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10+ ways successful SEE founders spend their free time

Andrei Dudoiu
Image credit: Andrei Dudoiu | Co-founder and CEO of SeedBlink
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Success means different things to different people. But many tend to agree that it is about balance. Equilibrium between the left and right parts of the brain, or between business and pleasure, gives focus and clarity to the tired mind. Entrepreneurs have hard work built in their DNA, but they also tend to make room for hobbies to unload from all the stress and anxiety of running a business. 

The Recursive asked successful entrepreneurs from the SEE region how they spend their free time and what are the outlets for their energy and creativity. We discovered that some founders get their inspiration outdoors – gardening, biking, hiking, or kite surfing, to name a few, while others enjoy the comfort of their home reading books, listening to audiobooks, and playing chess. 

We hope you’ll get inspired by their answers and find your passion this summer that may keep you balanced and happy. 

#1 Cycling for unloading stress

“Generally, I am very much attracted by the mountains and by exploring and discovering new places, experiences, and people. My hobby that is consuming most of my free time is cycling, mainly road cycling. I practice it several times a week with my group of friends.

I started practicing during high-intensity moments in my previous working life and it benefited me a lot in getting rid of the stress, but also in keeping me in shape. I am very much inspired by a quote by Einstein, ‘Life is like riding a bicycle: to keep your balance you must keep moving.’” 

Andrei Dudoiu

Read more about how Andrei Dudoiu, SeedBlink’s CEO, wants to democratize access to startups.

#2 Photography for focusing on the moment

Hristo Neychev is a man with many hobbies. He likes to practice snowboarding during winter and kite surfing in the summer. But he also enjoys spending his spare time meditating, photographing, or dancing salsa as a social hobby. 

He says practicing hobbies balance his brain activity. When you work, you activate your left brain, and when you play, you trigger opposite areas of the brain. He shares: “Photography helps me to focus on the moment, on the here and now. I don’t know how to do that. And then, meditation helps me with everything.”

“Hobbies should bring you a lot of fun and satisfaction, but they should also support you in everything you do in life, by keeping all parts of the brain active, agile, and working. Whatever you do in life, make sure you enjoy it every day, otherwise, you’re wasting your life,” he concludes. 

Hristo Neychev

#3 Traveling as an energy outlet

Linda Vasilescu likes to bring creativity to her life with different activities, like going to the gym, playing chess, and listening to rock music. But traveling is her favorite pastime. She loves it so much that she is commuting between Vienna, where she resides, and Bucharest.

“I have always been doing more than my work throughout my professional life, as the balance and diversity of activities gives me energy. I cannot function well in a monotonous system. Sometimes, it is good to immerse yourself in an activity where the individual is just supposed to enjoy it. There is no competition, just relaxation. This is something that rarely happens in the startup world.”

Linda Vasilescu

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#4 Dance for balancing anxiety

“Hobbies are a way to express myself, but also to feed my soul and constantly discover new hidden things about me. They inspire, reshape, and constantly challenge me to not forget about the beauty of the simple moments.

In the mornings, I focus on doing some type of sport, whether tennis or going to the gym, and in the evenings I try having one hour of ‘me time’ before going to bed to listen to music, read, or check the latest design and art blogs. 

Reading and focusing on self-development and understanding the way my mind works and how my body functions have allowed me to approach problems, decisions, and business opportunities in a different light. Dancing and music have always helped me to balance stress and dark moments. Now and then, when I am lost in front of my computer for hours during the night, I take a 10 minutes break and dance it off.”

Anca Goron

#5 Reading for inspiration

Bogdan Apostol spends his time reading, traveling, hiking, and gardening. He says that reading inspires him most as a founder and that, sometimes, new information turns into actionable results in his business. 

He enjoys traveling because he gets to meet new people and cultures, and he spends time outdoors, hiking or gardening, to pause, relax, and put his thoughts in order. 

“I read a lot of books about business and culture. Lately, I find audiobooks to be a great way to multitask or combine listening with my other hobbies: hiking and gardening. Often, I find that the best ideas come when you pause and reflect.”

Bogdan Apostol

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#6 Boxing for productivity

“I box and work out almost every day in the evening. I have my gym at home, therefore, I have zero excuses! To me, a day without physical exercise usually means a poor night of sleep and lower productivity the next day.

Training is my one magic formula to remain successful. It helps me manage my stress levels, feeling less tired, and it boosts self-confidence. My best ideas and decisions often come when I train. I decided to launch Fenix (the last startup from which I exited) while I was running!”

Gregoire Vigroux

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#7 Martial arts for thinking ahead

Mihai Ivascu’s passions and hobbies helped him develop into what he is today. Some of those hobbies include motorsports, martial arts, and chess. He practices whenever he can find the time as these are a good way to stay connected with like-minded people. 

From martial arts and chess he learned that the most successful move isn’t necessarily the obvious one and, sometimes, you have to think far ahead, beyond the horizon. He learned to sharpen his competitive spirit from motorsport and find the exact moment when to push full-throttle or when to wait for the opponent to make the slightest mistake to pass by him.

Mihai Ivascu

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#8 Scuba diving for dealing with pressure

Catalin Mester practices scuba diving, snowboarding, cooking, reading, free diving, cliff jumping, and rollerblading. He shared that he practices reading daily, as sometimes he gets distracted at movies.

“I am always trying to spend more time underwater or cooking. I have a year-to-year account of work vs hobbies relationship, and I always try to give more time to hobbies.

I think that sports and career go hand in hand. Every sport teaches you things about yourself you didn’t know, and they help you deal better with pressure and the unknown. We need time away from work daily, so any other activity during the day that disconnects you is very helpful.”

Catalin Mester

Read more about Catalin Mester on how Romanian audiobook app Storis aims to be the next Audible

#9 Soccer for problem-solving

Although Mihai Draghici doesn’t find the time to play many sports right now or develop any hobbies between his career and family life, he is a fan of soccer and tennis. He played a lot of sports growing up that taught him about teamwork and problem-solving, which are critical to succeed in a business environment. 

Mihai Draghici

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#10 Foraging for creativity

Chef Alexandru Dumitru gets his inspiration from everything outdoors. He enjoys exploring different farmers’ markets, foraging for mushrooms, and sports. 

“I try to make them part of who I am, I think I do one or another every day. They help me a lot to stay active, focused but at the same time inspired. Being outdoors boosts my confidence, being around farmers helps my knowledge, and, of course, being in the mountains, foraging, helps my creativity,” he shares.

Alexandru Dumitru - Anika

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#11 Crafting for quieting the mind

Liz Stefan shared that working with her hands gives her the most satisfaction. She has taken up crocheting or knitting to quiet her mind, but this has also helped her professionally. When a customer wants to test the Nifty Learning platform, the default course is called “Crochet 101”.

“I like working with my hands while listening to audiobooks. It’s both a creative outlet and a form of meditation, plus it gives you a nice feeling of satisfaction when you finish working on something.

I tend to have an anxious mind, so doing this is a pretty good method to calm down, think about things, decisions, and plans. It also helps that making a new item of clothing is its tiny project. It’s kind of like challenging yourself to be creative within some constraints. It’s a good way to encourage a more structured way of thinking, which is a useful practice for when you’re making plans for your own business.”

Liz Stefan

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Elena is an Innovation Reporter at The Recursive with 10+ years of experience as a freelance writer based in Bucharest, Romania. Her mission is to report internationally on the amazing progress of the local startup ecosystems while bringing into focus exponential projects developed in niches like health and education or by female entrepreneurs.