x10 growth on our Google+ Page in 30 days: How and why

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NB: All numbers are quoted as of Monday, March 17th

Last time, I wrote a short piece about art, giving advice about creativity. This time, I want to share what I’ve done about it:

My buddy Amaury & I started project  “Oh I Like Art”  in Oct. 2013, simply put:

“We share art we like on social networks.”

> On Feb. 17th 2014, we had +200 and 23 followers

> On Mar. 17th 2014, we had +2,000  and 292 followers 

We tried to grow the page for one month as an experiment, we do not wish to get “as many followers as possible”, but instead to get a happy, engaged and healthy community. Why do we do that?

> Creativity

For the last few years, I’ve been following blogs and websites weekly about design, photography, calligraphy… I’ve been on Pinterest for the last two years. I also keep tabs on 35+ blogs, some of them posting 50+ articles per day.

I love going through all that content and curating it for “Oh I Like Art”, it helps me practice creativity, it’s like drinking water from the firehose 🙂

> Learn Growth Hacking

If you don’t know what Growth Hacking is, here is an extreme example :

@HistoryInPics (…) is run by two teenagers: Xavier Di Petta, 17, who lives in a small Australian town two hours north of Melbourne, and Kyle Cameron, 19, a student in Hawaii.” (source)

@HistoryInPics started in July 2013 and has (7 months later), 1.3 Million followers. They also own EarthPics, whose growth has been even faster (1.03 Million followers after… 67 tweets). I blogged about it recently, read more here.

> I don’t have the knowledge nor the skills to reach that scale but I still want to learn by trials and error how to do Growth Hacking through this project.

– Using the right tools: On a daily basis, I use many tools to do more in less time. For this project, I use FeedlyIFTTT.com, bufferapp.com, “Signals” from Hubspot.

– Using the right sources: I leverage Feedly as a Google Reader remplacement. We pick art from primary sources (artists blogs/platform) or curation platform (art-sharing website)

> What has worked to grow our Google+ page so far:

– High quality standards (all pictures are HQ, we always link our source, we always name the artist, they are the real stars!)

– Use of #Hashtages, seems like an interesting amount of people do lookup by #hashtags, we mark 3-5 tags per post.

– Following when “+1-ed”, I systematically follow people that “+1” our art, if possible right after they interacted with us to keep momentum. This isn’t so scalable, but has shown good results so far. Best results come from following people that have recently (within 24 hours) commented and shared  similar art to what we promote, creating a community starts by involving those who have a strong voice: If someone follow a Design Page, see a nice Typography, then share it, that person is likely to enjoy what we do too. Sophie has recently joined the project to help with all things community management.

– Posting on communities when it’s relevant, respectful and timed. For us, we interact in communities like Typography, Graphic Design, Street Art… People that have joined communities are often more involved and familiar with the Google+ platform, it’s a great way for us to approach like-minded art lovers.

– Be available when people comment: I respond and/or +1 their comment. When we reach a milestone, eg. +1,000 or 200 followers, or ask an artist we love to do a special creation for our followers. In return, we promote their online creations/portfolio. I would like to engage even further with the community, so that Sophie and have start having more contact with our followers.

200_followers

A creation by our friend Gabriel Martzloff

> Build a community

You need to keep it fun. I see interacting with those who follow us as a privilege, not a chore. They trust us enough to hang out on our page, I intend to keep that up.

Today, our Google+ page has +2,000 and 292 followers. I am really happy of those numbers, those are people enjoying creations from great artists. Among our followers, there’s almost no one we know – a mere 14 people – which is brilliant: all those people are interested enough to follow what we share.

I’m often thinking about Seth Godin saying the 3 elements of success are Patience: “The shortest way to go where you want to go is often the long road”, Bravery “The easy and safe path are already taken” and Generosity: “No one cares what’s in it for you (as a leader). (Successful people) care about the community, pay into the community are building a tribe not because it’s good for them but because it’s good for the community.” (video source here)

It’s critical to have a simple value proposition and stick to it: “we share art we like” for us. They are many other ways and techniques that could help us kickstart our growth even further, but I wish to remain focus and shoot for a healthy and happy community. Some people running Google+ Pages out there have a rogue approach, and that’s not cool for me (cross posting the same image many times over in different communities).

Amaury and I share one post per day through Bufferapp (a great app), I also post 2-3 times a day on community, my workload is about 2 hours per week and I am loving it. I do make sure that – whatever happens – our posts get through EVERYDAY. When I went away to sail across the atlantic in December last year – 24 days offline – we were still up and posting.

Since this is a “side project”, we wish to keep doing what we love, as a consequence grow our follower base and learn and see what makes most sense then.

> Expectations

It seems that most things in life revolve around our own expectations. Many feelings we experience come from the gap between what we expected and what we really have.

As long as Amaury and myself are happy with the project, I consider it’s a success, so for any additional person following us it’s an amazing success! At an incremental rate, we’re looking at minimum “+7,000” by the end of the year, which is quite cool.

We’ll shorty start experimenting on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and tumblr thanks for our webmaster Olivier.

> Er, why do you use Google+ for that project?

