Glen Hodgson is convinced that you should be the best you can at everything you attempt to do – even the simplest things like having a casual conversation with somebody. It is all about living life fully. The notion of personal responsibility has been the torch lighting up Glen’s journey ever since he was a child.
Glen decided that such a positive mindset would always be a part of his life. Added to that are consistency and commitment: other fundamental qualities for Glen. And what an incredible ride it has been so far! Growing up in North East England – far away from yachts and Ferraris – Glen has had an interesting and happy childhood, surrounded by his loving and supportive family. The solid and stable foundation Glen received during his childhood contributed to forging his credo that life’s possibilities are endless. At the same time, being born in a small village, a long way away from where things were happening, Glen was aware that “bigger things are out there”. Thanks to his natural curiosity, Glen ventured into the world, studied languages, European politics and civilisation at the University of Keele in Newcastle, UK, and the College of Europe in Bruges, Belgium. Anyone going through the College of Europe almost automatically becomes a “Brussels person”, working, in one way or another, on building Europe. That was in the early 2000s. It was exciting to be in Brussels during that time. That era was marked by enlargement. The integration of new member states into the European Union – countries that not so long ago were forced to hide on the other side of the Iron Curtain – signified a fresh new chapter for Europe. After university, Glen thought he would stay in Brussels for six months. That, however, turned into 12 years, as he transitioned from the public to the private sector. How things have changed in Brussels in over a decade! Brexit aside, according to Glen, the European Union today is much more of a social reality than a political one, in a world that is taking on a more and more isolationist stance. Six years ago, Glen moved to Stockholm, where he currently resides. He recently founded the independent “think-do” tank, called Free Trade Europa. It promotes the social, economic and political benefits of openness, liberalisation and free trade for governments, companies and citizens. Not only was Free Trade Europa born at a time of significant shift in world dynamics, it is also a response to Glen’s endless drive to move forward with purpose in his own life.
Emerald Jaaz is delighted to interview Glen Hodgson, an open-minded soul of strong values, who emphasises the importance of making the most of what you have, without excuses. Intention driven, Glen’s mission is to make an impact in the world – notably by increasing cooperation and responsibility. He is focusing on doing his own part to move the needle. As Glen progresses on his exhilarating journey, he makes a point of regularly reminding himself where he’s from. For, as we all know, the past, the present and the future are intrinsically linked.
“My work is aligned with my values. Today, the border between personal and professional life is becoming more and more blurred. Inevitably, work spills to your private life. It is therefore even more important to enjoy what you do. And I am happy that I have created that lifestyle for myself.”
– Glen Hodgson
Emerald Jaaz: Glen, what do you enjoy the most about your current lifestyle?
Glen Hodgson: For me, freedom and flexibility are precious. Since I founded Free Trade Europa, I have been working a lot harder than before! Yet, most of the time it doesn’t even feel like work since I am doing what I truly believe in, what I love. I get to choose the people I work with. I feel a strong sense of purpose. My work is aligned with my values. Today, the border between personal and professional life is becoming more and more blurred. Inevitably, work spills to your private life. It is therefore even more important to enjoy what you do. And I am happy that I have created that lifestyle for myself.
Emerald Jaaz: What does your current professional activity consist of?
Glen Hodgson: I am the founder of the independent and liberal think tank, Free Trade Europa. Actually, I call it a “think-do” tank because we not only focus on ideas, but also take the necessary action and do what it takes to support our clients from A to Z. Free Trade Europa focuses on supporting, educating and coaching individuals, governments and companies on areas of policy development. We promote the benefits of openness and free trade. The focus is on the Nordics, Baltics and the Netherlands shaping policy within the European institutions, as well as on the global stage. Atlanticism, innovation and the environment, as well as increasing transparency, equality and ethical policy-making while reducing bureaucracy are also at the heart of our work. Unsurprisingly, we currently have quite a number of dossiers pertaining to Brexit.
Emerald Jaaz: What made you choose to live the life you do today?
Glen Hodgson: There was no eureka moment, but rather it was a natural process. I believe there are three phases in your professional life. The first is what I call the “job”. That’s the early stage just after you finish studying, where you need to gain experience, learn everything and pay the bills. The second phase is the “career” phase. As you gain experience and responsibility, it’s more about the status, the nice job title, the comfortable salary and the recognition. The final phase, where I currently am at, is the “life’s worth” phase. As you get comfortable in your career, usually in your early 40s, you ask yourself, “is this it?”, “what’s next?” and “what’s left?”. This “life’s worth” phase is about working for something you truly believe in and with people who inspire you. You choose the work and the people. You have become clear on your purpose and you fully live it out. You no longer seek nor need the title or the status. You’ve achieved that. Above all, you want freedom and you want to make a real impact. All of that in total alignment with your values.
Emerald Jaaz: What are your main interests and passions; and what causes are close to your heart?
