In this episode of Innovators Can Laugh, I sat down with Virgil Stanescu, Executive Director of CEO Clubs International. We discuss his career as a professional basketball player, how sports is a pillar of education, and how he instills competitiveness in others by leading as an example.
| In this episode of Innovators Can Laugh, I sat down with Virgil Stanescu, Executive Director of CEO Clubs International. We discuss his career as a professional basketball player, how sports is a pillar of education, and how he instills competitiveness in others by leading as an example.
00:00:00] Hi, you're listening to innovators can laugh with Eric. Melcher where I interview startup founders and entrepreneurs and innovators here in Europe. This is the last episode of season one. Very exciting. Seasoned here interviewing mostly Romanian entrepreneurs. When did they get everybody for listening and tuning in and.
I'm excited to start season two, just in a few weeks. So with that said, let's go ahead and jump right in with our next guest. Virgil's Tenesco he O is the former captain of the Romanian national basketball team. And is the executive deck director for CE clubs international. Here in Europe.
I'm here with virgil stanescu, former captain of the Romanian national basketball team, incurrent executive director for the CEO clubs, international Europe. Virgin. Welcome to the. Thank you for having me. Absolutely. I'm very excited that you're here.
I usually get started by asking [00:01:00] guests just some very casual questions just to get to know you better. All right. Okay. All right. First one is do you have a go-to karaoke song? Yeah, my way, like I could sing that at anytime. I'm. Okay. I'm not a singer. Okay. I can carry this. My way it's I don't know.
I like it. Alright. That's it? Yeah. I didn't know. Obis did abrasion on my way until recently and my dad shared it with me cause he likes that version better than Sinatra. I'm still, I still like the Sinatra. Yeah. Yeah, me too. Me too. Next question. What goes on fries? Do you prefer catch-up or mayonnaise? All right.
Actually barbecue, but out of those two, hope you catch it. Okay. Barbecue sauce is not bad either. I'd rather have barbecue sauce and mayonnaise. Cause man-days, I'm still not used to right
now when you played and lived in a lot of other countries and [00:02:00] many countries have that garlic monies that is, is I like garlic, but trying not to use the much But Carly, my name is sometimes is okay. Yeah. Yeah. It's all right. It's all right. All right.
Favorite restaurant in Bucharest? Favorite little restaurant in depressed would be your Destino. It's a summer on Sylvester street, right across the street. That would be city Gustavus. Great restaurant. What type of, is it Italian? Okay. Some of the best restaurants I need now are from guests like you, because I'm fairly new here.
I don't know where to go, except that on the global app, but some of these places have been absolutely delicious. So I'm going to check that out. I'll let you know if I throw your name in there and when I get a better table, we're going to do that. I'm going to do that. Let's see what tick on a table.
I get. All right. All right. Last one question. What is the best place you ever lived? The place you liked? Most? [00:03:00] That's a tough question because I've been around and I lived in many, six countries, I think. And it's a tough question because each country had its own home beauty. And I can say I love the states because of.
The times that I've been there as a student. So student athletes into, to life that is different. And that also liked a lot Turkey ancada Ancora was a pretty nice city to live. Like people wise in, but it's not fair to the others because I met so many beautiful people, beautiful persons in other countries in Russia.
Some auto cause I dunno. So I tough question, but if you wish turn out the neuro, but of course the best blue cross I am from here this is my home and I would love to leave. [00:04:00] Yeah, Turkey's great. I've been one time. I want to go back, but when I first went, I went to a place called capita Nokia.
Phenomenal. They issued a lot of the backseat already there for star wars. Like the first movie, fantastic. The history, everything I learned how those people live under the ground. For many years, they had cattle on the ground. They used to make wine. It was just such a very good cultural experience.
But it's a different question. You put a question where I like to live and it's different when you visit something, I'm sure you live in.
But yeah, there were some nice places around the, I will, I would live in the states. I was living on the west coast. It would be me. Not, I will not move out of here, but if I'm thinking and fantasizing on something, it's like LA yeah, me too. Me too. We're not going back soon, but if we do go back, it wouldn't be back to Texas and probably be the west coast too.
Yeah. Okay. So who got you interested in [00:05:00] basketball? Was it something that at a very early age, was it a parent, was it an aunt or uncle? Was it a coach? I was not a very early age. However, I was going to my dad's some games because he was involved as a company that he was working for with the team.
Been few times there with him many times and Those just, going there and watch the games. Actually, I start practicing in high school sometimes a little bit, but seriously, when I actually like organized basketball was at 17 where you don't people have just hang out with their shoes because they realize that, they're not going to be good.
Yeah. So that's when I started and I had No career going to the states by the age of 21. National team, but I started at 17. So national team, I was already at 19 national team. So that, that success guts me. And I thought this might be [00:06:00] it, know, I like this.
