Evolution Of Me

Oct 25, 2021

Chapter 1. Love. 

My brother was swimming when I was 5, and my father was taking me to the swimming pool, too. From time to time he was taking me to the small kids’ pool, and I was showing to him how well I could swim. I noticed how adults swam, waving their hands as the mill, so I was walking with my feet on the bottom of the pool and waving my hands as adults do, pretending I was a swimmer. My father was laughing. 

I was swimming and dancing classical dances before entering school. My Mother was happy seeing me dancing, father was enjoying my swimming. A few months before starting with first grade, my parents realised that I could not continue doing both. They were trying to decide, but eventually asked me, “What would you like to continue, dancing or swimming?” In fact, I liked both. But dancing was more like for the girls, so I choose swimming. I was very afraid to hurt my mum. But she loved me. 

Some years later, my brother had dropped swimming, but I continued dreaming that one day I would become an Olympic champion. I wanted my parents to be proud of me – this hope was driving me along. I was working hard, and my results were very good. 

When I was 10, we started working on a new training schedule. The first training started at 6:30 in the morning. That day I woke up at 5:30 for the first time in my life and said to myself, “No way! Why shall I do it?”. In an hour I was in the water. I got used to this soon. 

But despite my hope to become an Olympic champion, at 14, I decided to quit swimming. “A swimming career might last up until the age of 25 and what would I do afterwards?” – I thought. I considered making a choice from my own perspective. It was a very difficult decision; I was afraid to disappoint my father. But he loved me. 

Chapter 2. Decision. 

I was growing up as a relatively calm boy, but I remember very well that I had my strong opinion on a number of serious topics. For example, politics, social policies, philosophy, the essence of life, religions, and I was standing for my opinion on any possible occasion. 

The topics I was curious about were not interesting for my friends, and the only person I could discuss those with was my father. Sometimes we had different thoughts, my father and I, or he was pretending that he had a different opinion to give me a chance to express and to defend my own thoughts. 

I was growing up in Minsk, Belarus, after the Soviet Union crush. It was not an easy time for my family nor the country. Apart from being an engineer, my father was producing chairs in our 52-square-meter apartment to survive. And besides that, he always dedicated his time to debate with me on what was important for me. On a big scale, my mind was occupied with a single topic: how to make the lives of others better. I didn’t know the word “purpose” yet. But now I consider that was the first variation of the purpose statement in my life. At that age, the world for me was limited by the borders of Belarus, so I was focusing on making the lives of Belarusians better. 

I loved my country very much, but apart from wishing that politicians should make life better, I had no clue what I could do. Even when I realised that I should start with small, single steps, I couldn’t find the courage to act. I might notice some old woman on the street carrying a heavy bag, and felt absolutely powerless to help. I couldn’t manage to say and do anything. It was a horrible feeling. I was blaming myself with negative self-talk: “How can you make the life of others better if you cannot even help a single woman?”. Eventually, I quietly decided on a plan – one day, I would become president of the Republic of Belarus and solve all the issues. 

My father is Russian by nationality, and my mother and her family are polish. By default, my brother and I were considered as polish, since we were surrounded by polish culture since we were born. In 1999, there was a population census in Belarus. My parents were filling in the questionnaires, and in the field “Nationality of the children,” they automatically wrote “Polish.” I stood up and said, “No! I am Belarusian. My motherland is Belarus!” I surprised everyone, but the most – myself. It was the first time I defended not only my thoughts but my own decision. I was very surprised by how easy it was to do this! But even more, surprised by the feeling of power and energy this action gave me afterward. 

I was seriously considering to dedicate my full life to this “purpose,” not focusing on building my own family and what is called a “happy life.” However, I realised I could not manage that. Happy life and family were so attractive that I decided, “Why should I escape? Let’s first enjoy life and then return to the purpose.” 

Fifteen years later, I found myself living in Latvia, surrounded by the happy life and wonderful family: my wife, Aljona, two daughters, Polina and Emilija, and a dog. It was a different kind of me. I was confident, courageous, my career was developing well. People would consider someone like this as successful and I would agree with them. But still, something was missing. 

Once I was invited by a Latvian university as a guest lecturer. As a foreign citizen living in Latvia, I was asked to inspire their foreign students to consider staying in Latvia after their graduation. I had never done anything like this, but I always agreed on adventures. But how would I inspire them? 

I had already graduated as a coach; therefore, I was very cautious about any kind of “inspiration.” I felt there was always a piece of manipulation inside, and I couldn’t allow it. Day by day, I was thinking about how I could truly inspire them, how could I make them consider the opportunity to stay in Latvia? Eventually, I turned back and observed my past 15 years, looking at what had inspired me to come and stay in Latvia. I called this story: “Allow life to deviate from your master plan.” 

