Hi, I’m Olga, the human behind this issue of Upstairs. I look for new creative solutions for a better future, working internationally in creative industries. I collect unique ideas from talented people and help them grow into sustainable businesses and find new partnerships. Their stories are treasures of our time, which I want to introduce to the whole world.
My whole life after university looked like a long-distance run. Run for recognition, money, and professional freedom. When I was 23, I took part in several critical governmental projects: business trips, conferences, new topics, and people every day. Throughout my career, I had a feeling that I was missing something important, that I could do more, better, and become more successful. I already knew the rules of that run. Everything seemed clear and stable.
Every day I had meetings with creative people who started their own businesses. They seemed to be brave and satisfied with their life and career. “These people have already achieved everything they wanted. They seem happy. They won their long-distance race.” I thought all the time when I read their stories somewhere on the Internet.
I looked for inspiration in their life experience, and day after day, an idea of big changes in my own life started to follow me. I decided that I was ready to be part of this brave community of entrepreneurs. I was ready to exchange my career at the company for my own business’s freedom and power. I thought I was ready to finish the race. I moved to Poland and organized creative workshops there. And then another long-distance run had started, but this time I was not familiar with the rules. I had no concrete goal except my hopes of becoming happy running my own business.
When I was sitting in my office, I suddenly felt exhausted. I did not feel any joy in having my own business. I had the feeling that if I stopped, I would miss something important. I thought I should run as others did and soon would reach the finish line. But months passed, and the goal of my run was even further than in the beginning. One morning, I could not force myself to start working. It was a moment of despair and a moment of truth, which meant that the time for big changes had not come yet.
Finally, I ended all my contracts in Poland and returned to Moscow. It was my home, everything was so familiar, and I knew the Moscow long-distance running rules. Soon afterward, I was offered a good leading position in one of the most famous Russian institutions that developed innovation and entrepreneurship programs. Again the race had started. This new job was way more prestigious. I began to rise and shine in my career again.
I don’t remember any pauses, except for just one that happened on my 31st birthday. It was almost a lonely celebration. I was far away from my family and friends. I belonged to myself and had time to think. I was listening to the radio when all of a sudden I heard David Bowie sing “… for in truth, it’s the beginning of an end. And nothing has changed. And everything has changed.” And then I saw it very clearly: I am ready to make another big change again, after four years from my Polish experiment.
That day I realized that the company I worked in had given me everything, besides the feeling of self-fulfillment. I was completing someone’s mission, not mine. At the time, I had an opportunity to move to Germany and start a professional life from scratch. I thought it could be the right time for changes.
I had moved for the 11th time: nine times in Russia and two times abroad. Over time, I have learned to get rid of unnecessary things and expectations. In contrast to my first attempt, I was terrified to start my own business. I decided to find a job in Germany. I thought that I could easily fit my Moscow professional lifestyle into a new reality. But when I left the company, my boss looked at me as she never did before, with a bit of disappointment and sorrow. She said, “Olga, you are retiring. Aren’t you too young for this?”
What she meant was true: life in the countryside, a new language, and an unfamiliar professional context. I could certainly not have expected to live the same full life as before. How does it feel to be retired when you are in your 30s? Maybe it feels like ending the long-distance run at last.
But how to slow down and stop running? If not to run, what to do then? What are the new rules? Who am I? What are my professional goals? How to achieve them without running?
When I moved to Germany, I was afraid to fail or not to be recognized. There was a lot of professional uncertainty. I was utterly lost and alone. While I was desperately looking for professional opportunities and new connections, learning new things as much as I could, the race came suddenly to an end. The whole world froze during the lockdown. It was a perfect chance to slow down, too, and not be ashamed of it.
Instead of looking for opportunities outside, as I did before, I decided to have a look at my own story, find inspiration inside, and understand what is important to me.
I asked myself two questions: “If I had a chance to give myself a gift certificate for some activities, what would it be? If I wanted to write myself a thank you letter, which of my skills and achievements would I be grateful for?”
I made two long lists. First, I wrote down all the things that inspired me during my entire life: my hobbies, leisure activities, favorite tasks at work – everything in detail. Second, I wrote down all my achievements, skills, knowledge, and experience that could be useful for others. Then I started to match these two lists like a puzzle. The matching game helped me better understand myself. It was like a frank dialogue with myself.
This matching of skills and favorite activities is like a unique creative DNA we carry inside and give to the world. It has huge potential and a strong basis for developing new business ideas or finding your vocation.
This creative DNA is our magic glasses, through which we look at the world and notice essential things such as trends, other people’s needs, global challenges, businesses, and projects. We can take or react to something only according to our background and values.
This is how I discovered my unique way of self-expression and professional vocation. I am an independent producer and partner of creative businesses, and I know that I can be useful for creative people in my way, just because my creative DNA meets some of their needs.
I do not look at other lives anymore. I look inside myself instead, and I know that all the answers are already given to me. It was possible only when I stopped running. And this was a massive change for me.
I am 33 now, and I have been preparing for this age for at least ten years: slowing down, being conscious, doing only what is important to other people and me. For me, it is an outstanding achievement and privilege to stop the long-distance run at last and start living in the moment. I find a professional mission and complete it every day doing small, simple things. Step by step, I discover new ideas inside others and potential inside myself.
Our individuality is the most valuable feature we can offer to the world.
All the best,
Contributors of this story: Olga Kizina wrote this story, Oana Filip edited it, Andrei Ungurianu put it all together, George Olaru designed it, Răzvan Onofrei was in charge with the development.
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