TripAdvisor opened up a whole new world of travel to us. Waze changed and simplified the way we navigate daily. Sagi Shahar aims to provide a similar revolution for individuals and their careers. Part one of an in-depth interview focusing on everything from his childhood to philosophies on life.
DC: Sagi Shahar, Founder and CEO of Nachshonim, which you said in English is…?
DC: And also founder and CEO of FiveYearsFromNow, and co-founder of the 2040 Leadership Program?
SS: Right. Co-founder, by the way, for all of that – Nachshonim, FiveYearsFromNow, and also the 2040 Program. They all work simultaneously in my life. Nachshonim is a non-profit, so I don’t get paid in any way for that platform. It’s a nonprofit organization; we do have employees, but we have funding from philanthropies and some other sources. 2040 Program is a for-profit program in which me and Arik are actually providing – and I’m going to tell you about 2040 later on – but we actually provide some services to large corporations on developing their talents, the mid-level manager level people in the organization. We have four or five projects a year, and we do that and this is how we provide. This is actually where the revenue is coming from. FiveYearsFromNow is a very early stage startup on which we dedicate a lot of time today on; that’s our future in many ways. We build something that we truly believe.
These all three organizations that I’ve just told you about have one thing in common; we want to help people close the gap between what they could have been to what they really are. I told you that before and now it became my inspiration to help other people actually do that; close the gap between where people could have been to what they really are. For that, we have Nachshonim, for that, we have the 2040 Program, I’m going to tell you about it a little bit later, and also the FiveYearsFromNow, which is a big data platform to allow people make smarter decisions about their career. It’s all connected and it all has the same vision for me that will allow people to fulfill their true potential. That’s what I feel like I want to do today.
DC: Between the three there’s a synergy. Between the three, they all work together to fulfill this aim you’re talking about?
SS: Exactly that. It’s not easy to have these three all together, but I find it workable. It’s doable and, in many ways, I believe that, eventually, it will come together to one thing that will help people in every stage in their life, in many crossroads they have, especially professional crossroads.
Because I felt in most of my career, since I was actually posing just only in the career, whenever I thought about, “What am I going to do when I grow up?” I always felt as if I was blind. There was blindness out there; I didn’t quite know what’s going on out there.
When I was in school, I remember growing up to be a teen and then to feel like nothing in the education system prepared you for the real life. Nothing. I studied some stuff and that’s it. It gave me some social capabilities, but nothing towards the world of career, the world of work. Then I went to the Army and you get back and, once again, nothing prepares you for real life. Then when you get to real life, you need to find yourself deciding some things that you have no idea about. What is marketing? What are my possibilities? What is what? I had no idea. Then you just do it like that, you just try to figure out things, you waste a lot of time, I believe, on the wrong major, the wrong studies, the wrong job, the wrong everything up until you get to the point you find something that starts to connect.
That blindness, the fact that people are making decisions in blindness doesn’t make any sense because so many other areas in life, in recent years, don’t have blindness anymore because of technology and because we now can get things that were really complicated and make it so easy for people to do to make educated decisions on.
Travel has changed since Trip Advisor opened us to the world. “Here’s the world,” then they added some reviews of real people and now I know what people say about Costa Rica. I had no idea there was a place like that, I didn’t know what people actually said; it opened my perspective to the world. Then Waze changed the way we navigate. It helped me to get from one point to the other but with real life, real-time knowledge. I think that I’m in love with Waze especially when it gets me to one place to another on a route that I didn’t even know existed. It took my blindness and just helped me get there. And I made bad decisions also before Waze; it was just bad decisions. I was stuck in traffic all the time. Waze changed that in a second with technology, with real-time reviews of real people, and there you go, now you have what you need to have. It takes you from one place to another in the shortest, the best way possible that you don’t really have the way to actually know it on real-time.
