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EEPA National Winners 2017 – Investing in entrepreneurial skills

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Time to meet the next category of European projects competing to be on the EEPA 2017 shortlist! Look here if you missed Category 1, but today it is the turn of Category 2: Investing in entrepreneurial skills.

This category recognises initiatives that improve entrepreneurial and managerial skills. In 2016 the prize was won by Enterprise Educators Academe from the United Kingdom, for their project working to embed entrepreneurship into education curriculums.

This year there are 9 outstanding European projects competing in this category. Best of luck to all the projects and we look forward to finding out who is on the EEPA 2017 shortlist!

Belgium: VentureLab – Student Entrepreneurship for Change

Bulgaria: Implement a Strategy for local development in the municipality of Ardino and implementation process of the Strategy for Community-led local development in the municipalities of Ardino and Djebel

Cyprus: Sound Labor Relations, Contemporary Enterprises  

Estonia: Tech Sisters & Digigirls

Ireland: A Multidisciplinary Approach to Creating an Entrepreneurial Mindset Amongst Engineers: The DkIT BSc (Hons) in Engineering Entrepreneurship

Latvia: University of Latvia Student Business Incubator

Lithuania: Youth Entrepreneurship Education Program – ATVERK

Malta: The Maltese Business Story Initiative

Sweden: Business Generator

*Portuguese national winners will be announced after the national ceremony has taken place.

European Innovation Scoreboard

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Ever wondered how innovative your country is? What about in comparison to its neighbours or overall in the region? The European Innovation Scoreboard is a European Commission initiative that provides a comparative analysis of innovation performance in EU countries, other European countries, and regional neighbours. It assesses relative strengths and weaknesses of national innovation systems and helps countries identify areas they need to address.

The Regional Innovation Scoreboard is a regional extension of the European Innovation Scoreboard, assessing the innovation performance of European regions based on a limited number of indicators.

European Innovation Scoreboard 2017

The 2017 edition of the Scoreboard presents a refined analytical framework. Rankings are therefore not directly comparable with previous editions, but time series using the new analytical framework allow performance to be tracked over time. New indicators capture investments in skills, digital readiness, entrepreneurship, and public-private innovation partnerships. In addition, a new toolbox with contextual data can be used to analyse and compare structural differences between countries.

The new scoreboard reveals that EU innovation performance continues to increase, especially due to improvements in human resources, the innovation-friendly environment, own-resource investments, and attractive research systems. Sweden remains the EU innovation leader, followed by Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, the UK, and Germany. Lithuania, Malta, the UK, the Netherlands, and Austria are the fastest growing innovators.

In a global comparison, the EU is catching up with Canada and the US, but South Korea and Japan are pulling ahead. China shows the fastest progress among international competitors.

Interested in finding out more? Have a look at country profiles, an interactive online score board and find out who is leading innovation in Europe.

https://ec.europa.eu

The Digital Assembly 2017

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The Digital Assembly 2017 will take place on 15 and 16 June in Valletta, Malta. It is an event co-organised by the European Commission and the Maltese Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

The Digital Assembly 2017, is an opportunity for stakeholders to debate, take stock and look ahead at how Europe and how its partners around the world are preparing for this digital transformation. It will also be an opportunity to have dialogue on the benefits of the Digital Union for citizens with a special focus on younger generations.

The Assembly will kick off on 15 June with a networking lunch, followed by a high-level opening ceremony and international panel discussions.

On Friday 16 June, four thematic working sessions will focus on the key priorities:

The Digital Assembly 2017 will end with a panel of young people discussing expectations and ideas for the digital economy and society, before a closing ceremony.

Read the programme here.

Be sure to follow the event on Twitter with the hashtag: #da17eu and live web streaming of the event!

For more information: https://ec.europa.eu

Ideas from Europe 2017 – Joint Development. Shared Purpose.

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Ideas from Europe 2017 is about to begin! So what can you expect and what are the key dates that you need to remember?

