Andreas Souvaliotis was born in Athens, Greece and almost immediately had remarkable math skills and abilities beyond his age.
He was also a musical prodigy, so it’s not surprising that today, Souvaliotis is one of Canada’s leading social entrepreneurs.
He’s the founder of Carrot Rewards, Canada’s most popular wellness app and the world’s first national health rewards program.
He also started Green Rewards, the world’s first mass eco-loyalty platform, which was acquired and fused into the Air Miles program.
Yet with all of his success, it’s difficult to believe Souvaliotis had so much fear surrounding who he was growing up.
“Athens, Greece last century was a place that truly had no tolerance for anyone different,” said Souvaliotis. “I was the autistic kid, so I was the weird kid. So very marginalized. I was the gay kid so I was absolutely terrified of who I was.”
As a young man, his life was filled with conflict — which made Souvaliotis extremely insecure.
“I grew up with a father who was super loving, super modern, super cool for his era, but it was for his era and his place. So that father used to say to me that he would rather have a dead child than a gay child,” Souvaliotis said.
Souvaliotis said that over the years he found “strength in his strangeness.”
“I only realized it in my 40s. Until then, I was doing everything I could to fit in,” said Souvaliotis. “Because of my differences, being perhaps more stark than the average person, I really couldn’t fit in.”
Instead, Souvaliotis changed the world a little bit so that he could fit in. Today, he’s a well-known speaker, a leading advocate for innovative approaches to address public heath, climate change, diversity and citizenship. He’s also a best-selling author of MISFIT — an extraordinary memoir of his journey.
“The only reason I wrote this book is to inspire others to figure this out sooner. To not go through as much of their life as I did trying to quash the things that make them special,” said Souvaliotis. “This book is for everybody because all of us grow up feeling like a misfit somehow. I wanted to kind of neutralize it.”
All proceeds from MISFIT will be donated to 6 Degrees, a Global charitable initiative that promotes inclusion, diversity and belonging.
“It’s something I helped to create a few years ago. It’s a very special global project. It’s a conversation, essentially, that’s meant to neutralize this ugliness that’s going on in our world right now about fear of ‘the other,'”said Souvaliotis. “To quote our prime minister, he often says, ‘We are stronger not despite of our differences, but because of our differences.'”