The Insightful Optimist - Nº2



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January 21 · Issue #2 · View online
The Insightful Optimist
Welcome to The Insightful Optimist, a bi-weekly newsletter that will cover insights on running a startup, health and a few ramblings about basketball, all through my optimistic lens (there’s enough negativity out there already) ❤️

Dear reader,
First of all, thank you. Thank you for subscribing, for your attention and for taking the time to read this. Time and attention are one of the biggest assets we have in today’s world so every word you read means a lot to me.
I’ve also told myself that I won’t look at my subscribtion numbers until the end of the year, so I have no idea whether it’s 1, 100 or 1,000 people reading! 🤷‍♂️
Why? Because the number of readers shouldn’t impact on the quality of this newsletter. I want this to be awesome every single time. So on that note:
Let’s get to it.
This week I want to talk about the core fundamentals of building a startup. Because, surprise surprise:
A startup with a flawed foundation is destined to fail no matter how good the idea/product is.
Imagine if your startup is a building. A building with a weak base is eventually going to collapse (my wife’s an Architect and she approved this statement). Startups are no different.
What is a weak base for startups?
This can range from your co-founder(s), to your investors, board members and employees. You might not know your co-founder well enough and you might discover that you don’t get on as well in business as you do as friends in a casual setting. You might find that your investors see a completely different vision of the company and force you to take actions and make decisions you didn’t anticipate. You might hire people who’s values do not align with your company’s culture and what your product requires to become successful.
Which one will you be?
Which one will you be?
Founders and entrepreneurs should be very careful during the early stages of their startups because any wrong decision could ruin the company’s foundation leading to failure. I’ve gone through this twice:
  1. Choosing the wrong partner in crime. At my very first attempt at a startup back in 2015, I’ve decided to partner up with someone I played weekly basketball with. He was knowledgeable in business, I was good at design. I cared more about the product, he cared more about money and power. Needless to say, we split and the company is gone (also, we launched a tech product without a tech co-founder, which was not ideal 🤦‍♂️).
  2. Second attempt and second foundation failure: hiring the wrong type of people. Recruiting is hard, and if the people joining your startup are excited about their paycheck and clocking-out hours more than the company itself, shit’s broken. Your employees should be absolutely stoked to be able to represent your startup, to wear the company’s logo and be excited when talking to their friends and family about what they have been able to be a part of.
In the end, the startup journey is a tough, chaotic and windy one and buildings with a weak foundation simply won’t last.
Thiel’s law: A startup messed up at it’s foundation, cannot be fixed.
At the same time, the startup journey is super exciting, fun and entoxicating. So get a co-founder you know very well, respect and trust. Hire people based not only on their skillset, but their passion, creativity and dedication to the company’s vision. Keep your board members and investors small, so you have more control over your company and you’ll notice that running or being part of a startup is one of the best things you could do!
One of my resolutions for 2021 is to dunk a basketball. I’ve managed to barely dunk only a few times in my life, when I was 18, when nothing was hurting, when I was 25kg lighter and super active.
I just turned 30, weigh 96kg, I had 2 lower back surgeries, have arthritis in my toes and been having on and off knee pain since I was about 26.
Should be a piece of cake.
Now, apparently, according to traditional doctors here in the UK, this is the last thing I should be doing because their advice was:
  • I shouldn’t be jumping to avoid injuring my back again (slipped discs)
  • I shouldn’t be running because of arthritis in my toes (will make them worse quicker and require surgery)
  • I shouldn’t put such pressure on my knees and should lose weight (because apparently I am overweight…good old BMI 👌)
But if there’s anything I’ve learned in the past few years is that doing the opposite of what traditional medicine and pharma tell me actually puts me in a better position to be healthy.
Funny that.
As a result, most of the Health section of this newsletter will be based on busting myths that doctors and pharma tell you, starting today with the concept of Knees Over Toes.
Traditional advice I used to always see, which in fact is still the most common advice: To protect your knees NEVER push your knees over your toes.
Traditional advise example
Traditional advise example
So naturally, I looked at what’s the opposite, and long and behold I discovered a guy named Ben Patrick.
His story sounds very familiar: developed knee and shin pain from basketball to a point where he was forced to get 2 knee surgeries and was told he will never be able to play basketball, jump or even fully bend his knee ever again and that he should simply accept that. That was exactly what I was told about my back and recently, about my toes.
So what did he do?
He challenged the advice and doctors, did his own studies and research, tested, trained and now he’s gone from a 19" to 42" vertical, has pain-free and bulletproof knees, can easily do a split…the list goes on.