Ideas from Europe was launched in 2015 as a joint initiative of the SME Envoy network and the Dutch government, and will soon become a formal not-for-profit foundation based in the Netherlands in order to continue its activities at European level.

The primary aim of Ideas from Europe, was to shine light on European visionary entrepreneurs – we believe that most of the solutions to our global challenges are already out there, in the hands of visionary entrepreneurs.

The 2017-2018 edition of Ideas from Europe will kick off on 6 April 2017 in Malta, and marks the start of a new search for potential solutions to global challenges. All 27 EU Member States are involved in searching for innovative ideas and the entrepreneurs behind them, and together with Ideas from Europe will give them the opportunity to present their ideas on a European stage. The 2017-2018 programme will continue with a scaling up of ideas from 2016, which will run in parallel with the new search from May to November 2017.

The semi-finals will be held during the SME Assembly 2017 in late November 2017 in Tallinn, Estonia, which will be complemented by a public vote across the EU to help find the top ideas in Europe.

For more information on Ideas from Europe be sure to keep checking their website for updates.

Do you have an idea that could compete on European level? Do you think you have a potential solution to a global challenge? Why not get in touch with Ideas from Europe and enter your idea for consideration? Contact them for information at info@ideasfrom.eu.

Look here for more information on previous speakers.

Ideas from Malta – Will we see you there?

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Calling all innovators! Do you know what is going to be happening in Malta on the 7th of March 2017?

The Ideas from Malta event is a collection of Ideas From Europe and Malta’s entries for business solutions to global challenges. If you are working on an idea that solves a global challenge, this is your opportunity to get recognised and gain the support you need to maximise impact. You can also nominate others.

From power, water & housing to education, healthcare & finance, if you are a Maltese / Dual citizen or resident of Malta building a solution to societal and environmental issues, we want you! Whilst the official deadline has passed you can still submit your ideas for consideration, feedback and guidance here.

Shortlisted innovators will be invited to present their idea at an event to be held in Malta on 7th March 2017. The winner will be Malta’s representative for Ideas from Europe. All innovators who submit an idea will be reviewed and provided with opportunities to further their development, including access to mentors, internships, partners and investors.

This is a unique opportunity to gain access to the partners and funding you need to reach your goals. Let’s help you get there and maybe even further: to the Ideas from Europe finals taking place at the SME Assembly 2017 in Tallinn.

For more information: www.ideasfrommalta.com

The importance of creativity in business

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The blog post on 30 May, talked about creativity being at the heart of scaling up, but creativity is also at the heart of developing and building any business, as Dr Leonie Baldacchino, Director of the Edward de Bono Institute for the Design and Development of Thinking at the University of Malta, explains in this interview.

At the SME Assembly in Luxembourg last November you explained how everyone can be more creative. Could you give a brief overview of how this can be achieved?

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I view creativity as a skill.  Since a skill is an ability that is learned through practice, I believe that everyone can be more creative by engaging in regular creative thinking exercises.  

Let’s take swimming as an analogy.  Human beings are born with the potential to learn how to swim but, in order to become competent swimmers, they must first acquire basic swimming skills, followed by many hours of training in the pool to enhance their technique, strength and endurance. Similarly, human beings are born with the potential to be creative, but attaining this potential requires skill acquisition followed by regular practice to internalise creative thinking skills and develop expertise.  

One of the simplest exercises that one can carry out to enhance creativity is the application of divergent thinking to everyday objects. Divergent thinking refers to the generation of multiple responses or solutions to a particular stimulus or problem. This is regarded as a key skill in creativity as it enables individuals to generate many different ideas. Getting into the habit of generating alternatives by, for example, thinking of many different (and unusual) uses for common items like a sock, a wheel or a piece of paper, enhances one of the most basic skills in creativity.

Many tools and techniques are available to help us be more creative. Some may seem awkward or difficult to the uninitiated but, just like swimming becomes effortless to the swimmer who glides through the water after mastering the relevant techniques, creativity becomes second nature to individuals who make use of creative thinking tools on a regular basis.

A great deal has been written about innovation and its importance for entrepreneurs. How does this differ from creativity and how do you see the role of creativity in business?

