The Glass Wall


The morning walk to school was markedly unusual. The plan was to document a startup event and foster interest in the local entrepreneurial scene. There were speeches littered across two days in Kotka and Kouvola but the ones offered in English were very limited. Unfortunately, even when there is a schedule, shit happens, or should I say, shit doesn’t happen. As an Insider staff member, I showed up, albeit 5 minutes late, to an empty room. The only trace of human life was at Finnish talk in the adjacent room and the footprints upstairs to claim the fresh lunch offered at Paja.

I pull out my camera and ready my erasable-ink pen in anticipation for what is to come and follow the second-hand of the wall clock. At 10-past and energetic fellow walks through the door and drops a bag on the table in front of me. “Candy for the table”. To my dismay, it is riddled with licorice, but I am still grateful for the unexpected gift. As the man pulls out an A3 sheet of paper and a marker, another mind joins the table.

The three of us introduce ourselves by first name, study degree, and aspirations in our fields. Erik, a Dane, Minh a Vietnamese/Russian, and I, from the US. A fourth, Adams from Kenya, joins and contributes his story, and later the fifth and final member, Anna from Russia (our fellow Insider). The leader of the table, Erik, quickly realizes that he can split us into two groups based on our shared visions. He says, “From tomorrow, you start your new life”. Really awkward timing considering the tomorrow mentioned is Valentine’s Day.

For a restaurant idea I had he could see that what was holding me back was money. His suggestion was to build a prototype.

“Use the leftover supplies from the campus. Use the leftover food from cafés. Let the people cook their own food. See what they cook but you (Leif), create the atmosphere. If you are making a restaurant focused on a unique atmosphere, then make this first. Use a free location like the school or an apartment and invite people. If it looks as you are really describing, then people will take pictures. They will market instinctively. Abolish your assumptions on what a restaurant is. Is it a costly location you rent in the city, with a full line of kitchen supplies, or is it the experience?”

Dumbfounded, it took me a few minutes to process this mindfuck. How many things in life can be flipped upside down just by walking around the glass wall instead of climbing over? How much good advice is out there if you just ask people who possess passion? More useful than any talks that day about “How I became an entrepreneur”, this is actual, philosophical advice. Its like when you see a good movie and it just ends in the middle of an action scene. It’s your job as the viewer to decide how it ended. You can walk home and think for hours, days, weeks, or years…and there may never be a true answer. The point is for every question in life, there are multiple answers. If it is not working, step back and ask yourself: What am I not looking at? What is in the negative space of the sculpture or painting? What are they not saying in this comedy that makes the jokes even funnier? What can I do to start my life tomorrow?

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