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.
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.
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:
The camp is a project and it has to be managed like any other project.
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.
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.
The camp takes place on weekends so that everyone can make time or come from another city.
Participation in the camp is not obligatory. Anyone can refuse and use this time for their own good.
The camp has a schedule, but it is ultimate. You can flex it as you go like a scope on any other project.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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!
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.
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.
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?”
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.
I took these photos a month ago on my winter holidays in Astara, Azerbaijan. I wanted to catch live moments of those sunny days—joyful, sad, peaceful, and exciting at the same time. With this intention I took camera and shoot.
I know that when you wish for something without expecting anything back, it always comes your way. Maybe not when you want it and not the way you want it, but it’ll find the path. That’s how it works. My goal was to show how these people live, what they think, what they care about. I hope now you can see it, too.
Çayiçi. In Azerbaijani it literally means “a man who brews tea”
Asaf is reading the Quran during the memorial service.
Mountains' view. I got lucky to catch a few sunny days in a row which is a rare thing in January here.
Hasan bala(az. balá — child, kid).
Hasan bala is teasing me.
Anam(az. ana — mother).
I regret I didn’t take a proper portrait of that elderly woman.
Tahir, a driver of the cab, is being curious about me. He also writes poetry. After we get to know each other he read us some of his verses.
Tahir’s cab is an old Renault. He took us to the graveyard.
Graveyard is always quiet.
Nuretdin dayı with his granddaughters came by for tea(az. dayı — uncle).
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.
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 visited 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.
The city of Ufa is a nice place from an urban 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 welcome 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.
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. Legitimize 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.
Legitimizing 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.
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.
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.
Only few people in this world can multitask and deliver great results. There’re almost none.
The desire to complete two different things at one is a pathetic attempt to buy some time. Both are likely to be done badly.
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.
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.
The hardest thing to do when you’re wrong is to accept that it’s only your fault and responsibility, but no one else’s. It’s incredibly difficult to admit when you’re wrong.
It takes a great courage to stand up and say, “Yeah, I failed. I am sorry for that. I was wrong.” Very few people are capable of taking such a step. If you can do that, you have reason to be proud of yourself.
The secret of happiness can be revealed with a simple thought. Life is always beautiful. No matter what shit may come and happen, life is good simply because being alive is better than being dead.
Our life is very erratic and inconsistent. You won’t have forever what you have now in your life. Someday it will end. All of it. And there will be nothing to enjoy, nothing to look at, and nothing to regret about.
Even though sometimes life puts us to the test it doesn’t make life less precious and amazing. To live is always good. Remember that both in the moments of joy and in the moments of grief.
The value of life is in life itself, not in how easy or hard this life is for you.