Just sharing happiness

I had an incredible week and actually am beginning to think that 2017 has been an incredible year, maybe the best year of my life thus far.  Until recently my happiest, proudest and luckiest year was 2012, when started working for Amazon, got rid of a lot of insecurities about who I was and what I could accomplish, published the book, and became a lot more like my true-self.

I did not really see it coming, but I could tell that some kind of a miracle was underway. Earlier this year, projects were hard, delayed and confusing. My favourite dermatologist was telling me about his first year after opening his private practice: he was always worried and could not sleep, afraid that he won’t get traction with clients or might miss something or hurt someone. Now he is one of the world best in his field and he still remembers his early clients (I was among them 😉 ). And since everyone thinks I am at least 10 years younger than I actually am,  you know, he is the best.

Anyway. At some point professional life got really difficult, but instead of panicking or stressing out  further or pushing even harder I just told myself to take a brake: don’t force myself doing anything that does not feel right, don’t go into a project just for the money, don’t meet the people if you don’t want to meet them and just do what feels happy.  For a month. It felt like cheating. I did not do it as a strategy, I did it so stay sane and I thought I was just taking a break  to be able to chill out and then go back to “hard work”. And then the real magic happened: I started meeting amazing people,  they were inviting me for coffee and conferences, I was  learning about blockchain and crypto. It felt like vacationing, since I was not doing any “hard work”. One contact led to another, one bit of information I learned today just for fun converted into helping  someone I was meeting the next day. Never in my life did i have so many happy coincidences. Then I was hired, and hired again and again … and only by people I was happy to see each time we meet.

The whole summer felt like holidays, but at the time I still felt it was just an exceptional assignment to work in a Disneyland for a while (which must finish and then the hard work inevitably takes over). But the “happy-working-with-happy-people” magic continued and intensified.  Then it hit me. Everything that every single wise and successful person says about success and happiness is true: do what you feel passionate about, do it well, and you will be rewarded and it won’t even feel like work.  It’s all true!!!!

I was interviewing lately a few very senior people from large and famous corporations – they apply for jobs at startups . It’s actually amazing how many people at corporations have had enough. They all ask me the same question: how did I feel leaving a great/safe/reputable/enviable job at PayPal and joining the uncertainty of a startup world, where my clients/bosses/peers are 10-15 years younger than me and I’m partially paid in cryptocurrencies that fluctuate, split, multiply, mutate and occasionally hit the $7,000 threshold 🙂   I had to practice my answer a lot lately, because I honestly want these  candidates to know what they are getting themselves into (which is – you will initially feel like you lost your social and professional GPS and you have no idea  how to talk about your jobs and projects and what success looks like… and some former colleagues would gossip that you are having a meltdown and midlife crisis…) but I also wanted them to actually take the job and the challenge, because it’s worth it.

Suddenly, instead of sedate promotions every 3rd year and annual salary increase of 3-5% on average you get to a point where the runway is extraordinarily long and opportunities are literally endless. Funnily enough – as soon as I stopped worrying about the money and simply did my best contributing to projects that I was excited about, the money, equity, advisory roles, offers to join the boards, successful regulatory outcomes and even bitcoin price – everything fell into place.

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How was your summer?

Now, when it’s suddenly +16 and rains outside, people  began talking about summer in the past tense. Hopefully, it’s not over, but nevertheless – here is my status update on what’s going on with my summer 2017 resolutions:

  • Get into the habit of making my own fresh juice every day with our new Angel slow juicer that’s just arrived! – Checked and actually  for some mornings it feels better than coffee 
  • Revitalize the blog. – Could be better, i’m working on it (literally!!!)
  • Write 2 new professional articles a month. – checked, often exceeded!
  • Better prepare for networking events and conferences, schedule more meetings in advance, research the speakers. – It got interesting, actually, because i am now often invited as a speaker or a panellist, so i do have to prepare, but it’s  not the same. Anyway,  never underestimate the power of networking. Technically, this point is on hold.

  • Become more active with Zurich blockchain community. – Exceeded by far. Every week now I meet a few startups or organizations to discuss how to collaborate.