And turns out, he wouldn’t have even needed any of the surgeries and traditional treatments he had, but unfortunately he did and that was simply because he didn’t know any better at the time.
So what’s the biggest myth he busted? Well, he’s called The Knees Over Toes Guy 🤷‍♂️
All his training is based on training with your knees over your toes and pushing that to the limits. As a result, he is now doing stuff like this 🤯
Tibialis Strengthening From ZERO to DENSE to STANDARDS!
I’ve been doing his training for 2 months now and have no knee pain, I’ve increased my flexibility tremendously already and feel more confident when jumping then I have been in years.
My point here and what I want you to take away from this is that you should avoid blindly following conventional advice from Western medicine. Do your own research, challenge the status quo, educate yourself, ask people smarter than you in the matter, reverse-engineer other people’s successes. I had 2 back surgeries that I now understand was fully avoidable. However, through doing the above for the past few years I’ve managed to attempt my first dunk. Confidently. Pain-free.
It’s never too late to reverse the body clock.
My first dunk attempt.
My first dunk attempt.
Basketball. You’d think, what’s so special about it? It’s a ball going through a hoop.
And I am not going to lie, sometimes I think that too. Why the hell am I so obsessed about it? Why is it something I want to have with me all my life?
Well first of all, I think the fact that it’s just a ball going through a hoop has nothing to do with it. The fact that it’s basketball has nothing to do with it. What does make it special for me is the story, circumstances and feelings attached to it.
You see, I am Lithuanian. This is THE sport in our country. Others go as far as saying it’s our true religion. If you want to understand why, I highly recommend watching ‘The Other Dream Team’ documentary (don’t worry. it’s in English, and it’s damn good).
'The Other Dream Team' Documentary
So naturally, I was introduced to basketball almost by default.
I first picked up a basketball when I was around 6-7 years old. I haven’t looked back since. I liked how the ball feels in my hands, how it bounces and the sound it makes, the weight of it, the sound of the net when the ball goes through…and that was just the beginning.
Now, I honestly believe that if I was born in the UK, it could’ve been football. If I was born in the US, it could’ve been american football. But anyone that is passionate about playing any type of sport has to admit that there is something ‘special’ about achieving even the smallest goals in the sport.
Chris Borland, a former NFL linebacker for the San Francisco 49ers took it quite far and described the “euphoric high” of landing a collision against an opponent in football:
“Outside of sexual intercourse, there’s probably nothing like it. “
So it’s not necessarily basketball, but the concept of sport itself. I didn’t care about the health and fitness benefits of it at the time. What attracted me to it was the escapism it created. It was, and still is, my release mechanism. Whenever I felt happy, I’d go play basketball. Whenever I was sad, I’d go play basketball. Stressed, excited, inspired, angry…I always wanted to express it through basketball.
And as time went, it introduced new levels of influence. I started to become part of a community, I started learning about communication, teamwork, leadership, competitiveness, dealing with failure, overcoming obstacles…things I use in my daily life and my business to this day. I was also introduced to hip-hop culture, which became a big part of my life (and led to me trying out graffiti, breakdancing, rapping)
But most importantly, it introduced the concept of heroes. I didn’t really have a father figure in my life, so I seeked out for other role models.
My room became full of posters: Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Shaquille O'neal, Vince Carter, Allen Iverson…I literally couldn’t see my actual wallpaper.
And each one of them taught me something. For example:
  • Kobe Bryant taught me about the impact consistent work ethic can have, and the ‘Mamba mentality’, never giving up no matter how hard it gets.
  • Paul Pierce showed me that you don’t need to be a freak athlete to be a great one, but you need to be smart and know how to take advantage of you opponent’s weaknesses and focus on your own strengths.
  • Kevin Garnett was a true inspiration of how dedication, emotion and passion can be the differentiating factor and that you can achieve anything when you truly put your mind to it.
  • Larry Bird was the true OG. A skinny, spotty white farmkid that looked and sounded like a redneck killed everyone on the court like it was nothing. He truly showed that it’s not how you look on the surface, it’s what you do and how you act that matters.
As you can tell, I could keep going forever.
At the end of the day, the way I communicate to my employees, the way I persevered through tough times, my drive and competitiveness…all of these and other personality traits and skills stemmed from basketball (and a few other places, of course).
And that’s why it’s much more than just a sport for me. It may be football, fishing, cycling, knitting or anything else for you, that doesn’t matter, but to have something like that in your life where you can escape and immerse into this meditative state is truly special and valuable.
Not gonna lie, I am glad that it’s basketball for me.
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Manchester, UK ❤️