person I am to what kind of professions that would suit a person like me. I found a simple Myers-Briggs personality tests, but I took it at a site that used it as a tool to help you find your career. The difference was that it very clearly laid out four different things that a person like me normally looks for in a career and based on these it suggested six different types of careers. In my case, being an INFP personality (diplomatic mediator/negotiator), what drives me in a career is meaning, flexibility, creativity and independence. For career alternatives matching my personality, the first one that came up was “writing and communication”. I started thinking more reflectively about my past choices and situations where I have experienced flow and passion, and it started to dawn upon me that I am a story teller. Not verbally, but through words, images and all kinds of creative expressions that create emotions. When I thought more about it, I think that what it comes down to for me is that I want to create an impact in other people’s lives through evoking positive or inspiring emotions, nothing feels more rewarding to me than to create, do or say something that widen other people’s perspectives and when people tell me that I have inspired them. That’s the whole reason why I am writing this blog. I want to make other people experience the magical connection to something larger than ourselves that I sometimes feel in life.
I have always had a burning curiosity to understand the inner drives of other people, what makes them tick and just how they view a particular situation. That has been one of the key reasons for why I have always loved traveling, why I cannot get enough of experiencing new cultures and traditions, that’s why I live abroad. That’s also why 95% of all the books I have ever read are related to personal leadership and self awareness. By understanding myself, I can understand how I am different from other people. Looking back, maybe I should have studied psychology. I can spend hours reading about behavioral science, and what I liked most about my previous job was the negotiation, to think about how the other person is seeing it, what their motivations are, and building a strategy to get to a deal. I’m happy I studied and worked in business though, I think businesses have such immense power (and responsibility) to impact people’s lives. If I can “tell a story” that will bring awareness and inspire and positively impact people through a business, rather than just a book or a blog, I think that can have a larger impact. Looking back at the choices I made in life out of pure interest and curiosity, my consumer marketing major in college was one of them, and it is not until now that I fully understand the reasons behind why it interested me so.
I recently read an article that argued that it is not about what you would love to do, as much as it’s about what process of learning and developing you would love. This switched my mindset a bit from “what would I love to do in 5 years?” to “what would I love to do right now, and tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow?”. The last few days I have spent a lot of time visualizing myself running a startup company and noted down all the tasks that I would dread, and all the tasks that I would love and would put me in a state of flow. Basically, this ended up being all tasks that the end consumer or stakeholder would be directly exposed to, the things that have a chance of directly impacting another human being. The biggest thing being building and communicating the values and story of the company and the brand, to highlight and spread the meaning, value and purpose of the business mainly to customers, but also to all stakeholders including possible employees. I also loved the idea of representing my company (the values and story) by telling other people about it, presenting it and also building relationships with key potential partners, suppliers or clients to get them engaged in it. I could also see myself spending days just planning our strategy and growth for how we could make an even larger impact by reaching more people.
The last, but perhaps emotionally most engaging area that I thought I would not be able to stop working with in my own startup, was the customer experience. The big picture design and functionality of a website, app, product or physical space. I think that’s the biggest reason for why I was pulled towards working in retail and consumer products in the first place, and that’s why I’ve always been so fascinated with packaging design. Yes, packaging. Last week in Rio we went to an afterwork event at another co-working house where the beer was supplied by a startup brewing company called Octopus. I was so drawn towards their consumer experience in terms of the design of their logo and one of their bottles, that I couldn’t stop disturbing them to know more. And I kept coming back, in admiring awe. I realized that with this design and this bottle, their product created an emotion within me that connected me to something else, a dreamy world of authenticity, originality and simplicity. I felt that by bringing this bottle into my life, these values transcended into my own world. It’s a similar way that brands like Apple make you feel about their products, and in all honesty, for me it’s a win-win. Looking back at my old job of negotiating new stores for the H&M group, what always excited me most about a new store was the facade and the space, which in a way is the packaging of a store. I could always spend way more time than the landlord on negotiating details of the facade to get it the way I thought would create the best impact. For one store, I spent six months visualizing and negotiating only the location, facade and space for an H&M store in a new shopping center that was being built, before we even started discussing other terms.
It has started to dawn upon me that my drive and motivation in life, for whatever I end up doing and even if I start my own company, would come from telling a story. This could be through a brand, a product, a physical space, art or just words. It would be a story that is a product of my own creative expression, a story that leaves a positive emotion and impact in people’s lives, a story that perhaps leads to making the world a tiny bit better somehow. I still don’t know what I will be doing, but at least now I have a better idea of what it is going to look like.
All love and no fear,