how I got here
March 12, 2023 / Ronny Eriksson
starting up with yourself
I’m often asked how I got ‘here,’ how I became the Ronny you know today. Truthfully, I likely started somewhere similar to you and today you will get to know that story.
But, before we dive deep into my background, I want to warmly welcome you to the journey of Starting Up with Yourself. You are among the first brave ones who have taken the time to join this journey of personal growth.
I want to salute you. You have taken the first big step, which is the curiosity to learn. When you are open-minded and curious, nothing will stop you from becoming – precisely what you want to become.
This journey will continue every week, with us uncovering new elements. I'm a huge believer in "Continuous Improvement," so what might you ask?
Continuous improvement is the process of making minor, incremental improvements to something over time. The idea behind "continuous improvement" is that you can consistently achieve significant improvements over time by making small changes. 1% every day is enough to make mountains move. James Clear has been writing about it for over ten years and explains it well in the picture below.
By offering you weekly learnings, reflections, resources, and content, I aim to inspire you to get 1% every day. The easiest way for you to keep this information close is by signing up for the newsletter, and I meet you in your inbox every Sunday.
The result? A guide with tools, resources, and frameworks for you to use at various stages in your own journey of becoming.
Today I'm here to tell you how I got to here and the wake up I had that got me to start this journey.
where I come from
"Know from whence you came. If you know whence you came, there are no limitations to where you can go." – James Baldwin.
Each story starts with finding common ground with the audience. This newsletter is no different, and for you to relate with me, I want to lay out my story of becoming the human I am today.
So first and foremost, Hi! I'm Ronny Eriksson.
I'm a 27-year-old boy living in Helsinki, Finland. I work as an entrepreneur running multiple companies and organizations. In addition to my work, I'm completing my Ph.D. at the business school Hanken School of Economics.
Even though I've been privileged with many excellent opportunities in life, I come from a typical middle-income family. I was not born with money; I had no shortcuts. All I have I've built myself – and it hasn't been easy, and it is not that still today.
Firstly, Let's rewind to my upbringing to clarify where my journey started.
I was born in Kerava, Finland, a small city of approximately 37 000 inhabitants situated 30 minutes outside Helsinki. Like most of Finland's small towns, my childhood home is in a neighborhood close to nature and calm.
I was born bilingual, with my dad speaking Swedish and my mom speaking Finnish. I'm a so-called Finn Swede. Due to this, I went to a Swedish-speaking school – the closest one was 12km from my home. I was born a traveler, watching the other kids walk to school just 200 meters away from our home.
My mum is a nurse, and my dad is an engineer. I have a little brother who is one year younger than me. A two children family with an engineer and nurse as parents is a stereotypical family in Finland. We were not poor, and we were not rich. We had enough to come by, enough to have a life we could genuinely enjoy as a family.
Fast forwarding to the age of ten, I started playing basketball. This sport became the first obsession and identity in my life. I was good at it, it was social, and it consumed energy I had more than plenty when I was young.
For the following seven years, I focused on two main things: basketball and school. I was okay and good at school, not the person who read a lot or did diligent homework – but who still thrived in competition and reward systems—at 16, basketball had taken me to the youth national team. I saw myself becoming a professional basketball player. As for many of us, sports developed my leadership, teamwork, passion, grit, and discipline skills. Many of the skills I value most today.
At the same age, I also started working. If I wanted to do fun things, I had to have money. I don't come from a family where you ask and get it. Partly because my parents wanted to teach and partly because there was little extra to spare.
My first job was as a salesperson at a telemarketing company selling Omega-3 fish oil by making phone calls. I can't say I loved the job, but it had some fun elements with you earning, depending on how much you sold. It was like a game; the better you do, the better score you get. I spent a year on and off at this job.
When the job ended, I was graduating high school, and my life was heading towards the first colossal decision: Basketball vs. Normal Life.
Even though basketball had been my life, my love for it had started to disappear. In my everyday life, I felt like an outsider seeing my friends party as I always missed all the "fun" of attending games, tournaments, and trips. I started to miss practice more and more. I had lost my passion for the sport.
After graduating from High School in Finland, most young men (nowadays, more and more women) go into the military. It is mandatory and something we are much proud of (as well as our parents). The people who do sports have an opportunity for the special military while the rest attend wherever the system takes them.
I got to choose, and for the first time in eight years, I chose the "normal" path. A goodbye to my dreams of becoming a basketball player and a welcome to all the other plans life had laid out for me.
