Winning without losing

I always evaluate a book based on what stuck with me after reading it.  At first, I didn’t think “Winning without losingwould be the type of book that could have an impact on my life. Boy, was I wrong!

I met Martin Bjergegaard during the Startupbootcamp-Copenhagen program back in 2010. He is a Rainmaking associate and acted as one of our mentors at Startupbootcamp.  He gave a speech about achieving balance in life, practicing Yoga and what it truly means to be happy, which got me thinking that maybe this guy was too soft :). The only thing that stuck with me was: “At Rainmaking, we don’t deal with assholes!”, which was kind of a side note of something that he said, not actually related to the subject of his talk.

It got me thinking because (and I’m sorry to say this), dealing with assholes is what we were trained to do. By “dealing” I mean keeping our guard up and trying to make things work even though our gut feeling tells us it is not worth it. This was a remnant from a time when we were either too inexperienced or too nice to say NO, when there weren’t that many good people around or we were having difficulties spotting them.

Martin’s statement changed the way I deal with people ever since: I have started to develop an asshole filter, which I refined over time and morphed it into one of my most trusted senses. This helped us sanitize our business and was one of the best things that ever happened to us :)

That being said, Martin’s side note preceded the impact that his book would have on me.

I got my hands on the book while I was in Dublin, at the Startupbootcamp Alumni Day, back in May.  I read it all in one big gulp, absorbing the contents of each and every page and feeling sad that it it’s only about 300 pages long.

Winning without losing

 Winning without losing by Martin Bjergegaard and Jordan Milne comprises a set of 66 strategies for succeeding in business while living a happy and balanced life. Even thought it sounds utopian, after reading it I couldn’t stop recommending it to friends around me.

It’s the type of book that simply touches you at the most deeper level: I can definitely guarantee that at least one of those 66 strategies would relate to your case.  Just start with the first one :)

The Print is dead, long live the Print!

Something happened last week that totally changed my way of viewing the print magazine world. I had a business trip to London and went to an event called PrintOut, organized by Stack and magCulture at The Book Club. I didn’t actually know what to expect, other than just hearing a bunch of hippy designers, rambling about Photoshop and other related stuff.

The Book Club – Basement Ceiling

Just as I entered the basement of The Book Club, especially after seeing the ceiling literally made of light bulbs, I’ve told myself that I’ve entered another world. People were showing one another different magazines, some were staring at the paper from various angles and somehow the entire place seemed to resonate with everything that has to do with print & paper.

The first presentation belonged to Rob Lowe, creator of Anorak and Cagoule who talked about various ways of working with colors when targeting both kids and adults. Then, Chris Harrison talked about the Wrap Magazine and I have to say that I was really impressed with the “2 in 1” concept: a magazine for reading and wrapping up gifts. Everybody I talked to about Wrap was really intrigued about the playfulness of the magazine and wanted to get their hands on an issue. And last but not least, Paul Willoughby from Little White Lies Magazine told the story behind some of their best covers and explained that they actually took the “a face on the cover of a magazine” saying and just added their own artistic interpretation.

After the presentation, a magazine swap took place between the attendees and it was so interesting to see an entire range of formats, paper, color, concepts changing hands. And after hearing Paul explaining why magazines will still have their place on our personal bookshelf, maybe as a collectible, as a personal thing that you can touch and feel, I really understood the role of independent publishers and the added value their bring to the society and culture through print.

I’m seeing it clearly now and I come to appreciate more the print magazines and their creators (and contributors) for what they really are and what they stand for. They are a rare breed and thus, I am sure, they will become more and more valued for their work. Next time I flick through a magazine I will remember to pay more attention to details trying to get under the skin of the cover and really understand the story behind each and every page as I’m sure somebody out there spent hours if not days to express it in paper.

Eastern European Style

I’ve been fortunate to travel a little bit during the past years in places like Copenhagen, London, Helsinki, Amsterdam, and meet wonderful people, most of them from the startup community. It would seem more often than ever, founders searching for technical talent are focusing their attention on the Eastern European countries because they know they will find good people willing to work for very few money – at least compared to Western Europe.

