“From Avocation To Vocation: How I Turned My Hobby Into A Career” With Feodor Kouznetsov

I would like to inspire a movement of breathers, hey we are all breathing, but who is actually aware of their breath? Close to none, if you think about how many people there are on the planet. The air is the only thing that is keeping us alive, and the only thing which lets us […]

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I would like to inspire a movement of breathers, hey we are all breathing, but who is actually aware of their breath? Close to none, if you think about how many people there are on the planet. The air is the only thing that is keeping us alive, and the only thing which lets us humans experience TIME. Yes, think about that! So, by being aware of our breathing, we can affect how our TIME is experienced and perceived. God — I couldn’t ever imagine that I would be saying stuff like this. I was blown away when I discovered it during my practice.

As part of our series about entrepreneurs who transformed something they did for fun into a full-time career, I had the pleasure of interviewing Feodor Kouznetsov — founder of the formula.life breathing technique. After having worked as an EA for 10 years, Feodor has become a tech founder and a breathing innovator. He is now teaching people how they can transform their lives with the help of a breathing technique through his mobile app called formula.life.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?

I was born in Leningrad, in the Soviet Union. I grew up in a communal flat, where my parents and I shared one room. It was common for many families back then and it was fun and cozy. When I was 8 years old, I got a chance to come to the US with my dad for a few weeks. There I attended a kid’s camp in Florida. It was an amazing experience, (it was) there (that) I learned to speak English.
My parents split up when I was 10, and shortly after, I moved to Denmark to live with my mum. I was a hard child, and I was a troublemaker. My mum had a tough time meeting ends each month, and we lived in a poor neighborhood. I wasn’t friends with school either, in fact I couldn’t stand it. I couldn’t understand why I needеd to study subjects that I really had no interest in. I started to work at 12. My first job was a babysitter, I took care of a little girl, her name was Amira, she was so sweet. Later on, I got a job as a dishwasher at a local butcher. That was really not for everyone, there was blood and fat everywhere, I was happy there, the boss was a good man, and he taught me many valuable things. Being on time, being thorough, being honest and of course I became a professional dishwasher, I worked there for 4 years. Today at the age of 37, I am living in the UK; I am still the best dishwasher and kitchen cleaner that I have ever met.

What was the catalyst from transforming your hobby or something you love into a business? Can you share the story of your “ah ha” moment with us?

At the end of 2015, during a major burnout, I realized that there would never be the right time to do the things that I really wanted, the right time is NOW, because there is really no other time. Everything else doesn’t exist. I was ill, and I was looking for a way to become healthy and get my lost energy back. I had to stop the medication which doctors prescribed, as the side effects were making things worse. That is how I ended up experimenting with meditation and later on discovering a breathing technique that changed the course of my life. After seven months of daily breathing sessions, I was blown away how my life was transforming. Breathing has really become my hobby and I am doing it every single day for the past 3,5 years. I had to share it with the world, there was nothing more that I wanted to do. However, it was really hard to explain how to do the technique in words or writing. That pushed me to build a mobile app.

There are no shortage of good ideas out there, but people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. How did you overcome this challenge?

I have a huge experience, and I have failed several times. I learned from my mistakes and the mistakes of others. The most important challenge is finding the right people to help you, the right team, who believes in you and the product. I am so fortunate to have the best people helping me and being by my side, that creates energy which translates into success.

What advice would you give someone who has a hobby or pastime that they absolutely love but are reluctant to do it for a living?

My advice is to find a way to combine and balance it. In my case, I love developing software that solves real problems, and my hobby, is the exploration of the world through my breathing and awareness. I am doing breathing exercises every day. I have combined a software product, which teaches people how to do what I do, and I keep on adding my discoveries into the product each month. That is how I keep it balanced for now. The money I make is on selling a software product where the essence is my hobby. Also I do personal class(es), where I teach the most advanced levels of my discoveries, it is not for everyone, as the deeper you go down the conscious ladder, the more scary it actually gets, you get to know yourself.