Okay. So you got a scholarship to the university of south Wales. What did you know about Alabama before you went over there? The only thing I knew was of course, once they started recruiting me I knew what the system was telling me because I was talking to the assistant coach and, you don't have internet like you do today.
No that that you can do a research asking the left and the right tool. Would you ask about mobile Alabama? There are not many people that can tell you much. And I knew what the coach said. It's a warm place it's down to the Gulf of Mexico. The beach is half an hour away.
Yeah. That stop, that's all I want to know. It's warm. It's the beaches like I'm fantasizing only like box.
Which is not it that's right. However, it's been a great experience and I'm so lucky I could have that in my life, south Alabama really it's a foundation of my basketball and myself [00:07:00] and my formal education. Definitely during my. Yeah. What was the biggest culture shock when you moved there?
It's so easy to go there. It's, living in Romania in nineties, because I wanted to, I went to Alabama in 98, I was calling home and I was telling my parents, listen to this guys have air conditioning in the bathroom. It's amazing because here we were just getting this type of.
Things in our house and the appliances and you might have one the living room and that's it, and all of that oldest things there that, came down to the airplane and seeing everything like it was definitely like, wow, a wall moment then you get used to it.
That, probably with going to other places would be harder when you don't have the comfort that you're used to, but there was a scale up the comfort. So the transition was was freezing and they embraced me [00:08:00] and they really love me. They're so wonderful people thinking, man, like I was family already.
Yeah. Do you recall any like funny experiences you had during your. Years in the United south Alabama, there are many now thing that I could speak English, but not as good. And that could understand the most, but maybe sometimes words would not come. And of course the lost in translation type of things.
When I was saying, I'm going to make a shower and they're like, make it to where are you going to go? Or things like that. But It's been a hard period because I had to learn work, play. And I don't know. It is all of it. When you don't know how things work and it seemed I, I left Romania where I lived through with my parents alone.
I didn't know how to wash my hands. And [00:09:00] my work to put detergent in the washing machine. So I'm going there all by myself. It was a wake-up call. Did your parents get a chance to visit you while you were there? No. The number came there and of course it was expensive for us to go there and for them and all the visa thing.
Yeah. Imagine now from there you also play in Euro league and your old cup. You played many countries, Germany, Italy, Russia, Turkey, Belgium. What was like a very accustomed that you saw that you thought it was very strange or maybe funny from all those places you live? Does it, is there like one custom that you thought, Hey, this is strange
everywhere. There was something you imagined the religious body in Turkey, they'd have their own culture and their own things and celebrations or Rochelle where, things go different there. Like there, everything is huge. Everything is big there. [00:10:00] They have their own idea of the world.
And when you go someplace and you ask, if the speaking, we start laughing at you it's brought up this. Reaction, like if you go to New York or in the states somewhere to ask them if they speak Russian so Turkey had all the I don't know, exotic to me things or traditions or Russia as well, but we are used to the Russian way a little bit.
About states in Mardi Gras. That was amazing. This is just something that I would always go through too far from mobile, Alabama, just a few hours away. Actually we have a Mardi growing mobile about as well. It's part of this. I think it's the second biggest stuff, new Orleans, or having seen all that.
It's amazing. And yeah, each country. Spices. Yeah. Which one had the best food in your opinion? Turkey. Yeah. [00:11:00] Okay. Where do you get Turkish food here? I want to know on you have right here on the street on butterfly. I think it's called. It's pretty nice. Okay. I'm gonna check it out.
Jr. I saw this video of you and YouTube. You're playing. And it was pretty recent. You were in a three on three tournament. I think you guys were playing Serbia. You did a very quick spin move that was near the basket. You let the opposing player in the dust. It was almost like if he was a statue, you were so quick.
And you just dumped. Did you ever recall a moment during a game when you felt like you were being schooled? Like you were playing a player, you felt oh wow. This guy's really fast. So many, I think I, I might have more of these in my mind and the, the ones that do because it's hurts more, it hurts more.
You remember them. And that's been this [00:12:00] guy having a tour with a with a team the religious the states, and they came to Romania and they were playing national team and rose this guy, couldn't be more than. 5 10, 5 11. Yeah. Jumping out of the gym, you could fly the guy short, but he could fly.
He jumped and I jumped to block the hell out just to crush him. And he dumped on me no way I didn't expect that. Like just, jet it up and. Or it's part of the, yeah. Okay. So I know you've also done a few TEDx speeches and I'm very curious here, a lot of people have a fear of public speaking.
Did you ever get nervous when you got on stage? Nervous is part of us. We performed as athletes. We performed a lot on the court. Of course it's educated performance you'd should So you're always seeing the lights being, being the [00:13:00] leader so many years national team or teams that I played in, I did a lot of interviews.
