10 Smart & Stupid Things I Learned in Year 2015

The year 2015 is coming to its end. The future has never seemed more exciting than now for me, and for the humanity in general. Just think about it. This year we’ve seen the landing of Space X rocket, technologies and businesses are booming all around the world, diseases are getting cured and new progressive trends emerging. This was a sad year too, with wars and terrorist attacks shaking the foundations of peace in Europe. One thing I may say for sure: the number of amazing & bright young people I got to know in 2015 indicates that the next generation of leaders will be one of the most remarkable ones, no matter what challenges are to come ahead of us.

To sum up my experience gained throughout the year, I will try to put together some of the most important things I learned in 2015. Smart. And rather stupid ones too.

1. Networking is everything.

In business or in personal life, all we do is interacting with people. Obvious fact, and yet so much under-appreciated one. Building sustainable relationships with people is the key to all successes and offers tremendous possibilities. How many people are you constantly keeping in touch with? Do you limit your circle of friends? How much attention do you pay to your personal brand? Not every person is able to accomplish it, but all successful people leverage and constantly grow their personal networks. Building relationships is about listening, informing and adding value wherever possible. It’s about being the worst kind of en egoist: the one who cares about the success of people around. My daily routine includes making introductions, connecting people, sending useful links, and taking my own time to help people on their projects. It all comes down to building a personal ecosystem and a vast circle of contacts, which are well informed about your personality and activities. All the efforts you put into building this base pay back tenfold in great friends, job offers, interesting projects and quality-spent time. In 2015 the number of my Facebook friends doubled, and of LinkedIn contacts increased five-fold. Social media help in building those relationships greatly, but remember that it’s not about just having someone in friends. It’s about writing randomly: “Hi man, how’s going? What projects are you working on now?”.

2. The world is small.

I did travel a lot in 2015, further than I could ever imagine. 5 months since February until July spent in Taiwan offered plenty of experience, and time to reflect on myself and enjoy life to the fullest. Probably most important thing was that I learned that everything is possible, and the only limits are in our own heads. I slept on the beach of Pacific Ocean, climbed the tallest mountain of East Asia and met some of the most cheerful people ever, who seemed not to give a damn about the things everyone is so concerned about in Europe. I went to StartUp Weekend Hong-Kong, and learned that who you are and what you do is all that matters in any environment.

3. The year is only 365 days, 24 hours each day.

I learned to value time above everything and started to use Google Calendar extensively. The realization that our time is limited is kinda important, it does require pushing limits the whole time and living outside your comfort zone though. Thankfully, I feel fine only living to the fullest and realizing my time most efficiently. During last half a year I started and completed more meaningful things than over last 18 years. At the same time, I am proud to have made some great friends and been enjoying very vibrant social life.

4. Eggs fried on butter are most delicious.

Yes, it is true. I have no idea why I had been frying them on oil for my whole life. So did my mother, so did my grandmother. And then I tried butter and it tasted so much better, damn. The good advice is to put more butter, don’t be greedy, when it melts add eggs and mix it all up on the pan. Add salt. Eat your heavenly breakfast.

5. Specialization is important. Especially if you specialize in 10 different things. Or 20.

The world is changing, faster than ever. If you are the one working in corporate office and if your work computer runs Windows XP, you may have not noticed. If you study in a business school and never go outside it, I am sorry but you could miss something. Business is being disrupted at a great pace, and startups & tech are coming to eat each traditional industry. Traditional school degree isn’t enough now, when the knowledge is for free and highly available. Coursera and Udemy offer tremendous opportunities for self-development. A smart young person would effectively filter though the information, and constantly improve his/her skills. One specialization is not enough, you gotta specialize in multiple things and learn quickly. I spent 6 months working for the startup closely connected to YouTube, and now I am starting a new job in IoT (internet of things) field. It took me only three days of reading to grasp the basics of technology behind it. And will take another 6 months to become an expert. In modern conditions, normal people change, while successful ones change very very fast and efficiently.

7. Young people are amazing. Old people are smart.

I’ve met many amazing people over the year. The young generation of my peers will be the greatest one in the history. Over the next couple of decades we will change the world, business and society with the help of technology. If you are 18 and you don’t code, better start now. Like really, now. I’ve struggled with it myself for a long time. My school education was bad, math skills still aren’t brilliant, and soft skills were easier and faster to develop in a business school. Yet in 2015 I’ve made my first steps in coding, and 2016 will be great in that sense for me. But it’s not only about the technology. Young people are more open-minded and entrepreneurial than ever, and most importantly — they are valued. We get chances and if we are able to handle them, we can rise fast. We are adaptable, able to learn and change fast. Older generation of professionals is extremely important too though. Those guys lived their years on the planet and have a great deal of experience. Having mentors and advisers is crucial. Never be afraid to ask for mentorship, remember: everyone wants to share their experience, and has an ego.

8. Living creatures are beautiful.

For six months now I am a vegetarian. If you didn’t know, go back to point #1 and ask yourself what was the last time you had a meal with me. The reason is that I do believe that living creatures are way too beautiful to kill them. How cool it is that the chicken is alive, able to move, live, enjoy simple life. Life on Earth is a pretty amazing thing. And we, as most intelligent creatures (at least some of us), are supposed to do everything in order to protect it. The way animals are killed and treated is not acceptable in the modern society, when we are able, and it’s really economically viable to abstain from eating meat. Have a look at “Animals Liberation” book if you want. I still eat dairy products and eggs though, they don’t cause so much suffering and I need them in order to maintain sustainable lifestyle and nutrition.

9. You gotta speak the language.

Languages are important, not just English. The argument that you aren’t learning any more foreign languages because “everyone speaks English” means you’re just a lazy ass. English is universal, but especially in Europe all business is still conducted in local native languages. I spent 6 months working in a startup in Poland, and had to adapt quickly and learn Polish grammar, writing and improve my speaking greatly. Because when your colleagues and clients are all Polish, they expect you to speak and write business strategies in their language. December, I passed German B2 exam. And been learning Spanish every day for four months while eating breakfast. And when Spanish is fluent, I will start learning a couple more.

10. Have fun and be happy.

Take it easy and remember that shit happens. Life is so much easier than, and you’re so much more successful. What’s the point of crying over the spilled milk? Easy-going approach has proven itself to be extremely successful in both business and personal life. Just remember, it’s about being responsible as hell and getting shit done. And if you still fail, not getting upset and working further. Easier to say than to do, oh man, I know it well.

The year 2015 was amazing. I hope you don’t agree with me on at least a couple of things above, I’m totally fine with it. It would mean that we both have so much to learn in 2016, and then see who’s right.