A personal strive to make it in a hostile world

Captain Nikos Chalaris and the Yin Yang Concept

Introducing myself and the Yin Yang Concept after 4 years of existence in the business seems challenging and interesting the same time, reading back the first intro I wrote by then in my BlogSpot seems like yesterday while on the same time it feels like that a decade has passed already. It is one of those unique times where you make a pause in time and realise that so many things, events, incidents etc have happened that you cannot even recall them all. All in all, trying to consolidate it in few words this would be, adventure, thrill and struggle like any voyage at sea, nonetheless for sure I can tell after all that if I knew in advance what would I go through, I would never dare to try it as it would seem impossible to my eyes. Well as I am here still and going on I can tell it is not, however the courage and drive that emerged from inside me to make it still seem daring and more than hard, even for myself.

But first things first, so to make the reader familiar with the Yin Yang Concept, I am Captain Nikos Chalaris a Greek Shipmaster in the Merchant Navy specializing in Cruise shipping that in the age of 44 decided to become an entrepreneur. Before that moment in 2018, I had spent all my adult life almost solely within my profession and I would dare to say with success that fulfilled the most of my dreams up to day. So if a successful career was there what could be the reasoning behind it for someone in his mid-40s to quit and decide to walk the troubled unknown fearing path of entrepreneurship someone would reasonably ask. Could it be the financial reward or the chase of a dream to become rich? Not in my case to be honest.  Could it be a personal motivation behind the surface reasons to prove that there is more to be done and that I am able to achieve higher goals or could it be just a mere disappointment of existing life route that made me turn my back to an industry that I devoted more than 25 of my best years? This could be a part of it I admit.

“I can tell after all that if I knew in advance what would I go through, I would never dare to try it as it would seem impossible to my eyes”

Even though there might be seeds of truth in most of above reasoning I would supress it in a combination of a huge disappointment from the development of profession in this modern technological world that does not need Captains of the type that I was trained to be-and eventually became-with a strong will to try developing myself throughout this complicated world in an independent self-sufficient individual that can make his living by himself doing what he loves and tasting the fruit of success from the tree he watered. Being disappointed by giving the most of my outcome for people that did not appreciate it and realising that my ability to start something from scratch and make it grow, motivated me to try and work harder than ever to see it thriving, did I manage it after all? Well that is a good question indeed.

Briefly I was raised between the Cycladic Islands of Syros and Paros, fascinated by staring the ferries manoeuvring in the ports daily and being attracted by the sea, I never ever thought of doing anything else but making my way to the sea onboard a ship. So at the age of 17 I firstly joined a ferry sailing my home waters and after graduating the Naval Academy at the age of 22 I made it officially as an Officer of the Watch while progressing through the ranks and experiences. I first time took command of a local daily cruiser at the age of 27 and eventually at 31 after obtaining Master’s unlimited Tonnage Certificate of competency I commanded my first ferry. Ever since there passed more than 28 ships under my command and here we are after all trying to be my own boss for the first time. After an unsuccessful attempt with 2 more body friends to purchase a small sailing cruiser in 2018 and being hampered by a hurricane that hit my personal life the same year I found myself looking for the ever desired own floating home to reside at, this was found and surprisingly came with a commercial licence to operate in Greek waters and somewhere there it all started shaping in my head. Was it the time to make the move? The Yacht was called Yin Yang and to match it up, I admire Taoism philosophy, inspiration by default.

For persons like me that took life seriously since their early adulthood, after years of endless devotion and belief in a profession that in the end proved not worth the sacrifice, difficult decisions that involved risk seemed at the time as a promising jump in the void, dangerous but appealing it appeared and so I did it. Various calculations seemed to do the math and make it viable, but when humans make plans Gods laugh the old saying goes, so I quit my job but made one more contract to ensure cash flow and full of passion and energy I returned to Syros Boatyard as of preparing my yacht for the upcoming season. All was by the plan except a minor unexpected element that came to stamp my inaugural season, it was Feb 2020 and COVID had opened the door without invitation. I laughed after all and said to myself, if the whole world was expecting me to start my first ever business to fall apart then this is an honour worth the challenge, so if I manage to survive this I will survive anything.

