Untitled - 16 Aug 2017

Yo! Been some days since I've written here. More than 2 weeks if I am not wrong.

If you care, lifes been ok. There is still no money but theres been some work. And there's been some travel and some meetings and some getting things done. All in all, a mixed bag. The kinds that I think I like. Just that I need to get some more on the money bit.

Coming to an update (I dont even know why I do this -- there's no one reading these. May be I do these for giving my updates to myself? Who knows. Who cares. I love writing. Here it is.)

This time for the first time in life, I probably missed the Independence Day. The cynic in me is fucked in the head because of all that is happening around me (read communal tension, ups and downs in the economy, policies of Modi Ji, general confusion about where the country is headed).

If I were the kinds to get radicalised (if I havent been radicalised already), I'd be a prime candidate! I mean look at my character profile (blame the author in me for this). I have very little education, I am confused, I am an under-achiever, I hold strong opinions, I feel helpless (I dont know what to do to fix things; I dont even understand the problem) and I dont see a way out. You know what I am saying?

P.S.: The way out is to get out of the country. While I have always wanted to live in the Silicon Valley, this is the first time I am actually serious about it. A couple of friends are moving to Canada next year and from what they tell me, its not a bad place to be at!

And no, views are not of my employer. My employer will not endorse these. This is me. Personal. Individual.

The other thing that is happening soon is that I will be 35. At the age of 35, I was supposed to be a dollar billionaire. I am not even a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of that!

I have realised that I am not as cool as I thought I were - the good ones actually do well for themselves, the mediocre ones like me crib. I mean at my age, Zuckerberg is launching his bid to be the president of the United States and here I am crying about money. At my age Steve Jobs had done the cycle of getting fired from Apple, creating Next and becoming the CEO at Apple all over again. At 35... there is a long long list. For the time being, I know that I am poor. And I dont know where I want to be in life.

This piece caught my eye yesterday. See the following video.

The way those 5 people have been thanked for times than God, I want to be thanked as well. The purpose of my life, the reason why I exist, is to enable others to reach the peak of their chosen paths.

I wrote this on LinkedIn. Read if you are interested.

This also beings me to a debate that I had with a classmate from MDI. He said he is not in the race to go down the history. And rather, he wants to live it up here. He wants to experience as many things as he can, while he is here. He wants to enjoy life with his family. He wants to contribute to society and die a content man. Let me call him a Warren Buffett disciple. I on the other hand want to go the Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Elon Musk way. I am not sure if I want to enjoy life per se. Id rather push our collective understanding and enjoy that process, rather than going to national parks or something. While the friend made a very compelling argument in favour of going the WEB, in my head, I am still keen on being the Steve Jobs and Bill Gates and Elon Musk. I want to push the human race forward. Make that dent. Give our species a chance when shit happens. You know what am saying?

I am gonna be taking a break for a week in September. I want to go to a place that is cold, has good Internet connectivity on mobile phones (if in India) or cheap access (if abroad). I want a good writing table and a chair. A place where I can go for long walks. Access to clean water (lots of it) and cleaner restrooms. Budget is NOT a problem.

Where can I go? Recommendations anyone?

Book 2. So I've told myself that if I cant get the first draft of #book2 out by end of September, I will quit on the project. That means the next couple of months would be super hustle - there is a lot of work, C4E needs attention, other ideas needs attention, health needs attention and of course book2 needs attention. Lets see which bit of attention do I give into.

Thats about it. Do write in. Tell me how are things with you. Till I find time to write again, adios.

The Television Conundrum

I live as a "bachelor" in Mumbai.

If you are from Mumbai, you'd get it. If not, its a (often derogatory) term used to define people who are un-married, live without parents in accommodations that are sparsely furnished (no beds, tables - just the bare minimum furniture). Often these bachelors "engage" in wild parties, keep the place unclean and in general, lower the standard of living at the community you live at.

From personal experience, in large part this is true. And in some parts, as far from truth as things could be.

Of course its not unusual to live as a bachelor. Blame it on urban mobility, concentration of jobs in certain pockets etc. What is unusual is that at my age, very few people live like that. Either they get married (India!) or they step up enough in life to start owning assets and make enough money to actually buy designer furniture, state-of-the-art gadgets and other things vain. None of the above two is true for me.

So I've lived like a bachelor for about 10 years now. In cities like Gurgaon, Chennai and Mumbai. And because I've had a fairly limited access to money, I never had the fancy places. And while I have wanted to buy things that could take me out of the perceived bachelorhood, I havent been able to afford those. Plus whatever little I could buy, I did not because my sense of decor is fairly fucked.

And I've always remained light. I mean when I moved last, I had 2 bags of clothes, 1 guitar, 1 writing table and few cartons of books. Unknowingly I was being Steve Jobs ;P

The point is, I did not have any material possessions. And because I was growing old (not up), I saw all these friends, acquaintances around me growing old and up and getting things that I've dreamt of since I was a kid. And of course I am / was jealous and I long /ed for them.

So, when in the last year I made some money I started to splurge on things. I bought a book shelf. I got a shoe stand (to make space for those numerous pairs of shoes that I buy by the dozen and do not wear). And I got a TV!
The next in queue, after a TV is a car and then, a house. And then, world domination! 

The TV Conundrum
If you ask the brand planner in me about three things that transform a house from a bachelor pad to a home, I'd say it would be a double bed with a proper mattress, a clean and functioning kitchen and a television!

The place that I live at came with a double bed and almost functional kitchen. So all I needed was a TV.  And I have wanted one for a long time. I dont know why. May be to tell myself that I am not too far behind from my peers?

Anyhow, since I got the TV, I have rearranged my entire house to make the TV the focal point. I mean I don't even remember how the hall looked like when we did not have a TV. I mean the houses where they don't have a TV, where do the sofas and other seating structures face? Ask Simpsons ;P

The Reason
So, coming to the REAL reason why I started writing this post. I want to analyze the decision. And then may be bookmark this post, remind me often of the foolishness that I epitomize. Yes, I believe that buying the damned TV was a wrong decision.

When I had the money to be able to buy one and I decided that I want one, I knew of a few things. Here is a list, categorized into positives, negatives and neutral.

  • A TV becomes the focal point of the house and the bachelor pad starts looking like a home. I wanted that (as mentioned above). Call it my mid-life crisis. Or call it the rat race. I wanted one. While this looks like a negative, this to me is a positive. 
  • Allows my parents to kill time when they visit me. If they visit me. Thats all they do now that they are retired. Not trying to be derogatory. But thats how it is. And thats ok. Not everyone is on a mission.  

  • Its a good to have thing. Like a checkbox in that long form! 

