Reflections on 2019

2019 was a year earmarked by surprise birthday celebrations and true bonding with friends and family.

I started the year in the serene beaches of Tulum, Mexico, and ended it on the sun-blushed mountains of Kitzbuhel, Austria where I was skiing with friends on unusually sunny slopes for this time of the year. It always helps to start the year with a pinch of good luck.

A year of surprises and, somehow, many b-day celebrations!

Three highlights of my year, on the personal side, were: surprising my father for his birthday in Dubai, exactly a year to this day (19 Jan) where I literally just showed up at the restaurant he was having celebratory lunch with my family.  Thanks to my brother and his wife I was able to arrive from London on an overnight flight just in time to surprise him at the venue they were lunching. Just seeing his shocked face was simply priceless. Memory to be cherished forever.

We had a few amazing days in blissful weather and true family bondong.

Similarly a second highlight was surprising one of my best friends, Rob, for his 40th birthday in Mumbai on 3rd August.  Again, thanks to his wife Farah, I was able to coordinate it perfectly such that I knocked on his bedroom door exactly after he got out of the shower (pants on thankfully, just about) and was getting ready to go out to a celebratory dinner. Again, his shocked reaction was priceless.

We then went to Goa for the weekend where we had an amazing few days indulging in insanely good food, beer, good company and incredible scenery. Being monsoon period it was raining most of the time but still there was something so romantic, picturesque and inspiring about the whole setting.

Goa for my friend Rob’s Bday

Celebrating my 40th

Last but not least: my third highlight was celebrating my own 40th birthday in Beaune, Burgundy in France in May. As I’ve said many a time to my friends and family this experience – dubbed  by my friends as the ‘wedding without the bride-  changed me forever. Its bonded me with my really loved ones, made me realise even more the irreplaceable importance of love, friendship and family in life. And of course also shed its dose on who amongst my circle doesn’t fit naturally in that circle of trust.  

Words cannot describe the sensation, pre, during and after this all-in-all 4-5 day ordeal. Suffice to say it’s changed me as a person considerably (for the better I hope!) and made me vouch to throw a similar party, albeit smaller, every year.  The next one coming up being in Italy between 1st – 3rd May.

Why? Well, for one, this party made me realise  how seldom a privilege it is to have all your loved ones – friends, family, colleagues – all in one place. In fact I can’t remember the last time that happened. I felt so blessed to be surrounded with so much love and emotion, it truly made me happy and it’s still the talking point amongst friends almost 7 months later. People flew in from 11 different cities (as far apart as San Francisco to Mumbai) to this little town of Beaune, where, according to the locals who looked after us there, nothing like this had ever been seen before.

My friends dubbed this my ‘wedding without a bride’. I stole that line as my opening at the speck I gave which you can view here

To this day whenever I have a bad day at work I look at the photos, the scrap book that people wrote their wishes in, or the videos. It just reminds me of something unique and positive and sets me back in a good mood with this thought in mind: no matter what happens there is no substitute for true love, kindness, generosity – in the extended sense of the word, empathy, friendship and happiness.

As I was quoted in saying one of the ‘wedding’ speeches: “everything else is actually overrated”.  

I even memories some of the comments in the scrap book.  Some of my favourites:

From my brother Stelios: “never a dull moment with you bro. Since that day 40 years ago when you came out of the hospital with those spiky hairs”

My sister Stef: “Only you could have put on a party like this. Thanks for being amazing, love you “

My father: “..the party was unique, unbelievable. ..Keep on doing it your way”

A good friend of mine Tasos, who likes to think of himself as my mentor 🙂 “I taught him all he knows. I thought. Little did I know”

One of my good friends Sarah: “happy birthday you fabulous, crazy but golden hearted animal! Thank you for this incredible weekend…I can talk on behalf of everyone when saying our lives will be so much boring without you in it.  I’m so grateful to have met you  and to count you as one of my best friends. Happy Bday, we love you! To more crazy times to come

From Leana, a close family friend: to the most authentic, good hearts, spontaneous, CRAZY person i’ve ever met. HAPPY BIRTHDAY. Best wedding ever.. cant wait for the 50th

From my friend Roland: Xenios, this big week-end was something amazing and very special for me. You made it perfectly with Aylish. Good friendship, wonderful and linked family.This moment will be written in my mind for the life. Thanks for what your are and the heart generosity you preed around you.

And from me to my guests: “Here’s to the things that truly matter. Good times with good friends and family. Everything else is pretty much overrated. Love you all

I wont rant on further on this life changing experience, as I wrote a separate Blog post on it here

Summary Video of the long weekend.

The video footage and photos speak for themselves which are available here  https://xenios40th.com/

I also had the luck and honour in June of being invited by one of my good friends and early supporter at PeoplePerHour.com, Fabrice Grinda, to celebrate the birthday of his father in Nice, France in their fabulous home with stunning views overlooking the cote d’Azur. Over the years i’ve had the luck of getting closer to him, his close and extended family and the pleasure of being amongst the select few celebrating such special events with him

With my friend Fabrice in Nice
Amazing dinner with fabrice, some of his family and friends in La petite Maison, Nice

Other highlights was an amazing boys group skiing trip we did in February in Chamonix, which we are repeating with the same group albeit in Val Thorens this year. I spent some time in Cyprus in the summer and Greece as always, most notably with my brother, Anna his wife and my beautiful niece Athena in Athens which I cherished.

