Have you ever met someone who has had a profound effect on your business and life?
Have you ever met someone who is a walking, talking encyclopedia? Ok let’s say Google in today’s time!
Have you ever met someone who is way wiser than his/her biological age?
Have you ever met an old soul in a new, modern, technologically savvy body?
If not, then I would like you to meet Noam Kostucki - an entrepreneur, a business coach, a TED Talk speaker, a photographer, an artist, a restaurant owner but most importantly a magician unfolding and helping others unfold their masterpieces.
So how can one person wear so many hats and excel in each area equally? I got to learn about this and the secret to a magical life in this honest interview with Noam.
I am sure you will find real value bombs in this interview that will help you and your business grow leaps and bounds.
Please tell us about yourself, your background?
I was born in Belgium, my 4 grand parents were Polish Jews who arrived in Belgium after WWII. I went through 5 schools in Brussels - 2 Jewish schools, a French school, a Belgian school and an international school. Thanks to my mum, I tried what seems like every sport, art form or activity. The activities that I stuck to and influenced me the most are judo, acting and the scouts. My judo teacher was the first person I considered a Teacher with a big “T”. Someone who had my respect and trust, not because of his position but because of his being and doing. From 5th grade, I was an awkward kid and didn’t fit in. I felt like I was from another planet. From 6th grade to 9th, I was a problem child, which meant I had a lot of fun in school and was failing academically. Thanks to my mum, I ended up at the international school in Brussels, where for the first time teachers told me I was smart and could do anything. I started to thrive academically, socially and personally. Those were my years of grace. These years were a blessing and changed the course of my life because I started to believe in the American dream as described by Tom Whittaker “it is about having privilege to be able to dream, and the inherent freedom in our society to make those dreams come true”. This was strongly reinforced by the knowledge that my grandparents went through WWII at age 13-14. From that point, a few things became clear to me:
- As long as nobody is trying to kill me, that I have food and somewhere to sleep, life is amazing.
- As people died and fought for us to live in a free world, it is my duty to life a free life, make the most of the world they’ve created and contribute to make it better for the next generation.
- As long as I have fun, learn and am challenged, I’m happy with what I’m doing.
- Whenever I fall, I stand back up.
- As long as I run right into my fears, nothing can scare me.
I then went to university in the UK, dropped out, started doing corporate training and executive coaching at age 20, wrote a few books, give 2 TEDx talk, had an photo exhibition at the European Union’s innovation conference, traveled over 40 countries and had a lot of fun on the way.
What inspired you to start a restaurant in Costa Rica?
Problems and synchronicity. I was creating a retreat center to work with my clients on creating masterpieces and magic. The restaurant was actually the final part of the puzzle. I already had the coaching clients, I was going to build accommodation and once I had enough people come on a daily / weekly basis, I would start a restaurant. But… I couldn’t find the money as quickly as I had wanted because most people thought I was crazy, and financial institutions see me as a nightmare - I’m a Belgian resident who earns money through a UK company and spends all his time in Costa Rica. And… as I moved houses 3 times to get closer to my land, my internet connection kept getting worst and worst. It reached a point at which I couldn’t do my coaching work via Skype because it was too bad.
I meditated on what was going on, and asked myself “if this was a sign from the universe, what would it be trying to tell me?”
The answer seemed simple: I had to do something without the internet and therefor that was very local. Since I started university, people asked me why I didn’t work in a restaurant and my answer was always the same: I would hate working in a restaurant. You had no life. It’s a military structure. It’s crazy hours. And you work like a machine repeating tasks and never seeing clients. Through conversations, meditations, coaching, research, and creating memories of the future, I realized I could create a food experience that did the same as I do in coaching, photography and everywhere else in my life: integrate opposite. That’s how the Jungle Culinary Adventure was born. A fine dining experience in a rustic context.
I really like the name HiR, what does it mean and where did you get this idea/inspiration from?
Over the past 12 years, I’ve come up with 1000s of names for what I do, and 10s have been used at one point or another. The first was FUEL DRAMA, aka. Free University of Experience and Life that bring you at the center of your life’s drama.
HiR is the integration of Him and Her, which represents the integration of opposites. It is also Human Intelligence Redefined. And it sounds like “here” because it’s not a physical place, it’s the place in our mind where there is no noise. When we’re in that place, magic happens. I like that HiR sounds like here because this place in our mind is always here. And as people go back to their busy lives, they can remember how it was HiR and find anywhere that place without noise that is here.
In a very short period of time HiR became #1 fine dining restaurant in its area. What’s the secret recipe to this success?
It quickly became #1 fine dining in Tamarindo on TripAdvisor because there was virtually no competition. It’s now at number 4 position on TripAdvisor for the province, which is very exciting.
