The Russian Magician that predicted 2016
(I have been living abroad for some time, two days ago was my b- day I got some calls from close friends and I realize how even if we have technology is hard to keep up. People don´t know what I have been doing so I wrote this post so people can know what has been going on)
Almost one year ago I was sitting in the auditorium of our Exosphere offices in Chile, when Artem Litvinovich was about to give me what I now consider “The Premonition”: a vision of what my 26th life year was going to be like. (I know it sounds a bit dramatic, but it is true).
For those who know Artem I think it is pretty obvious that he’s not your average guy. Born in Russia and a towering two meters tall, he can basically build anything. In 2007 he was already building 3d printers, long before it became “a thing”. Recently I saw him build an antenna out of a piece of wood and some wire, powerful enough to get a signal from a satellite and download an image to his computer. When I ask him why he does these things, he says “why not?” Upon his introduction to the team he explained that as a kid he “broke his computer so many times that he eventually had to learn how to fix it.”
That was his first lesson to me!
In many ways, 2016 for me was all about breaking my self-confidence and learning how to fix it again.
I decided to move to Chile and help grow Exosphere, where I lived and worked with a male dominant team (and by dominant I mean, they were all men) of different ages and backgrounds. Rather suddenly I went from human behavior, relationships, cognition, Pavlov, Maslow, and DSM 5 — things I knew and felt comfortable with (I have a background in psychology) –, to Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain, Bioengineering, Robotics, Drones, Virtual Reality, Mars Colonization, and so many other technologies that I can’t even keep track of. It was as if my brain was a mobile app in the process of updating itself and I couldn’t use it until it was done.
My confidence was crushed because there were so many things I did not understand, so many things to learn from scratch and at once. I had to communicate with experts in these fields without knowing the tech even superficially. Although most were quite understanding and willing to teach me, (special kudos to Nell, Shlomi, Skinner, and so many more), the central problem was that I had defined my self confidence by how much knowledge I had instead of defining it by my ability to learn.
But there was another reason for my struggling with my new role and task. Suddenly finding myself in Chile where I knew no one, I had to arrange business meetings, learn a new culture, and sell something that I hesitated to commit myself to fully, not because of the product but because I doubted my own abilities. And as if that were not enough, I was also learning how to develop and sell for many other countries in the world besides Chile (at Exosphere we conduct events, programs, and workshops for people from all over the world).
I was literally going crazy!
In trying to understand what was going on, I learned that I had a huge ego holding me back. I wanted to achieve things on my own. A stubborn belief that I could do it all by myself was preventing me from seeing what I actually needed to do.
Meeting the guys — and gals ;) — at IF Valparaiso 3IE (Kudos to Daniela, Mauro, Rodolfo, Gordi and Cami) was exactly what I needed: they helped me build the entire network necessary to make things happen. We had a lot of events going on and both brands grew and benefited as a result of our relationship. Experiencing that beautiful dynamic, I realized that what would help me recover and strengthen confidence in myself, was not being able to do all by myself, but actually create relationships and allow them to help me.
Artem’s second lesson blew my mind.
He was teaching our students about the laws of physics and the limits of rationality in controlling our actions. Part of the session consisted on riding a bicycle across the room. Although a seemingly simple task, one by one, 30 students failed miserably at it.
The first ten couldn’t even do one spin. People proceeded to try and do all sorts of funny ways of riding: sitting backwards, no hands, cross armed, but none of them fundamentally changed the way they approached riding the bike. Everybody was complaining the bike was messed up.
You see, the trick was that Artem built this bicycle with reverse handle bars, so every time you turned the handle right it would go left, and the other way around. Artem’s goal to this exercise was to show how strong our habits really are. The bicycle was never wrong. Who says that right should steer right and left should steer left?
Only our habit of doing so.
And he was right again! My 2016 was about acknowledging how hard it was to break habits and how sometimes I felt that they control me, and not the other way around.
After almost 10 months of living in Chile it was time for Luke, Zeq, and me to take a bus of almost 3000 kilometers from Santiago, Chile to Florianopolis, Brazil and start building and preparing for our first program there. Everything was good: the bus turned out more comfortable than I had thought and the landscape was absolutely outstanding. It was the first time in months that I had been without internet, tv, or any outside distraction for an extended period of time (I had some books, but I get very dizzy when I read on the road).
It felt nice to contemplate and just listen to my own inner voice. I learned that I had had the habit to easily get distracted, never to be present: though my body was there my mind was always wondering about something else. To turn this situation around, I needed to learn the habit of being present and focusing on the immediate. Let’s just say I have been struggling to stay disciplined…
After a few hours drive we arrived to Argentina and it was time for customs. I am not kidding when I say that the line seemed like it would never end! After one hour of waiting we had only moved 3 meters. 3 meters!
I did not take it well. We where in the middle of nowhere, it was cold, and there weren’t any options for food. I began to feel very impatient and started to complain, already thinking of how much longer our already 40-hour-long trip would become. Until finally, I gave up and just waited… For 9 more hours, but still I did not complain once more.
From that experience I learned that I have a strong habit of being impatient and trying to control absolutely everything. I had never understood that sometimes there is just nothing one can do but wait, and be patient, and allow things to flow, because there is nothing we can do.
Opening our offices in Brazil was both fun and painful. Once again I came here not knowing anyone, but this time I had learned my lesson. I focused on building partnerships and building a network.
I was a bit worried about not speaking the language, not knowing the culture, and the little time I had to create all of these alliances. I also wasn’t sure about how quickly I could get used to living in a place I did not know.
I then realized how I also have the habit of building hypothetical scenarios that end in chaos but don’t actually serve me any purpose, since I did not create them to plan alternatives or understand reality; I planned them for failure. I understand now that I need to create a habit of spending my time and energy where it creates movement and not to get stuck sabotaging myself.
I am sure there are tons of habits more I need to break and some that I need to reinforce and build. I will keep rebuilding my self-confidence and for sure I know Artem had no idea that he would, partially, be responsible for this! But I am thankful for having him and all the people in my life involved in what has been a truly challenging 2016.
Looking forward for 2017!