Andrei Popescu: “I had to make peace with my inner demons in order to move on.”

Some years ago, as a successful trainer with Dale Carnegie, Andrei managed to tame the self-centered tiger inside himself. Now adding the role of District Administration Manager, he makes sure he’s authentic and focused on others.


I worked with Andrei for the first time when we were preparing a workshop on building effective teams for a meeting of District Leaders in Wroclaw in September 2015. I enjoyed the whole process of preparation. From the start, I felt I was in the lead, shaping the workshop exactly the way I wanted, having Andrei filling in the blanks. All that despite the fact that I was still rather a workshop-rookie, while Andrei had 15 years of experience as a professional trainer under his belt.

The workshop was a blast – and since the day we delivered it together, I knew that there was something special about this guy.

In this interview Andrei talks about what is the point in having thousands Facebook friends, why loves being in the spotlight, about his personal transformation from arrogant to other-oriented and about how people sometimes need to get a nudge to become leaders.


Andrei, at the moment, you have one hundred – and twenty nine – less friends, than the president of Toastmasters International Jim Kokocki. Jim has 2,893 and you have 2,764. So I was just curious if you have a plan in place to increase your numbers and catch up with Jim.

I can tell you that it has never been a goal of mine to have this amount of Facebook friends. I cannot say that my ego does not get some strokes when I post something and people “like” it. It does wonders for my self-esteem. But it has never been a goal.

Before Facebook, my social network was a student organization AIESEC. In 2007-2008 everyone from AIESEC was joining Facebook and all of us were friending each other. The number of my friends surged in the first few months. Then I’ve also gotten a few friends among the people I worked with in Dale Carnegie, and for the past few years obviously lots of Toastmasters. It’s been difficult trying to manage. For example, some people I meet in trainings, I know who they are when they friend me, but a couple of years later I’m asking myself: “Where did I meet that person exactly?” Either way, I try to make it a habit not to friend people I don’t know.

So you mean – when you’re saying you’re not friending people you don’t know – it’s like when this blonde girl in bikini sends you a friend request – you ignore it?

Facebook gives us suggestions based on common friends, such as “hey, you might know that person”. I assume others see the suggestions too, sometimes with my name and face. And when that happens, some people say: “Hmm, why not?”

(laughter)

Hey, wait, I’m not talking about hundreds of people.

I know what you mean. They see your photo and they say to themselves: “Why not, let’s friend him and I’ll see what happens.”

I’m not talking about a deluge of friend requests, but I’m trying to make sure the friends I have on Facebook are people with whom I interact offline as well as online.

OK.

Coming back to the original question, I have no plans in overtaking Mr. Jim Kokocki. I’m sure that by the time I’ll get to where he is today, he will be far ahead of me.


It was interesting when you said you are trying to limit the number of your friends. Apparently, you are not limiting it too hard – or maybe you are, but your list of friends is still growing. Do you see any disadvantages in friending people you don’t know that well or who you don’t know at all?

I don’t know if it’s a disadvantage. It’s more like “What is the point?” This morning I sent a friend request to a colleague in Toastmasters – a lady that won the Area contest yesterday. And the reason I sent it to her was that I saw a point in continuing our conversation. But seeing a nice blonde in a bikini and send a friend request thinking: “Hey, what the hell, maybe I can get something out of it”, that’s never gonna happen. The reason why I’m not doing this is, when I don’t see the point, I don’t accept the friend requests.

I understand, that makes very good sense. So, Facebook is for you a tool to keep conversations with people where having such conversations makes sense.

Absolutely. I see Facebook as a way to enhance offline relationships. I don’t believe, like many other people, in pure online relationships. You can definitely be on social media so that you find like-minded friends.

For the last couple of years, more and more people are in my friend list from my music school. People I’ve played with at some point, people I have met in jam sessions, sometimes there is chemistry and we make good music, and sometimes there isn’t. It’s good to be friends with that person on Facebook to find out about what music they’re into, to see what music they’ve played before and get an idea whether I would be interested in associating myself more with that person. The point of social media is not to replace, but to enhance offline relationships.


