Hug the Dragon

How to tame the dragon, where to go for insights, why it’s cool to wash other people’s feet and why to be a social animal

 Even if there are people in the audience who do not know the phrase Dmitri Voloshin, surely everyone knows the man who has been walking barefoot for several years and is the only one in our country. But he really has his own reasons for that. Dima, hello. Thank you.

– Hi, I hope you can hear me. To be honest, I don’t know myself either, and that’s what we’re going to talk about today. So, let’s start the presentation. Before we start the presentation, I want to say that today is a great event, I like it very much, very big, very informative. I want to thank you, I want to thank the organizers, it is a new landmark for Moldova.

So, today I want to make a presentation called “Embrace the Dragon”. It’s a little bit different from the previous one, but I want to underline that the previous presentation I don’t think was complete, I would like to complete it. That’s why I’m going to talk a bit more about myself. If you don’t know, is a website I invented., are the most read media in Moldova. Studii are free e-diaries. Achizitii is a transparent public procurement system. We made the most popular Moldovan websites, we stayed at the origin. And now you also know these sites, you use them often. We have a lot of social projects – Mafia, StopHam, you probably know them. We coloured the city – Chisinau is me. We plant trees – The coolest and most popular, not the most popular, but the most precise map of Moldova – A little bit more.

I directed videos for O-zone – Dragostea din tei and all the others. This was an insight for you. I promise today you will learn things you didn’t know. The cartoons I’ve done as a director, there are six of them. They are probably the only cartoons in modern Moldova that the country can be proud of, and they have won 70 awards for best animation in the world. Thank you. We opened a school to train 3D animators, which was also the only one. We made the first VR cartoon in Eastern Europe. That’s right. It was made in Moldova. And we even made the world’s first 1D cartoon, which nobody else in the world has done yet. You can watch it, it’s really cool. Oh, one more thing. Sonr is an underwater transmitter for swimmers. It’s sold in 52 countries around the world, invented and developed right here in Moldova. Lobster – the world’s No. 1 freediving weight system. Now it has become an industry standard. We recently launched a new version, Squid, which 2 weeks ago set a world record for freediving. Also made in Moldova. For this we got an important award that is given to products, called Reddot. Nobody from Moldova has ever got it before, and we already have it. And you know, I designed the first Moldovan typeface, which is called Onest. And some more.

I’m an Ironman, I swam across Gibraltar, became president of the Triathlon Federation, climbed Mont Blanc, Elbrus, Olympus and more. My wife forbids me to climb Everest, but that’s probably an excuse. I organized the Chisinau Marathon, the biggest event in the country, in which athletes from over 50 countries participate. I can hold my breath for 6.5 minutes, I became Moldova’s freediving champion, I ran the Boston Marathon and 20 other marathons. In this one I ran 42 km barefoot, 230 km in the desert wearing my backpack. I have been to the North Pole and even took second place in the race. And you probably know that I set a world record for the coldest run in Oymyakon at minus 60 degrees Celsius. Thank you. And that’s not all.

We recently built a 1 MWT solar power plant. We published the SMS-market newspaper. I did the biggest electronic music festival, wrote a book, wrote fairy tales, and walked 150 km barefoot through Moldova with my son. I did Vipassana for 10 days in silence and meditation. We installed the 1 Ban monument, the monument of women’s hands. I wear a chip in my hand. I was also the first Moldovan to cross the border without a visa. You already know Afisha, thanks to them we are all here. Come on, come on, give them a proper round of applause. Good job. Did you realize you understand what just happened? Didn’t you? Did you? What was it? Dmitri Sergeyevich bragged, that’s right! Now you’ve fed my dragon. The dragon I want to tell you about today. I’ve done many things in my life for the sake of this applause, for the sake of bowing, and today I want to address that, but for now I want to tell you how I got here.

