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Michael Zaytsev on Mindsets, Coaching, and Starting His Own Venture in High NY – Cracking Creativity Episode 33

Michael Zaytsev is a life coach and founder of High NY. Before taking on his current roles, he was a financial analyst for J.P. Morgan and a sales rep for Google. In this episode, Michael talks about lessons he learned at J.P. Morgan and Google, why coaching is important, and why he took up the mantle at High NY.

Here are three things you can learn from Michael:

The Power of Mindsets

Michael learned many lessons while working for J.P. Morgan and Google. One of the biggest lessons he learned was that of being of value.

While many people go in to startups expecting to make money from them, Michael created his knowing he would not make a lot of money in the beginning. Instead, he focused on creating value. When you create value, you will be rewarded in the long run.

Another thing he learned was analyzing risk and return. Many founders are only focused on the now. Instead of only looking at the present, Michael analyzes whether his actions are worth the risk. He also looks at the short and long term value of everything he does. By weighing risk and reward, he can make sound decisions that will help the long term future of his company.

The Importance of Coaches

Many people have a misconception about coaches and what their roles are. Before becoming a coach himself, Michael was only familiar with executive coaching. After meeting two life coaches in the short span before his accident, Michael became a life coach himself.

When people think of life coaches, they picture people bossing them around and telling them what to do. In fact, the opposite is true.

Coaches give you the space to go deep, explore, and push yourself. They provide you with accountability and structure. They give you an objective view of your problems and help reveal solutions to you.

Advice on Starting Up Your Own Project

Before you can start your own project, idea, or business, there are a few things to keep in mind. Michael’s first piece of advice is to make sure you are creating something of value. If your idea doesn’t provide people with value, it will fail.

Another important thing you must do is make sure you have a user base or audience. Without an audience, there is no business. An engaged audience is one of the keys to sustaining a successful business.

The last thing to remember is entrepreneurship is difficult and isolating. Don’t go into it expecting everything to work perfectly. Just know that there will be rough times and hard work ahead.


  • founder of High NY and former financial analyst for J.P. Morgan and sales rep for Google
  • High NY – New York’s largest cannabis Meetup
    • connect activists and entrepreneurs together
    • also does coaching, new program for men based on dance training
  • upbringing
    • family came to Brooklyn from the Soviet Union when he was one
    • considers himself a NY boy, but his family had a different mentality/upbringing
    • went to good high school, learned a lot on his train rides to/from school
    • parents wanted him to take normal path
    • went to college on west coast and got the “good” job he was expected to
    • got a job in tech and learned a lot from Google
    • always knew he wanted to be an entrepreneur, but took the safe route for a while
    • was inspired by other people to go out on his own
  • time at Google
    • spent two years
    • freak accident that changed his life
    • had to go to ER, couldn’t do much with his right arm for two months
    • moved back to NY
    • left Google, and went to work for startup
      • was one of the first sales people there
      • was fired up to start at new job
      • realized that he needed to go out on his own

“I just realized, I’m not learning much day to day, I’m going through the same process… I kinda started asking these questions of what am I doing here? What am I learning? How am I contributing to the world?… Once I started answering some of those questions, it became really clear to me that I had to leave and start my own thing.”

  • what he learned at J.P. Morgan
    • J.P. Morgan – learned about the corporate environment and how big business operates
      • structure, rules, attention to detail, compliance, etc.
      • also learned how to be a good employee, meetings, office politics, etc.
      • saw the difference between people who found success quickly vs. those who didn’t
      • learned to service the highest level clients
      • biggest lesson he learned was how the wealthiest people think about and treat their money
    • mindset lessons he learned from wealthy
      • worked with top hedge fund brokers, celebrities, and everyone in-between
      • most clients had abundance in money category, it’s just a thing at your disposal instead of something you have to chase (scarcity mindset)
      • family had a scarcity mindset
      • learned about diversification, borrowing money, and how money can be treated like a game
    • getting into a different money mindset
      • begins with having a plan, structure, and some goals
      • figure out how much money you need/desire and build around that
      • What do you do with the extra money that you have?
      • savings is not complicated
      • take a long term view of your money
      • a lot of people don’t take a proactive approach because they don’t think they have the ability to

“If you decide that you want a better financial life,  it’s just a matter of getting some education, getting some experience, and eventually you’ll be able to sustain investments or passive income… or whatever it may be, but it’s always possible to improve your financial situation. I really believe that.”

  • bringing mindsets into other things that he does
    • it was hard accepting the fact that he might not make money from day one or year one
    • he had to be upfront with himself about that reality
    • took the approach of creating value and being rewarded long term for it
    • had financial targets in mind when he started his businesses
    • had to come to grips with the fact that he wouldn’t be making money from day 1
    • one of the skills he learned was evaluating the upside vs. downside potential
    • there were times he turned down money because of the long term possibilities
    • being risk aware and having risk adjusted return
    • take a long term approach, set financial goals, and be aware of risk/return rate

“Something that really helps me stay sane is the understanding that these things don’t happen over night. You don’t just  create wealth overnight.”

“As long as I create a lot of value, then in the long term, I’ll be rewarded financially.”

