Chapter 1: Space Travelers And The Hitchhiker

One brave writer travels the world on a budget and finds ways to meet and spend time with influential entrepreneurs, investors, and billionaires who are changing the world, and her.

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This is the first chapter of the book Founders And The Underdog: Traveling The World To Meet With Some of Its Most Brilliant Minds.

 

CHAPTER 1: SPACE TRAVELERS AND THE HITCHHIKER

From Barcelona to Lisbon

 

I draw a smiley face next to ‘Valencia’ and imagine all the stories I will create while hitchhiking. I only have $200 left, a loan from the moneylenders, three outstanding invoices that I don’t know when will get paid to me, a $12 per hour remote job, one month in Spain and Portugal, and the dying dream of me making it as a writer. What are you doing? You shouldn’t do this, you might get raped. You are nobody. You are nothing. You are a failure. It is too late now, I can’t go back. My flight returns from Madrid after one month, I don’t even have enough money to get there and take a plane sooner.

I look at my brunette roots in the mirror. I will fix this. I will fix everything. I boil four eggs. I hate eggs but they are cheap and nutritious. I put two in my bag for the hitchhike. The other two I will eat tomorrow when I get up early in the morning. I know I have to go to the conference in Lisbon, I know it is the right thing, even when everything else about it is wrong. Maybe I am like Kerouac’s character from On The Road who hitchhikes and travels across North America to meet his mad to live friend, Dean Moriarty. Am I like Dean Moriarty? Am I like the writer who follows him, Sal Paradise? Or am I just wrecking my life?

– You can always take extra days if you need to… If this thing doesn’t work out.
– Thank you. I’ll be fine.
– Nice sign.
– Yeah. I don’t want drivers to get the wrong message, especially when I don’t speak Spanish.
– Maybe your pink hair will help you get a ride faster.

The world is a kind place for as long as there are strangers willing to offer their temporary friendship and a couch to crash. Pablo is one of them. For a brief moment in our lives, we meet to shoot silly lipsync videos, cook for each other, dance salsa, and go to the beach with his motorbike. ‘Thank you for the kindness! Be happy, follow your passion, and travel more!’ – I pin a note on his board, next to the notes written by all his other stranger-friends who have visited his home. I close the door and don’t look back.

– One ticket to Castell… Castellbis…
I show a piece of paper.
– Castellbisbal?

The dirt road by the train station is ahead of me, the fear is behind. ‘Are you nervous or are you excited?,’ my friend asked me when I was boarding the plane to Barcelona and when I texted her that I was scared. ‘I’m excited.’ It is easy to confuse excitement with anxiety. Excitement attack. The herbal scent in the air reminds me of the spring holidays I used to spend at my grandmother’s house. I pull the sign from the bag. I really am doing this. Valencia, smiley face. I want to jump, run, roll, slide, shout, write stories, keep walking. I see the gas station through the fence. How long will it take me to wait here? Minutes? Hours? Will I be able to get a ride before dawn? Will I have to spend the night somewhere near? I don’t know. I walk through a small back door by the parking area. There are only a few people around filling tanks, resting, cleaning their cars. Go talk to one of them. What? Are you crazy? No! I can’t do that. Come on, this is how the locals do it. But I don’t speak Spanish… You have the phrase written in your notebook. No. I will just hang over there, by the exit. I will just stand there with my sign and smile. You might have to wait a long time with this strategy. It doesn’t matter. At least people won’t think I am crazy. But you are. I pull and raise my sign, smiling at the first driver who comes close. Look him in the eyes, this is how you will gain his trust. He smiles back and passes me by. One, two, three. The fourth car stops and takes me to Valencia. Maybe Pablo was right, maybe the pink hair is bringing me luck. A group of friends who have nothing in common. At least they speak English. I ask them how they know each other and they tell me, ‘BlaBlaCar.’ I stop asking more questions when I realize I have hitched a paid ride.

