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The less, the better

For six years of writing I used to believe the more platforms I post on, the better. It wasn’t a very effective strategy.

Yesterday I deleted my Twitter and Instagram accounts, and soon my Telegram channel will be closed. Starting from today I will keep writing only on these three platforms: this website, Substack, and Mastodon.

The less platforms I have to maintain, the more attention I can pay to the writing and not the distribution.

If you’ve been feeling overwhelmed lately, seek an opportunity to reduce the amount of projects, errands, and tasks you’re dealing with. Keep three the most important to-dos you have on your list, start with them and drop everything else. You’ll get back to it later after you’ve handled the essentials.

If three is too much for you right now, cut it to one to-do. The less, the better:

  • Doing three projects? Take a break in two, and finish the one with higher priority.
  • Reading three books, none is finished? Pick one, finish it, then move to the next one.
  • Repair works are stuck and it’s all a mess? Stop everything and choose one, for example, fix a kitchen door that’s been out of order for weeks.

When life pushes hard, don’t try to bear it all on your shoulders. Reduce the number of options, select the most important thing to focus on, and after it’s done move to the next most important thing on your list.

One-thing-at-a-time strategy always works, plenty-things-at-a-time strategy—not so often. The less, the better.


To stay in touch: follow me on Mastodon, subscribe to my newsletter on Substack, or grab the RSS feed. See you there!

Six things you’d better keep to yourself

The video I found today is in Russian, but I’ve translated core ideas of it to English. It is about 6 things that will surely help you to be happier and more successful if you keep those things away from the people around you. The things my mother always told me to do.

  1. Don’t share your plans, dreams and your desires. It will help you to concentrate on them to move forward.
  2. Don’t share about your restrictions in food, sleep and relationships. Austerity does good in case you are reserved about your words.
  3. Don’t tell everybody about acts of your heroism. Managing outer obstacles we got rewards, but nobody sees the inner part of a struggle we keep everyday. People will not appreciate that.
  4. Don’t tell anyone about spiritual enlightenment you’ve perceived. The others might not need it. Share it only in case when people ask you for it.
  5. Never share about conflicts in your family or you with your spouse. The less you talk about it, the more stable it becomes.
  6. Don’t recall someone’s bad or swear words said to you during a day or a life. The man who shares everything he’s heard on his way home is similar to a man who doesn’t take his shoes off before come in.

Add or shed

There are two ways to editing your texts: by adding or by shedding. So ask yourself while working on your next article, post, or any other type of copy:

Do I need to add something or do I need to shed something?

In the end, it boils down to one of these two options.

You have to happen to things

There’s an illusion that to get something or to reach a certain level in life you have to wait for a chance and then be smart enough not to blow it. This way of approaching life seems weird to me. Besides it has two huge disadvantages:

  1. There is no guarantee you’ll get any chance at all. It may never come. Such an attitude justifies your inaction and gives a right to blame an evil fate for all calamities that fall on your shoulders.
  2. There’s a high probability you’ll blink at the very moment the chance arrives to you door and miss the opportunity. Whom to blame then? How long to wait for another chance?

Being patient is a good strategy when something you’re waiting for is out of your control. Most things require actions from us so they could happen. I say don’t wait for the things to happen on their own, happen to those things.

Doing something is better than doing nothing. No matter how small or huge that something is. Have an intention to act, make the first step: write an email, ask a question, seek knowledge or advice. It will lead you somewhere.

There’re no right moment. As Lemony Snicket wrote:

“If we wait until we’re ready, we’ll be waiting the rest of our lives.”

In the end, it’s all a judgement call ★

When having a hard choice in front of me, I use this simple principle to make a call:

If it’s not a “hell, yes”, it’s a “no”.

Sounds radical. Like black or white, like good or evil. But those are very shallow concepts. I am not asking you to simplify the world and narrow your choice to two options. This principle is not about that.

It’s considered to think that we make decisions based on data, facts and arguments. But in fact, we make decisions based on our gut or simply the feeling that prevails at the moment. We act the way we feel, not the way we think.

Sometimes you can have all the data in the world telling you to go a certain way, and yet you know it’s not right, it’s not your way. How do you know that? Where did this knowledge come from? Most of the time we can’t explain it. We just have a feeling.

