The bLife Movement Story - CHAPTER I

This is the first chapter of a series wherein a narrative and practical way I will be sharing what one day led me to take a significant turn in the way I approached life, work ethic, and the embracing principle that getting old doesn't have to sux.

Since I booted this blog years ago I always treated it as an open diary; without caring too much about the form or the order of sharing. My objective as always is to inspire others and lead by example. The quintessential power of humans is the ability to pass on what has been learned from others. Books (knowledge) is what sped up progress for the whole human race. Without that we are not very sapiens, we're just pets in a matrix. 

And with that... let me start telling you the story from the beginning of time and what I am in the process of making with my life partner Victoria and some close friends.

In my mid-20s I was hired by an authentic entrepreneur Romeo Quartiero, from Milan. His company was a forge of young and smart minds building software for some of the biggest corporations in the north of Italy. He literally hired me over the phone based on a one-time conversation and my poorly edited resume. Very abruptly I left my hometown, Salerno (Italy), and moved to Milan. With no place where to stay beside a few allowed couch weeks at my wonderful aunt Lucia, I left with a bag full of dreams, my robe (mom's gift that was as heavy as an Alaskan winter blanket), and a ton of fear of leaving the established for the unknown.

A few weeks later I was observing the chaos of people running around me for no apparent reasons, I was bounced around by people discriminating my accent or my looks, I finally found my element and worked very hard to establish my life there. The job was great and my colleagues were awesome; 30 years later I am still friends with many of the folks I worked with within that company. Our pizza nights and office conversations were just the most work-life fulfilling memories that a working-class person could ask for.

Work was great, the after-work not so much because I did not know anyone of my age or that would share my interests with the intensity I was capable of doing. I had tried the usual ways of getting known to others but for some reason, the famous Seattle freeze was not just a Seattle thing after all. I had signed up for a gym. Going to church every Sunday even if I am not a religious man. Roller skating in the nearby parks. Going to places with coworkers and many more other attempts just failed in an ephemeral "nice to meet you, we should get together sometime" experience. Naturally that "sometimes" didn't happen.

Therefore, as most times in my life, in the face of a problem rather than accept the status quo I worked for a creative solution to address my own problem. In the sadness of my microscopic apartment I created my simple HTML based website dedicated to... well myself, I documented my interests, ideas, life and invited people to build a community of people that were sharing my same unhappy experience. This was so long ago, that I had a visitor counter on the homepage and a guest book. Lord! I feel decrepit just writing that down. Netscape, much!

I kept those few web pages updated quite regularly and after a few months, I was getting some emails and surprisingly several regular visits beyond my own. One of those visitors was Alberto De Maio, the director of a popular telecom commercial back then. We exchanged a few emails and right after he invited me to meet and greet at his place along with a few other lost souls like me. 

When he intro me to the other guest, he said: 

[...] it was 2AM, I am by the computer searching for something that now I no longer recall. My browsing led me to his personal website. And 30 minutes into the reading I keep wondering why I am doing it and yet I can't stop reading. So I send him an email and he showed up. This Mario, from Salerno! This one is creative, be aware.

As I write this I realize that I could have just walked into the ripper's home and consented to the slaughter! Fortunately, Alberto was and still is a lovely individual, incredibly creative, and by far the most adaptable individual in face of adversity I have ever met.

At his place, I smoke weed for the first time. Heard of all kinds of stories and creative projects he was working on. In a mix of BS sold like candy filled with the blossom of wisdom that would stick on even the most remarkable brand new non-stick pan, I learned a concept that marked my approach to life forever.

B+ or Be Positive. The principle was extremely simple and yet remarkably well explained. I had read dozen of self-improvement books, audiotapes (yes... I know. Tapes. Bite me!) and I had labeled all of them as horse shit to make money for publishers. For some strange reasons this well chubby guru was speaking to me and everyone in a way that was resonating. Most of the people in the room were just pretending to get it, they were enjoying his jovial comedy and the free food/booze. I was fucking sold on the principle because regardless of the delivery, he totally believed of what he was sharing.