I am not a commercial speaker, I don’t speak for money and so I allow myself not to repeat my presentations. I do it uniquely. And if I talk about something on stage, I don’t talk about the same thing on other platforms under any circumstances. Because every performance, every appearance on stage with such an audience, especially a big one like today, is for me a study of myself, a challenge to understand myself, to get on stage, to share something with you. Usually, I analyze my life lately, understand what’s bothering me, start to solve it, then find an insight, wrap it up, get on stage, tell you about it, let myself go. That’s how I move forward. I hope my story will be useful to someone, someone will take something personal, but even if not, I want to thank you anyway. Thanks to you, I learned something new about myself. Here’s me speaking to the graduates, I was asked to do so. It was a very cool speech, but unfortunately, I can’t repeat it, it’s in text format. Now please play the video from which my journey apparently started to the top, but turned out to be the other way around, to the depths. Watch this.


Due to 7 years of experience, it started with small victories, followed by admiration on social media and applause. I was motivated, doing more, more and more. I was doing everything, even if my health started to suffer, then my family started to suffer, constantly trying to get rid of sports, that mistress of mine, throwing my bikes off the balcony. Then friends and work started to suffer. It was as if I couldn’t see anything. You saw it with your own eyes at the end, if you were as motivated as I was when you get medals, get cheered, get to the finish carrying the flag, so many hormones. I got really into this game until I realized that everything I do means nothing. It’s not just about competing, it’s about doing something no one else in the world has done.

So I came up with the idea to set a world record and run the coldest race, find the coldest place, do the longest distance at the lowest temperature. That’s how I got the idea to run Oymyakon, in Siberia, in Yakutia. And I actually ran. Actually, it was very hard, it took me a long time to prepare, but I managed to run 50 km in 6 hours. The record was set and I ran. The next day…Applause. Let’s feed, let’s feed. Thank you! The next day I found myself famous, not just famous in Russia, in Moldova, everyone was talking about me – CNN, Euronews. In Russia it was the number 1 news. Even Zhirinovsky said that. Zhirinovsky made probably the only prediction that didn’t come true. He said that sooner or later this Moldovan would freeze to death. And he didn’t understand why the record for the coldest race in Russia was set by a Moldovan. What kind of nonsense is that – are there no runners in Russia to do that?

But in fact, there was a parallel moment, which I have not made public anywhere. After the race I lost my sight. It happened that I ran without a mask, without glasses, because they were sweating from the intense heat. I had to take everything off my eyes, although a mask was provided, I ran without it. But at -60 degrees it is dangerous. And at the finish line I could see almost nothing, just silhouettes of people. I was really scared, actually. And I remember then, in that semi-darkness, I saw my first dragon, a chubby one I’d been feeding on all these 7 years, feeding on my health, my success at work, my family relationships. I had to compromise a lot to fatten the beast. That’s when I realized I had to stop. I saw it and realized I didn’t want to feed it anymore. It’s unpleasant and you realize you’re a puppet in the hands of society, of likes, of social media, you feel like shit…

But I was saved. A Yakut hunter, when I told him I didn’t see anything, he said it was okay. When we go out on our burans and the crystalline fogs up from the strong wind, we take a steam bath. You’ll warm up in the bathhouse and get better. In this picture it’s all covered. Actually, in Yakutia they have a fun challenge, it’s called Challenge 200. When they heat the bathhouse up to 140 degrees and it’s -60 degrees outside. 200 degree difference when you go outside, boom! Awesome. So I tried it, and my sight recovered. I had a revelation, not only did I get my eyesight back, but I realized that my life needed to change.

I gave up sports the way it was in my life. I stopped going to competitions, I stopped running after records, I started developing Sporter, Chisinau Marathon, I continued running for myself a few times a week with my son, but I stopped all competitions. But that bath made me realize that there is an interesting thing in life, which is called steam bath, which gives amazing insights, because there I had the first insights. This is my family’s story in a nutshell.