When the decision you’re making puts a lot on the line the right question to ask yourself is not “What do you think of it?” but “How do you feel about it? How does it feel?” Let’s get it down to a few real life examples:

  • How do you feel about moving in together? Does it feel like we’re rushing or does it feel right and proper?
  • How does this color tint feel on the wall? Does it feel right or too much?
  • How do you feel about having pizza tonight? Or does it feel more like a Mexican restaurant?

When it comes down to this mundane questions we know exactly how we feel. We know for sure even though we can’t say how this knowledge came to us. ‘Cause it’s a judgement call. It works perfectly both with small and big decisions.

Just ask yourself how you feel about your the choice you’re making, and you’ll know the answer right away. And if it’s not a “hell, yes”, it’s a “no”. As simple as that.

How to get rich by Naval: a summary of the podcast and tweet storm ★

Last week I discovered the Naval podcast’s episode on how to get rich and wrote a summary of it. The episode is 3,5 hours long, so if you’re short on time, read this summary to get core ideas and tenets of this conversation.

There’s also a transcript of the episode on Naval’s website. But to me it also seems to be too long to absorb.

On wealth and money

Wealth is about independence and freedom. Wealth is creating abundance. It’s a positive-sum game.

Status is a ranking hierarchy. It’s a zero-sum game. Status games are about putting someone down. Don’t play them.

Money is social credits. It’s how we transfer wealth.

Everyone can be wealthy. It’s literally a question of education and desire.

Creating wealth should be consistent. Create opportunities, businesses, investments. Wealth is about having more options, more businesses and more things you can do and compound in the long-term.

Wealth is bounded with a skillset, it has nothing to do with luck. Build your character and make it become your destiny. That’s what people call “luck”.

Calm mind, fit body, a house full of love. Those things can’t be bought. You have to cultivate them and work on them. Your health, mental health, your relationships.

On building wealth

Extreme people get extreme results. You can’t be normal and expect normal returns.

You won’t get rich by putting in more hours of work or working for someone. It’s not the way to build wealth. Inputs equal outputs.

When you work for someone you’re not creating anything new for society, you’re replaceable.

Ways to get wealthy are to buy equity or to start a business.

The higher level of creativity in your profession the more likely it will have disconnected inputs and outputs, and more leverage.

The most dangerous things are heroine and monthly salary. They’re similarly very addictive. Live below your means.

Play stupid games, get stupid prizes.

To get rich give society what it wants but yet don’t know how to get that at scale. But don’t build one thing, build many: hundreds, thousands, etc.

Entrepreneurship is about distributing what rich people used to have to everybody. It’s an act of creating smth new from scratch, predicting society will want it, and then figuring out how to scale it and deliver it to everybody in a profitable way and self-sustaining.

Escape competition with authenticity. When you’re competing with someone that’s because you’re copying them. You’re trying to do the same.

Don’t copy, don’t imitate. Do your own thing. No one can compete with you on being you. The more authentic you’re the less competition you’re gonna have.

Play long-term games with long-term people. In this case we’re baking a pie together. In short-term game we’re cutting the pie.

Pick an industry for the long-term work to compound the results. Get traction and don’t let go.

Every time you reset, you will have to start from scratch. Hopping from one sphere to another is not a good idea.

The purpose of having wealth (money) is that money allows you not to be in a particular place at a particular time to do things you don’t want to do. Money solves all your money problem.

You really have to be right once. As an entrepreneur you fire many shots, but you really need to get right once.

Eventually you get what you deserve. Immediate doesn’t work. You have put in hours and time before you see significant results. Keep doing and keep doing and don’t track hours, time and energy you’ve put in. It can easily be 10−20 years. Five years is an exception. There are no get rich quick schemes.

Your outcome formula might look like this: distinctiveness of your specific knowledge x how much leverage you can apply to that knowledge x how often your judgement is correct x how singularly accountable you are for the outcome x how much society values what you’re doing x how long you can keep doing it and improving through reading and learning.

[Soon there’ll be a sketch of a math equation]

Don’t lean on the data too much. You’re better off picking the one biggest thing.

Ask yourself what is it I am good at according to the observation and according to people that I trust and that market values?

Those two variables are good enough to get you going. And if you’re good at it you’ll keep it up. And if you’re good at it you’ll develop the judgement. And if you’re good at it people will give you resources. All other pieces will fall in place. Market place is inevitable if you do what you love doing and the market wants it.