The military changed me a lot for the better. Many don't say they loved the experience, but I did. I've been a natural leader all my life, but I put my leadership skills to good use in the military. I spent a year in the military giving it my all and found myself in the top 2% getting the schooling to become company leaders (troop of 150 soldiers)—On top of all that, I was good at it.
When the military was coming to its end, I was waking up to the reality after it. I didn't have a school to study in or a job waiting. In high school, I had read everything to prepare me for medical school, but being lost between life and basketball, I struggled to find a passion, and my grades had taken a hit. I had applied once to the business school Hanken School of Economics, but I have yet to focus on that test.
So I set my sight on an alternative path combining work and studies. Hanken is offering something called "Open Studies" that allows you to pay for courses, and if you do well enough, you can enroll in university the next study year. I didn't have much extra money, so I had to get a job.
With no expertise other than selling over the phone, I consulted some friends and old basketball coaches and found a job working in a warehouse at Transval Oy. My job was simple, build the interior of a warehouse from scratch, ie. Lift heavy bars from the bottom to the roof of the warehouse.
It was fun manual labor but not that challenging for the mind. As our foreman was busy running multiple warehouses, I naturally used my brain capacity and started leading the warehouse group. The foreman noticed this, and a couple of months into the job, I was asked if I might be interested in managing a team at another warehouse.
Ambitious, I said yes, and soon I had three shifts to manage. I saw many things that could have improved how the structure was executed and started making minor changes here and there. Suddenly, I built a model that made my 8-hour work shift only take 2 hours.
My new manager noticed this, and a couple of months later, I found myself sitting at the corporate headquarters working as a recruiter.
With the extra time I had, I could focus on my open university studies, complete all needed courses, and get the green light to become a student at the university in the spring of 2017.
university and entrepreneurship
In the fall of 2017, I started my studies at the university. At this time, I was still working at Transval as a marketing intern, and my interest was to study marketing at university as well.
I needed to know almost anything about business to choose Finance studies and Marketing as a Minor. I followed the ambitious herd of students without questioning my choices a single time.
During my first year, I noticed that startups were a booming term in our school. Everyone was talking about Slush; many were starting their own companies. The thought of building your own thing was intriguing to me.
I started to engage more and more in entrepreneurial activities. Before I knew it, a friend had recruited me to work as the interim CEO for their human resource startup CaterMate. With my knowledge from Transval, I had a lot to give.
My career in corporate life ended, and my journey in the world of startups began. Before the first year of studies finished, I had become a co-owner in the company and changed my aspirations leaving the herd and starting to study entrepreneurship.
I was now an "entrepreneur."
The following years became my CV, as you can see today. I kept using the skills I'd learned in basketball, the military, and my jobs to build one company after another. I was back to the passion I once had for basketball. The more I did, the better I got. I had found my home.
If you want to learn all about the things I've built over the past four years, you will find them in my portfolio:
A year ago, I graduated with a Master of Economics. I thought I had achieved calm – I was wrong.
the wake up
Even though I was doing a lot – It felt thus like my end goal didn't come any closer. I started many companies and organizations. Some did well; others did not.
I was running like a headless chicken from one opportunity to another. Maybe the big realization in life was not being an entrepreneur – perhaps it was just a tool.
I've built great things, but something has been missing throughout the journey. Something I've been searching for all my life.
For all my years, life has been performing, accomplishing one thing after another. I've done many things just for status, fame, or money. I need more purpose, understanding, and a clear goal - a North Star to aim for in life.
The past year I've felt like I don't fit in with the crowd. I've started to feel like I'm different from everyone else, struggling to make things happen.
So I stopped, took a pause, and started to reflect.
We can do a lot in our lives, accomplish anything and write about it on social media as much as we want. But life is more significant than that. Life is a journey of becoming – money and success don't make us happy. We need to learn to be satisfied, fulfilled, and at peace.
Our generation is facing this problem more and more. We have no own will. We do things others do because we think we should do that. We do what we are told to do without thinking for ourselves. We lack purpose.
What we learn in our upbringing and at school allows us to succeed well in work and society, but we often need to remember to use these skills to build a happy life. I need help. We need help.
The truth emerged we're all more alike than we realize. I'm struggling with the same things as you. I'm as lost as you are. I'm just like everybody else.
Now you know me. I'm no more special than you are. I might have made some things work through hard work, but those best practices I’m here to share.
You've seen the tip of the iceberg now. Figuring the answers to these big questions is what Starting Up with Yourself is all about. Learning and sharing it with you. I can't wait to share you all of it.
Until next week,