It’s said that the quickest way to take the fun out of doing something is to do it for a living. How do you keep from changing something you love into something you dread? How do you keep it fresh and enjoyable?

I can’t get enough of exploring, I love to share my experiences with other people, and there is no end to experiences, that is how I keep it fresh. By continuously doing my breathing sessions, I help myself being healthy, inspired and full of energy. Each month I discover something new, and I am able to share that into the mobile app and in person, to help other people. I can’t imagine myself being tired of helping others, that is the greatest pleasure and reward.

What is it that you enjoy most about running your own business? What are the downsides of running your own business? Can you share what you did to overcome these drawbacks?

The only downside of running your own business is that you are always working. It is hard to switch off, especially if you love what you are doing. If you have a family, they might be in lack of attention from you, that is an individual case, though. How many times have you heard people talk about balance? Work/life balance? I am going to repeat it again, it is really all about balance, and when you run your own business, you are responsible to maintain that balance, if you can do that, there are really only benefits. It took me many years to learn how to do it. It is a paradox. Some years ago, I would work and work until I dropped dead and I would stress about everything. Today I have learned that it is much healthier to just let go of some situations and just not to worry and not to stress, funny enough, things just work out, as soon as you have let go of them.

Can you share what was the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?

I have been through a lot of work during my life, which I didn’t enjoy. I was dreaming about doing only the things which I like. The most striking difference is that I get to talk about my passion all the time and share what I have learned, that alone just gives me so much energy and pleasure.

Has there ever been a moment when you thought to yourself “I can’t take it anymore, I’m going to get a “real” job? If so how did you overcome it?

Yes, MANY TIMES! Each month or so. The worse thing for me is — what “real” job? The fear of not being able to ever get a real job is even more frightening. What real job? As a dishwasher?

Yes, I have actually thought about that too, just to get a job like that in order to relax. Washing up is really good for your mind, you just think about dishes and food waste, instead of IPO’s and how you are going to get those customers. I often talk with my builder, who gets the job done and goes home. I remind him, that he is a lucky man, he just needs to solve some construction issues and that is all, he just goes home and chills out. I, on the other hand, have the 24h turmoil in my head. I wouldn’t be able to go on, hadn’t I learned to do what I do with breathing. I know there are so many people out there, who are on the verge of burnout that I really want to help, because I have been through it.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

I have many, because of the nature of the work that I do, it is very spiritual you know, and some experiences might just sound too weird for most people. One that is particularly funny that comes to my mind, was when I did a breathing session with two of my colleagues, I wanted them to experience my technique. It was a huge field near Seven Sisters on the coast. There were some trees at the top of the field, and I suggested to go and sit under those trees. I have a small clip from that field, in our promo video, which is on the landing page of formula.life.

Anyway, as we were waking up to those trees, we noticed on the left-hand side of the field, far away from us, was a bunch of cows. They were in fact far away. We sat down under the tree and started our breathing session. We were into the second cycle, going deeper and deeper, when suddenly one of the guys, got a text message, he forgot to switch on the flight mode, usually I ask people to do that, in order to avoid distractions. He opened his eyes and started to freak out, the cows surrounded us, and were 50 inches away from our heads, just looking at us. They totally surprised us; we didn’t hear them coming nor being so close to us. We had to break the session because the guy was freaked out. In my opinion it was a blessing, because we were connecting with nature and nature really connected with us and we just walked away because of fear.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

This was back when I was much younger. I was into computers, and I had an idea to start a computer service, servicing people and fixing their computers, this was way back in 2002. I printed business cards, and talked about starting up, and talked about it, and then talked about it some more. Then a year went by, I printed some other cards, because I though the first ones were not good enough. Then I talked about it some more. The problem was, that I thought that it wouldn’t work, and I was afraid to make a move. At that time, there was nobody who had that idea. Then a year more went by, and one day I opened the paper, and saw 3 ads, advertising for what I wanted to do. I got furious at myself, and immediately I placed an ad into the paper. My lesson — don’t hesitate, you have an idea, act fast! You really have nothing to lose. You only gain, if it doesn’t work out, remember that you will always gain the experience, which at the end is precious and will move you forward in life.