On relations with people

Pick smart, energetic and those who have a high integrity partners. Both in personal life and at work.

True motivation is intrinsic. You can’t talk people into something if they don’t have it in them.

Signals are what people do despite what they say. And subtle signals are the most important. People are ugly consistent.

Find irrationally ethic people. Be a rational optimist and partner with this kind of people. Shoot holes and things as long as they come with solutions.

Self-esteem is a reputation you have within yourself. High self-esteem is about loving up to high moral standards for yourself, not for someone else.

On learning

Not everything can be taught, but everything can be learned.

Arm yourself with specific knowledge. It’s about pursuing your innate talents, passion and curiosity. It’s not about going to school.

Learn to sell and to build. Combine of that is a huge superpower. This combination is unstoppable.

Building is about staying out of the noise. When you’re starting out, choose building. But later down the line it’s getting exhausting, because building requires a lot of focus. But sales skill is scaling better over time.

I don’t know smart people who don’t read. They read all the time. Develop love for reading. For many of you it can feel like a chore. So here’s a trick: read what you love until you love to read. It’s that simple.

Read original, foundational books in the field you’re interested in. Nail basics of math, physics, and science. After that you won’t be afraid of any other books. It’s like laying a foundation for a skyscraper. It must be solid.

Today it’s not the means of learning is what scarce. Internet has an abundance of knowledge and information. It’s the desire that is scarce. And we lose it through life. As children we have innate curiosity, we ask lots of questions. But schools replace it with compliance. You need creativity to learn and find novelty. The foundation of learning is math and logic. They are the path to understanding a scientific method. It’s the way to separate truth from false.

Be careful reading other people’s opinions. Even be more careful about reading facts. Many so called facts are just opinions with a veneer around them. What you are looking for are principles and algorithms, not facts.

Go through a book slowly. As Bruce Lee said, “I don’t fear a man who knows thousand kicks and thousand punches. I fear the man who’s practiced one punch a thousand times.” It’s an understanding that comes through repetition, usage, logic and foundation is what really makes you a smart thinker.

As Bruce Lee said, “I don’t fear a man who knows thousand kicks and thousand punches. I fear the man who’s practiced one punch a thousand times.”

Five most important things to learn in life are: reading, writing, arithmetic, persuasion (talking), computer programming. If you’re good at those things you’re set for life.

Business is not a skill. It’s too broad. And the worse way to learn doing business is to go to a business school. All you get there are anecdotes which they call case studies. The truth is that you never can understand them until you’re in the position of those who’ve had that experience. The foundations will serve you so much better.

Reading is the best way to learn fast. Not listening or watching. With podcasts and videos it’s hard to rewind, revisit, turn into a summary, or even quote.

You’re going to learn on the job by opening a retail shop down the street.

Putting a thousand of hours doing one this is a misinterpretation of learning. Repeating things won’t teach you that much. Whereas putting is a thousand iterations makes the difference. Learning curve is across iterations. Trying new things, strategies, packages, branding, fonts, design, positioning—all that are iterations.

There are no get rich quick schemes. If someone promises and sells you a way to get rich quick they’re making money of you. It’s their quick way to get rich quick, not yours.

You don’t want to learn how to be fit from a fat person. You don’t want to learn how to be happy from a depressed person. You don’t want to learn how to be rich from a person who makes their money by telling other people how to be rich. These people should go make their money elsewhere.

On work

Your work should feel like play to you and look like work to others.

Just do the thing you want to do. Have an action bias. Think big.

Focus on the thing you’re really into. Follow your own obsession. Build things naturally, don’t try to do them too deliberately, for money.

Double down on things you’re natural at. Combine them with other your skills.

Starting over and doing something new is painful. Because you’re wandering an uncertain territory and high odds that you will fail. So it’s a good skill to be comfortable with frequent small failures.

Entrepreneurs are people who bleed a little every day. They’re losing money, they’re constantly under the stress, all the responsibility is upon them. But when they win they win big. On average they’ll make more.

If you can outsource or don’t do things that cost less than your hourly rate, don’t do them. Hire other people, delegate and outsource it.

You should set an absurdly high hourly rate so it would be worth sacrificing your time to other people. My hourly rate was 5,000 $.