Another stranger, another couch to crash in Valencia. I cook pasta for Adrian and he shares a glass of wine with me. He then gives me a choice between the couch in the living room and a mat on the floor in the closet. I choose the closet. I hear the rain outside. It feels like it is in my room, in my bed, in my mind. I need another blanket. How could he do this to me? Why is he not paying me on time? Why is he so mean to me? I stick my nails in the mat and hit the air with a fist. It is all my fault. I can’t expect him to appreciate me when I am the one who is not appreciating myself. ‘Your last invoice is $400. That’s extraordinary!’ Extraordinary. Extra. Ordinary. I don’t even deserve this for two weeks of staying awake after midnight because of the time difference with the West Coast? ‘Your performance is going down. You are not focused. You miss things. Is this not important to you anymore? I feel like I have misplaced my trust. I have to check your timesheet for that $400.’ He is right, I miss things. But how can he assume that I am lying to him? I even billed him for fewer hours than I worked. How can I be motivated when he is not paying me on time? I can’t even cover my basic bills or have a decent lifestyle because of this. I now have to hitchhike. I just told a friend not to let others treat her badly when it’s been five months of me doing exactly that. I carry poison in my heart. I try to hold it for a little longer. I don’t know why. Maybe I should stop blaming him, tell him everything that is on my mind right now, and just quit. What am I afraid of? Why am I postponing this? I will tell him tomorrow.

I prepare a new sign. Javea, sun, rays. The small town where October is good enough to swim in the sea is my next stop. Seventy-six smiles and four hours later, I am on my way in a car with a Spanish couple that doesn’t speak English. I can’t tell them my story when they ask me. I try but my broken efforts end up with me meditating on the moving fields outside. The man waves his hands in the air when he talks to the woman. I am almost sure they are discussing something about work and money. Dineros. I understand his passion about it, I feel it too, especially when I don’t have it. I hope he remembers to hold the wheel again. I appreciate him taking me in his car, helping me get closer to the conference in Lisbon. Whatever that is. I know there is a reason for me to be on this trip, to boil $1 pasta with plain tomato sauce, to risk and trust strangers.

– I do operations but I am thinking of quitting…
– A lot of people quit their job or raise their fees after staying here.
Great, I need this. I have a deal with the co-living space in Javea to spend three nights in exchange for writing. I pay for three more.
– How did you get to here?
– Well… shared transportation…
I tell them half of my truth because I am too ashamed to tell Jon and Edu that I hitchhiked. We go out for dinner with the community at Sun and Co. I don’t order anything because I have a budget for one drink that I will have later when we go dancing. It is better if they think that I am on a diet or have unhealthy eating habits rather than find out that my daily budget is $5 and I have to make choices between food for two days and a cover charge at a nightclub. I went out to dance salsa in Barcelona and then I ate bananas and peanuts for a few days.

At least there are others in the co-living space who have to make different food choices and don’t eat out too. One morning, Derek offers me coffee with blended butter and oil in it. How can someone drink that much fat and not have a heart attack?
– Why are you doing this?
– Bulletproof coffee. You want to try?
– It looks gross but sure.
It’s quite filling.
– Do you want one?
– No, thank you. Why are you drinking it with oil?
I peel a banana.
– Your body metabolizes fat when you eat more fat and fewer carbs, including fruits.
– Weird… Isn’t it unhealthy not to eat fruits? Won’t you get sick?
The banana tastes like it has been in the fruit basket for few days too long.
– No. You don’t need fruits. They are mostly sugar.
Maybe his diet makes sense. Maybe I should make him my new temporary friend. There is something interesting about him, something more. I sense it. Derek Gallimore. A British ex-millionaire and founder of a real estate company who has lost most of his fortune.

– And now I am in Javea, in a hostel…
Why are you laughing, Derek? Most people would pity themselves to suicide if they were in your place.
– So how did it happen?
We decide to walk back from the nearby village we visit, called ‘Poor Jesus’ (Jesus Pobre).
– I started some property development when I was young and bought my first house when I was about 24. I have just arrived in London and I caught the property boom. I could then afford to buy another house, six months later. And then another one, six months later. I started developing the properties, doing renovations and extensions. Out of that I built my service department company and continued to build that for the next nine years.
– Service department… what were you doing exactly?
– We became one of the biggest service departments in London. We would lease entire buildings and rent out the individual apartments to corporate or leisure guests.
– How did that business go?
– It was organically grown and funded. We started from one apartment and it grew rapidly. There was about half a million turnover in the second year. The model was very effective so we just continued to expand it. We got up to about 220 properties last year. But then we hit a difficulty, there was a lot more competition in the market. The price per night started dropping.
I look at him in his pink shirt and white shorts. It is difficult to imagine him in a suit and in this corporate role.
– We got 500 or 600 thousand lease per month. I sold all my personal properties within the last year, trying to bail the company out. That didn’t work. So now I have nothing. Or very little. Very little.
– But it’s almost like you can build something all over again and go back to having a lot because you have all this knowledge…
– I think it should be easy to build a business of about 5 to 10 million turnover again quite quickly. I want to build up another business within the next year or two. You learn a lot when a business is growing. You learn a lot when you get funding. And you are also learning a lot when the business collapses.