You know when you hear a friend pitching a business idea but you can't fully place it as the next big thing or a totally useless one? "I think you are on something my friend." you may say to your friend.

That is how I was feeling. In the attempt of filtering between the folklore of the trained and natural showman and the substance of his genuine message, I kept telling myself that this guy's on something!

I was working very hard and sharpening my coding skills to the T. I wanted my boss to be proud of his bet on me. My name started rousing a lot through the office chattery and one day I was offered to work directly on-site of one of their most remunerative customers. Out of all the customers the company had on their Rolodex their pick was Omnitel. The one company that Alberto had worked with for his commercial. That was sign one.

There I met Tina, one of the hottest gals I had ever had met in my life. She was 12 years older than me but looked 20 years younger. She was a hard worker from 9 to 5 but beyond that, she would trade a lung for a SPA session or for any other type of pampering on someone's dime. A true artist of sucking the marrow of life. I didn't take her way of living as a gold digger bimbo on steroids, I took that as "this woman has made a choice in life, she doesn't want to age like others and this is her way of doing it". Again, her way of conducting herself for the purpose of getting what she wanted was very connected to what the B+ goals were. Perhaps, just a tad exploited :) When I introduced her to Alberto they heated off like sparks at a gas station.

The IT industry is smaller than it seems; my work ethics were noticed out of my work circle and one day while walking through the aisles of the SMAU exhibition I was noticed by a Microsoft employee, Mariano Fiorito. At the end of an interesting conversation where I shared my ideas for creating what now is known as YouTube, using a now-defunct M$ technology, he asked to send my resume. Four days later, Rossano Ziveri director of a technical sales team; hired me as Technology Evangelist. Between my apparently "uncommon" attitude of interacting with people and the fact that I carried the picture of Bill Gates in my wallet he had (rightfully?) doubts about his just made choice. He clearly pointed out that "you can't possibly have knowledge of these many Microsoft products. But still, I will give you a try". He never regretted it. I am still grateful.

With much of a big opportunity, the whole pursuing of the meaning of B+ was parked because I had to work x4 harder to secure my employment past the trial period and also I loved the job and most of the colleagues I was working with... One or two were royal backstabbing assholes but perfection should be enforced only while making Pasta Carbonara. For everything else, lose it up. So I did.

As matter of fact, I loved the job so much that I start bringing in some of my colleagues from my previous company. One of those was my best Persian friend Ramesh Mollain and the man that was already chasing and successfully embracing the B+ philosophy; Fabio Mignani

Every day we would gather around the coffee vending machine. Sharing working experiences about customers, plotting new ways to get them engaged, gossiping, and general office dramas. Occasionally the conversation would take a turn on more deep thinking kind of sharing. One day I felt to share my experience with Alberto and that's when I was introduced to the bLife concept from Fabio.

He was (still is) very enthusiastic about anything new to him. Aggressively pursuing whatever made him feel alive and happy. There was nothing that Fabio wasn't into it. One day at a corporate conference an old black lady checking attendance asked him what kind of music he was listening to. "Black music," he said. The lady thought he was acting cool and didn't have what he was claiming. After a few exchanges, the lady said "geez, you really like black music. You really know MY music". The emphasis is mine to highlight a key point of view of the inspection :-) - and all this was before Black Lives Matter. Yah, Fabio had it.

During those brain sessions by the coffee vending machine what my brain was processing was all I had heard before from Alberto but now with practical examples (storytelling of things he had done or wanted to do), with the contagious enthusiasm of whom is walking the talk. I was hearing again "the meaning of life" this time from a trusted source (I had known him for some time) with lots of traits in common and together horny for knowledge and good life like rhinos in heat season.

Together, Ramesh, Fabio, and I took advantage of a business conference in Atlanta to have a road trip across the USA. We rented a car and with the same careful preparation of when I left my hometown (nothing), we traveled full steam ahead. We had a blast!

