In Self Discovery Parts I & II, I listed out what fulfills me and where I would like to end up. In order to arrive at an idealistic end, I need to make sure the means guide me there. I have drawn up these great ideas, masterful plans but if I do not begin focusing on the smaller parts of the puzzle, I will not realize them. My marketing professor at DePaul University once told me, “Patrick, you are most definitely right-brained.” Not knowing what the hell he was talking about, I asked him to clarify. He said it meant that I place heavy focus on aesthetics, feeling, and creativity rather than logic, analysis, and accuracy. He said that I can envision the big picture, which many cannot but my day-to-day execution of the greater plan wanes due to a lack of focus. I remember smiling and nodding my head in agreement. He was right. A lot of big plans may be hard to dream up but what is more difficult is the execution of that plan at the micro level. I have slowly began realizing this since he pointed it out but I still have a long way to go. The following analysis will detail the little things I am going to do in order to help me build towards those later end goals. So, here goes Part III. I hope this one does not flop like those of the Godfather or Back to the Future (you know, when McFly and Doc uneventfully took on the wild wild west).
In 2013, there are many different elements in my life that I would like to shore up and there are accomplishments I would like to realize. I have taken all ideas and trimmed them down to 5 goals for this year in order to become the man I would like to be when the next ball drops.
1. To become fluent in Romanian and to speak Russian at an intermediate level
If there is one thing that holds me back personally and professionally within my community it is the lack of communication between myself and my neighbors, local friends, and business owners. Some of it has to do with my willingness and openness to certain people, but the more important piece is the ability to communicate effectively in their common language. I feel that I have come a long way in Romanian, but the structure of my speech is still incorrect and I need to continue to expand my vocabulary with more verbs and nouns. I will continue to speak naturally but any time I am not certain or wrong, I must ask my counterpart why I was wrong, how to say something correctly, and for the person to repeat themselves if I did not grasp the idea. I need to continue to read newspaper articles, local blogs, chat with friends on Facebook and Odnoklassniki (Eastern Europe’s popular social network), and watch video clips and films in Romanian. Also, I must guarantee to myself that I receive the 12 free hours per month from my personal tutor which the Peace Corps permits and reimburses. If I can continue to discipline myself and execute the strategies I have devised, I believe that I can reach the point of near fluency by the Spring. As of right now, I feel comfortable speaking. I just need to get to the point where I know that I am correct without having to think twice about it.
When I reach that level of comfort in Romanian, my goal is to begin learning the Russian alphabet. Changing over to Cyrillic will be a monumental task but it will be one that is completely worthwhile and fulfilling. I would really like to learn this language while I serve in Moldova for the sake that everyone here can speak it, especially my good friends in Leova. They speak Russian amongst each other and only switch to Romanian to cater conversations to me. It is frustrating because I feel like the weak link within the group and that discussions must stop in order to get me caught up. I feel that if I can gain a base from my tutor in the nearby town of Iargara, my friends would eventually all become teachers whether they knew it or not. Just from listening to them right now I have been able to gather simple introduction phrases as well as all of the curse words essential to being an efficient member of the basketball team. By the end of 2013, I hope to have had 8-9 months of Russian under my belt. If all goes well, I would like to be able to have sound conversations with my friends come next winter.
The language would be an invaluable tool to use in the Balkan & Baltic States, as well as Russia of course. Being very entrenched in global business and having an interest in working in the world for the foreseeable future, the ability to communicate in Russian would open doors to more business opportunities, connect me to more people, and continue to help me understand various cultures throughout Eastern Europe.
2. Grow the business incubator to a point of self-sustainability
Acquiring capital, growing business relationships, creating more marketing materials, and publicizing businesses online. These are the four pillars of the business incubator that need to be improved and/or established by year’s end.
