On relationships, work and meaning

Wrote this a few weeks back on an email and on Medium. Republishing it here. 

As I type this, I am in Dubai! In case you did not know, I am taking a break from life and work and all that and trying to discover myself. No, I am not killing myself or anything. This is an attempt to #bebetter. More is on this blogpost. Also, at C4 Events, we have a new project about postcards. Read about it here. Do lemme know if you want postcards from Dubai.

Anyhow so the point of this post is relationships and work.

The day before I left for this detox of sorts, I was talking to a colleague and was telling her that most modern relationships are actually based on convenience and not on real, deep sense of belonging. Of course she was aghast and all that. I don’t blame her. This a tough one. Counterintuitive to everything that we’ve been taught — especially in India where we are willing to kill and get killed for family, community, honor etc.

I believe that these relationships merely allow you to domesticate and stay in safe havens. If you have to go in deep waters and take risks and do amazing things, you HAVE to leave the comfort behind. And create (or forge or explore) relationships with strangers.

My point was that we ought to invest more into relationships that are built on top of work (or while working). And work not as in work that a bank teller does or a credit card salesman does (of course both are important and are tough and have dignity and all that) but work that makes us push the limits. The creative work.

So, in between the “argument” she asked me to give my theory of what makes relationships tick. I said that the deepest and the most meaningful relationships are the ones that are created around creating amazing things. In other words, if you can figure out ways to work together with great people, find synergies, find comfort in those people, it creates a fascinating relationship. And creates great work.

This seemed to make sense to her. And to me. And we left it at that and moved onto other things.

And then, something funny happened. I was checking my email in the morning and I stumbled onto this in my inbox…

The subtitle caught my attention and I had to click on it!

So I ended up at https://creativemornings.com/talks/christina-amini/1 and heard Christina Amini talk about how authentic relationships enable awesome projects and how awesome projects allow us to develop authentic relationships. Exactly what I was trying to tell my colleague the day before!

Do see the video if you have 25 odd minutes.

Disclaimer. The story (and the video), while is illuminating (and inspiring), is heartbreaking. You may not want to see it first thing in the morning. Or may be you want to see it, to remind you of the frivolity and shortness of life. A fear that pushes me to do more!

So, here are the key highlights that I am taking away from the talk (to help me reinforce my assertions about relationships rooted in work tend to be stronger, better and deeper). This following list is NOT a verbatim summary of the video. It also includes my thoughts as I saw the video.
  • Most creative work requires you to have immense faith and inherent trust in the other person (or people).
  • You have long-term thingy at the back of your head. This means you automatically start investing more (we all “know” that long-term success requires patience and honesty and openness).
  • When you work together, your conversations are about trying to solve problems (and not about what is Taimur upto or what is the new costume on Ranveer Singh etc). When you try to solve problems, you are often thinking as a team (and not as individuals). You start thinking about strengths of the other person — which automatically make you look for goodness in them.
  • When you work together, you are often vulnerable (you dont know how would audience receive a certain thing, you probably get stuck and seek help) etc etc. And when you are vulnerable, you open up. You start to share things that you’d normally keep buried in your hearts. And often when you solve problems when you are vulnerable, the answers that you come up with to solve the problems are the ones that often resolve the vulnerability. And when you get the resolution to your vulnerability AND to the problem you are facing, Eureka probably happens!
  • Because what you create makes meaning and is often larger than you, your teammates or your team, you have this shared sense of purpose. And achievement.
  • Most “creative” things require love. And that means you put in your heart and soul and all that to be able to create output. And when you work with someone who is also putting in the heart and soul and is creating a piece of love, you create magic! And the very process of creating magic makes the relationship, well, magical!

Apart from these direct inferences and thoughts from the talk, the other takeaway from this talk is when the lady says, “I will do anything with Susan!” This is something that I’ve been trying to be subconsciously. When I become available in market for new work etc, people HAVE to say that they’d do anything with me! Do they say the same about you?

Thats about it. What’s your take on relationships?

Thank you!

PS: This is a slightly edited version of an email that I send to select friends. Please do let me know if you wish to subscribe. 

PPS: First posted here

A primer on how to #beBetter.


Context: I wrote this as an email to a friend when he asked me for tips to manage his increasingly complex life (he is doing exceedingly well in life and has a toddler that keeps him on the toes) while remaining healthy.

I poured EVERYTHING I knew in this email.

And while I was editing it, I realised I could send this to more friends. And thus this post. Please note that I am no expert. Just trying to get better as an individual and these are the things that I am working on to #bebetter.


Hey XXXX,

So I wanted to write you an email and then I thought a doc is better. Easy to format and consume and share and comment and add to and all that.

Standard disclaimers apply. I am not a doctor. This is not medical advice. I am NOT responsible for the results if you do try these.

Oh, I don’t do a lot of these right now but will start doing so by the end of this year (right now, I am not even equipped to do some of these and I am working hard to get there).

Also, dont ask me for research, facts, rationale, reasoning, links, sources etc. This are things that I sincerely BELIEVE in and am willing to do myself. If you think these are right, please try. If you think these are wrong, these are wrong and refrain.

But like I said, I believe in and practise these things. There is all the skin in the game when I recommend these. So, up to you.

I divide my “discourse” in sections. Sections are:
  1. Health
  2. Work
  3. Future
  4. Tools
  5. Misc
A. Health

This is the most important thing ever. I sincerely wish that I could turn back time and not abuse the body the way I did (coke etc). Thankfully I was never on drugs or alcohol. But if I tell something to all young ones, I say that you need to work on your health.

Anyhow, within health, key components are:

A.1 Sleep (I know that you have a baby and it’s tough to do all this but I am sure you can).
  • You have to find your optimal level (duration) of sleep. People say it’s between 6 and 8 hours. For me, its 5. For you, it could be 8. Use a sleep tracker (see tools below).
  • Find your relationship with circadian rhythm. Essentially, know if you are a morning person or a night person. And try to become a morning person if you are not. Easy way to do this is to try to sleep by 10 and up by 5. And no this is not impossible. You can do this. First few days are tough. And then it’s easy after that.
  • When you sleep, sleep in a room WITHOUT any screen. Tough but if I can do, you can too. If you are using a tracker, put on airplane mode.
  • Room temperature — 22 degrees
  • Lights — DARK. Or Blue. Buy lights if you have to. I bought and it got fucked after a few days and since its too expensive, couldnt buy again.
  • As you drift to sleep, think of things that you are grateful for, in THAT day. Not in general. On THAT day.
  • REM Sleep is when what you learn gets reinforced and new connections are made. So I typically try to read / think about things that are perplexing me as I drift to sleep. By the time I get up and reach the shower, I somehow get the best ideas. Remember they say that best ideas come on the pot? This is the reason why. So, use sleep as a weapon.
  • After you wake up, first thing? MAKE YOUR BED. Simple and SUPER EFFECTIVE. Please please do this.
  • Second thing? Think of three things that you need to achieve today. That you WILL achieve today. Think. No writing nothing. Think. And then you start your day. If you want more dope on what to do when you start your day, ask me and I will tell you.
  • Third thing? Watch some funny video. Whatever tickles your bone. I watch haryanavi humor. And prank calls by RJ Naved. You can watch Louis CK. Or even Modi Ji :)

A.2. Nutrition
  • Irrespective of your body size, shape, age etc, you HAVE to go on a lo-carb diet. Fuck what nutritionists say. Lo carb it is.
  • Try Keto for 2 weeks. Trust me, its THE shit.
  • Cut out red meat from your life. Forget that there is red meat. If you eat red meat.
  • Forget sugar. Eating processed sugar is a sin. You need to slap yourself hard in public if you eat sugar.
  • No alcohol. No smoking. EVER.
  • Try weed. Serious. But in moderation.
  • Skip Dinner. If you can’t, ensure that you don’t eat carbs after 7 PM. If you have to have to eat, proteins. Boiled eggs are the best. No milk. And it’s ok to be boring and not want different kinds of food. And it’s ok if you go to family functions and people make fun of you for not eating.