I view creativity and innovation as overlapping constructs at two ends of the creative process.  Creativity is the first stage in the creative process and occurs when an individual has an idea that is both new and useful. Innovation is the last stage of the process and refers to the implementation of a creative idea in order to derive value. Innovations can take various forms, including products, services, processes and technologies. The defining feature is that they must be different from and better than what is already available in a particular context. Therefore, before ideas are implemented, they are generally screened to determine their novelty, added-value, feasibility and compatibility with business objectives to ensure their appropriateness for particular settings.    

It has become widely accepted that creativity and innovation are crucial for business success, especially in the ever-changing and uncertain world which we live in today.  Creative thinking is required to regularly come up with new ideas to solve problems that may arise, and to address the challenges brought about by changing customer requirements, market structures, or competitive fields.  However, the reactive function of creativity in the face of change is only one half of the picture.  Creativity is also concerned with instigating change on the basis of a new idea or concept, not because there is a problem to solve, but because an opportunity for improvement has been recognised.  Entrepreneurs who run high-growth businesses do not simply adapt to changes in their environment, but are actively involved in disrupting and creating new markets, i.e., they are trendsetters, not followers.  This proactive side of creativity is especially important in today’s highly competitive business world in which players are constantly striving for that added advantage, thus rendering the mere maintenance of one’s current position insufficient.  

Some businesses outsource their R & D and their product development but it seems likely you would not suggest this solution, but would, rather, encourage the business to build their capacity for creativity. Can you offer some guidance on increasing creative capacity across a business as a whole?

There are many ways in which entrepreneurs and managers can increase the creative capacity of their businesses.  First, they must realise that they have a very important role to play in providing top-down support for creativity and innovation as their beliefs, attitudes and behaviours invariably lay the foundations on which their organisation’s practices and policies are built.  Second, they should appreciate that, if given the opportunity, each and every member of an organisation has the potential to contribute to the creative capacity of a business, as they often have ideas that could lead to an improvement in some aspect of the organisation.

Business leaders must therefore walk the walk by creating a climate that is characterised by a high level of trust and open communication across all levels to foster creativity and innovation.  Furthermore they should actively encourage idea generation, risk-taking and experimentation, and they should treat failures that are made in the pursuit of innovation as learning opportunities.  Furthermore, a system must be in place to facilitate the generation, communication, evaluation and implementation of employee ideas. Such systems, which are generally referred to as idea management or innovation management systems, are a set of procedures that dictate what should happen when employees have ideas that they would like to propose to their organisation.  Many people believe that structures and procedures are detrimental to creativity and innovation, but without such a system, ideas are likely to fizzle out and die before they can ever be implemented.

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You’ve already described the creativity process and how to build and develop creativity as a skill set, could you now give a brief outline of the academic programmes in this field that you run at the University of Malta.

The Edward de Bono Institute for the Design and Development of Thinking at the University of Malta offers a Master in Creativity and Innovation, a part-time evening Diploma in Creativity, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, as well as a PhD programme in these subject areas.

The Master in Creativity and Innovation is an interdisciplinary programme designed to assist participants to expand their perception, employ creative skills, develop ideas individually and within teams, sustain a creative climate and manage innovation.  This programme attracts professionals from a broad base of disciplines from the local and international scene.  

The Diploma in Creativity, Innovation and Entrepreneurship is aimed at individuals who would like to further their education and improve their career prospects but are not in a position to attend full-time day courses due to other commitments. Students shall develop knowledge, transferable skills and attitudes concerning creativity and idea generation, innovation (including innovation management), and entrepreneurship.  

The PhD programme is aimed at individuals who would like to undertake research at a Doctoral level in one of the Institute’s subject areas, namely creativity, innovation (including innovation management), entrepreneurship, or foresight (futures studies).