  • Money. My budget was 50K. No, its not a small amount by any stretch of imagination. For 50K I could've bought a holiday and dont know what all. 
  • Maintenance. I will have to lug it around when I move houses (I still live at a rented accommodation - and its contingent on whims and fancies of the owner of the house). Plus its an electronic product - it will get damaged and will stop working. It will give me unnecessary heartbreak when that happens. 
  • Time sink. With Netflix and others, a TV is such a time sink that its not funny. No wonder its called an Idiot Box. 

Apart from these three, here are few more notes that I dont know where to categorize...  
  • It was not an impulse purchase. For some weird reason I wanted a TV for a long time. I actually looked online. I went to the stores. And I sat on the decision for at least a month. And then finally one fine day I got it. 
  • Since I've got the TV, after the first few days, I have hardly used it. Key reason being, I dont have cable TV. I rely on Netflix and since I have a bad connection at home, I cant spend time on it. Which is a good thing. 
  • A great influencer on the decision was the 15K worth of reward points that I had on one of my credit cards. It made "sense" to buy a 60K TV for 45K. I could see a bargain. I made the classic mistake of looking at potential savings and not at the money I'd have to spend. A great case where points look good to you, but are bad! 
  • Ideally, in life I want to be at a place where I dont have to think too much about money and these decisions. But till the time I reach that point, these incidents are interesting milestones, to help sharpen the decision-making acumen. 

As I was making the list, I automatically realised that the list of cons outweigh pros already. I dont have to think too much about it. The decision was a fucked one. I shouldn't have bought the TV. But just to make a list, the mental models at play were Loss Aversion (did not want the points to expire), Validation aka Social Proof (from society about not being a bachelor), Constant chase of excitement (I bought it when I was probably not doing so well in personal / work life - though I have no way to validate this), FOMO (obviously), Envy. These are the ones I can think of. And I am sure there are more at play. What could those be? 

That's about it. You are welcome to see the Smart TV I bought :). And here's to making wiser decisions. What do you think waise? 

Saturday breakfast / Powai, Mumbai

Sent the following email on my alumni group. Got a lot of people to write into me. And thus, pushing it here as well, hoping to get more participation.

Hi Guys, 
I introduce myself as Saurabh Garg, PGPM class of 2006, MDI Gurgaon. In my day job, I run C4 Events - we are going to be THE finest events agency in the country in the next 5 years. And when I am not working on C4E, I try and chase "worldly wisdom" - the kinds Prof. Bakshi taught us using finance as a tool. Just that I am teaching myself (hello, Internet) and I don't really go deep - I merely scratch the surface. I mean I could go deep but I love knowing a little about a lot of things (the proverbial "Jack"). Feynman actually advised against the kind of learning that I engage in and with all respect to RF, I enjoy being an edge surfer and thus I choose to ignore him.

Coming to the point, one tenet of trying to be wise is to think on a large number (both quality and quantity) of problems, especially the ones where outcome does not affect me directly. Think of a doctor. More patients that the doctor works on, better he becomes. And larger the variety of medical problems he looks at, better he gets as a GP. No, I don't want to be an expert, Like I said, I love being the Jack.

So, I am / was looking for ways to get access to various problems to think on.

And this is where I thought that if I create a forum where anyone could sit across the table from me and tell me what they're perplexed with. And I could jam with them to come up with actionable insights. Now, I am not an expert but I like to believe that I am good at seeing a problem from various vantage points. And the shift in vantage point is often what it takes to crack things!

So, here's the offer. Lets meet on Saturday morning for coffee. Lets jam on things that you've been wanting to get an opinion on. Lets crack em! A typical set of questions could look like...
  1. Want to write a book. Dont know where to or how to start. Lemme tell you how I worked on my book.
  2. Want to expand your professional network? Well, I dont know that one but we can jam!
  3. Launch plan for your startup? Well...
  4. Want to get more done in a day?
  5. Want to chase a new hobby outside of work?
  6. Etc etc.
I dont have a specific tool or a talisman. I am a mere bouncing board, a fly on the wall (while you talk to yourself about the things in your head) or even a coach for that matter!

Think of me as a one-member board where you as a company goto find a solution to a business problem. I am one of the navratnas (nine wisemen) at your majesty's service. I am the Birbal, oh Akbar. I am the Krishna to the Arjuna in you. I am the Robin, the quintessential sidekick that opens the door while you go chase the Joker! Wait! did the Nolan version have Robin in it? Enough of hyperbole...

I mean ask other MDI alums like REDACTED and so many others. They can vouch for advantages of brainstorming with me. Bhai log, please kuch bolo :D.

In terms of output, I don't promise any tangibles but I do promise the discussion will not be a waste of your time. It WILL help you. And if you think that it was a waste and did not help you, I will buy you a book of your choice (upto Rs. 500)!

So, after this long a sales pitch, I am hoping to host the first session on Saturday, July the 29th, at Starbucks, Powai. To make it useful, I will restrict the meetup to 4 people. As always, first come, first serve. Lemme know if you are in. The coffee is on me.

Oh, one more thing. Each session I will try and get someone super wise to these sessions.

P.S.: Apart from the selfish motive of trying to get smart, I have a few questions of my own that I need answers to. More on this when we meet on Saturday:)
So, are you in?

Credits: Thanks to Raunak from Mensa Mumbai for inspiration. 

Untitled - 16 July 2017

So I am at a Starbucks. Here since 720ish. On a Sunday morning. Was looking forward to this time - so that I may focus on things and get things done. I cant seem to get anything done at office. May be I need a closed space to do things?

Digressing. Coming back. 

The point of this post is that I cant seem to focus for some reason. I had a mile long todo list and I am determined to do those. But the brain aint no functioning. Nothing has changed. I managed that 2-3 hour of sleep (blame on my nasal polyp) and I am as fresh as I could be. I took a long cold shower and listened to some great music while I made my way here. And yet once I found a comfortable place to seat, I cant seem to focus! The flow is missing.

I may argue that the todo list would have chores that I want to avoid. I have noticed a pattern with that. I tend to procrastinate on things that I dont want to work on. Things that I think that dont deserve my time, I keep delaying those. Till they become so urgent, so last minute that I swallow the poison and get over with it.

Digressing. Coming back. 

One of the things that I had planned to work on is the next book. I want to work on it. I want it out. I am committed to it. I know the basic plot as well. I have characters mapped clearly in my head. I have a final deadline in my head - if I cant get the book ready by then, I will drop writing altogether - rather focus on other things. And yet for some reason I could not do it. 

Then I tried to while time on twitter and youtube. I could not concentrate on that either. While its binging and there's very low friction to it, I could not. 

Finally I had to resort to this. Blog. Free-writing. Without a context or agenda. Vomit of my thoughts on a public platform. To what end? I dont know. I could rather be working on C4E, AWSl, xT, Book2, onWriting or any of those one thousand ideas that I have floating around! 

