“Try the Thing that You’re Always Dreading!”

Q: Tell us a few things about your country, and also your life's story!

A: Odysseas Elytis, the poet of the Aegean Sea and the Greek spirit, famously once wrote that, "If you take Greece apart, in the end you will be left with an olive tree, a vineyard and a boat; which means that with these items you can rebuild Greece...", though many may argue that my home country feels a bit greater than the sum of its parts.

Greece combines distinct and various aspects. We are a cultural and historical country, yet have poor infrastructure and lack proper administration; our homeland is rich and sunny, yet we oftentimes neglect or even mistreat its beautiful landscape; we are praised for our hospitality and so-called ‘filotimo’, yet fail to appropriately address the latest migration influx and repeatedly get so divided as a society when it comes to several social matters.

Of course, Greece isn’t all that dark as described above; but just like any other country, there are several issues that need to be tended. At the end of the day however, I am feeling optimistic because we daily witness numerous of well-intended and notable actions striving to create and develop better conditions for social and private life.

My life story starts a little bit longer than two decades ago, in a rather small city beside the sea and near a mountain. I lived most part of my childhood next to a playground and the location by itself gave me opportunities aplenty to explore and improve my zeal of life; it gave me the chance to be curious and observe widely my surroundings and exploit to the fullest my imagination and creativity. I often embarked upon adventures with friends riding bicycles to unknown regions and this triggered my passion to travel and discover new places and as a result to meet new and extraordinary people.

My upbringing gave me some great teachings that showed me a lot; things I try to incorporate in my current stage of life. As a saying goes, "to live is to write a story"; that is how I want to live as well.

Q: What is your view of the world as it is today? And how do you define the concept of a better world?

A: The way of life — as it’s known and being experienced today, — has the potential of being truly phenomenal; but it lags in so many other bits. Our times of living are being described by some as the best ones ever, yet others have the complete opposite feeling. I believe there has never been an era such like the one we’re living now where people felt so divided inside themselves about the current state of affairs.

We have developed social networks to connect and share, yet we have become distant and reclusive; we have created machines that give us plenty of materials, yet they leave us with all the more wants and needs; we use science and technology to educate, to heal, to feed and to keep safe as many human beings possible, yet acts of violence run rampant on news all around the world, we have people living in extreme poverty, people with no health care or even a minimum educational experience; and all the above are just the tips of the iceberg.

Healthy parenting, or as Tucker Max phrases it, “having one amazing primary caregiver”, or even re-parenting of oneself; that’s what I believe will make the world a far better place than it is today. Right now, many people are lacking a sort of emotional and psychological stability due to early childhood trauma; maybe they just weren’t supported enough, maybe they didn’t feel like they had a soft place to land or a space for unconditional acceptance and love. When parenting is done in a gentle but also firm, intelligent and loving way then the kid doesn’t have as many demons to fight, and that by itself is full of positive signs. Balance proves to be a superpower; and that is something to act upon.

Q: What are some of the key challenges in your society?

A: Not too long ago, I saw an interview of Neil Strauss suggesting that the biggest thing that everyone has to worry about is themselves; and I couldn’t agree more. He eventually ended up saying that, “We simply don’t take our emotional and psychological health seriously as a culture”, and I remember feeling completely numb by the sheer bluntness of his remark; about the fact that the biggest challenge facing our world today may be our own selves.

Human beings as a whole — id est extending the reaches of local societies — lack a solid and cognitive foundation on their emotional and psychological intelligence. We oftentimes go to doctors for check-ups of our physical health; we go to school for intellectual education but we ultimately do almost nothing for our emotional and psychological health; and that is a severe problem.

We need to step a little bit further out of the daily cacophony to contemplate and ponder so as to gain the ability to focus on much bigger things with the intention of telling the difference between what's important and everything else. That sort of transition from being a potential real threat to ourselves to becoming more emotionally and psychologically healthy may prove to be a key element to a better future.

Q: As a young individual what are a few of the hurdles that you had to overcome up until today?

A: Out the top of my head, I suppose I can think of only about three; even though I’m quite sure that there may be a few other obstacles lurking here and there. On top of that, so as to be frank with you — and not just for the record — I won’t claim to have fully overcome the things I’ll mention above; on the one hand due to the belief I hold that they’re an everlasting struggle and on the other hand simply because I would be doing neither myself neither for others a favour.

To such an extent, as a young person, I will come up against the following classic and oftentimes formidable hurdles:

[*] how to communicate effectively: Ever since an early stage in my life I had trouble connecting deeply to other people mainly because I wasn’t very talkative. I was basically feeling unable to convey my thoughts into words; incapable of expressing myself, my opinions, my reasoning and that plagued me much. Over the years, I eventually became more familiar with this concept, I started to experiment with different ways of communication, methods to connect with others through open discussion and profound conversations where I sought out for advice and feedback on relevant matters.

[*] how to escape my comfort zone: There are dozens of times where I would crave nothing more than staying right in my safe space where everything is easy and comforting; resting in a place where I can be stable and nothing ever happens. That bothered me much in the past, that’s why I felt an ardent need to get away from all that idle thinking (and living) and switch to a more lively one. So I shook myself up, got truly alert and realized that I just gotta experience every little thing to the fullest.

