The theory of aerodynamic progress
It’s funny the longer I postpone publishing a new post, the harder it’s for me to restart writing. Every sentence feels flimsy comparing to what I’ve written previously. It’s like forgetting how to hand write – after all these years tapping into the keyboard or a glossy iPad screen, hand writing one page of a letter literally feels painful.
Ok, few lines of a warm-up text written. Let’s begin.
Over the past months I’ve made some rather bold moves regarding Amuse business and involvement in Girls in Tech not-for-profit organisation. Whereas some things need to stay undisclosed for now, I can highlight few things which bring me closer to my final goal which is – creating a true tech ecosystem (a bridge as I call it) between the UK (and initially) my Poland and encouraging (NOT favouring!) female tech enthusiasts to pursue their dreams, like I’m doing with mine. In my teenage years in Poland girls were not encouraged to pursue engineering jobs. Nothing was obviously blocking them from doing so, but there were no visible role models whom we could cling to. Boys had their MacGyver inspiring them to flirt with engineering, but girls were left out uninfluenced.
So yes, I see Amuse as a medium to fuel crazy, innovative projects, and to give birth to hope, otherwise killed at its core by 1st level of Maslow’s pyramid factors. They shouldn’t be an obstacle for the innovative creation – especially not in the developed markets.
Joining and representing Girls in Tech chapter for Poland perfectly combines my goals.
So what happened over the last few months?
After quitting the job, opening my company, I had to figure out what works and what doesn’t. I still wanted to do my own startup but I understood I needed to cure the core of the problem first (for myself and for other people in similar situation to mine). For most tech enthusiasts the main problems stopping the progress are: lack of time or/and lack of money.
As I was working full-time, I couldn’t commit as much time as I wanted to developing my project, so both my startup and personal life were suffering. As I’ve been living in London, I couldn’t also afford not to work.
It took me some time to figure it out but the situation and solution to the time/money problem was obvious: I come from Poland where we have lots of undiscovered tech talent, much lower living costs comparing to the UK and big ratio of purchase parity power between these countries.
I founded Amuse with helping these tech people in mind; not using them as a cheaper workforce, but boosting their chances on international arena and tightening international relations and knowledge exchange between European countries. So it took me a while to get things right but I finally entered on the right track.
Amuse became a cross model between temporary placement of our tech talent (for the period of 6-months program duration) and an accelerator.
Amuse is the best learning and accelerative environment for the most ambitious and persistent tech engineers and developers who want to build innovative companies, while committing smaller portion of their time to the paid projects for our UK clients.
While current models of accelerators demands up-front external money to fund the startups, we do it differently. Our batch candidates need to EARN their funds by devoting smaller portion, a 1/3rd of their time (18h) on working for our clients. It’s like renting their fresh, unchained by bureaucratic burden ideas to boost innovation within our clients’ companies.
The remaining time we help these tech engineers and developers to form startup teams, validate their concepts and get their MVP ready. Then we help the teams to incorporate companies in the UK with the assumption, that the part of the business stays in the home country (so both countries win in terms of tax contributions and know-how exchange).
We take much lower % of equity (the investors and stakeholders still stay incentivised) than other accelerators and our support doesn’t stop with the end of the program.
It took me some time to get the trust, but I’ve partnered with an influential and a great in his fintech industry investor, who is responsible for everything related to fundraising for our startup teams. We plan to hold official Demo Day mid autumn next year.
If the model turns out to be successful, there are no obstacles in implementing it in other Central European countries with similar economic advantages.
Silicon Valley wasn’t built in a day.
Obviously I didn’t hold this vision from the very beginning of opening my company. It all happened gradually. Often, in order to reach your final goal, you need to deviate from your original idea and do things which are not glorious in any way. In our case it was (and still is to certain extend, but less and less) outsourcing of our tech talent for the monetary purposes.
Progress on anything worth doing and reaching the goals we set for ourselves can not be visualised linearly. Most of the times it looks more like this:
The trick is not to break the continuity of growth by deviating too much into the things which won’t contribute to the correct growth direction. Yes, you should experiment with options, try what feels good for you and leave behind what doesn’t or what you do not believe in.
Yes, mistakes are good. Taking a wrong turn allows us to backtrack and sear the incorrect road into memory, never to be taken again. They say that sometimes the journey of a single step starts with a thousand miles in the opposite direction. That was my case with dragging combo monster (= the opposite of a lean startup) Evoque for nearly 3 years.
I believe that the world would be much better place if we could help people succumbed to ennui caused by taking job for monetary reasons only. When you work on something you enjoy doing, you add immense value to this world and make yourself valuable in return. An artist adds value by regaling people through various forms of art. An entrepreneur adds value by solving large-scale problems and creating jobs. A prostitute adds value by… (ok, ok, too far 😉 )
The idea is to keep looking and not settling for a life which seems insipid. We need to believe that we are meant for the big stage, destined for greatness so we CAN improve lives and make make the world a better place.
