Vitaliy Katsenelson ADT podcast cover
Episode: 60

Vitaliy Katsenelson - Key leadership lessons & traits for the digital era

Posted on: 23 Jun 2022
Vitaliy Katsenelson ADT podcast cover

Vitaliy Katsenelson is the CEO of the investment management services company IMA and published author of several books, most notably the just released Soul In the Game: The Art of a Meaningful Life.

This is a somewhat special episode in that the insights and lessons it conveys can be invaluable for anybody who wants to improve their life, not exclusively in a leadership and/or technology context.

We discuss how digitalization has been changing society, the value of Stoicism and the importance of aligning what you say with what you do, and Vitaliy spices up the discussion with a lot of fascinating stories and concrete examples from Soul In the Game.


Links & mentions:


“What writing is – basically, it connects your conscious mind and subconscious mind. And I look at subconscious mind as a like AWS server farm or huge mainframe. There is a lot of knowledge there, but the way to access it is by focused thinking.” 

Welcome to the Agile Digital Transformation podcast where we explore different aspects of digital transformation and digital experience with your host, Tim Butara, content and community manager at Agiledrop. 

Tim Butara: Hello everyone. Thanks for tuning in. I'm joined today by Vitaliy Katsenelson, CEO of the investment management services company IMA and published author of several books, with his latest one being Soul In the Game: The Art of a Meaningful Life, which actually just got released a few days ago. And we're in for an excellent conversation today as we'll be discussing the key traits for leaders in the digital age. And we're going to spice things up with a few stories and lessons from Soul In the Game, which I had the great privilege of reading already, actually. 

Welcome, Vitaliy. Thanks so much for joining us today. It's a real pleasure having you on the show. I have to say I really enjoyed Soul In the Game. It was a fantastic read. I really recommend it to everybody listening right now and I can't wait to dig into the conversation with you. Just before we do. Is there anything you'd like to add to my intro?

Vitaliy Katsenelson: No. First of all, it's a great pleasure talking to you and this is one of my very first interviews about the book, so I'm very excited. And it was a product of love, so I really hope people read it and it makes a difference in their life. 

Tim Butara: You can definitely feel that it was a product of love while reading it and I can honestly say that it's made a huge positive impact on my life and I'm honored that this is one of the first interviews that you have about it. 

Vitaliy Katsenelson: Oh, thank you. I'm glad it did. 

Tim Butara: So let's start with more general topics and then we'll discuss points from the book in the second part of the episode. Let me first ask you, since you lived for almost half of your life in Russia initially and then moved to the US. And you kind of had a different experience of the American culture than someone who would really literally grow up there, how have you seen digitalization and digital transformation change the American culture and by consequence, global culture? 

Vitaliy Katsenelson: That is such a big question. I'm going to try to bring it down to maybe from global to at least to me in the United States. How's that? So I think the biggest change was the Internet, obviously, right? And it was not just the Internet. I think the biggest actual change was the kind of Internet 2.0. And when I say this, I'm not referring to social media, which could be, but actually I'm referring to iPhone and smartphones. And the reason– it changes how we communicate. The iPhone and other smartphones, they change how we communicate, they change how much time we spend with digital devices. 

And also what it does– any innovation, like technological innovation, has good things and bad things. Nuclear fusion is a good thing because it creates electricity, but it also creates an atomic bomb. So I think we have to be very careful how we actually embrace technology. And we have to be mindful about this because if you're not mindful, basically you will be just attached to this phone and you'll be going to dinner with your friends and you'll be spending time on the phone, looking at the phone, looking at texts, instead of actually spending time with people, actually one on one with people. So if you're not careful, it's going to pull you away from normal life and actually it's going to make your life, the quality of your life, actually worse. You won't recognize it at the time. 

And one thing it does, it also fragments your time. Okay? Because we kind of get used to instant communication that, somebody calls us, we feel we have to respond. Somebody text us, we feel we have to respond. Same thing happens with emails. So I think what's important thing to do is actually realize, just because somebody is calling you, unless it's an emergency, then you don't necessarily have to respond at this point in time. You can do this when it's convenient for you. And the same thing applies to every other method of communication. So you should basically look at the communication and try to make it so it works with your life. 