So got used to that. Got used to speaking. Also in the states, when I got to the states, one of the first things they put me in was public speaking, and I think that's great in their culture. Bettering. Models, to be to speak up. We don't do that much. We should. And after in my transition from athlete to who am I today, I'm still an athlete, but I'm just saying I'm on practicing less.
I realized that I have so much to say and it's and when you speak about sport, when I speak about sport, I'm like a kid in the candy shop, he's like right there. Like people don't understand what sport is and this is what I'm trying to do. They have to explain that it's much more than a hobby or it's a lot, it's a big package.
Yeah. Yeah. Okay. And in 2013 you were elected as vice president of the [00:14:00] Romanian basketball center. What are the things that I was very curious to know more about was during that time you help found a center of excellence for children. And during that time there was more than 1200 children that got to play under that program.
Putting that program together, was there a lot of opposition? Where was there any, like major obstacles that you had to overcome? Can you just speak more about that? I still have a problem with. In a way of the center of excellence and what we do wrong and we need to become better. And the meditating for this, and I'm working hard on it.
It's to make people understand the importance of education, formal education. That sport is not one more than the other. It's one width there, and it's a pillar of education. Sport is a pillar of that. So what we experienced in Stelara, [00:15:00] in our, our program for youth was the heart work that you have not, let me rephrase that.
The waste system picks you out of formula education, motivating the German athlete, and you can go play sports, so it's. Systemic problem. Like a teachers don't realize what sport is. So they're like, if you miss the class because you go someplace, I don't care just because you had that tournament, like whatever.
And it is equal side on the sport side where the coach is saying, Hey, you can go to tutor you because we have practice. They'll come to practice. I don't care. Your school or anything else. It's so hard to combine them to, and the so necessary on the same side. So this was something that we really had a hard time [00:16:00] because we go into high schools and ask let's create a class of athletes, not sport class, but the class where you can put, make makes sense.
And if you don't make it to make it a where it's possible to do to practice or things like that. And they're like, nah, we don't want to, we're a good high school. We don't want to bring athletes here because they're gonna bring our great step. And it hurts me too, to hear that I've been through this type of problems when I was here in high school I was not.
Great student as a high school student, but I realized after it, how important is formal education and I started liking it and I start enjoying it and I, I'm still educating myself. Okay. So this was a big problem. Did he still exist? Some of these centers of excellence? It's a lot. We like to call them central or.
Excellence programs, centers, Alexa, but [00:17:00] they're not because this implies much more. They should be with schools for campus dorms, anything
everything that, that an athlete you mean? Yeah, it sounds like the biggest hurdle was getting the schools on board. Yeah. You have fueled them, but mostly because in Romania, there is not a big communication between the ministry of sports and ministry of education. You have this problem. Okay.
Okay. I see. I see. And now you're serving as the executive director of CEO clubs international here. Obviously this is an association for CEOs. There's 8,000 members worldwide. It's an association for business networking and leadership development. Can you tell us about one of the projects that you're most excited about working on here?
Seal clubs, and this is the Romanian chapter. It's a great group of people, it's this type of people. We are not going somewhere to prove something they [00:18:00] already did. They're all successful. So they come in, they're still curious to learn, to understand, to have togetherness that they feel, they find value.
So staying with these people, for me, I've been a member in the community for four or five years until I jumped. And became a part of it and was really unformal education. Because being with this type of leaders of seal or owners of big companies, I, you just act like a sponge and you listen and you talk and you take these things and it's the same for them because what are we trying to do?
Put them in situations that makes them bad and relate with each other and get to know each other, but in a different way not exchanging business cards, what exchanging ideas. And once you understand this [00:19:00] value and it's a safe place, because they're there, that's a loneliness in that position, that not many things feel a bit.
And that loneliness it's because you have challenges that not many people understand, and it's nobody above you. It's nobody that can understand. And below you home, if you go with it, it's not somewhere, you can find the any ideas. So here you find people that, relate and resonates with the same.
Okay. Fascinating. Fascinating. What are some ways oh, I'm curious. Cause I know you had two kids and I heard that your little girl wants to be twice as better than you. She wears the number 44 instead of 22. Your number, right? Yeah. My son was the first one and he took 22. So she was like, no, I want to be like both.
Yep. 44. I'm just wondering what are [00:20:00] some ways that. That you try to instill competitiveness, not just in your kids, but in other kids that you worked with in the past. I'm just wondering if there was any strategies or tactics that you tried.
Well, w with my kids and my kids is different, of course, because they see me day to day in and day out. And I'm leading by example. Always have been for me a way to go. So they see me doing the things they've got to do and debriefing them on that, on the things that I do. So it's easier on my kids with others.
