Everything speaks

I found this mission really a challenge, because my last 20-something years where so full of changes, decisions, experiences that it is really hard to summarize them in something coherent.

Probably the only “red thread” is the fact that I’ve never been an employee, but I’ve never been really unemployed too. Which gives you an idea about my approach to life: I’m an entrepreneur by heart.

Holding this thread, there are probably three main streams to discuss here: one is about Decision Making, the second is about Creating and Managing Your Assets, and the third is about Crystallization.

About Decision Making.

I was born in a normal middle/low class family, my parents get divorced almost immediately and I grow up with my grand parents until I was 15. Then I moved with my mum and her new husband.

How this could be related with my learning process about decision making?

Well, since I was 6 years old, my parents started asking me which one of the two I would prefer to see on Saturday, which one on Sunday, when go to the cinema, when to the park, what I could need, what I could get rid of it, and so on and on. So what I decided to do was to take no decisions until the moment it was not possible to avoid them. When to go out with who? Well, come over when you want, or have a chat between the two of you, and then we’ll stay here with the grannies.

Don’t misunderstand, I was an happy and loved kid, I loved my grannies, my 70ies and my life but I had often headaches and stomach pains. They took me to run some tests to the hospitals because nobody was having an idea about the reasons why I was often in pains. Well… there are things that you probably should not ask to a kid. When you are 6 you don’t know how to manage your “leadership” so you try to avoid to use it (or you grow some behaviour disorder).

Everything changed when I was around 14. At that time I decided that I didn’t really care if someone was getting upset about my decisions (at the end I was not killing anyone): one of the first big decision I took was to started to follow my father on holidays. Then the same year I had to choose for the high school, even though the suggestions of everyone and the psico-tests, I choose the most difficult school. And I took this responsability in front of my family.

It is pleonastic to say that my headaches stopped.

From that moment I always felt to have a stronger capacity than average to take responsability on things and to make actions. I never experienced any stress anymore, which makes me feel always centered and able — at least to pretend — to manage feelings not usually completely under control in people (stress, anger, anxiety, discomfort…). Yet it was not a one stop journey, while I’m still practicing. But it gave me the possibility to always see every situation from a bit more distant point of view. Of course this is not about what is right or wrong (mind versus heart). It is just a fact.

Life was never really easy even if I had this sort of “gift”, and certainly this makes no me a worldwide accredited entrepreneur (yet ;-), but I strongly believe that I was lucky enough to transform at a very early stage in my life what was a problem in an asset. Which gives me the link with my second point.

About Creating and Managing Your Assets.

In his Connecting the dots, Steve Jobs said something really interesting: you can’t connect the dots looking forward you can only connect them looking backwards.

In short this is exactly what I tried to make, starting when I was a teenager.

What I want to do? What I want to achieve? What is needed to realize what I want? What happen if I reach it? What if I do not? How to maximize the learnings and the investments if everything goes wrong? Any other interesting path?

When I was 19 after a couple of years working in an home music studio with a friend, I picked up the phone and I called few dance labels in my area. They were the top of the Europe at that time. I got 3 appointments out of 3 calls and in 3 weeks we got a first contract.

But while I was enjoying my shining new VAT number (you need it to act as a company), my hobbies and passions were slowly transforming in something more professional: my love for computers and my knowledge of internet (I was one among the few with an internet connection in 1989) became soon a collaboration with magazines and a possibility to work as a trainer; my love for music and my experiences other collaborations as a journalist; my curiosity about graphics (well… the first really popular desktop publishing software was Corel Draw on wintel computers, and I was betatester since the first release…) became another contract with the label as graphic designer.

During a 14 years path I could became a full time employed trainer or movie maker or journalist or musician or sound engineer or writer or… or…

How I created this? Why I did not take any of those opportunities?

Well, all those subjects were linked in some way. If a new dance release after 3 months of work was not the success we were waiting for, I could always sell my leading edge knowledge in the “disco-world” reviewing tech-stuff for magazines or interviewing singers and musicians.

If my graphic designer career was collapsing, I could always go on training people about softwares.