If only I could focus :(

Thank you, Anusha

Normally I dont participate in these things but since Anusha asked me, I had to.

1. What would be your name if you kept a name for yourself?
Steve. Partly inspired by Steve Jobs. Partly because Saurabh and Steve start with S :D

The other way to answer this could be to give names to my kids. After all we want our kids to do things that we couldn't. Also, I am not sure if I'd ever "get" my own kids but if I do, I would call em Kabeer, Meera. Why? I love the whole mysticism around them! 

2. Who is your best friend?
The list will be a mile long. But if I have to pick one name, it will be Neo.

3. How will you distinguish need and want?
I dont know how to answer this. May be by saying that things that are wants for most people are need for me. Things like AirCon, expensive laptops, fancy holidays etc etc. 

And then, the want for me would be changing the world, impacting a billion lives, doing things at a global scale. 

No, there is no love, affection that I need or want or crave for. 

Makes sense?

4. What does lust mean to you?
In one word? Chase. 

I lust for things that I crave, things that I dont have. I lust on things that are shiny and I know I cant achieve. To me lust is a such a powerful emotion. It makes me want to do things that I havent dont. It pushes me. Motivates me to do better! 

Of course the classical, biblical definition is "strong sexual desire." And may I expand sexual desire into desire of anything that gives you pleasure? That to me is not negative. If I desire something, I as a free man, a free-willed man must be free to chase the desire. The chase! 

In fact, in my first book, The Nidhi Kapoor Story, I delved on the concept of lust (and other sins) in great detail

5. Which is better to watch: Sunrise or sunset?

After sunrise, there is the known, the monotony, the day. So while I am watching it and the world is coming to life, I know that I am looking at going back to the monotonous life. 

After sunset, there is dark, the unknown, the chase. The exploration. And when I watch a sunset, I know that the world would probably sleep and I would get to explore and get an unfair advantage!

6. If you received a card and flowers from a stranger, what would be your reaction?I'd say thank you, to start with. 

And then I would brag like hell to the world. Cos I think its a very thoughtful gesture. Not a lot of people get flowers / cards etc. Plus I dont think I have any friends or something that would ever send me these mushy things. So yeah, gratitude and showoff. 

P.S.: I'd also try to pay it forward. Send em to someone else :) 

7. Write a small 4 line story.
The toughest of them all. A, brevity is not my strong suit. B, I have to work hard to be able to write. I think in Hindi, translate in English and then write. And most times when I write, I dont have plots or stories. I have characters and what they want!

So, I am going to skip this one. 

8. Do you think love marriages are better than arranged marriages?
None. The concept of marriage is broken. It was a need for humans to settle in pairs, in groups, in communities. While communities are still important, the 1-v-1 bonding and mating has ceased to serve any purpose. 

If I had to pick one, I'd say love.

9. Have you been in dilemma that you have never been able to come out from?
Tons. Of. Times.

10. Who are you?
I'd like to answer this question by sharing a couplet from one of the songs of my favorite singer - Rabbi Shergill. The song's inspired by the writing of Bulleh Shah

Avval aakhir aap nu jaana, Na koi dooja hor pehchaana
Maethon hor na koi siyaana, Bulla! ooh khadda hai kaun

This translates into, 
I am the first, I am the last, None other, have I ever known
I am the wisest of them all, Bulleh! do I stand alone?
Credits for translation and complete lyrics: Rabbism.

Thats about it. Thank you, Anusha! 

Masters of Scale

Few things.

Each month, I send an email to all contacts at C4E. This month I wanted to send out work from award winners at Cannes (here's the newsletter that I finally sent, featured 3). And rather than sending anything at random, I wanted to curate a list of 5 (or 10) pieces that I have loved from all those that are on showcase. While I was going through the list of winners and seeing their work, I realised that the quality of work, the scale at which things happen and where we I stand in comparison.

I was unwell yesterday the day I started to write this and since I dont take medicines, I was uneasy. And I was irritable. To the point that I was alone. And when I was at my wits ends, I succumbed to the temptation and subscribed to Netflix to kill time. 

And once I got it, I put on House of Cards. I started with S3E1 and in there, Doug succumbs to alcohol. Thats not the point (the similarity between Doug and I). The point is that in that episode I realised that work could be so important for people that they'd lay their lives for it. I mean Doug gets a sliver of window to meet the President and even though he cant walk and he breaks his arm while showering, he goes through excruciating pain and makes it to the meeting. People and their work means so much to them. And here I am. Rather than doing things that scale, I am blogging about it.

Then I saw an episode of Elementary. I was reminded of my love for the series because of the way Sherlock and Watson go under the skin of people and decode them. I wish I was as brilliant. I wish I could read things. I wish I could solve individual problems that were unsolvable. What I currently do can be done by anyone in the world. Where is my individuality? What makes me unique? Am I making sense? 

. . .

What defines me? What boils my blood? Why am I alive? What is my raison d'etre? This one I know - to entertain and enable others. But thats not the point. Point is, what am I doing about it? Why am I content with being a paper-pusher? I mean my work is great and I know why I do what I do. But where is scale? Or Impact? How many people have I entertained? Impacted? Enabled?

I feel I am stuck at where most other people are. I have an ok career. Ok life. Ok things. Everything is ok about what I do and where I am. Mediocre. Nothing is great. Nothing is extraordinary. I dont make any difference to anyone's life. Maybe I do, once in a while. But where is the perpetual excitement of having moved a ball?

I think, the other thing is lack of impact at scale. Most of what I do remains at the individual level (when I spend time with some great people with whom I work). Or at a few hundreds at best (when I put together an event and that too for the duration of the event). There is no perpetual change. I dont tilt the Earth. I dont make a ding in the universe. Worse, I dont create. The largest thing that I've ever created is the book. And that too has sold less than 2500 copies. That means I have not entertained even 2500 people! 

And you know what sucks the most? I dont have anything in my hand that allows me to do that even in the future. And I dont know how to go about it. And I dont know who to talk to about this. 

P.S.: So, I agree that House of Cards and Elementary are fictional pieces. I agree that no one starts working at scale from day zero. I know that you have to work towards it. I know there is a time and place and all that. The question is, where is mine? When would I do things that would make me exhausted with happiness? 

P.P.S.: Title inspired by RH's podcast - Masters of Scale. You HAVE to listen to this if you want a better life for yourself.

The Lost Story

Last time I wrote about The Lost Story (book, open letter), I was talking about Suds' book. In case you haven't read it, you must! This time, I will talk about myself. In multiple bullet points. And please be warned that's this is yet another in series of long ranty posts that I've been making in recent past where I try to motivate myself. Guess am reading too much Deepak Chopra! 

So, here is a list of things that I think are broken with me (no, not another rant about my career and underachievement but about other more worldly things). As always, in no order.