Paul Graham: you should be working in your product, finding a market for, exercising, and eating healthy food. That’s it.

Work as hard as you can. Pick the right thing to work on, hire the right people for that job, then work hard. Again, decide what you should be working on, surround with the best people possible to work with, work as hard as you can in the end.

Sprint, rest, reassess, and then you try again. It’s more like a lion hunting, not a marathon. Maybe a marathon of sprints.

Inspiration is perishable. Do it right away while it’s burning.

Have impatience with actions and have patience with results.

Solve problems as soon as possible.

On meetings

No meetings on the calendar: ruthlessly and constantly decline meetings. If someone wants a meeting, see if they can do it on a phone call, or an email, or a text message.

Do walking or standing meetings, also they should be short and certain.

Busy calendar and busy mind will destroy your ability to build something valuable in this world. You need a free time and free mind.

On accountability

Accountability is a risky, double edged thing. It allows you to get credit when things go well, and bear the brunt of the failure when things go badly. People who’re stamping their names on things aren’t foolish, they’re just confident.

Society says to us, “Don't stick your neck out.” We’re still socially hard-wired to not fail in public under our own names. But people who have an ability to do that gain a lot of power.

Clear accountability is important. It gives incentives to act and allows to avoid situation we all experience at school on a group projects when few people did most of the work and other members of the group were simply sitting there and doing nothing. Besides, accountability gives you equity, it’s the way to acquire a piece of the business.

High accountability means you’re less likely to be replaced by AI or more competent people. It also gives you equity. But equity also is a risk-based instrument. It means you’re paid the last.

On leverage

To get rich you need leverage. It comes in capital, labor, media or code. To get those things you need credibility and you have to do that under your name as much as possible.

Oldest form of leverage is labor. We assume the more people is beneath you the better. But labor is the worst form of leverage you can use. Managing other people is messy, it requires a tremendous leadership skills. You want a minimum amount of people working with you.

Capital is the second type of leverage. It requires more intelligence to use and get results as the way we use capital is constantly changing. We dislike capital as we don’t really know how to be about it. It seems unfair to us. It scales very well if you learn how to manage it, but the hard part about it is to obtain it in the first place.

Apps that has no marginal cost of replication is a new form of leverage. It got started with a printing press. Now you can multiply your efforts without help of other humans and without needing money from other humans. This podcast is a form of leverage. Long ago I had to sit in a lecture room and reach 20−50 people max. Today thousands of people can listen to what I say and it would cost me nothing.

Combining different leverages is where the magic hides. That’s why you see tech startups skyrocketing.

The great thing about code or media leverages is that they are permissionless. You can start using them without asking anyone for a permission. Coding, writing books, recording podcasts, tweeting, youtubing are equalizing. Products created with this new kinds of leverage are equally available to everybody and they’re great at scaling as there’s no marginal cost for adding another user.

The largest budgets get the highest quality.

Productize yourself. Turn your specific knowledge into a product. Turn yourself into a product. This newsletter is called after me so I am productizing myself with this emails. Ask yourself is it authentic to who I am? Is it myself that I am projecting? Am I productizing it? Am I scaling it with labor, with capital, or with media?

Making money isn’t a skill, it’s who you are stamped out a million times.

Making should be a function of your identity and what you like to do. Find three hobbies: one that makes you money, one that makes you fit, and one that makes you smarter. My hobbies would be reading, working with startups, and yoga.

On advice

You have to reject most of advice. But to do that you have to read and listen enough to learn what to reject and what to accept. You have to develop your own opinion and vision. If something doesn’t feel true to you set it down, put it aside.

Purpose of advice is different. Those are maxims to remind yourself what it really means to be in the situations you describe in the advice. Write advice for yourself. They are mental hooks. For example I tweeted someday: “If you don’t want to work with someone for life, don’t work with them for a day”. As soon as I know that I don’t see myself working with that person 10 years from now I start excavating myself from that relationship or just not to invest too much time and attention into them. Advice is a compact ways to recall your own knowledge.

