The Birthday Blues

So, the most depressing day is here. A day when you're constantly reminded by everyone - friends, family, neighbours, strangers, brands, businesses trying to sell to you, hoardings, pop ups, enemies, ex-girlfriends, future girlfriends, Tinder dates and what not - that you are an year older and have one less year left. To make that impact. To reach that goal. To give happiness away. Hell, to be happy. 

I know conventional wisdom says that I ought to be happy and get sloshed and throw parties and all that. I think the entire world has to be happy on my birthday. After all I am The One. Well, everyone is The One. But in my mind, my heart, I am.

Point being, the day is of course special. People look forward to it. People plan for it. Event managers like me actually make houses and what not, thanks to elaborate celebrations that people plan and the obscene amount of money they spend on the day.

Am sure at some point in time it was special for me as well. At least in 2004 (April 24, 2004) when I signed up for a google email address and a blog titled, well, septemberthe22nd. I don't know when the switch flipped and I became an escapist. Yeah that's the word. Escapist. I am sure I would be escaping something when I switched off my phone for the first time on my birthday. And since I've been pretty jobless almost all my life I would have easily escaped to a cave or something. And I would've liked the not speaking to people bit (afterall I get embarrassed about things and I dont know how to show gratitude or say thank you). And like a drug, I got hooked onto it. And it has sort of worked fine for me. And like any other creature of habit, I now do it every year. And I plan to do it for rest of my life.

Thing is, I've never understood all the festivity surrounding a birthday. Every day is a new day and you are sort of born everyday when you get up in the morning. Or in the afternoon, depends on how things are at your end. I am ok celebrating a new year - on Dec 31. Or on Diwali, as I've been taught as I was growing up. I am all for making yearly plans and resolutions about things you ought to do the next year. I actually take those pretty seriously - not that they work out often. But on the day you were born? I dont know if its worth all the hoopla around it.

You may argue that you turn over a year and you are older. And thus wiser and thus must celebrate. But you don't add a year to your life at the flip of a button on your birthday. It's a slow gradual process and you don't even realise when the eyes begin to sag, the hairlines start to recede (lol) and that stoop in your walk becomes prominent. If it were a flip, it would be worth celebrating. But its not and no there is no celebration. Nah, every day is not a celebration. There are ups and downs. Highs and lows. Smiles and tears. And so on and so forth.

However, there is that silver lining as well. sgMS texts you. By herself. So what if the conversation is awkward and you exchange all of 4 texts? And 2 of those texts are emoticons and one is a "thank you" from your side? How many times does she message you by herself in a year? Once! And that by itself makes the ordeal worth the effort.

So what about plans for the 35th year of my life? The same - that has been around since I was 16. Get rich (Richest man in the world). Buy a cars (cars actually, latest obsession is GLS). Buy a house (houses around the world). Make some impact (enable people, eradicate poverty etc). Get fitter (30", Everest). Fall in love. Learn new things. Work hard. Try and get sleep. Repeat till I die.

That's it for the time being. And here is a thing before I leave you. Thank you Swanand for this.

Oh, and, one more thing. Thank you everyone for calling me, messaging me etc. I did not know that so many people care for me. Humbled. Really am. The best thing to have happened today yesterday? A peck on the cheek from MG as she cut my birthday cake :)

Work and all that

C asked, "Hi hoomans who are happy with their profession/career path, did you always know what you wanted to do? How did you get here?"

I responded, "not happy but not sad either. no i did not. got here by LOT of luck, some hustle, some grind and LOT of help."

She asked me to elaborate. I thought 140 chars is too less. And thus, here is a longish explanation.

So, am I happy with my profession / career path? 
Sort of. I am very happy at the place I am at. I run two small businesses. One I know will become big - I have someone partnering me on it and giving me direction. The other, I am not sure. There's just me and a few friends that help as and when they get time. None of them is a well-oiled cash-churning machinery - I need to constantly work on them, think on them, invest time and resources and money and all that to be able to make ends meet. But then, I work for myself. And that makes me happy.