For further information:

 

SME Week Newsletter: Issue #2

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Entrepreneurs, national EEPA winners, competitions, and more about business in the EU

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This month is a busy one as we continue to gear up for SME Week this November. June sees the closure of all national European Enterprise Promotion Awards (EEPA) competitions in time for the European closing date of 1 July. Find out if you still have a chance to enter and win one of the prestigious European awards by searching the deadlines in the article below. Also, meet Kenny, our new Entrepreneur in Residence, and enter or promote our youth essay competition. Read more >>

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“I want to wake up with energy, drive and curiosity for what life will bring next.”

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In his final column as May’s Entrepreneur in Residence (EiR), Nathan Farrugia of Ultimate Performance offers his advice for those considering following in his footsteps and stepping out on their own in business.

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Five frogs on a log. One decides to jump in. How many frogs left on the log…..? Five, because there’s a big difference between ‘deciding’ and ‘doing’.

So thinking leads to deciding, but you can’t stop there. You need to act with confidence and determination. How? Firstly, surround yourself with the right people at different times of the business cycle. Our mind plays tricks on us and the little voices of doubt and self criticism can kill our confidence, so we need to have both strategists and cheerleaders around us all the time. Taking calculated risks is important to get us into flow. The easy option won’t help us grow, or prepare us for the inevitable storm. Practice breaking small things before you play with the valuable things. Get experience in a contained space, but do get out of your comfort zone often and consistently. Don’t get amygdala hijack from being too stretched and afraid to act, or you’ll die from paralysis. Don’t overanalyse, yet do your homework well. Remain focussed on your journey, and don’t get sidetracked by your short term goals. Goals are good to take stock of progress. Slalom gracefully around them if they seem to take you off course.

The most important thing, and the biggest source of failure of businesses that solve global problems is this: they remained a dream. Once you have a vision, have designed a plan, and raised the resources to implement it, GO FOR IT! Even if it fails, the worst case scenario is that you’ve gained the opportunity to learn something new.

Pros and cons

Of course, there are pros and cons to starting your own business. The pros of being in control of your destiny are the main reasons to set up your own business. Even as a CEO of a large organisation that I helped create, there was always a sense that I was a cog in a big wheel.

I still felt 100% responsible and I was more than just an employee, but creating something you know will be entirely yours sparks something special in your spirit. It’s also great to not have to ask for permission to put an idea into practice, or feel that you can’t change direction if you so decide one day. Yes, you have responsibilities if you have employees, but it’s different than being a manager.

Running your own business also has its perils. You lose objectivity because it is personal. You may find yourself heading for trouble and keep going because you’re emotionally attached to the goal, or to avoid embarrassment. You don’t want to be proven wrong and, therefore, don’t accept criticism easily. It takes a particular character to be entrepreneurial, but these character traits can also be your downfall. Hard-headed, passionate, ambitious and a risk taker come to mind.

nathan5Starting a business after having led an organisation has helped me stay focussed and not put emotions before logic. I’m more mature and have had a fair amount of mishaps that I’ve learnt great lessons from. Not only is it not too late to start your business at 40, but it’s actually helpful to have experience under your belt. I’ve had a few sideline businesses over the years so I had some startup practice. It’s also important to have good people around you to keep you grounded. It’s easy to become engrossed in the project and lose your relationships with loved ones, and distance yourself from friends and family. Taking stock, or being coached is very important to get a reality check every so often.

To me it’s the mindset that’s the major difference between running a business and working for someone else. You can be equally passionate and driven working for someone else’s business with less personal risk and stress. Running your own business is not for everyone. It shouldn’t be everyone’s ambition. I too need to employ great managers, accountants, experts and associates to make up for all my weaknesses! Thankfully enough people choose to be professionals too.

My hope for Ultimate Performance is to continue to grow my impact by reaching more businesses and business leaders. I want to keep having fun and do exciting things, whilst sharpening my skills. I want to spend time with the people I care about and share experiences with them whenever possible. I want to wake up in the morning with energy, drive and, most of all, curiosity for what life will bring next.