I’ve simply applied to myself the methods I offer my clients. There are many stages to figuring out first what to do. A friend pointed out at how she loved how obnoxious I am with my restaurant: I don’t respect the rules, I do everything the way I want and not any other way. There was no menu, nor options: it’s seafood. No meat, no vegetarian food, and no drinks: if you want alcohol, you bring your own. Dinners last 3 hours, are scheduled from 5 to 8 pm and on reservation only. And also clients have to pay in advance.
So the first step to the recipe is “figure out what you want to do the most fearlessly and be unreasonable”. From the moment I decided that I was going to create a Fine Dining Jungle Culinary Adventure, I focused my entire attention on that one thing. In Japanese, they call it the way of the Shokunin: the person who is dedicated to improves his craft every day. I made it my #1 priority and carved the vast majority of my time to that one point of attention.
The second step is “make a powerful internal commitment to become better than you are now”.
I brought in coaches, mentors, friends, freelancers, and everyone else who could help. I practiced every day, and studied the best in the field. I carved vast moments for inspiration - one of which was to heavily watch TV series that inspire me -, and I spent a lot of time meditating, thinking and creating memories of the future. I applied the way of Tech Startups: quick iterations, beta testing, collecting data and going to market with a minimum viable product as soon as possible. Build the ship as you sail. From the moment I am with a client, all my attention is focused away from money and onto “how to add the most value”. And pushing myself every day to do things that are more unreasonable than the previous day. People pay for a 7 course meal and at first it was an impossible task to achieve. As soon as I got comfortable doing 7 courses, I started doing 8, 9 and then 10 courses even tough people had only paid for 7 because it pushed me to create new dishes and to do everything better and faster.
The third step is “do what you want every day fearlessly, relentlessly, intelligently, persistently and patiently”.
You have worked in various professions: business coach, TED speaker, photographer, restaurant owner to name a few. Which one is your favorite and why?
For me, they are all the same thing. At my core, I’m an explorer. I love to discover new things, new people, new spaces, new skills, new experiences, etc. And that’s what I do for myself. When I travel, I discover things that get me excited, that are useful to my growth, that add value to my life and that are fun. To bring this back to others and to crystallize the experience for myself, I create spaces. And these professions are names for different kind of spaces I create: visual, intellectual, emotional, social, physical, virtual and spiritual.
So I’m really an explorer and a creator of spaces. What I like to explore most is the integration of opposites in all its forms, and what I like to create is spaces where magic can happen.
You are always reinventing yourself? Why?
More than reinventing myself, I’m rediscovering lost parts of myself. I’m allowing myself to grow in multi-dimensional ways.
I like to explore the world outside of me, as well as the world inside of me. The more I explore both, the more I want to try things and explore different ways of being in the world. It feels to me that one of the effective ways of knowing oneself is to try being different selves.
I recently read that you moved the telecom industry in Costa Rica. Can you share that story?
I haven’t moved the telecom industry in the country: what I did is find solutions to my situation. I wish I could change the system for others, but for now, I created solutions for myself, and I’m now working on expanding them to my neighborhood.
The basic idea is that the Latin American organization for telecom has obliged all telecoms to apply a 10 GB per month fair usage policy on all mobile internet after which the speed goes down to 256 kbps. There’s a country-wide court case against the telecom and I was told that all I could do is wait for the result. I decided to find a faster solution so for two months I called on a daily basis the 2 largest telecoms, and after what seems like an endless journey in administration, I managed to get an unlimited mobile connection. It felt like an amazing achievement, especially as I had to do everything in Spanish… which I couldn’t speak a word of 2 years ago and didn’t take classes to learn. It was definitely an exciting exercise in resourcefulness.
What advice do you have for people who want to try different careers but scared of going against the norm or reaching out to the right people?
You’re not alone, and you don’t have to do it all alone. Ask for help. Invest in your education. Invest in people who can support you. Read. Learn. Make time for thinking. Make time for inspiration.
What advice do you have for people who want to start their own restaurant business without any previous knowledge of this industry?
Learn. Try. Learn. Try. Learn. Try. It doesn’t matter what you know, what matters is what you don’t know.
(1) Learn to do everything and try to do everything.
(2) You can’t be the best at everything: be the best at ONE thing, and find people who can help you with everything else.
Where are you headed next in your life journey? Do you mind sharing with our readers?
Right now, I'm planting roots: literally and metaphorically.
In the short term, I’m building the first structure of HiR on the land I bought - currently the restaurant is in a neighbors’ little wooden house. The plan is for this construction to be finished before the high season (December) and to serve 10 course meals for 5-6 months continuously. When this is done, I look forward to building accommodations so that people can start coming on retreats HiR and experience this place for more than 3h at a time.
From a coaching perspective, I’m currently most interested in working with people who have experiences of “extra sensory perception” because it’s an unchartered territory that my scientific mind wants to explore. I’m also in the creation of a program called “The Perfect Human - 90 days of loving your flaws, cravings and bad habits - the anti-detox program”.
In the longer term, I want to create an accelerator for people who create masterpieces, and an incubator for cosmic beings.
How can people find you and taste the delicacies of HiR?