I read somewhere that in order to write well, you’ve got to inject humility and get really high on it.
Only truth matters. Only real stories matter. Life matters.
Not another GaryVee remix that you try to pass off as your “honest thoughts” or generic Medium articles that you write to impress people.
Experiences filled with anxiety, anticipation and fear of failure — as well as stories that are written from them — that’s what matters.
This post is an attempt, at last, to start doing that.
My honest story
It’s not easy to write about your failures and shortcomings.
On the other hand, it’s hugely liberating to stop lying to yourself and face the truth.
Here is mine.
The first time I moved somewhere from my home country (mother Russia) was in 2007 — I was 9, me and family followed my dad to California for his Stanford MBA. I went to elementary school in Palo Alto and learned English.
By the end of the 2 years, I didn’t want to move back. I had friends, I had life there. And I really liked the States. Coming back to Russia was so stressful, I switched 8 schools during my 11 years of education.
Talk about focus.
The second time was 9 years later, 2016 — I was 18 and I was going to college. Drilled by my father’s expectations (he is a businessman), I chose the #1 college for entrepreneurship — Babson.
What can I say. It sucked.
Not that Babson itself sucked (it’s actually a pretty good school) — but college did. I had no idea why I should spend the most important 4 years of my life in complete isolation from the world (geographically and conceptually).
I was bored and I wanted to do stuff. More than that — my father was paying $6,900 per month in 10 equal installments for something I did not really care about.
In 7 months, after some thought, I dropped out.
I moved back to Moscow passionate to “live the dream” and felt like Steve Jobs. Or 20–30 other entrepreneurs from the DropOut Land — as if, by dropping out, you increase your chances to make in the business-world. That may be, but you first had to have a business to actually make it.
In fact, I didn’t have any fucking idea what I would do next. So I did what any spoiled kid would do — I asked my dad for a job.
For the next 7 months I worked hard at his eCommerce company (which is now bankrupt – but not because of me!) as a Social Media Director. I learned all there was about Instagram at the time, and social media marketing.
At some point what I did started to actually bring sales — and I felt king.
Then I wrote an article in some online magazine, somebody invited me to give a speech about marketing, then I was offered a teaching job at a business school and…well, you can imagine. I was 19.
My ego went into the fucking stratosphere.
The next 6 months are a blur.
I quit my job. I got into debt. I bought Bitcoin (which is at 19 — a problem in itself). I took money from other people to invest and lost it all. I convinced my dad to start a video blog and acted like a complete jerk.
And by 2018, I was done.
At about this time, I started hearing little voices of sanity in my head. They used curse words, but most of the time they pointed my attention towards the fact that I was doing something wrong.
I was completely lost and felt like shit. I was a failure. I had no college degree, I had no idea who I want to be, and I was deeply in debt — to people twice my age (I actually still am).
This point of the story seems what screenwriters call “The All is Lost Moment”: the hero is almost defeated, he has nothing to lose, he realizes what to do next — and does it, killing the monsters and saving the day.
The funniest thing is that it wasn’t. The hero was just getting started.
After all of that, I started doing what any normal person would do in my situation.
I decided to write a book. Talk about humility.
Actually, the project turned out to be pretty cool. I brought together top-10 entrepreneurs of Russia, and asked them questions about life, success and happiness. I did all of it on my YouTube channel and a couple of months ago I actually self-published a book. I didn’t get the biggest exposure (the project was niche and I had no money to promote it) — but I am happy with the result nevertheless.
And on the surface, everything looked great. I did interviews, worked with huge brands — like Starbucks Russia, Dunkin Donuts, MAN — I wrote a book at 20 years old and was envied by many college-aged students sitting in their dusty dorm rooms.
The problem is, it didn’t solve anything. The YouTube project didn’t make money. Neither did the book (technically it did, but I am embarrassed to say how much). I built a video production business in the meanwhile, but quickly got bored by making so little money for so much work where I knew nothing about the sphere.
