Parenting and Project Management

I recently attended 2 very special and very beautiful events: Pavel’s graduation ceremony and friends’ wedding. To me, both occasions are  similar  in a sense that everyone is supposed to be happy, drink Champagne,  celebrate important accomplishments and  liberation.

Like, there is no way I am going to be  feeling deprived or somehow abandoned when kids go to college or at any of their weddings (provided, they invite me, which is obviously a big open question 😉 ), because I never thought about any of them as my “property”. The days when your  livelihood  would depend on your kids continuing family business or producing heirs are mostly over, and there are no guarantees that we can actually control our children.

It’s my strong belief that parenting is a form of a project, and every project manager would tell you that a project must have an initiating date, a closing date, several milestones, and the end goal. So, a parenting project that ends with a wedding or a graduation ceremony (not necessarily in that order) is generally a win for everyone.

Have you ever thought about parenting as a project in a sense that the role of a parent is to take their child from  point zero to point one (defined as a mix of economic self-sufficiency, profession, moral compass, some level of social competence …) in the most efficient and rational  way?

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My new morning ritual

I am finally feeling settled in in our new home. June was literally crazy:  Singapore for a few days, twice in London, twice in Luxembourg, Pavel’s graduation in Paris, Art Basel, two short trips to Vaduz, moving houses, football fever – all during the last 5 weeks.

I have been meeting with so many people, it’s totally crazy, but there is one particular thing that sort of keeps coming: “how do I know I am doing enough”. Somehow, a lot of people ask this question.

Obviously, if you ask me, I never feel like I am doing enough (except for maybe some areas excluded from my horizon long time ago, such as – I don’t bake, I don’t do kids parties if i can help it,  I don’t go anywhere near sailing, sewing, painting, drawing or fixing electrical devices)… other than that I always feel like there is something more I could do. At the same time, when others ask me, if they are doing enough, I almost always could see that they are doing more than enough and they could easily do less or do nothing with almost no impact on their lives. Feeling “busy” is really tricky and often does not actually “feel good”.

My personal issue with “being busy” is that I may spend the day doing a lot, but lacking a sense of a really important accomplishment, almost questioning myself “why again was I doing all these things???”

So, I decided to do something new and tried it for 3 weeks thus far – it works!!!

I created a daily calendar on my Mac, and structured it in a way that if I have 3 really big and important goals that I want to accomplish by the end of this year, so I need to schedule every day at least something for each of them. Plus, there are repetitive daily chores that need to get done almost every day, and if they don’t get done, they accumulate over time and I get stressed and overwhelmed, and I need to have a piece of mind  to be able to think big and focus on my big goals.  My morning routine now includes a ritual where the first thing in the morning I open my daily calendar and  make commitments about what I will definitely do and when.

It looks like that:

———————————————————————————————————-

Goal #1: My company must achieve XXX revenue target this year. Today (and every day) I must work (at least for a minute) on:

  • Project 1 (e.g. write additional 5 slides for the online training, review yesterday’s draft)
  • Project 2 (e.g. implement additional strategy for digital marketing or attend a networking event or a call with someone interesting)
  • Learn something new, read, listen to a podcast, etc.

Goal # 2: Healthy habits

  • Excesses (write what and when)
  • Plan food (write what and where)
  • Sleep (write when I will go to bed)

Goal #3 Daily tasks

  • Project A – speak to XXX, addend meeting with DDD (…)
  • Project B – respond to YYY’s email
  • Project C – schedule ZZZ
  • Project D – nothing (this is really hard to do, by the way 😉 )

———————————————————————————————————-

This planning takes literally 5 minutes, and it’s super important to do it the first thing in the morning, before I read anyone’s emails or messages.

The trickiest part is not allow myself to get distracted and not allow others hijack my time by inflating and escalating their problems. I am still far from perfect with this, but I really feel that this new system works magically: if I follow the plan – I see the results, when I don’t follow the plan – I don’t see the results.

This system is different from my usual calendar planning, because  it’s so easy to say “yes” to an additional meting or take another call or respond to another email, but in the moment I don’t always have a good sense, how important or productive those unscheduled events would be and if they are  really aligned to my main goals. Planning ahead every morning from a place where I see a clear reminder of what I really want to achieve this year  makes a HUGE difference.

Do you have a similar issue? How do you solve it?