[*] how to be more self-aware: Self-awareness surely is among the most desirable traits one can ever wish to have. As it turns out, it’s very difficult to get to know who you are, who your inner self is; what is your true nature and what your primary motives; which are your absolute passions and your potential power. I am genuinely startled by this concept, that’s why I am constantly striving to make progress in getting to know who the real me is.

Q: Why is the role of a mentor important for you?

A: Being an all-time admirer of books, I reached a point where I just couldn’t find everything in them, especially when I was confronted with real-time situations. We cannot have a conversation with a book, we cannot ask questions to a book; we certainly cannot get feedback or even comments from a written text.

For the above reason, I maintain the belief that having a mentor holds many benefits. Being also on the verge between my academic and professional life, I am on the brink of maturity, uncertain and insecure in my potential power. So in having a mentor, I’m given the opportunity to deal with sincere and useful counsel that acts as a helping hand to guide me through the unmeasured ocean of knowledge ensuring I do not lose focus by day-to-day distractions, to assist me in various scenarios along my chosen path to define and support my goals and lastly to explore the core of my capabilities.

Q: Do you have a lesson that life has taught you and you would like to share?

A: A lesson that life taught me is to just try the thing that you’re always dreading to do and see what happens. Even if you don’t quite succeed, even if you fail or still fail completely, even if you embarrass yourself, it simply doesn’t matter, because you always learn something in the process, something that might not be evident right from the start; however small or big it may be, you’ll definitely know it’s there at some point, whether it’ll just be a memory, an awesome experience, a great story to share and maybe something that may make you a better person, more aware of yourself and your abilities, something to boast or to laugh about. Just do it.

Q: Name a project, a foundation or a person in your country that you think is doing great work in helping improve other people's lives!

A: A non-profit initiative in my country that’s doing remarkable social work in helping other people’s lives is called Steps. Their mission is to approach street connected people (id est homeless and unemployed people living below the poverty line, suffering from drug addictions, immigrants and refugees, human trafficking victims, prostitutes etc), while at the same time giving them access to food, counseling, entertainment, first aid, clothing and personal hygiene.

Through attentive suggestions and targeted actions, Steps strives to reach out and give answers to problems that our fellow citizens — people in need that live as outsiders or that experience social exclusion — with the goal for them to become self-dependent and self-reliant.

Q: What are some of the challenges that women in your country face and what efforts are made towards gender equality?

A: My country sadly holds a rather long history on patriarchy. Like in many other countries and for so many years, major institutional factors partnered up and arranged together some sort of “guidelines” for a so-called prosperous life. Their particular line of thought though would have had its way if and only all-male standards were to be propositioned — and ultimately implemented — throughout society. In all honesty, that has been the status quo for generations; man acting as a more qualified human and more inclined to have success in
his efforts. Eventually, the role of a woman got to be lessened to the smallest degree. A woman’s presence, later on, turned out to have the least power, her actions were no longer acknowledged for what they were and her opinions didn't matter anymore.

On a more positive note, over the years we have observed some pretty major improvements regarding gender equality. As a nation, as human beings, we are pleased to witness a large number of initiatives, non-profit projects and organizations, manifold activist movements and multiple public hearings that deal with the position of females in our world. Truth is that women need to have an integral role in society; so I’m happy to see that shift in the status quo.

Q: Athena40 is the first ever global selection of the top 40 women forward thinkers, commentators, activists, authors, academics, entrepreneurs, executives, innovators. Can you think of a truly innovative and forward-thinking woman from your country that you wish to nominate for the Athena40 global list?

A: About a month ago, while visiting Job Fair Athens, the biggest two-day career fair in my country, I got to participate in a workshop called “Design Thinking” that examined different ways we could use strategy planning so as to radically boost our marketing skills. Our speaker and trainer currently runs a social media growth and strategy agency; she’s an avid entrepreneur, an over-achieving working woman, but most of all an amazing and thoughtful young person who, as her motto says, adores “Giving Value First”. Her name is Ioanna Fotopoulou and she acts as a huge inspiration and proof that hard work combined with ingenuity can perform wonders.

Q: Share with us a phrase, a poem or a story that you love or you find interesting!

A: “To laugh often and much; to win the respect of the intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the beauty in others; to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know that one life has breathed easier because you lived here. This is to have succeeded.”

― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Q: Tell us one thing that you have learned from your mentor.

A: One thing that made us really connect was our mutual belief that, eventually, it all boils down to perspective; how we perceive things all around us, from what point of view and through which lens. There is no universal truth over many things, just different viewpoints; all with their pros and cons.

Through my mentor’s experiences and life stories, I’ve come to an understanding that when you hold an opinion of something, when you think you know where you stand on a certain matter, one (or something) may come up your way and radically change it all — and usually it’s for the better.

As human beings, we tend sometimes to over-evaluate our own thinking and as a result we tickle ourselves into believing all sort of things. Once we get to be part something that’s out of our league, something we are not accustomed to, or even something that’s adequately hardwired in our head, there’s a pretty big chance that we're gonna have a mind-altering experience. We might get to witness something with a new set eyes; get to modify our attitude and be eventually pleased with what might lie ahead of us.