Then I actually thought to myself, “Why not do that also in the world of career? Why not build Waze for career? How come it doesn’t exist?” This is exactly what we built in FiveYearsFromNow. It’s not just Waze for career, it’s more than that because we want to remove the blindness; that’s our mission. We want to get millions of data points, real resumes, real people, real things that are happening out there and actually build for people the ability to see what’s out there for them. To see what are the possibilities, to see where will it get them, to get perspective on, “If I’m going to choose that road, where is it going to take me?” We want to show people what’s really out there to remove the blindness from the get-go. You don’t have to spend 10 years of mistakes just to figure out what’s going to be the right thing.
It’s not all about knowing what’s out there; there is some maturity that people need to have and some people, I think most people, need to go through some things in order to actually find out who they are. But, eventually, we want to complete that with some source of information, of knowledge, that today just doesn’t exist. That’s one of the things we believe would be really insightful for people and also for many other stakeholders – from companies, from others – we believe it can be a really life-changing application.
It’s going to be something that we build to be big. We’ve targeted to the US. We’ve been in the US a couple of times in the past six months just to talk with our potential clients and it’s great.
DC: I look forward to you telling us more about each one individually. You said something earlier and it led right to where I want to start. You said growing up, you didn’t have an idea of where you were wanting to go or do things. Tell me about growing up, your family life, your childhood, where you’re from, everything.
SS: I grew up in a city called Kfar Saba. It’s a city right next to Tel Aviv, 20 minutes, a suburb, really nice. What I can actually tell you about my childhood is that I hated it. I hated it. Seriously, I just hated it. I knew, and I know it also today, that I had potential. Once again, I was in the closet with my potential. I felt, eventually, that lots of my potential didn’t come out; not in high school, not previous to that. High school, it was hell for me. I just didn’t like it, seriously. I was an okay guy; everything was okay. My father was, and still is, had his own business that knew many, many…
DC: Ups and downs?
SS: Ups and downs, yeah. I grew up in a happy and warm family, very hot and… Not hot, hot is not the word. Very… How am I going to say it? Really close.
DC: A close-knit family?
SS: Yeah, it was close.
DC: How many are you, brothers or sisters?
SS: Yeah, I have an older sister and I have a younger brother. I always felt as if I know I’m not mediocre, but I feel that the surroundings thinks that I might be mediocre because I couldn’t bring who I actually was at school. Seriously, it was just hell for me. I just waited for school to end. I hated every second because it just wasn’t probably the framework that allowed me to become who I really was. I’m not sure why; I’ve talked a lot about it with my therapist, of course, because eventually… By the way, I found that therapist is like a gift. Everybody said that. It’s almost a cliché today, but it is. I remember being 32 or something and thought that everything is perfect and then I met her by accident and when I’ve been with her, I thought, “Wow, that was amazing.” I think everybody should go and see a therapist. It’s amazing; it helps you probably reflect on many things that affect your day-to-day. It’s not just talking about childhood and stuff; it’s much more practical than that in my experience.
DC: When you’re talking about school and not enjoying that and just waiting to get home, was that from elementary school all the way through high school or somewhere along the way that changed?
SS: Elementary was okay. I remember I was quite popular in elementary, it was okay, but you don’t really know. All you care about is the social aspects, you want to have the right friends, you just want to manage. You get locked in that school and now you have to do what you need to do. So I get the grades I needed. I was quite an okay guy also with grades, I was quite popular. When I moved to… We have, between elementary and high school, we have something in the middle.
DC: We say middle school or junior high.
SS: Middle school, yeah. Middle school was probably the right thing and I think it wasn’t quite a good fit for me in that middle school. Once again, I felt as if I’m just observing what’s happening and not actually live it. That’s the best I can actually say it. I was curious about people, I like to see things from behind, which doesn’t go well with my personality today. I’m leading, I’m just going forward; I’m the A guy. Back then, I was just observing, just trying to figure out the situation. I liked to see things from a distance and whenever I was in the center, it felt wrong so I just wasn’t in the center although I felt I need to be the guy in the center. I had some things like that back then.