We walk next to the road when we notice a stall with boxes of avocados and oranges next to it. Derek picks a few avocados in a bag when the farmer comes.
– Mujer, mujer! Engles…
– I guess he is going to call his wife who speaks English.
The girl who comes explains that she is the girlfriend of his son. She looks at the two bags that Derek is holding.
– This one is 2 euros and this one is 3.
She doesn’t even measure them. But it still looks like a great deal. I wipe the sweat drops from my forehead.
– What’s your greatest learning from this experience?
– It’s very complex. I will definitely chase security, profitability, and sustainability over growth now. I am quite optimistic. They said that you either win or you learn. I am excited about the new business and the new ideas. This is actually the fun stage, creating something.
– The moment when you get your first dollar…
– I want to test three or four ideas. Incubate them quickly and see if I can get traction. I need my freedom. I haven’t worked for anyone since I was about 24 which was 14 years ago.
– I admire your attitude. This has probably been very tough for you, emotionally.
– It becomes a part of your identity, owning a big business. You lose this part of your identity and then you have to build it again. When you lose your job you ask yourself what are you going to do now. But when you own a business it’s almost like your baby but you also lose your job, your income. There are a lot of new beginning and that can be seen as a terrifying thing but it can also be seen as exciting.
– A new challenge.
– That’s why I’m here. I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do this before. The freedom this collapse has given me is quite nice. I am trying this digital nomad thing for a while. I expect to return to London after the winter and launch this new company properly.
– How would you compare both these lifestyles? Having status or having freedom.
– I like to make money but it’s not for the pursuit of it. It’s for the strategic game but also because of the freedom and opportunities that it buys. Ironically, I have more freedom and opportunities now. I just have one building in London now. I think I should be able to get to 10 million again quickly. Life is a party.

I see a picture of my parents counting copper coins to buy feta cheese. ‘It is easy to spend money but making money is hard. You will realize this when you grow up, Annie. Life is hard.’ And then there is this man walking next to me who has failed and yet still feels positive that he can make millions again, telling me that life is a party. Maybe having to hitchhike is not that bad, maybe I should accept it as an adventure.

I wake up at 7 am to pack my bag. I only have a laptop, a flat iron, ten shirts, two dresses, two pairs of pants and plenty of underwear. I have to roll the clothes and fit all the things that I have for a month in a small bag. Edu, the co-founder of the co-living space comes to pick me up at 8 am and drop me off wherever I need to be for my ride.
– Are you getting the bus?
– No…
– How are you getting to Granada? Where should I drop you off?
– Well… I am hitchhiking. Can you drop me somewhere near the toll gate?
I get off on the main road. We hug. He asks me if I have a sign as there are many prostitutes who usually stand here. Granada, winky face. It’s too early for someone to confuse a hitchhiker with a sex worker anyway. An hour passes. I see a small car driving in the opposite direction. A guy in a suit and too much product in his hair looks at me. A few minutes later, the same car passes me by again and pulls over.
– Granada?
He mumbles something and nods.
– Alicante?
He nods again.
– Where are you going?
I can’t hear the name of the place but I don’t have to. I know he is going nowhere.
– No. Thank you, have a nice day!
I walk away. He lingers, probably looking at me in the mirror. I know that I should lean in and trust my instincts. Never get in a car when I sense danger. And I sense danger.

