Opportunity knocks when you hit rock bottom
With no girlfriend, no money, a loan to pay, a huge amount of unsold stock, a Gestapo-like shopping centre manager that kept sending me threatening emails. How did I get out of this hole? By picking up a pen and committing to the creative freelance path.
They say that most things in life happen for a reason. That these are life’s lessons that we are meant to go through and learn from to acquire new knowledge. Have faith in ourselves and the grand design, blah blah blah… Yes, it’s true, but how do you actually have or find faith when you are really struggling, unmotivated or even depressed? Well…you need to choose it.
An Early Lesson in Independence
I’ve always felt born to freelance. From a young age, I’ve had a driven and rebellious soul and have always tried to follow my passions independently.
Born in a very small town in the Czech Republic, right before the Velvet Revolution dissolved the communist regime, as a little boy in a Czech primary school that was still adopting a lot of communist structures and methods, I had an overwhelming desire to get an international perspective and meet other people from around the world. With a stroke of luck, I got accepted into a British international school in Prague and started there aged 13.
I couldn’t even say ‘hello’, and pretty much rock ’n’ rolled my way through my IGCSEs and IBs. Since no-one in my family could speak English, and nobody at the school could speak Czech, it was pretty difficult to talk about my feelings and feel understood.
This gave me some pretty solid lessons on independence, inner strength, and rebellion.
Aged just 18, I then moved to the UK for University, facing new challenges: living alone, cooking… doing my own laundry. I had a lot of time on my hands as a student, so I decided to try my hand at freelancing work from my bedroom.
The gift, the gab and young promise
So I set up an agency from my bedroom and began to offer my services. Learning on the go, I taught myself graphics, web design and internet marketing — you name it. I used blogs, scientific journals, field-specific online journals, internet forums I was a member of, conferences, books, university library and professors, and a lot of experimentation to work it all out.
Most of the time I had no idea what I was doing, but with persistence and a bit of creativity, I was delivering good results. My journey as a freelancer had begun.
I was only 19 years old, so imagine this skinny-looking teenager trying to come across as somewhat professional. Luckily, my first clients were nice guys, and the projects went well. I even stretched my legs co-building an SEO toolbar that at one point was being used by 20.000 users worldwide. I loved the peaceful aura surrounding universities, it was an inspiring base to explore knowledge and ideas.
So when the time came to return to Czechia after four years in the UK, I wasn’t really sure where ‘home’ was for me any more. I wasn’t quite happy. So as a long-time lover of golf, I decided to set up an online golf fashion store. I partnered up with Ralph Lauren, Puma and the likes.
My days were long and tiring, but I learnt an incredible amount closing a contract with a shopping centre in downtown Prague to rent a commercial space for 3 years. I was hugely excited about managing my own physical shop. Then came, however, the biggest failure of my life.
Where it all went wrong
The contract was strict, stating that there was no possibility to opt-out if the business went bust. Several people including my ex-girlfriend, a lawyer, warned me about it, but I ignored them thinking that there wouldn’t be any problem.
In its first year, the store broke even, which felt incredible, and I was so excited to push forward. The following year, however, sales went swiftly downhill as more competition arose and bigger foreign players came onto the market.
I was forced to lay off my employees and after just 20 months, I decided to close the business. As the contract tied me to the store for another 16 months, some heavy negotiation was required to allow me to close the store early.
Depression, anxiety & hitting rock bottom
For the next four months, I sat on my ass trying to think about the next step. According to the shopping centre’s regulations, the store had to be open 10am — 9pm every day, so as the only person working there, I had a whole lot of time on my hands.
Depression and anxiety crept in with the increasing cash-flow problems. I felt like my life had gone terribly wrong and it was extremely hard to see any light.
I was stuck in darkness, pain and sorrow. That was when I hit rock bottom.
I had no girlfriend, no money, a loan to pay, a huge amount of unsold stock, a Gestapo-like shopping centre manager that kept sending me threatening emails. And if that wasn’t enough, my sister passed away just three days after I closed the store. I was devastated. How did I get out of this hole? I began drawing…
‘Accidentally’ discovering my true passion
Somehow all that negativity bubbled over to reveal to me my true passion and talent. The moment I picked up a pen and started to sketch, it was like I’d suddenly realised what I was born to do. Stuck in the store, I designed a watch and a shot glass. Designing and manufacturing the product and package of the watch took about 6 months to finish, and in February of the following year, I heard about the A’Design Award and Competition.
With my confidence and mood at an all-time low, I procrastinated over whether to enter the competition. I was giving up. I realised I was just so crushed from the past. So the day before the deadline, I grabbed that last piece of energy I had in me and spent the whole night creating my presentation.
The biggest design awards in the industry, my expectations were very low. But believe it or not, in April I was announced as a winner of the award and my life started changing so rapidly in the opposite direction, that I began to recover from everything I was experiencing almost instantly.
Winning the award confirmed my purpose. It was beautiful. It gave me the momentum to start afresh.
Two months later, an innovator in the field approached me to create a design for them. I couldn’t believe it. Six months ago, I had been slumped in the store with dust collecting on the windows, and now I was working with one of the most successful companies in the Czech Republic known globally for its innovations. It was a dream come true. The strength of emotion was overwhelming. I was back on the horse and I started my new endeavour with boundless enthusiasm.
From then on, the ball started rolling. I was commissioned to create a 18m2 mural painting for a shopping centre (to be revealed next year!) and a photograph of mine was picked to be presented in an exhibition of emerging artists at a gallery in Prague. I must have been the happiest man in the world. Later that year, I moved to Barcelona with the love of my life, and a new chapter started.
Now I am building my new project, www.miroslavo.com, the product of all the knowledge I’ve gathered over my journey. It focuses on design, art, photography and engineering. I also have a blog, where I talk about my creative processes, successes, failures, explorations and philosophy.
Last month, I was awarded another A’Design Award. This time for a shot glass, which I had paradoxically designed at the worst/best point of my life.
So…how did I become a Flylancer? Well…by doing what I love regardless of the size of the obstacles, resistance and fear. In the end, freedom and success are priceless.
We have a choice. We can either stay as we are, choosing to live within the fear that has built up from failure and let it control our future - or - we can choose to believe, take life by the balls and keep chasing our dreams.
Perhaps, in the end, it all comes down to one question, do I want to give up and live life in ‘what if’ or keep trying, believing and flylancing?
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