Great shot captured by our genial mountain guide in Valle Noir Chamonix

New places I visited where the stunning Capri in Italy for a long weekend. I went to Hong Kong in March for Art Basel almost two decades after my last trip there. I spent some time in Marbella at the start of the summer which was fabulous as always. I visited Paris twice once in March for a friend’s birthday again, and on the 1st May for my birthday (the day before driving to Beaune) were we had an amazing celebration at Balagan restaurant with a small group of friends.  I celebrated Easter in Monaco where we had some excellent food and wine and got my first bit of spring sun.  

Business as usual. Or not.  

On the business front:  the highlight of 2019 was mainly that my new business TalentDesk.io which I started in 2017 started showing some convincing signs of solid traction. Much as I hate this term, I have a feeling that this will be a unicorn business. The product is just so simple, intuitive and user-friendly, it solves a real problem faced by most medium to big businesses – managing their growing contingent workforce efficiently and productively – in a slick and elegant way; it addresses a huge and growing global market – more than $2.6Tn was spent on freelancers and contractors in 2018 by companies worldwide – we are constantly onboarding new Enterprise customers and interestingly all over the world, not just the UK, and most importantly we have, now, I’m proud to say, a stellar team that is so gelled together. The team is now approaching 20 people already and each of them is a superstar in their own domain. So, all in all I believe this is a combination that just cannot do anything else than excel.

So far the business has been seeded and incubated by it’s parent PeoplePerHour.com which we founded in 2007.  Our plans for 2020 are to spin it out so it can take its own route, raise its own capital and go its own way. We have high ambitions for the business including expanding to the US soon which is an even bigger and more mature market.

PeoplePerHour.com my original business I started in 2007 is maturing and carrying on. Highlights of the year were doing some more TV advertising and, for the first time, some ‘out-of-home’ advertising in bus stops and the tube (subway). It was a proud moment so see adverts serendipitously in train wagons and tube stops. Almost a moment of affirmation and maturity

Personal habits.

On a personal level, I’ve gotten more into the habits I started being mastering in 2017 and 2018 and formed some new ones.

I still do intermittent fasting religiously, which as I’ve said many a time has changed my life. I feel healthier, leaner, more focused, more mentally alert  and have a much stronger immune system. In fact I haven’t got ill once since starting to fast.

I’ve upped my fasting regime to doing a 24 hour fast twice a week, usually Mondays and Tuesdays which is cleansing after an indulgent weekend.  I then transition to a minimum 16 hour fast the rest of the week.

I feel cleaner with fasting: your skin gets better and you feel all your organs regenerate as autophagy kicks in on the 12th hour onwards.

I’ve continued to maintain a cyclical ketogenic diet which means consuming high protein, high fats, low sugar and carb diet. On that equation what sits with me best is mainly high protein and moderate fats: I consume less than the recommended saturated fat synthesis of a true keto diet as they are high in calories and frankly my taste buds agree less with them. Once or twice a week I’ll throw in some complex carbs (brown fibers or rice) which are slower burning than simple white ones and so the influxes of insulin in your blood stream are still less stark and kept into check.

I continue to work out daily in fasted state, doing mainly high intensity training Boxing and Muay Thai interchangeably, although more boxing this year than last as i decided to double down on my technique. Being hungry when you work out, literally, brings out an aggression in you which is the etymology of the metaphorical meaning of the expression. Having that ‘hungry’ look or state, else termed as the ‘eye of the tiger’ stems from our biological wiring to kick in survival mode when hungry. Our growth hormones are boosted and we are more alert for the kill.

New practices I’ve developed in 2019:

I’ve started swimming more regularly to balance of the intensity of boxing and Muay Thai on my body and joints. I now do a 30 min swim daily after my usual workout. This has been instrumental in reducing injury and inflammation. Swimming is a great meditative experience as well, the feeling of being immersed in water taking us back to our embryonic days. Its relaxing to the mind as well as the body.

I’ve got completely hooked an this app called Blinkist which summarises books in ca 15 mins.I now  daily get through at least 2 books a day this way  making use of downtime in Uber taxis and plane rides. Still its no substitute for reading a complete book front to back, but in the absence of abundance of time it’s a great way to get its main essence.

Some of my favourites were: The Stuff of Thought by Steven Pinker, Super Human by dave Asprey, Home Deus by Yuval Harari, A brief History of Thought by Luc Ferry, and Buddas Brain by Rick Hanson. I also liked Aware by Daniel Siegel and the Subtle Art of Not giving a F*ck by Mark Manson.

Following my party in Burgundy I’ve become a big lover of Burgundy reds (was always a lover of the whites) and started exploring the region more focused. The world if wine is so vast and sophisticated that the only practical way around it is region by region. I’ve also started investing in wine after realising how some of the top Grand Crus have gone up 10x in price in the last decade or so (like Domain de la Romanee-Conti )

I’ve become a big fan of – no joke – sleep. After reading a New York best seller ‘Why we sleep’ I’ve realised how important regular good quality sleep is, and how damaging the mantra quoted by many a-famous workaholics like Margaret Thatcher “ill sleep when I’m dead” is. As the author puts it that’s the fastest way to ensure you are in fact dead!