Can I make more money if I worked in a job? Of course.
Can I be happier? Of course.
Can I do better? Of course.
Could I've had a better career path? Of course.
Do I have regrets about what I do? No way!
Will I achieve my #lifeGoals? I believe I would. I am actually on my way!

Next, did I always know that I'd end up here? And how did I get here? 
Let me club the two questions.

No I did not.

How requires the long answer. So, I did computer science before I did my MBA (from MDI, Gurgaon). And my first job post MBA was with GE Money where I was supposed to sell credit cards. I did it for three months (after a 11-month "training") and I quit. In fact I knew in the first month itself that I had to quit. And I did. Back then, I was still fresh out of b-school and I still believed that I could change the world. I was still hopeful. I was dreamy. And I knew I loved advertisements. And thus I decided that I had to join an advertising agency. With no portfolio to speak of (I did not even know what a portfolio meant), I approached a recruiter and asked her to find me openings. [grind]. She told me that I could be a brand planner at best and none of the bigger agencies would hire me and I would have to take a pay cut. So I interviewed with two "startups", both accepted me and the person who offered me more money, I joined him. And it was the best damn move of my life. [luck].

For the next two years I worked with Raj at CLA. I saw Vikram and Raj build up a team and a body of work that was / is enviable. I learnt the business, met some amazing folks (some are friends till date) and most importantly, realised that I wasn't good enough. So, a time came when I had to move on. Plus Raj had shown me that my world is not limited to my batchmates and peers and all that.

Quit CLA to start something with a friend. I did not work out. Joined an events agency (not that I knew what events management was - I trusted the guy (Suvi at Gravity) and took a leap of faith. [luck]. It was the second best move ever. Next three years I worked really hard [grind], travelled the world, learnt how "real" businesses are managed and grew a lot as a person. I also realised that I am an adrenaline junkie. Well, not a junkie per se but I love on-the-spur decision. I love live entertainment. I love action. I love travel. I love to make people happy. And most importantly, I learnt that I am cut out for the business of events.

Quit Gravity to startup yet again. This time with another set of friends. Each day at 5times5 was a battle. We tried a lot of things, most failed and yet we kept at it. [grind] It was the toughest thing that I've ever done in my life. Could've done more. Could've hustled more. But I could not. I still believe I could've done it better. Anyhow, while we sustained business for almost 18 months (purely because of the hardwork that my partners put in, we never broke even, leave alone getting profitable), it got reaffirmed in my head that I need freedom and independence in how I work. We eventually shut the business, moved on and I was lucky to find a job fairly fast. With a social media agency. [luck]. This time, the guys who hired me took a leap of faith, by hiring someone like me who was new to this whole social media thing. But I think I did ok. But it got stifling pretty fast and I wasnt good enough for them to bend the rules for me. And I had learnt the importance of time by then. So, quit them in about 6 months.

Started freelancing - thanks to (Sanjay at SWL), they offered me the first gig. And from there on, I hustled really hard. I told everyone I knew that I am in the market and I can work on brand planning, social media and / or events. People couldn't fathom how could one guy do all three (and they still dont get it). I was ridiculed (I still get ridiculed). I kept at it. [hustle]. I got a few projects that helped me pay my bills and survive in Mumbai. Oh, I was lucky that I did not have to send money back home. [luck].

And then, one fine day, I struck gold. A guy I worked for knew a guy who knew another guy who was looking for a brand planner for a project in Nigeria. [luck]. I knew nothing about Nigeria and the guy who was hiring me knew nothing about me. He offered for some reason and I needed the money, so I took the gig. Did pretty well with that project (I think) and starting getting more work from the guy. With each piece of work, we got comfortable with each other and started working on more things. Think of a positive feedback loop. So much so that today Rajesh (at Viscomm) and I have partnered to setup an events management business, C4E. And I spend bulk of my time working with him at Viscomm and C4E. And this is where I am.

And now that I am at it, lemme answer a few more questions that C did not ask.

Will I do this for rest of my life?
I dont know. I have never planned my life and I dont think I can plan. I take things as they come and then react. All I know is that each year, I need to build on what I did in the year before.

