Hunting An Authentic Selo Dream In Eastern Europe

5 days, 35 tweets and 3 live streams ago… Man does time fly and By God is this Man prolific. Last Friday, Hunter Drew streamed about “forging your own path” and gave a phenomenal shout out to my friend Kyle Trouble. He had nothing but good things to say.

So I thought I’d spend some time here today talking about how I met Kyle while living abroad in Eastern Europe, about what I was doing out there, and how the two of us got to where we are today in terms of our new venture.

My name is Martin. I’m a 27 year old Croatian-Canadian currently residing on the West Coast of Canada. I’ve been here since last November. Prior to that, I had been living in Eastern Europe for two years, but I was born and raised in North America. I am a dual citizen. As I’m about to explain, my connection with the Old Country runs blood deep.

In the following stream (the one to which I’m now replying), Hunter talks about Kyle and mentions Selo Oils, our upstart Croatian extra virgin olive oil company that we will be launching this September:

I had to watch this about two more times, on top of Hunter’s debut 21 Convention speech in order to really take it all in. Like a fine Croatian brandy, I’ll attempt to distill his message in a few short sentences (which is about all anybody can muster after a fine glass of Šljivovica). Slow brain and slurred speech excepting this is what I’ve come up with:

Own your life. Be your authentic self. Definitely don’t try to be somebody else. Work on your mission daily. Learn from every battle you fight (there are inevitably MANY) and in time you will become the man you want to be.

So it turns out I’ve actually been aware of both Hunter Drew and Craig James since October of last year. I think I’ve been following them on Twitter for at least that long. Incidentally, I joined their Masculine By Design Facebook group while I was staying in the very Croatian selo that Kyle introduced on his new podcast, spending time with my grandparents, waiting and waiting and waiting for the year’s olive harvest. Seljaks make a point of never keeping a schedule, and the harvest date has a variability of about 30 days so I wasn’t doing much other than eating, reading, gardening and visiting family. So, I said hello:

In fact, I think I joined on one of the very first days that they shared the group on Twitter. I was in our selo home contemplating in which direction I was going to take my life next. At the time, I was mulling over the job I had recently and abruptly resigned from, making sure to delete every raving mad message I received from my manager as they would come in. I stormed out of that job well before my official end date. In some parts of Europe, you have to give an extraordinary 3 months notice—a convenient safety net for poor performers but a nightmare for high achievers.

At the time, I was working as an automation engineer at a large pharma tech company in Central Europe. Funny enough, I believe Craig had resigned from a similar job not much earlier. I’ll have to ask him to confirm that, but I remember speaking about this in particular. Now, at no point was I not passionate about my work. The thing that really drove a steak through my heart was how depressed it was making me, and how little leverage I had to make a change within the context of that environment, an environment that along with my original colleagues I had come to really appreciate.

Consider for a moment that I had my dream job. In terms of the content of my work, I absolutely LOVED the kind of software development we were doing. Most jobs of this kind have very precise obligations, but for this one I actually had the opportunity to explore a wide range of interesting subjects, and my original mentor who came all the way from India to help grow the company was simply exceptional. In terms of the location, I was living in a big, beautiful city in the heart of Europe. A city brimming with short skirts, long legs and high heels. I couldn’t go wrong.

When it comes to tech, I always put a metric fuck ton of effort into my work every single day. When I’m living in a gorgeous city, I work even harder because there’s just no way I’m not exploring every square inch of it during my off time, and bonuses certainly help you do that. So I hope I’ve made it clear that I had no reason to slack off despite all the jokes I make about lazy selo living. My grandparents didn’t escape Communism for nothing.

At the end of the day, however, my company shit the bed. I was promised a lot in terms of growth opportunity. I surpassed every expectation. I was promoted immediately after my first year. And that was not merely a pay raise. I bled for that job and got nothing in return.

It all came down to the impudence of one evergreen middle manager who decided he would undermine me at his every whim. Why did they hire this guy just as I was starting to put together one of the finest software teams in the city? I still wonder. Unfortunately, this part of Europe is somewhat known for its nepotism and shady dealings. I won’t get into the details because it wasn’t pretty. I wasn’t the only one to resign overnight; three of my colleagues left on bad terms as well. Let’s just say that we gave everything we had and as a result got fucked really hard. Yeah, it was rough, but I wasn’t totally disparaged. As my grandfather would say:

Tko pod drugim jamu kopa, sam u nju pada.

He who digs a hole beneath another will fall in it himself.

It dawned on me. No matter how much time I put in for the man, no matter how much I loved what I was doing, no matter how much further I was willing to go beyond the status quo, I wasn’t going to capture a shred of the exponential value that I was adding. It became clear that my income, my respect and my reputation were not going to scale up any time soon. Of course one can always call this a self-defeating attitude, but I don’t give a fuck what anybody thinks. I know what I went through. What is done is done.

Buddy, who are you and what are you doing having that much fun without me?