I now try to sleep without an alarm on for a few days a week (Jeff Bezos of amazon is famously known for that) and get in at least 8 hours regular sleep and an 11-12 hour sleep at least once a week. Our biological clock is in fact so accurate that I find myself consistently waking up a few minutes before the alarm goes off anyway. But letting sleep run its natural course actually makes a big difference. I’ve also found that taking Magnesium supplements helps in that which I now do consistently.

This year, unlike previous ones, I didn’t do any other tech / startup investments for two reasons: prices are too high in tech still, I think we are nearing the end of a bubble again. Secondly, to diversify. My main investments for the year were in completing a big refurb job in my apartment that was being planned for over two years. After a lot of sweat, hassle in dealing with unreliable builders and workers its finally come to a close and I’m happy to say was worth the sweat in the end. Property never really interested me as a business: I just find it too dry, it lacks creativity, invention and imagination.  But it’s been such a steep learning for me completing this project that  I feel now if I ever wanted to get into property professionally, I could!

I’ve continued to paint, albeit not as much as I’d like – recurring comment I know– but still managed to get in some new art pieces completed. I still find that nothing puts me in that mode of flow like painting does, where I feel happy, connected with myself and the world, hyper-focussed in the zone. Almost euphoric. I aim to do more of it.

New Year’s Resolutions

It’s always a recurring resolution of mine to paint and write more, activities that put me in a state of ‘flow’, deep focused attention and mindfulness. States that lead to more focussed attention, presence and therefore happiness and well being.

Another resolution is to do more meditation: a practice I dabbled at in the past 2 years and seen similar benefits to what I describe above. More focus, deeper awareness, composure, an ability to control your thoughts and live in the moment. All of which are much needed to maintain mental and physical health in a world where we are littered and bombarded increasingly by over-information which leads to exhaustion, anxiety and unhappiness.  

Stillness, I’ve found, is the only way  of blocking that noise out and cleansing the mind. And I find that in activities that put me in that state of ‘flow’ like painting, writing, swimming, boxing, cooking, and meditation. It makes me feel more aware, connected and present in the moment.

The latter is the laggard in the practices I’ve adopted hence my resolution to ramp up on it in 2020.

Wishing you all an amazing new year and a new decade. Much love to you all and your loved ones.  

Reflections on 2018

I started 2018  on the beautiful mountains of Hokkaido, Japan skiing, and ended it on the serene beaches of Tulum in Mexico. In-between I did unusually little travelling as I had been quite tired of excessive travelling in previous years and wanted to stay put, get into my daily routine and have a less hectic schedule.

1st Jan in Tulum

 

That said, new places I visited for the first time were Montenegro & Croatia for a friends 40thwhich was awesome, and Abu Dhabi where I visited the Louvre. The rest were usual places I like to visit like the Trois Valle  for skiing  where had the best week ever in Feb there, south of France, Greek islands, Dubai to see family, Cyprus for the  annual dosage of weddings, and Athens of course to see the PPH team there.

 

When we did our first hire in Athens in 2010 (Sotiris who is now CTO of our newest business, TalentDesk.io) we crammed everyone in a little apartment owned by my PPH  CTO (Spyros) which has since become a thriving Airbnb  business for visiting  PPH team members. I think he has better occupancy than the Four Seasons! 🙂  We then got one floor in  a 4-storey building nearby in the trendy area of Gazi.  I did say back then that one day we will get the whole building, I suspect most people thought I was  just being my usual over-bullish self.

 

This year, 8 years after that first hire, I’m proud to say, we  finally did. We now occupy all 4 floors so its officially the PPH building

 

2018 was a year I’d describe best with one word: learning.  A lot has happened in the year, some positive, some not so, but most importantly all lead to good learnings.

 

Some of the things I’m happy about are:

 

Continuing to stay disciplined with my  daily training, even when I travel, and in fact mixing it up more and upping the intensity. My regular regime now is sparring sessions at least 2-3 times a week doing 15-20 rounds, 2-3 mins each of Muay Thai with the notorious Ash the PocketRocket (@Pashpocketrocket),  formerly UK’a No1  in Muay Thai, and champion of UK and Europe.  I often struggle to walk back to the office as I’m sure some have noticed 🙂 , but i’m getting addicted to the regular beating and hustling around for an hour in a room. It focuses the mind, trains the body, helps me destress, get my aggression out and very often puts me in that ‘zone’ as they call it where you are just in your element and you ‘flow’. Im getting more and more addicted to it.

 

The rest of the week I do pad and bag work , mixed in with some weight training for strength and plyometric training for explosiveness and endurance.

I’ve also started enjoying trying out different coaches  in boxing and Muay Thai wherever I travel, if I can find one. I did this in in Dubai  in November in a beautiful top floor outdoor ring, pic below, later on Miami in December, and – most enjoyably – in Tulum Mexico  in Dec & Jan where I trained on the sand on the beach every day (yes including the 31stDec and 1stJan).  Training on the beach has just taken the whole experience to a new level. It’s a lot more hard work and strain on the feet and legs but it’s just psychedelic. You connect with nature, the sea the sun the earth the wind and your body all right there in one.  And at the end you just dip in the ocean dripping wet with sweat. Pure bliss, Simply magical.

 

I’m also happy for  getting more religiously into intermittent fasting and improving  what and when I eat, getting more disciplined about it, again, even when I travel,  for which I feel so much better, more focussed, have a better immune system (did not get ill once since I started fasting) and feel generally lighter and more clear minded.