About Nathan

NF-Bust-BWNathan Farrugia is an entrepreneur. He attributes much of his success to a mindset that challenges the impossible and takes every obstacle as an opportunity to find new solutions to old problems. He has used this mindset to break world record endurance challenges, as well as to grow successful enterprises. He now spends most of his time coaching CEOs and business leaders on how to unlock their own performance potential as part of the UP Academy. Visit his website and follow him on Twitter.

“The battle between work and life is nonsense”

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In this week’s column from May’s Entrepreneur in Residence (EiR), Nathan Farrugia of Ultimate Performance explains how he achieves work-life balance, and tells us what it’s like to work with his wife.

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It’s always an interesting dynamic to mix family and business. With your partner being one of your associates, it’s even more complex from an emotional perspective. We’re very different characters, with Deirdre being direct and extroverted while I’m an introvert and very pragmatic in my approach to problems. Mostly we do our own thing in our own way, and sometimes argue if our paths collide but, at the end of the day, we have the advantage of being able to settle it over a bottle of wine and a cuddle. Not many colleagues have that advantage, I guess…

The main stress on us both is managing our time with our kids. They’re so busy and their extracurricular activities are very energy consuming. They dance, do sport, and are always on sleep-overs or at parties, while we taxi them around to make sure they don’t miss out. Sometimes our quiet weekends suffer because we are so busy. By the end of Sunday, we’re all tired, and the next day it’s back to work.

But our kids are great. Watching them grow and develop has been an enlightening experience. I’ve learnt a great deal about leadership from being a father. I’ve also learnt a lot about managing emotions with three ladies in the house!

I wake up early and go for a run, swim or cycle if I’m racing triathlon. This is my time to think, to mentally plan my day and perhaps listen to a podcast or chapter in an interesting textbook. Doubling up the time to take care of my body and my mind is a great life-hack.

I usually have a quick breakfast and coffee then get to my desk at home to catch up on admin or emails. I do most of my social media marketing on the fly so, as soon as I can, I get out of the house and spend my day with clients, or at the foundations. I rarely get the time to stop during the day. I love the fact I have no set office, and change scenery many times a day. I love the diversity my work brings, from coaching and teaching to keynote speaking, politicking and strategising. My mind stays sharp with constant change. I also get to ride my Triumph Bonneville all day across town, which is great fun!

I usually work 10 hour days, with evening events happening a few times a week. Sometimes these are charity fundraisers, VIP events, a date with my wife or simply catching up with friends. In between, it’s at home with a good movie, a glass of wine and healthy home cooked food. I try and spend as much time with my kids over the weekend, and I help with homework and activity trips during weekday evenings. I make it a point to put them to bed and kiss them goodnight every night.

Achieving work-life balance

I developed a thought process that I call The FIRE Model, which I use in my coaching as well as to keep stock of my own life. The model helps me cope with the multitude of pressures on our lives, and shows us that the battle between ‘Work’ and ‘Life’ is nonsense. We have one life and we need to maximise it in every area.

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Using the model, I’m careful to create opportunities to fill each area of my life in a balanced way. Like a Balance Scorecard, I want to make sure that every aspect of my life is given due attention. I seek out things that scare me and excite me at the same time. I like to be out of my comfort zone. This leads to more flow, which helps me focus at work and get things done with less pressure.

Because of time constraints, our need to continuously learn and develop often falls by the wayside. I practice mindfulness, learn new things all the time and always accept an opportunity to try and hone my skills, whether it’s public speaking or my coaching skills. We must continue to sharpen the knife of excellence if we want to be fulfilled, and be useful to others.

Ultimately, we need to find meaning in what we do and this is best described by the various layers of F.I.R.E. we can create. The more we can find Flow, make an Impact, act Responsibly and continuously seek to be better tomorrow than we are today, i.e. Excel, the more meaningful our lives will be.

About Nathan

NF-Bust-BWNathan Farrugia is an entrepreneur. He attributes much of his success to a mindset that challenges the impossible and takes every obstacle as an opportunity to find new solutions to old problems. He has used this mindset to break world record endurance challenges, as well as to grow successful enterprises. He now spends most of his time coaching CEOs and business leaders on how to unlock their own performance potential as part of the UP Academy. Visit his website and follow him on Twitter.