When you say: “Enhance offline relationships”, it sounds very academic. Are you reading any books, or does it come just out of your experience? I’m asking because you work in the Dale Carnegie institute, which is focused a lot on building and nurturing relationships.

It is focused on that exactly! I don’t know if I could trail back this concept of enhancing relationships to a particular book. I try to make my relationships as authentic as possible. Which means, I try to make the relationship not about myself. This is something I can trace back to Dale Carnegie and I really like this quote of his: “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in them, then you can make in a whole year, by trying to make them interested in you.”

For me, an authentic relationship, a relationship that is really valuable and of quality, is the one where I really have something to learn from the other person. And, like yourself, I discovered that I can learn something from almost anyone I meet. You just have to look. In some cases it may be more obvious, in some less, but even people who are younger than us or with less years of professional experience, there is something in their approach that is unique and that we can learn from.

I definitely agree with the learning from others… There is one thing I might disagree with a little bit. When you said you wanted to make your relationships more authentic by having them around others rather than around yourself…

I read Dale Carnegie’s “How to win friends and influence people” when I was 19 – very early stages starting my adult life and my career… But 10 years later I had a feeling that the book had led me astray in a sense of focusing too much on what others wanted, rather on being myself and asking from the world what I wanted.

I was curious whether you have experience of someone coming to you with this feeling. Because for years it would happen to me that people would be coming to me with the words: “Lukas, you’re kind of kind guy, but you seem to be too nice, I don’t believe you really are that nice. I have a feeling that you don’t show who you really are.”

I see what you mean.

So when you say “make it around others”, I have a feeling that there’s missing this “authentic” part in a sense “this is who I am, take me or leave me”.

Hmm. That’s something I struggled with for a while. I discovered Carnegie when I was 22, 23. Reading the books and applying the principles, for a while, did seem as I am putting myself – or – that the book was advocating putting myself below others. There are principles in one of the books that encourage us: “Be a good listener”, to let others talk about themselves, or try to see things from the other person’s point of view.

Exactly, or basically: “You’re not interesting. Everyone else is interesting.”

Right. That was something that I struggled with for the first years, because I felt: “Ok, so how about myself?” But, as I read it again and again and kind of gave different meaning to some of these principles, the way I got it was: Our human nature is that we’re thinking about ourselves. Deep down, I’m really self-centered. And when I’m honest with myself, I do realize that I crave for attention, I crave for recognition. Many people do.


It’s so interesting to hear that from you, because you seem to be the most “other-people-oriented” person I know.

If I really look like at the reasons why I really became a trainer 15-16 years ago, I can tell you, it was because I enjoyed the spotlight. I enjoyed being in front of people, having people’s mouths open wide and… It gave me a rush and even gives to this day, when people come to me and say “That was an awesome thing you did, that was a great session”.

That’s something that makes me feel good, so I deep down inside, I do feel, you know, if I can compare, like a tiger. I do feel this wild animal hungry for attention, hungry for recognition. The way I see it, this hungry animal inside me is so strong, so powerful, that I will never be able to eliminate him completely.

When I focus my attention on the others and when I become genuinely interested – and that’s the key word in Dale Carnegie’s books – when I do this, what I’m actually doing is I’m balancing the scales. I’m never going to tip the scales completely in the other’s focus side. The tiger is always going to be there asking for his share – but the way I see it that I’m balancing the scales. Does that make sense?

Yes, it does. And it’s a very interesting way to look at it. Especially because I know you are genuinely interested in others. Was it a big fight, when you had to tame this tiger?

It was and it still is. I was lucky, because I had some people around me who gave me some really really hard feedback when it was needed. My first 5-6 years working with Dale Carnegie was a very difficult point in time for my colleagues here in Romania.

To work with you?

