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On the importance of finding a job you love, integrity and how empathy killed ego.


A lot of my friends have been reaching out lately asking questions like
“So, Victoria, what exactly is your job”? or “What are you up to these days, you seem to be having a hell of a time”! This is why I decided to share a couple of thoughts on the importance of finding a job you love. Why? Because finding a job you love is finding homogenous integrity not only on a personal level, but also on a team, company and and community level.

It’s 3.49 A.M. I’m sitting on a plane on my way back to London after spending ten days in Africa. Sleep-deprived, ill, and far outside my comfort zone, I can’t help but smile. I have the best job of the world. Actually, scratch that. It’s not a job.

It’s a mission.

Window seats are definitely the best — voluptuous mountains of air float on my right in a surrealistic caprice.
– “I like the stickers on your laptop. What do you do for work?” — my neighbor asks. For work, I repeat silently with self-addressed amusement that I’m failing to contain.
– “When you do what you love, it’s not really work. As my father likes to put it, I just do what I love, and they pay me for it”.
Her eyes look sceptical. We chat briefly before I retreat into a quiet Moleskin and black ink moment.

Finding a job you like is a little like falling in love. You start waking up earlier because you’re too excited about what the day will bring. Hours seem to fly. You talk to everyone you know about how amazing this new adventure is and why they should absolutely try it for themselves. You are excited and feel a mild, but constant discomfort in your chest. It’s the adrenaline racing in your veins. It’s work, but on another rhythm.

When you love what you do, there are no unpleasant obligations and to-dos, there are responsibilities instead. Responsibilities taken at heart. Similarly, trying to convince yourself that you’re mastering the “work/life” balance myth is unnecessary as there are no work hard, play hard company motto clichés. Instead, there is just you. The real, dedicated, excited You. The kind You. The best of You.

1. Personal Integrity: Porosity between “work life” and “personal life”

At the moment, there’s no separation between my personal life and my private live. The events I go to “for work” are also the ones I’d go to in my spare time. The people I see in the office are also the ones I spend time with outside the work hours (not that we actually have those, but you get what I mean).

Sociologist E. Goffman, in his brilliant book The Presentation of Self in Everyday Lifeexplains the rules of social interactions by a theater metaphor and the concept of social masks. Masks are designed to help us integrate in a certain social milieu and play an important role in protecting ourselves by keeping others at a certain distance.

Now, as much as I admire Goffman’s picturesque theory, I don’t believe that people have to always wear masks to fit different social settings. Maintaining masks is psychologically draining, hence why some of us feel like they can only relax outside of work, where they can drop off the mask and be themselves. I believe that when removing masks in a professional environment, people can freely expose and explore all the different facets of their personalities, which results in the creation of real, human connections. The energy of “saving face” is then used in a much more meaningful way — building real, personal relationships with others. One of the favourite characteristics of my job is undoubtedly the fact that we share thoughts, emotions and experiences just like we do with friends and family.

2. Group Integrity: How empathy killed ego

If personal integrity makes you bring the best of yourself to the table, group integrity is a powerful tool enhancing group dynamics and impact. Exponentially. When everyone within a team feels complete personal integrity, ego friction is replaced with positive peer pressure.

In fact, when the mission is bigger than yourself, all that matters is getting closer to the achievement of that mission. Everyone is willing to do that extra hour, extra project, extra effort. Because they care. And caring also means caring for each other. Why? Because people want to help one another achieve the common goal they have set. This helps develop a fundamental value at the core of any successful person, business or initiative: empathy.

3. Company Integrity: Find a company that cares

I’m a big advocate of empathy and believe it’s the most important human trait. Empathy within a company is just as vital — it enables teams to move faster and to feel connected.

At UP, we have a strong company culture and group dynamics. We are also unhealthily obsessed with better serving our customers. We constantly ask ourselves: What can we do to be a better company today? What can we do to be better people today? We do so by providing each other with immediate and constructive feedback and by constantly sharing information and ideas.

This dynamic state of mind is extremely motivating. You have the chance to reinvent yourself and the company you work for every single day. You think a certain process is slow? Improve it. You’ve identified an issue that doesn’t resonate with your philosophy? Fix it. You have a suggestion on how to improve the office’s happiness KPIs? Say it. Finding a company where people care is the best possible thing you can do for your career. Feeling that you’re making a difference, that what you say matters and that people care is a huge motivation factor.

4. Global integrity: Global community

This empathy-tinted philosophy goes beyond our team and is embodied by our mission and community. At UP, we’re all about community. We have 1200 events per year and aim to empower the entrepreneurs of tomorrow. We support them throughout the entire Entrepreneur Journey and provide them with the self-confidence and network to create the startup communities of tomorrow. Our goal? Supporting 1000 thriving communities by 2016.

While in London or Berlin we might be a one amongst hundreds of existing initiatives, in places like Sarajevo, Damascus or Antananarivo, we are the pioneers of a different way of thinking. We encourage people to take the future in their hands and take action, rather than waiting for governments to fix themselves or for “someone else” to do so.

Our events are organized by thousands of volunteers around the globe. The most excited, connected, passionate and inspiring people in the world. The doers. Those who get their hands dirty. Who initiate change. Who are not afraid of stepping up. It is an immense pleasure to work with this extended family of shiny eyes.

It’s 11 P.M. I’m sitting in The Cube — Athens newest coworking space founded by Stavros, our incredible local organizer. He’s telling me wild stories of a time he facilitated a Startup Weekend in Jeddah featuring wild animals, fairy tale-esque buffets and royal family members. My eyes get distracted by a pole dance class taking place across the street. “Oh that? Don’t worry you’ll get used to it” Stavors says.

As I walk to my hotel I can’t help but smile. So many friendly faces, so many people with shiny eyes and yet so many awaiting adventures. One day you sleep on a stranger’s floor, one day in a five-start hotel. It doesn’t matter if you eat cold pizza or dinner prepared by a world-famous chef. All it matters is that we keep inspiring those who’ll change the world tomorrow.

I have the best job in the world. Actually scratch that, it’s not a job.

It’s life.

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Victoria Stoyanova