 

I’m happy that I got more into life coaching and now have a regular session with an amazing guy I met serendipitously (David) who coaches some of the top business people in Europe (not sure how I fit into that but I’m happy he’s accepted me as a client).  We met for an initial 15 minutes as he usually does to ‘interview’ his clients, and we ended up talking non stop for two hours about everything and anything. I never met someone who simply just ‘got’ me instantly, almost like knowing me all my life. I guess that’s why he is so successful at what he does, but again, much like with a physical trainer, chemistry is everything.

 

Some people you meet and in the first 20 minutes  you feel like you know them for 20 years. And then others you know for 20 years and you still feel like it’s the first 20 minutes.

 

As I said in a previous post here if our bodies can benefit with having a professional coach so can our mind. If the best athletes do better with a coach so will you.

 

I find that coaching declutters my mind,  helps me see things clearer and cuts through conundrums that often torture us like a hot knife through butter. I intend to do more of that in 2019 and have regularised a bi-weekly two hour slot  with David which I always look forward to.

 

Looking back at my last years’ 2018 resolutions post I think I kept true to some but not so true to others.

 

I kept my resolution to to cut off and stay away from toxic people in my life. Like I said in my last years post, people who always take and never give back, who have negative energy, often petty, and want the worst of you or others around them, Either out of spite, jealousy, or just small-mindedness. Toxic is the word.  People we often find ourselves making excuses for beacause they were victim to XYZ or they don’t know better. The why,  in the end, simply doesn’t matter. It is what it is.  I’ve become a lot more clinical in how I cull people from my life.

 

Like David says, its like walking in a supermarket with a bag in each hand and keep chucking stuff in. If you don’t take some stuff out, the bags will get heavy and will break.   The analogy stands – as we get through life we naturally, by the law of numbers,  meet and end up having more and more people in our lives.  We need to clear some out, starting with the most toxic ones,  and then we start feeling lighter. More focusses. Less distracted.  Less quantity, more quality of interactions. More connectedness and meaning.

 

My biggest resolution for 2019 is to make every single hour count. Literally.

 

We have a finite number of hours in this world, allocating them wisely, efficiently, in the  experiences that we get true meaning and value from is my number one goal. In the year I’m turning 40, the realisation that time is our most valuable commodity, the one thing we can’t ever get back, hits me more starkly.

 

Our biggest enemies to that endeavour are saying yes too easily, either out of politeness, kindness, a sense of (self-inflicted) obligation, fear of missing out (FOMO), sheer stupidity or just because we can. Because we don’t stop to think, we just go from moment to moment, living life like a series of motions without the birds-eye view from above. Without real presence, as I say in this recent post.

 

We waste energy making excuses for people, or analysing why, or explaining ourselves unnecessarily. I now can’t even waste the 10 or 15 seconds it would take me to respond to a message out of ‘politeness’ if it’s the wrong person. Some may say ‘it doesn’t cost you much just to write back’  to be ‘polite’. But the truth is 15 seconds here, 15 there… it quickly adds up. And those 15 seconds you will never get back. And for what?

 

Given a choice I’d much rather be impolite but efficient than the other way around. Life is too short.

 

Sadly I id not keep to my other 2018 resolution of going on safari to see the gorillas or spending a week in a training camp (although I got plenty of training all the same and I think my body is already on the limit of breakage so maybe that’s for the better 🙂 ). I’m less bothered about this because I really did need to cut back on travel and get more in a regular routine.

 

 

The other upside of that is that once I did travel I ended up appreciating it a lot more. Spending  time on the beach at the end of the year after being in London for a few months made me realise that the ‘animal’ in me needs more of that. There’s a connection I get with myself, my mind and my body which I can only get when I’m in nature. Its therapeutic, calming, sheds clarity in your mind, gives you fresh energy. It’s like hitting the restart button.

 

I’ve resolved to do more of that in 2019.   Once every month I plan to go somewhere where I can connect with nature. Whether is the beach, mountain or countryside.

 

Business wise, 2018  – our 11thyear since our founding – was our most profitable and I think most productive year.

 

Even though we have been developing the product since the start of 2017, we only really launched  end of 2007 and in  Feb 2018  our first customer for TalentDesk.io– our latest innovation under the PeoplePerHour umbrella. Since then we’ve had consecutive growth every quarter since. We also built the TalentDesk.io team up to a decent size of 10 people although being part of PPH means we all share knowledge and resources across the whole team.

 

On the PeoplePerHour front we launched our TV campaign (which you can watch here) which aired in October and November and airing again mid Jan onwards.

 

I’m very proud of the team’s efforts and results on both fronts. Both team PPH and team TD.io are truly world class, well gelled together, operating properly as a family and passionate about what they do.

 

I feel lucky and blessed to have every single member of both teams, and in particular to have the two leaders that spearhead each respectively – Spyros and Sotiris – who now do it fairly autonomously, without much involvement needed from me. This is great as it makes the business more independent, stronger and therefore more valuable.  As emotionally attached as all founders are to their companies –  they are our babies after all – our number one job, I believe, as leaders, is really is to make sure they can stand on their own feet without us. It’s that bitter-sweet joy (I assume here as I have no kids yet :)) of seeing your baby grow more independent of you each day and one day not need you at all. Then you know you’ve done a good job, putting the company above you – much like you’d do with your child.