  • sales at Google
    • sold social media marketing platform, then worked in ads and brand marketing
    • power of a brand name
    • got to work with high quality leadership
    • became a part of Google through acquisition of Wildfire
    • from hot startup, to successful startup, to being acquired by Google
    • incorporating another company into Google’s structure
    • learned about leadership, management, and scaling
    • has used knowledge to hire and scale efforts
      • serving hundreds vs. thousands of people
  • accident and leaving California
    • was exploring options and looking at moving back to New York
    • was in the process of starting business with friend in Bay Area
    • week before the accident, he met his first two life coaches
    • had only known about executive coaches before meeting them
    • left his job and committed to becoming a coach
    • coaches and their importance in sports
    • great coaches are celebrated in sports but not in other parts of life
    • accountability, structure, and insight being helpful in life
    • there’s lots of wisdom and insight out there

“It’s often the case that you can go further together than you can go alone.”

“Really the best way to grow in any capacity, whether that’s financial, creative, professional, is to have a tribe, to have that collaborative setting or experience.”

  • things he does as a coach to help people
    • showing up for people and giving space for people to go deep, explore, and push themselves
    • digging deep and stretching yourself too far
    • providing accountability and structure
    • works with a lot of entrepreneurs (many first time ones)
    • many have never been their own boss before
    • coaches add another level of pressure/motivation
    • story of accountability by guilt
    • results are what matter
    • having confidence in people and believing they can achieve their goals are important
    • coaching is conditioning
    • giving an objective view and guiding people to what they want
    • showing people it is okay to have certain wants and goals
    • coaches don’t tell you what to do, they show you your own answers
    • creating habits and getting results by doing the work
    • helping clients get out of their own way
    • being a dance partner
    • empowering people to make their own decisions
  • starting up High NY
    • friend from high school was a tech entrepreneur
      • had HighNY domain for NY high school students
      • saw cannabis industry taking off
      • at first Michael said no, so he found someone else to run MeetUps
    • met people at events, and learned many of the benefits of cannabis
    • got sucked in by meeting people who were passionate about it
    • saw the opportunity be a part of the next big thing
  • learning about cannabis
    • was a user before joining the group
    • knew it was lucrative and had a big demand
    • people in the culture are committed to it
    • didn’t know about medical benefits/history of plant/ social injustice
  • things he has done through High NY
    • initial vision was to build reputation and network in cannabis space
    • was careful about getting into the industry and not being perceived in the wrong way
    • wanted to make sure he was being representative of the culture, trustworthy, wanting to serve the community
    • held events in NY when there were few opportunities
    • putting together experiences where people find them worthwhile
    • copied NY tech meetup model by bringing in speakers, and facilitating conversation
    • urged audience to have conversations
    • looked to get people outside of cannabis community to become advocates
    • wanted to empower leaders and get powerful people to talk about it
  • working in the industry and the legality
    • there are ways to make money in cannabis industry without buying/selling/dealing with it
    • building apps for cannabis
    • opportunities for people who want to build apps, media companies, lawyers, etc.
    • majority of opportunity is outside of the physical plant
    • alcohol, tobacco, pharma opposition
    • many people aren’t educated enough about the plant
    • legalization and perception
  • balancing the time between High NY and coaching
    • balances time between two projects
    • coach helps him structure his time and work on the right projects
    • works a few days a week working on each project, meeting people, and admin work
    • every few weeks, he has to re-evaluate the cannabis industry
  • advice for people who want to start their own projects
    • create something of value
    • make sure there is a user base/demographic for what you are creating
      • make sure you are servicing those people
    • entrepreneurship is difficult and isolating
    • know what you’re getting yourself into
    • understand why you’re doing it because there will be rough times, and you will have to work hard

“If you’re not creating value for other people, I really don’t think you’ll be financially sustainable, and you probably won’t be satisfied. So really understand what the value you want to create is, and I think also it’s very important to understand why you want to do that.”

  • morning routine
    • as soon as he wakes up, he smiles
      • makes sure his first thought every morning is one of gratitude an excitement
    • rehab arm, exercise, listen to affirmations, breakfast
    • starts working, and begins with the most important thing
    • runs on autopilot because he starts with a big win
  • books, resources, podcasts
  • creative people
    • friend who comes up with five ideas from everything he sees
      • causes him to ask questions and explore scenarios
      • What would another person do in this situation?
      • has multiple options based on what other people might think
      • creates different possibilities
    • Kanye West
      • not afraid to mess up, experiment, or offend people
      • each album being different
      • teach kids to aspire to be great
      • don’t seek to be average
    • “Why try to fit in when you’re a stand out
  • definition of creativity
    • the capacity to create
    • Burning Man
    • the biggest obstacle to creativity is fear or attachment to outcome

“Everyone has creativity. Everyone has the capacity to create… Everyone enjoys exercising that, but there’s a group of people who kind of lean into it and embrace it and exercise it regularly…”

“It’s just the mindset of giving yourself permission to be creative.”

“When people give themselves permission to be creative, especially when they’re in an environment that supports creativity, like Burning Man… magic happens. It becomes a natural process.”

  • being more creative
    • being more creative requires acceptance
    • don’t worry about the end product or outcome | |

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