If you don’t want to work with someone for life, don’t work with them for a day

QA section

  • Accountability means letting people criticize you.
  • We should eventually be working for ourselves. Manage more capital, media, and community, not a labor.
  • Evil do better at a smaller organizations than at larger ones.
  • Find time to invest in yourself. Learn something people didn’t figure out how to teach it yet.
  • The hardest thing for any founder is to find people who will work with them who have a founder mentality. This is a fancy way of saying they care enough.
  • You can get a lot out of any position you just have to put a lot into it first.
  • Judgement, accountability, specific knowledge, leverage — five components of success.
  • Early on find things you have any interest in and take an accountability to offer help and a solution. If you solve a hard problem taking an accountability, people will line up behind you, the leverage will come.
  • Judgement and accountability matter much more today than the amount of hours put in.
  • Accountability is a double edged sword. If you get things right people will admire and follow you. If you get things wrong people will blame you and would love to see your head on a spike (metaphorically).

Questions to ask yourself

Here’s a list of questions to ask yourself after listening to the episode:

  1. What is my specific knowledge? What is my innate talent? What should I double down on doing?
  2. Who am I? What’s natural for me to do? What is the thing I am the best at?
  3. What is the thing I want to build naturally?
  4. What does it mean to be me?
  5. What am I capable of doing? What will I do for my wife, my kids, my parents? How far will I go?

When we two parted, George Byron

When we two parted
In silence and tears,
Half broken-hearted
To sever for years,
Pale grew thy cheek and cold,
Colder thy kiss;
Truly that hour foretold
Sorrow to this.

The dew of the morning
Sunk chill on my brow—
It felt like the warning
Of what I feel now.
Thy vows are all broken,
And light is thy fame;
I hear thy name spoken,
And share in its shame.

They name thee before me,
A knell to mine ear;
A shudder comes o’er me—
Why wert thou so dear?
They know not I knew thee,
Who knew thee too well—
Long, long shall I rue thee,
Too deeply to tell.

In secret we met—
In silence I grieve,
That thy heart could forget,
Thy spirit deceive.
If I should meet thee
After long years,
How should I greet thee?—
With silence and tears.

George Gordon Byron, 1788−1824

The lesson behind one photo

The winter has come to Tyumen, and last week we had ground and trees covered with snow as the photo above depicts. However during the second half of the week the weather switched completely: on Thursday it was raining (sic), and by now all that show has melted or turned into ice crust on the sidewalks.

This kind of weather swings is not common for our latitudes. As for me I prefer a good decent frost rather that this melting mush on the ground. But here’s a lesson I learnt from the weather—as long as you can’t change that take it as is.

I realized that long ago, and since that I’ve never cared about the weather more than necessary. Sure, I put on a winter jacket if it’s -30°C, but I never complain about it. There’s no avail in that.

If it’s raining I put on a raincoat or take an umbrella with me (even though I hate umbrellas). That’s just how the weather is today and all I can do is to be prepared. The same goes for all the unpredictability and chaos in life. You can’t foresee all of problems and issues coming your way, but you can be ready to handle them and withstand the heat or the cold when it’s necessary.

So don’t go gentle. Go for a walk when it’s raining, snowing or when it’s a Mexican desert heat outside. Don’t postpone life just because something is not the way you’ve expected it to be. Harshness is necessary to handle discomfort and unpredictability down the road.

So don’t go gentle, take what’s out there and work with it.

Frisbee, bonfire and birdwatching: how we arranged a three-day studio camp in the forest for $⁠500 ★

In the middle of September we had our second studio camp. The first one took place in May, back then we kept it simple: took a walk around the old city center of Tyumen, visited the Japanese garden and had a picnic in Zatyumensky Park. This time we gathered the whole team together, rented a country house and spent three days together in the forest.

Misha, our CTO, and I are up to something

What camp is about

Camp is a corporate party but with a different spin. Instead of getting drunk and taking part in stupid contests we reinvented the way we hang out with teammates.

Camp is more like gatherings with good friends on a barbecue day when you talk about work, life, hobbies, share your favorite jokes and memes, watch movies together and play board games afterwards.

Camp is about everything that you usually don’t do with your teammates at work. Especially if you’re a fully remote or hybrid team.