– Facebook has the “friend and family” syndrome. People will like your page because they like you and want to support you, it makes for a jolly fanbase, but then what? I’d rather find perfect strangers interested in what I share rather than “sympathy” likes.

– Facebook heavily filters what Facebook Pages are sharing. Just like when you publish a status, if you have 500 friends, 10% might get to see it. If it’s popular (liked), more will see it. That sucks, without mentioning huge “click farms” in developing countries offering to sell you Like through Facebook or other platforms.

– Google+ is much more visual as a media than Facebook, which is use for image sharing. Pinterest is quite cool too,

Also, Google+ gathers large communities of involved strangers gathered around a particular interest. Few years ago, I started what is today Google+ largest community on public speaking. Some communities, such as the Street Art photographers allows you to tap in a community of 115,000+ photo fans, that’s huge!

We will keep experimenting with different platform, since Bufferapp lets use share updates through Facebook, Google+ and Twitter, then a IFTTT integration helps to auto-publish on Tumblr.

> Internet trends

If you’re looking at scaling/growing something online, sooner or later you’ll end up reading Andrew Chen’s blog, the pope of growth hackers.

I’ve been following Andrew’s blog for the last few years, here’s the main trends he is seeing on content creation for 2014:

“A fresh stream of compelling content brings the bulk of any social product’s primary audience – a large group of passive consumers who just want to flip through all the cool photos, videos, tweets, and more, maybe commenting or liking a few they really feel strongly about.

-Andrew Chen

For him, it’s based on trends: Short-form, Ephemeral, Mobile, Curated Content, Anonymous Content. For “Oh I Like Art”, leveraging Google+ as a platform allows us to tackle the first four.

There’s no shortage of creators of art and information on the internet, but the volume of information makes it quite hard to cut through the noise: We need more curators.

Here’s a quote from Marc Andreessen (one of the most prominent Venture Capitalist in the US):

“On the Internet, there is no limitation to the number of outlets or voices in the news chorus. Therefore, quality can easily coexist with crap. All can thrive in their respective markets. And, the more noise, confusion, and crap — the more there is an increase of,  and corresponding need for, trusted guides, respected experts, and quality brands.

Remember: Most great businesses are not big businesses. This market is plenty big enough for thousands of high-margin, small to medium-sized businesses.

Marc Andreessen (full article here)

Here’s what’s happening in that space, note that I haven’t listed many of the players between 10,000 – 1,000,000. Note the numbers of Google+ vs numbers of Twitter/Facebook.

Sophie is currently looking into the 1,000,000-10,000 space, it seems to be that Google+ is a great media to start our kind of project. Also, I hope to reorganize the way we share very soon to centralize all art we find on our Tumblr, then share it automatically on Social Networks. I’m also toying with other ideas, including Art contests, building a mailing list and other things.

> “Life is short — you should spend time working with people you enjoy.” @EricSchmidt

Working on this project, I get to collaborate with people I like. I’ve met like minded designers, programmers and entrepreneurs. The other day, I took the stage at an EPITECH event (french engineering school) to pitch part of “Oh I Like Art” concept, the reception was quite positive, I intend to keep working this way. I’ll keep asking people that impress me to collaborate with us on this project, some will say no, but many say yes 🙂

Typography work performed by Mathia Sivel, a young french talent.

PS: If you like this project and wish to know more and/or give us a hand, shoot me an email: rodolphe@dutel.fr

/EDIT, March 17th 10pm:

This entry was posted on March 17th at 4:04pm GMT+1, the page had +1,995. At 10:00pm GMT+1 – same day – the page had +1,739. I’m currently investigating how a “256” drop just happened, since we never had any drop since Oct. 2013 🙂

//EDIT 2, March 18th 9am:

I asked around, it seems to be a known issue, it’s unclear whether it will be fixed. We’re up +94 overnight – organically – anyways 🙂

///EDIT 3, March 18th 1pm

All the missing +1 are back, we are boasting +2,111 🙂

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67 tweets & 1,030,000 followers: Meet @EarthPix !

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(Note: All figures are given as of Feb. 28th, 2014)

Meet Xavier (17 y/o Australian) and his associate Kyle (19 y/o American), they run wildly popular Twitter accounts, among which @HistoryInPics (1.14 M followers) and @EarthPics (1.03 M followers): They share beautiful pictures on Twitter.

“(On average) @HistoryInPics tweet gets retweeted more than 1,600 times and favorited 1,800 times”

The Atlantic

The Atlantic interviewed those two in January 2014, Xavier runs SwiftLab, apparently has a dozen employees focusing on Growth Hacking for clients including “several Fortune 500 companies”.  So far, the press has mostly been concern with photography copyright issues.

It’s an interesting debate, but I would rather concentrate on the fantastic growth of those two 1+ million followers accounts, here is what I know:

Twitter

According to Status People, @EarthPix has 8% fake followers, @HistoryInPics has 12% fake followers. which is fine considering they are both 1+ million (check out this article for reference points).

@EarthPix has been gradually growing for a year, yet it only lists 72 tweets, the oldest dated 22 Feb. 2014. I’ve been unable to find whether prior tweets, even though the account was open in Feb. 2013, I’m unsure whether they started from scratch and/or deleted some/all prior tweets.