Chapter 3. Journey 

When I was finishing school in Minsk, I was 16. I was an excellent pupil and even got a graduation medal. I decided to enter the university right away. To enter the university for the medalist, I only had to pass the English exam with grade 4.5 out of 5. It happened that I passed English with grade 4.4. I immediately decided to turn to another university instead of passing the rest of the exams with others. I was confident in myself. I had much less confidence entering the third university after I did not get the necessary grade in the second. But in the third, I failed again.

I am not ready to recall the magnitude of my disappointment. Millions of thoughts and emotions were attacking me nonstop. In one moment, the entire world had turned upside down for perfectionist me. “What have I done? And what shall I do next?” These two thoughts trilled inside me. I learned well what is concern, worry, and anxiety. 

The only alternative to my self-blaming was to go to work as the loader in a grocery store near our house. 

Only after a while, I recalled that my uncle who lived in Riga, Latvia, was always telling me, “Come to study in Latvia.” He brought a lot of handouts about possibilities to study in Latvia, always encouraging me to consider the move, but I was convinced I was wanted by Belarus. And I was blind to this alternative before I had no other options. I was lucky it was possible to start the study after September 1. This is how, in November 2000, I ended up in Latvia. 

Only after many years, I realised that Latvia would become my home for the next at least 19 years. 

Chapter 4. Family 

At the end of my studies, six years after the previous story, I was finishing my master’s degree. It was the last semester, and I was writing my thesis. At the same time, I met a girl and fell in love. Two weeks before my thesis defense, I received a call from my scientific director who said: “Artur, I don’t let you defend the thesis. It is too weak.” His judgment was crucial. 

I was going to meet my girlfriend’s parents for the first time when I got this call. And I was sarcastically thinking what I would tell them: “Hi, I am the fiancé of your daughter, I am a loser.” I wouldn’t say I was killed by this message; I just didn’t care much – I was in love! 

A few months after that, I realised the following fact: my residenceship permit in Latvia was based on my studies, and if I did not successfully defend the thesis, I would have to leave for my motherland – Belarus, and God knows what would happen with my love. But the judgment of my director gave me the possibility to prolong my permit for another six months. It was enough for us to realise that we would be together. 

From time to time, my wife asked me a question, “So where is your motherland?” when we were passing the Latvia-Belarus border while visiting my parents. It was a difficult question for me, but I found the answer: “My motherland is here in the car; it is my family.” 

Chapter 5. Career 

I started my career at the bank in 2006. It was the time when in Latvia a non- qualified worker earned five-to-six times more than an educated banking professional. I had the simplest job in one of the most dynamic parts of the bank, the Trading and Capital Markets division. We jokingly called our job “F3-F5” – these two computer buttons we had to press every day (of course, I overexaggerate). And I was extremely happy, it was my first qualified job in an international company. However, after half a year of work, seeing no opportunities in the bank, I was ready to move on. And one sunny summer day, my Swedish manager came to me and said, “We have just introduced a new position in our division, and I would like you to take this position up.” I gladly agreed. I got a quite new and very interesting scope of the job, and a raise in salary – everything you need when you are 23. This was the start of my career in the bank. 

In this story I have for the first time noticed something interesting: Every time I am standing on the edge of uncertainty, every time I think that’s it, the end, the edge transforms into the next turn of the road, which was not been seen before. I grew up in the Trading and Capital Markets operations for the next four years and again reached the ceiling for our Latvian branch. And, voila! restructuring. 

Chapter 6. Purpose 2.0 

We became a Global Shared Service Center with two locations in Latvia and Lithuania. And I became responsible for something very important, but no one could properly explain what. I loved it – at that time I already was a good friend of uncertainty. These few years were very interesting; we were building up the Global Shared Service Center, but first, we had to realise what that meant. We all knew the bank had hired an American consultancy to draft the strategy, and we were waiting for the magic suitcase with “Strategy.” We got 154 PowerPoint slides instead, stored them properly, and started working on our own. Somewhere in the middle of the process, I noticed a strange feeling inside – I had never had it before. Regardless of any achievements and successes, I was not feeling entirely happy. 

I was sent on one leadership course, “Self-Managing Leadership,” together with four colleagues. This course was based on the assumption that you have to be yourself in order to be a good leader. It was quite a revealing message in the success-driven environment, where I thought that you had to compete for a lot to be on the top; you had to play the role both at work and at home to comply with the expectations of the boss, colleagues, and family. 

I thought that for many people in my life, openness would trigger a Pandora’s box effect, that might be dangerous. I thought that the environment we were living in was too tough for the vulnerable truth of the inner self. 

After the first day, I texted to our boss, “Isn’t it too big of a risk to send five managers from the same division? I suspect people will either be divorcing or leaving their jobs after this type of training?” She answered, “I passed it myself, and I am still a happy wife and enjoy the work.” 

I remember only two things from that training:

  1. It was something very unusual.
  2. I rediscovered my purpose. Twelve years after it has slightly shifted to “Make the life of others a little bit better. Add value.”