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A Brief History of Time

 

My take-aways after reading A Brief History Of Time

  1. Funnily enough – I could follow and understand 98%  of it. Which is surprising given the fact that I did not particularly like physics at school. It did require some concentration and processing, but  now I feel super accomplished after having read it cover-to cover.
  2. Perhaps the reason I did not like any natural sciences at school was because I saw no moral, motivational or spiritual implications in that knowledge back then. I did not connect the topics of gravity or relativity theory to “how the world is” or “why I am even here”. Back then, those answers were coming from history lessons and classical literature. Stephen Hawking did it for me. Somehow, he connected the science and pragmatism. Physics is no longer just an abstract, and I really like this new-found wisdom.
  3. I seriously did not know before that the universe is expanding. Maybe I was day-dreaming during that lesson, maybe nobody told me, but this is the first time ever I actually learned that the universe is steadily getting bigger … which I personally interpret as better, richer, more interesting and more generous. This is an amazingly good and comforting feeling –  sitting at the beach on L’île Maurice, looking at the ocean and thinking about universe getting bigger and better.
  4. Back then during my school times, there were so many conspiracy theories, how humanity is running out of food and water and clean air, and how there won’t be enough jobs, money, husbands, luck and other goodies for everyone to enjoy (unless I do my homework, obey and respect the elderly, play by the rules, and generally act as a good girl). My interpretation of the concept of expanding universe is to mean that that the overall purpose of life is not to believe in scarcity, not to be limited, and stay opened to new opportunities. When you are building a business (and I am building several of them), it’s hard not to think sometimes that 90% of new businesses fail and all that crap, and statistically somebody can run out of luck, because it sounds so scientifically proven and serious. Somehow, reading this book gave me a confidence boost.
  5. For many years, if someone would ask me, what is the ideal physical state for a body, I would probably say “peace” or “not moving”. Probably, I associated “peace” with a state where the body has found its perfect balance or some state of ideal equilibrium, and therefore it does not get pushed around by various opposing forces. On some subconscious level, this long-term conviction made me feel less than perfect, because I personally cannot really enjoy steady state of not moving. I am constantly future focused and definitely not a peaceful person, who is able to meditate longer that two minutes at my very best. Again, after reading the book, its super comforting to know that actually, moving and balancing between opposing forces is the perfect state for a body, because it means it has the energy. Surprisingly, bodies are supposed to move all the time and are supposed to be in a bit of a tension all the time, and it’s all good and “healthy”. What a relief!
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Requests-overloaded trap

 

With ever-expanding activities I am often finding myself in a situation that I call “requests – overload trap”. What it means is that I receive multiple messages, emails, slack and telegram notifications, all asking for immediate help. Most of these requests are not really urgent, but all together they make me think and feel all of the things below and all at the same time:

  • Why people can’t solve their own problems?!?!?
  • I took on too many commitments and if I do not respond to everyone immediately, they realize how stupid I am (OMG & SOS)
  • You asked the same question last week, why are you asking again?!?!?!
  • This is not really my job, what do you want from me (&%$#@&!!! multiplied)
  • Why is it always so that until I do something myself, it does not get done properly (poor me, poor me)
  • Why life is always so hard, I hate it(&^%$$#!)

Let’s say, I planned to do something during the day,  then got distracted, derailed and diverted and ended up doing something else and feeling like a total idiot and not in control. It felt bad because whoever was creating more drama and better playing crying wolf, may have gotten my attention and been rewarded.

At some point several years ago I had a similar problem and ended up setting my phone on mute by default. Like always.  I’m serious – if we don’t have a call scheduled, most likely I won’t pick up the phone.

This time around I decided to mute off all  notifications and deliberately introduce  two working modes:

  • You cannot reach me through any channel no matter how hard you try. I am working on a specific document or going to the gym or whatever and I am not available.
  • I am available and respond instantly and happy to chat (most likely I am also on Skype or Whatsapp or UberConference with someone else, but nobody needs to know).

It started a couple of weeks ago, and in the beginning it was scary. I felt guilty and was terribly afraid that something bad may happen. Or something good may happen and I miss it. I was cheating and looking at slack during non-scheduled times. But the alternative of “always available” was not working at all.

A couple of week in – and it’s working. Not perfectly, but definitely better. I have a tendency to apologize for not coming back sooner or somehow implying that I always must be available, but it’s definitely better than before.

Do you have a similar problem? How is it working for  you?

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Why happiness is not the same as cheating

I have always been driven and striving and aspiring person, and for a long time I conflated my feelings of happiness with achieving some milestones and goals. Many people told me over and over again that coming from a modest background and then being an immigrant combined with being ambitious, status-conscious, and vanity-fair-inclined “made me who I am”.  Practically like Hamilton from the musical:

          Got a lot farther by working a lot harder

          By being a lot smarter by being a self-starter…

I felt like in order to be successful, I had to make sacrifices, because this is how this world works. Last year, after a series of very strange events, I realized one important thing (ha-ha) – that happiness and accomplishments are entirely unrelated.  Ever since, I have been feeling happy, simply because I am working with people I like, I enjoy my daily tasks and I have a lot of freedom not to do what I don’t want to do.

Lately, I caught myself thinking: “aren’t you getting lazy… why are you so relaxed… isn’t it immoral to be just happy for so long… you are becoming a vegetable… (and then surprise-surprise) => get on some new project”.