@HistoryInPics has helped @EarthPix growth by RT his publication on Feb. 22, 23, 25. It also happened the other way around (History sharing Earth’s pics).

As Xavier (the owner) puts it in an interview, to grow a page: “Share them on established pages, and after 50,000 – 100,000 followers they’ve gained enough momentum to become ‘viral’ without further promotion.”

Here is a 3-month analysis of both accounts Twitter follower Growth according to twittercounter.com

Tumblr & Instagram

@EarthPix links to a Tumblr active April-September 2013 (about 90 Post, approx. 10/15 “Notes” by post). Also, @EarthPix has an active Instagram boasting 550,000+ followers and 1690 images, most of them stunning landscapes or baby animals started on Feb. 7th 2013, that’s about 5 images per day on average (they joined Twitter on Feb. 5th, 2013).

@HistoryInPics is also on Instagram but is inactive since July 2013 with only 28 posts.

Facebook

Interestingly, their presence on Facebook is minimal. HistoryinPics has been cross posting on Facebook since April 2013 has a mere 2,346 Likes. I haven’t found significant EarthPix presence on Facebook. It’s surprising, since The Atlantic reported Xavier and Kyle are pretty good at playing with Facebook since they sold the page “Long Romantic Walk To The Fridge” that had 10+ million likes. Are they currently nurturing other Facebook Pages linking to our two accounts? Could be.

 My Two cents:

As Xavier Di Petta said to The Altantic: “”We normally identify trends (or create them haha). We then turn them into a Twitter account”.

They are crafting audiences from scratch, banking on trends and sustaining medium term efforts. Seems like the formula has been successful:

– High Quality material (raising copyright questions), either hard to find or shockingly beautiful (including landscape, celebrities or cute pets). Links are almost all “picture-only”, with no other links (this avoids driving people off the page).

– Leverage existing accounts/assets to promote new ones, on Twitter or Cross platform (eg. Instagram to Twitter for EarthPix)

> Audience building, especially legit’ ones, is going to be huge. Creating taste-making communities through popular topics still create a lot of interest, those accounts are likely to be sold and/or monetize shortly. I’m also surprise they don’t have a (visible) foothold on Google+ or Pinterest, they are both visual-friendly medias.

> I’m dead curious to see how they grew both accounts from 0 to 100,000, it would be brilliant to have more information on this. Should you have any, do email me !

What do you think?

Rodolphe (@rdutel)

Why arts matters for everyone

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“Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.”

                                                               — Kurt Vonnegut, American writer

When you work in an office, it’s tough to find the time to practice art: As a kid, we explore and practice arts, we create! As adults don’t do that much anymore, and that’s a shame.

> We spend most of our time at desks, thinking, processing but hardly creating.

Over the past 3 years, I’ve been writing a lot on notepads, practicing writing and making a finished products by putting thoughts on paper.

Picking up new tangible skills help many people with their personal growth, giving an increased sense of purpose. For example, cooking classes are increasingly popular globally.

I really love the feeling that you can keep picking up new things, improving at all times! Yes, I have an achiever mentality). Anyways, let’s look at Dave’s story to see what I’m talking about:

> MEET DAVE THE CALLIGRAPHER

Visual arts and calligraphy are two things I love. Yep, I can’t draw, but I’m a very visual person and love sharing what I find. That’s why my friend Amaury and I created a curation page “Oh I Like That” on Google+.

While feeding Oh I Like That with awesome new things, I came across Dave Foster’s work, he’s a twenty-something Australian, one of the most gifted calligrapher I currently follow.

Dave created the work below for an article opener for Australian Geographic (Issue 116), showing 380+ Aboriginal tribes and dialects in their respective locations, tens of hours of work, if you like what you see, his work can be shipped internationally!

Dave sometime teaches workshops at a brilliant venue named The Distillery based in Darlinghurst, Sydney. I started looking around what they do, I was amazed:

“The Distillery is all about an idea: Heritage soul with modern minds. As craftspeople, we engage this through speciality design and production services.”

They combine modern design and branding with traditional hand-craft, what a talent! They produce logos, business cards, wedding invitations…

Creativity meets handcraft, vintage, ecommerce, typography: This business really resonates with me.

Even better, they don’t stop at producing great work, they go as far as teaching it. Folks like Dave Foster will share what he knows: Anyone can sign up for weekend classes and learn the basics of Letterpress (18 hours, € 450). Not the cheapest, yet you get to learn from one of the best in the world.

(Want to see more calligraphy work? Follow Oh I Like That and Go to Behance and find thousands of creations)
——–

Errrr, how do we do this again?

> Practicing arts & Learning new skills is just like everything else: you need to make time for it. Once you’re set on learning, the rest is easy.

More and more venues are opening globally to help people create, such as the FabLabs: “A fab lab (fabrication laboratory) is a small-scale workshop offering (personal) digital fabrication.[1][2]

Those places help you get things going by letting you tools and infrastructures, just the same way a library would lend you a book. They started at the MIT (Boston) and form a fast expanding network. Ultimately, you could image going to your local FabLab to 3D print a spare part for your car, your bicycle or a shirt of your design!

