Making time matter again

Interview on Cyprus Weekly Newspaper

1. “I founded companies, co-founded organisations, mentored, wrote papers, lobbied, debated legislation, organised events; spoke over and over again about everything that mattered. By 28 I felt I was the change I wanted to see in the world.” You have achieved so much, yet at a turning point in your life you ‘regressed’ and took more notice of your decisions and actions. Out of everything you have achieved so far, and all your engagements, which one remains the most active and closest to the heart?

I would expect that this would be a very hard choice to make but seriously it’s not. Cypriot Enterprise Link, an organisation we co-founded with some amazing individuals some 5 years ago, aiming to build an entrepreneurial ecosystem here in Cyprus, it’s still the dearest endeavour to my heart. I would expect after so long, that the challenge would tone down, but it hasn’t. We strive to make our island better, one action at a time. The upcoming one being the insights Conference, one of the biggest entrepreneurial conferences this site of Europe!

2. Your passionate about problem solving, interest in human rights, knowledge harvesting, entrepreneurship and business is what drove you forwards. How do you merge all of these interests together?

It’s easy! By surrounding myself with exceptional teams that push forward even when I don’t feel like it or even if it seems impossible. I feel blessed to be able to navigate through different topics and “worlds” but at the end of the day, all these interests no matter how diverse they seem, somewhere down the line, they compliment each other.

3. In your recent TEDX talk you address a journey from caring too much about too many, to caring too little for nothing, to finally finding what makes time matter the most. How does this journey translate into action?

Although I spent my whole life being time efficient, that “empty” period I spent not really “feeling it” taught me that I need to be really passionate about something to be able to allocate that time. I also know that now I’m being more honest about time. If it feels like a chore, it doesn’t make time matter the most, it’s just a waste! At the same time, it was always a matter of making choices and the choices always felt that were there to serve others rather than what I could do to make time matter more. When I decided that it was about time I changed that, time started ticking differently.

4. You introduce the 5 second rule which has apparently changed the way you make your decisions and use your time. Can you tell me a little more about this idea?

Everyone has their favourite TED talks over the years and mine is Mel Robbins’ “How to stop screwing yourself over” and a couple of others. Her words made so much sense and even more recently when I actively started actually pairing my crazy ideas with an action immediately so I don’t lose momentum. Most people, we belong in that category were we overthink things. We want to do stuff but there is always an excuse handy not to actually do it. For example, one of my best friends has been nagging me since forever to go back out sailing with him and the list of my pathetic excuses were the following: 1. I don’t have time 2. I’m tired 3. I don’t want to hurt myself cause I don’t have the luxury of taking time off work if I hurt my hands for example.

The list was endless with excuses for a lot of things. Not just sailing. But since the rule, things had to change drastically. That’s why this time, when he proposed jumping off a plane, we jumped off a plane…because life is short and because a bit of adrenaline never hurt anyone!

5. Based on this rule, you ventures into pushing women in women in politics, carrying out trainings for TV, getting involved in a campaign for the first female disabled candidate in the past parliamentary elections. Where these parliamentary elections in Cyprus? And how where you involved in this campaign?

After a KPMG event for Women in Entrepreneurship, I had the pleasure to be able to be a member and collaborate with AIPFE — Women of Europe to help push more women into politics. We had our first seminar in February 2016. After that, with the kind collaboration of Gnora, we organized a TV training for women that were active in politics, or wanted to be. At the same time, around March I joined Karolina Pelendritou’s campaign for the Cypriot Parliament, first as an advisor and eventually as her campaign manager. Besides the fact that she is an amazing individual, I had the chance to observe and experience first hand all the issues that people with disabilities face as well as how rude and mean people can be towards them, considering them unfit to be in a position of power. But that’s an issue that needs a lot of discussion on another level.

6. Is this how you eventually got involved in the Hilary Clinton campaign? Tell me a little bit about your experience there.