When we did the first camp we weren’t sure if everything would go smoothly, so we set several rules and constraints:

  1. The camp is a project and it has to be managed like any other project.
  2. You have to prepare for the camp in advance. The bigger your team is, the earlier you should start preparing. There are only five of us, and yet we started planning our camp a month before the event.
  3. The camp lasts three days. This way you’ll avoid the feeling of tightness and get just enough time out of work with your teammates. More can be overwhelming and tiresome.
  4. The camp takes place on weekends so that everyone can make time or come from another city.
  5. Participation in the camp is not obligatory. Anyone can refuse and use this time for their own good.
  6. The camp has a schedule, but it is ultimate. You can flex it as you go like a scope on any other project.
Our team at the first Studio Camp in May. From the left to the right: Arthur and Nastya, our writers, me and Misha, our CTO.

How we came up with this camp idea

This year our studio turned six years old, and we realized that we had never come together in one place. So we decided to fix it.

We work remotely and live in different cities: Tyumen, Ufa, Saratov. All those cities are very distant from each other, so it is logistically difficult to get us together too often. It was important for us to get to know each other and take a break from work. But we wanted to spend time with ease, without a banquet and the CEO of the company making toasts.

We didn’t want to do it the way big companies do it. We wanted to do it our way.

For us, the camp is also a rare opportunity to discuss working moments and strategy in person, talk about dos and don’ts, listen to each other, share ideas, and raise important questions.

How we used Basecamp to prepare for the camp

We decided to spend the second camp outside the city. It was much harder to organize it than the first one when we simply had a picnic in the park and a short tour around the historical city center. We had a lot of things to deal with.

First, we created a new project in our Basecamp, outlined tasks and deadlines, and distributed responsibilities among the team. Everyone was in charge of something: Nastya and Misha came up with the camp schedule and a list of things to bring with us, Anna made a list of products and the camp menu, I managed the production of the studio merch, booking a house and shopping for groceries.

It took us a month to prepare for the camp. But what I like about it is that there was no rush. We kept our pace. As they say, “Slow and steady wins the race.”

The preparation began with a short pitch of mine in our Basecamp
Those are our lists of tasks: the first is for things like menu and camp schedule, and the second is for the studio merch
We designed the studio merch

For this camp we decided to make our own merch. We collected examples of hoodies we liked, and every team member came up with a phrase or a motto for embroidery.

With that, we came to Gyunel, the founder of KIKA clothes brand, and a good old client of ours. Gyunel helped us choose the fabric and design a fit of the hoodies. We agreed that it would be black hoodies of thick 100% cotton with matte threads embroidery.

We addressed our order to Gyunel a month before the camp and did the right thing: the fabric we wanted for the merch was not available at the time, so Gyunel had to order a new batch from Moscow just for us. While the fabric was on its way to Tyumen, Gyunel designed a pattern for our hoodies, and we did the prepress files for the embroidery.

In the end, we came up with a detailed doc describing all details of the fit, fabric, details and embroidery layouts. It’s a public Basecamp doc, but it’s all in Russian. You can read it using Deepl or Yandex Translate. I recommend using Yandex as it’s better designed for translating from Russian.

The merch was finished right on the eve of the camp. Perfect timing!

Four hoodies made of 100% cotton with a large embroidery cost us just about $⁠230, about $⁠56 per item.

Our hoodies right before we received them
Vasily, a tomcat of our writer Nastya, seemed to approve our merch as suitable for basking
We a rented a house in the forest

I was responsible for the search for booking a country house. We were looking for a house that fitted the following criteria:

  • With an independent heating system. September in Tyumen is usually warm, but the nights and mornings are chilly. So we rejected the idea of sleeping in a glamping house, without a heating system and a shower.
  • There is something to do. We immediately discarded daily rent houses as we would have to entertain ourselves. We wanted a place that would offer options for rest and fun.
  • There’s an equipped BBQ spot. We didn’t want to carry a bunch of utensils like a grill with us for just two days, so we were looking for a place where we would have everything we needed for a bonfire and a grill for roasting meat.

I narrowed the choice down to three options, and we discussed them asynchronously in the studio Basecamp. As a result, we chose a house named after Leo Tolstoy in Kuliga Park. The place looked great, beside there was a rope park, sports grounds, and a small restaurant so we could dine there if we were short on food.

Renting a house for two nights cost us $⁠200 which is a great price for the weekend. Just for comparison, renting a private house in the outskirts of the city would cost us twice as much, about $⁠360−400.

