I want to welcome Nini Fritz, a remote team-building coach who wants to humanize the digital work environment and create more meaningful connections in the virtual office. 

What are some lessons you learned from moving from one place to another?

The main takeaway from it is that you pretty much adapt your identity, who you think you are, and what you like. So, when I moved from my village to a small town, I always referred to myself as the village girl from five kilometers away. Then, I moved to Cologne to study, which was three hours away.

So, I was no longer the village girl. I’m now from the nearest bigger city. Then, I moved to Amsterdam for my master’s and then I was German. I’m from another country. I moved to Australia and then I would say, ‘Well, I’m just going home to Europe for summer’. Eventually, I was in Bali and I was just from the Western world.

It just makes you realize the further you go away, the more relative your identity becomes in that sense. But also realizing that in the end, we’re all humans, we’re all the same, and we’re everything and nothing. That was kind of very grounding. 

The second lesson that you learn when your environment keeps changing is you really come home to yourself and get to know yourself on such a deep level – because the places and faces and everything around you changes, but the only constant that you have is yourself. That shows you better make sure you like the only person you’re going to hang out with for the rest of your life and invest in self-care and a healthy and positive mind because you cannot escape yourself.

What was your master’s in?

I did a master’s in communication science, more specifically entertainment communication. I wanted to start a career on TV and my biggest dream was always becoming a TV host, hosting dating shows and stuff. And also travel around the world to see some cool places, get some makeup on and talk. Basically being well paid to talk all day. That didn’t really happen, but now I’m doing something similar. At least I’m hosting workshops.

I’ve always been interested in how we humans just tick in behavioral science, social science, and I think communication is everything. Once we have a clear way of communicating our emotions and just getting across in a diplomatic and respectful way, we can change so much and we can have such a positive impact and healthy relationships. There’s a lot to learn about communication.

What’s the best place to live in Germany? Let’s hear it from a native.

It completely depends on your interest and your personality. I would say Berlin is probably the most popular place. It’s maybe the new Melbourne, the new cool place and cultural melting pot. But, even for me as born and raised in Germany, it always feels like being abroad in Germany. I just go on a little country trip when I go to Berlin because it’s so multicultural and extremely open in terms of parties, sexuality, and expressing yourself. If you want to fit in, stand out. And if you want to stand out, just look normal and people are going to look at you like you’re weird. 

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Berlin is the perfect place if you’re really outdoorsy, but still like the city life, just love your little nature getaways, mountains, and beautiful lakes. Bavaria, more specifically Munich, is the place to be in terms of life quality. It’s top-notch. It really is the place where you can just get the best of both worlds: explore city life, have a huge variety of cultures, concerts, amazing restaurants, museums, whatever you can imagine. And then, you just even hop on a bike and start cruising and you’re in this beautiful picture-perfect, fairytale environment.

There are plenty of places in Germany, little hidden gems that you wouldn’t probably associate Germany with. We also have beautiful beaches and islands up north. The cool thing about Germany is really that we have a lot of neighboring countries and you can just go on a road trip and cross off so many countries. Go on a road trip and go to Denmark, go to France, go to the Czech Republic, whatever you want. It’s literally next door. You just sit in a car crossing the border, new country, new culture, new language, new food. That’s pretty cool.

What makes Bali so special for you?

It wasn’t plan A because A was Australia, but then I turned into plan B – Bali. I visited Bali for the first time in between my bachelor’s studies and master’s studies and I had three or four months off. I wanted to use this time and l fill it with purpose and do something meaningful. So, I decided I want to give back and invest in charity work. When I was seven years old, they had this radio show where you could win a trip to Bali and for some reason, on the weekend I set my alarm at 6:00 AM to call them. I was obsessed. I still don’t know why, but it sparked something inside of me. So, I applied for a volunteer program and I got it. I went here for two months and I was teaching English in a super rural volunteer center somewhere up north. On the weekends I always went down to the south to where I live now.