It’s not like I have nothing to do or work less, it’s more this strange fear of missing out unless I urgently get uncomfortable, begin to stress-out, and get frustrated after talking and having to deal with some jerks or idiots.

I wish somebody told me this, like, 25 years ago. Actions and achievements won’t make you happy, because happiness comes from within. Being happy does not mean that you are a lazy vegetable. Actually, I found that setting professional goals and making plans from the place of being happy will eliminate a lot of unnecessary friction and get me to my goals much faster with maximum amount of lucky coincidences.

It’s really funny. Just for a short while I was thinking that, perhaps, I should do a little more, try something new, get out of the comfort zone to experience the atmosphere of growing and learning, all the while enjoying myself and looking fabulous, and within a matter of a few days I got amazing news from several directions and a very-very intriguing Skype invitation to speak with one of the most talked about companies these days.

Unlike 5 years ago, I am not forcing it, I am not preparing for 10 different eventualities that may never develop, I am just going to speak at the Fintech forum in Frankfurt,  have lunch in Dusseldorf with my longest and dearest friends, visit my long-trusted dermatologist and most amazing hairdresser ever (who both work with A-list celebrities, by the way),  do my job in between, take that mysterious call, and trust the process. And I am not even talking about the fact that I’m going to Mauritius, Singapore and Hawaii all in the next  6 months 😉 Who said compliance wasn’t glamorous?

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Why women must get into crypto – right now

When I just started my consultancy business, I was approaching many great Fintechs and repeatedly got rejected. Most of the companies liked my profile and were willing to hire me as an employee. They saw compliance as a strictly in-house function and did not want to have a strange part-time arrangement with someone who was not ready to commit to them full time. It was not a question whether I could do the job, it was a question of control and leverage over someone who works for you.

It reminded me a discussion with one of my girlfriends about advantages and disadvantages of a nanny that lives with the family versus a babysitter who comes and goes. My friend was in favor of au-pair or nanny who stays with the family, because it makes this person dependable and always available. A babysitter can cancel any time, be late or have some other excuses.

Fast-forward 18 months. I am often conducting interviews for compliance and other leadership roles, and several people who interviewed me for various roles in the last years, either as bosses or peers, are interested in jobs that would be  now to some extent reporting to me.  They all have the same story: “My job is boring, the most exciting things are happening in blockchain and crypto, I want to get in, even if I have to take a salary cut or lower-level job first”.

In the vast majority of cases, these candidates don’t have any professional experience with crypto. Some have traded. Many just read occasional news about ICOs or bitcoin prices.  Everyone says they want in “because crypto is the future”.  Except for ladies, who often say that “crypto” profile of the company is not an attraction, but rather a risk factor for them.

Here are the most common reactions on why many women don’t own any crypto and don’t even want to try:

  • I don’t have any crypto, because I don’t know why would I need it.
  • Crypto is a bubble, I don’t want to speculate, it’s immoral and a waste of time.
  • This is something too technical, and I am just an (accountant, analyst, secretary, project manager, sales person, teacher, journalist…)
  • Crypto is the men’s world, full of freaks, geeks and hackers.
  • They work with dirty money and shady businesses.
  • I want to wait and see until more people from my circle adopt it, then I will know it’s safe for me to join.

Excuses, excuses.  Women are less comfortable  taking risks and dealing with uncertainties, but it also means that women are missing out on a lot of opportunities. I attend a lot of meetings between various Finteh startups and crypto players, where new initiatives are discussed and new partnerships may be formed, and in 95% of cases, I am the only woman in the room. It’s not a coincidence.

So, here is my advice to all women, regardless of what you do or where you live or how much money you have – find a way to get into crypto, buy some symbolic amount of virtual currencies to have this experience, learn how to manage your private keys and understand the key principles of blockchain now. Here is why:

  • There will be many jobs created in this space in the near future for everyone – for accountants, project managers, lawyers, secretaries, recruiters, financial analysts and practically anyone. If you have a previous experience with crypto, you will have an advantage, potentially higher salary and more senior role in the organization.
  • Crypto community is extremely friendly, you will find enormously supportive people, who will guide you through your first crypto steps and show you how it works. Just go to any random crypto meetup in your city and say that you want to try. Why? Because there is a strong sense in crypto community that this is just a beginning and there is a potential for everyone to make something out of it. In big companies and traditional industries, you are always competing – for promotional quotas, for budget, for projects or other resources. In crypto the pie is still big enough for everyone who wants to join.
  • Opening a crypto account is as easy as registering with Amazon. Seriously.
  • After you made your first transaction with bitcoin or ether (it could be with 2 EUR amount, does not matter) – you will feel extremely proud and accomplished. You’ll see you can do it. You will feel more independent. You will feel that this is another new thing that you can easily do. It’s not scary. It’s actually pretty cool.
  • Then, when you go to your next job interview, and a hiring manager asks you about the recent learning experience or some initiative that you have recently taken, you will tell them about how you bought your first fraction of a bitcoin (or whatever it was). And it will make you stand out 🙂

If you are  reading this and you need an extra nudge to finally get  into crypto, tell me – what’s stopping you now?

