Letting go and moving abroad for good! Never too late for a restart!

After moving to five different areas across suburban Athens and changing at least ten schools before even turning 16, feeling new and alone was part of life.

Until the age of 16 there were no plans for the future me, I didn’t speak any language other than Greek and I could barely swim. Heavily dyslectic and diagnosed with ADHD.

It was August 1998 when my buddies, Zack 16, Damian 21 and Stamatis 26 told me about their plans to travel to the US that very summer. In fact twelve days later, I was eager to take the plunge and jump into this adventure. So, I begged them to join (kind of). I somehow had my mother (and friend) agree and my distant father pay for it, just so I stop nagging him.

It was then, when my life and ambitions changed forever. I understood how many things I would like to do and I realised for the very first time that there are places elsewhere that are more suitable to my personality.

Ten years later, and after having tried to settle into life in the US without success (bad timing, I was living just blocks away from the World Trade Centre on September 11th, 2011). After opening and closing more than eight businesses in Greece, I moved to Reading, England just to be with my love of my life. After spending a summer in Cardiff, Wales, refining my insufficient English, I was there, at Reading Central Rail Station. I had four and half hours in my disposal to find a home for the next three years of my life – as long as my partner was going to be at uni. It was a familiar, weird and disorienting feeling, yet exciting. The very same as my first day in one of the numerous schools I attended throughout my life. Three years down the road and after a good set of experiences, I was heading to a new career, in film. I was EXTREMELY lucky to find my self out of nowhere managing a production of a feature Bollywood film for a full 15 days. With 212 crew members and a budget of 1.1M USD, during my time there alone.

Things took off, and I was offered a 12 month contract to lead the production management for the Arabian Vision, an initiative to get the Arab countries closer by popular culture, regulated by the European Broadcast Union and funded by Arab benefactors.

For once more, I was experiencing my very first day. To a new culture and place in Beirut, Lebanon.

Coming closer to my present, and while my work at Beirut was coming to an end, so did my relationship back in the UK. With no further adieu I packed and moved back to my origin, Athens, Greece.Feeling over-confident, and having left all the bad this country brings along with the good for almost four years, I went stupidly BIG. I rented a new-build three bedroom apartment in the outskirts of Athens, where I spent around 15,000 USD just to make it feel “home” and paid a monthly rent that was four times what I should’ve gone for.

Being extremely lucky and again out of nowhere, in a Greek economy that was lacking such opportunities to say the least, in no time I was directing and producing low cost commercials for top-end companies. It was an exciting and well promising opportunity, but then the economic crisis hit my prospecting dreams with a knock out. Businesses tried to cut costs as much as possible in an unconventional and stressful manner, virtually any professional became gritty and hard to trust. At the time I was doing back to back commercials, I literally slept at the office on 2011’s New Year’s Eve. But my money wasn’t coming in – it was postponed like everyone else’s. To a point I was fed up and forced myself to draw a line of distance and say no more till I get paid (well, that’s not all there is to it, but that’s a whole different story).

So, I was in Greece, full of financial commitments due to my chosen lifestyle and jobless! Hooray! What a stupid man? Well? Sort off…

I was fed up, and turning into myself. To carry on, I would have to push myself to find new clients and get more work but I felt kind of hopeless and everyone seemed in the same position due to the new austerity measures. So instead of doing that, I decided to take a year off from everything and launch a personal experiment involving sport development. The experiment got good exposure in the US online sport community (around 54,000 people were following the project closely for a period of nine months, but again that’s a whole different story).
I had too many expenses to sustain myself for a whole year without working as I was fulfilling my personal project. And then what? What would I do if I can’t sustain a good standard of living?

I came up with a plan, I found a very old property in a very nice area with minimal rent compared to anything else on the market. I spent around 18,000 USD making it a liveable place and agreed to a twelve year lease with no increase! And the chance to leave with no penalty after two years.