During the week I was completely remote in the sense of bumpy roads, no supermarkets, literally in this volunteer village teaching English, and something inside of me just got me extremely grounded. I didn’t realize how much my mind was scattered because I’ve always been a vibrant and positive person. Then, when I did my first meditation or yoga session, I was not so calm inside. Somehow I can’t chill. I’m so much active, so their doing nothing was much more challenging for me. For a lot of people, it’s more challenging to motivate themselves to do something, but for me, it was the other way around.

In Bali, for the first time, I found this calmness and peacefulness, just slowing down and unwinding. That mixed with the beautiful, authentic, genuine smiles of the locals. It was the first time I got exposed to a Buddhist, a mix of Hinduism, Buddhism and nature tradition. So it’s Balinese culture here. I was not used to people being kind and friendly and warm and extremely giving without expecting anything in return. This unconditional kindness was a new concept for me. In the back of my mind, I always thought, ‘Where’s the catch?’ This place was the first place from all the other places I’ve visited that I felt it’s calling me back. I went to Shanghai, Mexico, but Bali is the first place from which I don’t want to move on and experience the next kick. 

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I moved to Australia and then I wanted to apply for another year there, so I needed to leave for six weeks to get the application process done. So, Bali is next door. I booked it in a time when it was no sense of panic or emergency in the air and suddenly, a week until I was supposed to fly out, a friend of mine who was living in the capital of Indonesia at that time, called me to tell me that Indonesia’s going to close the borders in 30 hours because of Covid. In Australia, there was no sense of panic. So, if I want to go to Bali, I need to take the next flight. Twelve hours later I was heading to the airport. I didn’t really know what I was doing, but if they close and I figure out there’s no visa agent that I can pay to still get in a few days later, it’s now or never. I took the flight and I just realized there’s not a single person at the airport. People wearing masks. We landed in Bali two and a half hours before they shut the borders.

I always feel like I ducked under the border. There I was, Bali was closed, I couldn’t fly out anymore and Australia was closed. I couldn’t even go back if I wanted to. 

Bali is the most magical place, but it was not love at first sight. I had a fantastic life in Australia that I had no intention to leave. When I first got here apparently I had to start from scratch again. Find new friends, find new co-working space, and build up a new life because Australia announced right away they’re going to close for one and a half years. 

What is the difference in the lifestyle between the north and the south of Bali?

Out of my own experience, I can only speak from a very local perspective and local everyday life. In the north, there are no tourists. Imagine any random small town in the middle of the US. There’s no reason for tourists to visit. 

Balinese people really love their ceremonies. The longer you live here, the more you understand all the different ceremonies you have, but in the beginning, it’s funny because literally every day they blocked the road for a ceremony and parades and locals in traditional outfits. Mostly it’s all white, but sometimes it’s colorful outfits and there’s always a God to celebrate.

We celebrate every full moon, we celebrate every new moon, we set intentions, attract new things, new life, let go of things. Recently they had their version of the day of the death when spirits come back for 10 days. These people love to love their ceremonies. That is a major part of everyday life and also daily offerings. You always get little banana boats. So, you have the banana leaves folded. Then they put a bit of grass inside and four different colors of flowers which represent the four different gods – the gods representing the four elements. They always put an offering in there like a cookie for the gods or a bag full of coffee and incense. So, they place the incense on an alto in front of your house to bless our house every day. You can somehow call it woo-woo magic, but you can feel the frequency here is just higher. People are more content, they just have a smile on their face. Good day, life’s good. That’s prominent in these rural areas. Most of the action happens between 6 and 9:00 AM because that’s the only time when it’s not too hot. 

And I’ve had it multiple times when I passed by construction sites when people were supposed to build a house, they were just having a break time. A break time again. So, when are they actually working? There’s a lot of construction going on, but they don’t take things too seriously to make sure they always have enough time to rest.

And community is such a big aspect here. Everyone is living in these family complexes. So, you have many mini houses. It’s basically just one room with a mattress in there and very small. Everything happens in the community area. They have big temples and outdoor areas where people mingle. They look at us as wondering why do you need a living room or a big office space and then a giant room where you just sit on one desk. Actually, they’re right. I sleep in that room, so it needs to be big enough to put a mattress in. It makes sense actually. 