And to aggravate the problem further, I got into even more debt — being in perpetual denial of what’s really going on.
At this point in my story, we are approaching to where I am now – in London. I realized that I’ve got to make some radical changes. In fact, some BIG changes — about how I approach work, money, relationships, etc.
I had to stop trying to prove anything to anyone.
I had to stop being in denial of my own insecurities and vulnerabilities.
I had to stop lying to myself, pretending like I’ve got it all figured out, when in reality — I don’t.
And most importantly, I’ve got to stop behaving like a stupid immature moron and grow the fuck up.
I am writing this from a cafe in central London. It’s my third time moving somewhere far away from home and this time, I hope to make everything right.
We all make mistakes. That’s how we learn.
And there would be no point in this story if I don’t make some takeaway lessons for you — so you don’t repeat my mistakes.
Here it goes.
As a generation, we are tricked by too much viewable success.
Every time you see someone more beautiful, successful, rich, etc. on Instagram than you think you are — you get jealous. It creates a negative motivation for you. You start to want things that you didn’t want before (and that you actually don’t really need).
Stop scrolling Instagram Newsfeed. Delete the app. Fuck it.
The biggest problem with my generation is the desire to be like someone else. Copy somebody else’s success. Having role models is great, but trying to copy somebody else’s life? Really?
You are not Steve Jobs, Gary Vee, Tai Lopez, etc. You shouldn’t try to be.
You are YOU!
Trying to be someone else is betrayal — to yourself and others.
The odds are, you are not an entrepreneur and you shouldn’t try to be. You should focus on finding who you really are. In fact, a good strategy for a young man or woman is to assume that they are not an entrepreneur and try to do everything else first.
If all else fails, you can start your business.
But try doing something else: write, act, teach, cook, draw, anything. Entrepreneurship may be cool now, but you know what’s really cool?
Doing your thing — because you love it — even though it’s not popular. That’s really cool and deserves respect.
Don’t drop out — or do, but be responsible
Right now I am in a position of not being able to afford college. I had a choice — and I made mine. The 18-year-old version of me needed that: to prove something to somebody, to act independently.
But if I could study right now, I probably would. Why not? That’s the best thing you could do when you don’t know what you want to do in life. Studying is fun, satisfying, and fulfilling. And you actually learn stuff!
I am watching my girlfriend go excited to her UCL classes every morning and I couldn’t be happier for her.
If you think that you drop out and everything will be easier, grow up. Everything is hard as fuck. You won’t magically enter DropOut Land and join Zuckerberg. Nobody is going to hand you success simply because you are copying the successful. Life is not school, there are no rewards for “trying”. Only the results matter.
On the flip side, if you do (or already did) drop out, it’s a chance for you to grow up quickly. Make mistakes, learn from them and correct them. Be responsible. Count money. Be accountable. Be honest.
You have no other choice.
Don’t rush it
At the same time, we want things fast.
My girlfriend recently told me, that great success is never fast. And I believe that to be true.
I don’t want quick success — and neither should you. Let’s focus on the longterm. We are here for a long time, and we are just starting.
Slow down, you crazy child
You’re so ambitious for a juvenile
But then if you’re so smart, then tell me
Why are you still so afraid?
– Billy Joel, Vienna
You don’t need to fit your whole career into the next 10 years (e.g., between 20 and 30). You’ve got your whole life ahead of you.
Everything that happens — happens for a reason.
In truth, I needed to make those mistakes so that I could start being more humble and patient.
If you are struggling right now — realize this: this is your education. Let it teach you. The biggest mistake — is not dropping out or getting in debt or failing your business, etc.
The biggest mistake is to fail to learn from mistakes on your way.
So keep on going. Keep on learning. Own those mistakes, make them yours, embrace them.
Eventually, you’ll figure it all out and it will all make sense. Remember: “you cannot connect the dots looking forward”.
I believe that — and so should you.