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What is success? And how does it feel?

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 In the end of December JS from Successful Styles  visited  Anna and Oxana founders of Life as an Investment and talked to them about success and their way to where they are now. Anna and Oxana are also founders of Kamishi AB, Hoam.ly and Stockholm International Swimming Club….. Originally published at Successful Styles.

Every time I meet Anna it is like a new page opens up. It is unimaginable how much she knows, understands and is curious about.

I don’t even remember the first time I met this girl, but what I do remember pretty good about her is her fiery mental strength. She is always hungry for learning more and does it in the best way she can. It seems to me it never matters whether it’s hard or not, she’ll do it anyways.

When I mentioned that I want to write about her success, she instantly suggested inviting her closest friend and a business partner Oxana Sachenkova. The way she was talking about their friendship could not be ignored. Her story clearly wouldn’t be complete. There was no doubt these two ladies are very special.

I met Oxana only a couple of days ago and MY GOD!!! I no longer get motivated and inspired by famous millionaires and celebrities. Those are dinosaurs. They are too far away. But here, right in front of my nose, there are friends who are so WEALTHY they don’t realize it themselves.

I am going to say only a few words, the rest you will understand when you have read their story.

Anna N Kazakova

So who is Anna exactly? For me, she is a simple crazy Russian. When she was 14 years old she won a contest among 1000 people. Skydiving and running marathons are a common thing for her. She swam 6.5 km Bosphorus race, sailed across the stormy Mediterranean Sea, holds a degree in Accounting, runs her own company and successfully invests in real estate. But to be honest, her thinking impresses me the most.  If you tell her about your problem or ideas, she will shoot about 10 creative solutions in a minute. Impressive, huh!

 Oxana SachenkovaOxana is a simple crazy Russian girl too. She is also a swimming coach, data scientist, computational biologist, Ph.D. student, and entrepreneur. All this is combined with a warm smile, open heart, and femininity. She is definitely the perfect partner for Anna, as she harmoniously kept the balance between emotions and efficient structure during our whole conversation. The connection between these girls is amazing. I can say they are the perfect example of modern young athletes, professionals and simply beauties.

JS: So girls, how did you two meet and how did you come to running numerous projects together?
Oxana: I knew Anna before we met. I was following her online journal. And then, one day, we met at a swimming pool. I was interviewed for a swimming coach position. She was already working there so I recognized her.
Anna: It is funny cause online journals are not so popular these days, but this is exactly what brought me to Sweden and one of the reasons we met. One day Oxana invited me, together with other people, to her place. Unfortunately, she had to cancel it due to some personal reasons. When I asked her why it happened she kind of opened up and that was the beginning of a lifetime friendship. We worked a lot as a team at the pool. It was pretty easy to communicate.

JS: What is the key to the great communication you are having? It is not always easy to find a person you can really connect with.
Oxana: It was the same vision we shared. That time she struggled with some technical things in her blog and told her that I could fix very quickly. The communication just worked, it wasn’t difficult to understand each other.
Anna: Yes, it is very smooth. We did argue about a client, though.
Oxana: We may get emotional sometimes, but we always continue talking to each other and stay within borders. Anna is very emotional, but I know she will calm down and get back to me to reach an agreement.
Anna: Yes, I am. But I am also very logical. So only 10 minutes is needed for someone to survive (LOL). But no matter how hot our discussion may be, we never get personal or manipulate the information we know about each other. I know if I tell Oxana something she will always consider what I said. She will think it over and never ignores my opinion.

JS: What do you value the most in your communication?
Oxana: Well, lots of people say you shouldn’t do business with friends. However, in my opinion, having your friend, as a partner is a huge advantage. It is so much easier to work together when you know one another so well. I know Anna will figure out herself a lot of things that need to be done, so I don’t need waste time explaining to her what to do.
Anna: It was much more difficult when I started a business alone. I had a partner, but he needed to be told what to do. I didn’t have a partner like Oxana that time. She does so much and does it very efficiently and really fast. It is very helpful. When I want to give up, she is there for me and shows me why I shouldn’t give up.
Oxana: We motivate each other.