Amuse and encouraging girls via GiT Poland are only my small take on giving better choices to conscious people who want to build awesome, world-changing innovations.
Doubt has killed more dreams than failure ever will.
A month ago I gave a lecture at the private business university in London where I talked about artificial intelligence and automation of the human jobs. While this was not my first public speaking, (the first one was pitching at Google Campus my previous startup project Evoque – I failed miserably) it was definitely a desired experience.
It forced me to present how I arrived to the point of being interested in technology in the first place, so I gave a bit of the overview of my “failures” (Evoque, getting fired from almost all of my full-time professional jobs) and small successes over my entrepreneurial journey so far. I needed the audience to understand that although I’ve always felt more tech oriented, I didn’t know what path should I choose, since I wasn’t pure techie like software engineers are. I only knew what felt right, so despite all the risks and my career pseudo-downgrade, I decided to pave my own path into becoming an influential female leader in tech.
At the end of my lecture speech one of the listeners came to me and summed up that I experienced a lot and felt like I’ve accomplished something.
Really? I don’t feel I have done any visible difference at all. Yes, in my head I have it all planned out. I know where I’m going, but the steps I’ve done so far are all so intangible, with no milestones as such.
Especially in the situation when you are trying to disrupt (I don’t like to overuse this word but in this instance it’s the only one that suits) a current state by introducing new model for accelerating innovative projects, you have no real benchmarks to compare your progress to.
Entrepreneurship is for me like doing DIY from next-to-nothing and hoping to construct a freaking Bumblebee.
Fortunately, I was blessed to be raised by a mother that always encouraged me to believe that there was nothing that I couldn’t do. Obviously I had around myself family members who were discouraging me from pursuing my goals but my mom’s voice was much stronger.
Elisabeth Holmes argues that in order to make something revolutionary (as she did with her Theranos technology) it requires one’s mindset to take the risks proportional to the change you are trying to create.
She wasn’t an overnight success. It took her almost 12 years to arrive where she is now with her company. And I bet even with her genius mind and a great effort, everything was blurry in the first years of work. She said:
“I’ve always believed that we’re here for a reason and that the purpose of life is to make a difference in the world,” she says. “I think as you get to know yourself, you find what you love, what you really enjoy, what you would be doing if you weren’t paid for it. Ever. That’s what you’re looking for.”
And while I wouldn’t be able to reject my friends and personal life in the aim of ascetic lifestyle and working 7 days a week straight, (is that healthy?) I somehow admire people who sacrifice themselves like that, no matter if they are plain socially dysfunctional psychos or they have just made a conscious choice.
Why are you doing what you are doing
Often I feel like I’m repeating myself with the subjects of self-development and motivation. Selfishly, it helps me to stay on track and stay sane by clarifying my thoughts and fears. It also leaves the track record of how I felt at the given moment, so in few years time everybody (myself included) will be able to get the sensation of how the younger, less experienced me felt and what she did and how she progressed. And when I reach my initial goals and become successful (whatever it means), the next daring entrepreneurs-to-be will be able to understand that every successful person was once an ordinary face in the crowd, grappling with the ladder to success.
I fight the same fight with auto-destructive monsters of self-doubt. I have exactly the same fears like you and sometimes I cry after battling days full of failure after failure. But going back would be a war lost for me. I would never be able to give happiness to my close ones if I was growing self-loathing feeling resulting of not trying enough.
Your vision for a better world excludes no one but rather reaches to every stratum of society and to people everywhere.
I am the best project I will ever work on. That’s why I try to learn something new everyday and when I go to bed, I want to feel being smarter than when I woke up. I know that these incremental improvements are often a very tiny, tiny bits of change, but over the longer period of time, there will be a visible progress.
That’s how you progress with everything in life. New languages are learned by learning by heart few words each day. New relationships (if they are to last) are built by giving little bit each day. That’s why you can’t really fast track your growth.
Each step you are taking now may seem unimportant, as like a puzzle piece on its own does not represent anything (ever assembled jigsaw of an impressionist painting or a forest full of (guest what) f*cking trees of the same kind? 🙂 ).
There is an excellent post on this on Wait but Why (I see why Elon Musk loves WbW).
Comparing yourself to already famous/influential people may rightfully so scare you. All these public speaking in front of crowds, being asked complex questions at spot, not having time to prepare yourself to it. That’s why success should always be earned over time. Everything takes time and there is no such a thing as overnight success.
We never know how deep resources of creativity we hold, until we start discovering them, digging our doubts and rejecting assumptions instilled by marasmic society.