It’s funny that, while I was trying to give my best pitch and impress fellow entrepreneurs with my startup, the only message that managed to raise the excitement was that I’m a developer and I’m from Romania. And while this is half true, since I haven’t been able to write any lines of code for some time now, due to my new business duties, even if mentioned just as a side note, I would still be asked for small technical favors :)

I can’t deny the past and I don’t see why I should: outsourcing was the way I’ve started and you know what? This might be true for a good portion of the entrepreneurs coming from Eastern Europe: most of the talented developers are, in one form or another, involved in outsourcing projects. Turning other people ideas into code seems to resonate with the Eastern European developers, happy to be part of the creation than just being paid a fair salary. Some of the best startups that came from this part of the Europe have this kind of history and they shouldn’t be ashamed.

What I believe is amazing is the ability of certain developers to turn themselves from freelancers into successful entrepreneurs, crossing to the other side: from developing outsourced projects to developing their own startup. I guess you have to understand something about Eastern European people: they may be cheap but they might also be smarter than you. You never know if in a few years you’d be down the toilets drain and he’ll be out there raising loads of money :)

So, for all of you out there searching for the perfect Eastern European developer guy, here’s some things you need to know:

  1. He’s coming from a different culture, if you want to get along, take a plane and spend some time with him, in his home town, drinking beers and meeting his friends.
  2. Willing to work for very few money at first, but rates will begin to rise in time. Be sure to get that straight from the beginning.
  3. Good English communication skills, but don’t kid yourself: communicating during a certain project might be difficult. Developers tend to pay too much attention on their work and too few on reporting it; your e-mails might get some delayed replies.
  4. Be sure to talk his technical language because he will definitely not understand why you want a half-developed feature launched as soon as possible. Take the time to explain the reasons behind your options, especially if he’s your tech co-founder; he’s a fast learner so he will get it.
  5. Don’t act like you’re doing him a favor by hiring him to work in your startup/company.
That’s pretty much it, but I’m sure you have your own take on this subject and would love to hear about it.

My Math Teacher

I have been meaning to write this article from the moment I decided to open my own blog because I would like to pay tribute to the man that changed my life as a teenager: my Math teacher. I never had the chance to attend one of his classes because he was teaching at another school and I only had him as my home tutor for several hours per week, for a year.

I remember a good friend of mine once told me he is a tough person and I never knew what to expect when I first meet him; maybe just a horrifying face with big, curly eyebrows, a pointy nose and a loud voice. It wasn’t at all like that and I never understood how a man like him could actually project such a distorted image in the eyes of the children we were back then.

My first encounter was hilarious: I couldn’t impress him with my mathematical knowledge because I didn’t even know how to calculate the area of a triangle and I honestly just thought he will start working with me out of pity for my parents’ desire to make something good out of me. But no! He wanted to test me, so he just threw some trivial Math problems at me to chew. I remember one of the problems was to calculate 15% from 45, an exercise that I never got to solve because he already knew (from the previous exercises) that I was out in the woods with my mathematical skills.

When writing this article I was actually curios to see if I had my old notebooks, including my first test. I usually keep everything that is related to Math and Physics, so I was glad to see it: I did terrible, of course. A lot of teacher’s corrections, including a note on the side: “You’re not paying attention! We’ll repeat this test.”

Somehow this idea stuck with me over the years and I am always telling myself that I need to pay more attention to various things, not because I would suffer from some sort of disorder, but because from time to time I feel like failing to see the things that are just in front of me. And in my mind there’s always a test that is waiting for me just around the corner, a test that I need to pass in order not to repeat „the chapter”.

I don’t know how after the test Mr. S came to the conclusion that I deserve his attention because trust me, seeing now how I did back then and if I were in his shoes, probably I wouldn’t even considered working with that kid. Maybe it was the perception of myself that I managed to project in his mind and maybe this was the first thing we had in common; enough to convince him to lay the foundations of my life.

I never knew I had it within me but, after a while, it felt like Math became my entire life. I used to do all my Math homework with the TV tuned on MTV because Mr. S had always had some radio turned on when spreading the „Math love”.

With his help I got to attend a really good high school and, as I said before, this was basically the foundation of what I am right now, the way I think, act and communicate with people.

I heard he died a few years ago and I am sorry that I never had the chance to properly thank the amazing teacher that changed my life.

Thank you Mrs. S, you’ve been an amazing teacher!

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