I have a friend who answers the emails twice a day at 10:00 in the morning and 08:00 at night. That's it. So when I email him, I know that I won't get an answer right away. And I'm work in progress. So when I'm giving advice, this is not like a superhuman who is almost functioning like this perfectly tuned computer. This is like somebody who's struggling as much as everybody else. What I try to do when I get emails from clients, and even if I can respond right away, a lot of times, what I do, I say “schedule reply for the next day”. 

And the reason I do this, because they don't get used to the fact that when they send me a message, they get a response right away because they changed the dynamic of the relationship. My point is this: you have to be very mindful how you deal with technology and you have to examine how you do things and say, is it net positive for my life or net negative? And if it's net negative, it's a time to kind of sit down, to think about it and say, how can I change this so it becomes a net positive. 

Tim Butara: That was an awesome way to kick off the episode, Vitality, I'm loving so many of the points that you've made already. It really is, it's the combination of the streamlined smartphone and social media being on that smartphone because you can always access it and as you said, it fragments your time and it also has a huge negative impact on your focus. Partly because of that, because you feel like you need to respond, and partly because whereas before you would have like one piece of news or one article or one conversation, now you can scroll through Facebook and you get like ten pieces of news, ten sensational stories in 30 seconds. It does a lot to your focus, I think. 

Vitaliy Katsenelson: Yeah, so I'll give a couple of examples. During the last two years of Trump's presidency, the political discourse got extremely poisonous and I would listen to a lot of political podcasts, et cetera. I read a lot of political news. Then I realized that actually that was a net negative for me. Like, in other words, it would just get me frustrated. It would make me frustrated. Then I realized that, and we'll talk about this story philosophy in a bit, but from a Stoic philosophy, right, well, I'm going to jump a little bit, but then we'll come back to it later. 

The cornerstone of Stoic philosophy is this concept of dichotomy of controil. Certain things are up to us, certain things aren't, okay. To most of our surprise, most things are not up to us. Who is going to become a President of the United States is not up to us. The only thing we can do, internal to to us, is this: once every four years, once every two years, if you vote for president once every four years, you can go to ballot box and vote for the president of your choice, of your choosing. That's it. Okay. 

You arguing with your neighbor about the president or with your friends, or you listening to political podcasts all the time, unless you really find it energized by this, which I wasn't, I was drained by that. Then I just put it in an external column and say it’s not up to me therefore and then there is another way to look at it. We only have so many minutes given to us by time. Okay, that's it. This is like, one of the– time is the biggest equalizer of all, right? 

So we can spend it on things that enrich our life, that have an investment in our life, or things that are basically, have empty calories, that basically help us to pass time and that really have no lasting impact. It's like weather. Just think about you trying to debate and monitor tomorrow's weather. Okay, let's think about it. You do it every day. And then tomorrow comes, all this energy you put in, it's gone. Because tomorrow’s weather becomes today's weather and then yesterday's weather. So that's kind of my long answer to your terrific question. 

Tim Butara: No, but it was great because it was a perfect transition into the next question, which is about Stoicism and mindfulness, which you already started talking about. So I assume that Stoicism and mindfulness are super important, I mean, for everybody right now, but especially for people in leadership positions and especially now. You mentioned the last two years of Trump's presidency, which coincided with Covid, which coincided with all of the other disruptions. 

I assume that at least, I mean, in my own personal sense, it would be really hard to get through all of this without getting frustrated, without feeling bad all the time if I didn't adopt at least some Stoic methodologies. 

Vitaliy Katsenelson: Yes, I think Stoic philosophy could help you kind of a normal human being going through their life at any point in time. So we can help you tremendously as an executive or busy worker. So let's talk about Stoic philosophy on a very high level. It's a 2000 year old philosophy that started in Greece, but a lot of Stoics lived in Rome. At the core of it is this concept I already mentioned, dichotomy of control. It's Epictetus, which basically says there are some things are up to us, some things aren't. 

What is up to us? It's very few things. Just basically what we think and how we look at things. Okay. Everything else, what your rental car clerk tells you, what your wife tells you, what your coworkers do, if your telemarketer calls you or not, everyday interactions. The only thing that’s up to you is how you react. You kind of have to accept the world as it is. And then it's up to you. This is very important. It's up to you to actually color the world in your own colors. 

I just wrote this article about this, and it’s not in the book, it just happened literally two weeks ago. My kids and I, my son was flying out of New York to Israel for a birthright trip, which is two-week trip, and he was going with his girlfriend. And so my middle daughter and I went to New York to take him to New York and we're going to spend two days there. Anyway, I love opera, so I wanted to take my son, his girlfriend, my daughter to see “La bohème”, which is one of my most favorite operas. And I've never been to Metropolitan Opera, so this was my first time to the opera. Anyway, so I really was looking forward to it. 

