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Book-Talk with Irina Botnari, Managing Partner and Co-Founder at Bucur's Shelter Hostel, on Her Love for Stories and Biographies

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Irina Botnari is the Managing Partner and Co-Founder of Bucur’s Shelter Hostel, the first traditional hostel located in the heart of Bucharest, Romania’s capital.

Bucur’s Shelter is a cozy and vibrant place that will make you feel like you’re at home, but also help you meet fellow travelers and backpackers.

The business idea for Bucur’s Shelter was born back in 2013, somewhere above Middle East, while Irina was returning from a trip. Its foundation lies in the founders’ passion for traveling and hospitality.

Irina’s work lies at the intersection of tourism, project management, digital, and marketing business. Detail oriented and creative thinker, Irina’s a wonder woman that joggles with multidisciplinary tasks.

She’s also a travel addict and one of my favorite partners for trail running – this is actually how we met, thanks to 321sport, a local running community that we’re both in.

Irina also spent a few years working as a Project Manager for Young Professionals Club, an NGO where she contributed to the growth of the young generation. She created and implemented projects and events that helped young people with their professional and personal development.

I reached out to Irina, curious to find out more about the books that left a mark on her, what she learned from them, and in what ways she applies those lessons in her entrepreneurial journey. Grab a mug of hot chocolate and keep on reading! (you’ll also get to meet Panda, Irina’s lovable cat).

What’s your favorite book and why? Business and non-business, if possible.

It’s pretty hard to pick only one favorite book because as we get wiser (to be read: get older ☺) our interests change and so do our books, but it’ll stick to the plan. The highlight of this year for me was Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes. The idea behind is heartbreaking and completely brilliant, being in the same time so perfect and so horribly disturbing.

Somewhere at the border between business and non-business I’ll place The Diamond Cutter by Michael Roach, a collection of empowering strategies for personal and professional life gathered from the contemporary wisdom of Tibetan Buddhism.

As for the business related one I’ll go with Rework by Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson. It made me reconsider almost everything I knew about strategy, sales & clients and many more. The book simply moves you out from your comfort zone and teaches probably the most important lesson: there isn’t such a thing like the right plan, you map out a plan and you make it perfect for you.

Was there a moment, specifically, when something you read in a book helped you? Can you tell me about it?

I’m definitely a story-lover and maybe that’s why I like to read a lot of biographies. It’s fascinating to discover how people with different backgrounds, interests, businesses, careers have found solutions for various challenges from all areas of their life. Elon Musk, Andre Agassi, Phil Knight, Maria Sharapova, Arnold Schwarzenegger are only a few of good recent ones. A specific moment when I recall one of the inspiring stories is probably when I think I can’t anymore. I take a deep breath and move on. It’s only in our mind. We can always do a little more.

What books had the biggest impact on you? (perhaps changed the way you see things, dramatically changed your career path)

As a teenager I’ve read all the Jules Verne books in one year. I was dreaming and traveling side by side with every character, aiming for that one day when the dreams will come true. That was for sure the moment when I became a wanderer & an adventure seeker. I still haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list ☺ And guess what, the dreams do come true, you just have to work your ass off and take risks.

Businesswise, Blue Ocean Strategy systematized in one place all the concepts I was pondering about. The main lesson: make it count. Create value innovation which will make your competition irrelevant. As simple as that. ☺ We Are All Weird, Seth Godin, is also a bible for our fast forward changing world. We’re all different in our own ways. The businesses shall adapt, quick. And so shall we.

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What books would you recommend to youngsters interested in your professional path? Why? (no number limit here)

I think you can’t learn tourism from books, and probably you shouldn’t. Tourism is about experiences, so you 1st have to live them, is about learning by doing. So you have to go, see, feel, live, experience, dream, explore, seek, discover, and after that come back and reinvent, adapt, add value, add colors. Don’t forget the courage, and of course some madness. ☺

As a marketing & strategy addict, I’ll go beside all the books mentioned above with Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, Buy-In: Saving Your Good Idea from Getting Shot Down by John P. Kotter and Lorne A. Whitehead, The E-Myth: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It by Michael E. Gerber.

