Meeting My Other Self

Something stirred within me, perhaps I had been wandering too long without clear direction and purpose. It is much easier to go with the flow and exist instead of living, avoiding confrontation in the hope that prosperity and well-being will somehow emerge some day.

Drifting on by, going aimlessly with the flow

My family and I went on a much needed holiday to Southern Africa. We almost didn’t go because we couldn’t afford the plane tickets and had to rely on family to help out. That sucked a lot. But it was worth every minute, a time for healing where I found the courage to take full responsibility for my life’s purpose and direction.

Drifting aimlessly is terrible

Previously I had taken my financial means for granted, 13 years working for a big company with a good salary and expatriate benefits meant that I didn’t pay much attention to personal budgeting. This lack of discipline carried over when I started my own company although somehow I was able to cover expenses and generate a decent enough profit in my business. I ignored the warning signs when I started to dip into my savings to make up the occasional shortfall in my personal spending, justifying this as a necessary ‘investment’ towards future prosperity. After all, my company was cash flow positive and as long as my salary was guaranteed each month things would be OK.

In 2015 a horrible downturn hit my industry sector. Fortunately I had already obtained commitments for client projects that year. But I knew that change was in the air and I had to diversify. So I hired my first employee with the intention of growing the company through new business. 2016 was hard and very precarious but we pulled through and expanded by hiring a third person. This year 2017 was when we stumbled, we thought we could maintain momentum…

See, I was still going with the flow and expected my new colleagues to step in and maintain momentum for me. That we were on to a good thing and that revenue generation would be straightforward. But, the industry sector I knew and felt most comfortable with was no longer part of our business. I was lost in the middle of a fundamental pivot. I lacked the courage to lead and push through difficult experiences with new customers. It’s easy to blame a different culture and language. It’s easy to blame circumstances. It’s easy to blame everyone else. But I created the leadership vacuum which resulted in everyone blaming each other when things didn’t go right.

So what changed? And how did I end up meeting my other self?

I was confronted with the real possibility of having to call it quits, losing everything I had built. The prospect of quitting was so much more unpleasant than the fear of poverty. My survival was at stake.

Africa is not for sissies

It’s a old cliche but when you are camping around wild animals and snakes you realize that Africa is all about thriving by surviving. When every Dollar/Pula/Rand counts towards your evening meal and tomorrow’s breakfast. When you have to walk 15km to go to school or fetch water for the family. You have to be tough and creative to survive.

I met some brothers in Zimbabwe and they helped me to remember some basic lessons:

  • Sell things people perceive as valuable and memorable.
  • Always get the best deal for both buyer and seller.
  • Earn more than you spend.
  • No one can take away your dignity.
  • Survival is hard but allows you to thrive.

In a post-industrial, Western country with a social security safety net the average person does not need to be concerned with survival. Survival is guaranteed by the state. Losing a salaried job is okay, because there will always be a handout, a soft landing. Being the CEO of small company is very different, we are not employees as such and don’t pay into unemployment funds. If you quit or the business collapses there is no soft landing. Being the CEO of a small company in France is a lot like surviving in Africa.

Inner peace

Something else happened back in 2015. My Dad passed away after a long and terrible battle with cancer. He died one month after I hired my first employee and the day before we were to travel to Turin Italy for a major event, the inauguration of Casa Jasmina —

I didn’t really give myself time to grieve or process things properly with my family. I just got on with my life.

It was only this year during my visit to South Africa that I was able to truly find inner peace by remembering my Dad, visiting his grave site and taking the time to reconnect with my family.

I had for a very long time kept some distance between myself and my family. Maybe it was part of my desire to be independent and do things my own way. But, we are not alone and loneliness is a highly destructive state of being. I am grateful to not be alone anymore and that my family are here to support me on my journey through life.

My other self

I did meet my other self, on a beach at dawn in my hometown Durban South Africa. I guess you could call this a spiritual experience. I met the person who holds himself to a higher standard.

  • My other self has a clear purpose
  • My other self has set life goals and executed them.
  • My other self is courageous and determined.
  • My other self does not blame others.
  • My other self survives and thrives.

I am my other self now. And I have the courage to set ambitious goals and take massive action to achieve them.

The next steps

I have the determination and courage to turn things around, for myself, for my company and for my employees. None of this is going to be easy. But it is going to be worthwhile.

Coming back home to France I sat down to work out a game plan. I am grateful that others have been there before me, like Ben Horowitz. His advice and life experiences have been a source of inspiration.

None of this is about working harder or being motivated. It is all about clarity of purpose, courage and determination. It is about being so hard under pressure that you become a diamond. It is all about building an environment that keeps putting fuel into the gas tank so that the motor runs and the wheels move forward on the road which takes us through life’s journey.