It's it's a mentoring, however, it's a I'm trying to put. The considerations that they can find out themselves, they understand how it works. And the fact that you do it one time is not enough, even if it's going okay, if you do you have to do it on two, don't do the [00:21:00] wrong anymore.
And that's how it is. And it's always the best competition of course, is the one with yourself. And all that talk. And trying to make them understand, giving them examples listen, this is how this things work. However, I'm trying to not relate to how I did. Okay. Because it's different for everybody.
Then don't want to have the same context. They are not going to have the same tools. They're not going to have the same chance of one point or another. They're going to have other. I have other tools that they can use. The values that I'm trying to instill with my mind, your kids is to stay curious and to be good people to be kind because the rest though, it's coming up and you have to be competitive with themselves.
Always, put up question why or why should I do this or how I do it better. I love that [00:22:00] curiosity. It allows you to now and that's, that should come also with the responsibility because you, you try things, you get it wrong, you have to get be responsible for. Yeah.
Yeah. Okay. I'm curious about cause you're obviously competitive athlete, professional athlete. How did you, what did you do to stay mentally fit? Was there any rituals that you did? Was there any routines that you did. Just just very high level. I know you worked out obviously, but was there anything else that you did, but it Taishan, certain stretches just, can you give us some insight into that?
I have to be honest with you. I'm coming from a culture that didn't believe in something like that. We we didn't have like sports psychologist on to the RESA. So in Romania, we never really experienced that. I didn't grow up. However, I grew up with the coaches and that, that helped me a lot, but in my own mind was just me and the close people [00:23:00] that I'm asking that, that ride, whatever.
But you can ask enough then. I cannot ask my parents stuff about basketball or, because they don't know. And or they will not even understand the pressure or distress or the competitive side of it. So I think maybe in a way I was lucky because self-educated in a way that the I could lay on my teammates and anybody that, I feel close enough.
But now you have so many tools and actually would be telling me.
telling you that it's okay to be borrowing vulnerable. For me it was not okay. I had coaches that told me always to give 110%, whatever that percentage is because there is not like that. But these, just to emphasize that you need to go over the limits all the time. You can't show weakness in any way.
If you're an athlete, you cannot be. And I'm putting quotes here. You're [00:24:00] not allowed to be vulnerable because the opponent, you're going to see that a feed on that vulnerability. So you grow up with this things and it takes a toll on you. Maybe. I understand how it is like theoretically, practically.
I don't know if I can pinpoint that on me. I never experienced a breakdown in that way. My head bad moments. I felt sad or crushed because we lost, but I learned how to get up. Good. Okay, good. Okay. What w where is you're an athlete in a, doesn't have to be a former basketball player, but is there an athlete it can be past or present that you really admire?
I never had like role models to say that I want to be Charles barley was so close to sky that I came. I really liked. It was a beast. But I cannot say this I'm a Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant or something like that. I tried to I don't know who said that. And I think it was March 20 if I'm not [00:25:00] mistaken, but I might be mistaken one.
They said, be yourself because everybody has taken it's, I could take pieces and bits and pieces for from people I admire. The athletes that are today because they have voices. So I really admire that. When you're taking social statuses standards and political, whatever, but educated ones, not just because people love whom I am.
I'm just going to say something just to say something because he would've gone. Listen to me know that. Positions that they now have a much bigger voice and they're not afraid by because they have their own needs. You have many channels. I think it's so much easier. And you can make a difference.
Some do some of course don't than do the, just staying with the Docker, being their voice. And what I'm saying. Understood. It's being educated. That voice, you [00:26:00] cannot, like I said, you cannot do just because you're an app, but if you do it's good to get involved. Okay. All right. Last question for you.
Is there a mentor, somebody, or is there a book that had a really big impact on your life? Books, I love books and there are many books that have the impact on my life. The once I read a lot of of course, sport related, like I would recommend for people that would want to understand that mine is a thing during a game, it's a basic book.
If it's a book that you read as you just divorce, but you understand the. The game that is in somebody's head. It does the inner game. And it's Tim Galloway. Okay. I read the stories of people like, educated biographies, and of athletes, of people, business people.[00:27:00]
And of course, No. I love that at some at that age, I love short one. What's the bulk of different culture. I don't know. Each time you read the book, connects different thoughts in your head. Yeah. It's it connects to the dust that you're ready to get. Absolutely. It sets you free to have different lives.
It's amazing. It's brilliant. Thank you so much for being on innovators. Come. And for everybody listening and when it, thanks everybody for you. Wonderful first season meeting with so many wonderful Romanian entrepreneurs, innovators, athletes on the show, and look forward to season two. Thanks everyone.
Hey everyone. Thanks for listening to the show. If you have any comments or just when reach out, we can email email@example.com. I look forward to getting your feedback, any [00:28:00] comments, and if you have any suggestions for guests to be on the show, feel free to reach out.
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