It’s also nice to surround yourself with people who are a little bit laid back, but it just requires self-discipline to not float away in this siesta lifestyle or the island lifestyle where a lot of people come on a holiday, but if you have your focus on your work and you set the boundaries and put your energy into that, you get to enjoy life like everyone else around you. That’s beautiful. I prefer that over living in a stressed-out city where it’s an elbow society. Everyone’s just rushing, disconnected from themselves. As long as I show up for myself and invest my time in getting work done, after that, I go for a sunset walk, have a coconut, go for a surf, and life’s good.

I sleep with my curtain open and then I wake up at 6:30. I don’t want to sleep any longer. I’m excited. It pulls me out of bed. The biggest struggle I have in the morning is whether I will go for a surf or I’m going to read a book at the beach or get a coffee to go and take a walk. 

One thing I wanted to add to the offerings and the incense. I’m always afraid to drive over the offerings with my scooter because then I’m cursed. It means detouring that puts other people in danger behind me because there’s no way I’m going to drive over this tiny little square of offering because I don’t want to mess with the woo-woo gods in there.

Is Bali good for freelancers and remote workers who would like to relocate?

The hotspot is definitely Canggu where I’m based as well. There are heaps of co-working spaces. They’re popping up like mushrooms all over and they’re all pretty much fully booked. For me, the coolest thing about living in Bali is the people, these super genuine, high-vibing content, relaxed locals, and then you just have these super inspiring, like-minded, purpose-driven entrepreneurs who just have the motivation to build up a business and grow and evolve personally and professionally. It’s a very uplifting environment and literally every person you talk to could have been a podcast recording. They just come up with the coolest business ideas of basically seeing a problem in the world, then finding a way to fix it. And they build a business around that. You’re just constantly inspired by your environment and because it attracts so many digital nomads and entrepreneurs, you’re in this community and they run a lot of events around, such as many networking events like masterminds, workshops of e-commerce or crypto. We have a lot of coaches, salespeople, digital marketing, and anything you can do remotely.

You all have your little bubbles, your little communities, and what I found and what I really enjoy here as well is that it’s not an elbow society unlike what you might have in a traditional company setting. Here, it’s giving and taking. People help each other out. I wouldn’t have started my own business in the way that I did if it wasn’t for Bali. Compared to Australia where the cost of living is just much more expensive and you cannot afford to have a very low income because it’s just too expensive to maintain your lifestyle. In Bali, the cool thing is you can live a really good life on a budget. So, you can risk it (have a low income) and still don’t have to sacrifice so much of life’s quality. Plus you’re also in the right environment to ask people since everyone around you probably has built a website, has set up a sales funnel, and can just give you advice on how it feels like to go through the entrepreneur rollercoaster and deal with the highs and lows and the challenges. 

In the traditional setting, you might feel like a loser at times because everyone around you is getting promotions and pay raises and you’re just eating spaghetti at the end of the month because you invested all the money that you made in marketing or in a mastermind session. But here, it’s totally normal. It’s very inspiring to surround yourself with people who just get you. They might be a few steps further along the road, they can mentor you and after three years you’ve seen so many people growing their businesses, coming up with cool ideas, and really being part of the journey.

What kind of game is eyeConnect? 

It all basically started with me writing my master’s thesis in communication about phubbing. That is phone snubbing and basically means the effect of neglecting the offline person in front of you because you’d rather engage with your smartphones. You would rather scroll through Instagram while your partner’s telling you about their day – ignoring the human connection and human interaction because we are just so busy. We completely miss out on being available offline and being present with the people around us. So, I wrote my thesis, I backpacked Nicaragua and, ironically, my phone got stolen on my third day. I had to get this whole trip offline and actually, it was really cool and liberating to ask strangers, improve my Spanish, get lost and find myself again, and hitchhike. I had a friend with me who had a phone. So, I wasn’t that naive blonde girl alone just hitchhiking without a phone.