The opera was at eight. We were supposed to land at five. So I had a three-hour margin of safety, which I thought was plenty. We landed on time and then we ended up sitting on tarmac for 2 hours because there was a thunderstorm. The planes were not leaving the gates. We could not get ungated. We could not onboard the plane, I guess. And so this 2 hours – think about it. Like my dreams of going to Metropolitan Opera have been crushed. 

Now, at this point in time, I realized I could get frustrated, I could be mean and yelling at the flight attendant, et cetera. And it will have absolutely no difference – except if I get angry, I'll feel bad afterwards. I'll embarrass myself in front my kids and at the time I didn't know how long I'm going to waste. I'll waste this time because I won't get it back. And for the most part nothing's going to change. I'll be at that gate. I'll be sitting on this plane for as long I'll be sitting on this plane. If I'll make it to the opera or I won't, not up to me. 

So what I did, I basically put my headphones back on and kept writing on my laptop. Then after a while I ended up spending some time with kids. At this point in time Stoics would give you a couple, so I already gave you one concept with you, kind of internal vs external, which is the dichotomy of control. Second thing Stoics would say. I could reframe it. Okay? Reframing basic thing. Instead of looking at it as a bad thing, take this and change it in a way that it's not negative. Okay? 

The positive thing is this, and if we don't go to the opera we'll do something else. And I will get to go to the opera again at some point in time in the future. That's not my last time in New York. So reframing it changed it from negative to neutral or maybe positive because you can do something else. Stoics give you a lot of tools to deal with this. So what happened was, to finish the story, we sat on the plane for 2 hours. We basically were late to the opera. Instead we went to Times Square. My daughter, my 16 year old daughter, ended up playing chess with a street hustler. She had a lot of fun. We loved it. 

And the Metropolitan Opera, and I want to give them credit for this. I called them, I told them what happened and they actually refunded me the money, which was – exactly. There is another very powerful tool that Stoics provide us, is a negative visualization. Instead of looking at it from a positive perspective, meaning, oh, I could have been going to the opera, which is a positive thing, but I won't – negative thing, you could say, well, yes, I won't be going to the opera. But is that really the worst thing that could happen to me? Really? 

And this is going to sound horrible. As I was writing the article, I read the headline that 19 kids died in the school shooting. And I was thinking about it. How many of those parents would have paid or give all the money, just to spend extra 30 minutes with the kids? I know this is not something you want to use, visualize all the time and I really don't. But the point is there are so many other things– your imagination doesn't have to be that wild to imagine that there were things in life that sitting in an air conditioned plane for 2 hours with people you love and missing the opera. 

So, see, Stoic philosophy, what it does, it's almost like an operating system for life that gives you these tools just to deal with your everyday life. And all it does, just reduces the volatility of your negative emotions. In other words, it doesn't make you numb to life. It's almost like this jujitsu, aikido where people– like, life is coming your way and instead of fighting it and getting hurt, the things that are negative, you let them let you pass you by. That's what Stoic philosophy for me is. 

Now, let's say you're a manager and you have people working for you. It's almost like there's so many things, there are so many different concepts, exercises Stoics offer you. But just one thing you want to realize, that the way people behave is completely– is not up to you at all. All you can do, all you can choose is how you respond to them. Once you realize that, you start taking things personally. Can you imagine, there are 7 billion people in the world. So were you really born in thinking, once I start managing people and interact with people, they are going to behave in a way that's going to perfectly align how I want the day to unravel? 

Tim Butara: Totally awesome. It's awesome because I relived so many of the most amazing parts from your book while you were telling all this. And you saw me just nodding crazily in approval with everything. So yeah, I have a lot of stuff to say, but it's too much to cover in this one episode because we actually have a lot more very interesting questions. So I'll just move on to the next one. How important are communication skills for effective leadership in the current time? And especially, because the role of written communication, I assume, has changed a lot with this move to more and more asynchronous collaboration, asynchronous communication. 

Vitaliy Katsenelson: I'll give a couple of answers. One thing I learned about being a parent is that kids pay attention. Not to what you say, but what you do. And I hate to use this analogy to– I'm a CEO of a company, and a small company. And the reason it's important because the culture basically comes from the founder or from the CEO. That's– a lot of it does. So what I say is not enough to my employees, for instance. They also pay close attention to what I do. 