Ten years ago, in Durlești, I built a small house, a vacation house for my family to relax, to come on weekends, to make barbecue, to drink wine, as many of us do. We used to spend New Year’s Eve there, and get together with friends. Please clap your hands, it’s an important family event. Thank you.It’s not about the dragon. Vica knows, I’ll tell you later what the event is. And when I came back from Oymyakon, I realized that I want to meet my friends regularly in the steam bath. I’m a systematic person and I understand that if you want something to come into your life, you have to do it systematically. It doesn’t work randomly. So, I chose Thursday. Thursday is a day off. I started inviting my friends over. And since 2019, for 4 years, we have been gathering every Thursday, 5-10 of us, and having a great time. We don’t drink, we don’t smoke, we do steam sessions, we socialize, and our club is called InJoi.

After some time, last year, I loved our meetings so much, it was so cool to travel all over the world, collecting different cultures, different rituals, different baths, different things. We had so much fun that I decided at some point it wasn’t fair to keep such a treasure all to myself. I had to share it with the world. And I came up with the idea of making a steam bath as a business prototype, maybe not really a business, but at least give it a try. People will be coming in for a steam bath, and I decided to share this with them. We don’t have a steam bath culture in Moldova.

There is a sauna market, but it’s a completely different story. And I’ve traveled the world and realized that it’s a really cool culture, a really cool way to spend your time. And the blue oceans. I love the blue ocean, the one where there’s no competition. There’s no such thing, you have to create it. It’s very difficult to create new markets. But it’s always very exciting. So, I came to my wife to tell her that if she wants to go to the vacation house, she will have to check in at the front desk. Imagine coming home and saying, “Honey, we’re going to have guests in the apartment and we’re going to wash their feet. I hope you don’t mind.” Anyway, I didn’t find support in her at first, we had many conversations. And the main question she asked me was: Dima, please tell me. You seem to be a man I’m proud of, I see you grow, you started from a small room in Buiucani, you rose, you made the biggest IT business in the country. You created 999, then you started making cartoons, you surprised the whole world with Moldovan animation. Then you made Sonr, Lobster, which many people use, amazed that they are made in a small country. You’re a big guy. Why the heck did you focus on the house in Durlesti? Why did you start this business?

I couldn’t really answer, I muttered, “Well, the universe is giving me a signal, I don’t understand why. It’s just the way it is, I feel like it’s supposed to. I can’t explain it”. But I felt motivated. For example, where the dealers of our Sonr and Lobster sell products, we have this thing hanging in the office and it motivated me all the time. Because it’s cool to make things in Moldova that will be used all over the world. But then Vica slowly got involved.

I did what I planned; I made a bathhouse complex. We started inviting guests, building a team. And Vica gradually got involved. She realized it was an opportunity to express herself, so she started doing our branded clothes, cosmetics, and decor. And I often participated with her in developing our bathing rituals. She participated in Love Story, and she came with a really great 3-act program. The bathhouse complex has started to actively develop. I started investing in it. The Scandinavian Sauna came up, then a Japanese spa on the pond, then the Cucuteni-Tripoli bathhouse. If you don’t know, it was a wonderful culture located on our territory, in Moldova, one of the earliest civilizations before Mesopotamia, Egypt, China. I mean, one of the first in the world in the Stone Age to build cities in Moldova. when the rest of the world still wore skins. When I found out, I was very surprised and I built such a bathroom. I had a dilemma with the naming. But if you’re going to invest in the business, you have to give it your name. So, a year ago Woloshin Banya was born. A business that has started to bring me something more than money. I started getting hugs from people, gratitude for the experience, lots of positive feedback, lots of happy faces, lots of cool posts, lots of happy kids and the team that has built up, it’s like going 20 years back. They are all full of energy, eyes sparkling, doing amazing things. I started to feed off of that, because I realized there’s more than just a large-scale business that you can get pleasure from in a small volume. Now back to the question: why a steam bath?

