This week on FEW Members' Corner, we would like to introduce you to Dr Anastasia Belikova, Founder of Modern Woman Festival, a 3-day celebration of women held at the most whimsical venue in Bali - NewEarthHaven Ubud from 20 - 22 October.
Hi Anastasia, can you tell us more about your entrepreneurial journey?
I have been an academic, a university lecturer, an engineering systems supplier, a premium wine seller, an author, a failed business owner, a successful business owner, a yogi, a scientist, a spiritual seeker and many other (weird) things in between. I live for paradoxes, puzzles, surprises and discoveries, bridging the unbridgeable and combining the un-combinable. I run several projects, all geared towards creating a generational shift in how people live their lives through daily gentle revolutions. My main focus is on all things psychologically dark, on the unspoken, the shushed, the shamed, which I bring out through private psychology practice, workshops, retreats, corporate trainings (Wake up And Roar) and large events (e.g. Modern Woman Festival). In my work I combine my PhD research (dark personality triad) with further training in Western (psychosomatic therapy) and Eastern traditions (Tantra, Yoga, Yoga therapy) that I studied in my 10+ years living in Asia.
What inspired you to start your company?
I was always irritated by how willingly we agree on sentencing ourselves to be small. And smallness is not defined by how bright the bling around your neck shines, how many ‘important’ people you are friends with, how loud you are, how many people follow you or any other ‘success’ symbols. Smallness is a lack of depth and variety of feelings, thoughts, experiences and impact.
We are not educated on how to develop deep knowledge of ourselves, how to live from within. To me, this is absurd, and even dangerous, as we end up with unhappy, burned out, angry people and wasted lives.
We are not used to being open, receptive and curious. And to me, this is absurd because each person individually and all of us collectively know SO little. We are not encouraged to be unique. Anything different is treated with suspicion (and exclusion). This is anti-evolutionary as nature seeks as great of a variety as possible.
My desire is to co-create a generational shift in how we live our lives, what deserves to be called a life (of course I don’t mean from a biological perspective). I’m interested in showing that we are not machines that, once programmed, are sentenced to robotically follow the default settings. I am interested in co-creating a real change, new systems, gentle revolutions. Everything I do has this intention.
So far, what's the most challenging part of your journey?
Understanding myself and not trying to do what others are doing and how they are doing things. My success, my balance can be defined only by how it FEELS. And therefore it is not important how it LOOKS. Most look-based things are comparative and it makes no sense to compare. The challenge has been to develop this awareness, maintain the connection to it and to stick to living guided by this awareness.
A FEW WORDS OF ADVICE
On growing teams
Learning the art of balance has been the most helpful. The balance of structure and flow. There needs to be both. To me growing projects is like creating rivers - I build the banks (structures) and let in the water (workforce). And let them run their course. I used to try to control everything. And success came when I learned how to let go but not abandon, guide but not stifle, trust but not be overtaken.
On running a business
Trusting my instinct. Hands down the best lesson. So many times I would override the reason-less ungrounded illogical gut feeling giving preference to facts, calculations and explanations that my rational mind would produce. And 10 times of out 10 the intuition would end up being right. This still blows me away! Especially in decisions that concern people (isn’t business all about people though?). Whenever there is the slightest pinch of a NO, a hint of discomfort, I now know to take time to dive into that feeling, sit with it and feel into it.
On building credibility
There will be always people who disagree with you, it’s not about dancing to the loudest tune. Again, I come back to that idea of the inner compass. I continue to always speak my truth and walk my path and be willing to face and deal with uncomfortable truths about myself. I’ve made mistakes, and statistically speaking likely to make OTHER mistakes. I’ve disappointed people and statistically speaking, likely to disappoint OTHER people on OTHER issues. Whenever something goes wrong, whenever some criticism arises, I need to be very clear on which part of it has been caused by my actions. Determining what is mine to own is very important to me. People will see the willingness to learn and grow and will continue working with you even if you messed up.
On the top three things someone should consider before starting their own business
Are you prepared to be woken up at 3 am by thoughts about your project? Because you will not be able to stop mentally trolling after the most ridiculous minute details of your business at all hours of the day and night. Are you prepared to enter in a long-term committed relationship with FOMO? Because you will be missing a lot of social fun things. Are you prepared to kiss stability good-bye? Because things that you thought were rock-solid will crumble and things will go wrong at the most inconvenient of times.
On a personal level, it’s a success to feel deeply and be in love with all stages of this ongoing journey. The journey is fun and wicked, delicious and devastating. I walked away from being an obese stuttering child, so self-conscious that I wasn’t really able to talk to people, and now walking the life of giving lectures to the audience in hundreds and organising large social events managed by large teams. I struggled to function being bi-polar, and I’ve learned to thrive with it. On a professional level, I feel like all the seeds that I have been planting for many years are now spouting and blossoming into beautiful flowers that are starting to make friends with the bees and the rest of the world. It’s delightful, really delightful.
Modern Woman Festival is a 3-day celebration of women held at the most whimsical venue in Bali - NewEarthHaven Ubud from October 20th - 22nd. Find the full program here Use promo code MWF15 for a 15% discount