I have this one life principle that I'm not always good at, but I always try to improve and I'm getting better over time, actually. Be kind. Okay? Sometimes a telemarketer calls you and you're in the middle of something and you just not kind to the person, okay? But the thing is, the way you interact with outside world is a muscle. Meaning that the more you do the same thing over and over again, you train yourself to behave in a certain way. So I trained myself to always be polite with telemarketers. 

And more importantly, my employees see me talk to telemarketers and they get a cue, like my kids do. Again, I don't want to put my employees and kids in the same category because it's going to belittle employees or kids. Okay, they'll be listening to this. Great. But the point is – we do this all the time. We've been trained as a kid to just basically to observe others, right? And so my point is this, our communication does not just start with letters, it starts with our behavior. That's point number one. 

Point number two, let me tell you about IMA and what we do. And that's important to understand how we communicate. So, IMA is an investment firm based in Denver. High net worth individuals come to us and say, Vitaliy, or IMA, here's my life savings. That's all the money I’m ever going to make. Please grow and don't screw it up. So my goal is to grow their money and don't blow it up, which is incredibly important because these people will not make any more money. That's it. That's all they got. 

Now, let me give you this analogy. I had a client in my office who used to be a pilot, and I was telling him how I'm actually afraid of flying, meaning I fly all the time. I do this a lot. And on a logical level, I understand that the planes are very, very safe. They crash very rarely. So that's logical. On a psychological level is this. When I'm up in the air and it starts vibrating and shaking, I become a little bit more religious. Okay? 

The client said, you know, when I flew a plane, I was never afraid of flying. But now that I am retired and as a passenger, I'm as scared as you are. Think about this. So when he was a pilot, when he was flying a plane, he was in the cabin, he had all the information of what’s happening, he had experience and he had control. When you're on a plane and turbulence happens, what the pilot's job is is to explain to people who may not know as much as the pilot does about flying, that this is nothing to worry about, okay? And explain them why. 

So my job as a CEO, I have a control, I have all the information, I made the decisions. Now my job through communications, through my letters, is to bring clients as close as possible to the cockpit. It’s still, I'm the one who is making the decisions. I'm the one who has the control. And that ultimate responsibility is on me, not on clients. But through my letters, I try to bring them as close as possible to the cockpit. So let me tell you how I do this. 

So about four times a year, I write letters to clients that are literally 30 pages long. And in these letters I go through– and we own stocks, our clients would own about 20,30 stocks in a portfolio. I go through every purchase and sale decision we made. And we don't just say about XYZ stock and sold ZYX stocks. No, I said we bought this stock. And here is why. And here is my analysis. This company, here's what happened. If clients read my letters, then it's going to stop being Vitaliy's portfolio and become their portfolio. Now, this is normally what happened four times a year. 

In March and April of 2020, when the pandemic hit, I went from writing letters four times a year to writing them once a week. They were shorter letters, but I was basically sharing with them, imagine you're going through the storm and I'm basically saying, here's how it's looking at the storm, here's what we’re doing. Don't worry. This communication is incredibly important because what I bring to the table, not just the financial part, where we grow their wealth, et cetera. It's actually, my goal is to reduce the volatility of the blood pressure. And the way I do this is by communication. 

Tim Butara: You basically help them approach the situation more stoically, right? Because you said that you reduce the volatility and you used the same expression before for volatility of emotion. And it's got a lot to do with transparency, right? So it's not just communication, but how you communicate. Right. There has to be alignment between what you say and what you do, because– you already pointed that out initially. 

Vitaliy Katsenelson: Never thought about this way. But let me do this. Let me apply. What I do. I try to reframe the situation in the way I see it. So in other words, in March 2020 – it didn't matter what you own, by the way, didn't matter what stock. If you own the highest quality company with a lot of cash, it didn't matter, it still declined, because there was just an enormous sell off of the market. 

So my job was to reframe it from, your portfolio declined by X percent or this stock declined by this, oh my God, to – well, the opinion of the market today is this; here is why we think this is wrong. Actually, so my job is to kind of– Stoics would say I reframed it. And my communication is actually, a lot of it is reframing them to think about their portfolio in a certain way. 