Exactly, to work with me. I was extremely tough. Because, as they say, success is a very bad teacher. I was a successful trainer, people appreciated what I was doing, clients came with repeat business, and it gave me a sense of entitlement and a sense of I can do no wrong. I used to be very arrogant to my colleagues, and that created a very toxic atmosphere in the office.


There was a time when I became more aware of it – back in 2009-2010. One of the guys who made a huge impact was from Dale Carnegie US. He travelled to Romania 2-3 times a year and worked with us on the business side, to help us with customers, but also on the human side, to help us with the team dynamic. He was like a team coach for us.

That year me and him were driving to this hotel. I told him: “Look Mahan, I’m very proud that over the past year, my conflicts with the team have decreased and I feel that there is a better atmosphere. I really think I made progress.” His answer – he looked at me in a way I remember to this day – he said: “Andrei, you have not made any progress. The team has become more tolerant to your attitude.”

Wow, that’s tough.

That was one of the toughest pieces of feedback I have ever received in my life. It rendered me quiet for the next minutes. And then metaphorically quiet for the next months. It was a big shakeup and a massive pain for me.

That was a moment when I realized whether or not I was a great trainer. If I created a toxic atmosphere, my positive impact as  a trainer was more than offset by my negative impact. And as I said – that was a huge turning point.

So yeah, that’s what I’m doing right now. It is a result of a struggle which was painful over the years and I had to have a lot of courage to look at myself in the mirror. I have a couple of more stories where I realized I was hurtful to others. Now it’s a little bit better. I’m working on it. My only fear is that if I ease-up on the little tiger – or the big tiger – he’s going to start biting again. My impression is that it’s going to be a life-long struggle.


Interesting. Last question to this topic that comes to my mind was – why was it so important for you what others thought about you? What was the motivation for you to change? Did you want to be more successful? Did you want others to like you?

I have a certain sense of fairness. And thinking about it, I realize that it’s simply not fair to project my own issues on the others. My managers has a very interesting expression, which says: “Don’t hit with your unhappiness the happiness of others.” That’s the main reason. It simply didn’t feel fair that my issues, my lack of balance, lack of everything, would impact the others. Because, I could have quit the company, staying in the team would not have worked. It was obvious that something had to be done. I could have quit the company and go elsewhere, but that was it, the sense of fairness. Or lack thereof. Lack of fairness in my approach to others.

AndreiPopescu6


All right. When we were talking about the Facebook friends, you mentioned music. I know you like guitars and I saw a video of you playing “Killing me Softly” on the guitar with a girl singing along. Tell me – what role does music play in your life?

I play mostly the electric guitar, the reason is that it’s physically easier than acoustic guitar. Especially the guitar model that I have is really easy to play.

OK, so you just picked an instrument that was easy to play for you.

It’s not easy, but it’s easier. It has a lot to do with some technical specifications, the fret distance, the things that make it easier to play. My instrument really is comfortable, sometimes I don’t even use the electric feature on it, I play it just like I would play an acoustic, but yes, the electric guitar is my instrument of choice.

So if there is any – the music – is it to relax? I’m asking because I can imagine that your activities in Toastmasters, work and your personal life, can already take quite big amount of time. Dedicating more time to guitar is additional time. So where do you see playing the guitar and music in general, in the context of your life?

Right now, Toastmasters borders on the professional. Although it’s a volunteer organization, I see it in the professional sphere. For me, what playing the guitar does, is that it really gives me balance in life. I go back to the issues, unhappiness and so on as I mentioned earlier. I believe that our issues come from a lack of balance. Meaning that there are insecurities, there are frustrations, objectives we set out to achieve and don’t achieve… And these frustrations tend to lash out in situations that have nothing to do with the original frustration. So what I feel that the impact of playing guitar does to me is it gives me balance.AndreiPopescu5

At the same time, I would lie if I would say that it’s only for this. As I mentioned earlier, spotlight was something that I consciously or unconsciously hunted for years, and whenever I pick up the guitar and play, somewhere at the back of my head there is an image of me playing up on stage and being cheered by thousands – or tens of thousands – of people. I see myself in the spotlight. That side of me also, let’s say, is fed by the guitar playing.