Think about all those slow-dying retail shops, and FedEx copying centers or local post office, they loose customers and relevance everyday, they could turn their premises into spaces allowing for creativity by providing the right tools.

Many office spaces have already been turned into coworking space, where people of all trades join to collaborate in the same space while working on their own thing. I foresee the same thing happening in the creativity / creation space. More about this on Chris Anderson’s book, he’s the former editor in chief at WIRED magazine.

I’ve been wondering for a while how to help people find what they are missing, in terms of arts and realizations. Of course, we have busy schedules, but I’m convinced that everyone can pick up hobbies, activities on the side.

Ideally, I would like to help people finding their own experiments by creating a platform listing many different experiences. What did you want to do as a kid? What did you wish to become when you were growing up? Putting together a common place where folks can list and explore all sorts of experiences just feels right. It could be a 2-hour exploration, a week-end investigation or a week-long immersion where you could learn the trade from the best… What do you guys think?

PS: Calling all Frenchies: In Paris, you can learn wood work, metal work, cooking… outside office hours (nights & weekends). Folks, you can probably get your company to pay for it, using DIF.

PPS: Hat tips to both Derek & Garr, they both blogged about Kurt and inspired this article.

-Rodolphe

Sailing across the Altantic (2/2)

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This post is the second part of my Atlantic crossing story,

Check out the first part if you haven’t already!

Fast facts:

– 23 days of non-stop sailing from Gran Canaria to St Lucia, Caribbean.

– At least 3,100 Nautical Miles travelled (about 6,000 km)

– A friendly crew of 3 Norwegians + myself sailing on sailing yacht “Dory” (16-meter long)

– 14 books read, less than 2 movies watched

Hello reader, this is a long post: Feel free to find the sections you like!

Setting sails

On October 24th, I started looking for boat to join an atlantic crossing, and a month later (after many adventures and preparations detailed here) we left Gran Canaria, on November 24th: Here is the story of what happened to us.

My longest previous sailing trip was of 4 or 5 days away at sea, earlier this year in South Africa. Since our transatlantic trip was meant to take around 3 weeks, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from this trip.

Our departure day – Nov. 24th – was incredible. About ten friends and family members came around to the marina to wish Trude, Jon, Thomas and myself farewell on our journey. At this point I had been living on Dory (our boat) for a week, which was great to get to know people and the boat better.

Our adventure – the ARC (“Atlantic Rally for Cruiser”) – is a big deal for the city of Las Palmas in Gran Canaria, about 200 boats leave the island on the same day, ARC is the world’s largest transatlantic cruising rally. They treated us very welll: fireworks on the previous night, a marching band and hundreds of locals and tourists watching us cast off on that sunday afternoon.

It’s a strange feeling to go out knowing that you’ll be back on land in about a month. It feels just like going out sailing for a day, but with a more adventurous taste to it.

Living aboard

Getting accustomed – Our first day was filled with excitement, about two hundred boats left at the same time! Our second and third days required some adjustments, we all felt the transition from the usual rhythm to the cruising life, slight dizziness and and feeling tired.

Living rhythm – We were 4, that’s two pairs, we worked by “watches”: In fair weather, we are on watch for 4 hours, then have 4 hours off. In rough weather, we’ll either have rolling watches (three people on deck with two hours on, one hour off) or shorter watches (3 hours on, 3 hours off). Obviously, all those routines apply 24/7. Here’s a typical schedule I would get, I’ll be on from 8pm-midnight, then off til 4am, back at it from 4-8am, nap until lunch and get back at it after 12, and so on and so forth.

IMG_8875

When you are on watch, yourjob is to trim the sails, operate the radar if needs be, fix minor things and to talk to the stars (optional). Dory is a well equiped boat, she has two autopilots: an electrical one, and a Hydrovane (a beautiful wind-based auto-steering mechanism), both were extremely useful: I have always hand-steered for my previous trips, yet this time we only hand-steered when we wanted or when things got out of hand: This makes a huge difference and much easier watches!

Food – Yum! Every day, we take a daily turn for cooking and galley cleaning. I got to serve my almost famous “Cape Town curry” more than once! As detailed on my previous blog post we left shore with great quantities of fruits, vegetable, and deep-frozen vacuum-packed meat (chicken/beef/pork/bacon).Usual snack include peanuts, chocolate and fruits (limited supply!). We all very much looked forward to dinner everynight.

Trude & Jon have been fantastic with the cooking, baking fresh bread every week!

For us, cooking was quite a performance: Dory was often hit by waves, and heeling over quite a bit. I have no memory of cooking without holding on to something. Some days, it was almost impossible to cook: Knifes flew, boiling water was spileed and tomato sauce had an on-going affair with the white couch. Challenging conditions and general state of exhaustion made us truly appreciate each and every meal, we all worked hard to have a happy and well-fed crew.

Energy – Dory has a water maker (making sea water drinkable!), 3 solar panels, 1 wind mill, 1 electrical generator (gasoline) and about 300L of Diesel in total, that was enough to make us energy sufficient for a month or more (electricity, water and fuel). Garbage disposal proved to be challenging too (more information on all-things garbage at sea here).