As a value investor, you basically, you have to have a long-term time horizon. You need to keep reframing that and reminding them they need to have a long-term time horizon. You look at businesses not as just pieces of paper that trade on New York Stock Exchange or whatever, but as businesses. And that's exact how realize companies, and this is what written communication does, constantly reframes the situation or the message for them to look in a portfolio in a certain way. And at the end of the day, everybody will be happy because I can make decisions, long term decisions, and they will stick long enough to bear the fruits of these long term decisions. 

Tim Butara: Yeah, that makes sense. And one of my favorite points from the book was the story about how you fried the database on your first job. And the very interesting bit was how your boss responded to that. Can you recap the story here for us and tell us the most important lessons from that day? 

Vitaliy Katsenelson: We came to the United States in 1991. So I think at this point, I was a freshman in college or junior in college, and I got a job working for an investment firm. And the reason they hired me, because I had good computer skills. But my computer skills had their own limitations because I was self taught and I was good with software. I wasn't necessarily good with hardware. 

So I remember, this is a time where you had networks. I was working for a small investment firm, and there was only six or eight people in the firm, and they had a server. And the server basically had a database there. It had a program that ran the investment firm. Just think about this. Had all clients’ accounts, everything. And one day we needed to change a video card. 

And just to mention this, my intuition was, well, I probably should tell people to log off, shut down the computer, log off from network. I'll shut down the server, and then I would just take out the old video card and put new one in. That would have been the right thing to do. And by the way, if the only lesson you get out of the podcast, but that's exactl,y that is the right thing to do. Okay? It wasn't laziness. I didn't want to distract people. 

What I did, I took out the old card, put one in while the server was running, which basically fried the whole server. So there were two people who owned the firm, Joe and Bill. And when that happened, remember, I was just fresh off the boat, kind of– if this happened in Russia, maybe not everywhere in Russia, but the most, center response would have been, I'm a kind of enemy of the state campaign. 

Joe's response was, well, we got to get it done. We got to get it fixed. And he just went, stopped paying attention to me. He's like, okay, so we need to find a backup. We need to find a new server. And just basically just went to fixing the problem. Bill, if I remember right, felt so bad for me. He just tried to make me feel better. That was such a learned experience for me as I look at it now. 

Why? Because, number one, they thought there was no malice on my part. It was just stupidity. If they made me feel like– again, we can apply Stoic philosophy here. If they get angry with me, which is, by the way, Stoics call anger temporary insanity. And I think I love that. In fact, I think I call the chapter, Temporary Insanity, because I love that kind of definition of anger, because when you become angry, you lose control over yourself. Okay? 

And there was this evil emperor of Rome, and he got angry, and he poked his slave’s eye out, and then he came down, and he feels bad, and he tell the slaves, what can I do? How can I repay? No, I just want my eye back. I think the first name was Hadrian. I think. 

So the point is this. Joe could have been nasty to me, and he would have been right. I gave him all the reasons to. Like, I basically put the firm out of business for a day or two, and it cost him at the time, maybe $10,000, probably as much as I made in many months of work. But he didn't. And you know what happened? Number one, the problem got solved. It cost them money, they could handle it. They could afford that. The problem got solved. 

They got incredible loyalty out of me because Joe– this has been almost thirrty years ago, 25, 26 years. Joe and I are still friends. And I think when something like this happens, he was empathetic. Bill was very empathetic. He saw how horrible I felt, and he tried to make me feel better. So I think this basically became a standard for me, how I should behave as well. 

Tim Butara: Yeah, I definitely like, when I was going through other parts of the book, I often remembered this story about how your boss responded and just kind of immediately noticed that this was exactly the leadership mindset and the leadership approach that you adopted yourself and that you are consistently using, because the lesson was so strong that day. 

Vitaliy Katsenelson: Yes, and I tried very, very hard to do this. I hope I can live up to the center all the time. Probably don't, but I get close. I try to be as close to as possible. 

Tim Butara: I think if you're this, let's say, critical of yourself, I think that you're doing a great job. Another very interesting point that I wanted to cover was pain being an integral part of growth. Let's talk about this for a bit. 

Vitaliy Katsenelson: All right. First of all, you have two types of jobs at the extremes. You have jobs where there is creativity, and we have jobs where there is no creativity. Let me tell you who never suffers from creative pain. The guy who is standing– I don't know if you guys have this where you live, but like in the United States, when they have construction, they have a guy who's standing with a stop and go sign. All he has to do is stop traffic or go. That's all he does. That's the whole job. That person does not have any creative pain. 