It was a costly investment. If I was to stay for more than six years it would have been a smart move but if less, simply stupid and expensive. But, at least if things got any worse I would be living in a nice area in a lovely refurbished apartment for a price I could afford no matter what the economic status.

So, here we are, a year after my personal project has ended and a year after looking for streams of income to build my future.
But, it’s disappointing, even after extensive efforts and after having been praised for projects I have been involved in. Applauded from the business world through conventions and startUp events, with mentors from Google, Microsoft and local ventures boosting up my confidence, it’s the culture I can’t stand.
It’s very self-centred and gritty (though on average and with strong exceptions). Unclear and not caring. Superficial and fundamentally inefficient in the work environment. I tried to fit in. In my own country, in my “own” environment. Both socially and professionally. But it’s unbearable.

I’ve been working with foreign companies for quite sometime now, and had the chance to travel as a camera operator and photographer for the past year and it feels good. It’s clear, provokes efficiency and productivity. And that’s part of me. I gave it a good thought for nine months, I struggled and even made self assessment charts to help me out with my decisions on my next move.

My decision has come to a realisation. I’m now in the process of moving to London (Moved in on the 3rd of Oct!!!). Where most of my friends are, my business can potentially thrive, the economy and tax system is not as fragile as Greece’s and is also way easier to understand. It’s a place where I can ride my bike and walk looking ahead and not down trying to avoid the little hazards in a chaotic “sidewalk”.

I have now sold my car and most of my possessions and I’m ready to let go of my long term investment that my current low-rent beautiful suburban studio provides. And once more I’m ready for my next first day…

Talking to strangers & The pretty girl with the red plastic headband

When was the last time you socialised with total strangers? You might not remember or you might not be into that kind of sport.

But what more fulfilling than getting to know other people; Extroverts, introverts, weirdos, geeks and smartasses! And occasionally some like minded people to be friends or lovers ;)

I always enjoyed the thrill and chills that my dirtbike was giving me as a youngster. The excitement after every session was worthwhile the trouble.

I see no deference in my adrenaline levels when I’m seeing a person I’d like to meet. And certently it’s equally scaring as being on the bike. Especially if it’s a girl we’re talking about.

Many thoughts are popping up like mushrooms in the wild. What should I say? Is this the right moment? Am I going to be embarrassed in front of other people? Am I going to come out as being creepy?

When it comes to meeting strangers, tricks don’t usually work I’ve learnt. Being authentic and genuine about your intentions would give you the most chances to succeed. In fact more than 13%. Ok I’m joking ;) it’s actually far less :))

Ok, it’s Friday night and I agreed to go out to a place I don’t usually go to. It’s not a place to meet someone really. It’s always packed, the music is loud enough to sing no matter your natural talents and everybody is dressed up as far as it goes. Oh, and more than half are smoking and drinking vodka like orange juice!

But this time it’s different.

Unexpectedly enough, there is this pretty young girl across the bar. She’s tall and with an athletic built. So, different from the rest. She looks simple, curly hair and mild make up. Drinking a red bull instead of vodka and wearing a red plastic headband! I’m hooked! How on earth a girl like this appeared here!

My friends agreed on my observations and in minutes I’m determined to cross over and talk to her! I know I have to act as fast as possible. Being impulsive it’s a must in these situations.

I literarily drag my self over without having a single word in my mouth or mind.

I touch her back politely and say hi;

There is a pause – I still have no clue what I’m going to say.. Probably my friends are watching silently but I don’t really know it. I’m in the zone of boy meets girl and my mind is occupied with fear and excitement.

- I saw you from there and I had to come and talk to you
– Why;
– it’s your red plastic headband that grabbed my attention
– haha, really why;
– look all these women around; they look the same. But you look pretty different! Curly hair, not smoking and not drinking alcohol; And with an awesome red plastic headband!!!

Being original is effective and as simple as sharing your thoughts. Since your thoughts are by default and in a way unique! Note to your self though that if you’re having any naughty thoughts to share then be prepared for nasty outcomes.