Personal Space – On a 16-meter long boat, it’s priceless to have your own space and I do like having my own space. Luckily, onboard Dory I had my own cabin and own bathroom: fantastic! I have no issue with sharing a room, yet sharing on a boat and for many weeks wouldn’t have been as confortable for me. One day, in the middle of the atlantic, we met a german boat that came close enough from Dory to say hi, they had a crew of… 10 people! even on a slightly larger boat, that’s a lot!

Another world

Communication blackout – Spending about a month with no email/phone communication was quite refreshing (our trip was GPS tracked through Google Maps Yellow brick for friends and family).

Funny thoughts, during this trip:

– I saw 0 ads/commercials (others than branded items on the boat)

– My phone was in airplane mode at all times (only used as a MP3 player)

– I watched less than 2 movies (although we had 100s on board and many devices)

– I wrote more than I had in years, I read 14 books

This helps you setting sometime aside to think and reflect. Would I enjoy living my life this way on the long run? I don’t think so, but it was well worth trying.

Weather is king – Weather is a strange thing. We had daily forecast via Satelitte Phone giving us updates for wind, swells, squalls, current… Those update are never accurate, they cover zones as large as an average european country.

It is what it is, the best you can do is to make an educated decision on how you will adapt your course and strategy to get the best (or avoid the worst) from it.

We sometime get smooth sunny sailing, yet there’s no norm. Weather will change fast, and local anomalies happen.

All your daily activities (especially eating & sleeping) are heavily affected by the weather. Small details like humidity have big impact on how you live aboard: my cabin’s hatch was leaking, it took me about 3 days to find a weather window to empty my cabin and dry it all, including clothing, papers, electronics and bank notes.

Another time, while lying down in my cabin, the boat took a strange turn and I ended up upside down: As I stretched my legs, they found the roof/ceiling.

Things break – A sailing boat is just a large floating toy. Skippers love thie boat so much that they take them out through the worst possible conditions many times over to try to find their limits. Eventually, things break! Especially through strong winds, nasty waves and a never ending streams of salt water.

We had a thorough boat check and preparation prior departure, still 2 weeks in the genoa halyard snapped right off: I had to climb up the mast (18 meters) while the moving through the waves to hook up a new one. Eventful!

Other boats reported various damages, including mast break, boom break, numerous auto-pilot failures, one engine fire and a numerous sail damages.

Eating & Sleeping – Our sleeping and eating patterns revolved around what the weather was doing. We kept all our watches on UTC time (that is, UK time) for the entire trip, it was quite odd readjusting the time once we got to Saint Lucia (4 hours time difference). On shore, usually get 8-9 hours sleep a night, onboard it takes some times to practice resting by 1, 2 or 4 hours break. After some time, just like in most situations: If you are tired enough, sleep will find you.

That odd activity rhythm that keeps going night and day need some fuel, we end up eating a lot on the boat: 3 meals plus snacking was the norm (no nutella was spared), in South Africa I was known to be the biggest eater onboard, this time competition for the title was stiff!

A little bit of Magic

Sailing helps you discover a new kind of magic. Not all of it can be written down, I’ll try my best to explain it:

“All by myself…” – We sat in the cockpit at all possible hours of the day, it was fantastic. You get to see the stars, the milky way, the moon and dozens of shooting stars for hours. Below your feet, many thousands of meters of depth with strange and unknown creatures. Nothing around you, yet your tiny yacht is making way on a huge ocean. It’s a unique and privilege feeling to simultaneously have a huge and tiny space for yourself.

Wild life – Spotting dolphin pods, swimming around Dory’s bow at dusk, being their playful selves. Also great to spot wild birds, hundred of miles offshore, you get to wonder how they got there.

At night, Dory would often have fluorescent plankton in its wake, a beautiful bright green flow of light. We also got many fly fish around us, one of them decided to flight straight for me and landed on my shoulder. Not painful but very surprising to be hit by something in the middle of a conversation during a dark night!

IMG_1786

Madness – You and your crew are on your own. About half way through the trip, we took a swim on a quiet day. Strange feeling to bath and dip in those waters, when closest land is over a week of sailing in any direction. The largest fish caught by an ARC boat this year was a 2.45 meters long swordfish. Morgengray, another Norwegian boat, was fishing one day, when they realized they had hooked on an ORCA (yes, like “Free Willy” Orca). They are HUGE!

Another ARC boat was followed by a scary-sized Hammer shark, and most boats had curious whales around them.

ARC is one of the safest way to go across, since 200 boats leave on the same day towards the same island. In theory, you’re never far from the others, also “not far” can be a few days away. Sailing is like mountaineering, when you start your trip there’s no “pause button”, you need to make it to destination safely, and almost always without assistance.

Think about it: cars can break and stop, planes can land, divers can go back to the surface. Sail boats must keep moving, from the moment they cast off until they are moored/secured. Sailing is a truly immersive experience in the long run, constant motion for almost a month is a unique feeling.