I’ve been involved with campaigns since 2003 when Karamanlis in Greece ran successfully for the second time. Being part of an American Presidential Campaign was always a dream but as I said before, time was never right for the previous campaigns of Obama because excuses were so many. To my defense, the main excuses were important but again, once you remove that barrier, you prioritize and pick what’s important. So yes, this year that I was involved with so many women initiatives, it was about time to join the campaign of the first female nominee of a major US party. American politics are so different compared to European politics. Their system, that has fanatic supporters and opponents at the same time, was designed like this in order to ensure that regimes never emerged and no individual has unlimited power vested in them by the people so that it makes them unmovable from a position of power. Not even the president. Having that in mind, and how big the country is, Hillary for America campaign was a great school in political campaigning. You can read a lot about what’s happening while in Europe but still only doing field work you understand what that is actually about! Real people, real struggle, real issues, real questions and so many people working towards solving them in order to achieve the desirable result!

7. What drives you to politics?

The sheer belief that you can change things only when you participate and not when you simply observe and criticize. Nobody’s perfect.

8. You’ve also recently come back from a trip with Asia Europe’s Foundation Summer University. What was your role in this journey and what did you bring back with you?

That was one of the most life changing trips I’ve ever had in my life up till now. Possibly any future one will find it hard to compete. ASEF Summer University picked 1 delegate from the countries that participate in the Asia Europe Meeting that connects around 50 nations from Eurasia, promoting education, transport and bilateral relations in general.

The topic was “Gateways to Asia and Europe via land, air and sea”. All participants had experience in their backgrounds with transport issues, others to very large extent and others (like me) to a smaller one. We had many challenges to solve, improving structures and also learn about how connectivity affects human relations in these two continents.

We used all means of transport. We flew to Beijing and learnt about the One Road One Belt initiative China has in motion. We travelled by speed rail to northern China, visiting Harbin and learning about their Robotics factory. We faced the challenges of crossing the Chinese border to Russia. Vladivostok was extremely interesting as Russia’s biggest port, literally on the other side of the country. Then from there on with the famous Transsiberian train all the way to East Siberia in Chita and then to Irkutsk Siberia, also visiting Lake Baikal, the biggest and deepest lake in the world. Finally, taking the TransManjurian to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia’s capital were the railway youth hosted us, taking us on a new journey in the Mongolian steppe and the famous yurts. After that, with the Transmongolian through the Cobi desert back to China, witnessing the changes of each wagons rails in order to fit the Chinese rail tracks.

Besides bringing back amazing memories, I brought knowledge of all three countries, their educational systems, the importance of connectivity, their challenges with the West and struggle to fit in after years of having closed cities, regimes, and history of empires that left them with just memories and a struggling economy. At the same time, every delegate from every country brought so much on the table, I’m honored to have met so many diverse individuals, all exceptional in their fields and countries. I’m also lucky that I get to present some of our projects next year during the Asia — Europe Transport Minister meeting in Jakarta, Indonesia.

9. You end your talk with Bob Dylan’s quote: “Ah but I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.” You say that now you get it! What do you get from these words?

Bob Dylan’s “My back pages” is a deeply personal song and highly political, in the category of Dylan’s “protest songs”. It is actually a very personal critique to his years as a protester, where he questions whether that was a good choice, whether he was preaching wrongly about all of it, like an internal dialogue of what he once accepted and now doubts. My dad made me watch a badly recorded VHS tape of the version played by various famous artists for Dylan’s 30th anniversary tribute concert. He spent years after that teaching me word for word that song, the meaning of the words and the expressions. It made my top 10, and I’ve been listening that song since then…but only recently I understood what that internal dialogue was about. Only when you experience the same feeling, words have meaning again.

10. You lead a blog, 48hoursorless.com. What is the purpose of this blog and how do you feel sharing experiences tends to learning?

48hoursorless.com is a deeply personal story. It started as documenting all the thoughts that crossed my mind as time stood still while my mother had a stroke that ended up being a triple aneurism which resulted to her passing away. After two years of working on it, I was advised to share this with the world by my mentor, the only person that knew about it up till then. It wasn’t only the sense of closure that its creation brought, but an insight to the mind of someone that it’s dealing with something so sudden and life changing. I could only hope that other people would find it helpful. It was part of the process of finding a way of dealing with all the emotions sparked by incidents like that.

11. Have you got future plans?

Of course! Making time matter again is a challenging procedure to be left without planning!