With 18 business owners to assist on a daily basis, the tasks and routes to success become endless. There is never something I cannot do at my job, which is why I enjoy it so much. The main priority currently is to fill our offices with sustainable businesses. At this point we still have not finished that task. Rooms remain empty and need to be filled with the right type of entrepreneurs. With Moldova being incredibly advanced in IT, a fellow PCV and I have been working diligently to recruit IT specialists to our respective businesses. We have made formal presentations to numerous universities in the capital of Chișinau and have began to focus on scheduling meetings with IT savvy organizations to assist us in the recruitment process. This fight remains unsettled and the problem is that we still have other components of the business to focus on in the mean time.
Acquiring capital for our owners is surmountable yet trying. Two strong options for financing include receiving grants or obtaining a revolving loan fund. Both of which not only depend heavily on the sustainability and profitability of our projects, but also on the character and credibility of our business owners. This is not easy. Interest rates are incredibly high for borrowers and banks are normally unwilling to distribute loans to those not willing to meet their demands. This makes our work harder but there are certain outlets we are looking into. Besides writing a grant this year, I expect to reach out to one credit institution that has a history of supporting Moldovan entrepreneurs. A plan has been set in place but before I unveil it I would like to receive proper counsel before I capitalize on the opportunity. Normally when I have made up my mind about something I throw caution to the wind. However, keeping in mind my strategy to focus on the smaller details I would like to unravel this plan methodically and gather multiple opinions beforehand. I am a novice when it comes to financing and grant writing so I am timid about tackling this process single-handedly. In two weeks, I will be ready to roll out the plan to acquire loans for one or more of our business owners. The goal is to establish a long-term relationship amongst our business owners and this particular lender so I would like to demonstrate patience and thoroughness early on.
Growing business relationships is a day-by-day effort that I would like to continue to improve upon. Scheduling the initial presentation or meeting is not the prize. It is about creating a value-added relationship that continues to give. We have done an excellent job thus far in gaining privileges to meet with organizations and professionals but now it is about maintaining the relationships and showing our partners that we care about their businesses just as much as ours. Next week, I will be present at a lot of introductory meetings with new clients and would like to demonstrate this to them.
Finally, I need to crank out more marketing materials and continue to provide content online that expresses the handwork and dedication of our business owners. Being absent from the office for the past month has been dreadful. I am continually building on the external activities of our incubator but have neglected the internal ones. I hope this time away from the business owners does not affect their willingness to collaborate with me on projects when I return. Specifically, I would like to help all of our business owners create social media pages displaying and detailing their services. Social media is a great tool because the majority of forums are free for businesses and allows for digital word-of-mouth to be exchanged quicker than an owner could muster in person. Once their pages are created I would like to introduce our owners to blogging and posting content to their pages to help familiarize themselves with potential clients. By incorporating themselves personally in their businesses, they provide a human element that every company strives to have. I am more likely to buy something from someone I trust. If they can be creative and forthright in their writing or videos, they can help build that comfort for their consumer base. Furthermore, each owner is in need of a brochure or one-page advertisement that they can deliver to consumers in town. Our community is very tight knit and many of our businesses have duplicated existing businesses. This competition creates a choice for consumers. My goal is that the consumer will choose us due to the allure of our marketing activities and recognition of each business being available in town. Step-by-step I would like to create a marketing program for each owner that is diverse, economical, and unique.
3. To stay healthy and maintain shape
First the ribs, now the ankle. I need to watch out for myself and take it easier when competing in physical activities. My love for sports keeps getting me in trouble because of the way I am playing the game. The approach needs to change.
Injuring my ribs came from sparring in jujitsu. I rushed into the activity and did not practice long enough on technique before trying to impress myself and colleagues with certain manuevers. What happened was that after attempting a takedown incorrectly, I pulled a muscle in my rib cage that kept me from exercising for 4 weeks. After full recovery at the beginning of December it only took another month to pass to receive yet another doctor’s visit. As detailed in Self Discovery Part I, I injured my ankle while trying to grab a rebound.
What I have learned is that I need to change how I practice both sports. If and when I return to jujitsu, I will need to practice technique fully to avoid injuring myself further. My body is not accustomed to the takedowns, holds, or endurance required of a fighter. Until I have executed all moves and holds in practice to habit, I should not enter live competition. I like the sport but it is demanding and requires a combination of skill and repetition.