A. Age
I am growing old. And that means I am not as lithe, as fast moving, as strong as I was. And is evident in the way I work. Most days these days, at around 4, my battery dies. I have to sleep to recharge. No amount of sugar or caffeine or taurine (or whatever they put in RedBull) seems to give me no wings. And since I leave work at 5ish, I sleep in the rickshaws, neck rested on the sidewall and my mouth open, trying to get in some air. (Uber is way too expensive with upfront pricing). I reach home after battling all the traffic and I just crash. I cant control my senses. I have to sleep. And when I do sleep, I snore like a motorcycle. And most days, I just cant get up till the next morning. So, the productivity, which has been low lately, has hit the rockbottom!

B. Snoring brings me to the next thing. The blockage in my nasal cavities do not allow me to breathe at all. That means I am often left gasping for breath. And that's not cool. I cant talk or eat or just be without making those weird sounds. Like someone is choking me to the death. All the time. 24 x 7. And no, its not funny after a while.

I am ok with all the choking to be honest. But the thing is, I cant sleep properly. And since I anyway sleep very little, I really want my sleep to be peaceful and all that.

Also, since I breathe through my mouth, I am sure I am inadvertently taking in lot of foreign objects in my system that I should not. I have tried all sort of inhalers and ointments and nothing seems to be helping. May be an operation is the only way to go.

Thing is, I like to be active. I love being able to jump and walk and play. Except when its too hot (which is the case 11 months our of 12 in India). The inability to breathe fucks up the ability to do all of that in the one month that I get.

There is so much that this inability to breathe does to me that its the single biggest problem that I have. Apart from general ennui.

C. In the last week, I have lost a pair of sunglasses, 2 pens, 2 mouse devices and I don't know what else. Knowing how I think about people who are careless, its such a shame and personal defeat that I am losing things like that. I am supposed to be brainy and all that and its not cool that I am careless. Of course there is financial loss. There is also this irritant factor. For everything you lose, you need to put in time and effort to get a replacement. And that, is not cool.

Finally there is this thing where this carelessness becomes a pattern. And then the pattern is often tough to break. And the pattern extends to things that you absolutely can not fuck up. Its like the butterfly effect. Small things give rise to huge issues.

Plus I abhor people who are not careful with things, people who are sloppy, people who lose control. I am no Saint Jean Paul V but I am sure about a few things that I don't like. And I can NOT become one of those. At all. And thus!

D. Last few days, there isn't a lot happening on the work front. There is work but there is no action per se. There is no excitement. There is no world changing happening. May be it will happen with time?

But for the time being, work is easy and no I am not liking it. I am used to be being busy all the time. I have so much time on work front that I don't know what to do with all the time. There are a 100 projects that I can take up but again, I am the kinds that works on triggers and feels. And there ain't no trigger, no feel, nothing exciting happening!


So, now that there are issues, there are two things that I can do from here. I can sit on my ass and whine about it. Or I can take control and take some action. Let me do the later!

What would I do about it?

1. Say no to AC. I know its the baarish season and this is THE best time of the year and when its not raining, it would be humid like a bitch. And I will try and live with it.

2. Start stepping out. I often prefer comfort over activity. Today on, I'd make it reverse. Let me choose action over comfort. That means I will do things that I inherently hate (dressing up, humidity, small talk).

3. Do the daily tiny workouts that make me healthy and better. These include (not limited to) steaming the fuck out of my nose, walking for 45 minutes, meditating etc. I will probably get that Neti pot and flush the muck outta my nose.

A lot to do but I have one life and I am yet to make it big. And I have to do these if I am serious about leaving that damned impact. You know this list? I have to be on it! I

4. Start planning life and day better. I am already super serious about how I spend my time. I need to step up the game and become even more strict. If there is no work, I will not go to office. I will not create work to merely showoff. I will do what makes meaning.

5. Fitness will become number 1 priority. If something comes in the way of fitness, I will abstain from that. If I have to brisk 45 minutes each day, I will do so - irrespective of the looming deadlines that I impose on myself.

That's about it. Lets see how it goes. I will probably revisit this post in a couple of months and see where I've reached!

P.S.: Now I put a reminder on my calendar about these posts. Like I've put for this one. The next update on this post shall happen on Aug 25, 2017.

The Turbulence Overreaction

I am at the Mumbai airport, waiting for a flight. I’ve just realized that I have lost yet another pair of sunglasses. Typically, I am not this careless but fact remains that I’ve lost a pair. I need to work on my brain and ensure that the muscle doesn’t atrophy. Need to pick a new hobby or something. May be get back to making a memory palace?

Apart from this, the other thing that’s fresh on my head this super crazy turbulence yesterday. The plane was in free fall for a few nano-seconds and it was scary like a bitch. In all the flights that I have taken, this was probably the scariest of them all (there was one where masks had dropped from the ceiling but I dont recall those). Thing is, I was not really afraid (I knew at the back of my head that this shall pass) but I was worried that all the things that I've wanted to do (primarily #book2, a billion dollars and an attempt at the Everest), what happens to those?

Of course I came out unharmed -- statistically air travel is the safest mode of transportation -- and I can go back to working on things that I've wanted to work on. But the flight was scary to the extent that since the flight, I’ve read a lot of articles about turbulence and air pockets.

Apart from rant about my balls that shrunk like raisins, the flight did make me realize something. That life’s unpredictable. You better live each moment up to the fullest potential. And that means while you plan for the future and all that, you better ensure that each moment that you are alive is worth the opportunity. Ought to stop doing things you don’t want to do.

Which brings me to the existential question. Why do I exist? While I love the concept of doing my own thing, truth be told, I am still a slave to a comfortable salary, thanks to largesse of this dude. If not for him, I would probably be scrambling to make ends meet. And I am amongst the luckiest people to have the unconditional patronage of someone with means. And I ought to make the most of it. And not get lazy or complacent. Like this turbulent flight, each incident reinforces the belief that I need to do more with life. Much more than what I am doing right now.

Come to think of it, if I could change a few things, what would those be?

For starters, I need to get more work out. I ned to ship more. In whatever shape or design or format. Could be a blogpost, a book, a project, a startup, a brand. Something that comes out fast. Something that inspires others. More importantly, something that inspires me! Must create things that inspire me. And what could those be? I have no clue!

I have done this exercise a million times, if not more times. Each time I come back with two answers. A, I don’t know what I want in / from life. B, if I go by signs, what I am doing right now, is what I ought to be doing!

So, all I need to do is, bid my time and wait for the right opportunity to come my way. It’s a matter of time when things fall in place and I will have a life of abundance. Abundant time, money and energy to do all the million things I want to do.