What is next?
Again, I dont know. One things for sure. For the next few years, I am going to build C4E and grow AWSL. I have a clear idea about how I want C4E to evolve (an entertainment conglomerate). And a vague idea about what I want AWSL to be (enabler for other businesses). Will explain what I mean by this and intend these to be, in subsequent posts. For the time being, I think I am enjoying where I am. Wish me luck!

Oh, one more thing. Apart from "work", there are a few things that excite me and I want to explore further. I dont know how and when and where and why etc. but I will. These are:
  • Writing. I did write a book in 2014. And I am working (albeit very slowly) on the next. And I will probably write a few more before I die. So, writing is on the cards. 
  • Music. I want to play guitar. And I will learn it someday. 
  • Fitness. I really want to get fit. So I will probably spend a lot of time in the coming years on my fitness. I have made a promise to myself that I will scale Mt. Everest before 2025. So that. 
  • Compete. I want to compete in some sport at the international level. At 34, I am too old to be an athlete. So, I will probably pick up a sport like Pool, Snooker or Poker. So may be that. 
  • Teach. I dont know if I am wise enough to teach. But I have been in front of students and I love the feeling. I love being the enabler and I want to give teaching a sincere shot. 
That's it I guess. Thank you C for helping me think on this. While I was writing this, I realised that I've been extremely lucky in life. I may not have a house and I may not earn as much as my peers do, but I have a lot to be thankful for. I just hope things work out and I do make the ding. And I do become the richest man in the world! After all somethings never change - even if its been 10 years since you passed out of MDI. You are a change master and you can and you will change the world! No?

P.S.: And, if you have time, you must read the story of Prof. Bakshi.

P.P.S.: Another epiphany. All these people that I have met, all the things that I have done, is because I went out and made tons of loose connections. Last few months I have stopped doing that. I need to re-start. 

Untitled 1 - Sep 2016

So since I started working on C4E, I sort of "inherited" an office space. And now that I have a space, the middle-class Indian in me is making me maximise my time at office. Couple that with my hatred for traffic in Mumbai and the shitty house I live in, you have me spending 15 hours in office. Of course I am not working all of those 15 hours but I am busy on something or other.

I honestly dont mind long hours, if only we have a snooze room or something where I could take occasional naps. And a gym kind of thing with a shower that allowed me to pretend and do something to lose weight.

On lose weight piece, I stumbled onto this piece about this guy who wanted to climb to the top of the Everest with a Google Street View camera and record a panoramic view from the top of the world. No he could not, he died in an earthquake. Hats off to him and his balls. Really. I mean how many have such an audacious plan and the balls to actually chase the dream, while working at a hyper-competitive setup?

The other bit from the story is that providence seems to be sending me signs. Of two things - my promise to myself to climb the Everest before 2025 and the limited time that we have. Oh, on the shortness of life and all that, I re-read the account of Prof. Bakshi's life yet again. Read it. Must read. In BOLD. He also posted this note on the BFBV group. The thing that jumps at me is that a man ought to get financially independent as soon as he can. I am 34 years too late for that. But then I cant cry about it. Can I? What I could do is reach there fast. May be in the next 2-3 years? But wait. What's the number that I am chasing? At the way I live my life right now, I spend about a lakh a month and I dont have a car or a house. Should I want those, I need to shell out 5 crores upfront and say another 5 on maintenance over lifetime. Assuming my lifestyle remains same and I live till I am 50 (another15 years), I am looking at another 3 crores (adjusted for inflation). So, am looking at a 13 crore kind of corpus. In 3 years. 5 crores of net income each year. Or 10ish crores of topline each year. Wow! Thats a lot of money. And such a depressing thought.

Thing is, I shouldve more prudent like my batchmates from MDI. Almost all bought the house within five years after MBA and now they are almost EMI free. Wait. Lemme not compare. It will suck whichever way I look. The point of this post was to talk about how I am in office and I dont want to to back to where I live. There's no one to go back to and worse, the place sucks. Good bit is that I am going to move out soon.

And with that, the pain it takes to move! Sigh! You know of someone who wants to rent out a 2BHK in Mumbai? All I want is a high floor, new construction, gated community and a swimming pool in the complex. Too much to ask for? In Mumbai? May be. May be not.

The Nidhi Kapoor Story

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