The sun is now high enough to sting my arms and nose. Many drivers stop but they are all going to places that are too near. What if I have to stay here all day? What if no one is going to Granada? Maybe I should go to Alicante. I leave this spot to look for a better one. I remember that there were a lot of cars passing through the toll gates, including some parking space where I can stand with my sign. As I approach it, I see a woman and a man, a little far away from each other, holding signs. A car stops and picks up the woman. I wave at the guy. He waves back. I look at the road signs. Alicante, right arrow. Alicante, left arrow. On which side should I stand?
– Hey… Hi. Where are you going?
– South. And you?
He has it written on the back of a plastic plate. I show him my sign. There is an aura of body odor that surrounds him.
– That’s also South. We can wait together. People might think we are a couple and pick us up.
A couple? Me and you? No way. You will lower my chances.
– Sure… But maybe it’s best if I wait right there for now. Let’s see how it goes.
All drivers acknowledge me but not even one of them stops within in the next half an hour.
– Where are you coming from?
– I hitchhiked from Berlin.
– Oh, wow… Do you have a pen or a marker by any chance? I think I have more chances of getting a ride to Alicante.
– Yes.
I take his marker to draw a line under Granada and add the Alicante option.
– I think I will try to stand on the other side and try the other route to Alicante. But thank you! Good luck.

I cross the road. A car pulls over almost immediately.
– I am going to Alicante in the evening.
– Thank you… but I need to get there during the day.
He gets off and lights a cigarette. I don’t smoke but sometimes I feel like I need to and I ask him to share one with me.
– I am meeting my cousin. It’s been 20 years since we last saw each other.
– Really? How come?
– Family issues… you know…
– Yeah, I know how it is.
– I will remember you. You are now a part of my story. I feel nervous.
– I am flattered. Are you nervous or are you excited?
– I guess I’m excited.
– It will be fine!
– Thank you…
– Hey, do you know which side is the best one if I want to get a ride to Alicante?
– Over there where this other guy is standing.
– I just don’t want people to think he is with me and he smells kind of bad. It will ruin my chances, you know.
– Well… it’s the jungle. It’s either you or him.
His cousin comes and I cross the road again to stand before the hippie. I am the first one in line now, I should get a ride. I look back. A car has stopped and he is getting his bag in the trunk. So much for the laws of the jungle.

– Alicante?
– Yes! Are you going there?
– Yes!
I jump in. Close to Alicante, I end up at a highway – toll gates with more than ten lanes. I walk around to find if I can escape this place by walking. I can cross a fence to another highway that leads to Madrid. Or cross the highway and a dry field in the distance that leads to another highway. I better wait here. At least there is a spring. It is already 2 pm and I have 4 more hours to go. I make another compromise when a car stops.
– Murcia?
– Si, si. Murcia.
Maybe it will be easier to get a ride to Granada from Murcia. I know only a few Spanish words but they are enough to explain that I travel and write. The guy decides to take me to the beach instead. I won’t be able to get to Granada before it gets dark if I have to go that far down South and come back.
– No… Murcia. No playa! Granada. Yo. Granada. Murcia. Granada.
– No, no Murcia. Playa. Yo. Playa.
– No playa… Murcia.
Just take me to Murcia like you promise.
– No Murcia. Playa. Muy interesante.
I get it, you want to take me to the beach because I am a travel writer. But this is not an option for me right now, how can I communicate this to you?
– Aqui. Yo. Aqui. Finito.
As I watch the disappearing car in the distance, I realize that I asked him to leave me in a place so small there is not even a hotel where I can spend the night if I have to. I decide to wait by a small gas station within the village. You got yourself in a situation again. You should have waited. What if no one is going to Murcia from here now? What are you going to do? What are you going to do, Anna? What? What? What? Think!

The motion slows. A car drives by in the opposite direction. A man looks at me and changes his expression to a shocked one. He turns back and approaches the gas station. The doors open. A woman gets off and waves at me as if she wants me to get in.
– Mio?
– Si!
The couple doesn’t even try to speak English. The woman tells me that they will take me to the bus station in Murcia. I don’t argue. I probably look like I am in a lot more trouble than I am. By the time I get to Murcia it is too late to find another ride. I have to take the bus. I buy a ticket. I should have waited longer for a ride that takes me all the way. The cars that took me near took me further from where I wanted to go. I took a virtual assistant job because I was scared that my aspirations were too far, that I don’t have much time left. And so I am here, further from what I wanted to accomplish. Hitchhiking. Broke. Broken. Not making it as a writer.

 

Lisbon

On my way to Lisbon, I close my eyes and pretend I’m sleeping in the car. I want something unbelievable, mind-blowing, life-changing to happen to me at this conference. I feel it. I know it. It will ruin me in a good way. I pray and hope for it to happen because this is what I need right now. Something or someone to ruin me so that I can rebuild a better and stronger me.