A.3. Brain
  • Install one of the brain training apps. I use Peak. Its immensely helpful. Its like exercise. You know walking is good. But same applies to brain. Each day, doing something that actually works on brain muscles is required.
  • Brain is NOT for remembering. Its for thinking and processing and creating patterns. Outsource your memory to The Brain (a tool), or simply, Evernote. Counter-intuitive. But do it. Your brain has one function and one function only — processing. This means making connections, seeing patterns, connecting the dots etc. Fuck anything else that anything says. No one cares if you can remember a deck of cards — its a simple hack, anyone can learn. What you need to be able to do is process and be creative.
  • Practise deep breathing. Wait. Deep breathing? Brain? Yes. Do it.
  • Challenge yourself in new ways. Do things that you’ve never done. For example, stand up? Or play pool? Brian is about making connections. The day you stop making connections and the synapses, you are fucked.

A.4. Mindfulness
  • Meditate 10 minutes everyday. Use Calm. Free version allows you 28 days. Please do that. If you want, am happy to buy you a subscription.
  • REMOVE all negative things from your life — friends, family — anyone that drags you down, throw that person, thing out. This could be your best friend that pulls your leg all the time. I’ve done this. Thrown people out. It hurts. Like Cancer. Its part of your body but you kill it.
  • ADD positive things.
  • There is LOT more on mindfulness. I am not sure of a lot of things myself. This is something that even I am working on.
  • Get authentic. Read about it. Authentic. You are like who you are. In real life, in conduct, in meetings, in your bedroom, in your heart and in your soul. If you are authentic, you spend less effort (you are not posing and hence you are using less brainpower and thus are happier). Plus people on other side also know you as authentic and good and honest and all that and thus trust you more.

A.5. Body
  • Massage — twice a week. At home. Not spa. There is this guy at XXXX. He charges 400 per day. Find one in XXXXX.
  • Walk — 45 mins EACH day. There is NO alternative to this. Invest in a GREAT walking shoe. Either Nike or Asics or nothing. You don’t have issue with money. So do it.
  • Work with hands. Learn something that makes you use your hands. This will help you in delaying old age. I tried guitar. I am going to pick up Khartal.
  • Grow muscle. Don’t become The Rock. But grow muscle. This will not happen without gym or protein. I don’t understand much of this right now but I once I reach that point, i will.
  • Get a standing desk. You have to. If you can’t, I can gift you one. Mine is coming. At Starbucks, I work with a standing desk.
  • Keep back straight. Remind yourself multiple times to keep the spine straight.
  • Sex. Get regular with it if you aren’t. Sorry, this is a taboo and all that in India but get regular at it. Get an extramarital if you have to. I know this sounds wrong but you need to decide for yourself if you want to live till 120 and you want to be active and all that. Fuck what has been taught to us. Draupadi had 5 husbands. Akbar had a Harlem. What other evidence do you need? There is science. And no, I don’t have an extramarital thing yet. Heck, I don’t even have a marital thing yet. But if need be, I will. I am selfish.

Here are some “hacks”
  • Carry Almonds with you in a small box. Everytime you are hungry, pop in a few. Not too much. A few (less than 5 at a time). Or boiled eggs. Buy an egg boiler. I bought one and it’s super easy to use and its fast and I get perfectly boiled eggs.
  • Buy eye mask if you can’t get lights in the room.
  • Use the night mode feature on your phone to get the phone to automatically go silent post 8 PM.
  • Tell yourself EVERYDAY that you are lucky. You know that study right? They divided a random group of people into 2 groups. One was told that they were lucky. The other was told they weren’t. And then they were asked to search for free movie ticket coupons in the same newspaper. Guess who found more coupons? Just because they were TOLD that they were lucky, they found more.
  • Listen to the music from the time in life when you had no worries and were carefree and you were SUPER happy. May be the same track that you used to propose to your wife! I listen to Lucky Ali, KK, Silk Route etc. I am forgetting who talks about this but this is a PROVEN technique to reduce stress and get focus back.
  • Assume you make 3 lakhs a month (INR). This means you make 10K a day. Means each working hour for you is worth 1000 bucks. Anything that you can outsource for cheaper, do that. For example, you can get a driver for 400 bucks an hour, do it. You can hire an EA to save you 20 hours in a month? Pay 20K and get one. More on EA later. But point is, anything that frees up time for you — even if you have to pay for it, do it.

B. Work
  • Get an EA to handle emails and other “dirty” tasks. Idea is that you will NOT do anything that does NOT add value to your time or life. If there is one thing that you can do from this entire document, get an EA will be THE number 1. May be sleep is but this is close.
  • You will only do 4 things at a point in time. Not 3, not 5. If more than 4 things demand your attention, you will find a resource to do that. You can afford to. So do it. Wish I could.
  • Use pomodoro. 25 mins of deep work and then break. Chunk you tasks in 25 mins. Open office for 25 mins, meetings for 25 mins, thinking for 25 mins etc. The other 5 mins on the pomodoro? Go for a walk. I am going to do 2 push-ups every 25 mins. Lets see. Idea is to cultivate that habit.
  • While you work and you get a distraction, do NOT jump to it. Buy empty visiting cards and write on those the thing that is causing you distraction. And then once you are done what you are doing, do things that are on the cards.
  • Get a personal board. I am getting one. You are on it. And there are 10 other people. Like XXXXX Sir said, from different backgrounds.
  • Tell each of those people about your work ambitions. Don’t hide. Trust them. Don’t talk in vague terms. They are YOUR board. There is often sensitive information. Its ok. Life’s too short. And this sensitive information is NEVER life or death. Its at max career limiting. We can get the career back. But it’s ok to trust in your people, your board. For your progress.
  • Switch off mobile notifications from all apps except SMS. Tell your favorite ones to call or sms for emergency. Everything else has to “fetch” for you. Your life shall not be controlled by the ding of an incoming message by a colleague or a client. Neither it will be run by a notification on Facebook about your wife uploading a pic of your daughter. It will be run by you and your goals and your ambition.
  • Get famous. You already have XXXX. Use that. Leverage that. The idea is that reputation takes you so so far. Go far. I suck at this. I am working on this. And its tough for me cos I havent done shit. You have. Your reputation can take your so much farther its not funny.
  • Write. PLEASE. Even if you think you write BS or write like crap, please write. There is NO better way to clear the head than to write. Writing this note has given me so so so so many ideas and reinforced so many beliefs. Thank you for making me write this one. Ideally you have to write at a specific time EACH day. I am trying to get into that zone of writing. But I need to first get out of the issue that my time is owed to someone else. You are lucky. You own your time.
  • Learn mental models. Use them. If not all models, just learn Cialdini’s. These are social proof, authority, scarcity, liking, commitment and reciprocity. Find out all the models I’ve used in this one email.
  • Get purposeful. Dont do things because there’s nothing else. I can talk so much about this. Not purpose as in world changing and all that. Purpose as in you do things with so much passion, so much love, so much purpose that if someone is looking at you, they get infected with your way of working. Ordinary is boring af.

C. Future
  • Make a vision board (sounds gyaan but trust me, it helps. And ofcourse none of these esoteric things happen unless you work towards those things)
  • Once a week, sit and think on your future. Mark this in your calendar. There is no way you can’t NOT do this.
  • Use your board. I am sure you read the point above.
  • Make your team. Team XXXX. I have this thing called Team SG. A set of REALLY young kids (in the age group of less than 25) that you hire today. These people HAVE to work with you for rest of YOUR life. Groom them, mentor them, help them. Make your team. Not your company’s. Your. Do you have 5 people who’d walk out with you if you have to quit? I have 1. I want 9 more in this year. Working on this.
D. Tools
  • Start using Asana. Or Trello. Whatever you like. Idea is to outsource your remembering function.
  • Google Calendar. You will NOT meet anyone if its not on your calendar. Not even standup meetings. Create office hours (time when anyone can walk in to you office to ask you anything — like yesterday, 5 people walked in while you and I were talking. Train then that they can only ask you things at 11 AM or 5 PM). In 25 min slots.
  • Sleep tracking — use fitbit or even some app on your phone. I use Sleep Cycle. This tells you how is your sleep and if you are sleep is fucked, you are fucked. You need to first know if the sleep is good or bad. You may think you sleep well but the app tells you that you are fucked and you need to fix it. This is the single biggest revelation that happened to me.
  • All tools that I use EVERYDAY are: Hubspot CRM, Feedly, Asana, Toggl, LifeTrack sheet (where I track my life — I note down what I do on most days), Google Calendar.
  • There is no set formula for these tools. You find your set of tools. I found these after a lot of effort and lot of time. I keep going back and forth between tools. Idea is to find your own path.

