Paying it forward

Over the past few years, I have come to a point in my life where I asked myself the universal questions:

  • Who am I?
  • What do I want?
  • And what is my reason for being?

As humans we try to make sense of the world around us every day. But what if we accepted there are certain things we cannot comprehend (yet)? Finding our life’s purpose is a journey, a quest to the rest of your life.

I am an opportunist; a dreamer and I would like to help others accomplish their dreams too. I have been given many opportunities in life and now I would like to pay it forward and teach others how to ‘surf life’.

Interested? You might want to visit and find inspiration to how you can ‘surf life’.

Just do it

In October 2014, I received note my mentor at work needed help with something that fell within my job’s responsibility. I went upstairs to his office. When I entered his room there were folded moving boxes stacked up against his back wall. I remember seeing an announcement he would be transferred to head one of our territory offices in Southern Europe. “How can I help you”, I asked. “Oh, there’s this thing on my iPad I don’t quite understand”. “Let me take a look”. It was really easy actually. I explained to him how the application worked and that was that. “So, tell me, how’s your job? Do you like it?” “Sure”, I said, “but I’m looking into new opportunities”. “So, what is it that you want most out of your career”, he continued. “Or in life, or with this company?” I took a moment to think about it. But I knew what I really wanted. I had wanted this since I was twelve years old. “What I really want is to live and work in the US”, I replied. Realizing how busy he must have been as a senior director and given the fact he was about to be transferred, I kept getting ready to leave his room and stop wasting his time. He seemed to have all the time in the world though, he was in no hurry at all.
Since he was getting ready to move, this would probably be the last time I would talk to him, maybe ever. “You know”, he said “why don’t you give your dream of working in the US a shot? Try to find a job over there. Start talking to people, think about it”. I was getting more and more excited just talking about the idea. I looked out the window, onto the courtyard of our campus. People sat behind their desk. Marketing posters of the latest product launch lit up in the stairways. My mind wondered off to the possibilities. I turned my head back to him and saw all the memorabilia he had gathered throughout the years. Pictures of team events, trophies for achieved sales goals, samples of old products. While he sat there at his desk, eating his lunch, I continued. I was still just standing there, arms folded across my chest, challenged by the unexpected life questions that were just asked casually. “Maybe I’m afraid it won’t work; I mean, what if no one moves, and there will not be an open position any time soon? Or what if something will open up, why would they pick me?” “So what”, he replied. “Forget about all these other people”. “Forget about the obstacles and maybes. If you want to go to the US, do whatever you have to do to get there. Just find your way in and take it from there. Just do it”.

And so it went. At the end of summer, 2015, I took a trip to Nike’s World Head Quarters to talk to some people about a job that had opened up. I must have been crazy, looking back. Flying all the way out to Oregon in my own time, on my own budget to apply for a job on the other side of the world. But for me, it wasn’t just a job. It was the pursuit of a dream. A dream I had had since I was a high school student. And now, twenty years later, I had an opportunity to make this dream come true.

Christmas passed, new years’, and life went its normal course into the new year, days went by like nothing had happened. Until one morning, at the end of January 2016, I was called into a room by my manager. We small talked a little about the weekend, “what have you been up to” he casually asked. “Well, I went skating”, I replied. “Sounds fun”, he said. But all I could think was, cut the bullshit, what’s up? I knew something was up. Then he looked at me very serious and said: “you’re going to leave us.” It took a few seconds for me to digest what he just said. What do you mean I’m going to leave you?! I knew we were in the middle of a reorg, but was he going to fire me now? I must have looked confused, because he started to explain what happened. “I got a call from the US, the job is yours if you still want it”. What? I was flabbergasted. I had already started to accept a little that I didn’t get the job. Apparently, there was another candidate who stepped away from the offer and the job was mine for the taking.

I got it! I did it! I was going to America!

By June 2016, I finally made it to my business class seat. My first business class trip ever. I had travelled the world, lived abroad, but this was different somehow. I was all alone, no boyfriend, no colleagues and there was no plan or project. This was a one-way ticket to the rest of my life, I thought. After a ten-hour direct flight, I looked out the window, and there it was, across the river, my new home: Portland, Oregon.