The other way to do this is that I go all-in with whatever little I have. That means I gather all my money (sell all the stock I have, liquidate the tiny FD that I have and take back the money I have invested in C4E) and chase a large dream. I will either end up super rich and would have made an impact and die a satisfied old man. Or I will be a pauper with no money to my name and will die a man who’d have to work hard to make ends meet. In either case, when I die, I hopefully wont have any regrets. 

Thing is, I am 34. Will be 35 in less than a quarter of the year. And at the age of 35, while people like Zuck are working towards becoming the presidents and all that, here I am, talking about my existential dread. Now, I can take solace in the fact that Col Sanders was 143 years old when he started KFC and Sam Walton was 832 years old when he did Walmart. But I know that I have lost the damned rat race. Instead of making a difference to the world, lives of people, I am ranting about things that no one even cares about!

I mean, why go far to Facebook and Zuckerberg and all that. I am at the airport and there is this Spa, O2. Right outside, I see a blind man, dressed up in uniform of O2, talking to himself and being happy for no reason. Compared to him, I am a loser at so many levels. Everyone else is a winner! O2, for giving employment to people with alternate skills. The blind man, for accepting that he’s been dealt a raw hand and being happy about things. The friends around the man who are humoring him. And above all, the fact that despite so many people who need opportunities, fate brought him in touch with O2. Can I not do something similar? Where I help people have lost on the Ovarian Lottery and make some money in the process?

And why is money important? It enables you to buy happiness. Case in point? Last weekend along with 15 other people that I care for (yes 15), I went on this holiday where we stayed at a super expensive hotel and had everything taken care of! All of it was enabled by the fact that we had access to money that we were ok spending. Agreed that people find happiness in small things and can live without going to fancy hotels or clean beaches or serviced rooms or great food. I have been on that side myself. But now that I have little extra cash to be able to afford a better lifestyle, I can safely say that the happiness derived from the ability to buy the best the world has to offer, is unparalleled.

Of course to be able to travel, you often have to take a flight.

Aur, udaan hai to turbulence hai.
Turbulence hai to fategi.
Fategi to yaad aaega, ki life main karna kya hai.
Yaad aaega to kuch karoge.
Lekin kya?

The Reputation Research

Last few days, a few things have happened that has made me re-think my love for visual anonymity. Lemme quickly talk about the incidents.

1. Last Saturday (or was it Sunday?) I accompanied a friend to an open mic night. The idea of open mics is pretty simple. You are an aspiring stand up comic. But because you are aspiring, you cant gather an audience. Along with other standups, you get in a room, invite your friends and use them as Guinea Pigs to practise your jokes. I was one such Guinea pig. Plus, often, places that give you access to a quite room and a mic and AC tend to be expensive. So you get friends to pay and the friends, because they are friends, bear the bad jokes and help you cover the cost!

So, I went with a friend. There were some 30 odd people, about 10 performers. Each person gets 4 minutes to perform a set. And audience gets all the time to react!

Most of the performers were very average. May be they are average performers. Or may be they were trying new material that required practise. Irrespective. It took balls to be able to stand in front of the crowd and deliver a piece that you know is going to bomb!

2. I met Komal the other day. I told her about my dislike for dressing up for the occasion. She said that I ought to think like an actor and each interaction as a role. Like there are different roles, each dictated by a different situation, life encounters are different and they demand a different approach. And each role demands a different piece of content to be delivered. And if you are going to act and make people believe, you better know how to pull various roles off! After all, in life, newer roles come along all the time on an ongoing basis!

In my case, I am an actor and when I work, I ought to play the work role. Which I suck at. All this while I have been playing my personal role at scenes that demand me to play a certain role - work, social, gathering etc. So may be, I need to re-think and change. Or may be I want to be a Steve Jobs where I wear the same thing over and over and over again till that becomes as irreplaceable as my name? Or may be I need to identify certain archetypes, practise them like crazy and then put those archetypes in various roles. Or may be something else. Lets see.

3. I presented my company creds on a stage where I had some 30-40 people in audience. I had a great deck to present and I have used that deck at multiple places in the past and have got great reception. But all those times have been in the boardroom. This time, it was on stage. And it sort of bombed! Not bombed per se. People did recall seeing it. But they were not blown away with what I had presented.

Thing is, I want to be able to create a reality distortion field when I talk to people! Of course I dont have a product like Steve Jobs. Neither did he for that matter. But he had something that I definitely dont have! I need to identify and work on that!

4. Mihir talked me into doing a video podcast. That means I now have a video (43 minutes long) where I am talking about life and philosophy and raison d'etre and other such things. Now, to be able to do justice to the effort that is going in, we need to push it out and market it like a bitch. And that will mean that my notions of closely guarding my pics / video on the very permanent Internet is under heavy questioning.


So, now that I have captured these four things, the real reason for the outburst is hence.

As I get along in life (read, I am supposed to take on larger responsibilities), I am realising more and more that to be able to get things done, I need to have a reputation.

Reputation is a complex "thing" and its often a combination of things like association (with people, things, brands etc), popularity (read personal brand where you are known by people outside of your third degree), experience (in terms of years you've worked, things you've done etc), expert status (in chosen field of expertise), contacts (how many famous / rich / powerful people you know? Who has saved your number? Who will pick your call in less than 4 rings etc), performance (when you go up on stage to perform a stand up act or you are expected to perform in a certain way depending on the societal context or when you are making a presentation or when you are peddling gyaan) etc. You get the drift? You now know where I am coming from?

The funny thing is while all my life I have been aware of this, I have shied away from it. To date I have issues in talking to people where I dont have a context. I cant seem to hold a conversation with a client if there is no work. Compare this to a lot of people who are by default agony aunts for every Tom, Dick and Harry. In fact in my previous organization, there's this lady, lets call her A, who has this knack of befriending everyone in the very first conversation that she holds with them. And from there on, by the time A meets someone for the second time she is thicker with these people than their respective best friends for 100 years! And who do you call if you have to commission a new event? Of course your new best friend!

I am not saying that I ought to be as slimy as A but the point is that your reputation is super important and having great people skills is the starting point! Which I lack.

So may be, the reason I am unsuccessful is because I dont have the social skills to succeed? I cant work on the way I look but I can change the way I dress up and all that. And then top if off with some level of polishing.

Any help anyone?

PS: unless, you are someone who is happy being yet another employee is a large organization, making a great fat paypacket, this post may not be a good idea to read. This is counter-intuitive and is meant for hustlers. Are you one? Lets connect and help each other!

The unconnected unrest - Part 2

Part 1 is here.

Last night, I slept at 730. I woke up at 630 this morning. Thats 11 hours of sleep. No, I am not to sleep for this long. Like Frank, I have often hated the necessity of sleep. And food for that matter.