As for basketball, I love the game. I could not stay away from it if you paid me. It is the bond that links my friends and I together in Leova. I want to rehabilitate my ankle to full strength simply to play again. However, as my father advised it may be the way I play the game that needs to change. I like to play as an undersized 4 or 5 who controls the boards and stiffles the tallest opponent. However, 3 ankle injuries have all been produced by the same event: landing awkwardly after fighting for a rebound. With this in mind, I need to change my game from playing in the paint to staying out on the wing. It is selfish but I have to make this choice if I am going to continue to play. I cannot afford to stay at home and be out of the office any further.
While making these adjustments to prevent further injuries, I will continue to eat healthy, maintain weight, and limit my alcohol intake which will help me continue to be in the shape that I established since starting service in Moldova.
4. Drop the fear
It keeps the extraordinary, ordinary.
This has to be shaken. Fear holds me back from making so many decisions. Whether it is as simple as offering someone a compliment or emailing someone of importance, it takes a hold of me sometimes and does not let go. My goal not just for 2013 but for life is that I continue to loosen its grip. I do not want to say that I live my life in shaking under the covers or that I hide away from everything. In fact, I feel that I have taken on a lot and not shied away from it. I just think improvements in facing challenges and question marks in my life can be better addressed.
I need to overcome my fear of being open and friendly with more people in my community. I have made some good friends through basketball and I am cordial with co-workers but I still feel that I could give more of myself to others. I seem to put up a wall with many people interested in interacting with me for reasons that I cannot pinpoint. It may be the fact that I am scared to eventually say goodbye to more good friends or that I do not know their motivation in being my friend in the first firstplace. A tidbit I remember receiving from Moldovans and our training staff in country was that we should be on guard for many things: people offering you alcohol, the regular occurrence of robberies, sexual assault, the dangers of riding in unmarked taxis, gift giving, people wanting your phone number, etc. In a way, this information about being on guard helped to instill the fear of being open. My chest feels heavy at times. I want people to be friendly to me, yet when they offer to hang out or become closer I seem to deflect the offering. I wish I was not like that. This deterrence towards others stems from fear.
I am beginning to change this belief. Analyzing most of the people and situations I have been placed in, I have realized that overall most people that I have met seek friendship. No one has asked me for anything. They have only gave. I am going to approach situations more openly. If I have time to spare for others outside of my responsibilities I am going to make it. A goal of mine is to be more open because I want to make an impact in the community. Therefore, I need to change and step up to this self-provoked mission. Ultimately, I would like to look back on my time in Moldova and be proud of the strides I have taken and the things that were accomplished in my community during my tenure. Facing my fears more often should allow me to do this.
5. To enjoy the now
It is pretty cut and dry. I repeatedly look forward and plan the next step all while neglecting the present. I need to begin relishing the moments that are passing me by. Each event, task completed, conversation I have, needs to be experienced with a more aware presence of mind. I can get into ruts and lulls thinking about the big picture. Everything about this life is a challenge and learning experience. One in which I need to embrace consciously. Therefore, one habit I want to build upon is writing out distinct activities and goals each day. I carry a black Moleskine with me everywhere, but some days I do not fill it up or review it later. I want to make sure that if I say or think of something, I will do it. Accountability will be key in keeping myself organized and making sure that I am fulfilling that which I want to accomplish and enjoy daily. Reading the books A New Earth and Reposition Yourself were powerful in helping to remind myself that life is now.
I hope you have enjoyed this self discovering trilogy. If you are feeling lost, doubtful, in need of a spark, or think you want to re-establish your goals, I would recommend that you create a list of things that make you happy, define your end goals in life, and discover what you can do on a daily basis to create that path in linking them all together. This exercise was not only helpful but therapeutic for me in understanding what lies ahead. I feel recharged and directed in what I need to do to find happiness and clarity. My eventual path may wind but the principles of writing these visions out will at least keep me honest when a turn needs to be made. Good luck in finding what is best for you and those around you. As always, thank you reading.