Relaunch your life with the help of your networks – An interview with Tal Shmueli

Have you ever felt like: Thank God, I have friends who punch me in the face when I say something stupid? And the best part is, that they don’t do it publicly. They pull us away and then hit us hard with honesty. But by doing so, they might just save us from many potential embarrassments in the future.

Tal Shmueli was first offended but then thankful when his friend offered him some unpleasant but useful feedback. A friend who has gracefully bruised his ego.

The Idea

One day he thought: What if this time, I myself, pull my friends, family and colleagues together and let them re-examine my personal and professional life? What if I invite my circle to a full-day event where they would use their diverse insights and brainpower to tell me how I should improve my life? Sounds nerve wracking? This is how Hackmethon was born. Hackmethon, a hybrid between intervention and hackaton (a method of working, which brings together people from different disciplines for a creative problem-solving task under time-pressure). With regards to Hackmethon, the problem is… you.

Photo by Yarin Goren

Let’s plunge into the mind behind this idea.

The Interview

“You’ve started Hackmethon as an experiment… I’m curious whether you dived into it with the intention to actually implement the ideas that your friends and family would come up with? Or were you more on the cautious side thinking ‘let’s just see first what they propose and then I’ll decide’?”

T: “(Laughs) Although I was exposing myself, I kind of liked my life at that time. I didn’t have any difficulties, except from being a little numb and having a routine. But I was alright. So I really hoped that what they’ll choose for me won’t remove me completely from the life I was living. However, I also knew that if I’m asking for their time and commitment, I’ll have to follow through with whatever they think I should do.”

“Whom is Hackmethon for?”

T: “There are three types of Hackmethons.

There is the Do-It-Yourself Hackmethon, which can be used by anyone who wants to live a better life, and thinks that friends and family could contribute to that goal. Maybe it’s someone who wants to pivot in life but isn’t sure how. It could be a Multipotentialite, someone very skillful at many things but not sure how to combine them or someone at the doorstep of their career, who needs guidance before committing to a big company.

Then there is Hackmethon for executives: for managers’ managers. These people are in desperate need for more tools that help illuminate their blind spots, as their immediate environment can’t provide them with negative feedback. Understandably, if I depend on you to promote me, I would rather not risk my chances with unpleasant confrontations.

And finally, there is Hackmethon for founders of startups. As your company grows, you suddenly find yourself in the position of managing a team, scaling your business globally, negotiating and so on. But you have never done it before, so you would want to harness the expertise and the experience of friends and professionals, who can tell you what to do.”

“There is a famous quote that reads ‘The two most important days in your life are – the day you were born and the day you find out why’. Do you think Hackmethon has helped you come closer to your Why?”

T: “A person’s Why is a very big deal. I think destiny changes a lot of times but it helps aligning your current goals, aspirations and skillset with what is achievable and available to you. Also, I think these days when you have multiple evolutions, you’ll probably have four-five-six Whys, and maybe 10-20 jobs throughout your professional life. So it’s extremely helpful if you know yourself better, because it can help you make better choices.”

“Is there something you would like to say as an encouragement to people who are searching for meaning, clarity or fulfillment in their lives right now?”

T: “You should know, that you’re not alone. The issues, the challenges, the problems, the difficulties that you’re facing are shared with probably many. Keeping them under wraps and not sharing them is what makes them look so big, so intimidating. Because once you put them on display and say ‘this is something I’m dealing with’, the world really comes to your help.”

Photo by Jon Tyson via

Hackmethon successfully transformed Tal’s life. He left his job at LinkedIn, relocated to Tel Aviv and joined an EdTech startup called Jolt, whose purpose is to make learning a lifelong habit, helping people like him relaunch their own lives and careers.

Not only did he awaken from his existential slumber, but he also gained back his long-lost excitement for his future.

I remember hearing about Tal’s story for the first time: I was inspired, and even more excited about the upcoming TEDxVienna Simplexity conference. I knew I wanted to interview him about his idea worth spreading. Would he be a nice person to talk to? – I wondered sometimes. Interestingly, his reputation reached me on the conference day, when I heard several TEDx-ers telling me how nice he was. And I understood what they meant after meeting Tal Shmueli myself. He greeted me with a big charming smile, spoke with humility and couldn’t stop making other people feel good about themselves.

The TEDxTalk

Standing on the big stage with the red-round-rug beneath him, Tal spoke slowly and calmly. You could sense that his goal was not to entertain, nor to perform, nor to impress. He was there to be real. And the audience could feel it.

Photo by Daniel Willinger

As I was already familiar with his story, I was expecting to hear a stimulating depiction of how he successfully relaunched his life, with the purpose of inspiring us to take action too, and innovate our own lives. But Tal had a bigger concept to convey. “This story is not about me. And it’s not about you either. It’s about us. It’s about love.” He changed the train of thought of his speech and elevated his message to a whole other level. Suddenly, he talked about how Hackmethon helped him rediscover the definition of love.

“Because what is love? Love is an insurance policy, that allows me to tell you that you should change your job. That you should get rid of this guy… If you believe that the love we are sharing is genuine, you will know that I am saying this because I want your life to be better.” So love plays a huge role in this process of personal transformation. Love that is challenging, love that feels safe to confront. “Acceptance is good. But it doesn’t motivate change.” If we, however, aspire to keep growing in our lives, we need friends and family who feel comfortable with punching us when we need it. And we need it.

Photo Credit: He Shao Hui

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About Tünde Tarnoczy

A big fan of TED Ideas Worth Spreading from a young age. She got invited as a Tedx speaker in Seoul, later joined the team as a TEDx blogger in Vienna. Skilled writer and language teacher, with a strong interest in design and beauty. Born in Vienna. 4 nationalities. 5 languages spoken. Find out more about Tünde through her articles.

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