How do you define a person? Does the past define a person? Does the present? I like to tell stories, and the story I’m going to tell you is about my different lives. A lot of stories begin at the very start, and mine does too.
I was born in the early eighties, in the city of Novi Sad, former Republic of Yugoslavia, second child in the family, son to a father who was head of security in a hotel and a mother who worked as a travel agent. I started going to nursery at 11 months old, where I’ve spent time learning to socialize with other kids and play throughout the day. My learning continued and accelerated early as I was enrolled into a kindergarten at the age of 3, where I picked up the very basics of counting and writing.
Growing up in country torn by civil war and even though times were difficult, my parents enabled me to attend elementary school and get basic education. I was a quick learner and I showed interest in math as early as 8 years old. It was not long until my teachers encouraged me to use these skills in math to participate in local competitions. The influence of my father was significant in the early teens, and I quickly followed my fathers’ footsteps by improving the skills in technical drawing and solving logical tasks, as my father was good in engineering.
Being a teenager was quite fun for me as I started playing volleyball at the age of 12 and basketball at the age of 14. My father was first personal coach I had and he helped me join the school of basketball where I learned all the basic skills. I attended it at the same time as I attended high school for mechanical and technical studies. It was not long before I realized that not everything goes according to plan. I started to rebel against my dad at the age of 16, where I showed the key family trait, being stubborn. Even though late teenage years proved to be difficult, I still managed to graduate high school at the top of the class and pursue my dream in mechanical engineering at the local university.
Unhappy with my life and studies, as a young adult, I decided to quit college at the age of 20 and join the military, thinking that it will help me find the answers. Military service was obligatory for all young adults that didn’t attend college anyway, so I thought it will be like hitting two birds with one stone.
Unfortunately, as I finished the service after a year, going back home with positive expectations was quickly diminished by realization that running away was NOT the solution. Nonetheless, I decided to leave home AGAIN and look for a better life elsewhere. After a few years working various jobs abroad, from farm caretaker, to construction site supervisor, life quickly turned sideways as my boss got into financial crisis and declared bankruptcy. This event left me with no money, no friends and nowhere to go. The only thing I had left was my ego and determination and I had no choice, but to either go down in despair or jump back up and do something.
Early 2011 was a turning point in my life, and as I was nearing my thirties, I found myself working in hospitality industry, as a facilities manager of a small hotel. It was like love at first sight, with constant changes that the industry was going through and having to keep learning day in and day out, I realized that this might be it. In little over a year, I became the general manager of the company and joined the local Rotary Club, since I always wanted to help the community. It opened up the doors for me and showed me the way. I started improving my lifestyle and learning more about leadership, as I wanted to inspire others to do more in their life.
As I kept on searching for inspiration and motivation to keep moving forward, I discovered an organization that helped me work on skills that I love, communication and leadership. I’m talking about Toastmasters, non-profit organization who supports individuals hone their skills in public speaking and leadership.
I encountered another turning point in my life between the search for inspiration and meaning, and that was when I met my un-married wife. She helped me realize that I could achieve much more without having to think about pleasing others. We started growing together as a couple and as a family. That growth was abruptly stopped by the loss of our first child. Even though that event was something that you don’t want anyone to go through, we did and we are still recovering from it. These stories may represent many different lives, yet all of those lives represent one person. I wasn’t defined by the past, instead, it shaped me into a person that I am right now.