  • Swim in the lake (try at least once) – Exceeded and really liked it.
  • Prepare for TEDx – Applied, fingers crossed.
  • Find remarkable but rare holiday spot and go there. – Corfu, Copenhagen, London. All quite spontaneous, but happy.
  • Celebrate something small every day. – Repurposed. At some point in late May I had a bit of a disappointment, which was obvious to anyone, that it was coming, but I just couldn’t give up. I was trying to save the situation, turn it around and think positive, but at the end it did not work, simply because it couldn’t. I decided thereafter not to force myself into doing things that I  don’t enjoy and  do only things that feel happy and come naturally, at least during the summer. Then I went to Madrid for MoneyConf and everything changed on the spot:  met the right people at the right times, went to see friends at their new home near Geneva and heard the story about Richard Branson that I did not know about, and now I literally smile every day. Miracles happen.
  • Hook Diana up to reading. Outsourced.
  • Try Korean skincare products. Checked, but not really impressed.
  • Go to Milan for a few days and really get to know the city (it’s just 3 hours away!!!!). If it comes packaged with new Marni or Oscar de la Renta dresses, so be it. Postponed till September (for Milan) and checked (for dresses).

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Lucky vs non-lucky 

It’s a very fine line, apparently. My flight today to Copenhagen was delayed for 2 hours today, so Swiss issued lunch vouchers for all passengers. I was feeling very annoyed, obviously, and did not like the kinds of food in the cafeteria nearby covered by the voucher, so  to issue a different kind of a voucher I went to the service desk. There, I discovered that our flight is actually cancelled and they offered to rebook me on the next flight, in 45 minutes. Just imagine: the flight with ~250 passengers is cancelled, there are about 10 sits available on the next flight, and I was probably the first person to know about it and I was at the service desk at this time 😉 everything is relative !

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Art Basel 2017

This gallery contains 79 photos.

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Cynical, subjective and highly judgmental things I will remember about Art Basel 2017

The most impressive, Instagram-worthy and relatable section of the show is definitely the “Unlimited”. This is where all the large-scale installations, videos and most of the performances are. All art objects that won’t fit into the classic booth. I felt like this year, “the Art” became even more socially conscious than before,  it demanded taking sides and engaging. Like with politicians or activists,  you are not allowed to say “sorry, I am just looking around and actually, this  particular conflict or issue is none of my business”.

The Unlimited section is where you see “Cooking the World” by Subodh Gupta, probably the most talked-about Art Basel 2017 experience.

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Essentially, what you first see a huge pavilion made of old pots and pans and other kitchen utensils, but when you enter inside, you are welcomed by the modern style bar, serving food. Obviously, the message is supposed to be about sharing a meal together as a community, no matter where you are from, helping those hungry and in poverty. Cynical me, could not help but remember, how in my early 20-ties, back in Russia, interior design and house renovations were a wild mix of the Old and the New. Those were the years when foreign TVs, tampons and yogurts were entering Russia for the first time ever. Very few could afford a total 100% makeover upgrade. A typical family, for example, could afford a new toaster and a new vacuum cleaner and maybe decided to change just one window frame from wooden to plastic. Everything else around the apartment was old, kitschy and from pre-Stalin era. The idea of bringing one foreign element into a development word  causing simultaneously pride and distress – this is what I saw personally looking at “Cooking the World”. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a magnificent idea, but I just can’t take it at face value and simply admire. It’s too ironic.

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Another cynical-thoughts –provoking installation by Phyllida Barlow is called “100 banners”. This artist is apparently famous for using cheap or discarded materials for her art work. The piece looks like a forest of protests, made of old sticks, construction materials, faded fabrics and bags of sand. Again, sarcastic and judgmental me, felt like people would be bringing their trash to protest, instead of taking it out or recycling. Protests are modern days marathon running – you are outside, you promote a good cause and it looks good on your social media. Most likely, this is not exactly what the artist meant. But I loved the idea of protests becoming a display of trash, because it is very contemporary.

I hired a guide to walk me through the fair and educate me. We had a little debate about that one, and I don’t pretend to know more than the experts. But this is a beauty of modern art, where everyone can see what they want to see, right?

Again and again, I see lots of buttons serving as art accessories. Nobody told me it was a new trend, however, buttons are definitely in.

 

Dark web – layers of danger and darkness and crime

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This is a picture of a photo-paper, under development, in the middle of changing colors an texture. Its was sold for 100,000 EUR apparently.

