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How to Do What You Love in a Communist Country – Part I

The Soviet Union was not a very supportive place for entrepreneurs – especially in the 1960s, on the heels of Stalin’s dictatorial regime. In fact in the decades leading up to the collapse of the Soviet Union, many were jailed for circumventing the law by starting their own businesses. Free thinkers, creators, and innovators had to find other ways to apply their minds.

Our father, Samuel Zakharovich Revzin, was one such thinker that was simply born in the wrong era and in an inconvenient part of the world. Despite all of this, he was able to rise to prominence and create one of the most innovative education institutions of his time. Decades later, his work can still be found in the Russian State Library in Moscow, and his legacy lives on in the students whose lives he touched.

This is the first episode in a series that will chronicle our father’s life, and the stories he began to document in his unfinished autobiography before his death. His entrepreneurial drive and instinct had a profound impact on our lives, and the stories throughout provide incredible lessons for any creator that must overcome obstacles on their journey.

The story starts with two major themes – how to create experiences for yourself to find your passion, and the importance of having relentless focus on building value versus an obscure goal. You’ll hear stories of how our father was able to create opportunities for himself to do what he loved at a very young age in a communist country where many were forced to follow a predetermined path.

These lessons will help you rethink your own path, and hopefully provide some guidance on how to find purpose in everything you do.

Show Notes

  • 2:15 The state of entrepreneurship in the former Soviet Union
  • 3:05 A passage from Siddhartha on searching vs. finding
  • 4:30 The importance of taking the time to be in the moment
  • 5:00 Discovering your passion through the experiences you create for yourself
  • 5:40 If you have everything mapped out, you will be blind to other opportunities
  • 6:15 The beginning of our father's story - 1940 Belarus
  • 8:00 Running from the Nazis - a story about survival against all odds
  • 10:50 How starting a shoe business in the Soviet Union could mean life and death
  • 12:00 Becoming a camp counselor and studying to be an auto mechanic - the formative years
  • 13:30 How everything you do in life pays dividends
  • 14:41 Leaving his home town of Bobruisk for an opportunity to teach
  • 16:15 How our father realized that he found his passion - educating the youth
  • 17:30 Focusing on value and creating after school programs for students
  • 18:26 How to create multiple income streams in a communist country
  • 20:27 The importance of seeing every new opportunity as a learning experience
  • 21:45 How our father mastered and taught multiple disciplines
  • 25:00 How our father was able to create teaching opportunities for himself in his home town, and the importance of providing value first
  • 27:00 Figuring out how to leverage your network
  • 27:35 How our father added immediate value to the city as an organizer
  • 28:30 The importance of paying attention to the things at work that make you happy
  • 29:20 Helping the disenfranchised youth, and reducing crime
  • 32:00 Making allies by finding common ground and showing that you care
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