E. Misc

  • You OWN the day. Not your calendar or emails. You can choose to switch off emails. Once you get your EA, you can further control your time.
  • Use your commute. Cat nap, podcasts etc. Do whatever but do NOT waste it with SM or email. Commute is THE biggest advantage we have. I know of a guy who actually lives in Thane so that he can get 2 hours every day in train to read! Beat that!
That’s for the time being. I am sure there are more. And I am not sure if this helps you. But these have helped me immensely. I am little more peaceful and content. Though I am yet to become the big shit that I’ve always wanted to become — I am sure I will get there. I am lucky. Are you?

Any inputs anyone? I am @saurabh on twitter.

PS: First posted on Medium here

100 Rejections in 2018

I have yet another miniGoal for #in2018. I will try and get 100 rejections.

Like most projects, this started with an impulse. And like all things that I do, I put the impulse in action. See this tweet.


So, what is it?
In one line, I will try and get a 100 rejection letters #in2018.

What is a rejection? What is a rejection letter? 
Lemme try and example with an example. What if I ask a Rabbi Shergill if I can work with him? Afterall I've been a fan and all that since his Bulla days. His music and his philosophy has been a big big reason of my fandom.

However, there is no clear value proposition for a Rabbi Shergill to choose to work with me. And there no reason why he should accept me!

So, in all probability, he will reject the request. Assuming that he will get time to see my request - he being busy and famous at the same time! If he gets back to him and says that he doesnt want to work with me, that to me is a rejection.

Other example, when I travel for work, can I ask for the client to pay for a business class ticket (about 3x the price of an economy ticket)? I know I am not important enough for most of my clients to give me a superior treatment. The request will probably get rejected. Assuming I am not laughed at. Ok this was a bad example. Because this is a recurring event. Everytime I fly, I want to travel business. May be it is not. Some clients may reject. Some may not. Some may give in. Some may not, Some projects could have budget. Some may not. Need to think more. 

The definition of rejection (for the sake of this project) thus, is an ask that I know is almost impossible to get. The ask is so big, so audacious, so stupid, so ridiculous that it is bound to get rejected. The ask that I shouldnt be making in the first place. And since the ask if going to get rejected, I'd not feel bad when it is rejected. 

So, I will send a request. And the person, company he can choose to ignore it, accept it or reject it. Unless I get a feedback from him, I will not put this in any basket. I'd just call it waiting for inputs.

The next step is kinda fuzzy. What if you dont hear back (either acceptance or rejection), you send a reminder? Of course you could sound creepy (or desperate). Or you could sound enterprising and persistent and all. I am not sure of this one. Will think and update it over time. #note2self.

How did I get the idea? 
Three things had to come together to make this happen.

A. I saw this TED talk by Jia and I have been meaning to implement it. Why? Because its a social experiment and it makes you get out of your comfort zone. Its been on the todo list but I never got around to it. May be this is the time?

B. I met Hareesh Sir and talked to him about my failure to grow business at C4E. He said that unless you get rejected a million times, you cant say you have failed. So, I want to get rejected.

C. I saw this tweet and was surprised to know that people achieve such amazing feats that it makes you go wow! And like you, they are made of same chemical components and all that. So, if they can, why cant you? Kiki worked towards getting a 100 rejection letters. That means that at the response rate of about 1%, she would've taken 10000 shots! If she can, why cant I?

And why would I want to get rejected these many times?
I think the biggest thing we fear as humans is, "what if I get rejected!" or "what would the world say." By getting rejected a 100 times in the next 6-7 months, I will probably get over the fear. Jia did. Kiki probably did. I can too.

Plus, if I do get rejected, I can tell myself that the ask was so big that it was anyway gonna get rejected. I would thus probably feel little less bad. 

And finally if I hit acceptance, I am sure it would make like better! Oh, this also means that I need to choose what I need to get an acceptance on. I need a filter. So, the process, the model is, when I chase rejections, in case I do get an acceptance on it, the resulting #win has to take me closer to my three lifeGoals (Everest, Billion People, Billion Dollars). This is how my project differs from that of Jia’s.
So, what is the plan? 
Rather than putting a strict goal, task frequency, cadence etc, I will try and get a 100 rejections in this year. These would be a mix of personal, work, random and otherwise.

Oh, I made the first request already. To Rabbi Shergill. Let's see what do I get.

I will catalog all my requests and rejections on this post. And on this twitter thread.

List of all requests. 
#1. 8Jun18. No response yet.
Requested Rabbi Shergill to meet me and allow me to work with him.

#2. NoDate. No response yet.
Requested a professor from MDI if I could work with him on creating a new model for marketing. He showed initial interest but nothing happened after that.

#3. NoDate. No response yet.
Requested the dean at SPJain if I could meet him and may be teach at SPJ.

#4. 24Jun18. No response yet.
Requested another professor at another business school if I could teach at his.

UPDATE: This updating of the blog was getting way too much. Tracking it on an open Google Sheet. Link here

***

Thats about it! Wish me luck! And do try it for yourself.
Thank you. Over and out.
SG

PS: Can I turn this on the head and rather gun for 100 acceptances? And that means I will have to ask for a million things (assuming 1 in 100 is granted). Need to think. #note2self.

PPS: I love how this blog is becoming a dialogue with self. I just wish I could find a way to catalog these thoughts and share these with people that I trust and value and then get them to debate with me on the outcomes. Any ideas anyone? 


PPPS: What if I say that rather than trying to feel less bad about getting rejected, how about I try harder and get it? I think I cant do that because for a scatterbrain like me, I simply cant go deep with everything! 

PPPPS: Rant ahead. 
So there are a million things that I want to do in life and because there is one life and anything you want to do takes time to do, its humanly impossible to do all those. But then I may argue that if I attempt to do all these million things, I will probably end up doing a handful of those. And that to me is a #win automatically.

Not a bad theory to subscribe to. As long as I take shots at each of these things.

And to take a shot at these things, I need access. Access to people, ideas, resources, capital, time and all those things. And more importantly, I need permission. Again, from people and others that will enable those things. And acceptance that they'd help me. Thing is, acceptance to me is the biggest gift (apart from attention) that you can give someone. And since acceptance is such a big deal, you often dont get it!

Coming back.

I need to do a million things and often I dont get to those even start working on things because I assume that the other person, that the thing is dependent on, will reject the idea. And this fear of rejection is the biggest bane to getting things done!

So, I thought, can I fix it? Can I somehow get over this fear of rejection! 

One of the mental models that I subscribe to, is, Invert, always invert. In one line, the idea is that if you reverse the problem you are facing, you often get to the solution. You know that thing where the guy says if he knew where is he gonna die, he'd never go there? That! This entire fear of rejection looked like an interesting problem to apply this mental model on.

And hence, I started with the thesis that if I chase rejections (rather than permission, acceptance etc.), I will probably do well! Ergo, this post and the project. 

Veere Di Wedding - Review

I did it.
The unthinkable.
The worst thing that I could ever do as a moviegoer.
I saw Veere Di Wedding (IMDB)!

Yeah, the same movie that has driven a wedge between the otherwise stable relationships of all the men and women that were living in peace and harmony. There are men dismissing the movie as a chick-flick. There are women defending the content. Then there are men siding with the film and there are women who are saying that modern girls around their 30s are not like how they've been portrayed.

Its a fascinating battle brewing and I would love to take a side but then I am not as educated or informed as the twitterati. Oh, my universe is limited to twitter only.

Why would I commit an atrocity of this magnitude on myself?
Well. Lesser said about it, the better. Now that its been done, it's time to write a review. After I got some 300 odd hits on my review for Bhavesh Joshi, I have this career as a film-reviewer and I ought to stay with it.

So, the logline is, a group of four girl friends, each with a dysfunctional family, tries to come to terms with their respective issues as they come together for the wedding of one of the girls from the group. Neat. Sounds like fun. Similar to Dil Chahata Hai - a story of three friends trying to grow up as they make a trip to Goa.

Still from Veere Di Wedding
Like in DCH, there are these friends, there is banter and leg pulling and pranks. There is travel, there is music, there is emotions and there is a lot more jazz. No, not music but things that make movies, movies. But you know, this is where similarities end!

I'll come back to it.

PS: If Farhan Sir is reading this, please excuse me. For I have sinned by comparing your masterpiece with this! 