Very few people are able to create a bigger impact. In fact, most of us (no matter how successful we seem) is just another piece to the world’s jigsaw.
It is easier to be busy than to be valuable
But those things rarely create anything of lasting value.
It’s not furthering your career or making you a master in your field. It’s busywork. Work that lasts is done through deep focus and strategy, even when there is no chance for horizon to be seen for months ahead. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.
It’s hard to say no to Instant Gratification Monkey. It’s hard to set priorities and make substantial progress on these projects. It’s hard to spend time strategising, dreaming big and waking up still believing with the same strength as the night before. It’s hard to read new books that challenge you (and do it regularly). It’s hard to reject all the instant pleasures and completely focus on this ONE risky thing, which may or may not work out.
The most important character traits found across a broad spectrum of successful people is something called grit.
I’m still learning it and (in my opinion) failing miserably. Grit means dogged determination, perseverance, especially in the face of adversity or criticism. I see it in my rightfully-so famous and successful colleagues and role models. Grit gives the perception of them being passionate and confident (sometimes taken as arrogance) and that’s what draws other people to follow them.
Our goal as entrepreneurs is to spread the contagious encouragement and belief that impossible is nothing. Beginnings are the hardest as you need to take all the risk on yourself and convince other individuals to dream as high as you. We need to have a strong belief in what we want (no matter if it’s family or a career driven) and just go after it. Our goal should be audacious and inspiring to others if making a big impact is what you want.
The talent of success is nothing more than doing what you can do well and doing well whatever you do without thought of fame.
It may sound cheesy but we need to move other peoples’ hearts, even when risking being ridiculed.
Confidence comes from doing those things that scare us. If I talked myself into feeling “worse” than people more successful than me, I would have never dared to approach busy looking people for advice or collaboration opportunities.
I’m constantly fighting with inherent negativity bias and set myself on things that dread me. I need to be decisive, take action and move on to the next.
- Rejection? Huh! Yet another one, at least now I know where I stand with this subject.
- Opened door? Great! Let’s start exploring!
A resultant force of unbelievers
When we assume that everything, absolutely everything is interconnected, then it’s clear that although the energy may get dispersed, it never vanishes but rather reappears in one form or another.
Let me be a bit of a metaphysical, naive, yet bold freak and say that the resultant force of my efforts put in Evoque (and everything related to tech scene) may have equalled the sum of frustration and disappointment, to finally reappear as increased motivation and a laser-sharp focus.
In a way, progress is like swimming. As long as you get the basics right (you know how to swim) you can move towards direction you have chosen. The same applies to when you want to grow. You need to be literate in order to read and develop a logical thinking, you need to have the basic Maslov’s needs covered in order not to focus on survival only.
But when you oppose your strength to the current/aerodynamics of the water (where water = your vocation) and focus your energy into fighting with it – you stop moving and start to drown.
Ever tried walking on the moving path at the airport? You can reach the end of the corridor much faster than the people walking next to you on the normal ground.
This is what happens when you are passionate about something – you simply move faster and get other people to follow you.
So let me be straight and clear here. Don’t fuck with your calling and just go for it. There is no time to waste, and there is so much to learn.
Come away with me
I thought for a long time and hesitated if I should be mentioning my personal (but personal^2) life in this blog.
But if I am to draw my real image as being a normal, ordinary human, then I should show what gives me strength to reach for more. Greek gods were so defied because they were unavailable to an ordinary mortal. My intent of this blog is exactly the opposite. I want to show that if I can do something, so can each of you.
So when comes to my personal life, I’ve been blessed by having around me great friends who always supported my decisions, however irrational they might have sounded.
Few months ago I’ve also met a great person who, although so similar, yet he compliments me in so many ways.
Actually I’m lying. I haven’t met him. He found me through THIS blog and for the few months we were perfect strangers (his avatar was not so ‘welcoming’ 🙂 ) exchanging long emails about business, hopes and adventures. Love Story 2.0 (:
We share same views and hopes on what we would like to change in this world, so obviously we start these changes from ourselves, and try to support each other in any way we can. Putting two very ambitious and curious people together can cause a fire sometimes, but we learned the ways to deal with it ;).
But then my mind was struck by light that flashed and, with this light, received what it had asked.
Here force failed
my high fantasy;
but my desire
and will were moved already
like a wheel
by the Love
that moves the sun
and the other stars.
Dante Alighieri — Paradiso
Ps. I’m not great in physics so pardon me if I blurted something as foolish at the grade of stating that the earth is flat.
Ps Ps. The elephant you see on the cover photo is real. These 5 ton beautiful creatures living in Andaman Islands, south of India are now the last of its kind which can swim perfectly.
Ps Ps Ps. Ok, I’m bullshitting with these Greek gods stuff. I just wanted to brag with this picture 😉