Katerina Yip is an Entrepreneur in Residence at Galton Voysey. A resident of Hong Kong, Katerina has a background in both law and business, having graduated from Durham University with an Upper Second-Class Honors Degree in Law and completing a postgraduate diploma in Legal Practice at the University of Law in York.

Katerina then moved on to CPA Global, an Intellectual Property Management firm, where she started as a Sales Support Executive. At CPA Global, she quickly moved on to becoming an Executive Assistant to the General Manager of Asia-Pacific before joining Galton Voysey, where she has helped to co-found multiple successful businesses.

In the last few years, what lifestyle, habit, or behavior change has had the biggest positive impact on your life?

Blocking out hours to read. I try to read a little bit every day but sometimes life gets in the way, so I get most of my reading done in chunks on the weekend. When it’s been a particularly difficult week to get much reading in, I’ll put my phone on airplane mode and park myself at a café or the library with a book for a few hours at the weekend. The learning aspect of reading is important to me, but more than that, I find that it gives me energy – not only because I really enjoy reading itself, but also because it makes me feel like I’m working on improving myself.

As for what I read, I strongly believe that reading both non-fiction and fiction are equally beneficial. Books provide gateways into seeing how other people live and think, once you get exposed to other people’s mental models, you can sort through them and see if they’re applicable to your own life – but you’re not going to be able to do that without the exposure in the first place. 

When you feel unfocused, what do you do?

Take a short 5-minute break and get away from my desk. Once I’m back at my desk, I’ll set a timer for 25 minutes and force myself to focus on that one task until the timer is up; that usually does the trick.

What advice would you give a smart and ambitious recent college graduate? What advice should they ignore?

Start a side project outside of school or work that you’re interested in; more often than not if you’re just working on one thing and that one thing goes wrong, it’s difficult not to think that it’s the end of the world. Having at least one other thing you’re cultivating (it could be a hobby, skill or even a business), can give you perspective.

Recently I’ve been reading a lot about how grit and perseverance can be the determining factor in someone’s success (Grit by Angela Duckworth and Mindset by Carol S. Dweck are both fantastic books on this topic). Like many things, they’re ‘muscles’ that you have to exercise. In addition to giving you perspective, starting a side project or hobby you’re consistently working at can also be a good way to instill some grit or perseverance training in your life. 

What is one lifestyle trend that excites you?

Mindfulness is something I’ve learned to gain an appreciation for throughout the years. I came to it extremely slowly and with much skepticism, so it’s hands down the most unlikely thing that I’ve adopted into my life, but I have undeniably seen a positive effect from doing so.

After many years of thinking that the practice was just not for me (and vehemently denying any suggestion that my heart palpitations and the general sense of doom I was experiencing were because I was susceptible to panic attacks), I’ve finally managed to embrace mindfulness as a way of managing stress and anxiety. The aspect of mindfulness that has helped me the most is training your mind to understand that you are not the same as your thoughts. Our minds can be full of toxic and intrusive thoughts that are entirely involuntary, and extremely hard to ignore. Once you’re able to separate those involuntary thoughts from voluntary actions and your sense of self, the paralysis that comes from fear, doubt, stress, and anxiety becomes a lot more navigable.

If mindfulness appeals to you but like me initially, every time you try, you feel like you’re missing something, I highly recommend the app Headspace. Andy Puddicome, a co-founder along with Rich Pierson, is a former Buddhist monk and his wonderful voice that guides you through each exercise.  I won’t pretend it was an easy journey for me – in fact, when a Doctor once prescribed ‘mindfulness and yoga’ to me during a particularly stressful period in my life, I thought they were absolutely crazy – but it’s become such a powerful tool in my life.

Who has been the biggest influence in your life and why?

I’ve been extremely lucky to have a group of amazing colleagues and friends who constantly try to push each other to the next level. Because it comes from a place of mutual respect and admiration, their expectations for me to improve along with them often makes me want to do even better.

What’s one of the biggest life lessons you’ve learned?

If you don’t feel uncomfortable, you’re probably not progressing in life. Feeling uncomfortable is to be expected as you expand your skill set and continue to learn. If you never leave your comfort zone, you just end up stagnating – but of course, that’s easier said than done. Being aware of when you’re firmly staying in your comfort zone first step, which is much harder than it sounds given the brain’s tendency to neatly justify all of its actions.

Maybe you know you should pick up the phone and have that difficult conversation with that person you’ve been avoiding all week; but it’s late in the day and you don’t want to seem rude. Or you know you should ask for honest and critical feedback from a colleague – but that makes you feel extremely vulnerable, and you don’t want to ruin your week if you get negative feedback. Whatever the reason, I find that it is extremely helpful to think about these uncomfortable moments as ‘a muscle I haven’t used enough’. If you’ve never really gone on a long run before, the first one you do is inevitably going to suck. But if you keep running, it’ll eventually become easier.

What do you think it is that makes someone successful?

I’ve found that the successful people in my life are often excited about the unknown in the long term. In the short term, they’re able to focus deeply in the present and get things done – it seems like a combination of the two is a winning formula. You need both a healthy amount of optimism to keep going and skepticism to make sure you’re asking the right questions as you go along.

How do you stay motivated?

I think everyone feels lost and unmotivated at some point in their lives. What’s helped me is identifying exactly what I want out of life – and, for me, that’s opening a bookshop (and keeping it open). I must have spent hours here thinking about this; but once I had that in place it’s become my North Star.

Another trick is to try to surround yourself with very highly motivated people; when everyone around you is just pushing through and crushing it, that kind of grit just becomes normal.

What legacy do you hope to leave behind?

When I’ve come across books that changed my life, they have, more often than not, been recommendations from other people. I hope to be able to do that for others as well.