 

Above all else, being Selfless always gets the better result.

 

Plus it gives me time to have a normal life which as a founder one forgets for many years in the beginning. Having your fingers in the fire is not sustainable for ever. You burn out (it is fire after all :)).

 

Thanks folks, you truly rock 🙂 and I can’t wait to see what 2019 unfolds for both PPH and TD.io  with all  the exciting stuff we are doing. Something tells me it will be a transformational year.

 

Other than making every hour count, in 2019 I’m looking forwards to my 40thbirthday which I’m celebrating with an amazing group of friends and family in the beautiful Burgundy, France, indulging in amazing wine, tours of the chateaux and countryside, good food and company for a long weekend on 3rd May (two days after my actual birthday). I really can’t wait.

 

 

I’d also like to spend more studio time (this is a recurring and failing resolution!)  pursuing my art, write more, read more, and do the things that put me in zone,  that state of ‘flow’ – where you are immersed in intense focus, awareness, at peace with yourself, moments of true presence, where you are in harmony with yourself.

For me normally that’s doing something creative, and interestingly enough Muay Thai fits that category too (the pocket rocket predicted that i’m a creative person from the first time we sparred so clearly there is an  element of creativity to martial arts, its not  just  brute force and technique). Which explains why I feel zoned in when I do it. Other things that give me that sensation of flow are things like cooking, painting , writing, connecting with nature, listening to an amazing tune and walking in the streets lost in the crowds peoplewatching,  imagining, thinking, as I often like to do in Soho around my office.

 

That’s my other resolution for 2019. Chase and find more moments of pure flow. And spend more quality time with good friends and family – people you have a real connection with. Making every hour count, and not wasting a single minute on meaningless experiences.

 

Below are some photos from highlights of my year 🙂

 

Wishing everyone all the best for 2019: inner peace and happiness.

 

With family in Dubai in November?

Coming down a narrow crevasse in Courchevel in Feb

With my 40year old niece in Dubai ?

Celebrating my bday with friends in May

Enjoying the sunshine in the lovely Mykonos in August

With my Godson Bertie in June ❤️❤️❤️

With my sister after a long rooftop BBQ lunch in London in July

Getting some winter sun at the gorgeous Zaya Island outside Abu Dhabi in Feb

Swimming in the caves in Croatia in July

Wine tasting with some lovely fish in Sveti Stefan Montenegro in July

The stunning Aman in Sveti Stefan – what a spot. Note the little church at the top

Halloween night – one of the best parties ever at Annabels in London!

What you looking at? 🙂 Bonding with a python at Halloween

End of the night at Halloween: things got a little hairy ???

finishing off an oil painting in my studio ?

Doing one of my fav activities – cooking. This also happens to be my fav. dish: Dover Sole Meunire ?

Learning to play the sax… or not:)??

Christmas with the family in London ❤️?

Horseriding in the desert in Dubai

My niece and goddaughter handing me a starfish ❤️❤️❤️

Reflections on 2017

 

Once again, albeit perhaps more than any other, serendipity was the champion of my year, and its ultimate driving force. A chance visit from someone I’d never met before – Andy – to our Athens office for a day’s consultation ended up him joining us later in the year as Chief Operating Officer and driving so much positive change in the company and hopefully much more to come (note: I was not looking for a COO); a chance meeting with the hilarious and formidable Rob Lynch  @Ko_Lynch aka the ‘Robbinator’ back in May made me get back into boxing & Muay Thai training which I’m now totally addicted to, doing daily and even twice daily lately, feeling so much better for it (aside of losing 13kg and getting back into shape); a chance meeting with a random guy in a brasserie in Paris one weekend yielded a new friendship with a fellow entrepreneur who later invited me to his fabulous Christmas party in Brussels which I duly attended; and a very last minute invite to a group trip to Cuba back in February with a bunch of people I’d never met before, from all different walks of life and age groups,  which I impulsively attended, has been the bedrock for numerous new friendships, with truly amazing people with whom I now share cherished memories both during that trip and after.

 

All a derivate of chance.

With the Cuba gang @ Habanos national festival, Havana, Cuba. Feb 2017

 

These are just some of the serendipitous stories that stand out in 2017. Every year that goes by, I learn again and again, in an increasingly refreshing and enlightening fashion, the importance of just being ‘tuned in’, to have your ‘receivers’ on when seemingly random events happen, because catching – or missing – any one of these chance occurrences can, and will, change your life.

 

Everything happens for a reason – I truly believe this, and more so every year that passes. But we only live to realise it if we are tuned in enough to grasp that chance moment. People whose lives are not influenced by chance are simply those who let it pass by them unnoticed. Who don’t grasp the moment.

 

Following our instincts when life just rolls the dice at us makes all the difference. And it’s a hell of a lot more fun than following a ‘grand plan’. As one of my favourite quotes goes: “life is what happens to you when others are busy planning it.” Especially in my personal life, I never was a big fan of grand planning. I just go with it.

 

2017 began on the beautiful mountains of Courchevel, France and ended in Tokyo, Japan, from where I then went for a few days of amazing fresh powders skiing in Hokkaido. My trip to Japan truly changed my outlook on the world. The extreme order, the discipline, the addictive hospitality, the cleanliness, the sincerity of the people, and of course the insanely delicious food. On top of all that, skiing in Hokkaido set a new standard altogether. Despite skiing as a kid in numerous places in Europe and America, I’ve never experience this kind of alpine skiing in light powder snow, which gives you the sensation of simply floating in nature amongst white picturesque landscape and spectacularly winding terrain. The whole thing was just another level to anything I’d experienced to date.