I tasted, felted, and fully imprinted in my head that working hard for the purpose of saving for retirement was a principle passed on to me with a missing chromosome. There's more to life than just working. You can't live OK without working/money but there's more than just that. I know that it sounds basic to some of you but it's a different matter when somebody laments their annoying zit on the nose and when you are the one sporting that Vulcano full of puss on your face real estate!

That one single road trip developed in me an obsession to figure out how to balance work and life in a non-conventional format. It could not happen overnight or over a few years, it took a serious long game. I reshaped my work and private life around the principle of bLife and Fabio was my inspiration. And as with everything in my life, I walk the talk and never forgot who taught me better ways of doing things.

Literally, everything I wanted to do in life, lack of money was always the starting problem and the first showstopper. And yet I didn't let it to be the reason for my defiance. When money wasn't the issue or wasn't too much of a bigger issue, lack of knowledge on some subject or lack of others' support was the next in line of reasons to give up. And yet, I start doing it on my own rather than just keep talking about it. 

When money was the problem I got creative. When a lack of support from others was the issue I led by example to make others feel safer in their choices. By entrepreneurial leadership and by example even the weakest of all gets curious enough at some point to give it a try and join the wagon.

I moved to the United States through Microsoft, learned the American language using a salesman CD that was given to one of those business conferences where I didn't know what they were talking about if it wasn't for some code snippets shown at times. Roger Harui for a month didn't know if during the 1:1s I was understanding what he was talking about or I was just smiling and hoping for the best. For the record, it was absolutely the latter! 

My first year in Seattle was a lot like my first year in Milan. This time though I had my playbook on how to bootstrap things and a place where to stay that wasn't my aunt's couch. Bought my first home. 

Start building a network of people using food as a means to get together. My pizza parties were the most talked about, frequent, and sought by people. That was a massive amount of work and time on my end but my effort was paying off in creating a community reference point. I met so many people in those years, established so many business/career opportunities and personal relationships that I didn't have quads of acquittances. I had micro families that were bonding with food and laughter. Just like Alberto had shown to me years before. 

My first child was born and that was the reminder that the best gift I could have ever given to her was not just inheritance but the playbook of living a meaningful life. How to take risks and TNT the road ahead in the face of adversity. Don't work for money work for a reason.

She is very bright and leveraging her insane thirst for pleasing dad and learning I started coaching her about everything you typically don't teach to a child at such a young age. This was not a remake of my regrets through my newborn. I have any. I wanted her to have the assets I had developed for myself, way too late in life because I couldn't otherwise.

I found a format that wouldn't be overwhelming and definitely it would be fun. From building computer games at age of 3, hosting her own YouTube channel for 4 years old, soldering components on motherboards at 5, to wrestling, yoga and so many other practical lessons that were the foundation of the pantomath I had become through means of necessity.

I didn't want my own child to be a lonely nerd, so I started hosting a getting together for kids. I created a small community of parents that would come to my place to learn Italian from my daughter with her dad playing clown at times to keep everyone motivated. It became such a success that when I stopped people wanted to pay for me to keep going. Yah no, it was a ton of work since parents weren't doing shit to help.

Shortly after, together with Vincenzo Di Nicola, we created a Facebook group "Italiani a Seattle" which was the typical Italian plaza where gossip, food, and shooting the breeze type of chattery develop life from nothing. After a few months, the traction was low and the discussions were in English (for an Italian group...) and mostly lame. So I started creating a few basic rules and a draconian selection process on who could access/join. I kicked a lot out and initiate the selection. I made it exclusive so that people wanted to be part of it. Months later the place was throwing and the quality of the conversations had risen from -15 like a regular day in Alaska to a summer night in Hawaii.

People were meeting new people from all over the place and sharing for the greater community good.

At this point, I started slowing down on the pizza parties because I need more time to embrace the next phase of a multi-year plan. If you haven't seen me in action before, nothing of what I commit happens by virtue of luck. I am a strategist by trade and when I realized what I wanted for myself and my family I worked on the plan like I was just about to make a hostile takeover for Microsoft.