The thing is, I've always got by with limited amount of sleep. My metabolism is reasonably high and I can function pretty well even when I've slept for 4ish hours. Just that I cant tolerate garmi. Rest is ok. Most people who know me know that I dont sleep much. And when I tell them that there are days when I sleep for 11-12 hours, they get surprised.

And honestly, I surprise myself as well. A, I dont get enough air in my lungs to be able to sleep for that long, thanks to my nasal polyp. And B, I have a million things happening right now (between AWSL, Book 2, C4E, xT etc). So, I know that I could rather work and not sleep. Like I say, sleep is such a waste of time!

I did what I do when I get some ailment. I decided to read on the Internet about the probable reasons. And I found that if you sleep for that long, you are either tired. Or depressed. Take a pick :)

The other non-scientific reason is that I dont have a computer. That means I cant work or entertain myself. For me work = reading, writing, connecting people etc. Entertain = youtube, TED, Big Bang and now that 5th season is out, a date with Claire and Frank. Both happen over the Internet. And Internet means Computer.

Coming back to sleep. I am sleeping a lot and it sucks. And no, I am not enjoying all the freshness that you get after sleeping for that long. Oh, I do remember some of the dreams. One of them featured me left at an unknown place with tight alleys with dogs roaming around. And I change my path because I am scared of dogs. Even in the dream, I am telling myself that I need to confront my fears (I have actually become a motivational speaker). The other dream, I dont recall now but I saw a friend - Nalin taking a chartered flight to somewhere.

. . .

Anyhow. I dont know what to write. The mind is THAT blank in absence of the computer. And here are some unrelated thoughts.

1. Since I moved all my data to cloud (Google Drive, Dropbox, Evernote et al), I had assumed that I can work from any location, on any device. I was so wrong. I need MY laptop, MY settings, MY table to be able to function. I so need to change this in case I want to become time and location independent.

Or may be because I am on a Windows machine and its super inefficient, it is tough to get things done? I worked on a Mac and while I missed my files, once I was logged into Chrome, I got access to all my files (including bookmarks etc).

And no, I suck at using the phone for work. Like really do.

2. For me, work has always been on a computer. I cant fathom what work could get done without a computer. The ball does NOT move unless its marked on a to-do list. And for work, since I have always been on strategy side, most output is measured on Powerpoint presentations and Excel sheets. I dont do any REAL work per se. May be thats why I failed with 5x5. In fact as I gear up for xT, I need to be able to learn how to work without a computer as a lot of work would be on the ground.

3. Why do I write this blog? Its like an echo chamber. Where I talk to myself. I could be doing this in between the pages of a notepad. Or on a secret folder buried deep into a laptop. But I like the idea of making thoughts public. I love the concept of serendipity. Someone could read this and connect with me for something unrelated. Life is anyway a huge punt. Why not keep enough and more doors and windows and crevices and nooks open? Let new things come in and then grab them by the...

Oh, I write this on insistence of Vivek. He is probably the only reader that I have left. But then who cares about the readers - I write foe the sake of writing. Writing helps me clear my head. Writing helps Vivek stay unbored. And those are more than enough reason to continue to write.

Thats it for the day. Catch you tomorrow. Or may be not. If I am forced to work on Windows machine!

The unconnectedness unrest

Something crazy is gonna happen over the next 2-3 days. I wont have access to a computer and this is when I have a million things to work on.

Thing is, my laptop stopped working and with it went all my files, WIP things, settings, tools (software et al) that I rely on. And this means while I will continue to dream about life and things and all that, I will not have a computer to write on. And given the lack of confidence I have on my computing skills on a mobile phone, I cant work (or get any work done) and thus, I am pretty much confined to finding alternative means of killing time.

Lemme try and make a list here.

There is no TV at home so that is ruled out. And even if I get a TV, I will not get a cable connection. I am happy with Youtube and Netflix. 

I see one movie a quarter. I saw one yesterday a few days back. Put 2 and 2 together. Hindi Medium. Except for the second half, it was a good movie. Reminded me of how I lived when I was in Delhi - the way I spoke, the way I behaved, the way of life I love. I sometimes miss being in Delhi. Mumbai to me is like living in a film - everything is well-orchestrated, there is so much glitz and so must filth at the same time that I cant relate to either. Delhi on the other hand is what I am. What has defined me. What has made me what I am. Its just right. Oh wait! I got into this Mumbai vs Delhi rant when I should be talking about the movie. Wait, I am not talking about the movie either. I am talking about the alternatives! 

I have quit reading in favour of media formats like podcasts, longform text and videos. So no books. In fact thats a huge shift considering that books is something that I've always been fascinated by! So there are no books that I can read, except biographies maybe. 

There is a limit to amount of pool I can play on the weekend. I am not really in the prime of health and while pool may not look like much, it does take a toll. One hour of pool is easily tougher on the belly compared to an hour of walk. So, may be pool. I did actually play for about an hour. Not much but I did. And while I was at it, I sucked like crazy. A kid with pimpled face and beefy arms beat me easy. 

No poker as its impossible to get 5 people together in a room and get a game going. I have started playing a home game on an App. Super addictive. But I am back to losing money. I am not sure if I will continue to play.

I would've loved to write with pen and paper but if you know me, you would know of the amazing, gorgeous handwriting that I have. The scribbles are so messy, so bad that even I cant read what I've written. I wish I could show some of my notes. May be they will auction those once I am gone.

And apart from these, I dont think I do anything else. And may be this means that I need to get some new hobbies? No? Yes? Maybe? Any ideas anyone?

So I wrote this post on a borrowed computer at work. And the weekend after that, these are the things I did:

  • Saturday: Met my publisher / friend. Hosted him and a couple of friends over for lunch. Met a senior from MDI and we spoke about work and all that. Went out for dinner.
  • Sunday: Stayed at home, Youtubed and chilled; Met another friend from MDI and spoke about work and all that; Played pool. Shopped (for things that I dint have to). Slept at 8 PM! 

Notes from a Maker Day

Today I stayed at home. I tried to make this a Maker Day (ref here). Here are some observations from the day so far.

1. The world did not come to an end, because I was not at work. In fact, I realized that people at work don’t need me. Work = consultancy gig that pays my bills. This also means that I have more time on my hands than I believe. This means that I can pick a new project. Or finish one of the old ones. This also means that I may not have the gig (they dont need me, why would they pay me?). This means I need to find a new cash flow thing soon.

2. I am not lazy. I still started the day at 7. I was on my computer, planning, plotting, creating things by 730 max. And then I took a break at 11. And then I slept and was back working at 2. And as I write this, its 5. In the last 3 hours I have got a lot of things done. So, I work better when I am by myself. And I think better when I am with people. So, the manager days, when I am in office, I need to divide those into meeting times and non-meeting times.

3. Last few days I’ve been thinking of work. And I realized that I am little less anxious about money. I am fucked in the head because of the lack of impact of what I do. But I am little more sorted. Probably the realization that I am not as great as I thought of myself as and thus I need to settle for whatever I have.