In 2009, finishing Paris Marathon felt like a long-term project and effort, weeks of preparation and a tough sustained effort on the day. Sailing redefines long term, you live around sailing instead or running around your routine. Both are extremly rewarding and quite humbling.

Getting back to shore

On the morning of the last day, our 23rd day, we were closing in on Rodney Bay, St Lucia, about to finish a long and great trip. Getting back to shore was very exciting, it’s hard to describe how much exitement and exhaustion affected us. ARC team welcomed us on Deck with a glass on Rhum and a fruit basket! Excitment kept us up on the night prior to arrival, and we celebrated the end of our journey properly, spending very little time napping over 48 hours.

It took us some time to re-adapt. Here are some of the weird things that happen when you reach land after 3+ weeks at sea:

– Urge to eat a burger. “Yes m’am, I’ll take extra bacon!”

– Walking for more than 5 meters is strange, going for a long walk is exhausting

– Cannot help holding on to something when cooking / going to the bathroom

– Feeling slightly off balance for the first days

– Getting ridiculously exciting about good coffee and fresh laundry

– Develop ping a suspicious attitude towards any sailing-related sound (must keep an eye out!)

– Talking to new people is such a novelty

– Opening your emails will be overwhelming.

Closing thoughts

If you are still reading, I guess you enjoy travelling and exploring. 70% of the world is covered by water: make sure you get to experience life afloat.

It’s an uppercut outside of your comfort zone, feeling amazed and humbled at the same time. We have seen dead-flat water and 14+ meters high waves on the same trip, together we managed to get a 16-meter long toy across one of the largest oceans.

Most of my time and activities are on land, I still look forward to set aside weeks and months in the years to come for sailing trips. This taught me a lot about resilience, dedication, practical thinking and creativity.

One more thing: This trip exceeded my expectations by far. Sailing is exhilarating, sailing with great and passionate people is paradise. Special mention to Jon & Trude, welcoming me on their boat and making us feel like a big family. They will sail Dory through Panama Canal to explore the Pacific Ocean. Follow their adventures on Dory’s blog!

Sailing across the Altantic (1/2)

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I wrote this post before we left (on November 24th), follow us via GPS here (Yacht DORY, from Norway) and stay tuned for the full report once I get back on land

### At the bottom of this post, you will find a link to part 2/2 ###

So I’ve decided to sail across the Atlantic. In January-May, I spent 3 months learning how to sail in South Africa and that learning should be put to good use, otherwise there’s no point, is there?

After some quick research, I decided to join 270 boats crossing the atlantic with the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) in November 2013:

“Every November since 1986 the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) has set sail from Las Palmas, bound 2,700 nautical miles westward across the Atlantic to the Caribbean.”

1) How to find a boat

Ok, that’s the tricky part. Since May 2013, I have some decent sailing qualification (RYA Offshore Yachtmaster), still the competition is fierce: There’s at least a 3:1 ratio between folks looking for a crossing and yachts offerings spots. Most skippers will start gathering crews up to one year prior to departure. Last week, I spent a few nights at a hostel where 7 other people were looking to for a boat.

So, what’s the best way to convince people that you are the best possible crew to cross the Atlantic when you don’t know anyone? Let’s email people!

On October 24th (exactly one month prior to ARC’s start), I started contacting people:

270 boats joined ARC 2013, if you take out the Racing class (too serious) that’s 234 boats left. Finding contact emails for boat owner is very tricky, some have a blog yet even then their emails aren’t always featured.

On 27 emails sent, I got 19 replies: 70% ratio is quite nice. 17 didn’t have any spot but agreed to keep an eye out, another 2 boats agreed to meet me for an interview in Gran Canaria.

I booked a one way tickets to Grand Canaria, packed my stuff and printed business cards. If all else fails, they will come in handy when I walk the docks.

After two very nice interviews, I got accepted onboard Dory, she is a Bavaria 47 skipped by Jon & Trude, a very nice couple from Norway. Meet Dory:

2) What have I packed?

Crossing should take us about 3 weeks, going through cold temperatures in the middle of the Atlantic at night to extremely warm in the Caribbean. Humidity is the only constant here.

> What to bring: I made a list of everything I took with me. I’ve already lost a few items, the usual.

Shopping for food & supplies turned out to be interesting. When sailing for a long time, you need to make sure to manage your electricity and keep your batteries happy. Dory also has a Watermaker (useful yet unreliable at times, turns salty water into drinkable water).

We have 3 Solar panels and 1 windmill and that should (theoretically) make us independent, energy-wise.

3) How to find sponsors

Earlier this year, I had the good fortune to be sponsored by Decathlon for my adventures. This time, I had very last minute discussions with some friends running startup that could use some PR exposure.

Our good friends from Trampolinn – a free home exchange community will accompany me for the journey, thanks guys!

Also, Fatim from New Work Lab in Casablanca is also endorsing the trip, thanks too !

4) How do you prepare for a crossing?

Large quantity of food and water, we are 4 people on the water for about 3 weeks. On the picture, about half of our food (and Trude looking delighted), including large amounts of Nutella

5) What’s next

Well we are off on Sunday 24th, estimated arrival time about Dec. 15, give or take 5 days. I will be writing another article once I get there, in the mean time  follow us via GPS here (Yacht DORY, from Norway).