If I were to play in front of people, and really play, and convey emotions through my playing, then the recognition, appreciation I would receive, would be deserved, in a way. The audience would get something out of it and so would I.

Those are the two things – the balance it brings to me and feeding my need for appreciation.


The need for appreciation is like coming through different parts of your life. I was curious where is this coming from? Why is this so important for you?

Well, I’m no psychologist. It could be – and this is just me speculating – it could be the fact that as the only child, I’ve been since childhood, the only outlet of my parent’s love and encouragements. My parents had only me to pour their love on. And I had no brother to share that with. So I believe that somehow, maybe on an unconscious level, it’s my desire to continue that. To have that feeling in my adult life as I felt in my childhood years.

To have the attention you had, when the world was your family, when you had its attention 100% and you want to get as close as possible to it now.

I want to repeat this Lukas, this is the first time I have thought about it. So, this is the first answer that came to mind. I will give it some more thought.

Hey, that’s fine.

I don’t want to sound too big or something, but this particular question gave me a lot to think about. Anyway, that was the first answer that came to my mind.


Sure. I think it was a good answer. A really good answer…

Now, if we come to Toastmasters. I was curious about your career in Toastmasters. I met you two years ago, at the time you were Area Director in Romania, or you were a president of your club?

I was an Area Governor, or, hold on, let me think, it was March 2014. We were not districted yet, so I was planning to become an Area Governor, but at that time I was the VPE in my club.

And now you’re District Administration Manager, member of the Core Team.

Yes.

My question is, if joining the Core Team was something you planned well in advance or whether that was a random opportunity?

I was at the District Executive Committee Meeting in Helsinki in February, in 2015, and I was still trying to figure out the District. As I said, we (Romania) were part of the District for 6 or 7 months, so we didn’t have a clear idea of what the District meant. I also thought about of what I would do next. And I had absolutely no clue of what I would do next year.

I thought I would finish my Area Governor term and pretty much end it. I didn’t want to go to be the Division Director. I knew that, I simply didn’t have time to go around the country. And at that time, that was the only option that was in my head. I knew that was not something I would go after.

Then one evening, one of the core team members at that time – Bea Bincze – approached me and simply asked me: “What are your plans for the next year?” I said: “I don’t know.”, I was just easing up, focusing on finishing my DTM, but no leadership positions. And she asked: “Have you ever considered a District Management position?”

Hah, The Question!

Yes, that was The Question. And it took me completely by surprise. Almost. This discussion with Bea happened in the evening. But the morning before, I had a breakfast with Kees (District Governor at that time).

Back then, Kees said something to me, which did not make sense, until my conversation with Bea. Kees said to me that sometimes you have to nudge people. Sometimes they take a leadership position only if someone is encouraging them. They may not go for it themselves, but they might need a bit of encouragement first. Then I thought he was talking about somebody else. But when I spoke to Bea, I realized that he was, among others, talking about me.

And yes, I realized that the moment Bea mentioned it I thought: “Wow, I didn’t think about that. What would that mean?” I had a chat with David Mathieson, the District Secretary at the time… And the main thing, which drew me to that position, was that I would get to interact with many many different people from all over the District. And that’s exactly what happened. I spent the last 10 months really interacting with almost everyone in the District. That was an extremely good and positive aspect of this. So this is how it happened. A complete surprise.

Why do you think – because, apparently that time core team was thinking who could be good for this position – why do you think they reached out to you?

I would say, my first instinct when I thought about that, was to focus on the technical skills. The fact that the Administration Manager needs to be very savvy when it comes to technology, and I had in the previous year working with EasySpeak, somehow evangelizing EasySpeak in Romania, as we have not heard about it until the beginning of 2014. I had the opportunity to demonstrate these skills.