My plan was taking into account that to build a community of happy people with shared but not overlapping interests, money could not be the drive for unity. Generally speaking, people with similar incomes live in similar places, they have similar houses with similar amenities. They end up knowing and trusting one another by means of time passing in the same place. The moment that one of those members loses his status or gets richer they immediately don't fit anymore and move out to match another alike community.

At my pizza parties had millionaires and people that were just broke. And not at any moment our mutual desire of assist one another, or being there when needed, regardless of where we were living was a factor that would affect unity. I was part of micro families. And some families were closer than others at times and always.

Two years ago from this post, I started developing serious skills in self-reliance and getting ready for the apocalypse. No, I don't think zombies are coming any time soon. I was hunting for independence, less stress, and a healthier life. When I did that, COVID-19 was not even on the radar. When COVID stroked we were fully autonomous and 100% confident that if zombies were coming we were ready

Together with my wife Victoria we learned: welding, concrete work, solar, and wind energy management. Carpeting, masonry and so many other practical skills made us real experts and independent.

As a means of learning from others, I connected my brain to YouTube, and through my digital wondering, I learned a ton from Shown James and The Nomadic Moment of which I am a patron supporter.

The idea of a tiny home or van life starts developing. I didn't claim the food chain so hard to end up in a van so self-reliance and a tiny home was. And before even starting considering what to build, I looked at the number one reason why even the worst place on Earth feels like home to some. People.

When you have people that you can call family then you have what it takes to build a community. As Simon Sinek majestically explains it's not what you are building or sell but the WHY.

The fundamental behind every cult or hippy movement is human connection and trust. That's why almost all of them fail as they go at scale. The transition from family driving principles to economics in order to keep the machine running skews to the point that things don't work out for the most.

I have my best intention to get it right but as I always disclaim, it might take a few turns to shell the whole system together. For now, the guiding principles for the community are:

  1. Each member brings in a unique skill.
  2. The creation of a small community fund to develop integration with the locals. 
  3. In the Internet age, you can work from anywhere.
  4. A gradual transition is the only way to make a permanent one
  5. Self-sustainability is a drive
  6. Prone to work for a healthy life 
I will dig through those points in future chapters; the core idea that tights all those things together is to orchestrate something where like-minded people transition from a traditional way of living to a healthier style while still have a job to feed the family. It's the Nirvana of pre-retirement.

With those principles in mind, Victoria and I set on building the Panama Project. Which has nothing to do (anymore) with Panama but has a lot to do with emulating for mid 50s individuals what Jordan and Kaylee are in the midst of doing with The Nomadic Movement.

We purchased 2 acres of land that we aim to make available for people that want to build a future together. We are in the process of securing additional land adjacent to us. Independence and unity can live together. 

We want to build something where my friend Eugene can fish for the group. Robert can hunt. Victoria can feed all with her gardening skills and her chicken whispering magic, Tiziana makes a cake for the entire town while Martin and Deborah deliver online classes of Pilates and Mindfulness. All streamed on YouTube to influence others and generate a stream of revenues to support all individual members' ambitions.

As my friend Cristiano pointed once: I don't understand why getting old means you have to downscale your existence while every choice is molded by the idea that your health will deteriorate. Picking up a place where to live based on health care options shouldn't be the lead to make better life choices.

I agree with that statement so much that I am putting my money, time, and intellect where my mouth is. It's a bold idea and those who can/should join will be defined as the people that feel the call like we do; reach their maturity stage. We are certainly pioneering the idea to make it happen.

We have found Moloka'i to be the perfect place to start our The bLife Movement™ - I will share in a dedicated post and vlog why we picked this destination for this human project.

For 25 years I made this sentence (Robin Williams) from Dead Poet Society my credo:

Make your life extraordinary. 

I won't stop and if you feel the same, join the movement.


* some links might be broken for a little while. I am literally writing this on my way back to Seattle from Moloka'i and they are asking me to close the laptop. More to come... 


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