Inspiration. It’s a funny old thing. One minute you have it, the next it escapes you. One thing is certain though, it is always closer to home than you think.
And in this context, I want to scribble something short and sweet on the topic.
One of the perks of my chosen career path with Starttech is that I travel quite a lot. During my recent travels and in the wake of becoming a Marshall Memorial Fellow back in the Spring, I got to thinking about what it takes to be a contemporary entrepreneur. Or perhaps, what is the make up of a true contemporary entrepreneur. Or even plain old employees – pardon the expression – for that matter.
And I found the answer, which of course is too close to home to be true. And yet, it is true.
Inspiration: the story of an entrepreneur
I recently got my hands on a painting crafted by a close relative of my paternal grandfather, Thanos Tsingos. He was a notable architect and painter in the 1950s and 1960s, and after doing some further research about him my curiosity, as well as pride, grew.
Not only that, many aspects about his life for me sum up serve as an inspiration for what being a true contemporary entrepreneur is all about. Or rather what they should be about in my opinion, in terms of character, background and qualities.
The Thanos Tsingos story
OK, a little snapshot of potted history coming up. After studying architecture at the National Technical University of Athens (1931-1936), Thanos Tsingos worked as an architect until 1939. His intense and adventurous life began with the Second World War; where he served in the Middle East front. He got involved in the Middle East coup and was sentenced to death at first, then to life imprisonment. Not a thing to be taken lightly.
Thankfully he was pardoned and released (1946), when he then became one of the architects working on the city plan of Brasília, the new capital of Brazil, on Le Corbusier’s recommendation. After the end of the Brazilian project (1948), he settled in Paris, where he initially worked with the avant-garde theater and eventually he devoted himself to painting.
He had already adopted the wild ‘bon viveur’ lifestyle of the bohemian artists of the era, which favored bouts of creativity, but also self-destructive tendencies. After numerous exhibitions, he returned permanently to Athens in 1961, where he presented two solo exhibitions with moderate success.
His painting style was about rich color texture creating surfaces full of emotional tension. Nevertheless his works are rarely entirely abstract. Usually there are figurative subjects (landscapes, animals or flowers), which are depicted in an abstract manner, as images of a fantasy world.
The freedom and boldness of his painting style was not duly appreciated in Greece during his lifetime. Despite his productivity, he struggled to sell his works. At least not during his living years, which is why he died destitute in 1965. Later, his paintings became very popular, confirming the quality of his work, but also his myth as an “artiste maudit” (cursed artist).
Several exhibitions of his work were presented in Greece after his death (Athens, 1965). Retrospective exhibitions of his work were organized in 1965 (Athens Technological Institute), in 1980 (Athens National Art Gallery and Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris) and in 2005 (Cultural Centre of the Municipality of Elefsina).
What Thanos’ story means to me, and to you
So what does Thanos’ story mean. Well, for me its quite simple. His life was one filled with creativity. And this took many forms as I explained. Apart from that though, he was heavily involved with science and engineering and above all, dedicated and a man of principle. This, shown by his significant military activity.
And that’s the sweet spot, at least for me anyway. Creativity, science, engineering, dedicated and principled. A lover of life and a true citizen of the world. He really was for me a contemporary entrepreneur, in many respects.
The driving forces
Without knowing it (or perhaps I always knew subconsciously), these are the key driving forces of my life, both professionally and personally. And they are ones that I immediately look for in colleagues, business partners and so on. Because simply, who you spend your time with defines you.
And it is these qualities which are very much relevant for a contemporary entrepreneur and a contemporary employee in a modern company. As well a a bit of talent and skill of course.
We need to study hard, to adore science and engineering. We need to be creative and express ourselves in whatever way we want. Most of all we need to explore the world and to be global citizens of it. And, if and when necessary, we need to be able to stand up for our values and principles with any means available. And under any circumstances.
Inspiration is everywhere
Yes, we may not – thankfully – have any wars going on which immediately involve us here in Greece. But, in terms of adversity and standing up for what you believe in in difficult times, there are plenty of contemporary examples. You only have to look at the positive way that the Greek entrepreneurial ecosystem has evolved out of the unprecedented financial crisis in the country.
When you put those ingredients together; creativity, science and engineering (education for that matter), as well as freedom of expression and a grittiness to overcome obstacles – such as failure – and stand up for your values, the results can be unstoppable.
Just like a contemporary entrepreneur.