It’s actually pretty cool to be so present in the moment. I also realized the more you travel and the more people you meet, the more repetitive small talk conversations you have in terms of, ‘Hey, where are you from? How long have you been traveling?’ We all do it, but it just gets very tiring and I just wish I could put a stamp on my forehead and say this is me. Then I just started off with creating a bunch of conversation-sparking questions. We all have like exciting stories to tell. We’re traveling the world. There’s more to it than what’s your name, where you are from. In order to skip the small talk we might just need to ask better questions and scratch that surface level and dig deeper. So, I came back from my travels and started giving talks and workshops around this whole get off your phone, connect with the people around you. On the side, I already had these question cards made because I don’t like small talk. But it wasn’t until maybe a year or two later that I brought them everywhere and told everyone about my thesis and connected one-on-one. So, raising awareness was one thing. I felt it’s important to make people aware there are actually humans around you that you can connect with and not just Bluetooth and wifi. Then, I thought, ‘Well, how about I just make people more interesting than social media?”, so I don’t have to talk down being on the phone and how bad it is. So, I’m just going to use the questions that I have and make them look like a phone, and then I put them in question categories. I put them into six connection levels and six different color connections. Then, I put Wi-Fi down the back of the card and basically defined the connection level based on the depth of the question. So, the higher the wifi level on the back of the card, the deeper is the question level and the stronger the connection. So the real name is actually ‘Stronger than Wi-Fi’. 

Normally, you would pile them up, you roll the dice and then the dice defines which level you’re going to pick. The conversation started when the first person to roll the dice, it’s actually the person with the highest-ever screen time. So, everybody checks their phone time or screen time in the beginning and the person with the highest screen time is going to start.

What does the creation process of a card game look like? 

In the beginning, it started as a passion project and I found this girl who designs games on Fiverr. So, I paid her 90 bucks and then we hit it off. I just had a bunch of questions and vague ideas. I was just pitching her my ideas and she kind of implemented all of them. It was slowly moving on and it shaped its way, and now we actually have the cards.

I brainstormed more questions and I told my friends about it, so they sent me questions and we build it up. It wasn’t until I moved to Bali and ended up co-founding a new co-living community with a Dutch and a Swedish guy that I started it. We found this really freaking dope house. So, we had this pretty much private resort and we locked it, we secured it, and then we just found other digital nomads to move in with us. We had weekly mastermind sessions, a whiteboard on the wall, a gym in the house, a private chef, a ping pong table, and a massive outdoor area. It was nuts. We had pool parties and a pool bar. Project X was actually our life. This like-minded community and having accountability helped me so much to actually have a due date and get it set up.

It probably could have been faster, but for me, it was a bit of a journey because I did it by myself and then ordered the first samples from China. It was literally a 90-bucks investment for a board-game designer and then on Alibaba I found a board game production in China. They sent me a price and set everything up. The biggest thing was logging in – this is it, these are the questions, this the design. Because you keep on changing, you’re never ready. Unless you have a due date, you keep on wanting to improve and then you kind of never finish. Having this mastermind group and logging in there and by Friday, I’ll have the sample order. That really helped me to just get it done and press the button. I got a few samples delivered from China and there were certainly still some adjustments to make. So, one of my housemates suggested printing it here in Bali, at the local print shop. It’s actually cool and I can just always improve, and it’s not just ordering this package from China and taking ages, plus the communication barrier. I can just cruise over with my scooter. I was reinvesting into the Indonesian economy during a time no tourists were coming in. So I felt good to give back and spend my money in Bali and not anywhere else. Then I set up a crowdfunding page and promoted it to the best possible extent. I produced a hundred games here locally. However, I did not reach the crowdfunding goal in the end. Sometimes you have got to be your own superhero.

Eventually, I sold all the games. Then, I started another production round and I was looking for an investor. I created a pitch deck and mingled around. People were not really keen to invest in board games because it’s not as scalable as an online platform. I’ve always kept on moving, but of course, sometimes you feel a bit more stagnant. I would meet an investor and nothing would happen. But I was just very consistent in running events and in the community we had build up, my identity is the eyeConnect girl. If you want to run a connection event, if you host a dinner party, ask Nini. That’s a cool identity to have, to be the conversation starter. People know she brings the questions, she brings the purpose to the dinner, so that’s pretty cool. And they’ve really leveled up my connections here big time. 

