Blog

The things you own don’t belong to you ★

One of the biggest truths about life is that we don’t own most of the things we think belong to us. Sounds crazy, but keep reading, and you’ll get there.

The money in your bank account doesn’t belong to you. They belong to the bank. If tomorrow it goes bankrupt, you’ll have no money. The lease car you’re driving doesn’t belong to you. It belongs to a leasing company. The money you invested in stocks or real estate doesn’t belong to you. They belong to the company you’ve entrusted them to.

Neither cool things nor expensive toys you buy belong to you. They are simply tools that provide comfort for you and your family. But they don’t belong to you. They are not a part of you. Even the clothes you wear, and the food you eat don’t belong to you. Those are just things you buy with money.

Money is the biggest illusion of power and stability.

Politicians own your money, and they screw up every goddamn day. One poor decision of theirs and you have less money than you had last morning. Trying to be in control and believing you’re in control of the things you own is probably the biggest self-deception in the world. Don’t fall into this trap.

Your real possessions are the money you’ve already spent and the experiences and skills you’ve acquired with that money. Choose wisely, spend more easily, and get richer.

Nine steps to writing a good follow-up email ★

Most people spend hours writing follow-up emails after meetings with their clients. They keep looking for the right words that will work. However, follow-up emails aren’t about the right words and metaphors. Speed and accuracy is all they require.

A follow-up email is easy to turn into a template and reduce the time of writing one to 20−30 minutes maximum. The meeting itself is where all the magic happens. Here’s a ready-to-go plan to nail follow-up emails, follow it and you’ll be able to build trust with your clients way faster than before:

  1. Read up and prepare questions. The best meeting is the one you’ve planned in advance.
  2. Show up on time, don’t make your client wait for you.
  3. Remind participants why you’re having this meeting and draw a short plan of what’s going to happen next.
  4. Ask questions, shut up and listen to the answers—that's the most important part. Your client has all the necessary information you need to solve your problem.
  5. Ask additional questions to clarify anything you didn’t get or have doubts about. Don’t be timid, it won’t help you to do a good project.
  6. Make notes during the meeting. Write down only core ideas and thoughts. It shouldn’t be a word-by-word transcript.
  7. Edit notes and turn them into a list of agreements, certain steps, and tasks with deadlines.
  8. Send the list of agreements and the following steps to your client within one hour span after the meeting. Ask them if you got it right and offer to make suggestions to your notes if not.
  9. I added this point to make the total number odd.

Subscribe to my monthly newsletter and Telegram channel to receive new posts about writing, management, and leadership on this blog.

Always be the last to speak

Good leaders are always the last to speak on a meeting. They let the other team members share ideas and feel appreciated for their opinions, and only then they make a decision.

Bad leaders never care for a another opinion. They’re too busy enjoying their power of a leadership. Team members with this type of leaders simply become indifferent to the decisions their leader makes. They end up feeling burned out and useless.

For leaders it’s important to see the whole picture, not just fragments of it. If a leader speaks first he or she doesn’t let team members have their say. Such a leader will never learn what real picture looks like!

Therefore, always be the last to speak.

Start with questions, not writing

One of the most common mistakes writers do is writing without research. That’s one of the reasons so many authors have a writing block and wrinkle their foreheads over the blank sheet. They simply don’t have an idea what they’re going to write about!

It may sound ridiculous, but writing doesn’t begin by opening a laptop or picking a pen and a notebook. The stories are born in your mind, not on the screen of your laptop. That’s why I recommend starting with questions and researching the topic in the first place.

Imagine that you’re writing a commercial copy for the website. Schedule a call or a meeting with a client and ask them about their business. Where their strengths lie, how they managed to overcome the previous crisis, how they see their mission, and why their product is considered the best on the market. Of course, questions may differ depending on the area you’re working in.

Ask as many questions as you can find, don’t interrupt, just listen and make notes. Now that you have all the necessary ingredients for your story, wait till it gets done. It works the same way we make soup: we put the ingredients in the pot and then leave it on the stove till it’s ready. The more complex the topic the more time it may require to research and get things clear. Sometimes I need to hold several meetings with a client before I can draw the first draft.

The hardest part of writing is to find a metaphor to convey the principal idea of your story clearly and succinctly. When you find one, it’s easy to unfold the story. Questions and research help you decompose the problem you’re trying to solve for a reader. So, ask questions, listen carefully, and you won’t miss your metaphor.

Never start writing until you have the whole story unfolded in your head until you know exactly what you’re going to write about. When you know how you’re going to tell your story, writing a good text will become a matter of your skill and experience, not talent or inspiration.

Never start writing until you have the whole story unfolded in your head until you know exactly what you’re going to write about.


Subscribe to my monthly newsletter and Telegram channel to receive new posts about writing, management, and leadership on this blog.

How to deal with failure and reduce the stress it brings ★

It’s been three days since my wife and I returned home from a short trip to Ufa, the capital city of Bashkortostan. It was our first trip together in six months, so we were expecting it like never before.

We did all we could to make this trip joyful and pleasant: booked a good four-star hotel, asked our friends to recommend us good restaurants and cafes, and made a list of places to visit and local food we should try. However, everything that could go wrong went wrong on that trip.