As time passed, I got used to my new habitat. I made friends, went hiking and camping in the mountains surrounding the city and enjoyed Portland life, with its Thirst Thursdays in the Pearl and rooftop BBQs. And I became a Snowboard coach for a local high school, which meant going up to Mount Hood twice a week. Life in Portland was good.

I learned how to appreciate life at campus too. I saw Phil Knight – the founding father of Nike – while having lunch at the Mia Hamm building. Another day I sneaked into a celebration for Serena (Williams, the tennis player), after winning her 23rd Grand Slam: ‘Greatest Ever, Greatest Ever’, we chant to her in the Bo Jackson sports center. I also managed to get a ticket to a special lunch with Nelson Farris and Jeff Johnson, the companies’ storyteller and the first employee. They were Nike celebrities. People you read about in Shoe Dog. But here at the heart of Nike you could listen to their stories firsthand. And finally, one day after lunch I passed Mark Parker, our CEO, he worked in the building next to mine. I gave him a polite nod, then he turned and said ‘Hi’… Oh My God. The CEO of Nike said hi to me!

I didn’t know at the time those would be my final months in the US. But my dreams had come true and I had a sense of magic, what if I dreamed up something else, could I have that too?


The whole world over

‘Most people overestimate what they can do in one year, and underestimate what they can do in ten years’. – Bill Gates

At the turn of a decade I reflect on the past ten years, and maybe even the past twenty years. I can still remember 2000, I graduated high school and embarked on one of the greatest adventures of my life; to spend a year abroad as an exchange student in the US. Little did I know this was only the beginning. This experience set the tone for the two decades to come, in which I lived, studied and worked abroad.

Now that I am ‘back home’ I’m curious about the future. What will the next two decades have in store for me? Shall I continue to travel the world, or will I finally understand what my dad means by ‘always return to the flag’? It kind of reminds me of something Roger Whittaker once sang: ‘You can go the whole world over, every city has its dawn, but everybody living, has one place where he was born’. 

Pin Traveler Final 2.png

It will all work out in the end

What if you let your life unfold according to its natural flow? Have you ever noticed, in hindsight that things don’t always turn out the way you want them to, or when you want them to, but they always work out in the end? When I take a look at my life I certainly do.

  • It had been my life’s dream ever since I was twelve to spend a year in the US as an exchange student. You could see my disappointment when I arrived at the airport and there was no host family to pick me up. I spend my first few weeks in school asking around if someone knew a family I could stay with. Never could I have imagined ending up with the Kubacki’s, vacating in the Virgin Islands and going to Notre Dame football games. If my exchange organization’s representative never would have messed up, I never would have taken the initiative to go look for a family myself and I wouldn’t have lived the American Dream like I did.
  • When I got to University I wasn’t enrolled for International Business like I was set out to, so I had to pick Economics instead. Within a month I realized I was never going to pass the quantitative methods classes, so I switched to Law, which I utterly failed after my Freshman year. I ended up getting a Bachelor’s in European Studies, passing my GMAT exam and graduating with a Master’s in International Business anyways.

Who would have thought? But the story continued in my professional life.

  •  At the beginning of my professional career I always wanted to work for Nike, until one day I received an e-mail, they were hiring. Forty-eight hours or so later I was hired and I ended up spending the next seven years at the company.
  •  While working for Nike I always imagined working at WHQ. The night before I left for Portland, to seek out job opportunities, this girl left the company and I could take her place.

Of course these are the short versions of the stories. There was a lot more to it, but in hind sight it all worked out. Amazing, isn’t it?

And even though life is not always easy, maybe Steve Jobs was right and the dots will connect in your future.

  • When I had to decide to leave the US and Nike, I worried about how to get all my stuff back to the other side of the ocean, and how to break the lease of my car and my apartment. I didn’t know where to get the money or how to make the arrangements. But then Nike offered to pay for my relocation and I had enough money in my 401K saved to pay for other expenses. Problem solved.

I can go on like this for a while, but you get the picture. You can strive and try to control your environment, but there are powers at stake in the Universe, in nature, bigger than your own little self. And sometimes the outcome is beyond your imagination. Don’t worry too much about how you are going to get there, just have a clear picture of your dream in mind, and respond to what is handed to you along the way. That is ‘Surfing Life’.

Flow image