But as time passed, I realized it was not just the technical part, and I learned, especially from David Mathieson, that it’s the people skills that are more important than the technical skills. I would take it – without making it sound arrogant, I’m still working on my people skills – I believe that the level I managed to reach over the years – seemed appropriate enough in the eyes of the core team. So maybe they felt I was the right person to do the job.

The moment I felt that was in Boras, when I helped David Mathieson at the credentials desk – and then, later on in Prague, where I together with Joanna Chmiel and Mirja Ianucelli, I managed the credentials desk. That’s when I realized that it’s not just about taking people’s signatures and giving them the votes for the District Council Meeting.

No?

As you well know…


Well, now you have a unique opportunity to explain what the job of the Administration Manager is about. You know, for most people, it does not sound as the most exciting job ever…

For me, those hours, especially those hours at the credentials desk, where all the correspondence, all the discussions at the DECMs are much more about the people skills than about the technical skills. The Administration Manager is an interface between people and the District. The Program Quality Director or the Club Growth Director will never interact with too many people. They will interact with some District Leaders, with some Club Officers, but the Administration Manager, at the Credentials Desk, will have to interact with every club president and every VP of Education who is present – as well as with every club member holding a proxy.

That interaction needs to be very human. The whole process needs to be done very quickly and efficiently, but we must not be like a government official, not like some state authority where you go for documents that you need, where people are known for treating their so called customers – the citizens – with not so much respect. So although it has to be done very quickly and efficiently, people have to feel that it’s not just a mechanical exchange of a signature for a vote, but they have to feel that what they’re doing there is important, that their voice is heard and that they are part of the District.

In Timisoara we are going to vote about the European reformation and what is going to happen in the 2018, where today’s two Europe’s district will be split into 6 Districts. And in that case, the Administration Manager, everyone who is handling the Credentials Desk, can make it seem like it’s just a routine thing – sign here, here is your ballot – or they can very subtly convey to the people that they are doing a good job, that they are making their voice heard… And that’s an important part of Toastmasters.

To make sure people’s voice is heard.

Yes.

Why do you see it as that important? I understand you need to keep the engagement, but is it engagement between the clubs and the District, or is it something like – there is interaction – or is there any other reason?

I think it would go to the level of each individual member. As what I feel happens in large organizations, is that there is a huge disconnect between the normal members – such as club members – and the leadership – such as the District Core Team.

If there is such a disconnect, then people would not feel that this is a place or environment where they want to be. And right now, I feel we have a big issue in our District with this disconnection. We grew, we got split, after the split we grew again, we have 241 clubs and the recommendation is that we should be somewhere around 100. This means we are about 2.5x bigger than a District should be.

People then don’t feel they’re a part of a larger organization. They feel they’re a part of the club – and that’s it. And now it’s up to us if we can manage to get the District Officers – and then the club officers – feel connected, part of the whole. And that feeling of connection will then cascade down to the members. So when people will go back from the conference to their clubs and they will have little presentations about what happened at the conference, they are not going to say just “It was something that just happened, we had to raise our hands and we had to agree to something that was already agreed upon, so I don’t know why we did that”, we want them to really be part of it. We need to build the engagement of the people who are at the conference, but that engagement should trickle down to every single member of each individual club.

Sure, I agree with you on that. I think it’s really interesting this how Toastmasters keep interest in all the levels, and I really like the mechanisms how this all is set up, that there is a pre-defined moment to split the District, Division, and the club.

Yes, I have to make just a quick comment on that. I was part of a webinar that took place this week – with Tuire and Marieke, the District Director of District 59. Tuire made an excellent point. She was in Krakow a few years ago, where they knew that this is going to be the last District 59 conference of the big District 59 (all continental Europe).

That was a very emotional moment. And now, there’s going to be a similar thing in May 2018, where two districts will have the last meeting before they split into six smaller ones. Tuire said: “I don’t want to go through this too many times in my life.” She didn’t say more about it, but I could really feel the emotional charge about this.

