Rene Bolier

CEO, OnRecruit

1. What seemed like an inconsequential decision at the time, but in hindsight turned out to fundamentally reshape your life?

The decision to grow stuff ‘for myself’ in the garden when I was about 6 years old.

One day my uncle showed up whilst I was harvesting some massive pumpkins and asked if he could have a few. I gave him three and then something happened that turned a switch inside me. He gave me 10 gulden (which would be about 10 EUR now) which totally surprised me and weirdly enough, this was really one of the most magical moments of my life. I now realize that this was the moment I realized that I like creating value for myself by creating value for others and it’s what catapulted me into selling stuff door to door for many years, becoming a very good telemarketer when I was 15 years old, pursuing some sales jobs in recruitment and recruitment marketing from 18 years old and after that; getting the opportunity to help build OnRecruit. But most importantly; that passion and understanding and skill is what facilitated my journey of breaking free of my family/the church and finding myself and enjoying life and seeing the world and most importantly; having so many great experiences and moments with so many amazing people in so many places over the past years.

2. At what age did you become an adult? What happened, and how did you know?

It was a warm Saturday. I was about 4 or 5 years old and we went shopping for clothes as a family. I saw people in ‘the city’ whom my social circle would refer to as infidels, felt how much love and joy they were sharing and I felt so, so drawn to them and that. That was the moment I started breaking free, started thinking for myself and started being called an old spirit in a young body. Of course I was not an adult at that moment and I still don’t think about myself as an adult, but you get the point…

3. What habit or behaviour or belief have you recently acquired? Why is it now in your life?

Recently I was on vacation and read a book call ‘The Biggest Bluff’.

It tells the story of how Maria Konnikova learns many valuable lessons about herself and human decision-making by trying to become a professional poker player.

Whilst reading the book, I made 3 notes on my phone:

1. I work too hard for too little – need to take the high variance route, take risk and be more aggressive.

2. I should up my aggression factor massively; playing passively is costing me mountains of chips in the long run. (I’m a poker player myself too.)

3. Don’t play the cards; play the players, situation and your image. Take the high risk – high reward route

As you might notice, all these notes have to do with my approach to poker, but more importantly; they have to do with my approach to life. When I got bullied as a kid, I teached myself to not be dominant in any situation, to stay away from those who shout more than they actually bring to the table, to just to ‘do my own thing’ in the background and to find joy in that. Over the years this approach has brought me a lot, but lately and especially whilst reading this book, I have come to the realization that it has also cost me a lot. In economics they would use the words ‘opportunity cost’ here; by doing one thing, you miss out on other things. So this is why I’m currently working on keeping my attitude with regards to hard work and enjoying life, but mixing some more aggression, pro-activeness and risk into it in order to have an even fuller, richer life.

4. When was the last time you changed your mind about something really important? What was it and what led you to change your view?

That vulnerability is our strongest weapon. When you get bullied, you teach yourself to not show your weak side in order to get hurt less. You always try to appear strong. But when that becomes your pattern, you become a person that for others is hard to connect with from an emotional perspective, you will have a hard time connecting to your own emotions and you will simply not enjoy life and relationships as much as you could. Last year I was working with a coach/trainer who really opened my eyes about this topic and helped me realize that my biggest strength is actually my vulnerability and ability to feel and connect based on those feelings with myself and others. Life got even better after that and now it’s part of my self-development program to work on getting better at this every single day.

5. If you wrote a ‘user manual’ for how people should interact with you, what would be the most important point in the manual?

Do not waste our most scarce resource; time. Let’s try to make the most of it.

6. What is your untrainable superpower?

Feeling things (especially emotions of others and yourself) far more strongly and picking up way more signals and details than others (HSP). It’s a curse, but mostly a blessing. It’s a curse because it drains me in a way I can’t explain and leads to uncomfortable situations such as avoiding social gatherings because ‘one of them’ will drain all your energy, not being able to spend time with my girlfriend or friends whilst I would like to, not really being able to attend a conference for more than a day etc. etc., but mostly it is a blessing, because it has given me the ability to understand people a little bit (better) and that is wonderful; being able to feel, to connect with someone, to be there for someone, to be able to share with them how they feel – it’s a wonderful thing to give, share and receive.

7. Have you always had the same political beliefs? If so, why do you think you have held them so long? If not, what event caused you to change your view?