With this approach, among the many experiences I had: I shot movies and managed millionaire multimedia project, I created community and I organized events up to five thousand people, I left the university and I teach “portal design and managing, through reverse engineering of some world best case history” at the university I left.

Life was full of many different thread that gave to me the possibility to work in really interesting ventures, meeting many people, creating great results and a unusually long portfolio.

A portfolio made not by a disconnected list of things, but a coherent “learning path” on communication, with a 360° degrees perspective and a “learning by doing approach”.

In his incredible Connecting the dots speech, Steve Jobs said that you can’t connect the dots looking forward you can only connect them looking backwards.

I believe is truth that a clear picture is visible just backwards. In fact I just discovered later that I was a Communication Designer (*).

But I always had a different approach. Yes I was following a gut feeling but always  looking back at my experiences trying to understand where I should go, which job I should look for, which skill was eventually missing, to became stronger and so on.

In a nutshell: I was always trying to design my path, according to my experiences, skills learnt, learning opportunities feelings and wishes.

I often used my CV as a business plan to check my progress but I also used to follow job posting about my different “careers”, to verify what I was missing from that market job description.

In this way I was often anticipating the needs of my clients, always having answers for their questions.

But when you have many options in your hands, sometimes really you have no options. When I was 32 I was entering a new phase. I already had what I was looking for and I had to choose again. Which directions follow to step to an higher order?

About Crystallization.

One secret I learned few years ago is that we should became so aware about what we really want, that we could start to ask to obtain what we need. And if we are really honest and deeply connected with ourselves, things are simply coming to us.

When I was 32 I was trying to make an higher sense of my career path. While I was in this dialogue with myself my dots were starting crystallizing in… something. I always knew that it was no room for a normal job in my future, even if sometimes I was lying to myself that I needed one. So my hat had to be definitely “something” that could allow me to take the best from every experiences I had, every skills I grow.

I was in tension for this quest but I never stopped to take any opportunity and any little job, I never lost any chance to have a beer with a friend or to reply to an email looking for some answer. And I never stop to look forward the next thing to learn, to do, to reinvent, to discover.

That’s how 7 years ago I met the incredible world of “designing collaborative processes aimed at liberating the generative power of Group Genius (**)” and I realized that this, it could really became my future. This is linked with the title I choosed “Everything Speaks”. But unfortunately it is related with another Mission :slight_smile:

(*) Communication Design is a mixed discipline between design and information-development, which is concerned with how media intermission such as printed, crafted, electronic media or presentations communicate with people. A Communication Design approach is not only concerned with developing the message aside from the aesthetics in media, but also with creating new media channels to ensure the message reaches the target audience. It’s process involves strategic business thinking, creativity, and problem-solving.

(**) Group Genius is the ability of a group working iteratively and collaboratively to seek, model and put into place higher-order solutions. Time compression, systemic work-flow, dynamic feedback, individual creativity and collective creativity are core features of Group Genius. Group Genius is the power of simplicity, of simplifying complexity to enable people to better understand themselves and each other. A better understanding of your business is the natural consequence. Group Genius

is the ability of a group of persons to imagine, to create together and to realize something, using their collective ideas, energy and vision.


Zero conflicts here!

Ciao Andrea, thanks for sharing.

Well, this does seem a story with a happy ending. Summarizing: as a child, you learned the hard way to just say “what the hell” and choose the next step. As a young man (one that lives in a growing economy, I should add, though you don’t disclose dates) you discovered that such “unstuckness” could lead you to do interesting new things before the more conformist majority got there; as a full adult, you found out that you can indeed find a personal and professional identity through looking back at your journey (“using my CV as a business plan”, I really like that).

So, as seen from your point of view, it seems there are no conflicts, and no problems with the transition of young Europeans. Just do your thing and keep moving, and things will sort themselves out. Am I getting this right?

I would be curious to know what you think of Di’s story. She’s another Edgeryders from Romania, with a completely different take. Would you be up for commenting it? Just follow my link above.


Well… yes your summary is pretty much right, but let me underline that things will not sort themselves out. What is needed at every level it is a lot of work, passion, focus. I was always really focused and committed to sort out the things, day by day, 24 hours per day. And I always worked a lot, much more time than everybody else. No pain no gain!