Anousheh Ansari, the first private female space explorer is the person I want to meet and interview the most at the conference. I message her. She replies. ‘Thank you. We can try. I am only here one day. If not maybe we can do it over the phone later.’ The next day, I go to her talk with the single objective to locate the exact spot near the stage from where the speakers exit. I sit as close as possible to it. I wait for the line of fans to talk to her. I have time. I even help them take their pictures with her. I don’t interrupt their conversations. Finally, I am the only one left.

– Hey… I’m Anna, we messaged about the book interview… Is it possible to do it now?
– Oh yes… Let’s do it now. Let’s go to the lounge. It’s quieter there. Can she come with us?
– Sure.

I explain the concept of the book as we walk.
– I am traveling around the world to meet with brilliant entrepreneurs and to capture their inspiration and tell their story. You are so amazing… it would be so amazing to have such a strong female role-model in the book!
There is way too much enthusiasm in your voice. Tone it down. I can’t. I am as excited to meet her as I sound. She has been to International Space Station, how can I not be? I don’t know where we are going but I follow her through the crowd. I cannot lose her. I cannot miss this opportunity.

– She’s with me. We have to do an interview. She will leave when we finish. – Anousheh tells the three security guards as we pass them through to get inside the lounge. We find a quiet corner and I pull my recorder.
– You have achieved a dream that many don’t even dare to dream about, you have traveled to space. What is your message to other women out there who are in a situation where they feel they can only do this much because of certain factors?
– We are our own worst enemies because if we think that we can’t do something then guess what, we are not going to do it. The first thing is to really take out all these limiting thoughts and fears that we have that may be because of where we grew up, or that our family, our environment, or society has put in our heads. Believe that these fears and limitations are not real. Once you stop limiting yourself then you open up the space to imagine and dream what you really want to do without anything holding you back. That is where you can find your passion you didn’t even know you had. Find that dream that you have but you never allowed yourself to dream about.
– So it’s all in the mind?
– It’s all in the mind. I have seen women who blame everything else around them. One thing that never works for me is blaming – I don’t have the money, I don’t know the people, there are no opportunities here. Whatever is not working for you, you can change. If where you live is not helping you – move. If you don’t have money – find a way to get money. I wasn’t born rich but I have always found resources to do what I need to do. When you believe in something then the Universe helps you achieve it.

I feel the energy of her words passing through my skin.
– Kind of like have faith that everything is going to align…
– It’s a matter of being able to have the right mindset. And then you will see the solutions in front of you. If you have a mindset that something is not possible and you can’t do it then even if the solution is right in front of you, you won’t see it. You are not allowing yourself to see it.
– You said you weren’t born rich. Usually, you only see the cover story, ‘She went to space, she was probably born rich.’ What was your struggle to get to here?
– Everything. I was born in Iran. I lived through a revolution and a war that devastated a country. As long as you believe that every step you are taking is towards something better that is taking you closer to your dream and ultimate goal then you use the energy to take the next step, and the next step, and the next step. You have to have a commitment to whatever it is that you want to do. There will be tough times. There will be setbacks. There will be failures.
– You are only one person but you are the fourth private space explorer and the first woman to do that. You have already changed the lives of many others. How can one person change the world?
– The person who I am inspired by is Mahatma Gandhi. One person. He has changed the world forever. Today it is even easier with technology, shared economy, crowdsourcing. You can form a community that can support you overnight while he had to send written messages around the world. Today, if we have the right message we can send it to people around the world instantaneously. This is an enormous power. We just don’t know how to use it for good. We use it for silly things.
– You are also the first travel blogger from space. What was people’s reaction to this?
– I just wrote from my heart and whatever came to my mind and that worked. I had so many people who wrote me that they were excited and they were sharing the experience with me and that made me feel really good if my words can help me make them feel like they are there with me at the station. We had 25 million people who visited the website and read the blog.

I imagine myself as a space blogger too, with my hair floating up in the air.
– Seeing the Earth from such a distance, how did it change you and your view on how we use our resources?
– Everything that you hear about the importance of preserving our world becomes real. It takes shape and meaning in a different way, it becomes visual.
– What do you dream of now?
– A better world where we don’t have all these crazy conflicts. I do a lot of work with youth organizations because I believe the way we can change our future for the better is to allow our youth who have a different view of the world to transform it into a more connected one and we will all become citizens of Earth, instead of Iranians, Americans, Portuguese…
– I also believe that nations are so artificial.
– You look at Earth from space and you don’t see all these lines we draw on a map. It’s all artificial. In our minds we create walls but these walls don’t exist.

