Personal development summary of 2016
My journey in personal development started in 2016, which is why the first annual summary is a summary of 2016. The focus of these posts is mainly to show that if you put in the work, you will see progress. I will tell stories of events that happened during the year and what I learned from them.
In 2016 I was still eighteen and I had no experience in entrepreneurship. Honestly I had no idea what entrepreneurship really was, let alone know that I would end up loving the craft! If you would like to have a better perspective of who I am or my story, I recommend reading this article about my past first.
My first venture
My journey in entrepreneurship and indirectly personal development started because of a school project. Another experience happened earlier that year, but more on that later. In my second year of college we were assigned to write a simple business plan. The group split up in smaller teams of five students each and we started thinking.
Eventually we came up with a simple plan to sell flower-bulbs in packs of two so they can be shared. Most flowers have a meaning behind them so we chose the Calla Zantedeschia, because it has the meaning of luck. This way you can share luck with someone for only five euro, a bargain!
The art of starting before you’re ready
I was the group leader so I mentioned to the group that I wanted to actually execute the plan as we were still writing it. My thought behind this was that it would probably give us a higher grade, due to the fact that other groups were just writing the plan. About two weeks into writing the plan my mom texted me a link to a meeting inside an old warehouse that went bankrupt years ago.
An organisation named Gather was allowed to start a new store in this building with all kinds of entrepreneurs and start-up businesses. They were allowed to stay in the building for the time being until a new multinational moved in. The reason why my mom texted me the link was so I could work as a volunteer and talk to the entrepreneurs so I could maybe learn something from them. But while I was there something very unexpected happened!
I went to the meeting with the thought of going there for networking purposes, the meeting started with a short presentation. After the presentation the project manager announced that she wanted the entrepreneurs to gather on the right side and the volunteers gather on the left side. In my mind my line of thought was, I’ve been an entrepreneur for two weeks so I think I belong on the right side! I started introducing myself to the entrepreneurs and most of them laughed at me, they acted like I wasn’t worth anything. I think this was probably because I was thirty years younger than most of them.
Eventually I walked to the project manager, introduced myself and asked if I was allowed to stand here with my company. She asked if I had a product to display in three weeks and I told her that I’ve been in this business for a few months already (knowing very well that I didn’t have a product at all). She accepted my offer and suddenly my team and I had three weeks to launch a product on the market before the grand opening. These were the most stressful weeks of my life up until that point. I barely slept and worked seven days per week but we managed to get the product together three days before the grand opening.
This entire experience taught me that courage is an extremely valuable skill to be an entrepreneur. And I do use the word skill intentionally. I know that courage is something that you can learn, I used to be extremely introvert, but because of this one experience I started pushing myself every time I was afraid to do something. Any time that I was too scared to do something, I would do it anyways.
Meeting my mentor
In my first year of college I did not get hired at a company to do my internship so I had to do my internship period at a company called Ondernemershuis. You could see this as a small company that was founded by the school for students to do their internships if they were not able to work for real companies. Like a safety net to students. During this first internship I didn’t do anything, but I passed the final exam just so I’d go to the next school year.
This summary of 2016 has a common theme of me not being able to do something and succeeding in the end. In the second year of college we did another internship and again I did not get hired anywhere. This meant that I had to go to the Ondernemershuis company again. The thing is that the person who runs that company didn’t have to hire me. I honestly did a terrible job in the first year so he could have just denied my entry. He gave me a second chance. This second chance in combination with his coaching skills triggered something in me. I wanted to do something with my life! I promised myself that I would never get addicted to anything again and that I would always try my best.
Later in the internship
Sometime later, about halfway through the internship, the coach (Johan) told me to collect business cards of local businesses the next day because they would be potential customers. So the next day of the week I got up at 8:00 AM and was in the city by 9:00 AM, full of energy and wanting to impress my coach.