Besides I think that I (we) live in a constant conflict. Things will never be really sort out, life is a journey not a safe port where drop the anchor. In particular in our times of uncertainties and complex systems. But managing them made my life more fun, even if probably more succesful.

asking for advice

To that end, I’d also like to know what you would say to someone who has trouble defining the red thread, or has a short time span to look backward to and feel they have to start from scratch. They don’t have dots to connect. I particularly like what you said that “if we are really honest and deeply connected with ourselves, things are simply coming to us.”, I know it works for me but not for everybody… and it doesn’t make the journey easier.

I’ll follow your thoughts on Di’s story and we can take it from there, thanks again!

two questions

Dear Andrea

Thanks for this story, which feels almost like a short bio of Steve Jobs himself! You truly are an amazing person and I really glad Edgeryders can benefit from your experience and journey. Thanks in particular for sharing some intimate details about your childhood, which I know must have taken some courage in a semi-public setting like this one.

Now, there is one question I would like to ask - which transpires from your story although you do not make explicit reference to it: what is yout take on traditional education? You say you ‘learned by doing’ and I know you didn’t complete university. I think this is an important part of the story to explore, because so many young people today are told there is only one path to transition - structured education - while you might be suggesting something else: that learning can happen in very different environments and different people will embrace it differently.

My second question has to do with your multilayered approach to work. Not many people do that. Most look for 1 job, even as entrepreneurs they tend to pursue 1 project at the time. You, instead, seem to have been able to do many things simultaneously. How is that possible? Do you think we should be encouraging more people to do more things simultaneously?



About education and multilayers :slight_smile:

Dear Alberto,

thanks for your words :slight_smile: it is my pleasure trying to contribute on edgeryders.

About traditional vs unconventional education.

I can divide my experience with school in 3 different stages. Each one had an impact on my whole life, more than just on “education”. The first one was from childhood until high school. At this stage I was one of the best in my classroom, everything was easy, and I was much faster than my average schoolmates in learning and doing things. I had incredible teachers, I learnt a lot and I think that these great basics are still important part of my “knowledge”. At the end of this phase I had to choose for the high school and my teachers offered me the possibilty to choose for any school because of my good marks. So I choosed for Liceo Classico (2 years Gymnasium + 3 years Liceo, a school widely considerated the most difficult, where you are supposed to study mainly Latin, old Greek, Italian and other not scientifical subjects.

Here is when starts the second stage. At the Liceo Classico I was far to be the best one. Actually I never reached great results, having often really bad marks and studying on summer to fix gaps. Why? It was worth? Why not choose an easier school path? Well… I say yes for two reasons: first it gave me a different kind of knowledge more about “how to think” than “pure knowledge”, and secondarily it gave me the right environment where to grow on my teens: at the end we were all good boys and girls, with some shared values, I still have friends from that age and I’m thankful for the whole experience.

But this was also the time when my critical perspective on “what we are learning” started to be more and more predominant. I could tell you many examples but I like this one for the end :slight_smile: My marks in chemical/physics were at the minimum if not less. One really cold day I placed my basket ball on the heater waiting for the sports hours (it was not properly inflated and because of the cold even more soft). My female classmate with the best marks did not understood why I made it. I was 16 and a light turned on in my mind: what am I studying and for which reason? Are these teachers teaching me in the right way? Why I’ll never have the same marks even if I’m probably more “mature” in using the knowledge we learn here? (for the sake of this history, she’s now a teacher at the high school eheheheh).

Then the third stage. When I had to choose for the university — it was still the middle paleolithic: no mobile phones around, can you imagine it? :slight_smile: — all the people were choosing between just few universities, it was no like now when you have a plethora of diplomas, we just had: medicine, law, architecture, economy. I choosed economy because I had a feeling that it was interesting. I tried to enter in 2 major universities in my city and I fail the test. I really hated those tests: 200 pages of drawings and numbers to put in order. So I subscribe for a faculty with no test: Political Science. I made 5 or 6 exams than I had to study a book called “Storia delle Istituzioni Politiche” (History of Political Istitutions). 400 hundred pages out of 600 were about the many different governments changes during the French Revolution, when a Government was pointed just for few days. I remember the book and the library, with all those students studying million of pages and a questions running in my mind: why am I studying this? What the purpose? I agree or disagree?

