Whew, back at home and back in the saddle. I’m a little tired from all my recent peregrinations but I’ve put some coffee on and ready to get back to my online life.
I haven’t left the city of Cluj in these past few days but I’ve rarely been home. It’s been quite an interesting adventure, as I am sure I will recount around the digital bonfire here at some point in the future. Mostly what I’ve been doing is talking with people.
Some of that talking was about business. I certainly can’t go into details or specifics here yet but I and some other people will soon be pitching a television show. If all of that works out then you’re going to be seeing a lot more of me ;) At this point absolutely nothing is certain but I am excited that I’ve finally met the right people to even make this a possibility.
In America, people are often deeply isolated even when they live in large cities. I think one of the reasons Facebook is so popular there is because it’s one of the few ways to be less isolated. I know Romanians use and like Facebook too but here, for now at least, people do most of their socializing in the flesh, face to face, over coffees, colas and beers. It’s also how they (and now I) make connections, including business contacts. You’ve just got to invest yourself in offline, face to face time talking with people here if you want to do business or have friends.
It’s been great. Although I’m tired it was nice to step away from the keyboard for a bit and flap my lips a bit or “shoot the breeze” as we sometimes say where I come from. I know a lot of you are reading this due to my post about the “37 Steps” and I can tell you I sure didn’t learn Romanian from watching television or in some dusty classroom. I learned it by talking, and doing plenty of it :P
As I’ve written about before, for a number of years I lived a rather quiet, anonymous life. I had a few friends. I went out in town occasionally. But by and large I was mostly invisible. Some people knew I was a foreigner but most people didn’t. I didn’t belong to any clubs, groups or organizations. I had no “social media” accounts. And I most definitely didn’t get stopped in the street and recognized. But then I decided to come out of my relative isolation, to write my blog then my book then do all the media stuff, whether print, radio, television or online and here I am today.
But so far it’s been mostly an individual effort. I wrote and printed and sold my books largely by myself. I certainly have written every article on this blog by myself. My documentary was almost entirely an individual effort although of course I had a lot of help. But everything from the T-shirts I’ve given away to my travels across this country to paying for the website you are now reading was financed, organized, directed and the result of me, an individual. If you think of it as a company, I was the CEO, the secretary and the janitor all in one.
This year things are going to expand. I’ve already dropped one hint about some of the things I have in mind. But if it’s going to get bigger then it can’t just be me, largely on my own, doing this. It’s time to reach out to others and get funding from other people and have other people’s input and involvement and direction. As we say in America, it’s time to move on up to the big leagues.
I’ve been doing a lot of talking these past few days to my friends and acquaintances as well, some people who have known me for years and others less time. Call it a kind of “market research” if you will but I’ve been asking them about motivation. Based on what they know of me and what they’ve seen (blog, books, TV, documentary, etc) what do they think is my motivation for doing all of these things?
Some of you reading this are living in a different country than where you were born and raised. If that’s not you, use your imagination. Imagine you move to a foreign country. You learn the language and culture. You meet people and make friends. You navigate your city and know where the good clubs are, the good restaurants, the good place to take a leisurely walk or have a swim. You get a place to live and set it up so that’s it’s comfortable for you. Maybe you have a pet or two. You’ve got a job that pays well enough that you can live. Whatever your individual decision, you find you have a life in this new place. You truly live there.
Then what? For most people I think that’s it. You’re comfortable. You truly live there and you’re set. You hang out with your friends and eat good food and go to a concert and marry and raise babies or I don’t know what, but you get to this level and that’s it. Maybe in 60 years your grandchildren explain that they have an unusual family name because a long time ago one of their ancestors originally came from someplace else.
For me though, there is something else because I already live here. I’ve got a job and I speak the language and I’ve got friends and I know this city and I know where the good pizza place is and I know where to get a good beer and all of the rest. If I never wrote another blog post, never sold another book, never did another interview again in my life I’d already have all of these things. So what is it about? What is my motivation for doing more?
A lot of people I asked think it has to do with money. I’m doing this to get rich. Well I’m not going to lie and say if it turns out to be profitable that this would be a bad thing. Money is a useful and wonderful thing to have, no doubt about it. But I’ve been doing “this”, whatever this is, for over a year now and it’s certainly not about the money now. Considering the number of hours of time and effort I’ve invested, it has definitely not been profitable in that sense, not even close. So that’s not my motivation.