So, the friend I saw the film with, she said the film is inspired by the famous sitcom, Sex And The City. No, I haven't seen the sitcom. But I am told that the even though it has a million episodes or something, sitcom stays true to the theme (of 4 middle-aged women trying to cope with relationships in a big, fast-paced city). Each has a set of relationship issues that needs sorting and the friends are the support system, the coping mechanism, the bouncing board and all that.

In VDW, while the inspiration is striking, the "episode" is just about 2 hours long, it veers all over the place. The characters are flat, the friendship bland and there is no support or coping or bouncing happening. Flat as in wine that's been left in the open for too long. Bland as in cheese that's been given too much air.

Coming back to DCH, the relationships (both between the set of friends and with others) were really deep. You could experience their elation, anguish, anger, happiness and all those things. In each scene. In each dialogue. In VDW, you cant remember if they were laughing in the previous scene or if they were crying. May be a gang of girls is like that? On a perpetual rollercoaster ride. I am not sure. At least the ones I hung out with were, are not like that.

In DCH, when the guys argue and fight and all that, you feel their anger and the pain. You can understand their actions. You know the dude has fucked up and you take sides. In VDW, the conflict, whatever little of it has been portrayed, is so weak that you don't realize that it was the peak and the characters need to resolve it to take the story to the ending! Mr. Campbell must've turned in his grave. Of course not every story has to conform to his monomyth structure.

You know of those movies? Coming of age? Bildungsroman? May be VDW is an attempt in that direction? If it is, they ought to have spoken to Abhishek Kapoor. The guy, I think, has got coming of age right in India. You know of his repertoire?

Anyhow. The movie, ladies and gentleman is so ordinary that you can easily skip it!

If I were working on the project, what would I improve? 
A lot!

A. The story to start with. Actually come to think of it, the story was ok, you could tweak it a bit. But screenplay needed a lot of work. It just couldn't keep me interested. Despite all the gorgeous places that films has been shot at, all the color that is splashed around by the sets, all the banter between friends, all the mockery that they've made of the loud South Delhi culture, the film couldn't keep my interest.

B. I'd definitely improve the on-screen camaraderie between these friends. I mean I've never been part of these pajama parties, as they call em, but I am sure they are lot more fun. The banter is forced. The dialogues are predictable. The lines are cliched. Apart from a bracelet with their initials and a painting by mothers of one of the friends, they don't seem to have anything that identifies them as part of a clique. The screenplay should've established their friendship better and stronger.

C. The conflict, when it all was supposed to fall apart, when the friends fight, when they call names and all that, is so weak and so short-lived that you don't even realize that it had happened. Compare it with DCH. There is a big-ass argument and a fight and it takes Herculean effort to fix! Here, in VDW, all it took was a holiday? A phone call? Come on!

D. There are some really bad product placements. When If you see the film, you will notice that there are scenes that have blatant and liberal placement for brands like Uber, Bikaji, Air India and others. And these are done so bad that you think you are in a 2-hour long advertisement. Someone needs to bring back the love and passion in the business of making films. 

Lemme talk of each of the Veeres, as they call themselves.
The one with the cigarette.
I don't know why one of the characters always had a cigarette around. In the loo, in the car, on the beach, on the bed, in the wedding. Ok, I know you want to establish her as a free-spirited woman (did you?), could you not find a better instrument than a cigarette? Or those Calvin Klein sports bras?

The bride.
Ok, you are scared of this whole thing called marriage. I understand. I actually think that her character was written well! I don't have any complaints. But then, I also don't really have any vivid memories of her after I've seen the movie. She is ordinary. You know how you have this salt-shaker on the dining table that no-one notices unless they need em? That!

The lawyer.
Sigh. Lesser said the better.

If you can't seem to endure this blogpost, please skip to the bottom and do read the open letter that I've written to her.

The married one.
She is actually the best of the lot. Played her part well. Had better one-liners to deliver compared to others. I wish she had a meatier role. She could've held the story together. But then shes not a Kapoor you know. Or may be I am wrong. The point however remains that her character had hope and they fucked it up.

The good parts? 
There are a few two. No, seriously. There are. Here' a list.

A. There is this character called Bhandari.
He comes in rather late but when he does, he is probably what makes the film tolerable. He may sound crass, down-market, a letch or whatever but he is what he is. He's done a great job - the kinds that would've taken a lot of effort to pull off. I want to see more of him. I actually miss him. He doesn't have a lot of dialogues or scenes but every-time he comes up, you do take notice. He's like that subtle flavour, seasoning in a complex dish that you cant put your finger on. But you know that the dish has the distinctive taste because of that one flavour. You know? The magic sauce? That!

B. I loved the cinematography!
The locations are breathtaking. The movie looks gorgeous. Of course the 4 ladies are pretty and all that but even if I removed them from the shots, the empty frames would look great! Its, as more established critics will say, is

So, the verdict? 
Don't go to a movie hall to see it.

Once its on Netflix, you may want to spend an evening fast-forwarding your way through it.

I'd give Veere Di Wedding a 1 star. 

Also, I must say that I saw the film on a Tuesday night and the hall was almost half-full. Which is a lot considering its been a few days since the film came out. So maybe, there's something there.

And while you are at it, you may want to see this review by this lady.



Oh, if despite the warning, you do decide to watch this, all the best!
Do let me know what you think.
I am @saurabh on twitter.
Thanks for reading!
SG

PS.: As I end this, there are two things that I want to talk about. 

A, 

Please know that as a critic and a reviewer, I do not want to merely diss the creators. My intent of being a critic is not to discourage the ones that do the new. But to learn from them. And when its my turn to create, not repeat the mistakes. I subscribe to Anton Ego says about critics. 

And B. 
As someone who's had a crush on Sonam Kapoor K Ahuja since I was a child (when I first saw her in Pyar Ki Ganga Bahe), may I please write an open letter to her? Here goes...

Dear Sonam,


I really really love your sense of style. Plus I am a big fan of your smile. It is second only to Julia Roberts' . The way you carry and conduct yourself? It is so unique that you're one of your kind. Anyone would want to give their arm and leg to see you smile. I will. 


But... 

But could you PLEASE stop acting? 

I mean take inspiration from your sister - Rhea. She is a producer. And she has chosen to remain that. What if you remain a mere socialite? and actually up the ante at those parties and charities and fashion events? Really! As a marketer, I really think that's a greater opportunity for you. For every crappy film that you do, you reduce the brand value and you takeaway reasons from brands like Loreal et al to pull the plug. There is a limit to which that these brands can support you. No? 

Oh, btw, even if you decide to continue working in films as an actor, of course as someone who loves you, I will continue to support you. All the best! 

Love,

Saurabh

Bhavesh Joshi - Film Review

So yesterday, I saw Bhavesh Joshi. And this is the review.

I first heard about the movie was when I saw the trailer at one of the other movies that I saw a few weeks ago. Yeah, am watching a lot more movies. 

Anyhow. So I saw the trailer and I knew I had to go see Bhavesh. And then I forgot about it. Till I met a friend who writes films (one feature under his belt, second underway) and he told me how Phantom is struggling with Bhavesh Joshi and its been stuck for 4 years and so on and so forth. No, I don't know any more gossip and all that but they were struggling for sure. 

So when yesterday a friend and I were deciding to go see VDW, somehow we realized that Bhavesh is also releasing the same day. And I tricked her into booking Bhavesh. Yay!

Yay for having avoided VSW VDW (the movie is apparently so bad that I even got the name wrong) which going by this review is a super decision (the review has since been deleted - I suspect the SM team from the VDW reached out to the lady ;P). But a big yay and a #selfPatOnBack.

But then, the yay was short-lived.

It lasted till the interval during Bhavesh - that's when the movie starts going downhill. Like Joker says, everyone is on the edge and all they need is a push. Bhavesh was teetering on the edge and dint even need the push. It just needed a whiff of air. And there was a fucking hailstorm blowing in Bhavesh's face. A hailstorm made of poor story, lacklustre plot, ordinary acting and other pieces of mediocrity that you don't typically expect from Phantom. I guess everyone has their ups and downs!

What the F! Its an Anurag Kashyap Vikramaditya Motwane film for fuck sake! 

Wait. Stay with me. I'll come back to it.

For the time being, here's a one-line summary of the film, or the logline, as they call it in the industry. Bhavesh Joshi is a common-man turned vigilante that takes on the might of the politician-businessmen nexus hellbent on fucking with the city to make money.

I were a film producer and this logline was narrated to me, the first reaction would have been, "what a awe-fuckin-some idea!". And then I would be shrouded in a heady mix of fear, awe and excitement.