I’ll stick again to the idea of practicing over reading, in every area. Reading is only the 1st step. The hard work comes after.

I’m interested in finding out more about your reading habits. How often do you read? In what format?

I read every day, at least a few pages and I prefer hard copies. That can be any time: in the morning while drinking coffee, on my way to somewhere, while waiting something or someone. During the day there is a lot of dead time, I’m trying to fill it with reading. I was also enjoying reading before going to sleep but lately it isn’t working anymore, my brain associates reading with sleeping so I’m using this trick now only if I want to fall asleep ☺ Long distances traveling is also a perfect time for reading. During my recent vacation I’ve read 2 books somewhere between Bucharest and Vienna.

Also, I schedule reading from time to time if I feel that I’m not getting enough of reading. We’re scheduling meetings, parties, dentist appointments, why not to schedule reading?! We’re blocking time in our calendars for anything, but sometimes we just neglect and don’t pay enough attention to really important things like learning & reading. Every Wednesday, from 7-10 pm can be reading time, for example.

How do you make time for reading?

I couldn’t limit my response to the question above so there are all the details there. ☺ For me, reading is a hobby, the rest of the details are about time and priority management.

Do you take notes or have any other technique for conquering the torrent of information?

I’m not taking notes. If I want to remember something or keep it for future, I underline it. If it’s a possible solution for a challenge I’m facing at that point, I just put it into practice and see what’s happening. The rest is Carpe Diem.

How do you choose what books to read next?

I usually note the recommendations I hear/see from friends and professionals I’m following. The books suggestions from different events are another source of inspiration. Also if I’m researching a specific subject, I just search all the books related and choose the top ones. And of course you guys, I’m so happy that you started The CEO Library, you’re doing a great job here. Rock on! Now it’s even easier to pick the next book to read.

Do you prioritize those recommended by certain people? Is there anyone that you consider a book-recommendations guru?

I don’t have a book guru and I’m not prioritizing the books. If the book was chosen from a shortlist of someone who I trust, it will become a priority. But I also give chances to unknown books, you never know from where a surprise can come. Meanwhile, I promised myself not to buy any new books until I’ll finish all the new books I have. I’m still working on it ☺

Last question: what book are you currently reading and what are you expecting to gain from it?

I’m reading more books at the same time. Guilty. Some of them are Tools of Titans – Tim Ferriss, My Berlin Child – Anne Wiazemsky, Women who Run with the Wolves – Clarissa Pinkola Estés. Tim is full of lessons to learn, remember & implement, I’ll see what the rest of the books will unfold.

Links where you can follow Irina Botnari or find out more about her projects:

  • Irina @ Facebook
  • Irina @ Instagram
  • Irina @ LinkedIn
  • Bucur’s Shelter Hostel
  • Bucur’s Shelter Hostel @ Facebook
  • Bucur’s Shelter blog

  • All books mentioned by Irina Botnari in this interview:

  • Rework by Jason Fried, David Heinemeier Hansson
  • Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance
  • Open: An Autobiography by Andre Agassi
  • Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike by Phil Knight
  • Total Recall by Arnold Schwarzenegger
  • Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim, Renée Mauborgne
  • Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell
  • The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It by Michael E. Gerber
  • Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers by Tim Ferriss
  • My Berlin Child by Anne Wiazemsky
  • Women Who Run with the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype by Clarissa Pinkola Estes
  • Buy-In: Saving Your Good Idea from Getting Shot Down by John P. Kotter, Lorne A. Whitehead
  • We Are All Weird: The Rise of Tribes and the End of Normal by Seth Godin
  • Unstoppable: My Life So Far by Maria Sharapova
  • The Diamond Cutter: The Buddha on Managing Your Business and Your Life by Geshe Michael Roach, Lama Christie McNally
  • Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

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