Let me introduce myself to help you better understand where I’m coming from. Born in a country that had been incorporated into the Soviet Union, I studied the standard Soviet curriculum. My school was nothing special—in fact, nothing about me was special. Not only did I have no idea how my life would be 25 years later, I had no reference for even imagining it. After school I planned to attend university like all my peers, perhaps become an engineer and work in manufacturing, like my parents. I had no reason to think that my life could be different.

When the Soviet Union dissolved, more opportunities were available to me—I could study business, for example, or law. But instead I blindly followed the pattern that had already been set for my life and enrolled in a university to study mechanical engineering, in line with my parents’—and my community’s—expectations. In this as in all respects, I was an entirely ordinary person.

In school, I had thought that “real living” would start in university, so I finished school with remarkably average grades. I took that same level of scholastic dedication with me to university, but my mother challenged me repeatedly, asking, “Why can others achieve excellent grade but you cannot? Are you worse than others?” Her generation had seen a university education as offering the chance to earn grades good enough to obtain good employment, and she passed that dream on to me.

So I graduated as a mechanical engineer, but with excellent grades instead of mediocre ones. Only my English was average: I saw time spent studying language as time wasted on a skill that I would never use. Again I began thinking that this was not “real living” yet: real living would begin when I entered the workforce and became financially independent from my parents. I expected to return to my country and hometown, working out my days in what by then had been my home city for 21 years. Nothing hinted that my life would differ dramatically from all my peers’.

To continue please red post: In Order to Live: Stepping Into the Unknown, journey to succession.