12 tips for young Greeks—from a successful Greek entrepreneur

Greece is in a mess you did not create. What’s next? Well, I don’t know. No one does, but that’s the whole point of growing up. You must always prepare yourself for a future you cannot see.

This is an effort to provide some guidance to an unanswered question. Awareness of your collective strengths—which you need to use—and weaknesses—which you need to fix—is the key to crafting a strategy for success; as one great Greek once said, know yourself.

When I was a young man, I had an early appreciation for technology, and that helped guide me—but I was no different than you are. I just had a dream—the shared “American Dream” it seems—and then turned that dream into reality through hard work. You can do the same, despite your perceived flaws and current insecurities.

Words of advice:

1. Your elders’ generation made a mess of Greece, so listen to their advice—but don’t be afraid to be critical. As a generation, they have collective responsibility for it. That said, elders in your life are not individually responsible for their generation’s actions.

2. Traveling provides much needed perspective—on different cultures, but also new innovations. The future of Greece is often the present of other countries. Many of the Greek startups I’ve met with have transplanted ideas from successful foreign companies onto the Greek reality. It all trickles down. Silicon Valley is currently excited about Big Data and Virtual Reality, which means they will make their appearance in Greece as well, in due time.

3. Do not overspecialize. Overspecialization is partly the fault of the Greek university education, but it’s also the fault of the student who assumes that it’s the university’s job to prepare them for the future. It’s not. Take personal responsibility for your future.

4. Make the most of the summers between school years. If you cannot find a job, volunteer at a non-profit, go online and take an extra summer course, or participate in online communities, such as programming or debate contests, essay, poetry, or writing competitions.

5. Think global. Foreigners will want to work in Greece—you should also seek out foreign jobs; you all compete with each other.

Key weaknesses and strengths of Greek youth, as a cohort:

6. The Greek state has a multitude of entrenched customs and pathologies that will no doubt affect you. You cannot change the system quickly, but that’s no excuse to reinforce it—so do the right thing.

7. Greek families are a mixed bag. From my experience, many families stray away from embracing the global perspective. Not enough families think globally, live abroad, or take major risks—this may cultivate incorrect, biased stereotypes. On the other hand, the strong bonds within Greek families form a safety net.

8. Greeks can be found all around the globe. This is a support network for young Greeks. Use it.

9. Greece’s present mess and crisis is a strength—economies are cyclical. It’s hard to watch a forest burn, but it always grows back, often much healthier.

Some introspection:

10. I was always confident in my technical skills, but I was not always confident in other aspects of my life. In times of doubt, all I needed was to have confidence in one thing, as a source of strength. Find that cornerstone of yours.

11. Loneliness was an opportunity to learn to love myself. I left many old habits behind—like my terrible driving—and surrounded myself with people who brought out the best in me.

12. I was clueless about my future. I was in Silicon Valley as the internet boom started, but at first I thought it was a fad. And later I made the same mistake, underestimating the impact of a new technology—mobile. You don’t need to be clairvoyant to succeed, but you must be ready to admit your mistakes and learn from them.

We welcome your comments at ideas@qz.com.

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