After walking around the city, I came to the conclusion that on a week day, most companies are not open this early. So I called Johan at 9:10 AM to tell him that the companies aren’t open yet to collect the business cards from. He laughed, and I think he noticed my enthusiasm but that I just didn’t really think ahead. I believe that this is where he saw some potential. I could tell that the way he treated me after that situation was a lot different. Much more positive. I think that was the moment that he decided to really start coaching me.
Executive meeting from hell!
During my internship Johan sent me off to multiple small companies in the city, this was seriously the scariest thing I had to do during this internship. I remember the first time that I had to go to a small local business to interview an entrepreneur one on one. I had to chance dress shirts three times before leaving the house, because I was sweating that profusely.
However, these were all small encounters with local entrepreneurs. My first time meeting a very important executive was when I started my first company. This was during the period when we had three weeks to launch a product. We needed flower bulbs to sell so this meant that we needed a supplier. I happened to know a girl that turned out to be the daughter of the CEO of the largest international Calla trader. After she told me I arranged a meeting with her father.
Drive to a meeting. Easy enough!
I had to go to his office by car, a simple plan. However I remember being exceptionally nervous and sweating a lot. I left the house right on time but on the way there I noticed that the car needed a refuel. I pulled over at the nearest gas station but the pump was on the other side of the lid to refill the car with gas. For this reason I had to walk behind the car to the other side but in the process of doing this I spilled a bunch of gas on my dress shirt. A nightmare!
The lady at the gas station was incredibly unsympathetic and not interested in offering paper to dry my shirt. I quickly went to a near campsite where I bought a bottle of water and poured it on my arm. They must have thought I was insane. I was now in a hurry to get to the meeting because this costed me a lot of time. My solution for drying my shirt was by driving on the highway to the office while holding my arm out of the window.
Better late than never!
So there I was 2 minutes late, storming into the office dripping in sweat, with a wet arm, smelling like gas. The CEO walked into the meeting room, shook my hand and literally the first thing he said was: “Does it smell like gas in here or something?”
I replied by saying: “Do you ever have days where literally nothing goes your way?”
He laughed and followed up with: “I’m going to make your day kid, how can I help you?”
And that is the story of my first meeting with an executive but also the story of how I met the amazing supplier for my first start-up experience!
Project manager abroad
In January of 2016 I went to Spain for a month with ten other students from my school. This was to study Spanish five days per week in order to improve. The group was split into two groups of five with one project manager each. I was assigned as project manager. We then went off to see one entrepreneur per group and they assigned us a task. Our task was to create a promotional video for the company Gastro Quality in 14 days total.
I have experience in video production and video editing so I proposed to do the editing. Everyone agreed and we started thinking about what we really wanted to create for this gentleman. The entrepreneur mentioned that he wanted an emotional branding video. This means that you give the viewer a good feeling and only show the logo at the end or very subtle in the background. We decided to display the city of Malaga (where the company is located) in a beautiful way.
We all started recording every single day after language school. In small groups or alone but we were making a lot of progress. I remember applying every leadership technique that I ever studied and I was still learning every single day. In the end we created a fantastic result that brought tears in the eyes of one of the final examiners. Everyone’s reaction made it all worth it, I remember putting the video together in two days working 12 hours per day. This is the video that we created:
When I got back every one had heard about the video, including the board of directors of my school! Our group was allowed to present the video in front of the entire board of directors. This was so satisfying, I watched my team as they did a phenomenal job presenting the video and their experience. It was one of my proudest moments at the time. I now truly realised that when you put in the work, when you give it your all, you do get the results.
From gamer to award winner?
Soon after the presentation I was nominated for the annual ‘Exceptional student award’ at my college. I had to battle it out with two other students from my college. The objective was to get the most votes from students and teachers combined. We had three days to collect votes. But by the time I had heard that I was nominated I was already 35 votes behind, I looked online and saw that my competitors already posted on Facebook and Instagram. I had to act quickly!