JS: Your connection is obviously very strong. It can be noticed instantly. Looking at two successful young girls, I am wondering what do you consider your biggest success so far and can you remember the very first time you felt successful?
Anna: Yes, it was when I was 14 and I won a competition in Russia. I was one of the 6 persons chosen to go to the USA. There were about 1000 contestants. Unfortunately, I wasn’t allowed to go there and I felt very frustrated. But at that moment particularly I was very proud of myself. It was great to know that someone who was not my parent or teacher saw something special in me. My parents were quite critical of what I was doing. They didn’t understand me the way I wanted them to understand me, so I felt very proud and happy to get recognition. Some years later I won another prize for my thesis on Viral Marketing. It felt very nice. I didn’t even mind missing my prom. I felt I was doing something more important than getting drunk and receiving a diploma (LOL).
Oxana: I was taking extra classes from Russian literature professor at MGIMO (Moscow State Institute of International Relations) to prepare for the University.
I had to write an essay on Tatiana’s Image of a Russian woman (Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin). I took extra lessons. It was hard writing a good essay because I only wanted to express my opinion, but my teacher was critical about it. She advised focusing on the scientific analysis of the literature. She gave me a pile of the best pieces done by other students. It was very difficult for me to change and write as she thought I was supposed to write.
I made a big effort and did the best I could. I loved what I wrote and was very anxious to show her. I have never met a more cultural person with such a proper language and manners.  It was the best feeling ever! I felt so happy that the “Goddess of Russian Literature” considered my work as good as the best essays in her folder.
I still have that piece and my mom knows she is not supposed to throw it away (LOL). So that was the first time I felt that I COULD do it even if it was difficult.

JS: What about the last time you felt successful?
Anna: It was when HOAM.LY (new joint project) was accepted to Sting. And I realized that I CAN. It is not easy for immigrants to build a sustainable business here. It can get pretty tough. So I felt like we finally broke through and did something that other people thought was valuable. When I got the message that Sting accepted us, I was running on a treadmill. It was such an energy flow I felt like a champion. I  wanted to run faster and squeal with joy.

JS: Could you describe what kind of emotions you experienced?
Anna: I usually feel like crying at these moments. It started 5 years ago when I was running 5 km. I cried 3 times. Due to some health reasons, I couldn’t run until I turned 20. After an operation, I could finally start doing sports. That is why, sports is so emotional for me. I don’t actually like running, but the movement itself makes me feel FREE. I am so happy I can move, my body temperature goes up, the heart beats faster and I yell and scream and shout and want to run faster with my arms up. That is SUCCESS!!!

IMG_0438JS: What difference do you see between the first success and what you are experiencing right now?
Anna: The feeling is deeper now. It is easier for a child to start over and come up with some new ideas or solutions. We think that at 18 we would do this and that. But when the 30th anniversary is approaching, you stop caring what people say. This is my personal opinion.
Oxana: Earlier it was more about seeking recognition. Now, I care about what there is there for ME and if I achieved what I wanted to. I don’t need to prove anything to anyone. I feel fulfillment.

Anna: I am still fighting with recognition and acceptance. My expertise lies in such competitive market I sometimes need to jump over my head to get a client. Oxana is a developer. It is much easier for her as there is a lack of developers here.

JS: Why do you think you need acceptance? I have known you for a while and I can see how much you have done. What would be enough for you?
Anna: I read that people like me are never satisfied and happy about what they have done.
Oxana: And this is what we are trying to break through. I had a difficult time during my Ph.D. and I started questioning if I was doing it because of the title or trying to prove that I can do it. You can set new goals all the time and never feel that it’s enough.
Anna: I can say I am happy right now. I am really enjoying my life. I wake up and I am happy when I go to work. I have a plan of what I need to do during the day. However, I am trying to reduce the amount of hours I work.

JS: Could you describe a little bit your day. Is there something that happens or need to happen during the day for you to know that the day is successful?
Anna: Usually I feel great when all of my 25 things on the list are done. Sometimes I write: “Go and buy something I want disregarding the price” or “do some shopping”, or “plan the wedding together with my fiancé”. It is easy to live when everything is structured.