It’s been a year since I constantly asked myself that question. And today’s event actually helped me figure out why it happened, why I continue this business. And my insight happened on the birthday of the house. We have a tradition when I wash my employees’ feet, that way I thank them for being there for me. And during this ritual I suddenly felt that I enjoy serving, I enjoy dedicating myself to others. I felt then that I was moving away from the desire for vanity, for praise, for what motivated me to do incredible things, and that I felt better. And that moment I realized that the steam bath had come into my life to teach me to give. If I used to take, now I’ve started to give back. And the insight was so powerful that I realized that the other projects I was doing had their own mission, their own task. Not just falling out of the sky for me to do this, to do that. In each of them I found something important for me to develop.

IT projects were given to me for financial freedom and to understand how business works, cartoons – to realize myself creatively, to be a director. Sports gave me strength, confidence that I can do anything. I needed social projects to feel important to society, even walking barefoot to escape the influence of public opinion. And that’s when I realized something very important, the wording you know. Do you agree with that? I can’t hear you, say it. Clap your hands, let’s say you do. No.

I thought so, too. But it’s not that way. Business is supposed to change you, not the world. Clap hands here, it’s very important. Thank you. Why is this the main idea I got from today’s presentation? Because a great business is not the one that makes a lot of money, not the one that has a big impact on the world, but the one that has a maximum impact on you. The business has to change you, and you have to change the world. Look at the map, there are a lot of dots around the world, but this is where the heart should go, this changes me much more than the 50 distributors around the world. And even if you look at the pictures of how I’ve changed – the pic on the left is before sports, and here’s the one after, when I finished. You can see the changes, can’t you? But there are even more important changes. I’ll show you in the next slide. Take a look here. Which of these two men is happier?

And a couple of words about transformation. After getting the insight, I had time to think about and get a sense of how business changes a person. In fact, the businesses I’ve been involved in so far, the projects that have been before me, have not fallen under the shadow of my attention. In fact, they have started to change, too. You may know, at Simpals, our flagship company, the OKRs came about, partly because I became humble, calmed my ego and started trusting people. OKRs are a system where people set their own goals and objectives, they walk towards them on their own, trying to get as far as they can. There are no penalties, there are no sanctions if the team could not reach its goal, because the goal is still the maximum ambitious you can reach. Even if you can’t, the maximum you can jump to. And this works very well even after 2 years, thanks to my partner Roman Stirbu, who integrated OKRs into our company. I have adopted and still support them, and in this way, I demonstrate my confidence in my team. With OKRs you get the most out of your work. It’s a really cool system. I can do a separate presentation to show how it works, it might be useful to a lot of people.

Missions. They say there should be missions and values in a company. It was a revelation to me that in a company, your company, that you organized, that you opened, there should be your values, your mission. And because when you fulfill yourself in this business, you fulfill the business itself. That’s why it’s very important not to take on very trendy missions and values, but to dig inside yourself, to see your inner dragon, to understand what’s important to you and make that your company’s mission. People who work with you will join you, they will share it too, and those who don’t share it will just leave. And that’s why I have a very important message – seek self-fulfillment in either your business, even if you’re someone’s employee, find a way to fulfill yourself in the job you have now. Express yourself, become part of this job. Just by observing your passions, who and what you are, you will surely find very dark places, dark regions, where the dragon lurks. And then you can approach it, look it in the eye and embrace it. Now clap hands, no, wait. I told myself that I will give the speech, you will want to applaud me, and I will tell you not to. No applause. And so I’ll leave the stage and that’s it… But then I thought, how boring the world would be if there were no pats, if there were no thank yous, if there were no hugs, if no one ever told you how cool you were. We are all social animals. We need social encouragement. So, give me a round of applause, though.

So, also a postscript. When I came back from Oymyakon, I did a little project – Shortcut. I meet on Tuesdays, for free, with people who need my help. I offer my time to five people a week. Half an hour of my time. I help with personal issues, business issues, absolutely anything. Here is a website, you can check in and write about the problem you have. My assistant will contact you and invite you, and we will talk and discuss. We can even discuss this presentation. Once again, thank you very much! I hope I’ve got it covered.

Trypollian Bathhouse

Trypollian Bathhouse

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