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Happy New 2018!

We welcomed New Year 2018 at the roof top terrace of one of the tallest Gran Via buildings in Madrid, eating traditional 12 grapes, making wishes, drinking Cava (and seriously freezing under the wind). It was the first full family reunion since January 2016, when we all played mafia game in Luxembourg for Anna’s birthday.

I have always liked Madrid during short business visits here during my Amazon years, but never actually had enough time to explore the city. We all agreed that it’s a very funny combination of old and new, a great place to spend a few days walking around, doing some unpretentious shopping and eating amazing food.

Who knew that all 3 kids (ages 24, 17 and 8) would be passionately competing for the title of the most fashionable sibling !!!!! (Pavel with his hmmmm… statement t-shirts, Anna with her purple hair and Diana with her GAP kids loungewear).

Diana was playing politically incorrect enfant terrible quadrupled. When she learned that I did not have any iPad when I was 8, she assumed I had chosen not to have an iPad being too old-fashioned. Pavel and Anna quickly corrected Diana that I might be a lot of different things they did not approve of, but I’m quite progressive.  However, when Diana realized there had been no iPads at the time I was 8, she just concluded “Mom, if you lived during the times with no iPads, you must be very old”. Facepalm 😉

It’s an early evening of January 1st and thus far I’ve drafted 3 first of my new year resolutions. They usually go through some alterations over the year anyway.

One of the best things that happened to me in 2017 was moving into and being accepted by the world of crypto-community.  It’s not just one of the fastest growing market segments, it’s also the unique brand people– smart, rebellious, hardworking, funny and with a lot of self-irony. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that blockchain technology is based on the principles of seeking democratic consensus, trust and common interests and avoiding single points of failures as much as possible.

It’s totally different from the buzz words “inclusion” or “diversity” or the likes. As an example, PayPal (similar to many other tech companies) is talking a lot and doing a lot about inclusion and diversity and it is clear that there are many groups of people who can benefit from diversity programs – working mothers who were away from workforce for a few years or veterans who might need re-training. However, as far as PayPal is concerned, looking at how many of my former colleagues have left the company and started their own businesses during 2017, it’s clear that PayPal is consciously and subconsciously eliminating rebels and entrepreneurial people from its ranks, driving them away by corporate matrix inertia and inability to move faster. In terms of numbers, yes, PayPal maybe getting closer to meeting percentages and other numerical targets of having enough people of a certain gender or age or social group among its managers and employees, but in terms of different voices being heard, there is a clear discrimination against specific mentality of “rebels” and “enterpreneurs”.  I talked a lot with people who left and people who would probably leave in the next year, and it’s always the same story.

Crypto community is different. I’ve never seen so much mutual respect and ability to admire someone’s ideas or embracing uncertainty. Of course, there is competition – for investments, for rankings, for talent, for spotlight. But also there is a realization, that the pie is big enough for everyone.

Sometime in March 2017, I met with a very successful consultant whose clients include several major banks and insurance companies in Switzerland. I wanted to learn from him how to be a successful consultant and keep existing clients happy. He gave me several brilliant recommendations, for example, to never agree on trial projects with no compensation. In his experience, people who are ready to pay you and engage you, will be ready to do it from day one. He also advised that after a year on my own I would know if it’s working or not, and it would be so clear, that I did not need to second-guess myself in between.   He was totally right. We met again in early December 2017, and I was telling him how excited I felt, having just being engaged by an amazing company who I admired for a long time, and how my pipeline of blockchain customers is full and growing. He smiled and said that I was lucky, because I worked with companies I loved and he was working with the same banking people he left when he left his bank, and he wanted to move into crypto to be able to do more fun projects he actually cared about. In March, I wanted a little bit to be him, because he had a great reputation and a solid clients’ base, and in December he wanted a little bit to be me, because I worked with companies  making history and the first lines of Bitcoin Magazine and Coin Telegraph every week.

I frankly don’t know and don’t really care, if I ever go back to employment, but I definitely won’t ever go back to a situation, when I am expected to go to office every day, attend unproductive meetings regularly, and wait for some other people in the hierarchy to decide what I can accomplish this year, what my performance rating should be, or how much money it would be “fair” for me to earn comparing to others.

Corporate world has given me a lot – friends, experience, ability to understand people and their incentives, patience, useful social skills. And I’m grateful for all of that. But this is so much better now and I wish everyone can just experience that!!! Happy New 2018!!!

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