Quickly I created a strategy. I came up with the strategy by doing some simple math, the click through ratio on posting something on social media is very small. However if I am physically in a classroom asking for the vote it would have a much bigger ‘click through rate’ or chance of a successful vote. 30 people in a classroom, I assumed that on average 20 people would actually vote per class. If this would actually work, I’d only need to do a few classrooms to catch up!
So my plan was to go to every classroom in all three cities that my college was located. I used my sales experience from working door-to-door to give a short pitch about why I should win. First I walked into the first classroom that I saw, asked if I could give a short presentation and the teacher agreed. I gave a two minute pitch on how the students would benefit if I would win this award and just like that I got 25 votes. This must be the way to win!
Executing the plan
I gave it EVERYTHING I had. Giving over fifty presentations in three days, all in different classrooms and in front of people that I had never even seen before. It was scary at first but my determination and competitive edge pushed me to keep going. Even when I was tired, when my throat hurt or when I was thirsty. I was DETERMINED to win this award.
In all previous years the most votes any person had ever achieved was around 350. The amount of votes that I got in 2016 with this system was so much more than previous years that the jury was forced to change the rules of the entire competition. In 2016 I got 804 votes, people were shocked. even the judges were confused. My closest competitor only got around 300 votes. So they changed the rules, so this couldn’t happen again. They made the votes less valuable in the final judgement of who would win, and I got second place.
This made me so happy! I worked so incredibly hard to get the votes, I came up with a winning system. I was so good that they changed the rules! That’s phenomenal if you ask me. So in 2017 I graduated from that school, but another person was chosen to represent my education. She asked me to help her with the same local awards. I taught her the system and she did a great job, she avenged me by getting first place!
Presentation in front of a big crowd
With all of these things happening and going to all the different schools I was creating quite a name for myself within the college. I saw two members of the board of directors speaking in the hallway and when they noticed me I asked if I could pitch them an idea. They both looked quite surprised, apparently students don’t ask them a question that often. I pitched my flower-bulb idea, and that if they shared one of the bags together their connection would grow! They laughed and said that they liked the product and my enthusiasm.
They told me to deliver 100 bags on a very specific time and date at a location in The Netherlands (where I live). Without even thinking about it too much I just got to work and started packing the bags together with my mom. I was mainly just excited so I didn’t even think about why they wanted it at that specific time.
Time to deliver
So eventually it was time to bring the package and I brought the bags in black-painted Pink Lady apple boxes. When I got there it turned out to be an annual meeting that they have at the start of every school year. When I walked in and started approaching a large hall someone walked up to me and quickly said: “Okay, when you get in there, give a five minute presentation about entrepreneurship. Good luck!” And then she kind of pushed me onto the stage.
There I was. Unwillingly standing on a stage with an apple box filled with bags of flowers in front of 100 people. The presentation actually did not go that badly. I basically used the same pitch that I used in the basement of the old warehouse earlier this year. I pitched it so many times that it is to this day still ingrained in my brain, haha.
In August 2017 I started my journey by graduating on the highest possible level. My school works with the BTEC system, so they rate things by fail, pass, merit or distinction. Achieving a pass is the mandatory minimum, you can do an extra assignment to achieve the merit for a chapter. To achieve a distinction grade you need to get a pass, merit and then write a report about five sub-questions that answer the main question that is related to that chapter’s topic. There are 18 units in total, but for the grade that I wanted (Triple Distinction) you needed 18 passes, 13 merits and 13 distinction grades.
This is what I would do during the nights at my internship in London, so it was tough. But I would recommend any student to go for the highest possible grades! Previously one female student achieved the basic triple distinction (DDD). However in 2017 I graduated on the highest possible grade that any one from my school has ever achieved, D*D*D*. This is also the highest possible grade for the BTEC diploma.
A new mentor
In November I met another great person that really inspires me. Her name is Nancy Schonhage. She really helped me in life by coaching me on a bi-weekly basis. She taught me to write things down so if you are currently this it was because she taught me to do it!
