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.
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!
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
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.
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!
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.
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.