I worked for six more years in the bank after this training and was still a happy husband. I had proven for myself that your own deeper-knowing is much stronger than any environment, despite how tough it is. This deeper-knowing system works as the best navigation system in decision making, both at work and on a personal level. 

Chapter 7. Coaching 

A few years later, the-never-entirely-happy tendency reached its peak. It was a crisis on the border of depression. I decided that I had to learn something new. For around six months I was mapping all of my interests, then prioritising, making short lists, reconsidering again and again. In the end, I came up with a list of two positions: 

  • CFA certification (trendy banking certificate)
  • Coaching

I couldn’t explain why I should learn to coach, so I chose CFA. I couldn’t say I loved finances, but it would be a great add-on to my CV (curriculum vitae). I applied for studies just before Christmas. The course was to start on January 3, and the school promised to call and notify me if I would be taken to the group. In the holiday mood, I recalled about CFA only on January 10. I called the school, questioning what’s up with the studies. They replied that the group had started already. I asked about my application, and after 10 minutes on their investigation, they said that they did not have my application. 

My anger and anxiety lasted for less than a minute this time. I decided to treat it as a sign and to study coaching. 

On March 6 of 2014, I was seated on the first day of the first module of coaching studies and was questioning myself: “What am I doing here? What else you don’t know about coaching? You have already passed a number of coaching training for leaders.” 

The course had started and if you know the feeling when every cell of your body is shouting to you, “YOU ARE IN THE RIGHT PLACE!” you know what I felt that day. I was sitting there and absorbing every second. 

After two hours, when I already felt that I had received everything I needed, I joyfully said to myself, “It is just the first day of a six-month journey.” 

My message to foreign students on a guest lecturer at university was very simple:

1. Define your ambition
2. Create a vision
3. Do the maximum to reach your ambition
4. But allow life to deviate your master plan 

Now I would add the fifth point: Do it again and again before you ensure there is no ambition left, only pure purpose. 

Chapter 8. When purpose drives you 

After coaching graduation, I faced a few more dangerous turns on my path. I was attempting to build a partnership business in parallel with work in the bank, to ensure a smooth transition from the bank. I was so excited by the vision we had created with my partner that I forgot to pay enough attention to the legal side of the partnership. To cut the very painful relationship story short, we hadn’t managed to build a strong partnership, and we failed to fulfill our business dreams. At the same time, I almost lost my family, focusing on two jobs instead of them. 

But I got a powerful lesson of access to my own unlimited resources and ability to define my own boundaries and to stand up for them. I learned that my family is my power and that I shouldn’t sacrifice the happiness of my family in the given moment for the sake of a better future. 

Apart from everything else, this situation also indirectly triggered my leave from the bank. I do not work anymore since I cannot call what I do work. 

I enjoy interacting with people and teams. My own company is called TeamLead; I knew the name long before the company, and I was sure I would mainly work with companies, leaders, and teams, since I know well corporate context and challenges, and it would be the most natural application of my skills. But my first clients were individuals who were passing through the similar-to-mine, not- entirely-satisfied challenge. Most of them were leaders or business owners; this did not seem to fit my initial concept of focusing on teams and companies. However, I soon realised that my work with individuals is fully described by the TeamLead name. Since each individual is in the lead of the team – your own inner-team. I thought I wouldn’t become a leader of any kind before I fully realised what it means to give life to your purpose. 

But life decided differently. Lately, I was elected as a president – not of the Republic of Belarus, yet, but of the Latvia chapter of ICF (International Coach Federation). 

When I ask myself now, “Where is your motherland?” I think it is inside myself when I am connected with the self. When it comes to my purpose, it continues evolving. The latest wide version of my purpose is supporting people in listening to themselves. It gives me a sense of meaning in every action I choose to do. The current narrowed version is: I help adults to learn to listen to themselves, to let their children stay connected with their purpose and to make planet Earth a little better place to live for their children. 

If there is someone looking for the secret ingredient, despite the fact that only you know your own secret, I will share mine: Calm. Love. Concentrate. Enjoy. Repeat. 

I am only 35 now, and perhaps there are many more tipping points waiting for me ahead. Don’t wait until the end of your life to write your memoirs to realise something important. Do it often enough to understand where you are coming from, what in reality drives you, what is your purpose. And enjoy life.

Artur Chernikau

Leadership Companion, Latvia

Leadership Coach (PCC) at TeamLead Artur brings over 12 years of leadership experience from the banking field, he’s passion is defining strategy, leading change, cultural and organizational development. After finishing his banking career, Artur is dedicating himself fully to the field of people and team development, as an Executive Coach (PCC ICF), Leadership Trainer and Team Facilitator. Artur is based in Latvia and works in English and Russian. Artur has lived and worked in Belarus, Baltic States, Sweden, USA and Singapore, and has broad experience engaging with culturally and geographically diverse teams.

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