#111 – 20 Minute Playbook: Illia Polosukhin of NEAR Protocol and Unchain Fund

In Episode #111, we deconstruct Illia Polosukhin's peak performance playbook—from his favorite book to the tiny habit that's had the biggest impact on his life. Illia is the co-founder of NEAR Protocol and Unchain Fund. We cover why context switching is a necessary skill for founders, Illia’s recommended books, and the nuance of the Russian language in writing.
Last updated
August 17, 2022
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Illia Polosukhin raised more than $10M to help fund aid in war-torn Ukraine through his Unchain Fund.
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About Illia Polosukhin

“Find a mentor who's a few years ahead of you, like not too far, but like two, three years ahead of you, because those are people who still remember what they were doing in your position. And so they will be able to give you the most useful advice.” – Illia Polosukhin

Illia Polosukhin is Co-Founder of NEAR Protocol. NEAR is a layer-one blockchain that’s incredibly fast, has very low transaction fees, and is climate neutral—in part because of its Proof of Stake model.

It’s traded on crypto exchanges under the ticker symbol NEAR and has a market cap of just under $5B today. From 2020 through 2021, the developers working in NEAR’s ecosystem—building applications on top of their blockchain—quadrupled, making NEAR the 2nd fastest growing chain behind only Solana.

In this episode, Illia shares:

  • Why he loves running daily and how it helps him remember to just put one foot in front of the other to accomplish anything.
  • Why he loves the book Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink, and how he applies the principles in it to his life and work.
  • Why he’s been fascinated with the concept of a Social Graph, how to build it into the NEAR protocol, and why it’s so important for building a better world in web3.
  • Why he thinks everyone should find mentors that are 2-3 years ahead of them in terms of where they’d like to be.
  • Why he’d tell his younger self to focus on speed and velocity—shipping quickly in everything that he does.

For more, explore the transcript of this episode.


In this 20 Minute Playbook with Illia Polosukhin, we cover:

  • 00:00:00 – Introduction
  • 00:01:59 – Designing social graph in Web3
  • 00:04:01 – Why context switching is a necessary skill for founders
  • 00:05:51 – Finding mentors who are just a few years ahead of you in business
  • 00:10:56 – Building a great decentralized ecosystem requires high-level, small, agile teams
  • 00:13:29 – Books Illia recommends
  • 00:16:59 – The nuance of the Russian language in writing

Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, Castbox, Pocket Casts, Player FM, Podcast Addict, iHeartRadio, or on your favorite podcast platform. You can watch the interview on YouTube here.

Big Takeaways

  • Illia notes that while most people hate running, including himself, there’s no denying that it drills home the point that everything should be taken one step at a time. Whether in running or in building a company, though your vision may be huge (running a marathon, building a great company), working step-by-step is important.
  • Illia recommends the audiobook, Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin. He believes that taking ownership of your projects and results is incredibly important in a decentralized environment in order for the whole ecosystem to thrive.
  • Illia reminds us to think twice before simply labeling things and people without understanding the full context of situations. He uses the example of people being frustrated with developers who are unable to fix a computer… “but you’re a developer!” Using a simple label on someone without thinking through context can be detrimental.

Books Mentioned

The following books came up in this conversation with Illia Polosukhin:

Selected Links

We covered a lot of ground in this interview. Here are links to the stories, articles, and ideas discussed:

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