Fear - has something like this ever been attempted in India?
No, not Krissh. It's lame at another level that doesn't even merit another word on this blog. Or on the whole of Internet. Not even in the history books that are often written at the behest of celebrities. Wait Mr. Garg. This is not about Krissh.

Can I make a film that is so simple and yet so complex? Am I evolved enough to handle? I would be afraid. Really.

Awe - what all can I do with it?
To the film maker in me, the logline makes me gasp at the tremendous opportunities that I can explore with the plot. I'd be awed by the shades of characters that I can create. It inspires awe by allowing me to explore dark themes that most other movies don't allow me to.

Excitement - can I bring it alive?
Fear and bravado often gives way to daring. And that is where excitement is. Remember that excitement that Red talks about? In case you've lived under a rock, he says, "I find I’m so excited, I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I think it the excitement only a free man can feel, a free man at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain."

I feel a similar excitement when I think about this logline, this plot! Can't you feel it? The fear, the awe, the excitement?

Oh, and once these emotions have gone past me, I would let go of the opportunity to make this film. Really. Why? Because I wont have the balls to produce it!

No really. I wont. Its a very risky idea. Unless I have a lot of money that I can throw around, lose and not lose my sleep over it. Its not even a venture where I see a potential of a 10x return!

But if all producers were like me, no ambitious projects will ever get made! I love people like Phantom for exactly the same reason. Truth be told, the only reason I saw this was because only a Phantom could've dared to make a movie like this. Or may be Drishyam. These are the only two sets of people that try new things. Or like Apple said in one of their ads, "push the human race forward!"

Where I said no, they decided to back this up. They found the money. And the balls. And they jumped in.

And I thank them for that. For unless I had seen what Bhavesh is, I wouldn't know what Bhavesh could be. As a writer, there are a million lessons in what not to do while working on a film (more on this later).

So, after all that ado for nothing, the movie, in one word is disappointing!

There is so so so (repetition on purpose) much potential in the movie that it could've been a legit competition to the likes of Batman. Just that it fails to go anywhere. Lemme make a list.

A. For starters, the movies lacks a credible and powerful villain.
Thing with Superheroes is that while they are awesome and do great things and all that, they need a villain (or an anti-hero) to be able to showcase their might, their strength and even their vulnerability.

I mean can you imagine a Batman without a Joker? Or a Sherlock for that matter without a Moriarty? There is no one that makes Bhavesh Joshi what he eventually becomes. Agree that he fights against a system, a set of people and all that. But is he up against a league A villain? No!

There is no challenge. There is just systematic pressure. There is no personality, no individual, no anti-hero that makes Bhavesh get out from the bed. I mean why does Bhavesh exist? He wants to do good. Ok. Who doesn't? Ramu Kaka, the security guard from my building wants to do good and is willing to risk whatever when he feels that he's been wronged!

B.Characters are not memorable.
There are times that you feel for the characters and their respective losses but the characters are not memorable at all. I saw the movie last night and even though its not been 24 hours since, I cant seem to remember one great thing that any of the characters said. Or did. Or stood for.

Ok I agree that Bhavesh stood for something but then is that what I want to take away from a Superhero movie? No way man! Remember my Ramu Kaka? Bhavesh. That!

C. Too long.
The movie has at least 3 long scenes that do not add one bit to the story. I mean they were shot in typical Tarantino-meets-Slumdog cinematic style and had one or two fine moments. But...

But did they add to the story? No.
But did they establish Bhavesh? No.
But did they help make the villain more villainous? No.
No.
No and no.
And more no.

Why did they put those shots? To make it dark? To give me that adrenaline rush? To ensure that the movie is 2 and half hours long? Come on!

D. The post-interval snafu.
The movie was a great watch till the time interval happened.

From the very beginning, the story progresses at a snail's pace but since they were still building the narrative, it was ok. I could understand. But once the conflict had reached the high point and I was hoping for a masterful resolution, the nudge from that edge, those winds start blowing. The movie, like I said already, goes downhill. So downhill that I am beginning to question the genius of Anurag Kashyap Motwane.

That's about it from me.

Oh, the music by Amit Trivedi - Amitabh Bhattacharya duo is great as always. The background score could've been far better. The acting is ok - like I said, no character stands out. There aren't any moments that you retain after you've watched the movie. You don't even feel sorry for their loss. And neither do you feel any elation for their victory.

Bhavesh Joshi may be a Superhero that we need (in the Indian cinema) but we definitely deserve someone better than Bhavesh. Oh, I'd like to create one. Anyone wants to collaborate? I am @saurabh on twitter.

To end this longish review, I'd give Bhavesh Joshi 2 stars out of 5.

But please do see the film. Its brave. Its an interesting story that you often don't get to see coming out of India. And the movie makes me hopeful that cinema in India will continue to do well. Oh, and Thank You Anurag, Vikramaditya and others for Bhavesh Joshi. I will want to see more from you. And hopefully, soon.

On more thing. Of course I remain a mere critic and like I do in most reviews that I do, lemme quote Anton here. He says, "In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little, yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face is that, in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so. But there are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the new. The world is often unkind to new talent, new creations. The new needs friends..."

Over and out.
Saurabh Garg
2 Jun 2018

PS: If I were to work on the plot, I would make following changes to the script.

1. Add more shades of dark to the villains. 
I'd actually create an anti-hero that the audience roots for. Something that divides the audience on their opinion. You know Joker? Whatever he says, speaks or does is rational and logical. Remember Thanos from the recent Avengers? You actually want the villain to win. You fight with your friends and you are not sure what is good and what is bad. You want to get aligned to their "cause." Bhavesh needs a cause. A thing that an aam-aadmi wants to get attached to.

2. I wont Indianise the script or the plot. 
I will not put a love angle when its not required. There is that mandatory girlfriend. Why? Why do we need her? Why does Bhavesh need her? 

3. I will make the script credible. 
You are telling me that the person could sit in the airport and hack the immigration system? You tell me that you could be on a run for a few weeks and you could still eat a vada-pao without looking over your shoulders? You don't leave fingerprints all over the world and while the the cop knows when to call the immigration system, he doesn't know when to summon the forensics experts? 

Oh and the alternate ending? I have it written. Just that I don't want to publish is here and spoil the film. Write to me (@saurabh on twitter) and I will mail you back. 

P.P.S.: I made this mindmap while I was writing the review. In case you want to see, its available for free for you to download. You'd need www.xmind.net (free) to see / edit it. Do tell me if you find this useful. 

The Method in Madness

This post talks about how I work, what prompts my (business) decisions, what drives me and like the title says, the method behind the madness.

Three things prompted me to write this post. 

a. When I announced Open Office Hours, Sanjay advised me to make a list of all things that I do. And on top of those, make a list of things that I complete. And it wasn't a great feeling to get sucker-punched in the gut. 

Of course, his input was valid. For, I am someone who is good with starting things but I suck at finishing. 

b. I bumped into a very old friend yesterday few days ago. She introduced me to her fiancĂ© and said, Here's Saurabh. He's an amazing guy but he is flaky. A sucker-punch second time around. And a jab. 

Again, very valid. I suck at keeping in touch. I am driven by my comfort and my whims. I often don't honor my commitments (disclaimer - personal commitments. I've met ALL work commitments, baring a handful. Its my reputation that has taken me this far (more about reputation as we go along)).

c. At work, two separate sets of incidents made me aware that I fail to inspire confidence in my people. Sucker-punch, left-jab and upper-cut. One short of KO. 

Really. I mean I could not sleep well the night I realised that people don't have faith in me. I've always thought that I am the kinds that will be in your corner if you are ever in need. No, I don't want to defend. I want to take an objective look at things. 

Lemme give context and talk about one of the incidents. 

I proposed something really radical and that meant people had to take giant leaps of faith to support the plan and the initiative. To me, its as clear as a clear sky that we have to do that. And good part is that my team agrees that we need to do it. But the team is not willing to take the leap. When I wondered why, I was told that such leaps of faith require the team to have faith in the leader. And a leader that the team knows will stick with them. And they said they don't trust me enough (not just my ability but they don't trust even the intent). 

