2016: The Year of Superheroes
I was lying by the ocean in Thailand on the last days of 2015 and while looking at the endless blue horizon and thinking about the turbulent year behind me, my mind drifted to the topic of superheroes. Many of us remember the “Fantastic Four” cartoon from childhood and our amazement about the superpowers each of the characters had. Maybe it was the skill of becoming invisible or creating fire that gave us our moment of:
“Wow, I want to do those impossible things!” But we were told this was fiction.
But are superpowers really fiction? I started to think about my own life and realised that one of the greatest things that happened in my early life was having a dad who encouraged me to believe that I have superpowers. Let me explain. I was a random girl and an average student from a tiny town (with 40,000 inhabitants — a village?) in Eastern Europe.
At the age of sixteen I was given a school assignment to create a student company with my classmates. Excited about this out-of-the-blue opportunity to feel important and business-like, came up with an idea for our product — an accessory that looks cool, yet makes clothing visible to cars in the dark (to be frank initially they were neither cool nor did they survive a rainy day…).
I went home to share the excitement and basically my parents could have responded in one of these two ways:
1) The first option was to remind me that I am actually nobody, with no education, born and raised in a remote corner of the earth in a post-Soviet country that nobody had heard about and thus had no background for success. It would have been reasonable to suggest that I focus on getting better grades in order to follow a dotted line towards success. Had that been the case my life would probably have turned out very differently.
2) The second option was to encourage me to believe that my ideas could make a difference despite my background if I worked on executing them.
I was lucky that my parents chose the second option and helped me to believe in my own superpowers. It was my dad who suggested I take the idea to the patent office (I then learned what that even meant!) and start finding clients. I opened the yellow pages catalogue (that was before the Google era) and I found both — the patent office where I patented my idea, and my future clients. A few years later I had sold hundreds of thousands of those strange little accessories across Northern Europe. At the age of nineteen I was speaking at the European Parliament on behalf of young European entrepreneurs.
My father passed away a few years after that, but his belief had opened a door for me for which I am ever thankful. This is a door that exists in all of us. It’s the door to the greatest superpower of them all — the belief that you can make a change and have the stubbornness to execute it.
Don’t believe me? In the autumn of 2014 I was a mother of a 1-year old, who after months of bootstrapping with the crazy “Jobbatical” idea of how people want to mix travel dreams with their careers, was standing at a gas station without enough money on my credit card to drive home. Today, a year later, we are engaging hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom have changed their lives by relocating to a new team in their dream country. FastCompany listed us among the biggest innovators of work in 2015. And I am just a village girl – imagine what you could do if you used your superpowers?
Happy 2016! The year you became a superhero.