Today is a triathlon day in Stockholm! Team Kamishi ( #lifeasaninvestment) is here! I am already done with swimming, Johan is biking and Oxana (@merenlin ) waiting for her start in running. Wish is luck!

Oxana: For me it is when everything I do is aligned with my goals. If the goal is big, the small parts should be done. Or today I was teaching a course for the first time and the students came up to me and thanked for the course. Another example is when my clients are happy with the work. It is very rewarding. I feel most rewarded when I teach swimming, though.
Anna: It is funny cause swimming lessons are not cheap. They cost just as much as our consulting hours, but the reward is much bigger.

Anna OxJS: I am very curious about your styles, not just fashion style but more about those things that help you feel successful. Is there something that brings you back into those memories?

Oxana: Yes. It is my sports clothes. It makes me feel free. For example, I can go to my own office and wear what I want and no one will say that I am inappropriately dressed. Well, of course, Anna may ask: “What the hell are you wearing?”

Girlspower in gym! Oxana "disappears" faster than me :-) vegetarians - what to say!

Anna: I am different. I usually like to wear comfortable clothes and I don’t like spending too much time choosing what to put on. I have grey V-necks and turtlenecks. Normally, I have red nails and lipstick and I always have my eyelashes extended as it saves me a lot of time. All I need to do is to brush my hair, put lipstick on and I am good to go. I have two dresses. I wear them when I feel like looking more feminine. On Fridays, I created a “FREE” day  in our office when I wear sneakers.
I enjoy my long breakfasts. My day starts with porridge or yogurt with chia seeds and fruits and listening to the news.

We were definitely the bright ones :-) #stockholmtechfest

JS: Are there pieces in your wardrobe that are special to you, something that remind you of successful moments or events?
Oxana: Yes. For me, it is my white shirt and pants. It is strongly associated with passing the exams just like at Bauman University. “Put it on and go kick some butts!” I also think here in Sweden wearing a white shirt is very proper. Working mostly in the male-dominated environment for me wearing white shirt represents power and confidence. One time we even wore similar white shirts and black pants. It seemed like a uniform, no one understood but for us it was hilarious.
Anna: I have two dresses. One of which is my favorite Dorothee Schumacher dress. I ordered it from Germany, as they don’t sell in Sweden. I don’t normally like labels on clothes and anything that screams a certain brand name, so I cut them off.

JS: Could you tell a little bit about your bracelet? What does it say and mean to you?
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Anna: Well, I was looking for myself and tried to find guidelines. Without them, it is difficult to live. When I was a child, religion was some kind of guide but I had too many questions. So I tried to find more appropriate guidelines for how I need to live and be in harmony physically and mentally. About three and a half years ago I started looking for ways to express myself. Since I am all about finance I, kind of figured out, that I need to live my life as an investment. And this is when I started the blog LIFEASANINVESTMENT.com
I chose bracelets because I don’t really like wearing anything on my neck or fingers. Our bracelets are very comfortable and thin.

JS: What do they say and mean to you?
Anna: It says that we are all made of stars and we are unique. It associates with the goals I have and reminds me of them. And it is a nice accessory!

JS: As you know, it was Thanksgiving Day in the USA couple of days ago. People get together at a big table with lots of food and thank for something. I’d like to ask what are you, successful people, thankful for?
Anna: Global things. I am thankful that I am physically and mentally healthy. I really appreciate the country I live in and the fact that here we can plan and do sustainable things. I am very thankful for Robin my fiancé. He really lightens up my life right now. I feel happy every morning because he is next to me. After 29 years of searching for the Love of my life, you value what you get. And I am also very thankful for this girl sitting right next to me (pointing at Oxana).
Oxana: I am now thankful for simple things like it is December, but the sun is shining. We have electricity and clean water. I am thankful that there is no war and we don’t have to flea crossing the Mediterranean Sea. And of course for people I met and the opportunities I have.

 JS:I personally  thank the girls for sharing their stories and  I am very grateful for the opportunity to have so many successful friends.

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