Thing is, while I may say (to myself) that I don't leave anyone in lurch; but if there are different opinions, I need to re-look at my leadership style. I do agree that I get bored easily and I move on fast. Like they fall like sack of potatoes after a KO? And I know that I am like that child in the candy store that wants every damn thing. Of course my attention span is shorter than that of a butterfly or even a goldfish or maybe the hummingbird. I move on faster than Ali could dodge hits. Ok, I am digressing. Point is, I agree that I fail to inspire confidence in my team and that is probably because I cant seem to stick with one thing for long. 

There are more examples. But I guess I've made the point. 

Oh, and if I have to reach the 1 million (and subsequently, the 1 billion goal), I need to be able to get people to buy-in. And to get the buy-in, people I work with need to understand the method in my madness. After all humans are rational creatures and if they know why I do the things I do, they probably will see things from my perspective! 

Also, I love to don multiple hats. I love to juggle lot of things at the same time. And this is reflected in my personal life and in professional. While this is not the best way to go about things and research after research and expert after expert has pointed that you need to have extreme focus if you want success. And I don't disagree. In fact I advise people to remain focused and do one thing at a time. Just that I am made in a way that I cant focus. I tried for a bit to get focused but I realised that my output suffers when I do one thing. And, I do my best work (as rated and evaluated by me and me alone) when I do a million things at the same time! 

So I've accepted that I am going to be a scatterbrain all my life. I will be a fickle mind. I will be a Jack of all trades. And rather than being shy about it, I have accepted the way I am and I now try to maximise my output and thus the potential. 

Thing is, we get one life and I want to live it up and do it all (this probably explains my interest in multiple things). I refuse to be a mere bystander. And I obviously refuse to be a part of the rat race. 

*** 

So, in this post (after a mile-long introduction), I wish to talk about how I choose things that I work on. Or like I say, the method in my madness. I write this for my team, my partners, people I want to work with.

Ok. So every project I pick HAS to fall in one of the following buckets.
  • Reputation
  • Growth 
  • Network
  • Money
A good idea is something that falls in any of the above buckets. For example, xtyres would've helped me make money. Or for that matter, my personal blog helps me get better (as a writer at least). 

A great idea is something that is at the intersection of two buckets. Say speakers network. It would've made me money and it would've created a network of connections for me. 

And an awesome idea is that checks more than 3 boxes. For example, Open Office Hours. Apart from making money, it would do everything else. I get access to interesting people, I learn new things and I create a network! 

#note2self: May be work on only those ideas that check 2 3 or more? 

Each idea that I work on (on have tried to work on in the past), you WILL be able to trace back its origins to one of these buckets. 

I know that one big red flag is that there is no one theme or discipline to this (theme as in teaching, AI, tech, fashion, entertainment, marketing etc.). And probably that is where the problem is. More on this in a bit. 

Oh, these buckets are as of today. In the past I had few more buckets. Such as: 
  • Things that I enjoy
  • Things that give me that rush

And these buckets remain in flux. Like they say, change is the only constant. I tweak these buckets often.

For example, once I realised that rather than chasing rush, I ought to look at things from a longterm lens, I dropped the rush piece. So, I refuse to work on a project that could, say, kill me in exchange of that split-second excitement. No more fast cars for me ;P

Second example, I know that once I reach my billion, I will remove the money bucket. Because money will stop being important at that point. I will probably add the Impact bucket because I would have what it takes to create impact.

In fact, I am really tempted to add a Community bucket as the fifth variable. But I am on the fence. May be I will in a few months.

#sideNote. I am reading about OKRs from Doerr's book and I really think its a powerful goal setting and tracking system. I will revisit this post once I've created my OKRs.

There is more. But for the time being, there are these 4 things. Lemme elaborate each.


A. Reputation. 
So reputation is easy to speak about. It's the sum total of beliefs, opinions, understanding, hearsay, reviews, references etc in other people's heads, about you! 

For example, what is the first word that comes to your head when you think of me? 
Flaky, in that friend's case. 
Reliable, for Vanita. 
Contrarian, for Vivek. 
Loser, for sgMS. 
Dreamer, for rr. 
Romantic, for self. 

So my reputation is different for different people. And that to be honest is a challenge.

A great reputation is when what others think of you is largely consistent. Is in the same zone. 

In an ideal scenario, when I walk in a room, the person on the other side of the table must know that I am Saurabh and I am someone that will do what he's promised and will makes things happen. That! That is the reputation that I wish to create for myself. Someone that enables and makes things happen. And enabler of what? Ideas, dreams, things, projects, dreams, lives. Get the drift?

So, if a project nudges my reputation in the direction, I am on board.

Stay with me.

Lemme add one more dimension to reputation.
I think reputation allows you to open doors that are otherwise closed to you. Example? If a big foreign brand wants to come to India, between a Tata and a Dhoot, who would they pick? That!

If you are stuck in a different country and you see a brand from India that you know is reputed, will you consume that? Or will you consume an unknown?

And of course its a double-edged sword. A bad reputation is a larger liability than a good reputation is an asset.

Reputations as they say takes 5 decades to make and 5 seconds to break. Each project I take up, each thing I do, HAS to be a step in the 5-decade long journey. I am no Tata but I need to work hard to be there!

Third dimension to reputation.
It has another general meaning. That of someone who is trustworthy, reliable, honest, authentic, genuine etc. And while I care about these traits in general, I don't give two hoots to these when I create projects.

And why not?

Most of us have this internal bullshit meter that tells us if what we hear is worth our time. Or do we must ignore it. When I meet people, if they think I am full of shit, I will never make any inroads with them. That's the reputation that they have of me. I cant change it. And in the world full of a million opinions and a billion thoughts, why bother? Better invest time in moving on and onward. Unless...

Unless they are the people you work with, want to work with. With those people you ought to work hard, cultivate it and take it from there.

So, it is important to be cognisant of reputation. I've sucked at this but I am improving. The journey of the 5 decades starts today. I will protect my reputation as if its the Princess Peach.

To summarise, if a project moves forward my reputation as a doer and an enabler, I am onboard. 

Oh, and no, do NOT confuse reputation with fame. Fame to me is one of those things that drag you down. Really. More on this someday. 


B. Growth.
I love nothing more than the ability to learn new things and grow. If there is one thing that I can pick up in life, as a common thread that has served me well, I'd pick growth.

In fact most things that I've started are driven by this one tenet. Here is a small list of projects that I am on. 

This blog? Helps me write better. 
Office hours? Makes me aware of interesting things and people.
Podium. Teach me more about events business. 
OnWriting. Make me a better writer. 

I can give more examples. But I guess you get the drift. Learning new things is the secret sauce.

So, what is growth for me?
Growth is when I learn new things, practise a skill, make myself better, pick brains, explore etc. Anything that helps me evolve, that keeps me engaged, that helps me push my limits, my boundaries, my brains. 

Why is this important to me?
Because I am not naturally talented (or as they say, gifted) in anything! I mean I am no singer, dancer, actor, speaker, writer, painter. Neither am I blessed with looks that allows me to get by life easily. And I don't have a rich or famous lineage. And all these factors mean that if I have to have a good life (and give back and make the world a better place and make a dent etc), I need to work hard. And smart. 

Put hard and smart together and you automatically become someone that is like an information (or knowledge, if you will) sponge. You work hard to learn things. You use smartness to figure out the bits to persist with and what bits to let go. And you find your way around life. 

I can give examples. 

a, I am not a naturally gifted writer. But I think with constant practise (been writing this blog for 14 years now), I have been able to reach a point where what I write can open doors.

And I know doors open! I have made umpteen friends thanks to this blog. The book happened because of the blog and the book is like a visiting card for me. 

b, My bills are paid by C4E. And no, I don't have any formal education in the events business. It just that I learnt things while I was at Gravity. I mean when I joined them way back in 2010, I could either choose to remain in the limbo, do my job and get back home. Or I could learn everything about the business. I did the latter and along with a host of other factors, the hunger to learn has helped me create a business that pays my bills! 

Staying with C4E, my biggest challenge is to grow the business. I don't know how to do it. And I will learn what it takes to crack new business. May be in 5 years, I will look back at 2018 and I'd say that because I learnt how to create new business opportunities back in 2018, I could do all I've wanted to! 

Thing is, if I stop learning or stop growing, I'd better die and not waste resources. Life may be meaningless (a friend recently compared life with Sisyphus climb up the hill) but I think the meaning lies in being in the present and helping others.

Bottomline. If a project promises to make me better, I am on board. Tell me of the new things that I will learn. Tell me of the doors that the thing would open! 