 

Below are some of my fav pics from that trip.

So much fresh light powder.. never experienced anything like this!

 

Tokyo in the morning, view from my hotel room.

Outside one of the 80 Buddhist temples in Tokyo

Prayers road, Fukagawa Temple, Tokyo

 

In between those far flung places my year was characterised by unusually little travel compared to past years. Particularly in the autumn months I deliberately wanted to stay put in one place, regroup with myself, get into a regular routine and focus on the things that matter to me the moat: my work, friends, family, health, fitness and, much less than I’d have liked to, my Art.

 

Work-wise, in the year where the company I founded impulsively as a whimsical experiment  a decade ago- PeoplePerHour.com –  turned ten, we had our best year to date by a long way, both financially but also operationally. We surpassed the $100m mark in payouts to freelancers on our site which are now scattered pretty much in every country in the world, we built the team considerably across our two main hubs, London (where the commercial centre resides) and Athens (where the technical team is mostly bases), did some painful but much needed rejigging and consolidation of functions, launched our Enterprise product TalentDesk.io and signed on our first corporate clients, and more importantly, had some really fun moments on the way.

 

In October, almost a month after our actual birthday, we had a great 10th celebration with a very vibrant and passionate community present, sharing stories which inspired us all and will carry on doing so for years to come. I gave a short talk at our celebration to reflect on some of the highlights of that decade-long journey which you can watch here.

 

Later in the year we had two amazing Christmas lunches, one for each of our offices, involving copious amounts of food and drinks.  The pictures speak for themselves

 

London core team lunch at the Smoking Goat in Soho

Athens team lunch + dinner in one 🙂 .. death by meat! @ Steki tou Hlia (translation: Hlias’s hangout.. not Google hangout, the other type ! )

 

I find these team outings very important, not just enjoyable and fun, even if they do sometimes get out of hand 🙂 They preserve our family spirit and ensure we don’t become a corporate machine as we grow. I do hope we keep doing them and never turn into that corporate gorilla.  My 10 years at PeoplePerHour have seen me go through a lot of  scarring lows – and highs of course  but it’s the lows that truly test  you and end up making you thick skinned, tough and immune to most things.  They numb your senses to a point of healthy indifference and give you a great filter to what truly matters and what doesn’t. You develop a bullet-proof shield almost that gives you the armour and stamina to keep carrying on,  undeterred, untethered. After a decade in the trenches (plus 4 years prior to that dabbling at various other entrepreneurial ventures) I think there’s little I can’t take on the chin and plough through; apart from maybe corporate bureaucracy. The day that happens may be my last. I hope it never comes.

 

Investment wise, I wasn’t as active e as I’d like to have been in the year, investing only in a few  start-ups: VillageLuxe,  Stagedoor and my sisters fashion startup Snazzy. All three consumer internet / mobile businesses appealing to niche verticals that have the potential to be a big niche. More importantly I am a big believer in all three founders,  Julia, Michael and Stefani respectively, whose passion and dedication will help charge through the inevitable road-bumps in their journey.

 

Equally for Art. Despite getting a studio at the end of 2016 I didn’t manage to spend enough time in it in 2017 as I’d like to. I intend to do more so in 2018. Still, I managed to complete a dozen or so new paintings, my favourites being the ones below. I’m particularly happy I rediscovered Oils towards the end of the year, and rekindled my love for them. I intend to do more Oil paintings  – or a mix between Acrylic and Oils – in 2018.

 

Acrylic on primed linen

Acrylic and Oil on unprimed linen

3-piece, acrylic on unprimed linen.

Acrylic and Oil collage on canvas

Another key lesson of 2017 for me, as obvious as it may sound, is that you cannot, you cannot, overinvest in yourself. Whether it’s your fitness, health, knowledge, attaining new skills, developing your hobbies or passions, or travelling which in itself is an education, every dime and hour spent will come back to you tenfold. I intend to do more of that in 2018. More educational / adventure travel,  more training and broader in nature, more reading and working on myself in general, more cooking which I’m passionate for, and Art. My next two adventure trips (still unplanned) will likely be staying in a training camp in Thailand to train with Muay Thai professional boxers, and later on do another safari which I dearly miss, this time to see Gorillas in the wild, probably in Uganda. I can’t wait!

 

My other goals for 2018 are to spend more time forging real connections with special people, and conversely spending less time with a lot of the ’empty’ people  that inevitably, and quite sadly, surround us. Doing some solo travelling at the end of the year (very therapeutic!) I’ve realised how many of those people exist in our surrounding (or at least mine), people who simply suck your energy, people who like to take but don’t offer anything back; who see the glass half-empty, constantly whinge, constantly complain, constantly point fingers at everyone else instead of looking at themselves, people who are never at fault, have no inkling of selflessness  or grandeur in them; they’re self-absorbed, often jealous  of others in malicious ways, and who have this unjustified sense of entitlement that’s almost God-given to them.  They’re unhappy, confuse sarcasm for humour, typically small-minded and expend their and your energy on optimising things that in the grander scheme of things just don’t matter.

 

I was never fond of this breed of people, but may have over-tolerated them in my life, either due to procrastination,  empathy, sympathy even, or just laziness in doing anything about it.