DC: You said somewhere around middle school it changed from you enjoying it to you not enjoying it and then you went through high school.
SS: Yeah, and then went to high school and that was just the same thing because now you’re a grown up, so you try to understand things that are just a little bit more comprehensive and you understand that things are missing out for you. You’re not living the life you want to live. As a junior high, as someone 16, 17, 18, I always felt as if something is not right. There was a gap back then even between what I was and what I actually wanted to be, what I thought I should be. I just waited for high school to actually end. Things didn’t work out. It was once again okay, but only okay. Why would I settle for okay?
DC: That’s not a good way to live life.
SS: No, I don’t want to live anything that is okay. I remember I always felt as if I’m going to be 25 and then I’m going to just show everybody who I actually am. That was when I was 16, 17. I thought 25 is grown up, just to realize, by the way, that 25 is the same thing. But you think, “Its’ a decade from now, I’m going to be completely different.” We’re not getting completely different; some things change.
DC: During middle school, high school were you involved in any activities like sports or music?
SS: I tried to go to scouts. I went for one meeting and that was it; I was really connected to that. No, I haven’t done anything more than that. I just had friends and stuff, but nothing more than that.
DC: During that time, like you said, during school you were busy, obviously. You get home, already in that timeframe, maybe teenage years, did you see yourself as someone creating or thinking about ideas for businesses etc.? You were already turning…
SS: Not only that I didn’t do it, I told myself, once I saw what happened in my house, the ups and downs of my father’s business, that I’ve never, ever going to own my own business. That was exactly what I said to myself because I knew what happens to the family. It’s tough because when things go well, everything goes well. When things doesn’t go really well, you can feel it. I always felt as if I was really mature. I think I was born 40; that’s how it felt.
DC: Very mature.
SS: I think it had something to do with the fact that things at home was the kind of things that when there was a down, you need to understand that there’s no money now and you need to just control the budget and things are getting tight now. So since a very early age, I remember myself understanding that I need to be independent; that I can’t rely on things in my house. Once again, we got all the comfort and everything we needed as a child, but I remember understanding that I’m going to need to be very independent in my life. Not owning my own business independent, but making my own resources, finding my own way. So that was my experience as a young boy.
DC: Out of curiosity, what was your father’s business?
SS: It varied from thing to thing. Consumer retail, probably. Many things that were different. Today he has a gift shop in Tel Aviv, but it was several things up until that point.
DC: I didn’t know that he had a trade or something like that did he always did.
SS: It was actually retail in many ways, many shapes, many things different and very successful sometimes, very unsuccessful in others and that up-and-down.
DC: He was just so dependent on the consumer?
SS: Yeah, it was dependent on so many other things and it was different per year and you couldn’t just start a business like that. Today with the computer, in five seconds. It was a big thing back then and it was something that I, as a boy, felt as if I’m never going to do that to my family kind of thing, which is exactly what I’m doing today. So perspective changes and things that you tell yourself, “I’m never, ever going to do something,” becoming your reality because that’s life. Life perspective or philosophy I think changes, seriously changing, and we’re developing and growing and finding things different than what we thought it was. For me, the only constant is that nothing is constant and I also know not to tell myself I’m never going to do something or I’m never going to I don’t know what.
DC: No absolutes, no “never” “always.”
SS: Exactly. I’m still saying things like that, but I now know that’s… At one point, you get just enough perspective to understand the real bit of how things work, especially probably about yourself. For me, I thought things that changed dramatically.
DC: Not that you can speak for them, but your sister and brother that you mentioned, did you all share the same feelings about growing up and life then or were they just so different personality wise?