Glen Hodgson: I am passionate about personal choice and having the right lifestyle. The two are linked. Exercising, eating well, being prepared mentally and physically – science speaks for itself. I put gym sessions in my calendar. They are the starting points and I plot the rest of my activities for the week around that. Exercise is non negotiable for me. As I had mentioned, I am also very much attached to liberalism, around which Free Trade Europa was founded. I would also highlight the climate piece. For that you can start with yourself by using communal transport, reusing things, recycling, opting to ride your bike instead of taking the car… There’s a lot you can personally do for the environment.
Emerald Jaaz: What do you like most about Stockholm, the city you currently live in?
Glen Hodgson: It would not be the weather and the taxes! In Stockholm and, overall, in Sweden I love the outdoors lifestyle and the closeness to nature. Here it is easy to balance work and personal life. High up on my list is also equality between men and women. I appreciate that Sweden is generally a very open and tolerant place.
Emerald Jaaz: What is the source of your inspiration and motivation?
Glen Hodgson: I would say that more important than motivation is consistency. There are times when you simply aren’t motivated, but you can achieve so much if you are consistent. I always look for positive elements in myself and in individuals who have inspiringly interesting stories, such as how some people have taken adversity and turned it around. It may be people I know personally or people I have encountered on social media who have opened up and shared their stories. When I learn about what some people have been through, I hold a mirror to myself and tell myself that I have absolutely no reason to complain.
Emerald Jaaz: Please give us an example of one of your typical days.
Glen Hodgson: My days are a mixture of writing proposals or pieces of work for individuals and face-to-face or virtual meetings. I also spend a considerable amount of time on social media: reaching out, commenting, publicising through various channels… I keep myself updated on both new and old media. I make time for my personal contacts and for sport. I bike everywhere – wherever it is possible. I work out at the gym every second day.
Emerald Jaaz: Please give us an example of one of your ideal weekends.
Glen Hodgson: Whenever it is a sunny day, I seek out opportunities to spend time at the beach. It isn’t necessarily for swimming – I like to simply be outside and take in the fresh air.
Emerald Jaaz: Among the places you have visited, which one moved you the most?
Glen Hodgson: I would have to say that big cities move and excite me. I regularly visit London, Paris and New York. I love their energy and diversity. I have an impression that the possibilities in those cities are endless. I prefer to visit for short bursts and as often as possible. Despite the general inconveniences of big cities – such as that they are dirty and expensive – they give me energy and inspiration.
Emerald Jaaz: Which place do you like to return to regularly and why?
Glen Hodgson: I like to regularly return to my hometown in North East England. There I recharge batteries and reconnect with my roots.
Emerald Jaaz: Which place would you like to visit that you haven’t yet visited?
Glen Hodgson: South Africa is high on my list. Cape Town, in particular.
Emerald Jaaz: Please share with us a couple of your favourite places to hang out, to eat, to mingle, to reflect or simply to watch the world go by.
Glen Hodgson: I like anywhere! I’m really easy. As long as you give me good food, I’m happy!
Emerald Jaaz: Any recent cultural tips?
Glen Hodgson: In an era where technology is used “badly” and people are constantly fixated on the “next best thing”, my tip would be to consciously appreciate the present moment, the now. Concentrate, listen, be mindful, put away external distractions so that you can fully focus on and appreciate relationships. Being in the moment also extends to thoughts, reading, yoga and breathing.
Emerald Jaaz: What motivates you to achieve your goals and to get out of bed in the morning?
Glen Hodgson: Discovering myself motivates me. I am very curious by nature. Even though I’m a tall guy measuring 1.96m, I am small! Every morning I ask myself, “What can be created or achieved today?” I like to learn and explore. For me, a day without learning is a wasted day.
Emerald Jaaz: What are you most grateful for?
Glen Hodgson: I am most grateful for the support of my family and friends from the beginning until now. Particularly in the beginning, since that is a crucial time that determines the rest of your life. When I was growing up, my family stimulated me, encouraged me and provided me with a good environment to learn. I am grateful to all those people and they are on my mind. I should say thank you to them more often!
Emerald Jaaz: What values are key to you?
Glen Hodgson: Integrity and being true to yourself. I value those who are authentic and who are not trying to be someone they’re not. This also of course applies to myself.
Emerald Jaaz: Please share with us an important lesson you learnt in life.
Glen Hodgson: When you are deciding on the people you want to be around, notice how they treat others. Are they kind to everyone, for instance to taxi drivers or to waiters? I noticed that, often, the most senior and influential people, those with the most money, are usually the most humble people. They are modest and kind. They do not put on an act and they don’t feel they need to prove anything to anyone. Manners are for everyone, regardless of who you are. The actions people take through small things say a lot about them. You want to spend your time with people who are authentic and interact in the proper way. You can’t put on an act forever!
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Thank you so much, Glen, for this inspiring and authentic interview!