PS: You may argue that you learn more and more about one thing only and grow so much in that one discipline that you are THE expert for that (thanks @oddtazz for the idea). Its such a great idea! Just that its not for me. Remember I said that I am the Jack of all trades? I don't want to be the master.

Of course it has served well to others. Prof. Bakshi is an example. He put consistent time and effort on mastering the art of value investing and today, he is a worldwide authority. Something that has allowed him to create immense wealth. And impact. And he continues to inspires others (near and far). That's an amazing life to have. But...

But, its not for me.

Hello, Jack!

To summarise, if by doing a project I get to grow, learn more, #bebetter, I am in! 


C. Network
Network has few definitions.

One.
Network means knowing people well enough that they are willing to back you up, stand by you, become your advocates. This ensures that doors open for you, opportunities present themselves to you, your reputation grows, you make money, you get closer to impact etc.

Example? If Rahul Yadav wants to start a new company, he can find a million investors to back him up. And he can get together a team that he wants!

Two.
Network also means reducing the degrees of separation from 6. To, say, 3. Why would you want to do this? So that you can act with speed. After all closer you are to the decision maker, better it is for you! Rather than wasting time on needless formalities and bureaucracy, you focus on getting things done.

Example. If I want to make movies, the ability to find a way to reach an Amitabh Bachchan goes up by a million if I am renowned author. Balki?

Three.
Network also means meaningful connections with people that may or may not result in direct business. But something that allows you to grow (see B above). Something that allows you to unwind after a hard day!

Example. If I knew the heads of marketing for large consumer companies, I could pick more insights and ideas and that would allow me to find more revenue streams from C4E.

Four.
Network also means the ability to connect dots and make things happen. You have an idea? You need a designer? A marketer? A coder? Lemme put all these together and get things done for you. That. Network. Powerful. Enable. Get things done.

Example. I've been struggling to find an alternate revenue stream for myself. If I could connect with more people and get them to do things for me, I could be faster. And I could actually ship!

Now that the definitions are out of the way, lemme get into the specifics.

So, one of those things that I am sore about in life is my inability to forge deep connections that typically help you get ahead (not just in terms of business but in terms of personal growth). I suck at it so bad that even a banyan tree can beat me in the race. Gary is faster than me! The other day I was lamenting that if I were to die tomorrow, the only two people I would to know about it are my sis and VG.

However, whatever little I have, has came to me because I had people helping me. Without expecting anything in exchange. The standing on shoulders of giants maxim is truer in my case than anyone else's.

Oh and like other things in the Universe, Pareto works here. I can trace back all good things in my life to just about 5 people.

Now imagine that instead of 5 people who care for me, I had about 150 (do read about Dunbar's), my life would probably be infinite times better.

Probably yes! You know? The law of numbers, probability and luck? That!

So, greater, stronger, better the network, better for you!

My favorite example?
One of the clients of one of my previous employers is a family business (worth at least a billion dollars). Their heir is about 19 and lives in London. And goes to school with the Prince of an African Kingdom and an upcoming actor who's already got a few hits under his belt. Imagine the network (and thus influence and reach) in the next 15 years when he's my current age! Add onto the fact that he has a billion-dollar pedestal that he's standing on already!

This also reminds me of one of the projects that I created but couldn't take it to fruition. I called it the Mastermind Group. The idea was to get 10 super smart people in a room and spend time bouncing around ideas. And the 10 people that we choose as part of the group had to have the potential of being one of the most 100 influential people in the world in 20 years! It was a fucking audacious vision. To see it to fruition, we had to be incredibly smart, persistent, lucky and all that.

And you know, I was ok if they threw me out of the group. The intent was to learn as much as I could in whatever time I got to spend with them.

And we failed. In terms of the lifecycle, the project was incomplete. Abandoned. But I did make a few friends and they remain the most trusted advisors till date!

You see an example of how trying to create network allows me to get lucky? Aim for the moon and land in the stars?

Of course I could not choose my parents either (ovarian lottery and all that). And I could not choose my network when I was younger. Heck I did not know that I ought to choose my network! If I knew, I would've done it.

But now, now that I know, I am conscious about what I do. I try and create a network with interesting people. Or with people that I think can be interesting. Bird in hand. And in the bush!

Of course this is constrained by understanding of life and people and all that. You will probably have a different lens and a different method to evaluate things. Point is, there is no denying the importance of the network.

Oh, you know Chris Sacca? He's a product of genius and network. Closer home, I think Zishaan is pure network. You get the drift?

Of course I need to know how to cultivate the network. End of the day everything is a transaction and is selfish (think about it - you help others because you either get something back or it makes you happy or you are merely discharging your duties). So, network is as hard work as anything else is! I suck at it but I am learning. Do share tips and advice :)

Oh, sticking to advice, here's some unsolicited advice. You need to start creating a network. Now. You spent the last 5 minutes reading this. That's 5 minutes where you did not work towards creating your network. It's that important! Why am I writing this? Because I want me team, my partners, my friends, supporters to know what they're getting into when they choose to work with me. And I am writing this for other interesting people that may want to talk to me. And thus, trying to help my network!

So, to summarise, if a project allows me to know more interesting people, I am in. Even if its failed, doomed from the start, I am willing to invest my time, energy and resources to get to know more people. After all, people create magic!



D. Money
Of course.

If I said I am not driven by money, I'd be lying. I know money can't buy happiness but not having money can make you unhappy. Plus money allows you to live in comfort AND work in comfort. And on top of everything, the important bit is that money allows to make bets that can take you closer to your life goals!

And why is money important to me?
In absence of any rational or measurable metric, I believe that the amount of money I make is the direct reflection of the impact I am having with your work.

I mean think of the top 5 people who's made a dent in the world. And then figure out the amount of money they've made. Do you see a relationship? 

Oh, and please don't give me names like Mother Teresa etc. She probably made the ding in her own way but did she did it with just altruism? She needed the money and a lot of people would've supported her. Even the greats like Leonardo and Picasso and all that needed patrons. No?

I don't want to waste more bits and bytes on importance of money. Let's just assume its important.

So, if there are projects where I can make money, I want in. Unlike VCs, I don't look for 10x returns on all my investments. Ideally, some of them have to return 10x, some of course would go bust. But a majority has to just break even. That's it.

#note2self. Is this one of the reasons my projects go bust? Because there is no financial viability to those? Need to think.

*** 

So yeah! This is method in madness. Like I said, this is the broad framework and not the specifics. I know that these do not belong to a theme per se. I know that scatterbrains have infinitely tiny odds of success. But this is it!

Hope you understand me a tad better. You may or may not agree with these but these are the heuristics that work for me and unless I see some very compelling evidence, I am not sure I want to change.

Finally, this could be is a selfish way to look at things. But that's ok. I am not taking anything that is not rightfully mine. I am choosing to live my life in a certain way and I am ok if I miss out on a few things. That is what makes life worth living. No? 

In the end,
At the cost of being repetitive, these are the things that drive me and make me want to do things. You may or may not agree with these. But this is the best I can do to explain my thoughts and deeds. If you are in alignment, lets come together and do some crazy shit. There are mountains to climb, money wealth to be made, and people to be inspired and impacted. And time is short. Lets do this!

Why else are we here?

Footnote
While I wrote what makes me pick things, I want to write about what makes me drop ideas / projects mid way. What makes me "bored" and lose interest.

A long post will happen at some point in time, but right now, here is a bulleted list.
  • I get bored. And when do I get bored? When I start sensing that none of those 4 is happening. Give me constant excitement and I am your slave. 
  • The project reaches a point where I know I've hit the roadblock and unless I get a large external stimulus, it wont move ahead. I know I cant give up like that. I do try to get that shot in the arm. If I need more resources than what I can gather, I leave it to explore new things. I know its unfair (to the idea, more than the people) but such is life. Old has to make way for the new!
  • The project reaches a point where its not a challenge anymore. Like for example, I've always been fascinated by a Rubik's. The day I realised that solving it requires you to merely practise 7 odd movements, I lost interest. And yes, I did learn those 7 steps. 
  • People I work with lose interest. I am the kinds to feed and survive on the energy of others. So the partners that I work with, if they lose interest and are reluctant to play the role that we decided they'd play, I tend to lose it. And since I am too "gentle" and too "human" in how I deal and I avoid "conflict", I let things slack. But lately, I've realized that every time I've been rude, things have moved fast! So I need to think on this. #note2self. 
  • And finally, if during the course of the project, the reasons that I started it for changes, I drop it. For example, the opportunity is no longer around, we are too late to make money or impact etc. etc. 
  • Oh, one more thing. I used to a perfectionist and that made me abandon a lot of things. Now I believe in shipping. Or as MM says, done is better than perfect! So this should get fixed. 