The scariest presentation of my life
National achievers congress 2016. I just got to know a new friend, Yusuf Jamboria. He is also a very motivated fellow. He had two tickets for NAC 2016 and invited me to come with him so I definitely said yes. NAC is an annual congress where great speakers such as Robert Kiyosaki come to speak about their stories and lessons. I was sitting near the front with Yusuf and I didn’t really know how many people were sitting behind me.
Eventually this American gentleman got on the stage and he presented about sales. The core lesson of his presentation was to ask your customer questions about a problem instead of telling them how good you are. Near the end of the presentation he suddenly got quiet and just stood on the stage. Until he asked a question that I will never forget: “who here would like to present their product?” It felt like my heart dropped, maybe you know this feeling. My heart dropped because I had a product, with flowers! It felt like he was speaking to me. So I looked up and only saw two people raise their hands in the crowd. However this public speaker is an American so I knew he sure as hell would not get off the stage to bring them the microphone!
The moment that changed my life for ever
Without my consent my body just stood up and I started walking to the stage. Everything in my mind was telling me to stop but I kept walking. Suddenly they pointed a spotlight on me as I was walking and I hear the American speaker say with a deep voice: “look at how calm he is!” My heart was racing like crazy and I just wanted to run away! When I got to the stage I stepped on there in one smooth motion and he handed me the microphone. This is the moment when I turned around and found out how many people were in this hall! It must have been like 350 people! I remember looking at Yusuf from the stage and he just gave me a smile and a thumbs up.
Then the speaker announced that I had one minute to pitch my product and a counter below my feet started counting down. 0:59… 0:58… 0:57 it was seriously nerve-racking. The pitch didn’t go to well because I was unprepared, exceptionally nervous and I struggled pitching my product in English without preparation. In the end people applauded and then he took the microphone to show me how he would pitch my product. He started asking the crowd to raise their hand if they recognized the problem that he mentioned. With this method he asked three questions where people said yes every time and then he said: “well then this product might be for you!” I learned a lot.
Afterwards when people asked me why I wasn’t afraid to walk to the stage I told them: I was afraid but I just did it. For me it was a lesson in courage.
A mobile app had a huge impact on my life
One day I decided to download an app. The app was created for students to share their accomplishments with other students and universities. I wanted to represent my school so I made an account.
A week after I downloaded the app I saw this contest in the feed: Dutch leader award. This really intrigued me so I clicked on it. The goal was to get points, the way to get ‘votes’ but instead of votes they used a point system. If someone followed your account or liked your post that contained the #dutchleader tag, you would get a point.
I wasn’t sure what the price was but I saw that the first place only had like 30 points. The first thing I did was edit all my posts to contain the #dutchleader tag. Secondly I went into the discovery feed option and started adding and liking everyone’s posts. This drove thousands of people to my page (I was very dedicated in winning this award). For seven days straight it’s all I really did, because I wanted to win. At the end of the week the competition was over and I won by a long shot, I had over 15.000 points.
InSite Leadership Course
The award was a leadership course in Amsterdam hosted by InSite. I didn’t really know what to expect so it was quite scary to go. The Insite meetings were hosted once a month on Sunday from 12pm to 5pm. I decided to go even though I was very sceptical. Once I got there I saw about 50 students, all one or two years younger than me. It was very strange because they all seemed to know each other and I didn’t know anyone. I kind of started talking to the staff members about the course, she told me that this are all international students and their parents moved to the Netherlands.
In no-time everything got started. We had to make groups of five and I really didn’t know what to do. Everyone was already arranging in groups and I was just kind of standing there. Suddenly an American student came up to me and asked me if I wanted to join his group so I said sure! When I asked about who was in his group he said: “well currently it’s just us, let’s find more people”. This really made an impact on me, it made me realise something.
When you are assigned to make groups and you are in a room where no one knows you, chances are they are probably also looking for a group. So why wouldn’t you just ask them to join your group! To you this may seem normal but to me it was a new way to look at things. From the other person’s perspective.
