When people ask me the common question:”So what do you do?” I used to have a hard time. I did so many things, I could never limit myself to one. I see too many opportunities everywhere I go, and only over time became aware that most people don’t think like that.
I grew up in the Netherlands, wasted away at public education just like many others, with many unfulfilled desires. In my early twenties I realized that the ordinary path of studying, getting an office job, lease a car and mortgage a house just wasn’t for me. I left the Netherlands in 2006 and went on to study philosophy at the same university as Socrates.
For three years I lived in Cyprus where I worked in trust and finance. I got skilled at the computer and learned a trick or two in design, marketing and writing. But most of all, I enjoyed hearing unusual (success) stories of businessmen who had chosen to do things differently. Many of them by accident, some by design, they had come up with business ideas that resulted in more customized, fulfilling individualistic lifestyles. I met and married a wonderful girl, moved to Panama and became an entrepreneur, designed and build my own hotel. There on the edge of civilization I became what I always wanted to be: self-reliant. But most importantly, I found a true calling. I have always been fond of nature, but in most of the world, there is so little left.
Living in rural Panama on the edge of the jungle, my outlook on the world changed. I love civilization, technology and the products of industrialization. But nature is undervalued and we humans are drifting too far away from it.
My hotel had a good acre of sloped land around it that was severely degraded. I started working the land, building terraces, improving the soil, planting many edible and ornamental plants. I found great joy and satisfaction in the work, even though the sun was often merciless and so were the bugs. The hotel guests became a way to sustain my gardening.
The strain of a business on ones’ private life is enormous; what seemed idyllic for a casual observer became unworkable. I left Panama by the end of 2017 but not before I completed one personal goal: to build myself a cabin with as little help as possible. For three months I lived without running water, electricity or any form of plumbing. I washed in the river, boiled river water for drinking, and relied on the forest as my bathroom. I slept in a tent, would get up when the roosters started crying and put in as many hours as I could. I booked a flight to Europe and made it my deadline. One week before leaving my bathroom and kitchen were operational. I turned the key and left.
Now my life is without direction, but not without goals. I have many passions and ideas, and I am more ambitious now than ever before. This is what I will do in the coming years:
- Create a home with art studio for my wife to be and have a family
- Reforest at least one square kilometer of the earth.
- Write a book on philosophy
- Design a household product or one more building (bigger than my hotel)
- Never run a hotel-restaurant ever again
I guess you could say I am a entrepreneurial philosopher.
In our lives, many people tend to limit themselves to a career path set many years ago, even if they no longer desire it. Limits that are set by society and well ingrained in most people. I don’t believe in such limitations. We can always change course, start a new business or career, learn new skills, and do so much quicker than what society prescribes if only we put enough effort into it.
In supply chains, complicated processes have been reduced to a limited number of routines that do not require expert knowledge. As a consequence, 90% of almost any job is ‘monkey see, monkey do’; anyone with reasonable intelligence can learn such basic tasks competently within a month or less. Getting the knowledge and skill to do the more complicated tasks does take time, but it is the most rewarding part of any job. Some people are very happy with following routine, but I prefer learning something new every day.
Knowledge can be obtained by straightforward studying, but few schools & universities really teach problem solving skill; this kind of creative thinking is often not encouraged or even suppressed. Instead, most schools teach a form of bureaucratic thinking. By the time I attended university, I realized these limiting environments are not conductive for learning, but more meant to produce clerks who work in hierarchies. Fortunately, the internet allows us to bypass old education structures and get essential knowledge much quicker. So instead, I choose the real world as my learning environment, set personal goals and meet the challenges that come with them.