A person who works on Fiat's assembly line has very little creative pain, okay? Because that job is extremely monotonous. There's very little creativity in this. Now, as you progress into more creative jobs. And being an executive, by the way, is a creative job too, because everything is nonlinear, right? Then at some point in time, you’ll experience pain. If you run a startup, if you're a CEO, if you interact with the fragility and inconsistency of the outside world, there will be times when you experience pain. As an investor, you go through this bouts of occasional pain.

And in the book, I talked about Sergei Rachmaninoff, where he wrote his first symphony, and that was one of the first major works he wrote. The first time– on this premiere, the conductor was drunk, and therefore the performance was horrible. But people did not, never heard the symphony. So they don't know if the conductor is drunk. They just hear a bad symphony. 

And Rachmaninoff got depressed for, I forget, two or three years. And those were the most painful years of his life. But what happened was, after that, he wrote his second concerto, or maybe first, I don't remember. But his second concert is probably one of the best pieces of music ever composed. And I would argue that most likely that the concerto would not have been as nearly as good if he did not experience creative pain. Why? 

Here's why: pain, basically, what it does, it exposes you any fragilities you have inside of you. It brings emotions more to the surface. You become a lot more introspective about your decisions. It's actually– one thing it does, it focuses you a lot more. You got to be careful. You don't want pain to destroy you. If you look at pain– first of all, the Stoics will tell you that everything bad shall pass. Like, pain doesn't last forever. But so you have to be aware of this. 

In the book, I discuss 2015, which was one of the most painful years in my life as an investor. And in hindsight, even though at the time I would have traded that pain for anything, in hindsight, today, I think that was probably one of the most important years of my life because I grew as an investor tremendously. Our investment process has improved, it's very difficult to quantify this, but tremendously. Because in 2016 I could objectively look at the mistakes I made and things I learned during the painful period, and I was able to grow. 

And I think that's what pain does. It's an unpleasant fertilizer that at the time smells horrible and you don't want to be around it, but at the end, it makes you grow. If you are doing anything creative, just like you go through life, you're going to face people who are unpleasant, who mistreat you and these kind of things. If you do anything creative, you have to accept the fact that at some point you're going to have a painful period of time. You should accept that as part of the journey. And instead of trying to forget about this, you should look at this and try to see how much you can learn from this. But the punchline here is don't waste your pain. That’s what gives you an opportunity to grow. 

Tim Butara: Yeah, I knew I had to include this part. By the way, have you seen Whiplash, the movie? 

Vitaliy Katsenelson: No. 

Tim Butara: I think that it really exemplifies and embodies this concept of pain as growth. I won't spoil anything, but those listeners listening right now who have seen Whiplash, I'm sure you all agree with me 100%. And you also all want Vitaliy– awesome. 

Vitaliy Katsenelson: I wrote it down. I'm going to watch it. 

Tim Butara: Awesome. This has been a fantastic discussion and we still have a little bit more to go. Now I want to move like we've covered, a lot of awesome lessons, awesome tips. And I just want to ask you before we finish up, do you have any other tips for personal and professional growth that we haven't covered yet? 

Vitaliy Katsenelson: So let me tell you what worked for me, and I know it's not going to work for everybody, but if I could look back in my life, and I'm still young, but if I can look back on the last thirty years of my life, what is the most important thing that happened to me professionally? One thing by far, writing. It has transformed me as an individual. Why? Because, I say this in the book many times, I repeat this many times, but because that's so important to me. 

I write about 2 hours a day, every single day, almost no exceptions. And the 2 hours gives me this, it's a focused time. Like in the beginning we talked about how technology is a great fragmentation of our time. Well, writing is basically kind of the anti technology in the sense that it allows me to focus. It allows me just to think about something very deeply. So if I have any insights, I promise you, if I have not written about them, if the writing did not make me, force me to think about them, I wouldn't have them. 

And what writing is basically it connects your conscious mind and subconscious mind. And I look at subconscious mind as AWS server farm or huge mainframe where there is a lot of knowledge is there, but the way to access it is by kind of focused thinking. In my case, it's writing. So my advice would be for anybody, just start writing and you can write for yourself. You don't have to publish it, but start writing every day. Start small, start five minutes a day, but just create this habit of writing. So that's kind of my advice I give to my kids. And that's the advice we give to anybody. Just right. 

