How a Trip to Paris with My Dad Impacted My Approach to Entrepreneurship

AD & AD in Paris

As my never-ending struggle with content creation continues, I’m back to share thoughts and insights from a recent travel experience with my dad, what I learned during the time we spent together and how it is actually helping me to improve my entrepreneurial skills. 

My dad has retired from the public sector about 10 years ago. Since then, he has been enjoying free time, going for long walks and helping making my sister’s life and mine easier. As he likes to say, being her personal Yassir driver and for me, a key support in launching HelloData as he handled for few months, almost all administrative movements. 

Before his retirement, his job took him around the world, turning me into a happy child who received postcards from places like Korea and Brazil. Despite his extensive travel history, he never had a passion for it. Since his professional career ended and the onset of COVID-19, he comfortably stayed put until a few months ago when he developed a nostalgic longing for Paris.

In his twenties, he spent summers there, enjoying the hippie vibes, 70s music and his long curly hair. He wanted to revisit Paris, so I organized a trip for him. Realizing he might need a travel companion and wanting to experience a solo trip with him for the first time, I decided to join him. Yet I was hesitant because the travel was planned about 10 days after Ramadhan and, considering it coincides with a busy period, during which everyone wakes up after about a month of hibernation, planning all the delayed meetings in bulk, I thought I should be staying home and focusing on making revenue. This leads me to the first thought I wanted to share in this post. 

Personal Life: Building Memories, One Moment At A Time

Before becoming an entrepreneur, I used to miss a lot of family gatherings, travels and activities because aligning schedules was hard and I simply wasn’t able to be flexible with my time and take days off whenever I wanted. Of course, it was kind of frustrating because I knew I was missing quality time. Choosing professional commitment used to feel wrong but necessary. 

Many entrepreneurs claim that the freedom to do whatever you want with your time is a myth. I disagree. If this means to spend days doing nothing and expecting the business to grow, of course it is a myth. This is actually worse than a myth but a deeply deceiving thought to have about entrepreneurship. 

But I think we’re, indeed, offered flexibility in time management. I consider planning freely my days as a key positive aspect of entrepreneurship because it prevents so much frustration. Missing a personal event is no big deal but accumulated skips can turn into a heavy regret. 

Memories last and in all cases, value is not always where it is expected to be. 

Now that I can freely manage my time, I made it a priority to show up and that’s what I did, while, I admit, trying to kill professional guilt and compensating absence. 

Social Fluency: Comfortably Initiating Interactions

We spent few days visiting beautiful Paris and I couldn’t help myself but trying to take the time to analyse my dad’s behaviors. We are so used to our closest persons, we even tend to get angry over each other’s characters but do we really take the time to understand, analyse, have a different perspective on what sounds like routine. 

My dad demonstrated surprising interpersonal skills with strangers. I knew he was socially fluent but as an introverted person, I always used to think of it as kind of intrusive. Observing his ability to connect with people with their diversity of profiles, in various locations and at different times was really interesting to learn from. I was also surprised by the fact that most people were actually enjoying his unexpected interactions, a joyful pop-up in their day. Literally out of nowhere, he was able to create a connection and children liked it the most. 

I am completely unable to talk to a stranger with no purpose, in the absolute absence of context as comfortably as he does. I thought I should be practicing because social fluency is a skill that is really useful for an entrepreneur. In events, during sales or when trying to trigger an opportunity, feeling socially comfortable to approach and engage with people leads to great outcomes. 

Diplomacy: A Sophisticated Punch in The Face 

As we toured Paris, my dad was sharing lifetime stories and memories. Professional anecdotes, experiences of all kinds. I thought he was a good storyteller but reflecting on storytelling, I realized he was not. Storytelling is about the ability to effectively convey an information or an idea using a well thought narrative and engaging others’ emotions. Performing at sharing random stories is still not storytelling. I thought it was important to build a nuanced understanding of what a skill really is to avoid being confused when observing it in others or when trying to build it. 

Although my dad is not the storyteller I thought he could be, he unintentionally shared a story that inspired me in something I am actually struggling with. 

Once upon a time (feels nostalgic to start like this) a meeting was organized in Paris reuniting a neuralgic sector’s key stakeholders: private businesses top management, diplomats and political and administrative representatives to a large agenda including one sensitive topic that was conflictual to address. The meeting was ongoing when someone decided to speak up and share his position about that specific topic. As it was conflictual, he did it courageously, straightforward, expressing anger and firmly defending what he believed in, without being rude but saying things frankly and leaving no room for ambiguity. He kept pushing forward until he was interrupted by someone saying:

In a room full of diplomats, all your messages are grasped even before you speak.

What a replique! 

These last years, as a becoming entrepreneur, while being a quite direct and pushy person, I always thought that it was courageous to speak up, challenge the status quo, giving a strong punch in the face of ineffective practices, wrong things, bad behaviors and well, a punch in the face of some people too. But today, I see this as a lack of maturity and I’ve been reflecting on it since I met, during a program, people who demonstrated effectiveness when avoiding frontal address of conflicts and this made me question how straightforward and pushy I am and inspired me to be less of it.  This being said, I still believe that having the strength to speak up, even in an undiplomatic manner, is an essential first step we need to know we’re capable of it, then we can build on it to add nuance and be able to speak up in a more sophisticated way. 

General Knowledge: Expanding Perspectives

Capacity building in entrepreneurship usually includes business planning, finances, hiring, etc. These are useful skills to have but I believe we are lacking so much more and learning to adopt diplomatic approaches is important and should be considered in these contexts, as well as managing to build a broad and diverse base of knowledge across various subjects in history, politics, science among others, to be well informed and able to have a comprehensive understanding of businesses and markets. 

Here’s a dads’ thing: General knowledge. 

Our generation tends to lack patience and motivation when it comes to be intellectually educated. I was going to write that we might have missed something in our educational journey but I believe we actually had too much rather than missing. Too much resources and as many distractions. Easily reachable entertainment erasing the need to feed our brains. This got even worse this last decade with social media mediocrity brain stuffing. 

How do we get out of it? If you’re not lucky enough to have a natural inclination to educate yourself, I don’t have any answer for you, but the hope to trigger or inspire it. 

Retirement: Reflecting on Life

A last takeaway of this Parisian trip with my dad will be a raised awareness about how nostalgic one can get during retirement. Reflecting on youth and life. Seeking the past in the present, both physically, trying to retrieve places’ memory as if walls could speak, and facing the emotional heaviness of visiting a joyful past, keeping it as an asset and continuing to try hard to find what’s next now. 

Having this break was definitely one of the dearest 2024 highlights. 

Nothing replaces a paper map.

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