The past doesn’t define you, unless you let it. Our childhood scars can become the fuel that ignites our passion to create a better world. And I guess, now I realise that, my father leaving my mom and myself when I was just 3 months old was such an event. I turned it into fuel to prove the world that I am valuable. I decided to take ownership of my own life, instead of dwelling on the unfairness of the situation.
I chose tech as my means to do good, because I believe this is one of the most democratic, creative industries one can be in (it’s not without the flaws, of course). I see both the good and bad sides of tech like distorting reality or alienating people. AI is only accelerating this. I wish to contribute to making tech work for us by bringing us closer together, by letting us draw freely from each other’s experience and build things that serve humanity beyond our imagination.
Wake up, Neo
While it can feel easy to point the finger of responsibility outward and attribute your lack of success to external circumstances, when you do it, you give away your power. When you see other people (or things) as reasons for not achieving your own goals, you’re more likely to be influenced by other people or feel caught up in the flow of life. You turn helpless and anxious.
Only when you start being honest about what you feel, think, do and why you do it, you can get your shit together and grow. Acknowledge, that you do have choice and that not choosing is also a choice. When life happens and things get in the way, accountable people take ownership and get on with it. Unaccountable people wait and see.
Ownership leads to empowerment
The moment you accept responsibility for everything in your life, is the moment you gain power to change anything in your life. Everybody gets 24 hours in a day. You, me, Bill Gates, Rihanna.
Sure, now they have a crew helping them plan and scale any effort they do as an individual.
But that doesn’t mean that you can’t create smaller changes within your control and influence. Someone smart once said that goals are just your dreams with a deadline. And if you’re not satisfied with where you are, it’s not enough to hope for things to change. Your actions need to be aligned with that.
Had I wait for a miracle to happen, I would probably still be in my hometown, maybe living a mediocre life. I would have not travelled the world, met with some of the most incredible and talented entrepreneurs and business people, nor dared to create a software company addressing tough problems.
I would probably grow bitter, scared to explore the world which would be a very dangerous, full of murder, rapists, misogyny, unkind and injustice place.
But that’s not my world.
Start making lists
The checklist is one of the most high powered productivity tool ever discovered.Brian Tracy
One thing that really works for me is making lists for recurring things or things that I want to create a habit of, like learning a language (right now I’m mastering Japanese and improving my Italian and Spanish) or publishing articles showing my expertise and most importantly, inviting others – especially those ahead of me – to connect. Even if I feel my ideas are not that good, I still commit into publishing them. You never know what will hit fertile grounds.
I am pretty strict about following these lists.
If you’re struggling with that, try to imagine that those repeatable tasks deadlines that you set yourself are non negotiable. You will have to find those 10 minutes for a quick language lesson or a short thought leadership post – or whatever you think will help you in achieving your goals.
Lists are amazing, if you stick to them. They help you avoid being distracted. Sticking to the list will ensure you prioritise your day right, don’t waste precious time on things that may feel urgent, but they are not.
If you think of something you need to do while you’re working, right it down on a list, forget about it for now, and get back to it later.
Be careful (and specific) what you wish for
In fact, every action plan in life can be split into lists. Once you chose a big overarching goal you want to reach some day, you can split that goal in key steps to take over a specific timeline. Each one of those steps can itself be split in sub tasks. Make sure that each of your tasks are following SMART format, that they are;
- Specific (simple, sensible, significant).
- Measurable (meaningful, motivating).
- Achievable (agreed, attainable).
- Relevant (reasonable, realistic and resourced, results-based).
- Time bound (time-based, time limited, time/cost limited, timely, time-sensitive).
If you’re like most people who put things for later (that never comes), imagine that your tasks are set by the supervisor you, whom you don’t want to let down. When you look yourself in the mirror, you want to feel good about yourself. Or, find your accountability buddy whose relationship you value deeply. We don’t want to disappoint others, so why do we do it all the time to ourselves?
Some research papers claim that people who report to friends or mentors about their goals are 76% more likely to reach them. But never mind the numbers. Just take any person you look up to. Movie star, athlete, writer… All of them have mentors, coaches, to report to. We can’t do anything alone.
“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.”
— Flannery O’Connor
Many of my favourite doers boost about keeping a journal. And while my childhood journals may not count as much (although it’s sweet to read how the 10 year old me thought tomorrow’s school test was an insurmountable problem or that a boy I liked and shared my lunchbox with didn’t reciprocate my feelings, caused so much drama 😅), I do try to keep track of my thoughts to see how I progress and my perspective changes in short notes form. This newsletter also records the thought progress I made. I am a bit scared to read what I wrote and thought like a couple of years back. The rebel, unedited, silly me.
