Take a look at part 1 of Max's interview before proceeding!
What has been the largest obstacle you have had to overcome and how did you overcome it?
The largest obstacle always was, still is and will always be my lack of decision making skills. It was truly uncomfortable to admit that but it's the only way to evolve.
I didn't mean: “It was uncomfortable to admit it publicly,” by the way. The hardest part was accepting the truth about myself internally. Not like: “Yeah, I wasn't that smart in the past but now I learned something and improved,” but like: “I was dumb and I will always be dumb, just accept it and try to compensate.”
I will not be able to overcome it completely no matter how much I learn or how hard I try. But I can, at least, learn more about decision making and practice it through analysis and reflection. That's my true inner goal, business is just a sandbox for it.
What has been the highlight of your career?
I feel that was the moment when I finally learned about Action Research and started to experiment with it. The rest is just a consequence.
Speaking numbers, I achieved more in the last year, than in the previous 10 years of my life in terms of free equity. And, taking into account the current speed of evolution, I expect to grow my new business 2-5 times faster than that.
What has been the hardest part of adjusting to Covid-19?
Speaking honestly, I didn't care that much in a business sense. It was just one of the factors that I must take into account when making decisions. Not an easy one, but manageable. I achieved more during the pandemic, but it's not a causality in any shape or form.
On the emotional side it was devastating, for sure. The idea that you or your family or friends can contract the disease and die any moment adds a lot of everyday stress. Yes, we all got accustomed to this feeling eventually as a part of psychological resistance, but still...
What do you think has been the “key” to your success this far?
In the past it was pure luck for sure. If I didn't meet certain people at certain times in the past, everything could be much different. I was close to giving up and I actually gave up several times. Yes, I could try to please myself with something like: "I could have met other people or even find better opportunities", but it's still mostly random.
But, since I started practicing Action Research, it has become the driving force of everything. It doesn't even matter if I succeed or fail any given day because it's just a learning experience, nothing more. If you experience exponential growth, it doesn't really matter where the starting point is.
Rapid evolution is the key :)
How has failure helped you later in life? Can you share any specific lessons you have learned?
I learned almost nothing from my past failures until I started to analyze them deeper with the new methodology. My story sounds like I knew the truth when I experienced all of that, but I had no idea in the past whether I failed or not. It all looked the same: a lot of random decisions and their outcomes that finally lead to something bigger.
Yes, I felt smart when I got an idea of hiring a marketer instead of doing everything on my own, but I also made a lot of other dumb decisions along the way. Even hiring the marketer was partly random and I'm not sure that it was a rational choice back then.
The most important lesson I learned is that I must learn how to learn from my mistakes in the first place. It's too easy to say to yourself: “Yes, I admitted the mistake and I will never do that again.” It's much harder to spot the mistake in the first place, being fooled by overall performance not dependent on the quality of your decisions. And it's even harder or even impossible sometimes to dig into true cases of our mistakes without the help of others.
Yet another important discovery was how effective it may be to look for others' advice and support. We have limited knowledge and experience, so it's always a good idea to stress-test our ideas and plans externally, not internally. I have got plenty of good advice in the past and it's totally my fault that I missed or ignored it.
What is some of the best advice you ever received? Some of the worst?
I received a lot of good and bad advice from others but the problem wasn't in their amount or their quality. The main problem was how I understood and reacted to them. I'm sure that I received my "best" advice somewhere in the past but I just missed or ignored it.
If I try to recall the best advice I actually recognized and followed, it was: "Buy the house first, only then party, buy a car, etc." I'm from a city of sailors whose professional career is pretty limited because of physical requirements for the job. So, if the sailor spends the first money he makes on entertainment, he takes huge risks of losing everything in his life.
I violated the rule once by reinvesting the first real money I made back into a business that failed. But the next time I finally followed the advice and inspite of having a healthy business, I purchased a lot of real estate not limited to my living house. I bought an extra house.
It's the best decision I have made so far, and it's the reason why I'm so relaxed since. It not only saved me a lot of money on rent (my first office already paid me back twice), but also became a significant source of passive income when my 10-year-old business started to decline. I also feel much safer knowing that I can sell some of my assets any time I need without losing my living house.
I don't even need to look for outside financing at the early stage because I can perfectly handle that without taking any risks. The only drawback is that it's not always good for my inner motivation - I tend to relax whenever everything is good. I'm too lazy to work hard without external pressure :)
What is some advice you can give to an aspiring high school entrepreneur?
Get a diploma, then find a good job :)
I'm not joking, by the way: only by working in a corporate/startup environment for 1-2 years will you get at least a minimum set of knowledge of what business is like. It will also give you extra resources for launching your business as well. And, if you are lucky, you will get a good product idea as you solve your professional problems at the job.
You should also learn more about decision making and practice to spot and correct mistakes in decisions we make, by analyzing yourself and others. A good introduction to the topic is Daniel Kahneman's book Thinking: Fast and Slow.
Yet another important topic is Action Research. The best book I've found so far is David Coghlan, Teresa Brannick Doing Action Research in Your Own Organization. It is not an easy read because it's tightly packed with facts and methods. Don't just "read" it but practice whatever you learn immediately - it's the best way to speed up your evolution.
I also plan to design a detailed step-by-step manual on doing Action Research in a startup with limited resources. I don't have enough time for a published book, so I will just create a series of blog posts at my personal blog at pastukhov.org in the next several months.
Thank you for reading!
I hope that I made you interested in decision making and Action Research methodology. I'm always eager to help with advice, so don't hesitate to contact me at pastukhov.org. And, if you ever need marketing automation tools, please check what's new at Adomation.com.