To make a final choice I created a separate post in the camp project, listed options there, and invited the rest of the team to comment on
We had a spacious house: two bedrooms, a sleeping place on the second level and a living room combined with a kitchen
Our house was named after Leo Tolstoy, we had his portrait at the entrance and a few books on the shelf in the living room.
We made a menu and went for groceries

Our designer Anna was responsible for the camp menu. The task was to come up with something simple that would not be time-consuming. In addition, there was no stove in the house, so we had to adjust the menu on the go.

Anna shaped out the meals and then specified what dishes and snacks we would have. Others dropped their preferences in the comments on Basecamp, and Anna gathered them all in a final Google Docs.

We made a list of groceries from the menu. On the eve of the camp I went for groceries to a huge hypermarket called Lenta, which is like Walmart in the US. It cost us $⁠100 to get enough food for four people for the whole weekend.

Here’s a final doc with the camp menu for three days
We made a schedule and a list of things to bring with us

Nastya and Misha were responsible for the camp schedule and sports equipment. They make an approximate list of to-dos with timeframes, rather in order to gather together ideas of what we could do during the day than to actually follow this plan. It helped us to be at ease and not to think what to do—we opened the list and chose the activity we felt like doing at the moment.

Take a look at our schedule:

The camp schedule was also outlined in Basecamp

A couple of days before the trip, we made a checklist of things and clothes to take with you and downloaded movies in case wi-fi would be out of order. We bothered like hell to make everyone feel at home. We thought through everything in advance, so that we could relax and not worry about things on the spot. And it was totally worth it!

Our list of things

How did it go? Awesome!

We got lucky with the weather—all three days were sunny and warm, +20−22°C.

On the first day we moved into the house, had coffee with waffle rolls with a boiled condensed milk—an immutable attribute of the camp—had a walk in the forest and played frisbee.

For dinner we had a barbecue and then watched “Treasure Island”, a legendary Soviet cartoon. Some scenes from that cartoon became viral and turned into memes, spreading way beyond the Russian speaking community.

Anna is throwing frisbee to Misha, that was fun!
We picked the right dates for the camp. Indian summer was in full swing!

We started the second day with birdwatching. We happened to see a woodpecker, a nuthatch, tits, magpies and a finch. Birds are awesome!

After lunch we played badminton, played a card game called “Strangers: Office Edition” and designed for teammates. We shared our work experience in other companies, discussed our approach to design and our focus for the next three months.

The first thing in the morning, Nastya and Anya went to look at the birds with binoculars
Me, Misha and Anna planning what to do on the second day
Nastya, Misha and Anya decided to play badminton

On the third day we returned to the city. The key goal of the day was to prepare for the launch of our new product. We gathered in our favorite coffee shop, polished some things in the backend here and there and launched our first paid service called “Okoshki”, a service for small makers who work alone and deliver services by appointment.

In Russian “okoshki” literally means windows but it’s the word people use when they have a free time slot to receive a client. A maker often says, “I have okoshko for 5 pm. Does it work for you?”

Nastya and Anya are working on Okoshki
The view on the Lovers' Bridge from the highest spot of the city

Impressions of the camp from our team

Most of all, I liked that there were many activities at the camp. It’s harder to do in the city as it’s harder to make time and it can be windy. During the camp we got lucky, the weather was perfect, and it was an ideal moment to play such games like frisbee and badminton. Well, it’s always nice to just eat in the open air.

Misha Vorobyev, CTO

We have a great team, the second camp was very cool and comfortable — even for me, as I am an introvert. Although we are all united mainly by work, we had a lot of fun at birdwatching, watching “Treasure Island”, and playing badminton.

Nastya Fyodorova, writer

The coolest thing at the camp for me is the forest and the great company of my coworkers. It was great to sit at the bonfire in the evening, take a walk in the forest in the morning, listen to the birds singing, look at them through binoculars and determine what kind of bird it is.

It was the first time I went to another city to visit my colleagues. I’m a cautious person, and for me the camp was a way out of my comfort zone. But everyone was so nice I forgot about everything.

Anna Borisova, designer

Camp is the best internal project of our studio. Managing rest and fun is the hardest thing to do and we nailed it! Time passed unnoticed, and the intensity of events was so high that I got the feeling that the camp lasted not three days, but at least a week. We will definitely do it over again, but now somewhere else!

Evgeny Lepekhin, editor

How much does it cost to organize a camp?