Anyway, rewind one full year. I had been following some of the blogs he wrote for since about 2013 and when he mentioned he’d be moving to my city I did what I could to get in touch. I admit that I wasn’t a customer of his but you’ve only got so much cash on a fixed income and I’m a cheap bastard—I’ve since learned to pay my dues.

If you’ve read even one of Kyle’s articles, buy King’s Code immediately. Do it now then come back and continue reading. This short book is not just about swingin’ a harem together. At its core, it’s about learning how to leverage all your options in life to get that Bigger Better Deal as the opportunity arises. This was a skill I sorely lacked when I needed it most, being the hyper-productive “nice guy” that I was in the very office I eventually fled. Reading this book was one of the reasons I felt more confident about quitting. Shortly thereafter, I started a web and mobile app company as a side hustle—it’s doing okay. I’m not starving!

I think it took about 3 emails and 6 months before I finally got a hold of him, mainly because of the intense traveling and book writing he was doing at the time. No hard feelings! Kyle is a beast. The guy lives everything he preaches. No bullshit. Ništa.

When I met Kyle in person, I was instantly jealous of the life he made for himself. A large online presence is one thing, but it’s a totally different thing to see all the work that goes into it in real life. I was just exiting from the career I thought I was going to ride for the next 5 years at least, and it seemed like he was just getting started in terms of really ramping up his various businesses and online platforms.

Kyle invited me out to hang with his friends several times. He even gave my nervous, drunken self a chance to interview on his Dating Abroad podcast. That evening was a lot of fun, but while I was “coming atcha from Eastern Europe” I felt this wave of emptiness surge over me. I didn’t really have a lot to say.

I mean I’ve been to Croatia every other summer since I was 10, but damn. What was coming out felt vapid. Reflecting on a year of coding with very little to show for it in terms of personal growth really got to me. I froze several times, I gave my bit or whatever I could, and we called it a night.

I was about done with my job and I started to think, maybe I could do this too? Or something like it? Then, that Blue Pill we like to call reality started knocking at my skull. I was almost broke and I had no irons in the fire. I simply had it in my mind to go back to Canada and recuperate and that’s what I did.

So just before I left to Croatia, as part of my return trip to Canada, Kyle and I met at a local Serbian restaurant where I think we chopped it up for about 6 hours straight, scarfing down ćevapčići while talking girls, “The West”, online business and everything else under the Bohemian sun. There was a moment there where I could have just stayed—a fleeting moment—where I could have just said “fuck it”, burn all my ships and grind it out. Kyle gave me an offer I could not refuse. I didn’t take that opportunity then. Had I hopped on that flight to Bulgaria, I guarantee you I would be writing from Croatia today. Either way, I was a in a pinch for time; I had to leave immediately and he even cleared out my apartment. Many tanks frend!

Image result for cevapcici

Nothing ventured, nothing gained. It’s been over 9 months since we shared that last shot of Rakija in Prague, wondering whether we could build something truly amazing, a sea change so epic that even the Cosa Nostra would come knocking at our door. As I finish writing this, I feel my ancestors calling in the wind, an untold destiny in my bones. This time there is no doubt. This time we build an Empire.

Recently there came an opportunity, in the form of a charitable old man with a few trade secrets up his sleeves, offering to help us export 1000 L of olive oil from Croatia. My grandfather took the offer. However, it was up to me to seize that day. I obliged. Now that is a story for later…

More importantly, the very first thing I shared with Craig on Facebook last year, in a group for which I ultimately and regrettably did not even take part (it’s time to make some new commitments), was a concern related to my serial myopia, my obsessive compulsiveness, my architecture addiction. I build incessantly but I don’t share. Perfectionism has its upsides, but its downsides are disproportionately immense. I have to redeem myself.

When the Patriarch of my family, Grandpa Martin of my name, got on the phone and said to me (translate that and weep):

Sine, uskoro neću ja bit iz ovoga svijeta. Moraš ti, Martine, zaštititi naše prezime.

I had a single thought come to mind. I knew I had to share his legacy with the world. But I needed to shed my inhibitions in order to do so, to let go and to put trust in something greater than my nimble little fingers. I wasn’t going to dig myself into the ground this time. I needed help. I needed somebody I could trust completely. Somebody in Eastern Europe no less…

I called Kyle Trouble:

If I haven’t made it clear, I really appreciate everything Kyle has done to help bring my little slice of Croatia to each of you so far, but the journey has just begun and you haven’t even received your bottles. They’re coming, that’s for sure. Expect a lot more trouble. If all goes well, Kyle and I will be live streaming you all from the selo this November during the harvest, in which the title of this blog will finally become a reality.

As they say in Dalmacija:

Tko ne vozi, nema blaga

He who does not drive, receives no treasure.

For the love of God, let this fešta begin already!

Svako misto svoju festu ima
svako misto ima svoj dan
a festa draga je svima
jer tu se piva po cili dan

Every place has its party
Every place has its day
And everybody loves a party
Cause you can drink all day



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