Nevertheless, journaling makes me more focused, organised and disciplined.
Who is it to blame?
We Poles seem to have complaining in our blood. When you ask us “How are you”, we don’t see it as a polite chit-chat, that Brits don’t expect an answer for (Oh dear, now being British-Polish citizen screws with my personality 😅).
We will tell you EVERYTHING what’s on our minds; the good, the bad and the ugly (usually leaning towards the two latter). We’re raised like that, seeing our parents and close ones do the same. Monkey see, monkey do. We can have a lousy job or a falling apart car, but as long as our neighbour doesn’t have a better one, we’re happy.
And many of us unconsciously go through life like that, blaming everything and everyone but ourselves. Complaining is reactive, passive, and further embeds a victim mentality. When I catch myself (rarely!) complaining, I pause and reassess by asking: “What can I learn from this?”
Of course many Poles always see the world through rose-coloured spectacles (although weed is officially illegal 😉) and I know many such people. I’m one of them. I’ve always been optimistic and believed that I’m the master of my own faith, so if I really wanted something, I always found a way.
And I’m really grateful that I dared to explore the world from a young age and see that I can do and be whoever I want. Living and working in London toughened me up and made me who I am today. I guess Alicia Keys could as well have sung “If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere” about London.
Focus on solutions
Necessity is, after all, the mother of invention. So, if something is important to you – whether it be your health, fitness, relationship, career or else – you will find a way despite the obstacles. And if it’s not, well – you’ll find excuses not to do it.
When I’m faced with a challenging situation, rather than taking a defeatist stance and shutting down my options by saying “I can’t” I ask myself “How can I?”. And if someone else is telling me that something is not possible but I really feel it’s worth pursuing, that even fuels me further to prove them wrong 💪🏻).
I write down all possible options for resolving a challenging situation. I let go of any logic and go crazy and wild on writing down ideas. I have long forgone striving for perfection, as it kills opportunities, and I don’t hope to come up with a perfect solution straight away. Instead, I just brainstorm potential plan of action, and see what’s feasible within my means.
As cheesy as it sounds, while comfort zones may feel safe, change never happens there. Blaming external forces for your circumstances means never having to live outside your comfort zone. To grow, develop, and create a fulfilling life, we need to step outside our comfort zone and build a sense of responsibility for our outcomes.
Many social media channels and online “news” outlets are rich with insecurities-inducing pictures and stories. You are ready to kick this project you’ve been long thinking of. But then you see how others are nailing it and you feel like you have nothing to offer compared to them, like you’re not good enough. Imperfection has no place in social media and successful people don’t have bad days (because nobody wants to see it).
Screw that. Of course you’ll suck the first time you do something. But that’s how you learn. I wonder how will our lives and motivations change when, like in Matrix, uploading skills to our brain becomes possible. Where will we be getting sense of achievement from, if we learn to speak Japanese within seconds. Oh well, a topic for another post.. or a podcast? 😉
Now I am ok with failing and messing up, and I always try to draw valuable lessons from it. I know that not everything I do or say is perfect, but in reality – nothing is. Someone smart once said – To err is human 🙂
The world is nothing like media portraits it
If you watch the news and haven’t travelled much, you may start thinking the world is a dangerous, scary, out-of-control place. Luckily I snatched my mom from the clutches of my “well-meaning” aunts and uncles, who always comment and try to induce fear in her, whenever I plan us a trip to a place like Brazil or Lebanon.
They themselves haven’t moved their ass outside of the fences of all-inclusive hotels when they travel.
In politics, we’ve also been told that it’s not our fault that our lives aren’t perfect — it’s due to macro-level factors like the economy, current government, globalisation, crime rates, commercialism, banks, or ruthless corporations and capitalism. It’s the same narrative, only getting reinforced pre-elections. The others are the bad guys. We are the good ones that will change things for you for the better.
It can make you overwhelmed by the increasing complexity of modern life and unsure of our role in what seems to be an out-of-control, overblown world.
Consuming too much of this media reinforces the belief that external forces are to blame for our personal circumstances. In reality, we have more control over our lives than we think we do. Sure, not all of us will become a world-known singer, unicorn founder or a celebrity. But if you don’t take a chance, you’ll never know what could’ve been.
Look, I get it, the above words may seem trite, but sometimes you need to hear things that you’ve already known, because maybe at this point, they will resonate with you to finally take action.
Now, off you go 💪🏼.