The mishaps started right after we arrived. We planned this short vacation a month ago to get to the concert of Pompeya, a Russian indie-rock band that sings in English. The organization was so bad that there was a cram. As the gig started, soon my wife and I were squeezed between two flows of people like rye in the windmill. So, we had to leave and listened the rest of the show from the distance.

For the next two days, bad luck followed us. Everywhere we went we encountered indifference from waiters and baristas, rudeness from people in the street, and prying eyes of random passersby. In all the restaurants we’ve been to the food was unsavory or cooked in some weird way. For example, in one place we were served an Italian pizza with dill, and in other cafe—a waiter brought eggs Benedict that were watery.

That’s how we felt during this trip at restaurants in Ufa

The city of Ufa is a nice place from an urbanist perspective: there are many parks and green cozy alleys, breathtaking landscapes, lots of old merchant houses, and unique local wooden architecture. But we didn’t have a chance to enjoy the city, because we didn’t feel welcomed there.

Even though I can’t say our trip was a pleasant experience, we accepted it and tried our best to enjoy it anyway. As soon as we realized things weren’t going the way we wanted, we made up our minds to accept anything that would happen and live every moment as is, not trying to control the consequences of our choices.

We can’t control the outcomes

The only two things you can control in life are your perception of events and your attitude to the impact they have on your life. You have the power to make conclusions and decisions you think are best for you. But you can’t control the outcomes.

You can design a great process, tweak your mind to the right tune, thoroughly manage your daily routine, and still get the wrong result. It’s insane, but it happens every day. And when it does, it’s crucial to focus on the next attempt rather than the outcome you are aiming for.

I rewrote this post three times before I got it right

There’s no 100% working solution that will lead you to success. There are no magic pills. The previous experience that worked in the past can become a letdown or another pitfall in the present. The only reliable tactic is to keep trying and not be afraid of failure.

Failures always come with stress, and it’s a good thing. Stress kept our ancestors looking for a better place to settle. Stress and hunger kept them seeking an easier and more reliable way to get food—that's how livestock and crop production emerged.

Stress and failures are the essences of life, without them, we’d be extinct. So if you’re feeling stressed right now, that’s OK. You can’t completely remove stress from your life, but you can change your attitude toward it. Legalize failures, let them be.

Babies are best at failing, and they don’t give a shit about it!

Think of a baby boy who learns to stand and walk. He doesn’t care if he falls a thousand times before he can stand holding onto the edge of his bed. He doesn’t give a shit! He keeps trying, and, in the end, he gets there. We are no different from them!

Another great example is people who run marathons. Marathoners don’t run a marathon on their first attempt. First, they run 1 km, then 2, someday they run 5. Then they run 10, 20, and only after years of training—a marathon. They don’t care much about failures, because it’s OK not to be capable of running 42 km from scratch.

Legalizing failures is the healthiest way to handle stress. By changing your attitude to setbacks you can greatly reduce the amount of stress in life. This will release more time for new attempts and ideas, and allow you to see solutions that were unavailable to you before.

Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional. The same goes for failures and stress.

I kept writing (process) until I was satisfied with the final draft (outcome)

Accept failure when it comes your way. Never think you’d fail, but also never regret it when you do. Go forward, do your best, and never look back. Then it’ll be easy for you to start over as if nothing bad happened at all. That’s the best way to master the game. Any game.


Subscribe to my monthly newsletter and Telegram channel to receive new posts about writing, management, and leadership on this blog.

Failures are our best teachers ★

Yesterday I woke up at 5 a.m. and couldn’t sleep. Trying to fall asleep again, I caught myself ruminating the following words in my head: “Failures are our best teachers”. Suddenly the whole story started to unfold in my mind, so I jumped up, took my laptop and started typing it until I lost my train of thought.

Half an hour later, I had a draft about the benefits that failures and mistakes bring us. Thus was born this post and Twitter thread for Timestripe.

Failures are the best teachers. Here are eight reasons why:

  1. Mistakes increase importance of wins. Failures teach us so much more than any success could ever teach. If it weren’t for our failures we wouldn’t value our wins and achievements, because there wouldn’t be anything to measure or compare them by.
  2. Continuous success blinds us with illusions. Successful projects and positive outcomes are necessary, but they don’t teach us much. Instead, they make us get along with the idea that if it worked this time it will always work in the future. But it won’t. That’s a cognitive bias we get trapped into. Failures, on the other hand, teach us that if something didn’t work it didn’t work only here and now in this very conditions, in this context, on this project. It doesn’t mean it’s impossible or it won’t work some other time in some other place.
  3. Failures teach us patience. Having failed doesn’t mean we should stop trying. Failing at something teaches us to be patient and persistent about our approach. We learn to make projects and achieve results with a small steps strategy, not by making one perfect decision.
  4. Failing shows it’s OK to be wrong. It’s not the end of the world. Everyone makes mistakes. Even the great minds did. Why should we be perfect? There’s no need for that, no one expects that from us. We’re only expected to fulfill the commitments we’ve made. Nothing else.
  5. Mistakes encourage us to enhance our process. Failures help us discover the hidden power of limitations: time, money, and our physical capabilities. Any project has a limited amount of money and a deadline. Nor can we be productive six-eight hours in a row. Limitations help us find a solution within our available sources.
  6. Failures teach us to value the way, not the goals. Failures and limitations teach us to be flexible and not to put all our money and time on one great idea that will do all the work. Instead, we become more committed to consistency and methodicality rather than an occasional success. They matter more in the long run.
  7. Having failed doesn’t equal being bad at something. In the end, failures don’t define us as bad workers and contractors, or as being bad at our craft. They only mean that we chose the wrong way to solve the problem, and now we’re going to find another one until we find the right solution.
  8. To learn and improve you should be ready to fail. Writing this thread I recalled a good dialogue from “Game of thrones” that happened between Jon Snow and sir Davos Seaworth after Jon’s resurrection:

Jon: I did what I thought was right. And I got murdered for it. And now I’m back. Why?

Sir Davos: I don’t know. Maybe we’ll never know. What does it matter? You go on. You fight for as long as you can. You clean up as much of the shit as you can.

Jon: I don’t know how to do that. I thought I did, but… I failed.

Sir Davos: Good. Now go fail again.

If you’ve failed recently, don’t panic. Don’t stop dreaming, and don’t stop moving forward. Just go fail again.


This post was initially published as a thread on Twitter and in Timestripe Journal. Subscribe to Timestripe to receive new posts right into your inbox.

Not all Russians are Russian

In Russian language there’re two different words: rossiyskiy and russkiy.

The first one—rossiyskiy—refers to the country, government and means something that was produced in Russia. For example, Russian president, Russian citizen, Russian smartphone Yota, Russian cars.

The second—russkiy—is used for nationality or cultural aspects. For instance, to be Russian, listen to Russian songs, Russian folklore.

As you may notice, in English there’s only one word “Russian” for both meanings. That’s why most English-speaking people don’t distinguish the difference between being Russian and being from Russia.

Besides Russians there’re over 100 nationalities in Russia: Tatars, Ukrainians, Belarusians, Armenians, Azerbaijani, Georgians etc. All of them are Russian citizens. See the difference now?

So don’t be surprised to have the following chat:

  • — Where are you from?
  • — Russia.
  • — Are you Russian?
  • — No, I’m Uzbek.

Subscribe to my monthly newsletter and Telegram channel to receive new posts about writing, management, and leadership on this blog.

Multitasking sucks

There were times when I loved doing several things simultaneously. I could make a soup and at the same time discuss another website layout, write a newsletter and watch a TV show. Over time I’ve realized that multitasking almost always sucks, and here’s why.

  1. Only few people in this world can multitask and deliver great results. There’re almost none.
  2. The desire to complete two different things at one is a pathetic attempt to buy some time. Both are likely to be done badly.
  3. Multitasking is often used in the wrong places. It leads to mistakes, sometimes fatal.

To figure out when it’s okay to multitask and when it’s not, I follow a simple method.

If the task doesn’t require thinking and analyzing new information—cleaning, washing dishes, walking through the park—it can be combined with another activity. For example, I make half of my calls and team meetings on the go, because I can move my legs without thinking about it.

However, if the task requires you to immerse yourself into the topic, to constantly assess the situation, to watch for safety—meeting with a new client, playing basketball, or driving a car—you'd better put everything else on hold and focus. Otherwise, you might miss a crucial idea of the talk or get hit in the face with a ball. And if you’re checking your phone while driving or crossing the street, you may die eventually.

I’m not a fan of multitasking, and I hate it when it is mispresented as a criterion for success. But at the same time, I love variety. I enjoy running several projects at once, meeting new people every day, and visiting different cities. The variety is in the spice of life! It inspires me and gives me food for thought. But doing several tasks at once — fuck this. It’s highly likely to turn out to be bullshit.


Subscribe to my monthly newsletter and Telegram channel to receive new posts about writing, management, and leadership on this blog.

One message, one idea

If you want to be heard, follow a simple “One message, one idea” rule in your texts, emails, websites, and presentations. Don’t overload your audience with details, keep it simple.

One sentence, one idea. One paragraph, one idea. One essay, one idea. One post, one idea. See, I just did it!

The most important step in your life ★

We tend to plan everything, foresee all possible options, calculate all risks, to think about ways to retreat in advance. Most often in vain. This strategy is ineffective, 'cause most of our fears never come true. But there will always be something we couldn’t anticipate.

Our brain constantly wants certainty, otherwise, it begins to think we are in danger. But visualizing the future in detail is too costly for the brain. And when our expectations don’t match reality, it’s also painful for the psyche. Instead of trying to predict our future, we should focus on the next step. It’s a gentler approach, with no pressure and stress.

The most important step in your life is the next step. Not the one from five years ago, not the one you’ll take a year from now. Just the next step of yours.

If you have a big goal or task in front of you and you have no idea where to start, or how to approach it, try not to think of it as a big goal. Instead, think of what your next step might be and take it. This little trick will help you overcome the numbness and begin to act.