I cannot say that I have a wonderful and close relationships with everyone in my District, but, there are a few people whom I managed to click with. When I go to the DECM, for example, I know there are a few people I will get to see, talk to, shake hands and hug. I value those relationships maybe more than what I learned about leadership and communication in Toastmasters.

Having to break away from that, knowing that in the future we will not be going to the same conferences, it will be difficult. I didn’t have to go through what Tuire had to go through, but I can understand that. I think that feeling of connection is definitely one of the key aspects we should take into account when thinking about splitting or not splitting. It can hurt a person, you know.

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You’re right. We should make sure we don’t get emotionally too exhausted. As you said that meeting all those people might be more important for you than all the learnings in communication and leadership in Toastmasters – I totally agree with that – and I am curious, if you had to pick 3 Toastmasters who inspired you the most – who would you pick? Who were the people who had the biggest influence on your Toastmasters life?

I’m taking a moment to think, because some names came to mind immediately. And that’s the whole point about people who inspired me, isn’t it? When I was young in my Toastmasters career, it was our club president at the time. She is still in the club, her name is Marilena Petrec. She is basically the person why is the Toastmasters club in Bucharest, the one I started in.

She held the club together for a long time and she has a fantastic way of approaching difficult situations. In our club, at one point, we had to ask a member not to renew their membership. At another point we had to ask a member to step down from the officers’ team. These were difficult moments, and she handled them with so much grace, and so much diplomacy and tact, so much humanity, that I found absolutely amazing. She’s a lady in her mid-50s. I admire her and she has given me a lot of inspiration.


The second one is a gentleman whom you may know – Bill Monsour. I met Bill in early 2014 at the DECM in Bucharest, but the majority of our interactions took place online…

It was because of EasySpeak, right?

Correct, that was the initial reason. But then our conversations took of. Bill is also a trainer, right now he is involved in the professional trainer’s group of District 95 and 95, and he’s all around a fantastic person. Conversations with him are fabulous. The way he runs his club – I’m not sure if he’s the president right now, but he’s certainly an important figure in one of the clubs in Amsterdam – he has certainly been an inspiration to me.


The third one would definitely be Kees Broos. I got to meet Kees as well in Bucharest in 2014, because everybody who is anybody was in Bucharest in 2014, everyone was at that DECM. My first interaction with Kees was when I did a little little screw-up. I was supposed to handle an evening meal of some sort and something happened with the restaurant, Kees was there and he could see my failure first hand, and his ability to put me straight and his ability to bring my emotions back in line was amazing. My conversations with him at that time and all we talked about later when he was the District Governor of D95 were great. So he’s the third person I would mention.

Speaking of Kees, can you say anything in particular in terms what you liked about him – for people who don’t know him?

What Kees does well is – he asks the right questions. And he mixes those right questions with comments that he makes. His comments, even though they are meant to correct behavior, steer a person away from the wrong path – they are never judgemental. He is unbelievable how he manages doing that.

I’m taking minutes from the Core Team Meetings and I do that from recordings. I can focus on it like an investigator playing the recording from a black-box of a crashed plane, listening to how the pilot and co-pilot were talking to each other.

Sometimes I would put in the core team meeting minutes the exact words – and the exact expressions Kees used. Because he does it in such graceful way, telling other people that they’re not doing what they should be doing – in a way that does not make the other person become defensive, that does not make them feel judged… And he does it very briefly, it does not take 10 minutes to say it. It’s just 2 sentences. It’s amazing and I wish to be at that level one day.

I think I know what you mean. I remember about 3 weeks ago, as I will be running for Division Director, I asked whether it would be possible for me to have a workshop at the District Conference. And Kees gave this brilliant answer – sending me a pdf, and in his email he wrote: “Lukas, you will find your answer on page 69 point 6 A-G”, making it very clear that I should have looked for it myself instead of bothering him with this question – but at the same time he helped me, not making any negative comments.