It was not for me. Too hard to push my mind in something that I was not interested in. I really never understood how people can learn something that they are not passionated about. This is, at least for me, more painful than doing anything else, it is a real torture.

I always learned a lot by my self but the greatest gift was the Internet: all the informations were there waiting for me. As I said in the previous post, knowledge in first part of my career was mainly about “computer stuff” (music, graphic, IT, training, writing…). But I had no to attend any lessons: while in my University students were learning from a Professor how to write a simple program in C (the mother of the computer languages, completely useless for 99.9% of the students, as it is food for developers), in one night online with some friends we were able to create a website: who was creating the text, who the graphics, who the code. In few hours the website was published. And it was 1992.

About multilayered approach to work.

There is a great article published by HBR, titled The Making of an Expert by K. Anders Ericsson, Michael J. Prietula, and Edward T. Cokely. The article is an interesting perspective about what is needed to became a real expert in some field: what is really more relevant? The answer is that outstanding performance is the product of years of deliberate practice and coaching, not of any innate talent or skill. Deliberate practice, that’s what I always done: I spent hours and hours and hours in reading, learning, trying, doing, searching, listening, asking…

My believe is that we are not all born to study in the “conventional” way, but not everyone wants to became a nuclear engineers (you definitely need a degree if you want to do it :-). But if you do not want to study conventional and you prefer to do different things, do not take any excuses: the path is similar you have to study a lot and there are many ways to do it and to became “relevant” in any field, this is the “knowledge era”, the only limits are in your choices.

One example: I have a friend who wants to became a singer. We all know that this dream is completely a wasting of precious time, because there are more possibilties that I’ll became a Nobel Prize in Medicine than he will ever gain a decent salary out of singing (I’m not saying famous!). But I can take the fact that we all have to follow our dreams. This guy unfortunately is trying as if we still were in 1980: with his networks, links, possibilities. If I ask him: which one is the best school in the world for singers? Who are the best teachers? In which country you have the best chance? He has no answers. No way! Do your best, go for quality, never accept mediocrity, understand when to say no, make choices every day, plan. And plan more than one backup. For example instead of going to work for McDonald to gain the money to be able to enter that school, may be you should write for a music magazine, work for TV, study sound engineering. In short: create other opportunities that could reinforce your main goal but that could became an interesting exit door.

And if you are in doubts understanding if what you are doing is really in synch with what you are aiming for… well go back to the “three circles”! Which is always a nice tool to check your “status” and find new (great) questions (not answers! life is about asking yourself the relevant questions, more than try to find good answers…).

There are many studies about the fact that in the future we’ll have to do many different jobs to survive than previous generations. Life is different now! So I believe that we should encourage the “multilayer approach” because it gives you more possibilities to survive in the jungle but also because it gives you more chance to learn and to find out your real Practice.

If you are looking for real tips… well… as written in the previous post:

— use your CV as a business plan for your career

— Subscribe three or four well known job posting websites and their newsletters, use the informations to track your career path: What I am missing? What are my strenght?

— Never stop to learn: there are millions of websites, newsletters, blogs… and applications to help you log, organize and manage the knowledge. Go for it.

— Try to create sub-paths/careers linked with your main so that you are always aware about what’s going on around your main field

— Taking a little work for few money but with a great opportunity in learning, it is always a good shot.

— Create a network on your field: write to journalists, go to meetings, subscribe for conferences, engage in chats (online and offline), be an active members in real and virtual communities. There’s plenty of people out there, ready to explain you something new :slight_smile:

Yes I know, this is really linked with the lifework balance. How to manage this with a life? Well, that’s easy :slight_smile: In my vision of life there are no layers: there’s no work and free time, there’s no fun and job, there’s no private and business life. I work 24 hours per day, 365 days per year. Am I a workaholic? Not at all. I simply have fun in what I’m doing, and when I have not… I try to create the possibility to do it, which is sooooo fun too :slight_smile:

Sorry for the long post!