About learning and why I love my job

Yesterday evening I spent more than two hours with a group of young people from Romania’s first Alternative University. It’s the second year when I am hosting a 2.0 Course in this amazing community of curious and eager for knowledge people. The theme? “Self-awareness”. If you wonder what a course on self-awareness looks like, the answer is simple- it has little to do with what we learnt in our school years that a course “should” be – a set of  information you need to memorise and then reproduce as good as possible. A 2.0 Course is a journey. There is no compulsory attendance. No grades. There is a series of informal meetings in which, starting from participants’ objectives, I suggest topics for debate. I offer them information which we discuss and analyse together. I recommend books. We talk about neuroscience, psychology, spirituality. We approach “self-discovery” from as many angles as possible, always aware that no perspective, as appealing as it may be, ever represents the absolute truth. From one meeting to another they take on new topics for thought and experimentation. They test the information they received. They challenge it. They prepare more and more questions for our next meeting. My purpose is to challenge them to think, to doubt, to test, to dig inside of themselves. If, in the end, they leave with some answers and even more questions than they had when we first met, then I believe it was a success. Last night, leaning into my good old friend, the flip-chart, I experimented a moment of pure joy. The joy of offering all my energy and receiving theirs in exchange. Unlike many of my “corporate” workshops, where people come skeptical and wait for me to convince them that the experience will hold value for them, young people come to 2.0 Courses because they chose to be there. They are just starting their journey through life, they are convinced that anything is possible and they have very few inner barriers and very little...

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Stepping Off the Treadmill and Into the Ocean

I’m back in sunny Brazil, which is quickly becoming my home away from home. Here, in a small, dusty, green, charmingly animated town by the ocean, one can find an impressive mix people from all over the world. I found myself immersed in this incredible diversity of styles, backgrounds and preoccupations, which felt like being thrown on a cultural carousel – the whole world, normally so full of lines dividing people/nations/cultures seems to have shrunk to the size of a small town where lines are blurred and surprising similarities start emerging from among all the differences. A French businessman seized the opportunity to own a “fazenda de cacau” (cocoa tree farm), producing his own organic brand of chocolate. A Dutch, former University professor, now in her 50s, used her life savings to buy a “pousada” – a small motel – right by the ocean and is now making a living from it. An Australian in her 40s, who had refused to settle down before, finally found true love here, in Bahia, and just had her baby one month ago – she and her husband own the local bakery. A Portuguese chef and passionate hand-made jewellery artist found a place here which she calls home. A lovely, highly educated young woman left a 7 year career in the largest bank of Brazil to live here, by the ocean, with the man she loves – he the manager of a small restaurant, she a waitress speaking flawless English, with a beautiful smile on her face most of the time. Surfers, eccentric “rasta” tattoo artists, people belonging to various spiritual communities, party goers, capoeira dancers with perfectly sculpted bodies diligently practicing their art on the beach every single day mix with locals, expats and tourists from every corner of the world in what probably is the most amazing cultural cocktail that one would ever expect to find in such a small place – barely the size of a pin-tip on the map of Brazil. What do all these people...

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Authenticity, Trust and Following Your Heart

Last week I stood in front of around 150 students and spoke about authenticity. Today I stood in front of about the same number of managers in a large company, speaking about trust. Both times I felt completely connected with the subject and with my audience and had this very deep feeling that what I was saying to them was truly meaningful for me too. Now, thinking of the learnings from these two events I just realised how much my life has changed over the past two years because of these two simple words: authenticity and trust. Just over two years ago I was a corporate employee with many reasons for gratitude. The money was good, the job was nice – I was doing what I like best – creating and delivering workshops – and I was surrounded by a team of like-minded people, some of which I was and still am happy to call friends. Still I was miserable. I was dreading every single morning when that horrendous alarm clock would ring and make me reluctantly get out of bed for the dawn of a new day “at the office”. If asked, I could describe what I was so unhappy about: I disliked the rules and fixed schedules, the somber offices, the deadlines and procedures, the power-point templates that forbade me to put funny pictures in my slides. I hated the very idea of a dress code and, more than once, I received a warning from HR for shamelessly breaking it and wearing blue jeans at work. I definitely dreaded having to be there on time in the morning and leaving at a fixed time in the evening. I was saddened by the serious people all around me, seldom smiling, never seeming to have fun doing their jobs. I had a hard time sitting in meetings, doing “official” presentations and I could never really find my words when I had to speak “corporate”. But well beneath all these complaints that I had, there was...

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