My Ice Breaker speach at Toastmasters. Or just me in seven minutes. In Polish.
It was somewhere five o’clock in the morning. Outside the window, the rising sun. For most, this might be the time to get out of bed. For me, it was just an indication to maybe stop working and go to sleep.
I set my alarm for 5h of sleep, not because I didn’t want to sleep more, but because Arnold Schwarzenegger once said “if you don’t have time, sleep faster”. Silly, but I needed such words at the time.
So I slept faster, got up, ate breakfast, and drove to my university, not to learn anything, but to have attendance—just like the average student does. After classes, I get home as quickly as possible and go back to work.
The goal was to solve a problem of a certain niche. The niche of which I was a part. We were e-cigarette smokers, but not just casual smokers, we were ‘vapers’, true nerds like computer hackers, creating our own devices, e-liquids, and coils; we were closer to art than craft, or at least felt so.
Building a coil could take many hours. Experienced vapers intuitively knew what material to use, what kind of wire to use, and what is the optimal diameter and number of wraps. The beginners however had to rely on luck, which often resulted in frustration and wasted materials.
I started to wonder if it’s possible to calculate a perfect coil if there exists a formula modelling performance of a coil.
I opened the documentation of resistance wires and immediately got overwhelmed by the number of formulas and unknown units. I was 19, just finished high school, and reading them was like looking at hieroglyphics. But I didn’t give up, I knew that everything can be understood it is just a matter of time. I had a challenge and I felt that solving it was within my reach. I started writing everything down, translating it into Layman’s terms. But still, it was too much for me. I asked professors at my university for help, and they were happy to assist because finally a passionate student came up with an interesting problem, not asking whether points from a project sum up with the points from an exam
Within one year, we designed a model and an algorithm for a great coil. I wanted to share it with other people; therefore, I learned programming and created Android and iOS apps. It was the most exciting period of my life. I had one vision, one goal, and perfect conditions for achieving it. Everything else: my studies, girlfriend, friends, and even eating were obstacles. Soon after the app has been released I received positive reviews. I decided to create paid version and after the first month earned 150$ — not bad for an app which I created while learning programming. Next month, 300$, then 500$, then 1000$, $5k, $10k. I knew that my life would never be the same again.
I was only 20 years old and already felt like I had won the game. The game I had been playing since I was a child. I had always wanted to be financially independent I finally made it.
And guess what, that turned out to be my biggest problem.
Because what happens when we win the game?
Ok, we feel a momentary satisfaction. But, we stop playing the game. There’s no point in playing the game if we know how it’s going to end. Only unsatisfied needs motivate us.
Over the next couple of years, I started to wander a bit. I was in a paradoxical state where, on one hand, I had a huge sense of self-worth, and on the other, I doubted the meaning of life. I started to question whether that motivation would ever come back again.
I concluded with “since having money made me lose my motivation, I needed to get it out of my sight”. I wanted to feel hungry again. I didn’t want to increase my living standards, I prefer the minimalistic approach, I felt that the success of the app could never happen again, therefore, I have to wisely make use of the money I got. I started to learn about investing and decided to invest everything into… cryptocurrencies.
This in turn meant that I had to learn which cryptocurrencies were worth investing in, and understand how they worked, and this turned out to be another rabbit hole.
Just like before in the space of e-cigarettes, now in the space of cryptocurrencies, I started exploring and trying to understand everything. It intrigued me how Bitcoin transformed electricity into a currency, how it prevented the Sybil attacks in an open network, and how the consensus works. The more I read, the more questions arose, so I kept reading even more. Every aspect of blockchain was highly appealing to me.
And that provided me with an insight into the problems of cryptocurrencies — a niche I became part of. Again, some inner force compelled me to fill this gap with my creations, and so more projects and applications were coming up, and I felt alive again! Again I wanted to set my alarm clock for 5h of sleep.
Somewhere towards the end of my Master’s degree, it finally occurred to me that I wasn’t motivated by the desire to be rich, I needed money to break away from the ‘gravity of feeling of inferiority. What motivated me the most was the need to close the gap between what is and what could be. The desire to understand, fix and improve was what motivated me the most.
Also, I learned that such an obsessive pursuit is not enough to feel happy, it feels great, but you become blinded to other aspects of life. The more spotlight is pointing at you, the less you see.
Today, I am a PhD student at Gdansk Tech, working on blockchain technology. I find science to be as satisfying as creating apps used to be. It has opened my eyes to problems I had not noticed before. It offers me an infinite source of hard challenges and forces me to clearly and precisely communicate my ideas. It helps me with distinguishing between technological innovation and marketing.
I think the science behind blockchain technology is one of the most exciting fields in the current decade, hence my determination in contributing to it.