See you on the other side!

#EDIT: 23 days after, we made it! Read the 2nd and last part here

Rodolphe.

6 Answers About Happiness

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Are You Happy?

Over the last 3 years, I consumed numerous articles, books and videos on Happiness. It has become a big deal:

In September 2013, 1000 books about happiness came out on Amazon in that month alone. Over 5,000 motivation speakers are earning collectively $1 billion (reference):

> Why has Happiness become so important in our lives?

The western world has now achieved a level of comfort that let us explore happiness., assisted by research (neuroscience, sociology…). Also, media is helping it to snowball.

 Last week, Stanford University gathered 5 experts on happiness to host a panel discussion (1:28:33 video, link below), 6 themes stood out:

1) Are certain people hardwired for happiness?

We all have different traits: There are genetic factors, our upbringing also plays a huge role.

Events make happiness fluctuate: Our habits, what you do in your day to day life: exercise, meditate, focus on relationships;

Getty Images/Thinkstock

2) How does Stress affect our daily lives?

Stress can be positive: you should see it as a spectrum of possibilities

Stress (2)

In stressful / life threatening situations (e.g. having advanced cancer), mortality might change your focus on what is truly important for you: “what am I on earth for?”

Focusing  your time on a passion or “calling” makes you a lot happier than following what’s on others’ calendars: Many people are doing something for someone else, such as getting a good job for parents/society. Plenty of people have a job that looks good but feels bad.

3) How is a Happy life different than a Meaningful life?

Happy & Meaningful are interlinked and positively correlated:

Happy-meaningful

4) Do we set the happiness bar too high?

In the West, the norm is to show happiness and hide unhappiness: When people are in groups, it is desirable to show you are happy.

Yet you can’t be happy at all times: negative emotions also have their value (anger, sadness…) They are only a problem when they become chronic.

Image: imgrind.com

5) How does money affect happiness?

Image: mazine.de

Money is related to happiness, yet the correlation is not as big as we think:

As long as you cover your basic needs, extra money doesn’t provide such a marginal difference for happiness, it’s called Easterlin Paradox.

Money doesn’t make you happy: how you spend it does. Such as spending on experiences, charity, personal growth, community, traveling is different than buying an object. Consider those two experiences:

Experience 1: Scientists asked people about their buying practices:  “Would you engage in this experience if you could tell no one about it ?” In other words, are you experimenting/buying things for yourself, or as a social trophy? (research here)

Experience 2:  When asking people “Say we give you $100, how would you spent it?”: Those spending money on an experience report higher happiness than those spending money on an object. (research here)

“Bertrand Russell used to say, ‘Beggars do not envy millionaires, though of course they will envy other beggars who are more successful‘” says psychologist Cameron Anderson

6) What is the Impact of technology on happiness?

Tech. Advantages:

– For shy people, or with rare interest/condition, social media helps you connect with peers you couldn’t reach out to any other way.

– If you are stressed: the most powerful buffer for stress is genuine social support. People that truly care for you, Social support is #1.

– If you share goals meaningful to you and others endorse/support them, technology can help you build something larger than yourself

 Tech. Disadvantages:

– In the Time poll, 60% of respondents said they do not feel better about themselves after spending time on social media.

– Social Media can be a distraction from the moment and create FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), it’s crazy to see most of Gen-Yers being affected by this

– Technology lacks of interpersonal connection, keeps you from being empathic: Face to Face communication is always best!

Image: 5min.by

BONUS: Most important ingredients for a happy life

Image: Ynel Alim

Meaning: Think about how you are spending your time, and what meaning it has for you

Support system: Do you feel that your actions are likely to be meaningful for people around you

Sleep is key to restore and maintain health: our brain, mind and body get recharged.

Having a Sense of Control in your life: Experiencing Personal Growth, engage in new experiences, start new relationships.

Gratitude: You feel it when you appreciate what you have, feel humble and connected. Try it by writing gratitude letters to those who helped you. Appreciating what you have is great to combat adaptation and steering away from wanting more what you don’t have.

Increase meaningfulness: Authenticity/genuineness is key, the more you have it, the higher probability for good things to happen. It is important to recognize when you are going through tough time and reach out for help, it’s equally important to help others when they need it.

If you like this, share the happiness!

-Rodolphe

PS: Standford 1h28min video

What hitchhiking through Poland taught me

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dessin

“Here I am, standing in the middle of nowhere in Poland holding a sign to hitch a ride…

…sweat dripping, car after car rushing by.. rain is coming in too.

What the hell am I doing here…”

Things didn’t look too good then. But let me tell you this story from the start:

In April 2012, I bought tickets to Poland so that I could explore the country by myself, couchsurfing and hitchhiking for 10 days.

Couchsurfing is the largest travel community online, allowing you to “surf” members’ couches. By then, I had already couch surfed in Morocco, Portugal, Spain, Estonia…

I was excited to leave the office for 10 days to try and hitchhike my way through Poland. Starting in Warsaw I headed to Krakow, as well as Wroclaw to grab a bus that would take me to Prague, Czech Republic.

