Oleg Firer and How to Learn From Life’s Downturns

They say we’re defined by our failures as much as our successes. In the world of business, however, it seems we’re defined even more by how we respond to failure. When life doesn’t go as we planned, it can take a good amount of quick thinking and the ability to change in order to overcome our challenges. By doing so, we tend to learn and grow in ways we never thought possible. To illustrate how this relates to a successful career in business, we’ve turned to the work of Oleg Firer. The Net Element CEO has had his share of ups and downs on his journey to his current level of success.

Building resilience

One of the key ways we can set ourselves up to overcome challenges in life is to build up our natural resilience. In the life of Oleg Firer, a major early opportunity to build resilience came when his family left the Soviet Union when he was just 12-years-old. After a long and winding journey across the west, they eventually landed in New York City, making Brooklyn their new home.

From the start, it was clear that the adjustment wouldn’t be easy for the future entrepreneur. At an age when many kids are playing games and are relatively carefree, he was trying to learn a range of new ways to fit into his adopted culture. He was learning a new language, new social norms, and an entirely new school system simultaneously. To say that the transition was difficult would be an understatement.

But the young Oleg rose to the challenge that was being presented to him. He put in extra work to learn English in school and out of it. He spent additional time on his studies as well and built up his natural aptitude for quick learning. He also made friends and soon began to adopt many of the norms of life in the U.S. While it wasn’t easy, the experience helped to teach him that with persistence and handwork we can overcome a variety of difficult situations. It would be a lesson he would carry with him for the rest of his life.

Staying focused

Another important aspect to overcoming difficulties and challenges in life is your ability to stay focused on a goal. Without the ability to stay focused, we can often lose sight of what those goals are. This can cause us to flounder and get lost amidst the challenges we are experiencing. In some ways, this loss of purpose can actually become the real challenge, as we lose our sense of how we can be applying our skills to elevate our situation.

An example from the businessman’s life comes when he was hired by a franchise electronics store at the age of 15. Hiring a young sales person, the store was probably looking for someone who could work the floor of the store, sell products, work the cashier, etc. They most likely weren’t looking for someone to elevate into a leadership position. 

But even at that young age, the future businessman had a mind for his field and a desire to rise in prominence. He showed his supervisors that he had a knack for business and the ability to learn the field of electronics at a rapid pace. His leadership abilities were also on full display too and it didn’t take long for people in high places at the company to take notice. By the age of 17, he had been promoted to General Manager — the youngest person in the company to achieve such a position. The promotion serves to underscore the importance of staying focused on your goals, even if life gets muddied at times by the expectations of others.

Bouncing back

Even with laser-sharp focus and an ability to stay resilient, downturns are pretty much inevitable in life. Knowing this to be true and developing one’s ability to bounce back after such a downturn can spell the difference between failure and success over the course of a career. If you can keep this in mind amidst a particularly trying time, it can help motivate you to recover from even the most difficult failure or obstacle. In fact, it’s often the case that a person with a honed ability to recover can emerge from a downturn stronger and better off than they were when they entered it.

Recovery in practice

A telling example from the entrepreneur’s life of the above sentiment comes from his foray into the field of wireless supply. After his time at the electronics store, he started his own business in the field and found success fairly quickly. He was able to utilize his expertise in electronics and management to create a solid and thriving business. The enterprise was so successful that it edged out other side projects he had been considering, instead causing him to focus all of his attention on his main business.

But after some high-profile bankruptcies at other companies in the wireless industry, the field began to fall apart. Oleg Firer wasn’t immune to the ripple effect of that collapse and he was forced to close his endeavor. While some people may have taken the blow personally and have a hard time bouncing back, the businessman took it in stride. He felt he had learned a valuable lesson from the collapse on the importance of diversification and decided to apply it to future efforts.

These days, that lesson serves him well as the CEO of Net Element. The company is known for its diversification across the payment processing industry and related fields. It not only operates software for processing payments, but also designs apps for the foodservice industry, sales industry, back-office applications, and much more. It’s a stark example of how one can turn a difficult moment into a learning opportunity and, ultimately, success.

In many ways, the manner in which we respond to hardship and adversity can be more influential to our ultimate success than any other skill. Those who build a natural resilience and ability to bounce back after a downturn may find that they are well-placed to thrive in life. Those who don’t cultivate these skills may encounter additional difficulty. The above examples set by Oleg Firer help to showcase how this looks in practice. Consider emulating the CEO’s abilities in this area to provide yourself with a leg up in business and beyond.