Tim Butara: I think it's a very sound piece of advice. It's one– as a person with a linguistic background, with a lot of interest, I'm obviously, I'm a content marketer. I run the blog for Agiledrop. So I'm biased here, obviously, but I definitely agree with you here, Vitaliy, that writing– and as you said, whether you write for yourself, whether you write to publish it, whether it's just– even just something as simple as a diary, or just like having a journal where you keep your thoughts, or if you write I think that with a lot of habit formations, the trick is tricking yourself. You have to do something like, oh yeah, I'll just write one sentence a day. And then you write a sentence, but then you're like, maybe this is not enough. Maybe I should do a little bit more. You’ll always write that one sentence. 

Vitaliy Katsenelson: Yeah. I feel a lot of, like, a big part of life – last ten years, I've been probably thinking a lot more about self improvement as I got into my forties – nine years. And a lot of self improvement is just really tricking your mind. If you work computers, all you have to do is just write a new program and it just gets done. Well, we are not computers. That's a good thing, actually. But you have to train yourself, when you think about working out. Right. We're just trying to grow muscles. Well, our brain is a muscle that needs to be conditioned. 

Tim Butara: I love that you brought up working out, because this is the exact technique that I use when I try to force myself to work out. It's like, what's the most basic thing I can do is do like 1 minute or 30-second plank, right? That’s– you don't have to move anything, you're just in place. And then you're already in the position where it's really straightforward to do push ups. And so you just do like 10-20 push ups and then you already did like half of the workout and then you just do the whole thing. Why not?

Vitaliy Katsenelson: Let me tell you how I got myself to do almost 60 to 90 push ups a day. Not at once. But you'll see how. So I found myself, this is probably a year ago, that I drink a lot of coffee. I love coffee. And the irony of this, I don't even drink it for caffeine. I just like the taste of it. And so I was drinking literally six cups of coffee a day, and I was thinking, how can I drink less? 

Because every time I would get bored. And in fact, a lot of times drinking coffee was something I did when I would get bored. So here's what I did – for every cup of coffee now, when I'm at home or at the office, I have to do 30 push ups. So now I drink– do 60 to 90 pushups a day. So think about what happened. In other words, make a cup of coffee. Can't drink it unless I do push ups. So now, first of all, I can't drink it mindlessly, right? Because now there is a cost attached to it. Here's what happens. I drink less coffee and I do 60, 90 push ups a day. Everybody wins. I linked one arguably bad habit to a good one. Reduced my bad habit, increased my good habit. 

Tim Butara: It's a win win. Awesome. And this is actually the perfect way to round off our discussion, Vitaliy. Just before we finish the call. If listeners wanted to reach out to you, if they wanted to learn more about you, if they wanted to order Soul In the Game, where can they do all that? 

Vitaliy Katsenelson: Okay, so they can order Soul In the Game, on Amazon, whatever, anywhere. But what I would advise they do. So order the book on Amazon or any bookstore,, whatever, order the book, then go to, and there there will be instructions on how you can get four new chapters that I wrote after the book already went to print. Those actually have been very good chapters, so you can get four additional chapters to the book. So if you go to, people who listen to this love to listen more than like to read it's great. 

I have a podcast which is like what I call a lazy man's podcast, because all it is, my articles are read to you by the fellow, not me. If you go on,, you can start listening to my podcast, to my articles, basically. And last thing, if you'd like to receive my articles by email, you can go to, And then you can start getting my articles by email. 

Tim Butara: Awesome. I'll make sure to link everything. I'll also– send me the link to the article that we were talking about that you wrote recently. 

Vitaliy Katsenelson: It's right on, and it's called “Sitting on the Tarmac in the Land of Stoicism”. 

Tim Butara: Okay, very fitting then. Vitaliy, I'm so glad that you contacted us and that we got this rolling. This has been a fantastic discussion. Thank you so much for joining us today. 

Vitaliy Katsenelson: Tim. Absolutely, it's been a pleasure. 

Tim Butara: I couldn't agree more. And to our listeners, that's all for this episode. Have a great day, everyone, and stay safe. 

Thanks for tuning in. If you'd like to check out our other episodes, you can find all of them at as well as on all the most popular podcasting platforms. Make sure to subscribe so you don't miss any new episodes and don't forget to share the podcast with your friends and colleagues.