 

As the year turned  I confess that a  switch flicked in my head. I cant, and don’t want to, tolerate this negativity in my life any longer. Life is too short. It sounds bad given that we are, after all, talking about people, but once every so often we do need a ‘clean up’ in our lives. Unfortunately.

 

Conversely, time and time again I’ve found that building deeper connection with people who amplify, instead of drain,  your energy, people who see the big picture, don’t micro-optimise, are generous, giving, open-minded, true optimists with a big heart,  who are happy for you when you do well instead of jealous and malicious; people who never whinge, who don’t criticise you behind your back, who always see the positive in every situation, who give credit to others and put themselves last; who listen and don’t just talk, who don’t take themselves too seriously, who are not too highly strung and brittle,  who have a sense of humour, who don’t feel the need to always have the last word, make the wittiest remark and be the seemingly smartest person in the room… those people may be few and far between but they  are like gold-dust in our lives.

 

Find them, stay close to them, cherish them. F*ck the rest.

 

I’m particularly happy that in 2017 I’ve been asked to be Godfather for the second time (the first being my beautiful niece Athena) to my dear friend’s Alastair and Masha’s gorgeous son Bertrand, and later in the year to be best man (also for the second tome) to a dear friend of mine’s  Artemi and Ana’s (hopefully) upcoming wedding. Both are great honours and deepen those deep bonds I have with each of those four dear people in my life. Thanks folks, you’ve made my year!

Betrand (Godson) the day after he was born!

Work-wise, I hope the team will stay as bonded and gelled as it is today, or even more. Never in my 10 years have I felt that bond stronger and it’s something I’m most proud of. Only when really talented people come together with unselfish agendas and collectively outperform their individual talents and capacities, can great things happen.

 

That’s the magic of bonded teamwork.  I believe we are in that position now and I can’t wait for the years ahead to see what we, working as a team, cook up and achieve together.

 

Last but certainly not least, I’m glad and grateful that I managed to spend more time with my family in 2017. Even though my parents travel less these days, I have done 3 trips to Dubai where’s they’re based as well as Cyprus for Christmas. I look forward to doing more of that in 2018.

 

Me and my niece in Dubai

The Reservoir Dogs 🙂 La Familia.. apart from my sister Stef (who was in Cy at the time) and sister-in-law Anna (the photographer)

Me and my niece & Goddaugher Athy in Dubai 🙂

 

The more good fortune life brings my way the more I realise that without close friends, family and people you’re passionate for, be it at work or outside, to share it with, it truly is meaningless.

 

Wishing you all a great 2018, love, prosperity, peace and happiness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reflections on 2016

2016 for me was, if I had to pick one word to describe it, a year of ‘regrouping’.

 

I had only moved properly back to London end of 2015 from New York. In the year that ensued I regrouped with old friends whom I had partially lost touch with – people with whom I go back over a decade, spent more time with my family and my ‘auxiliary family’ – my beloved colleague PPH-ers.

 

The year reminded me of the importance of having long-lasting relationships in life, people with whom you’ve gone through life-transforming experiences like university or school years, the army, trips or expeditions, or building a startup together. The tough times more than any others are the ones that build long lasting bonds between people. No amount of ambition and the success it fuels is worth sacrificing that.

 

Even though I first moved to London approaching 15 years now, it’s only in this last year, my second spell upon my return, that I got to appreciate how much London is home for me. More than ever I’m in love with its contradictions. Fast-paced yet balanced and civilized; old-school in so many ways yet modern, cool and funky; deeply traditional yet cosmopolitan and international like no other city I’ve experienced; demanding and tiring at times yet forgiving, warm and communal at others; close-knit in its social circles yet easy to meet people and make new friends.

 

Apart from regrouping the things that I’m grateful for in 2016 are having made new friends, build relationships that I’ve learnt from and hopefully contributed to, travelled extensively, grown my company and team, rented a studio so I can devote more time to my art which is my passion, and setting the foundation for what seems a great 2017.

 

By far the highlight of my year was being appointed Godfather to my beautiful little niece (my brother’s daughter)  whom my sister and I  baptized this summer, and more recently being asked to be Godfather to one of my best friends’ unborn child. No honour can be grander or more gratifying to be bestowed with the trust and responsibility that comes with being a Godparent to someone’s child. I feel blessed and privileged to be in that position twice already.

 

The best trips I’ve had in the year include visiting one of my old friends in Mumbai, India, my family in Dubai and later Cyprus for Christmas, spending time in the beautiful South of France this summer and falling in love with the breathtaking Cap-Ferrat. My trips to the U.S. have become less frequent, yet I visited New York twice including spending my birthday there in May. I spent time in Marbella in Spain, Berlin, St Tropez, the beautiful Greek islands, the gorgeous old town of Nafplio in Greece, skied in the Trois Vallees where my year began in 2016 and ended. The symmetry itself rounded up the year perfectly.

 

On the business front, with the exception of a short-lived hit triggered by Brexit, PeoplePerHour has continued to grow strong and unabated. We’ve made drastic improvements to the product and the customer experience and that’s thanks to the hard work and dedication of our team. Team PPH – you rock!

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Reflections on 2015

If there’s one sentence that summarises the past year for me it’s this: everything happens for a reason, and mostly for the best!