I started throwing events. It was always a bunch of different events where we played the game. Then when the borders opened up again and we had tourists coming in, I got asked to host workshops at festivals. A friend of mine actually came as my artist plus one. At one of the festivals that I was opening the stage for and gave a bit of background introduction, the people were playing eyeConnect and after that, she said, ‘Wow, Nini actually this is really cool stuff. Is there any way you are looking for an investor?’ She wanted to get out of her marketing freelancing job and really loved the game. She joined as the co-founder investor and things really had picked up. Finally, I had this partner, accountability – the perfect complimentary partner because she’s really switched with numbers, spreadsheets, and systems, and doing all the backend. And I’m really strong on the front end in terms of running the events, setting up the partnerships and connections, and putting it out there. I just love being creative. Numbers law, tax, and legal stuff scare me, but I know this has to be taken care of. With her, I’m so grateful. It’s like the perfect yin and yang, personally and professionally. 

We pushed a button and produced 2000 games in China. Now, they’re being shipped worldwide. All the systems are automated. People just click on a website and they can order the game.

We do regular networking events at co-working spaces and all the little seeds that you’ve planted along the way and it was a two-year journey or even more, it keeps on coming back if you got a clear direction. If you can stay true to it and you don’t handle different ideas and never follow through with anything, eventually the dots connect and it’s going to pay off. Maybe some people are lucky, it’s a smooth ride, but the entrepreneurial rollercoaster ride, nobody’s setting you up for that. You think you got a great product, everyone’s going to love it and they’re going to buy it and you probably have to reorder overnight, but that’s just not how it goes. You learn to adapt, you drop your ego, you grow extremely personally and professionally and it’s a journey, but it’s beautiful. I wouldn’t want to change a thing.

 What is the Work Happiness Project? 

The Work Happiness Project is pretty much team building for remote companies. It’s pretty cool to work from any place in the world, but it can feel very lonely when you just sit in front of your laptop by yourself all day, especially when you work for a remote company, with other people sitting in the same boat. We really miss this human component, this human interaction. I love to connect with people in a meaningful way. One doesn’t have to come at the sacrifice of the other. We can live this life true to ourselves in an environment that we’re thriving in, but still feel connected to everyone around us and to a culture where we share the same mission, vision, we share the same values.

Basically,  I help remote teams to boost their company culture through online team building. It’s based on a very holistic approach because I believe we can be our best selves at work when our inner batteries are charged. When our own cup is full and we’re switched on, we’re being more enthusiastic, we’re more driven, more high on life, then we can actually give more, we can be more productive, we’re more creative, we’re better team members because enthusiasm is contagious. So, I built all my workshops on three core pillars. One is Lift Fuller, the second one is Connect Deeper, and the third one is Be Happier. So, it’s basically all workshops that help the individual employees to supercharge their own batteries and also really get to know their team members. It’s fun, and entertaining, but it’s also extremely purposeful, meaningful, and hopefully very uplifting and creating a long-term, positive change in their personal lives; and then of course, as a ripple effect in their professional lives. That’s what I’m all about, spreading happiness, good vibes. That’s what I love to do.

What is one piece of advice you would like to share with our readers and listeners?

Just live a life true to yourself because you only have one shot. Don’t try to please others. You are the most important person in your life and don’t waste your time impressing people you don’t like. Figure out what triggers your inner smile, what makes you happy and as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else, live your life. That’s what I would say.

Truth vibrates the fastest, so when you’re doing something in alignment with yourself and feels right to you, it raises your frequency. You attract positive things, positive people and opportunities. Life takes its turn and can be the craziest idea, but if it feels right to you, your energy becomes an infinite resource and you just keep on going and then there’s no other possibility than being successful at what you’re doing because people buy that enthusiasm, because it’s contagious. 

Where can people find you and gain access to your games? 

The game is just eyeconnectgame.com and if anyone needs a team-building workshop for their team, I do bucket-list workshops, digital-detox workshops, art of happiness, anything. It’s the workhappinessproject.com and just find me on LinkedIn.

Nini, this has been amazing. Thank you so much for your time.