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Anti-Social to Social - How Optima Forma Changed My Life

My life has turned upside down in last few months after arriving in Porto. Before, I lived and worked mostly from home.

  • No social life.

  • No going out.

  • Barely any touch with the real world.

  • Everything was virtual.

Today my life is the complete opposite.

  • I am more social. 

  • I go out almost every day.

  • Experiencing new things in the real world. 

  • My online existence is very little.

I am more human now and happier.

All thanks go to Optima Forma and mentorship from Ha Vo and guidance from Daniel Nunes for this change in my life.

The Move That Changed Everything

The journey began in 2021 after I signed a work contract with one of their clients. The work was remote and the pay was good. What more can you ask when you live in a middle class family in India. Life seemed perfect. And it was in some aspects. Family, relatives, and a few close friends. We would go out on special occasions like birthdays or achievements. Apart from that there was literally nothing to do. No professional social events, no casual meet-ups, no way of meeting new people. 

Fast forward to late 2023, I moved to Portugal. I had been to Portugal earlier for about a month and I distinctly remember not doing much. Working from home and sightseeing here and there few times. It felt like the problem was within me and not the environment/country I was in. Well I can say that statement is partly true. You see I come from a “Dry State” - no alcohol, bars, pubs. So pretty much a non existent social life back home. 

So, this time around before arriving in Portugal, I was already in talks with my mentor, Ha Vo, on how to improve my lifestyle and live more instead of wasting away my days in front of a screen. Believe me, I wasted 8 years of my life doing that. I wanted to change from living a comfortable virtual life, to a more meaningful real life, like any human should. I was already working with Ha on our new networking and socialising training, and in the process I learnt how to actually make connections. Not just superficial professional connections but meaningful life long connections. I learnt how selfless giving is the essence to building a solid foundation of any relationship. I know how difficult it is to figure out how and what to give. Developing the program and going through the process taught me what to do. It’s all about being “human” and not having a “professional facade”, and being honest and authentic in what you show to the world - in real life or otherwise. Add pratfall effect....

The First Social Event

So it was time to live. I came to Portugal in October. My mentor suggested I use the “Meetup” app. It shows different events nearby which you can choose based on your interests. I started with Board Games that happens every Tuesdays in a Pub - A Fábrica da Picaria nearby my office. Somehow, despite being an introvert, I felt at home. I had a blast at that first event and things started to flow. I went there every week and met people from all over the world. I offered my help to the host to take care of social media posts of the group. This helped with the visibility of the group on instagram, we are still growing, and people know more about the group. It’s been real fun.

Tuesdays, I can say that place is my home for the evening. 

Meaningful Connections

I continued exploring other meetups on the app. Movie nights, hiking trips, day trips, business networking, all kinds of groups you can imagine. Then I came across this new group “Meaningful Connections”. I fell in love with this group and different activities the host, Pavla, organised. It was all about meeting new people and knowing them. The activities helped make connections easier. You actually get to know the individual instead of just a name, origin, and what they did for work. Some of the group members are close friends of mine now. 

One Dutch individual, Jay, stands out more than anyone else. I had met Jay once before, in another meetup, and then again at the 2nd Meaningful Connections meetup and we hit it off right away. It was a natural flow, like there always existed this bit of banter and sarcastic back and forth on between us, something similar that exists between brothers. It was meant to be I guess. Despite living in such drastically different cultures and being born years apart, it felt like there always existed a connection between us. 

He helped me through quite a though time in December 2023. He helped me understand my emotions and feelings better. He helped me in guiding through what I felt like was one of my toughest times in Porto. He was present by my side and guided me through everything, making me understand different aspects and dynamics of life and relations. I’m ignorant when it comes to these things, because of being alone for years and not really having any social life in India for the past 6-7 years. The “European” world is new to me, the dynamics of how different things play out when we meet new people is new to me.

Believe me when I say this, everything is new to me.

Like the child who just started walking and exploring life, I’m learning things day by day. And Jay was the one holding my hand and guiding me step by step, supporting me through my emotional breakdowns and depression.

Networking & making connections works in mysterious ways, I always say. 

Somehow I found the elder brother I never had.

Quiz Nights

Another friend from the Meaningful Connections, the host actually, introduced me to Quiz Nights that happens on Wednesdays at the same Pub - A Fábrica da Picaria. This by the way was not on the Meetup app. It is a more closed knit group of expats living in Porto. So I decided to go. More meetups = more people = more connections. This is crucial for me since I’m building a new life from scratch, and finding your own people, your clan, your support group is essential. Don’t want to be staying home all day working and playing video games when you are building a new life. 

I fell in love with the Quiz group. It's so much fun that right after the first night of joining the Quiz I decided to host the following week. So I prepared some good questions through the week and the day finally arrived.

You see the bar & pub culture was new to me. Of course I have seen things in movies and tv shows but you never know until and unless you experience it. One of the things that I always wanted to do was say "Beers on me". So I did it. The day I was hosting the quiz, I paid €100 to the pub and sent free beers to the quizers group. It was fun and I will remember this day forever. Surprisingly many rememberd my name after that day.

Another thing I discovered during the Quiz night was promotion of an after school project in Papua New Guinea known as FIGS Club.

The Future Indigenous Guardians of Science (FIGS) Club is an afterschool science and environmental education program for the youth of Wanang Conservation Area (WCA), led by Conor Redmond. 20 years ago WCA turned to conservation after rejecting loggers. Since then research at WCA has brought sustainable development for the whole village. Each year the FIGS Club will lay the foundations for 30 Wanang youth to pursue careers as local research assistants and conservationists bringing personal and community development.

I remember distinctly how enthusiastic I was about science and experiments in my childhood. I didn’t have proper guidance and enough money to spend on fancy experiment kits, so I always turned to my elder cousin who had various science projects at his home. Whenever I used to visit him I would incessantly ask if we could do experiments. And after pleading like a maniac, he would agree to do show me some of the science stuff. I realise now he wasn’t that much into science and I was being just another annoying kid.

But I was always curious about these things. I used to watch a lot of National Geographic & Discovery channels. Always tuning in to see Mythbusters, and some show in the jungle of Borneo or another show that happened in the Sahara desert. 

I know what it felt like to be interested in something and not being able to do it- especially when it came to science and even music. 

That’s the reason why this program has touched my heart and I've started to help support it in different ways possible.

What’s next?

After experiencing the social life, meeting new people, making new connections, friends, relationships and giving mostly, I found myself and my purpose, at this moment, in life. I know that helping others and giving brings me the most happiness. From the memories of my childhood I distinctly remember how heart wrenching it feels when we are unable to pursue our interests. Although I do prioritise peace, happiness, and relationships more than money, unfortunately the world is made in such a way that money holds the power to do things, good or bad. I realised that people are frugal with money. I understand that everyone has their own needs and responsibilities but sparing a euro or two can be easily done by many and projects like FIGS can be supported effectively through yearlong funding.

So, I'm currently in the process of creating and registering a Public Foundation. The mission is to provide funds to projects in third world countries that are primarily oriented towards education for underprivileged children, and orphans. The projects that are in their infancy and don’t receive much attention are the ones we will look after. There are many such project that receive little to no funds but their requirements are essential for the sustainability of the culture, nature, the people, and future of mankind.

So that's what my life has been like after leaving home and coming to Portugal. I've set up base in Porto, because it's just an amazing city, and I hope to connect with all of you who read this little update.

My linkedin : Robin Simon

Please do reach out if you want to meet, connect, talk, or if you can provide any support for the projects that my organisation is planning to support.

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