Before 2012 started, I thought long and hard about what I wanted to do in this new year. Now that I’m a little bit famous, what do I want to do with that? Now that my words and videos reach a lot more people, what do I want to do with that? I’ve already partly answered the question. I want this year to go from primarily one-person efforts to involving a lot more people and increasing the scope. Certainly a lot of those people whom I will be working with will be doing it for money. Completely understandable and not a problem whatsoever. But for me it’s also something else.
I’ve got a new episode of my documentary queued up and hopefully within the next two weeks I’ll release it. But I’ll ask you right now the same thing I’ve been asking a lot of people over these past few days. What exactly is the biggest problem in Romania? Over the years I’ve enumerated hundreds of wonderful things about Romania but what would you say is the biggest problem here? What is truly missing or what needs fixing the most?
One of the answers I hear a lot is “poverty”. I’ve got my own views on what poverty is and what it isn’t. But even if it’s strictly about cash incomes, there’s not much I can do about that on a national level. I don’t have a billion dollars. I can’t build some gigantic factory and employ thousands of people. Nor am I some influential banker or economist who can shape government policies or international loans. Not much I can do on a personal level except offer my opinion and insights into things like maintaining a personal budget and some general information on being an entrepreneur.
I also hear a lot of other answers, including education (or problems with it). Certainly lately everyone’s been talking about the state of health care in Romania. Other things like pollution and certain mining projects have been mentioned to me by people. All worthy and important issues and I’ll do my part with those just like I’m sure all of you will as well. But there’s not much more that I can do than any of you could. I can volunteer to clean the trash and I can attend public rallies and I can sign petitions and all of those things just like you can.
But what is there for me to do, what is in within my reach, that I as an individual have a unique positioning to do? I already have a good life here. So what is my motivation for doing more? Especially if we rule out that it’s to make money as the primary reason. Assume that my public persona is a company or a brand. What is unique about my “brand” that can achieve some kind of success?
If you’ve been reading my site for long enough, I think you know the answer. I think you know both what I am uniquely positioned to do and what exactly it is that I want to do especially as it correlates with a very large problem on a national scale. And what it is I can do that doesn’t involve me suddenly inheriting millions of dollars from a mysterious uncle :P
Let’s use our imaginations one more time. Let’s imagine that someone came to you and said they wanted to make a television show about you, not one little short segment but a full season of episodes and you are going to be the star. You get to decide what it’s about and what kind of show it will be, so long as it features you. What would you do with that? What would you want to tell the whole world? What would you want to show all of your friends and neighbors and strangers who will come up to you on the street? What story would you want to tell?
And let’s further imagine that you’re doing this for no money so it’s not about endorsements and concerts and gold-plated limousines. It’s purely just for you to get the attention of millions of your neighbors. You’re handed a gigantic microphone and lots of people are listening. What would you say?
Some of you probably don’t know what you would say. Others of you probably don’t feel comfortable with so much attention and so would decline the chance altogether. But me I’ve got the microphone and I’m working hard to get a bigger one and the reason is because I do know what I want to say. And my motivation for all of this, all of the books and the blog posts and the interviews and the speeches and the one on one talks with friends, neighbors, taxi drivers, shepherds, police officers and little old grandmas in the countryside is that I believe that the story I am telling matters. It counts. It affects people. It changes things, perhaps one person at a time, perhaps one tiny step at a time, perhaps one molecule’s worth of difference, but it matters.
And as that microphone gets bigger, as the story reaches more eyes and ears, as it gets passed on and shared and illuminated and amplified, the change increases in magnitude. And even though it is ever so slender and tiny now, it has begun. And as it hopefully grows, those changes and influences and effects will also grow. And even though it is so fragile and tentative now, it is reaching the national level, way up high where those biggest problems exist. I might fail and I might burn out and I might encounter vicious opposition and I might just be ignored. There’s no way to know until I try but by God that’s the plan. I’m going to take this metaphorical baseball bat and swung with all of my effort and see if we can’t hit the ball out of the motherfucking park.
This is the year we’re going to see if one person’s story can’t reach up to the highest levels and actually do something about one of the largest problems this country has. Are you excited yet? I know I am. As we say where I come from, hang onto your hat (tine-ti bine palarie). No matter what happens it’s going to be an interesting adventure :)
You can look me in my eyes, see I’m ready for whatever.
Anything don’t kill me make me better.