Five Questions – Andres Varela

I ask five questions of people who have influenced me, or people that I admire, to find out a little more about them. I try to make the questions simple to allow the person answering them as much latitude as possible in their responses. It’s very much in the Tim FerrissTribe Of Mentors” line of thinking, and my goal is to learn what makes them tick, what their processes are, how they feel about the world and their place in it, and other questions. It fulfills a need in me to have meaningful conversations with people I respect and admire. For the first post in this series I asked a person for whom I worked in the past, and who has helped me learn a lot about myself, Andres Varela.

Andres is a Director at the company with which I’m currently employed. He’s been a mentor to me on several occasions and has helped me break down many walls, and unload a lot of emotional baggage I had been dragging around over the last 20 years or so. I had developed a good list of biases and opinions based on past work-related experiences, and through our relationship I started seeing my shortcomings through his mentorship. He was rarely explicit, but when he was he had a very “human” way of putting things that didn’t just upset me and make me want to do something else. I learned from him. Quite a lot.

Andres is from Columbia, South America and also has citizenship in Canada and just earned his American citizenship as well. He’s a football (soccer) fanatic the likes of which I’ve never known before, and I’ve known some pretty fanatical soccer supporters. He has authored a line of children’s books called Soccer Towns which looks at soccer-friendly cities around the world through the eyes of Roundy, a living soccer ball. The books are fun for kids, and the geography around each location is great for the education value too.

Andres is a person driven to succeed in whatever he’s doing. Obstacles are simply challenges, not reasons to quit. He works every day on multiple projects. He travels more than anyone I know, both for work and fun.

Andres has become a good friend to me outside work and I value that relationship very much. That’s why I chose him to respond to my first list of Five Questions.

Q1: Do you have a morning routine to prepare yourself for the day?

I usually wake up and before I get out of bed I take a look at the news on my phone, usually check some sports (soccer) stats. Then take a shower and get ready, grab my to go packed lunch and also drink a slushy, usually banana with mandarin or other fruit, then head out to the office.

Q2: Where & when do you get your best ideas?

Usually at night, in the middle of the night or when I’m relaxed in my room, some of my craziest (but also best ideas) have come while sharing a drink with friends and speaking about unrelated topics.

Q3: Who is the most interesting person you have met when traveling?

Back in 1993 I saved a bit of money while living in Bogotá and travelled to Cartagena by bus with one of my buddies, we stayed in a neighboring city at a friend’s house about two hours away from Cartagena and we decided we were going to visit Cartagena for a day. We couldn’t afford a hotel in Cartagena so we decided to hang out at beach until sunrise. While at the beach we met these two guys who were building sand sculptures, they had a couple of sculptures they had just finished and they had to take care of them all night by pouring a bit of water every so often. They had a small tent and they took turns sleeping and watching the sculptures. I thought it was extremely interesting the talent these two guys had, they lived at a village in the mountains and would come down to the beach during holidays when most tourists are around. They showed me pictures of their work, they had done some work (sand sculptures) for some major corporations. We talked to them all night, at one point we tried to take a nap next to their tent however a rat the size of a cat came out of the bushes and that was the end of the nap, we spent the time asking them questions about how do they survive being artists and I learned how they loved what they did, but I also learned the struggles of being a street artist in Colombia. I was 19 years old at the time and those interactions really started opening my mind about what else is out there in the world.

Q4: What book has had the biggest impact on your life?

When I was a teenager I read “The Perfume, the story of a murderer” and it was shockingly interesting, I’m not 100% sure why but the level of detail described in the book made me really get into the story. I also enjoy “The Goal”, specifically on that book the chapter when the father and son go on a boy scout trip was really meaningful to me due to the logical (and mathematical) and easy to understand explanation of “you’re only as fast as your slowest link” (that’s my personal description).

Q5: What’s the worst piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

At 27 years old I blew up my knee ACL while playing soccer, the doctor that performed my first operation told me to stop playing soccer all together, that I should give up the sport, that took me into a phase of mild depression because I didn’t really seek any other advice for a long time. A couple of years later I snapped out of it and seek advice from a different doctor who fixed me up in a matter of 3 weeks, and I started rehabilitation and 8 months later I was back on the field playing, I wish I would’ve never listened to that first doctor who was a “dream crusher”.

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