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Another interesting case study – white Sofa by John Baldessari. When I was there, the sofa was empty, but originally it is supposed to be occupied by a blond lady with a blond puddle dog.

 

Another instance, where my personal reaction to an art object was totally off limits. What I saw first was a collection of old bottles, saved from the sea, the kinds that could be used to send SOS messages. All of them opened, with traces of earth and sand, lost messages and lost soles. I thought it was something to do with drowned ships, sailors or alcoholics. It turned out, this a story of slave trade from Africa to North America, and every bottle has a name of the slaved person engraved, their origin and destination, some even had a price tag and the name of the owner.

 

Other than that – a lot of slogans and text messages, social issues, questions about poverty and inequality, several anti-monuments (this is where a monument is horizontal, not vertical, because there is nothing to celebrate) and some interesting old masters. As I mentioned before, it feels like in digital era, everything is connected and shared, so there are no really new ideas, but old ideas are circulating, evolving and merging with other old ideas.

And, by the way –  walking on these white eggs under the sharp thorns is supposed to be a message about Ku Klux Klan and white supremacy.

 

The gallery with all my photos is posted here

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Madrid, Lone Survivor, etc

I am never sure if I like summer or if I like all seasons. Every time seasons are changing, I am extremely happy and exited to see the first snow or the first flowers or the first yellow leaves on the ground, but when the summer arrives, I am just always happy.

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It was so good to be in Madrid and mingle with other startups. There is something amazing in the startups air. I stopped at one of the booths to talk with a former physicist (is this the right name for a scientist who studied physics or did I get it wrong?) and he mentioned that in physics  chaos is a good thing, because it is a sum of all possible potentials and it means that everything is possible and all possible outcomes already exist. His business model of mixing coins and real estate is amazing too! Then he gave me a wonderful idea for an article which I am writing this weekend. My next conversation with a fellow consultant revealed useful tips on how to get discounts for conferences and networking events. Another conversation opened up very exciting business opportunity. Then I was just making a simple comment about what is passportable and what is not in terms of financial services, and someone else had their Eureka moment – apparently I answered a question they urgently needed an answer for. It’s funny how the world gets smaller – I met people who heard of me and worked with my former colleagues and then I was suddenly introduced to someone I wanted to meet for the last 2 years!!!! If you are interested to learn more about my key takeaways from MoneyConf, I posted it here.

Friends and readers from banking and wealth management – I will be speaking at this event in Geneva to some of your colleagues. I do have some ideas about what I want to talk about obviously, but is there something in your area that is currently super hip and hot and everyone wants to know more about it? If so – please, let me know!!!

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I am reading Lone Survivor these days. It’s a Navy Seal story with many-many dilemmas. To me, it’s a story about where we are responsible and where our responsibilities stop. Obviously, when someone is in the middle of a combat and survives and someone else is killed, it’s taking the question of “what I am really responsible for” to a total extreme. I often have a tendency to take over responsibility and try to control too many things, assuming it’s all on me and if things don’t go well, it’s all going to be my fault. Recently I had to re-set the boundaries and force myself to say “this is not my problem” on several occasions and you won’t believe how good it felt!!!! This is probably why I like so much following this book story and making parallels.

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Top must-do list, when you are travelling around Lake Constance (also known as Bodensee)

  1. If you are already near Bregenz, it’s just 30 minutes drive to Vaduz, the capital of Lichtenstein. Just so you know – Lichtenstein’s capital is really lovely and Instagram-worthy, you can easily add one more country to the list of the countries you visited and maybe you are lucky enough to attend a guided tour
  2. Pfänder cable car –  go to the top of the mountain, have a latte (or a glass of wine) there and then either walk there a little bit and take a cable car down or walk downhill.
  3. Cheese tasting (and excellent views from the nearby village) – http://www.kaesestrasse.at/, particularly Käsekeller.
  4. Swim in the lake (or go to one of the spas, if it’s too cold)
  5. Take a short boat tour to Lindau from Bregenz and back (because driving and parking there takes too long)
  6. Drive to Friedrichshafen
  7. Go to Zeppelin Museum
  8. Take a walk in Fridrichshafen.
  9. Buy some local wine here or here
  10. Stay in a hotel with excellent views, amazing food and nice pool/spa.
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