SS: No, I think they had the same experiences I had. I think they had the same experience, I think that… For each and every one of us, we have like four or five years gap between each one of us. My sister is older than me by four years and I’m older than my brother by five years, so we experienced different periods and we experienced these different things. My sister, I believe, had the toughest period being the oldest one and trying to figure out everything in between. But I think they had the same experience and we are very close today; we were close back then as well. But I think they had the same experience as mine, understanding that things are not as stable as we would’ve wanted them to be. We all grew up mature. They have a term for it, a child that is like a parent. Do you know how they say it? You understand the situation and then your childhood is something that you understand is childhood, but you act like a grown-up. That’s the best way I can actually put it. We were old…
SS: Children that acted as grown-ups.
DC: Are either of them entrepreneurs by trade?
SS: No. My brother is an engineer, my sister, she is actually some sort of a business owner. She has a music endeavor in which she actually… She’s very talented in music, so she’s doing some stuff for people. Which is, by the way, her own.
DC: Going back, you get through high school, you hated it, you were just ready to get home, leave, everything. You get done with high school, what happened after that?
SS: After high school, I went to the Army.
SS: Exactly, IDF. Then something strange happened.
DC: During your time in the IDF?
SS: Yeah. I think that was my deciding moment in many ways. I started my service as a fighter in the military police and, at some point, there was an opportunity to become an officer. To go out to become an officer, you have to do an officer course, you have to get accepted to that, and I actually did that and became an officer. And not only that, everything I did in the Army, every course I had, everything I was actually doing, I excelled at. Everything. It was like discovering who I am.
DC: Your capability?
SS: Yeah. And it’s not only discovering, it’s like unveiling because I knew it was there, only now I can actually demonstrate it. I don’t know what was the difference between school and the Army, but the IDF allowed me, specifically, to excel in everything I did. Probably every course, I was chosen to be the best one
DC: You were top of the class?
SS: Yeah, top of the class, top of the course, top of many many things. When I went to the officer’s course, which is famous in Israel, it’s something that actually shapes your personality in many ways. In that also, I was the top of my class and then I thought, “Now finally things get together. Now I’m becoming who I actually am.” I was actually also surprised to find out that I am that good because, eventually, after 10 years of mediocrity, I felt that maybe I am, in some ways, mediocre. Seriously, it happened. Because you say, “They’re successful, they’re successful, he’s dating the greatest girl in school, he’s having the best grades, and I feel as if I need to be doing that, but I’m not.” That was high school and then, in the Army, I was that guy finally, 10 years later. 10 years late. Seriously, that was my experience. All of a sudden, while being at the IDF, I also succeeded with girls. So things were actually… I don’t know if it’s an aura, but it’s something that just grows.
DC: When you start to be successful at one side, it lifts everything.
SS: Yeah, your confidence, everything just starts to work out. Then you find yourself, in many ways. For me, it was quite a shaping experience to find out, in the first two years, that I’m so capable and that everything I felt is actually happening in real life. It’s not in my mind anymore, it’s just happening.
DC: Can you point to anything in the IDF that you think changed that or was it something else?
SS: That’s a good question for my therapist.
DC: I didn’t know if it was something outside that triggered you or maybe the IDF pushed buttons.
SS: I’ll tell you what it was, it was the fresh start. I needed a fresh start. I needed people who don’t know who I am, who don’t have any opinion of me, and that fresh start turned out to be exactly what I needed. In school, people knew me and now, all of a sudden, I need to be someone else, I can’t do that. They think I’m mediocre, so I might as well be who they think I am. It was a tough experience, actually, to live in a shell, in many ways, through high school.
The fresh start, I guess, give me the power to just be who I can be and I needed that and it worked from that moment on. Actually, I think my friends up until that point, I just let it melt or just dissolve and made some new friends. I wanted a fresh start, I wanted a fresh life in many ways because high school was that bad and it worked. For me, it was a restart for life. Seriously, not only refresh, restart. I was someone else, I felt as if I’m finally me, and things, since then, I think I never went back. There was some other obstacles, but once I saw that, that’s it, I know what I need to do. Things just made more sense to me in terms of what I need to do, who do I want to be, and what are my capabilities? What are my strong assets? That happened to me in the Army.