4. The other minor thing is that while I cant seem to work from home, I need to find a better solution than Starbucks. Thing is, it's expensive – Rs. 200 per hour (no, they don’t ask me to buy coffee, I feel guilty about not paying). And B, I need change of location every now and then. So I need the flexibility of coming and going. May be there is some coworking space that is in Powai that I can use? Buy time there personally? Need to think more on this.

5. I need to fill this maker day with some activities that add to my health. May be a run. I know I cant run in the morning. I love that time too much to mix it with running. So need to add an evening run. 

6. Also, there is no pattern to what I work on. So, I may be mistaking being busy with getting things done. I need to evaluate with a critical eye. Today, as I write this, I have done the following tasks. Lemme see if they add to a larger thing. Here is a list...
- Transcribed the podcast with MK - reputation, give back, pay it forward
- Pushed the ball ahead on xT - money
- Various admin things done on a client for AWSL - money
- Wrote this blogpost - writing, reflection
- Initiated a new project with SG - money, pay it forward
- Connected two acquaintances - grow network, pay it forward

So, in all, looks an ok day. I did not work on health or book2. I'd try to see a pattern and then take a call.

7 . I restarted on the daily track. Context here. Made an excel sheet. I know my goals. Everest. And 1 billion dollars. Here is the sheet. You will have access if I want you to have access. As on today, I have 3145 days left. Looks like a lot. But it isnt. I have been here for give or take 12500 days and I have nothing to show for those days. So there's a lot to be done in the 3000 odd that I have. I can not rest. Each minute has to be spent towards something larger than me.

8. I am meeting a classmate from MDI. Trying to help him with his business. Hopefully getting some help back on what I am upto. Met him. Rather than I helping him, he was more help!

9. Looked at my cash flow statement. Two things stare at me. A, I have been spending a lot lately. I need to control it. B, there is outstanding payments on end of all clients. Not a good thing because I am getting into the rut of cash flow cycles. VG gave me a great advice. Either I need to invest money back in the business. Or skim from the top and invest somewhere.

Thats about it for the day. More updates on the next Maker Day. Oh, and tomorrow is a Manager Day. Will catalog it. And here's the song for the day...

The Sleeping Pattern Puzzle

Last few days (about a couple of weeks), I have been having weird sleeping patterns. I dont have data but I suspect that I am not sleeping well. Sidenote 1. Get a sleep tracker to find what is wrong where. Which one to get? iWatch? Fitbit? 

I am awake most of the night and when I do get into the REM cycle (do I?), it is not really "fulfilling." I dont seem to recall my dreams (earlier I could - I actually kept a dream journal for a bit). I dont get up energized and all that. 

Thing is, I actually love to sleep, I know about the benefits of the sleep. But I still maintain that sleep is an inefficient body function (like hair and nails - we are way beyond on the evolution curve where we need hair or nails). All we have is about 70 years (unless all the attempts to elongate the human life fail) and sleeping takes away 1/3rd of our productive time (of whatever is left after 1/3rd of our life spent chasing education). 

Coming back, I dont know what causes my general lack of sleep. No, I dont suffer from Monday Blues or something. I am not sure if I am depressed. Sidenote 2. Get a professional to do a check up. My bed is comfortable. There is no TV or any other screens in the bedroom. I stop using my phone about 15 minutes before I want to sleep. I have AC set on 22. The room is relatively dark. I have a bedsheet handy in case I feel cold. I am hydrated and keep a bottle of water on the bedside. I dont like the fan so there is no winds to rustle up and disturb me. There is enough space in the room. You see, I have every ingredient that you need to get a good nights sleep. 

But, I dont get sleep.

There is no worries that keep me up at night, except my lack of achievements despite my age. I am in reasonably good health, except that I am 84 KGs - which is more or less the weight I've had since I can remember. I have enough money to quit doing what I am doing and live for two years with the same sort of lifestyle.

And yet, I dont get sleep. 

It could be my nasal polyps that prevent me from sleeping well. But then we can breathe in from the mouth and that sort of helps me breathe. Since I refuse to go to a doc, I am on alternative remedies. I tried going to a homeopath but I cant seem to stick to a schedule of taking meds. So, I am trying steam. I will graduate to a Neti pot if I see advantages in a steam. And then take it from there. But then I have a deadlines impending (of the Everest) and I cant wait forever. So, fix the shit! Sidenote 3. If the nostril does not open by end of July, go get a surgery done. 

So, yeah! This is it. My sleeping disorder. In as much glory and with as many facts as I could muster. 

Untitled - 21 May 2017

I started writing this yesterday day before but could not get around to publishing it. Here's the complete text, as I wrote yesterday day before.
So I have written two days on the trot. If I can publish this, it would mark the third day. And yay for that. The thing however is, I dont have a thing to write about.
All of two lines. But the point is, as I get increasingly busy (I should be going increasingly non-busy), I am trying to get back to writing. Writing is what gives me peace, gets me in the flow, allows me to dream (I think I have said it earlier, I think best when I am talking to someone. Or when I am writing). Writing is my meditation - they say that you get more grey matter as you meditate. I am sure writing makes my brain dense. It makes me sharper. Makes me better. And thats' what I chase with all the fervor!

Also, there is this pattern. Unlike other times when I've written, this time, I dont have an agenda. Or a thing. I am writing for the sake of writing. Which is a good thing and a bad thing. Good, it feels good to have shipped something - even if its not up to the mark. Remember Anton Ego? Bad because you sort of get attached to the notion of delivering and you lose sight of the larger objective. And what is the larger objective, if I may? I dont know :)

Anyhow, this is the fourth para in this text and 3 of those 4 have started with an A. Why is this line important? I dont know. I just want to get a 1000 coherent words on paper. This is as coherent as it gets! Like most things, this is a clear case of one thing leading to another and taking me to undefined territory.

Oh, by the way, yesterday, I did something that I had never done before. I got in front of the camera. To start a new project with Mihir. More about it in a few days. I was surprisingly non-shy in front of the camera - though the way I looked could do some improvements. It was better that what we had expected. Hope to continue doing it.

That reminds me, I have another project that I started some time back and have done nothing to push it ahead. Thing is there is just too much happening. I need to take control of my life or I would be like a freight train rushing down a mountain! I spoke about it the other day.

Apart from this, I havent done much on things in last few months. My worry is that while I am managing day to day things, I am missing the bus. This FOMO is making me jittery like nothing else and I dont know how to escape from it!

Ok, before I spiral into a pitiful, self-flagellating rant, I am gonna stop and go get some shit done. Over and out.

Maker and Manager Schedule

Continuing my rants on work, here is another. But first, as always, context.