The first camp cost us almost nothing. The only expenses we had were the purchase of the game “Strangers” and dinner at a Mexican restaurant on the last day.

The budget of the second camp was about $⁠500, but we went a little beyond it and spent $⁠570. The camp could have been even cheaper if we didn’t make the studio merch.

Here is a list of our total expenses:

  • House rent for a weekend — $⁠200
  • Merch for the team of four — $⁠230
  • Grocery shopping — $⁠100
  • Transport — $⁠40

Thanks for reading! Hope you enjoyed this post.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask → evgeny@lepekhin.me

Our studio’s website → https://lepekhin.studio/en

If you love the story and would like to share it or mention on your blog, newsletter or social media, please do it. I’d appreciate that!

The benefits of being an underdog ★

Hey! We’re a design studio of five from Tyumen, Russia. It’s the first city founded in Siberia.

We were an unusual studio from the start and underdogs in the design world by any measure. Despite our small size and living 2,000 km away from Moscow we work with clients from all over the world and various time zones.

Here are five facts about us that have helped us to benefit from being an underdog:

Text-oriented. Most studios are founded by designers. They believe that glowing and bouncing animation will solve a client’s problem. It won’t. But a good and succinct, thoughtful text might. Our founder is an editor, not a designer. We spend most of our time writing. Every project starts with a longread describing what we’re going to do. That’s why our websites and interfaces are well-structured. Words are important, and we’re the most fastidious people when it comes to picking the right ones.

Local identity as a foundation. Most studios bashfully conceal the fact they’re not from the capital. Not us. We talk about it at every corner. We’re proud of being Siberians. We promote Tyumen as a great place for living and creating. We turned patterns of the Tyumen carpet into a sticker pack and designed beautiful postcards with the most beautiful sightseeings of the city. In fact, many clients choose us because we’re more real than our bigger competitors.

Remote & async. Most design studios try to get a fancy and expensive office when they start out. Not us. We started at the end of 2017 and we were remote from the first day of work. Thanks to that we had clients from Moscow, Amsterdam, Berlin, Zurich, and even Toronto. We had people working on our team from Singapore, Turkey, and Hong Kong. Could that be possible if we limited our market to one city? Barely.

Without managers. Most studios have managers who loiter and disturb others by asking stupid questions like, “Is it done?” every ten minutes. We don’t do that. We write long posts and discuss things asynchronously. That compensates for our size and boosts efficiency. Thanks to that we have recently launched our first paid product within four months and only around $⁠5,000 spent. Big companies can’t even imagine this kind of budget for a product that works!

The most dependable. Most design studios spend tons of money on advertising to convince people to buy from them and assure they’re the best in business. But that’s a lie. You can’t be the best at design as design is a very subjective matter. We don’t say such a bogus. We claim the title of the most dependable design team and do everything possible to make it real. We’re never late for a meeting. We send meeting notes within an hour after a call. We finish 95% of our projects on the date we promised.

Наша команда на студийном кэмпа в мае 2023 г. Слева направо: авторы Артур и Настя, я и наш техдир Миша.

That was our story for the Underdog Challenge by 37signals. Hope you enjoyed it. Thanks for reading!

Note-taking at lectures

My friend Tonya Alexeeva posted this on Twitter some day:

“Tomorrow begins my intensive one-week course on machine learning. I just realized I’m not used to make notes, but it would be great to revise this material later. Any tips for making notes for technical subjects and coding?”

I came across her tweet and gave a piece of advice on making notes during meetings and lectures. Here’s my perspective:

I don’t think there are any special tips for machine learning. No matter what subject you’re learning, techniques are pretty much the same. There’re dos and don’ts.

Dos:

  1. Take notes not during the lecture, but in the first 30 min after it. This way you’ll be able to focus on listening and absorbing new information.
  2. Sketch anything that requires visual explanation. Images work better than abrupt and incoherent notes.
  3. Record a memo of the class to go back to something you’ve missed later.

Don’ts

  1. Don’t make screenshots or photos of the teacher’s slides. No one ever gets back to review them.
  2. Don’t try to remember and catch every minute detail. Pay attention to what brings novelty into your work, not what you already know.
  3. Don’t be afraid of asking questions like. “Why” is the best tool of gaining knowledge. Use it as more as you can.

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