DC: It sounds like you enjoyed your time in the IDF.
SS: I did.
DC: You seem very positive about everything.
SS: I did, I had a very good experience there. I had some service to do as well, but I did it and I didn’t have the conflict. I must say, I didn’t serve in an area of conflict in many ways. This is where people in the IDF usually have some moral issues and other things that… You’re 18 and, all of a sudden, you’re facing something that you shouldn’t be facing, that stuff. But that’s what we need to do in Israel; that’s part of the way this nation got to where it got so you need to do that and you understand that.
For me, it was like a training session for four years. That’s what I felt. It was training, meaning growing, personal preparing to life. That was the point I felt as if now I understand. Once becoming an officer, you’re 20 and you now manage a lot of people. I get lots of lots of responsibility and that’s what I did. I grew up to that position so quickly because I was born 40, remember. So I just knew what to do; it felt right for me to just manage things, to lead people, to be the guy who actually harnessed other people after him. That was also my first managerial experience, which once again, let to me understand or let me feel as if that’s what I need to do.
DC: It sounded like at a young age you had hands-on managerial experience at a high level.
SS: And that’s why I believe the IDF is an unbelievable jumpstart.
DC: A great training opportunity for life and business.
SS: It’s amazing. They teach you everything, they give you all everything you need in order to make mistakes and learn, and they throw you into the water just like that.
SS: Yeah, “Just swim.” Swim, swim, swim, and then all of a sudden, you’re swimming. That’s it. Something really amazing happened there and I actually believe it’s part of not only myself but many other people in Israel, that’s what shapes, in many ways, their personalities, the IDF service.
DC: I think you said you were in IDF for four years?
DC: You seemed to enjoy it and you excelled, you were an officer, I would think they would want you to stay in and do more?
SS: They did. I thought about it as well, but the last two years wasn’t the same as the two first ones. I was already a manager, a commander, I was a Lieutenant, and I actually liked it. I excelled in so many things, so why leaving? I’m not sure, but I felt as if I’m not supposed to be an army guy.
DC: A lifer?
SS: Yeah, exactly. I knew that it was great for that period, it gave me so many tools, I feel I gave back, so it was a great deal between me and the IDF. I felt as if I need to grow outside the Army because there were some things in the Army, in the IDF, that I didn’t quite like. The hierarchy, it was unbelievable. When I looked at some other officers, I couldn’t really find a role model, at least in my area, so I felt as if I need to find myself in other places and not the Army.
DC: You can tell me here if I’m jumping ahead, but you decided to leave the IDF and pursue other things. Was there anything in between? My research shows that you go and you do business administration and management and you get a Bachelor’s degree and a Master’s degree.
SS: Right, but before that, I went for a year and a half just to travel the world.
In Part 2, Sagi Shahar tells us about his time traveling the world, meeting his wife, entering the work field and the seeds being planted for future entrepreneurship.
In the meantime, please check out Sagi’s Tedx Talk.
Sagi Shahar, a social and business entrepreneur, aims to change the way people build careers in the new world. Sagi speaks about the fear of regret we all have in our career and suggests a unique way to resolve it while making an unexpected impact on society. Get ready to discover a new way to accelerate your career while accelerating the growth of the businesses in your community. Sagi is an entrepreneur with a mission to close the gap between what people could have been and what they really are.
Sagi is the Co-founder of “Nachshons” – an innovative platform that enables Young Professionals to build a dual career and accelerate their growth while accelerating the growth of their community. He is also the CEO and Co-founder of “FiveYearsFromNow” – a global start-up with a mission to change the way people make career decisions. Sagi has also co-founded the “2040 Program” which redesigns the way people are being trained and developed in business organizations.
In his previous positions, Sagi led the strategy practice at Tefen Management Consulting firm as an Associate Partner, and prior to that was part of the Business Development team at Better Place.
Sagi holds an MBA from the joint MBA program of Ben-Gurion University and Columbia University. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at https://www.ted.com/tedx