 

My key lesson of the year, cliché as it may sound, is, once again, that our ability to turn a negative into a positive in a split second, to drive instant and radical change in our lives when something doesn’t go our way, is potentially one of the most powerful forces in life and a key determinant of success and happiness.

 

A lot has happened in 2015, including moving my base from predominantly New York back to London in September, opening up offices in Berlin and New York, becoming a British citizen, appearing on BBC World news to talk about the sharing economy, hiring some amazing people to grow our team at PeoplePerHour, and having had the luck to travel to some incredible places and meet some truly great people.

 

2015 reminded me that short of our health and time with our loved ones, one’s best investment is in new experiences. They really enrich our lives so much more than anything we could possibly buy. My best ones for the year were: skiing in St Moritz where I started off the year, visiting Art Basel in Miami, (definitely going back!), skiing in Deer Valley (my first time skiing in the west coast of the U.S.) and staying in the super-cute Salt Lake City which I totally loved, visiting Santa Monica, Beverly Hills and the gorgeous Malibu in L.A. (where I managed to find myself – involuntarily- dining at a cute Greek restaurant called Tony’s), followed by San Francisco and Silicon Valley for a tech. power-shot, a rainy yet magical Costa Rica, Montauk, the beautiful Greek islands of Skiathos and Mykonos, Ibiza in Spain, the breath-taking island of St. Lucia in the Caribbean, attending Summit @ Sea on the world’s 8th largest cruise ship with a group of some of the most prominent and inspiring tech entrepreneurs on the planet, attending SXSW in Austin Texas for the 4th time in a row, attending European Young Leaders 2015 forum in Dublin, celebrating my b-day in Vegas and watching what was supposed to be the fight of the century between Manny Pacquiao & Floyd Mayweather, watching Klitschko – the worlds Boxing heavyweight champion- fight in Madison Square gardens, and ending the year with a fabulous family Skiing trip to Val Thorens in France.

 

Things that almost happened and thankfully didn’t: I came a stone’s throw from extended my stay in NYC for another year. On the 1st September I was due to move to a new apartment which I totally fell in love with, whose lease fell through in the final hour. My gut instantly told me it was a sign that my time was up and I literally planned my relocation back to London within hours and left a few days later. I shipped my apartments contents to Athens where I had decided – and again came a stone throw’s away – to buy a place to take advantage of the plunge in real estate prices. That too fell through, or rather I walked away, when the owners – in typical Greek fashion- kept moving the goal post and made signing a deal near impossible. Looking back it was a blessing in disguise, for more reasons than one. Again, a negative turned to a positive.

 

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Reflections on 2013 and resolutions for 2014

It’s been a good year

2014 has began well. Partly because I was skiing with my family as I usually do in the beautiful alps. The fresh air and the mountain always helps me self-reflect and think more. Without a shadow of doubt that one week skiing may be the most productive of my entire year. And whilst I always push myself to self-reflect that time of year – and this year in particular- is the deepest and most meaningful retrospection of all.

As I reflected on the past year I realized how much had actually happened. We started the year on steroids, the typical ‘go go’ top line investor fuelled growth mode. We operated on vanity metrics instead of sanity metrics.  We were fat and over-bloated. We were management heavy and inefficient. We were shooting for the stars and developed tunnel vision.

And then something painful but retrospectively lucky happened. The investor appetite changed, some of the assumptions, promises and myths came out sour. Some hidden realities came out of the wash. The froth came off the cappuccino.

I’ve said time and time again that the true test in life is what one does when that happens. In our case I’m proud to say that we just picked ourselves up, implemented some drastic changes, got real and elevated sanity above vanity.

It wasn’t easy.  We had to let go of team members, change plans and direction, scrap a lot of things that had emotional equity built in, and especially for the guy at the top who gets the shit from both ends – investors on one and team on other – I can tell you I had more than a few sleepless nights.

But we pulled through. We turned the business into cash-flow positive, we became leaner and meaner, the people staying over being part of the earlier hires who had more dedication and passion about who we are and what we stand for. Who share our sense of purpose.

We made drastic changes like moving from two split locations to one, which meant making our support team in London redundant. We dropped a few balls in the process with some metrics temporarily dipping but overall we came out a winner. Our costs overall halved and our revenue trebled in the year.

For this I am most grateful to the team that’s left over. They are warriors, with heart, passion and dedication. To reward them I doubled the stock pool and allocated a much bigger chunk of equity to the team that stayed for the fight. Some of the more senior management voluntarily took salary cuts in exchange for more stock.

The difference I’ve seen in mindset and perceptions is that from night and day. Its almost a different company now. Before I had employees. Now I have partners. Co-owners. And I push them to look at me more as a peer than a boss.

But good is the enemy of great !

Yet with all of that, I was still troubled at the end of the year. I had a niggling piece of the puzzle missing somewhere. I felt we did good but not great. continue reading »

My Top 10 learnings from 2011

I write this from a snowy and beautiful Zermatt, Switzerland on (appropriately) the last day of the year. The snowfall is too heavy for skiing and alas a perfect opportunity for me to compose the thoughts and reflections on 2011 that have been circling my mind for weeks now and finally crystallized in the crisp air of the mountains.

 And I start with this: wow, what a year! Naturally as an entrepreneur the dominant story of my last 12 months is my company that consumes so much of it. What am I saying – hell – PeoplePerHour IS my life.continue reading »