I thank Anousheh, take a picture with her, and head towards the exit. But then I notice the free lunch buffet. I can either play by the social status rules and leave this place, not try the food and eat the plain pasta in my backpack instead. Or cheat the status quo, stay to eat nice food, meet the people with orange and golden badges everyone wants to meet. I took a one month trip across Spain and Portugal that I could not afford. ‘In our minds we create walls but these walls don’t exist.’ In our minds… we create walls… but these walls don’t exist. Status. Just another wall. But these walls don’t exist. Don’t exist. Even if there are security guards guarding it at three levels. I put my jacket on to hide my blue badge and bracelet underneath. Hide my low status. Or the imaginary brick I took from the imaginary wall. I’ll stay here until they kick me out. I put some salad, cheese, and meat on my plate.

– You look warm!
A woman sits next to me and interrupts me as I am about to taste the first real meal in three weeks, finally. I put the fork down.
– Well… you know… I came from Southern Spain. It’s so cold here!
Liar. I am boiling in this nylon jacket.
– I know, right! It got very cold in Lisbon these days…
She makes me realize I look silly. I am already here. Fifty thousand people outside are blissfully unaware of this opportunity. I take the jacket off. I crashed the lounge. I should own it and keep topping up my plate.

A different woman sits next to me.

– So… what brings you here?
The free food. Well, not only. But it gave me a motive to be here longer.
– I am traveling the world to meet with and interview some of its most brilliant minds for my book.
I have seconds to impress.
– How about you?
– Oh! You should interview my husband! He is going to the Moon!
This whole manifesting thing works. Anu Jain tells me how she has recently launched a million dollar prize through XPRIZE.
– I really believe we need to empower girls at a young age. Safety is a woman’s right, it’s not a privilege. I am very passionate about empowering girls and women and so I am launching a safety prize. It’s a one million dollar prize to anybody who can come up with a solution for a sensor that you can place on your body. Any woman can have this sensor that’s hidden and if they are being attacked they trigger the sensor and it sends a signal. Not only to the police but to a community of responders so you know help is on the way. At the same time, it needs to be recorded both on audio and video because there is so much corruption in so many countries and nobody will believe your story. I am very excited that this is going to be a changemaker because without basic safety it is very difficult for women to advance anywhere. I really believe that we need to start empowering girls at a young age because that gives them leadership skills and gives them a voice. I was visiting the remotest villages in India and there I was the impact. These girls will be left behind unless we do something about it. Basic education has to be there and these parents weren’t sending their kids to school because of safety issues. Once all these girls are educated… imagine the minds we haven’t tapped into yet. Half the population.
– That’s the reason why I am writing this book.
– Just think of it… The future is actually so good if you look at where we are today with all the new technologies and social connections that we have. We never had it in the past. With all these new minds we can tap into, just think of where we can be in the next five-ten years. There is going to be an abundance of everything.
– I have this friend who has personal development video courses and together with him we were thinking to travel to remote areas of third-world countries, go to schools, and give talks to kids to inspire them to have the mindset to succeed.
– I am really excited to meet you and I really believe it’s all about awareness and inspiring. If you can inspire, whatever platform you use, it’s very impactful. We are in a time when change is going to happen.
– Sometimes it’s all about seeing something different…
– Or hearing something… The more you can open your mind… It’s all about creating the love of learning. The reason kids fail to graduate is because they don’t have that support at home. If you can inspire kids, you know, it opens up their world to think big. My husband is thinking of landing on the moon and who would have thought of that… It’s like doing crazy things, don’t be scared, just do what your passion is and follow your dream.
A man comes and distracts her from our conversation.
– Naveen, you should meet Anna. She is traveling the world to interview brilliant minds.

