25 years ago. Romania. Caracal. Internet did not penetrate life yet. We were living in a small neighborhood. There were (and still aren’t) communities (in the real meaning) in Romania. Potentially there could be some in the countryside where people are interdependent but not in the city. Communism had created such suspicious monsters. Nobody trusted anybody and that was it. Everyone thought the rest would heart or harm them and nobody had good intentions. Children lived like that, saw that way of living in their parents, the values they inherited were mainly about secrets and how to keep them, how to never trust someone, how to always protect yourself from everyone in all aspects – either in playing, in school or on the way to and back from school (as these were the main activities of kids). Not too many books available (not even in the library), no computers and no trust.  In this overly suspicious and mean society, most of the kids developed hyper competitive skills. Some transformed into fighting (physically and imposing oneself as an alpha in primitive times), some (especially those told by parents that only by education one can overcome the poverty – as this was the biggest issue of the post communist times) took a leap of faith and put all energy into studying (as I did). Not too much playing, but a lot of effort into learning how to focus and then how to learn. I remember I was not doing very well in math. It seemed overwhelming to me. I could barely keep up in school and I could not do my homework – I was getting into a state of anxiety the very moment I opened the notebook. That very moment simply blocked me. I just could not do it. The initial moment was to try and remember exactly what was done in class and the process was similar to looking thru pictures to find the one you need. It was not a comprehensive process but rather an automated search engine. I struggled like that for some time as I did not know how to explain it and to whom (we were 36 children in class and, quite expectedly, the teacher dis not have time to spend with each of us…). Until one day… I opened my notebook and … I stopped… I refrained from applying my search memory method and simply emptied my mind. I looked at the exercise and imposed myself, with a major focusing effort to really understand what was the problem I needed to solve and then to think what could I do. How and from which end I should tackle the problem. I did not finish my homework that day. I only solved one problem but I can still remember the fulfillment feeling. I had spend a lot of time in thinking and making a decision, choosing the method, trying consciously several paths… but I had done it in the most comprehensive and logical manner! It finally made sense! To me the biggest learning was that it makes sense to pause,to take time and analyze, make the judgment and try few methods before making the final decision. Next day in school the teacher thought she could give me a good punishment and asked me to solve all unsolved problems in front of the class (at the time, humiliation was a well known and often applied method to “encourage” lazy ones…) – well, the surprise was I solved all problems and explained them in a way that even the most intellectually challenged colleague understood the logic! Result: content colleagues, shocked teacher, confident me. Practicing (it was thought back then, based on the education principles at the time… and still is… that practice is the mother of all learning…) was what I embraced. And I would practice and practice and practice. Many times I lost my focus and it was hard to get it back. But in time, once I mastered the focus, I started feeling confident about expressing my thoughts. And I slowly, here and there, introduced expressions of my own feeling, said in a way I could best burn my emotions into words. I was still hesitant to let it all out freely as, in a state of preserving my identity, thinking and feeling, I still refrained and waited for the reaction of the teacher and colleagues. It came quite soon and, unexpectedly, I was encouraged to write more. I was given more themes. I was challenged further. Colleagues started being jealous. Some liked it and asked my notebook so they can read the essay upfront. Soon, some from other classes knew my name. The teacher had taken my notes and read them in the staff room. Soon teachers from secondary school knew my name and stopped me on the corridor to congratulate me. By the end of the elementary school, I was asked to prepare a keynote and give it in front of the entire school (800 kids and their parents, my mother was not there…) I can still feel my knees trembling, my small steps towards the mike when my name was called by the school principal, I can still feel how I lost the lines when reading my speech, how I felt I’m out of breath in the middle of the note, how I tried to look towards the audience and got immediately scared by the massive presence… I can still hear the echo of my voice flying above my neighborhood, sending strength, motivation, hope and gratitude to each and every uncovered ear, open mind and warm heart. And more, the applauses of all those little hands, the smiles and encouraging words of all parents, the touching looks everyone gave me on my way home… they all stayed with me all these years. Later, in secondary school, we started having the year end ceremonies in the city centre, the house of army. There, in a huge hall accommodating more than thousand seats, I was asked year after year to give the keynote. It was me, one of them, talking to them about how gratitude, perseverance,  hope, power of example and nurturing integrity will give us in time the fulfillment we all aim for in life. I was barely 10 when I started and, by the age of 15, my words were the flavor every kid and parent were left with over the 3 months summer vacation, they were the conclusion, the wrap up, the very essence and the reason to further thrive in school and life. My words touched hundreds of hearts, even those of the city’s bullies. I made myself a speaker in early days but that could be because so many wonderful people were by my side, encouraging and putting their own trust in me. I overcome my condition, even though my mother was not in the room but in the factory, working like a dog to put food on the table and cloths on our bodies. After 25 years, I come to myself and dare to continue that path. It’s a tribute to my beloved mother and father, who so early left but heavenly resting. It is a tribute to my hardest times but those that reduced me to my own essence and thought me what is important, what to keep and what to let go. It is a tribute to my dream, that of touching someone’s sensitivity and helping to make a constructive shift in thinking, transforming himself towards the best formula one can be. And if I can still do that for one human being only, then I can become through myself and the other, contributing to a whole better place for one to leave in.