Five years as a hustler

“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.”
― Oscar Wilde

Life story. Everything I learned and experienced. (so far)

Every 6 months I have been a completely different person. In the last 5 years I reinvented myself at least 10 times. It is hard to remember all the things I have done in the last 5 years, all the ups and downs, tears and laughter — they tend to blend in one bittersweet blurry picture — or more than one blurry picture, can’t actually tell.

I remember all the “problems” that I feared will happen to me, all the negative things that could happen, eventually not one of them came true, so I stopped doing that. I learned a lot, done some great things, done some stupid things, which are now great life jokes. But no regrets.

This writing is 100% me, life in its purest form. All the bad and good that happened, everything that shaped me into the man I am today. So it goes.

You can become a superhero (sort of)

I realized at the age of 18 that reading is like stepping into someones life, taking all of his gathered knowledge and experience and basically consuming it for yourself — usually for free or for the price of two coffees and a coke. Some years later, at the age of 21 I comprehended something quite extraordinary, reading is the closest thing to having superpowers, and one more thing — girls dig smart guys.

Five years in a heartbeat — everything I experienced (so far)

For the last five years I had a lot of adventures.

I worked for the best independent investment company in Croatia, analyzing securities. Raised on Gordon Gekko and Boiler Room. Fresh out of university, feeling like the luckiest kid alive. I had written for Wall Street Journal under James Altucher, yes, the NYT bestselling author and probably the world’s most famous blogger at the moment. James gave a 21 year old kid a chance to show to the world his stock picks – analyzing why something is worth the money, why some companies have some intrinsic value and why some companies are fugazi, fairy dust. I was good at it.

Guys like Howard Lindzon (CEO of StockTwits) read my posts on stock picks. There I was, a 22 year old kid — high on Buffett and Graham knowledge and writings, but wanted to live and dress like Gordon Gekko. People twice my age listened to what I had to say. I was sure – anything is possible.

Then everything became a fugazi, fairy dust.

Life stepped in. It hit me so hard that my ancestors probably felt it. I had made money, lost money. I started smoking, stopped smoking, stress of investing got the better of me. My family lost almost everything. I soon realized that I didn’t earn enough money to help them. I realized that we were losing more than money, we were losing ourselves as a family. I don’t even want to remember those days, it felt so bad that I constantly wanted to vomit. I quit my job. There goes the dream of becoming a sharply dressed Warren Buffett.

I started smoking again and drinking. I was back to my home town, but nothing felt or seemed familiar. I was lost. My parents drifted apart, my brother left the university. It was hard, it is even hard writing this now. But that misfortune made me into the man I am today.

It took me some time to realize that it was enough, I cannot hate myself. I can’t change the past. I cannot live in the past. I started meditating. Started loving myself.

I remember that I was reading the biography of Porfirio Ariza Rubirosa : “The Last Playboy”. I was mesmerized by Rubirosa — he was larger than life. Then I opened the best coffee place in the town, called Rubirosa, obviously. It was a coffee place by day, and a gin joint by night, something like Rick’s Coffee from Casablanca — and I was Rick, I felt life again.

My gin joint. Rubirosa bar.

Then I broke up with my girl, due to other girls. Then dated a lot of girls. Then made a lot of money in my gin joint, invested all of it in memories and naturally, girls. I ran the gin joint for the next 18 months. I brought happiness to my family, stability. Gave my gin joint to my parents. Started my first startup. I was 24 years old. I pitched in front of Dave McClure, had a couple of beers with the guy. Then got funding for it, twice. Moved to Sofia. Became a paper millionaire. Traveled across Europe, pitched my startup. Played the game. Once again, it felt like magic. I was loving myself. I got to know a lot of people. Some of them are assholes, some of them are going to be my life long mentors and friends.

Squee — my first startup.

Then I started dating a supermodel – traveled with her across Europe, again. Then all went into flames. My startup failed miserably. I wasn’t a millionaire, not even on paper anymore. Then I learned Ruby on Rails. I don’t like writing code, just writing. Then I learned to love myself again. Learned a lot, experienced a lot. Felt so alive! I got back to Croatia. Now, I am looking for a new adventure, startup to join, startups to build. I have a story to tell — fire to share. So it goes.

Everything I learned (so far).

“In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.”
― Robert Frost

It is utterly true, Frost knew it, even Freddie Mercury knew it. It took me some time to grasp the idea of “life goes on” theory — what ever happens, you need to keep on fighting. Doing your thing, hustling.

I will tell you how to become happy, happiness is the only thing that you actually need, if you start loving yourself, you will become happy and you will even feel lucky from time to time. These are my rules of life and business — my daily rituals. I do not claim this is the only way to do it, not by a long shot, so take everything with a grain of salt. But it worked for me.

“No man has the right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training. It is a shame for a man to grow old without seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable.”
― Socrates

Physical — get in great shape. Tell me what you eat and I will tell you who you are. The mind cannot work properly if your body is shaped like a Orangina beverage bottle. Exercise, do what ever feels right. Drink tea. Try yoga, do it for 20 minutes a day, walk for 45 minutes before you go to bed. Wake up early — by 06:00 am. Meditate, you don’t need to be a monk to meditate. Just close your eyes and think about the universe and all the life’s beauty. Be grateful for everything you have. Love yourself.

It is well to be up before daybreak, for such habits contribute to health, wealth, and wisdom.

Go to bed by 10:00 pm. Maybe you believe that sleeping 3-5 hours a night makes you more productive and gives you more precious time to focus on your startup — but an army of scientists beg to differ! You need your 8 hour sleep a day, you need to get rid of all the toxins. You are not Tesla, Da Vinci or Tim Ferriss.

Think of your friends like business partners. Would you do business with a criminal? Then why are you letting an asshole bring you down? Get rid of all people who are bombarding you with negative energy, hang out only with cool people who are doing something inspiring and amazing. Be there for your friends and family, especially for the people who love you. Don’t be an asshole.

“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”
― Jim Rohn

If you cannot find 5 amazing friends that inspire you to become great — then find mentors in books, blogs, movies, writings. I would say that 100 good books replace one great mentor. You really need to start reading a lot, now.

Want to be a startup founder? Be.

Read everything there is on startups. Follow every blog from a well known startup founder. Listen to podcasts. Watch This Week In Startups. Watch Foundations by Kevin Rose. Literally consume every essay from Paul Graham — every blog post from Mark Suster, Brad Feld and Fred Wilson. Learn about vesting — thank me later.

Learn to code, but only practice coding if you like doing it — you need to learn how to code for the sake of understanding your CTO, not for the sake of becoming your own CTO. You will never be that good.

What will happen if you do all of those things?

People will start behaving differently in your presence. Girls will smile more often to you, you will even feel lucky. Every day you will love yourself even more. Then you will become happy. Then you will get funding by top tier investors. Then you will be a startup demigod. Then you will date a supermodel girl. Then you will make an exit. Make millions of dollars and become an angel investor. Then you will probably write a book on how good looking, smart, successful and awesome you are. That is life. That’s all to it.

“Everything you can imagine is real.”
― Pablo Picasso


This article also appears on Medium and is published here with the permission of the author
Title Photo Credit: flickr