I used to believe very, very strongly in the power of every individual to influence ‘life’ and make something of it for themselves. I held on to this belief for such a long time because I felt alone and didn’t see any other option. Now (especially after working with homeless people and traveling different parts of the world) I realize that first of all luck and circumstance play a massive role in how we get to experience life and instead of celebrating our (in my case white, male, Western) self, we should share whatever we have with everyone (except assholes) on this planet, create opportunity for others and thank those around us for giving us their time, attention, care, and love. To make my answer a bit more political: today I am a little bit more socialist and communist than I used to be.

8. When was the last time you felt like an outsider in a group? What/How did you learn?

I always feel like an outsider in any group of more than two and that is something I have come to embrace; the intensity and beauty of a 1-1 connection simply cannot be beat if you ask me. I’ll forever identify with ‘not part of the crowd, but not feeling alone’, part of a song I remember and I am more and more ok with that. I am grateful for the connection I have and get to find again and again with amazing human beings.

9. What app or tech product have you most recently fallen in love with?

Bubble Shooter 🙂

10. What is your most prized possession? What’s the story behind it?

None. One of the lessons I’ve learned is that stuff doesn’t make you happy, so I lead a pretty minimalistic life in terms of owning and buying stuff and mostly spend money and time on experiences with either my favorite people or myself. My recommendation to everyone is to try to throw away stuff you haven’t used in the past 6 months (twice a year); it’s a wonderful feeling when you detach from stuff and give yourself more and more opportunity to enjoy relationships and experiences.

11. Which fictional villain do you find yourself sympathising with most? Why?

Many, but one of the first ones was for sure Dexter. I identify (a little bit) and sympathize (a lot) with the fact that under certain circumstances you can get very emotionally fucked up and it will become hard to feel connected to any other human being if you are not lucky enough to get surrounded by warm, loving human beings.

12. If you could invite any 3 people - living or dead - to your final dinner party before the end of the world, who would they be and why?

My girlfriend (to share the experience with), Glenn Gould (to play piano music) and a great chef (Anthony Bourdain would be an excellent pick I think) to create the food and provide some verbal entertainment.

13. What’s the best piece of professional advice you’ve ever received?

From one of my mentors: Leadership is self-development.

14. Tell me about that one project that was a total off-the-rails disaster? What was your role in that shitshow?

Within OnRecruit, we once started an online (talent pooling) platform called iidentify. Candidates loved and used it, employers loved the idea of it, but, once it was there; didn’t use it. My role was doing the market research about the viability, using that research and my sales skills to get the internal funding, helping build the platform, hiring the people who would help make it a success and one day having to cut our losses and killing the whole thing.

15. What role do you find yourself playing when you join a newly formed team? Can you explain why this happens?

I will take initiative in getting things clear, started and organized: Where are we going, who is responsible for what, what actions will happen when etc. etc. This has to do with the fact that I’m very driven, can zoom out well and am horrible at letting things just go and be.

16. Have you ever been the weakest member of a team? How did you handle it?

In sports I have often been and am often the weakest link. I used to hate it and myself for it, to avoid it, now I am fine with it (from time to time) and try to still succeed together by motivating others, improving the organization and the flow and quality of communication and collaboration.

17. When it comes to our work and industry: what scares you most?

The way we treat people, how little opportunity some have and get versus others and how little thinking is done versus shouting. And I’m for sure guilty on all accounts here, but would like to think there’s still time and opportunity to be part of positive change.

18. What’s one industry challenge you don’t actually think will ever get solved?

The idea that humans must do labor (in the traditional sense of the word) in order to be respected, to feel good and for society to work. Our self-worth and -image and our wellbeing should not be tied to what spot we or others think we have on the food chain.

19. If you could add a question to this selection for the next person to answer, what would it be?

What is the number one thing you would recommend every person in the world to practice from now on in order to increase their happiness and wellbeing?

20. Who would you recommend to do the next 20 Questions With ... ?

Colin Day (founder iCIMS), he’s been a mentor of mine for a while now and I’m sure all humans, but especially our ‘industry’ would be entertained by and benefit from his stories and lessons.

Thank you to Rene Bolier for taking 20 Questions for The Brainfood Tribune. Make sure to connect with Rene on LinkedIn.

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