InSite leadership weekend
So this monthly leadership course continued for about three months and I met a lot of new, amazing people. After the third month a special weekend was announced. In this weekend the entire group would be sent to a hostel in the south of Holland. At this weekend I saw things that I would have otherwise never have seen.
For example, we through-out the entire weekend you worked with the same group. Every evening we took turns in cooking and cleaning etc. On the last day when we were eating in the large dining area, everyone had an envelope on our plate. Inside this envelope we received a certain amount of tickets, and a bracelet with a specific colour. The amount of tickets you received and the colour of your bracelet was determined by where you sat down before you even knew what was inside the envelope. Or what the envelope was even for!
When everyone was seated we received a menu to order food from. But most of us quickly realised that we didn’t have enough tickets to buy food. While a few people started ordering crazy amounts of food because they had tickets (money). The ‘rich’ people even started behaving differently, shouting at the less fortunate people and throwing the chicken across the room. I am not saying that they were bad for doing that, it’s apparently how young these adolescents respond in the situation of becoming financially superior to their peers.
True human behaviour
I had a silver bracelet (the worst thing to get) and one ticket. A piece of chicken cost 9 tickets, and the way to get tickets was by doing chores around the hostel for 1 ticket per 30 minutes of work. The staff was apparently instructed to be as mean as possible and come up with terrible tasks for us. Such as sweeping the floor outside and cleaning toilets etc. They would constantly yell at you for no reason or if you missed one spot on the ground.
In this situation most people started to get desperate because of hunger and the chaotic environment. I decided to clean the toilets because it was warm inside and no one wanted to do that so there was plenty of work. Also after you clean a toilet for thirty minutes, if you do it again five minutes later it’s still clean. This meant that it wasn’t that bad in my opinion.
I promised to stay together with someone, but she ended up leaving me in the end because she had enough tickets and I had to keep working longer. The reason why I had to keep working for longer is because I worked an hour straight and in the end the staff member just told me to leave and that I didn’t get paid because I did a bad job. This was obviously impossible because the toilets were clean, but it was part of his instructions.
Why did they do this?
The point is that they tried to teach us something. This is the way the real world works. Some people are rich, and some people are poor. Often by no choice or fault of their own, just the place that they born. Or in my case, the place that I sat down. So don’t take everything for granted. Beautifully executed, I have a lot of respect for InSite. Unfortunately there was no food remaining by the time I had enough tickets. I ended up talking to one of the staff members in the kitchen and he let me in because he liked me.
I am very satisfied with the way I handled that situation. Even though I was less fortunate at the start, I worked hard, gave it my best and stayed true to my promises to others regardless of how cleaning toilets over and over again made me feel.
Getting hired for an internship one last time!
In December 2016 it was time to find an internship again. For the last two years I have always been denied by countless companies. However this time something was different, I changed, my attitude towards work was different. I had a fire in my stomach, ready to give it my all!
The interviewers seemed to notice this fire burning inside me because I was hired at 3/3 of the companies that I visited for an interview. A success rate of 100%! It was so satisfying to have achieved this. I decided to go to an internship in London for six months. To work as a lettings negotiator at RE/MAX Real Estate.
14 december, 2016
I decided to put my first start-up adventure on hold. When I brought the news to my mentor Johan he said that no matter what I should just keep enjoying the process. He also said in Dutch:”je moet gewoon blijven glimlachen, zoals je er gister bij zat tijdens ons gesprek.” He is so right… I let so many small problems that the start-up had, get in the way of my happiness at the time.
I hope that you enjoyed reading this summary of 2016 and maybe even learned something from it. It did not contain all of the progress that I made in terms of personal development, emotional moments or dealing with hardships because it would simply take to long to write / read.
The main thing that I would love for you to take away from this summary is that if you put in the time, energy and work it is possible to change your life. I am living proof. If you have any questions you can comment them under this article or message my facebook page / instagram account.