Who has inspired or continues to inspire you to be a great leader? Why?

I have several people that I want to mention. My COO and friend — Dima Kisov, he has inspired me, and taught me many things, I wouldn’t be here without him, he was the one who explained to me about “reflection”, how everyone around us, and I do mean everyone, is a reflection of our inner self. It was such a revelation to me; it has once again changed my life. Thank you, Dima, I am so grateful. Every time that I want to quit everything and move into a treehouse in the mountains, Dima is there to tell me otherwise and remind me.

Gabe Banner from dooply.com, thank you for inspiring me and giving me the courage to come to this point today. Gabe gave me the confidence that I needed in order to be the best performer and being able to do public breathing performance. Thank you, my dear friend.

Feodor Levin — for inspiring me to build in functionality into the app, which gives the users statistics. I wouldn’t have imagined that anyone would want to track a meditation progress? In my opinion, that is not what meditation is about, it is not about tracking, better or worse, but I myself only realized this after two years of practice. He showed me another perspective; he is in his early twenties and has a totally different view of the world. Thank you my dear. I have built the craziest statistic module into the app. You can track everything and I myself am a big fan of it.

How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

I have made it a personal goal a long time ago, that everything I am involved in, must serve people and make the world a better place. There is no greater pleasure for me than serving other people. 
The product that I have released, is all made from the bottom up, to make the world a better place. My breathing app helps people get rid of anxiety and panic attacks, it helps people become aware and see oneself from a side in order to make any change towards a healthier and a happier life. It is also free in the basic version, without any ads or tracking, no BS, it is just made for people from the bottom of my heart. Only for those who really want to go deep in becoming hyper aware, there is a little price tag to pay for the advanced levels.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

This question is always tricky for me, because when did I start? I think I was always on my way, and I have read a lot of business books since I was 19. So, I was kind of always feeling ready for whatever came towards me and I always wanted to run my own biz. One thing that comes to my mind right now, I wish someone taught me how NOT to take things personally! Yes! That is one of the things I wish I knew how to do before doing anything, before being born lol.

What person wouldn’t want to work doing something they absolutely love. You are an incredible inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

Oh yes! I would like to inspire a movement of breathers, hey we are all breathing, but who is actually aware of their breath? Close to none, if you think about how many people there are on the planet. The air is the only thing that is keeping us alive, and the only thing which lets us humans experience TIME. Yes, think about that! So, by being aware of our breathing, we can affect how our TIME is experienced and perceived. God — I couldn’t ever imagine that I would be saying stuff like this. I was blown away when I discovered it during my practice.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Feeling is believing, believing is feeling — I love this saying, I don’t know how I came by it, I am sure I didn’t invent it, I do like to think that I did. It means a lot to me; it is a reminder. In order to believe in something, I need to feel it. I need to experience it first hand, it wasn’t always like that. And then it is like the chicken and the egg, in order to feel something, I need to have a belief, in order to do it/experience it. I really can’t explain it better. 
There is another one that I like too, never give up, never ever give up. You always find a way to get to your goals, you just need to balance out the ups and downs, it doesn’t mean that you need to smash your head and wear yourself out, all it means, that there is another day, and you just need to take small steps and take it easy. It took me a long time to understand this. There are cyclical repetitive patterns each and every month, you have your ups, you have your downs, they are all part of the life experience. This is what the breathing technique really helped me see and understand. Before I was just too impulsive and worried about everything.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

Yes, there is! I want to meet Pavel Durov, he is my idol. I am sure we have very similar values. I would really love to be a part of his team in some way.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

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