There are two types of awakening – kensho and satori. Kensho teaches us lessons through pain and adversity while satori is a momentum in which a certain truth just comes to us and expands our consciousness. We mostly learn from kensho but every now and then we experience satori. I arrange to meet with Naveen later. I approach him as he is talking to someone else who is interviewing him. The interviewer seems uptight. Intimidated. Formal. I stop next to the couch, behind Naveen’s back and wait for them to finish their conversation. Naveen notices me and turns.
– Anna, I will be with you in a minute!
Impressive observation skills.
– No worries, take your time.
I had too much fresh juice here. How can I focus on the interview when I need to pee but the toilet is behind the wall. ‘…but these walls don’t exist.’
– Anna, I need to go to the gentleman’s room. Can you wait for me for a little bit?
– I also need to go but I won’t be able to come back. Can we meet near the security so that you can help me get back in?
– Of course.
I should probably be more formal, considering I am about to have an interview with the billionaire. But I am just a human, and so is he.
– She is with me.
– Thank you for helping me get back in.
– No worries.

We pull two chairs and sit opposite each other. I turn my recorder on and ask the first question. I don’t just hear and record Naveen’s words. I experience them with satori.
– Absolutely nothing is impossible. Because the minute you believe something is impossible, it becomes impossible for you and not someone else. So the fact that you believe it’s impossible then you are not the one who is going to solve that problem. It is someone else who is going to solve that problem. To some extent, you create the destiny, you create the future. And the best way to predict the future is to create it yourself. And then you know exactly what the future is going to look like because you are creating it. I believe we are living in one of the most innovative decades in the human history where everything is going to be disrupted. It’s going to change the trajectory of how humanity lives. And we will be able to disrupt how we deliver healthcare, how we deliver education, how do we create abundance of water, how do we create abundance of energy, how do we create abundance of everything that we find so scarce and valuable. And that democratizes everything, that demonetizes everything and then allows it to be accessible to every single human on the planet.
– How do you keep your mindset in a condition that you believe everything is possible? What is your morning routine?
– You know, it’s not about the morning routine. That is fundamental where I think people go wrong. They want to follow the habits of the successful people. What they really need to be doing is follow their mindset. How they think and not what they do. Because what they do may be different among many many successful people. But how they think is generally very common in a sense that they all have a different way of looking at a problem. So when everyone sees the same thing, they see nothing but hurdles. And then someone else comes along and they see nothing but opportunities. So it’s really the way of looking at the problem that makes someone successful or not so successful.
– And what would you say to someone who is living in adversity but they want to be an entrepreneur but they are scared to try, they are afraid to fail?
– The biggest risk you take in life is to not do things. Because as an entrepreneur you never ever fail unless you give up. Everything else simply is a stepping stone to a bigger success. The biggest risk is the opportunity risk. When you die you never worry about that you did. You only worry about the things that you didn’t do. So never be that person who says ‘I could have, should have, would have.’ It’s better to say ‘I did it and it didn’t work’ or ‘I did it and it worked.’
– Yeah! – Is sky the limit?
– The sky is not the limit because there is no such thing as a sky. The sky is a fragment of our imagination. Our imagination is the only limit. When you go from the Earth to the Moon you never call mom and say, ‘Mom, I just passed the sky.’

Naveen is not only dreaming of going to the Moon, he and his team from Moon Express are about to achieve more than what took three superpowers (America, Russia, and China) to achieve in the past. Moon Express’ landing on the Moon will show that a small group of people are capable of doing something that only the superpowers were capable of doing before.
– It will show that the next set of superpowers are really going to be the entrepreneurs, not the countries.
He is right. I am done working for $12 per hour. I am done working for other people’s dreams. I need my own bigger dream. I want to be a mini-superpower. My own future creator.
– Don’t let anyone tell you what’s impossible. It might be impossible for them but not for you. It’s better to let them think you are crazy.
I won’t. I promise. The satori shocked me like static electricity. I need to sit down and be silent for a moment. I need to quit. Now. I cry as I type. I care about him and his dream. For a moment, it became my dream too. But my mission is different and all these problems we have in our communication maybe are trying to show me this. I just kept ignoring the message. Now I know it.

‘I am having a hard time keeping up… not only with the work but also with my finances and meeting my basic needs… and when it happens it affects my productivity, motivation, I start having breakdowns and can’t find the space to create and tap into my full potential. It’s massive stress and it makes me put myself in dangerous situations. I am doing something wrong for myself… and maybe I should take the time and space to figure things for myself… what am I doing wrong that I can’t match the lifestyle I want… and I don’t want my personal issues to keep damaging the company and our relationship because I believe in this and I can see it going somewhere and I am sure it will get there. I don’t want to hold you back from achieving great things.’

I will miss him.

***

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