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The Spiritual Tradesman

Work is passion and passion is life. Does it then follow that work is life? Not according to Alex Geelen, energetic worldwide tradesman, who has a few words of wisdom up his sleeve. A commercial tradesman with a spiritual side, Alex’s Epicurean philosophy of life brings a refreshing perspective to the concept of work. He offers his insight into the key of the work-life balance.

Spaces: Hi Alex, can you tell us about what you do?

Alex Geelen of Janus Slam: We are a trading company, which means we buy and sell worldwide. Everything that we do is based on price differences, what we can find on the market. We have a very wide network of customers. I’ve been in this trade for more than twenty-five years, becoming independent in 2007. I lived in Ljublijana, Slovenia, for seven years, where I started up a company from the network which I had in the trade. Around two years ago, I decided to move back to the Netherlands and focus on building up a company here. I was trying to approach my new business model from a different perspective, creatively thinking about alternative ways of working through refocusing my ideas and agendas.

How would you describe trading?

Trading is like an art. You learn a craft which you repeat again and again. But, the craft of today is not the same as the craft of yesterday, so you have to think creatively to discover new ways of doing business. It’s an evolutionary process in which you have to adapt and change in order to remain on top of the game. You never know what tomorrow will bring and that’s the exciting thing about trade; it’s adrenalin pumping. There’s always something new and different popping up and how you react to it is determines the result. You need to know the market, but it’s also very much based upon intuition. It’s a delicate balance that’s learned over time; how to harness your feelings and combine it with your knowledge and experience of the market. If you have a feeling but no experience, you won’t know how to act, and that’s when you get stuck.

What inspires you?

Spontaneity. I have no schedule outside of work. The weekend for me means freedom, so I never make plans; that way I keep myself open to new ideas and new proposals. If a friend calls me in the night wanting to grab a beer, I can do that. I love to hang out with people and socialise. I’m a firm believer in the idea of work-life balance. Years ago I had no concept of this and wouldn’t know when to switch off, working crazy hours each week. Growing over the years you gain a different perspective on life. You begin to value things differently, and now, for me, it’s important to take personal time and care. I’m passionate about what I do but you must also save time purely for yourself, to indulge a little in the things you enjoy. It’s vital to create a healthy, balanced life.

Describe a day in the life of Alex Geelen.

Before I get up I take fifteen minutes to relax with music, putting me into the right frame of mind to begin the day. Then I stand on my my head for one minute! At some point I head to work, but what time that is depends on my mood; I am independent. That’s the best thing about working at Spaces. It allows you this freedom, the freedom of movement. Not only through the fluidity of its physical space, but through the amount of time you spend there. You’re under no obligations, the choice is yours. You are in control of your own schedule. It’s this flexibility that suits my character so well.

Before I came to Spaces I was old school. I needed four walls, a desk, office equipment, all this stuff around me. It was my fiscal adviser that actually recommended Spaces to me. It’s completely changed my concept of work and it fits in so well with my life. I haven’t looked back since.

Do you have a funny story to share about working in trade?

I have many stories that place me in unlikely situations, meeting surprising people; like sharing a cigar with Afrojack in Las Vegas! But, the one story that really springs to mind is when I was invited to the Czech Republic by a client. We spent a day on a steam boat surrounded by Czech dealers. At some point I thought to myself, what am I doing here? I turned to the person next to me and discovered it was the pan-European vendor for Amazon. We have recently expanded our client base to include Amazon.

It’s this unpredictability of life that’s so rich. I love to observe people. I see people pass me and I can’t help but think, “what’s their story?”. You never know what possibilities you are missing out when you fail to connect with each other. Just turn around and introduce yourself, what’s the harm? In the age of social media and digital communications, we must remember to never lose our ability to connect in a human way.

What is the best advice you ever received?

I’ve received a lot of advice over the years, but most poignant to me has been not to take things too seriously. My line of business can be highly stressful, so it’s important to take a step back and put things into perspective. Passion is something that’s very important to me, and I believe you can do and achieve so much with it. I will do something with passion, or not at all. This is a strong point of mine, but also a weak point. I’m honest about my feelings which is positive, but also leaves me vulnerable. I try to find the right combination for work and my personal life. Everything in moderation; everything in balance.

Great, thanks Alex.


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