But being polite and truthful it’s your best bet. You’ll feel good afterwards no matter the results. And you’d probably be wiser and ready for your next social adventure.

Look around. So many people are waiting to share their feelings and life as friends or loved ones. Don’t be afraid, push your self off your comfort zone and grow your boundaries. Share your experiences and have a laugh about it.

Make friends, love and a live a life worth sharing!

Phew! How I got away of being a TV director; And why that’s good;

First let me clarify. There is nothing wrong of directing TV commercials. And in fact there’re lots of people who would dream a job like the one I used to have.

But eventually it wasn’t for me. I do love to create stuff. And videos are among my favourite tools of self expression and creativity.

But let me take you back a couple of years. Between year 2008 and 2010, when I trained my self intensively in order to become a director. Not a commercial one but the one who makes movies to tell real stories.

As I was planning my breakthrough I thought of many different roots to choose from. Would that be making a short film and submitting it to festivals? Well, not for me. I have the notion that this is for the very artistic and some how cultured people. And that’s not me. I like popular stories.
How about TV commercials? Well that’s not bad. Small projects and every time something different to learn. Mmm that sounded good at the time. And when I checked how much directors can make in my home country Greece, I literally flue to Athens from Reading UK where I was residing at the moment.

I came up with a smart plan. I contacted all the broadcast rental companies in Athens and I let them know that I’m flying to Greece to establish a few partnerships for the jobs I potentially was hoping to get ( Oh, I didn’t mention the potential and hoping part! It was more about certain and I’m good :) ). After being extremely lucky and few months down the road I had already served a major company as a Production Coordinator and met many people locally and internationally.

After a while I was directing spec commercials for major companies and I also made a few for prime time TV viewing. Among the successes I had in this short time was a corporate commercial for Procter and Gamble which was sawn in their 2012 annual event in NY.

But something was quite wrong. It was a hectic disorganised job. All the companies involved wanted to do the bare minimum they were contracted to do. And that’s not me. That’s not creative. That’s a Foxtons’ assembly line.

Everyone seemed stressed. In a way that you’d think that this is the only way to make them selfs feel complete and worthy.

After two years in the job I was wondering for how long I’ll be doing that. The main company I was working with offered me the position of a producer. That’s good money but long hours on the office and more distant to my inner self. So, I declined.

I wanted to produce and direct my own thing.
In the beginning of 2012 my producer called me and told me that he has a script I should read. It was from a major food company. It seemed like my chance to come up with an original idea of how this new product should be communicated. After a few days I got back with a storyboard. Put together with music.
“It’s great Stergios! But we can’t do it!”
Because if we do it everyone else would want a proposal of this standard. And we can’t afford this now! He added.

That was too much to take in. If I continue like that I’d be rich and miserable in no time! And find my self living a life I never dreamed of! In a bad way I should define.

And so I stopped. I took a break to reassemble my self and my goal setting. Working there was good. But good is not good enough for me. I want to live a great life or at least go for it. Be an inspiration to my own self and the ones around me.

Taking a year off and lunching my Tennis project “NTRP 0 to 5 in One year” was among the best things in my life so far. (I plan a post for those who are new here and not familiar with my crazy projects).

It’s the first time I’m doing whatever I want from start to finish.  And be as great or awesome as I want with out jeopardising the insecurities of others.

So, what ever you do, do it with greatness and passion. Shoot for the best you can and I promise everything would feel better.

Today I got my last paycheque from this company. And as I was exiting the building I felt free. No more hectic, paranoid advertisers. No more Casinos and Sugary products wanting me to present them like they’re great. Today, I’m launching my own agency and I’ll be doing videos that come from heart both from me and my clients. (Website will be up early 2014).

I hope you enjoyed this post as I did writing it. I’ll back soon with more adventures to write about..

Till then keep on your smile and do your best!