The journey

I spent my first two days in Warsaw at Marcin’s house, a great guy who took me around the city for drinks with his friends, Couchsurfing’s power is in the encounters you make; 99% of the time you will end up going places and meeting people that you would have never met otherwise.

After an eventful stay in Warsaw, it was time for me to hit the road and go to Krakow. I knew very little about hitchhiking, so I figured that a large piece of cardboard and a marker pen would be a good start. I started making my way, by bus then on foot, to a suitable spot. I had a rough idea of where the main roads were, so I positioned myself near the highway sign which read “Radom”, a city on the way to Krakow.

On my way to Krakow

Oh! I forgot to mention that the drive from Warsaw to Krakow takes about 4 hours. Now, taking on a hitchhiker is a commitment, however taking on a hitchhiker for… 4 hours…

It was 7.30 am on a Bank Holiday (Labour Day), so very few cars were passing by. I started holding my sign up high, and I smiled. Amazingly enough, not five minutes later, an Audi A3 pulled over. The driver was a guy my age, a cool Polish fireman on his way to Radom (pretty much the halfway mark towards Krakow): Sweet! He couldn’t speak English so we had a chat in German about the Mercedes cars he collects and repairs, great guy really.

As agreed, I was dropped off in the countryside near Radom and had to find a car in what seemed the middle of nowhere. 20 minutes later, two guys driving by the scenic polish countryside pulled over, and took me all the way to Krakow!

I was amazed by how smoothly everything was running, it may start to sound like it was just too easy…

Two other couchsurfing hosts in Krakow who were kind enough to show me around day and night, then once more, it was time for me to leave for Wroclaw (about 3 hours drive).

Going back on the road had me pretty excited and I crafted another sign from a piece of cardboard, which I received from a bar.

Friends took me to an artificial lake in Krakow

So, here I was in a new spot, asking drivers to have me tag along with them for 3 hours. As I stood on the shoulder of the road, stretching my arms to hold up my sign, I started smiling.

> After the first hour, I started moving up and down the road to keep myself entertained.

> After two hours, I started to capture the attention of people driving the opposite way, in the odd chance they would turn around and fetch me! Most people looked at me smiling, but shook their heads meaning “no”, with an apologetic smile.

>  After three hours, I took my 7-year old iPod out to put some music on, and started dancing with my sign; it wasn’t pretty.

> After four hours, it started raining and my mind started to wonder about different options. I was starting to get tired and was having a harder time making eye contact with every single driver, which I think is essential.

> After four hours and twenty five minutes, a car finally pulled over. Yes! I ran towards the vehicle while vigorously pointing at my sign with a slight look of desperation in my eyes. We exchanged a few words and it appeared they had misunderstood me after all, they couldn’t help me and had to drive away.

There I was, feeling exhausted as I watched them drive off. So, I did the only thing I could think of: I held my sign up high and kept smiling at every single car passing by.

Believe it or not, just two minutes later, after four hours and twenty-ish minutes, another car pulled over and Justyna (plus her baby Karol and a friend) drove me all the way to Wroclaw.

When I got back home, I sent a “thank you” message to Justyna on Facebook, which they did reply to eventually, about 18 months later. We still keep an eye on each other’s activities today.

PS: After Wroclaw, I took a bus to Prague. Metallica was playing the Black Album that night, cheap tickets were available, oh yeah!

#####

Attitude is king

Everything we do is a number’s game. For me, showing the right attitude means being authentic and dedicated. Believe in what you do and keep at it! Good things will happen! This also requires you to practice being flexible. Try to get feedback any chance you get!

> Attitude shows! You can almost smell it on some people. Doing what you love with a passion will set you apart in nearly all situations. You will be happier about what you do and that makes all the difference

P1080230

Uncertainty Doesn’t Need to be Unpleasant

Finding my way through Poland over the course of 10 days, alone, might not sound like your ideal vacation. Really though, I do travel with others much more often than I travel alone. Yet, you will soon realize that it is when you travel alone without a set plan that you make the most encounters. Being flexible in your travels lets you experience a new and mysterious city with locals, learning things no ordinary tourist would have the chance to see.

I probably missed out on numbers of historical buildings, but hitchhiking and couchsurfing had me interacting with Polish people most hours of the day, helping me to discover people and places I couldn’t have found on your typical vacation.

> Not knowing what will happen next makes life exciting for some, stressful for others. Looking back, we’ll all agree that no one can predict how life will turn out to be: Be prepared to embrace uncertainty.)

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“What is the worst that could happen?”

Ask yourself this question, and ask it often. What is the worst that could happen? If I hadn’t been picked up, what then? An extra night at a ho(s)tel or maybe catching the next bus. This was just a short trek through urban Europe, where most things can be fixed easily. Since then, I’ve done a few solo travels in Colombia – arguably more dangerous – yet I found myself in a similar setup to Poland.

> Careers are non-linear, we all deal with uncertainty in our daily lives. You might get let go, there’s only so much one can control. Ask yourself this question often, and be thorough.

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PS: I took all photos during my Polish Trip, drawing by A. Dutel. If you like article this, share it!

– Rodolphe