Oh and having said all these things, things that I need to work hard on are
  • People skills 
  • Persistence 
  • Finishing

And finally, here are a few things for you to think on.
  • Whatever you do, does that help you grow as an individual? 
  • What would you epitaph say when you die? 
  • What is the first word that you think people have for you? Is the word consistent? In the same zone?

That's about it. Thank you for the patience. You've just read 4800 words!

If you read this till the end, do let me know what you think and how can I improve. Oh, and the coffee / beer is on me.

PS: Thanks to SG2 for the inputs on this post. She said that maybe this could be positioned as a guideline of the values and systems that defines me and makes me tick. Because if you share values, other things fall in place. So this could be the set of values that I define myself with and if you do too, we can potentially create a long-lasting and effective partnership.

Introducing Open Office Hours with SG

Credits: Canva

So, Open Office Hours with SG essentially means that I will spend my free time (which is increasingly rare these days) working with young artists, entrepreneurs, students and others. On problems that YOU need help with. And if nothing else, listening to things that you may wish to talk about.

In one line, think of a me as a coach. Of course unlike coaches that have no skin in the game, I will put mine on the line.

Here are some details.

What are you doing?
I will spend 1-hour chunks with people who need a bouncing board or an advisor.

I can talk about host of things. An incomplete list include advertising, badly formatted documents, blogging, branding, communication, consumer behaviour, design thinking (not design), entertainment, events, marketing, music, growth (not growth hacking), life, philosophy, purpose, poker, relationships, travel, writing and other things.

I know its a long list. Trust me, there is nothing as cool as being able to see things from multidisciplinary lens.

Who am I? What makes you think that you can dole out advice?I am Saurabh. I run C4 Events (a corporate events agency) and AWSL (a strategy and marketing consulting agency). More about my work is at my LinkedIn.

I have a MBA from MDI, Gurgaon (class of 2006). This means that I have been working for 12 years now. My work has taken me to more than 20 countries and I have worked on some of the biggest brands in the world.

Apart from this, I am an author and a blogger. I enjoy playing poker and pool. And the three things that I will do before Jan 1, 2026 are: Climb the Mt. Everest, create a personal networth of USD 1 bn and impact a billion lives.

Oh and I am on this constant pursuit to be better. Read this post.

What makes me believe that I can give advice?
Nothing. But I want to. You know what they say? The teacher appears when the student is ready. Are you ready?

Why am I doing this?
Few reasons.

a. Working with young people helps me become better. This is thus a selfish endeavour. In fact to become a better marketer, I need to continue to practise my skills. And working on your marketing or growth problems will help me grow. Plus the sheer variety of problems that I will get to work on and the kind of people I will get to see will be an experience in itself.

b. I wish to give back. Thing is, when I was growing up, I was super lucky to have access to a lot of people that helped me without expecting anything in return. This is an attempt to emulate them and help others.

c. Like Steve Jobs said, old must give way to the new, this is my attempt to help the new usher in faster.

How does this work?
Most weekends, I have spare time that I can either spend watching the next season of Narcos or I could sit with young ones that could do with some counsel.

How much does this cost?
Zero.

Serious. This is an experiment. Lets see if I get any takers. There are no hidden costs. Promise.

How do you book my time?
Fill in this form and I will be in touch.

More details?
More about me is at Linkedin or Twitter. The best way to reach out to me is on twitter.

Questions? Thoughts? Inputs? Comments?
I am on twitter at @saurabh.

Thanks!

First published on C4E blog.

QnA with self.

So, on May 07, I went for a walk and I was like on the top of the fucking world. Its been three, four days since I went. Not that I dont want to. I really want to. There is all the intent in the world. What is lacking is the ability. Despite putting multiple alarms and all that, I am unable to wake up on time.

Why not? Is waking up hard? Arent you a morning person? 
Thing is waking up has never been a problem for me - I can get by with very little sleep. May be its the age. That its tougher to wake up after you've had a night out.

And why would you have a night out when you are committed to fitness! 
Because there are things to be done that are often tough to do during the day!

And what are those things? 
Meeting people. I anyway dont meet people that dont add anything to my life. But there are people that I really care for and in case they want to meet, I have to do my bit. And unlike me they don't really have control over their time and thus they can only meet post work.

Plus as I grow the business, I have to meet more people - hoping to learn new things, find contacts, explore things that I am not in the know of etc etc. And when you meet someone for the first time, thanks to our societal conditioning, we dont really "impose" our whims on others. While you are your authentic self, you try to meet at a common ground and establish a rapport. Its a transaction and its tough.

Ok three things. You have control over your time? Whats authenticity? Grow business? 
Control over time as in that most days I can choose what I want to work on that day. Of course there are client meetings and things to do and places to be. In most cases I can choose these. I've built my life like that. And of course I've been terribly lucky! You know I dont have that strict 9 to 5 kind of a schedule (while I impose one on myself - I like the discipline) that most others have.

Grow business. You dint know? I am committed to be a dollar millionaire by end of FY18-19. Also I think this is the first time I am articulating this. Have around 10 months to make it happen. Lets see. Do wish me luck.

And authenticity?  If there is one business jargon I can make myself understand and use more and more, it is authenticity. It essentially is a combination of your personality, consistency and your deeds. For example, if I say that I love criticism and when someone criticises me, I balk, I am NOT being authentic. You get the drift?

Wow. Thats nice. All the best! Coming back. To running. You sound like yet another AFC - lot of talk, no action. Whats the plan? 
Well, the plan is to show up. Try everyday till I succeed. The plan is to do 21 days on the trot. Right now, the longest streak is about 3 days. Need to take it up to 21 And then I think I'll be sorted.

And no, 21 days is NOT habit forming. The real number I think is 66. I mean the jury is out there. I want to take the tough road. 66 it is. 666 for all I care. Right now, I want to do three weeks. And then may be more.

Ok. Good luck with it. Can I ask you for another favor? 
Shoot.

How about writing? You know, since I know you well, you sort of enjoy writing. You like the process. And you know that writing helps you connect with more people and makes an impact and a difference and all that. 
Ok, I know what you are saying. I will try. Thing is, its about prioritising and saying no. I want to get rich. Its that simple. So, anything that helps me make money, I want to do that and anything that stops me from that, I want to skip. I dont think writing allows me to make money.

Doesnt it? Writing opens doors and gives you access to people. And people are what get things done! 
Dont get me started on people. I know I've been lucky but I dont have what it takes to forge deep relationships. Ok I am ranting. Next question.

Fair. And while you are chasing money, what about an enriched life? I mean you could have all the money in the world but if you dont have anyone to share it with, what's the point? 
Dude! You dont know me. Remember that unlike the creative ones that come naturally talented, I am the odd one out. I do NOT have a single skill that can be monetised. And neither do I have access to anyone that help me monetise their talent (and allow me to make money in the process).

So, this means that I need to work hard, hustle and do more than anyone else.

I can choose an enriched life. Or I can choose a life of riches. No points for guessing the one I am picking.

Uh ok. If you insist.
No man. I mean it. The world we live in, there is no meaning if you dont have a life of abundance. Of course poor people are happy and they are content with a life of constraints. I just have one question for them. Whatever they are doing, will they not do it better, faster, easier and all that if they had more money?

Money does not buy you happiness but it enables you to do things that give you happiness.

A simple case in point is my control over my time. I can control over large part of my time and I can thus do a lot of things that a lot of my people cant do. Extrapolate this. If I could control every living second, imagine the impact I could have! Imagine the, what is the word you used? Enriched? Imagine how enriched would that life be when you have things in abundance!

Ok. To be honest, I think I've lost you there. And since I am your alter ego, you need to know that I've lost interest. I need to move on. Before I go, can you promise to write everyday? Even if its crap. Can you just publish? PLEASE?
Arey yaar!

Ok I will try. Promise. And I promise that I will go run!

Tomorrow?
Yes!

Thank you! 
Thank you!

The Nidhi Kapoor Story

Did you like this post? May be you want to read my first book - The Nidhi Kapoor Story.

Check it out on Amazon or Flipkart?