Thank the Past, Celebrate the Present, and Get Ready for the Future

Two years ago, on my birthday, I received a one-of-a-kind message inviting me to participate in TEDx as a speaker. The message said that “if you are invited to speak at TEDx, then you must have something worth sharing with the world.” All ideas that sound great to me, or are somehow connected with making my dreams come true, always get my immediate ‘Yes’. Inevitably, initial euphoria gives way to the hard reality of delivering what comes along with saying ‘Yes’. That is exactly what happened to me when I also said ‘Yes’ to posting my thoughts on Medium several weeks ago (even though much time passed before I finally made my first contribution there). For me, preparing for my first post on Medium followed almost the same process as for TEDx. I spent time reflecting on basic questions such as, What should my first talk/post be about? What value will people get from what I say or write? Why should anyone actually care and spend time listening or reading any of my thoughts?

Perhaps these are the wrong questions to ask. I know that there are other people out there like me, so hopefully some of them not only will find my experience useful, but also my story inspiring. Anyway, posting here is my personal way of saying ‘thank you’ to the Universe for everything that has already happened to me, as well as for all that is awaiting me in the future.

By way of introduction, my name is Elena. I am a co-founder and CEO at a startup called MeetnGreetMe.com, which is a marketplace for global travel concierge services delivered by local people to international travelers.

I hold an MBA in strategic management from Kingston London University, where I was inspired to follow the words of a former professor who told us that “if your product or service can make the life of at least one person better, then go and do it.”

For me, maybe like some of you, I was born in a country that often is unknown or even stigmatized by the rest of the world. Usually, an introductory interview goes something like this:

– Where are you from?

– I’m from Belarus.

– Oh! (with initial excitement).

– Do you know this country? (with hope)

– No. (just ‘No’.)

– It borders on Poland, Lithuania, Russia, and Ukraine.

– Oh. (Here, the other person rapidly loses interest in the conversation.)

Being a dreamer, opportunist, and positive thinker, I try not to miss an opportunity to overcome prejudice and make something I care about even better.

As a result, I ‘gave up’ my 8+ years’ career in banking to pursue my dream of building a global peer‑to-peer hospitality business that aims to help people from around the world travel carefree and feel welcome wherever they are. To be completely frank, however, I was fired from my banking position, but that is another story.

I mention it now only to say that the failures that hurt most are often those that push us to take the next step.

At the time of losing my ‘safe’ job, I was living in another country, so I decided to return to Belarus.

Sometimes, coming back home may be perceived as giving up, as if you failed to fulfill your personal expectations, but this negative evaluation really derives more from your own attitude toward the situation than from the situation itself. In my experience, it is best not to overthink setbacks: thank the past, celebrate the present, and get ready for the future.

One year after I found myself in the U.S. White House along with luminaries such as Mark Cuban, Barbara Corcoran, Daymon John and Brian Chesky — all of whom were invited to join Barack Obama’s SPARK Initiative to promote Women and Youth Entrepreneurship around the world.

And, yes, I met the ex-President and listened to him speaking!

But this is only a beginning.

I invited my co-founders to join me, as there is an old adage: If you want to run fast, run alone; but, if you want to run far, then run together. So we agreed to run together as far as needed until our mission to revolutionize the global hospitality is completed.

MeetnGreetMe Team
Today, MeetnGreetMe is an award-winning startup with United Nations’ recognition and with customers from more than 270 cities around the world That is how my story goes, and I hope one day it will be your story as well.

Now, my life is focused not only on growing our MeetnGreetMe business, but also on inspiring people around the world not to be afraid of following their hearts, facing challenges fearlessly, learning to accept and grow from mistakes, and staying positive even in the throes of adversity. From personal experience, I understand that learning to try is the hardest thing to do, but how can any of us thrive unless we acquire persistence? There is a story that a reporter once asked the inventor Thomas Edison how it felt to have failed 1000 times before finding the right filament to use in making a light bulb. Edison is said to have replied, “I did not fail 1000 times — I now know 1000 ways how not to make a light bulb.”

Perception is everything in life, just as it is in business. By sharing my story with different people, I understand that we face many of the same challenges, regardless of our geographical location, language, or background. Those of us who already have struggled and managed to survive can inspire others not to give up and to persevere through any challenges.

So, here I am to introduce myself and lend a hand to those who have taken, or who are about to take, this new path — the path of big thinkers, dreamers, and risk takers.

Thank you for listening.