Yes, that’s a great example, this is just how Kees is. What permeates is his good intentions, his desire to help. He’s not doing it out of spite, he’s not doing it to be superior, he’s doing it because he genuinely wants to help. And that’s absolutely amazing.

You know, there’s this concept from Dale Carnegie methodology – that people are defined by 3 things – what they have, what they do and who they are. Sometimes, people would use techniques, how to communicate. And then they come – “Now I have to write an email to someone. How do I write it in a way that would observe the rules I learned in the training.” This behavior means being only in the “do” sphere. It’s “I have to force myself, I have to be diplomatic.” Kees is who he is – it’s not what he does. He doesn’t have to make an effort to be different. This is who he is and this is what I find so inspiring. For him this is still an effort.

My initial response would be more abrupt. And I would need to hold myself from it, asking myself: “What do I gain from this? Nothing! Good, so let’s see what a good response would do.” I would have to coach myself. Kees does not need to do that right now. It’s who he is, not what he does.

I have the same feeling. Brilliant, interesting three choices, thank you.

You really made me un-earth many things which I didn’t even know I had them, that were very very deep.

Right, I think that’s the very fun part about doing interviews.

I guess it is.


The last area I would like to touch is – and it’s up to you, whether you’d like to touch it too – what’s next for you. And you can pick – either in Toastmasters, or what is the endgame of Andrei Popescu, as you’ve mentioned that Toastmasters is an integral part of your life… So let’s stick to the question “What’s next” and I leave it up to you to answer it.

Well, I have spent the last 15 years investing a lot into my professional side – so Dale Carnegie has been the investment that I made and I plan to continue. I hope to become what is called the Dale Carnegie franchisee, that is the owner of the Dale Carnegie business here in Romania. Then I’d be able also to travel and deliver trainings elsewhere, but I don’t see myself as being the traveling trainer, being most of the time somewhere else.

On my Toastmasters side, well, this has to do a lot with the nomination or District Leadership Committee.. They say if you want to make God laugh, make plans. And my plans include becoming the Program Quality Director the next year. Then, if I manage to do a proper job of it, my plan is to go on and become the next District Director in 2017-2018.

But these two aspects, the Dale Carnegie aspect and the Toastmasters aspect, as demanding as they are, these are not the important thing for me in the next 5-10 years. My focus for those years is to start a family. That’s the thing which I believe is next for me. It’s one area that has been the least explored. I don’t have this pressure that by 20xx whatever, I need to get married, by 20xx whatever I need to have to have a child. But that’s the most important thing for the next few years. Keeping my focus, of course, on Dale Carnegie and Toastmasters.

Right. And when you will want to relax from all this, you will play a couple of songs on your guitar, in front of tens of thousands of people.

Maybe just tens – if I have a few tens of people, that’s OK.

Okay, super, Andrei, thanks a lot for your time. The very last thing – I’d like to ask you: Imagine that you have a chance to speak to an ordinary Toastmasters member, or to anyone who is hungry to grow in their life. And you have now just a couple of sentences to tell them, as a piece of advice, on where they should start right now. What piece of advice would you give them?

I’m going to paraphrase something I’ve read and I find it absolutely genius. It says: “Every person should take 15 minutes per day and meditate. If you’re really really really busy and you can’t find the 15 minutes in your day, then you should take one hour.” That’s something that has really hit me. To paraphrase that – there are no shortcuts. For somebody that is really in a rush, in a hurry, to grow and develop, the key thing is that there are no shortcuts. And what may appear to be a shortcut at one point, could become a detour that will throw them back later. As paradoxical as it might sound, for someone who is in a hurry to develop, the advice is to take the time.

Okay, so if I were to sum it up in one sentence – take time to think, take time to meditate and don’t rush – do things the right way – something along those lines?

Exactly. As they say in latin: Festina lente. Make haste slowly.

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