When July 2020 came and I realised that I was supposed to have commenced operations from May and not even a penny was in the cashier, shiver started shaking my backbone, it became a fever when in mid-August local lockdown measures were applied to Paros island due to virus spike that I realised things were totally off plan despite my optimism.  To make it short, first year was a disaster that only was saved by a 5 months’ winter contract back at sea onboard an old ferry that dispatched the troubled waters with cash injection. I hopped that 2021 would pay off and so I went again full of passion and belief to start a new season, Covid measures, delays and the like stuck me back once again hence it was June this time to kick off, attempt to make it work was tremendous and until mid-September we managed to roll it off enhanced by creating a reputation in the Island. But an unexpected technical issue along with an inevitable call to return in command of ships made me end the season in September 2021.  2022 season started in May and things went up and down, from extreme adverse weather to Covid illness in July, made the most out of what we could, gaining excellent reviews along the way and keep looking forward with dreams and hopes for better days ahead.

If there is something that I should be really proud of, this is the reputation that the Yin Yang Concert has managed to make through those 4 years, our unique yacht that makes heads turn as she makes her way under sail or docked at Pisso Livadi, the onboard dining experience along with our perfectionism looking on every detail of the experience onboard come to pay off after all. We try to take care of our guest from the time they contact us until they return back, we promise an experience like no other and we deliver it. As competition is strong, each one decides strategies and plans to make his way through, in our eyes quality cannot be compromised for any reason hence our costs spread would be balanced differently than usual therefore while others invest in easier channels of sales we had to reduce this cost that apparently and subsequently came with its own impact. On the other hand, we managed to make synergies with few but like minded professionals that share our vision for quality products and fair business that benefit the end client. In other words, our dealers believe in us and we trust them to promote us, our clients left all satisfied the yacht after being treated professionally leaving us excellent reviews and feedback. Our moto is ‘serve not sell’ but this is not easy as a business model and somehow off course from mainstream trait, it often generates wonders as of ‘is this what will make this business succeed or should we follow the easy way like everyone’, but cannot do otherwise after all as our life view cannot be changed at this age.

Endless hard work that surprised even myself still is the norm of the day, ups and downs come to shake the ship never allowing me to rest or relax and if there would be one thing to cry for this would be some rest and relaxation urgently. Should I be ashamed of something? Not for sure.

Should I celebrate it after all? It proved far harder than I ever imagined while on the other hand I survived so yes I should be proud of my hard effort. What have I gained so far? For sure not the monetary profit I was expecting for, nonetheless a great knowledge in various fields as of business, technical stuff, personal development and much more yes are things were I truly succeeded at and cannot but celebrate my way through.

Could I consider myself eligible to give business to others like me? I do not think so, I am still in the beginning line and my experience remains poor but I work hard to learn. On the other hand, 2 days ago I travelled with a ferry commanded by a friend of mine that informed me on his will to follow my example and start something similar in his island. After describing all struggles, mishaps troubles and adventures that I had gone through I advised him to try it but remain very very cautious and vigilant, if he would not try how could he ever find out if this would work for him?

What have I learned from this up to day? That you will never answer the question of how things are if you don’t try, therefore go for it but be careful and prepared for the worst (even if it can go far more off the plan as Covid did in my case). If you are open to learn then you will-at a cost of course but so is life isn’t it-so catch the opportunity and give it a go, be prepared for failures and disappointments as they will come for sure, friends will let you down, others you counted at will do as well and safety circle and comfort zone will be breached for sure. On the other hand, there will be happy surprises from unexpected people and situations that will assist your optimism, hard work pays off at some point sooner or later as long as you remain vigilant and determined the same time.

What has proved to be the most hardship of all? Surprisingly for myself that proudly carry the reputation of highly successful commander and beloved leader among international numerous crew members all my life, the staff to work with. Maybe my passion for perfection in service and customer care, maybe my overall experience from cruise industry or maybe my character makes me demanding and perfectionist. If you place this against a generation that globally refuses to work the way my generation learned to work, result is a difficult equation to solve that money alone cannot buy.

And what could be a trap I never expected of but presume that all start-ups have as common? The inevitable one-man show which will only make it happen and materialise from scratch a vision to reality. So what is wrong with that? In my case Captain Nikos and Yin Yang Concept are the same thing and as long they co-exist it works great, however if for any reason I wish to withdraw myself out of it no concept seems to be there. This is something that acts a trap and I am working on ways of being able to disengage my person out of it should there be such a need without this equals as disconnecting power source from system.

Will I continue going on? After such a hard commitment and results already growing up can I let it all go fall apart?

So follow your dreams and do not give up, one or the other way life pays off, in the end if you do not try you will never find out how this could turn to be.

Your Capt. Nikos

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