“Everything I do has purpose”

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In this week’s column from this month’s Entrepreneur in Residence (EiR), Nathan Farrugia of Ultimate Performance explains what drives him, and how he relishes the opportunity to train others to make an impact

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All that I do has to have a purpose. It has to add value to the business, society and make a difference to people in general. The minute I find that my impact is not useful, then I stop. Whilst I have business goals, personal goals, family and charity objectives, they all have to fit into my ‘meaning of life.’

Whilst I try and balance my energy across all my responsibilities, at the moment, my business plans are taking precedence because the Academy is still a startup. I have a number of associates but just one employee, so we are agile and lean. Each associate was chosen because of their mindset and independence as well as their skill. They have their own business success but contribute to UP (my business) in ways that add value to our clients. Daphne, my business admin is the coordinator of all our efforts, as well as the events organiser. She makes sure that we deliver on our promises to our clients. All the associates are accountable for their own deliverables, so I don’t have to do any management; I just lead the way.

With the Foundation, there’s a management structure which I lead, but I trust fully to deliver operationally. I spend very little time on the day-to-day work involved in running a business and focus my time on vision and strategy. In this way I can ensure that the objectives of the organisation are met by empowering management through leadership.

We have an international market opening up that will take more of my time, but it’s exciting, so worth the sacrifice of time and effort. I’m also a keynote speaker at a couple of international corporate events and this always leads to new opportunities to explore. People around the world seem keen to learn how we unlock leadership and performance potential at the UP Executive Academy and we love to share our ideas. Running the Academy for Chief Executives franchise has also opened up new possibilities as this too can be globalised.

Ultimately my goal is to train more UP coaches and equip them with a toolkit that allows them to unlock the potential of more people, widening our positive impact and helping organisations to grow or increase their own performance, be it financial or social.

Facing challenges

Staying focussed on the journey is the toughest challenge. Many times opportunities take you sideways and off-track because they may be lucrative in the short term, or make sense at the time. But you need to stay focussed on the long view and sit back at the rudder of your ship, not constantly be up in the crow’s nest looking for opportunity.

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Another difficulty is finding talent that has both the skills and the mental fortitude. We have excellent university graduates that have very little experience or problem-solving skills. Knowledge is lost in business if not applied effectively. It’s my job to create the opportunities for talent to be useful, but it’s not always easy to fit in the dedicated time. I see this time as an investment in a future asset – the mind of the employee or associate, helping them grow in parallel with the business. With so many things on my plate I must learn to trust my associates and employees so they can learn from experience. I can’t afford to micromanage. I don’t want to either.

Other challenges relate to the failures of others that impact my life. Lack of respect, poor planning, bad management and lack of vision by collaborators, suppliers or even customers can drive you crazy. I’m a firm believer in resilience and positive action. If clients don’t keep time, I shorten their session. If partners or suppliers fail to deliver, I move on without them. Whilst it may seem easier said than done, I run my life based on mutual respect. Problems are often created in our head by emotions that are out of control. Staying practical and realistic makes my life easier to manage.

I’m a firm believer in altruism. I give the benefit of the doubt and the chance to redeem. I also point the finger at myself first as I can often be part of the problem. By being open and having regular sensible conversations with the people I deal with, we build mutual trust and, mostly, things get done without hassle. If that trust is dented despite the second chances, then I decide to end the relationship, but this is rare.

To keep up with Nathan, and find out what’s next for him on his entrepreneurial journey, don’t miss the third instalment of his blog here next Wednesday.

About Nathan

NF-Bust-BWNathan Farrugia is an entrepreneur. He attributes much of his success to a mindset that challenges the impossible and takes every obstacle as an opportunity to find new solutions to old problems. He has used this mindset to break world record endurance challenges, as well as to grow successful enterprises. He now spends most of his time coaching CEOs and business leaders on how to unlock their own performance potential as part of the UP Academy. Visit his website and follow him on Twitter.

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