1. Read Maker and Manager schedules. Copying from a post that I wrote in 2016, in one line, he says that you need to split your days in two kinds - one where you "make" things and other where you "manage" things. Make is where you get real work done. Manage is when you are on the call and get others to do things. 

2. I straddle way too many things and I refuse to become master of just one. 

So lately I have found myself putting in too much time in meetings. Meetings in general are wasteful but often things get done if there are clear agendas and there's a great moderator. I try and do that with most meetings I attend. And while its great to be able to take decisions and move the ball forward, truth be told, I for one don't achieve a lot in meetings. I dont add any value. I dont do anything that makes me happy. That makes me feel alive. I dont add no real value. I am like the gatekeeper that has to push pesky kids all the time to do things. And that is one of the worst soul-sucking, thankless, energy-sapping work that you can ever do!

Actually, if I look back at the last 2 odd years and someone asked me to make a list of things that I have achieved, I am proud of, I will have nothing! I mean, who says on their CV that in the biggest achievement of the last two years is that you have enough money to pay your bills - something I could've done if I did not quit GE. Or CLA. Or Gravity. Or Mirum! To be honest its no mean feat to deliver good work and find ways to stay afloat in this time and economy. But is that what my epitaph would say?

Thing is, as a creator, creative, expressive, ambitious, lazy, thinking, individual, I have this innate need to create. And ship. In fact I think the mindfuckery that has plagued me over the last few week (apart from muck at work) is because I am not creating anything new (no new writing, no new businesses, no ridiculous daydreams, no new side projects, no moonshots). To me, the allure of starting something is greater than anything else. In fact if I reflect on the times when I have been the happiest, they have been times when I was creating things - 5x5, book, blogs, side projects etc. I get into the flow super easy when I do that.

Lately I've been getting less and less opportunities to do so.

In an ideal world I would do nothing but create. May be I am ideally suited for a career as a painter or an artist or a photographer. But then I dont have the talent to be one. So, I need to settle for the second best - a career where I get to make some money by doing boring things and then use that money to create things that give me happiness (aka Hugh's Sex and Cash Theory).

So maybe, I need to get active on side projects. Or maybe, I need to get to the Maker / Manager schedule and use dedicated chunks of time to make!

. . .

The other thread here is learning. I recently heard Elon Musk say,
People are mistaken when they think that technology just automatically improves. It does not automatically improve. It only improves if a lot of people work very hard to make it better, and actually it will, I think, by itself degrade, actually. You look at great civilizations like Ancient Egypt, and they were able to make the pyramids, and they forgot how to do that. And then the Romans, they built these incredible aqueducts. They forgot how to do it.
James Altucher says that minds muscle atrophies if you dont use it. There are countless others that have extolled the virtues of doing things regularly, one day at a time. Each one gives a different name but the intention is the same - do things if you want to improve.

Or, in simple words, more I write, better I get. Better I get, more audience I get. More audience I get, more encouragement and appreciation I get. And that means I write more. Its a simple (but tad long) feedback loop. And with each iteration, the writing becomes better, faster, easier.

May be by being a manager, the creative cells in my head are dying. I mean I will never know but this sort of makes sense. Look at this post for example. I am almost two hours into writing this I am not even halfway there. Compare it to a time where I could write 2000 words in an hour. And now, I cant get mere 500 words! I can blame it on too many distractions and thoughts running astray. But I know that I am losing my mojo. It used to be super easy for me to get into flow while writing but lately I find it tough. May be I need to reinvigorate. 

I can crib that I dont get time to write. Or read. But I know that I know that this is not true. The only reason I dont write more is because I have just too many things that take away the energy and time. No, I am not saying am straddling too many boats. I am saying that the things I am involved in, they are wasteful and I rather do things where the time is spent in doing actual work. And creating something new.

And one easy way to do it, is by dividing time in Maker and Manager schedules.

May be. May be not. Any thoughts?

Untitled Rant. Work.

First things first. Aka Context.
  • Apart from C4E, I run a marketing communications and digital marketing business as well (So, what if...). 
  • Since I dont have any marquee names on the team (talent), I dont have a great portfolio. And since I dont have a great portfolio, I dont get to work on big brands. And since I dont get to work on big brands, I cant get a marquee name to take a risk and work with me. It's a vicious circle. But then I cant cry about it. So, I've found a sweet spot - companies that dont need fancy people or creds. They just want need great work done. In reasonable amount of time and budgets. Thats something I can deliver. For sure. And with such companies, I wish to establish my reputation as someone who gets things done
  • In my previous avatars, I have been a brand planner (at CLA and now at SWI), an event manager (at Gravity and now at C4E) and a social media strategist (at Mirum India and now at SWI). So my understanding and experience is limited to these things. This means that when I get a project that requires experience of a full-blown creative agency, I am often left scampering to seek favours from friends and contacts. To be able to deliver. 
  • And I aspire to use the aforementioned delivery to entice bigger brands to look at me as an alternative to their fancy people. That means that I need to do exceptional work with whatever clients I get - even if its super hard and super hustle.
  • Finally, unrelated, I refuse to train myself as a master of one. See this TED talk. She speaks of EXACTLY my emotions where she says that once you "get it", the challenge ceases to exist. Plus I love being at the intersection of things. I may or may not be great but thats who I am and where I would be. Look at Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos! 
Now that you know what I do and how I do, here is the [long] rant. I had to get this out of my system.

So I have this friend. Lets call him F. When I quit Mirum and got a friend to trust me with work, I approached EVERY one I know to help me deliver the project (with contacts, working capital etc.) And no one but F trusted me and supported me. Even though he and I weren't friends exactly, he helped me. Backed me up. Gave me his name and his people and his money. To allow me to deliver and stand on my two feet. And then from that one project, we got more work and eventually, that one client started giving me enough to start dreaming of doing that elusive first million! Plus, F helped me make my first 10 lakhs. So, in my head, I am sort of indebted to him.

One fine day F called me and told me that he had this project from someone he knew and it fits into my scheme of things - a company that is not stuck up on marquee names or portfolios, wants to get work done in reasonable time; and apparently great people to work with. Plus I dont say no to whatever F asks me for. Plus, I never say no to work. Beggars cant be choosers. No?

Now this company, lets call them C. They operate in a category that is growing by 25% a year and they have been going DOWN by as much each year. I visited the factory for a few days, met with the owners, the team and I realised that they are a classic case of an owner-manager trying to do a lot of things at the same time, once one business (typically cash cow) starts to do well. And the MBA in me tells me that these issues are not too tough to solve. Any management consultant would've loved to work on this company and could easily turn it around in one season!

So I took up a design project, hoping that it would give me a foot in door. Despite their size (~500 crores), they don't understand the importance of branding (actually, almost NO ONE understands the power of marketing / design in India. Repeat. No one. True, there are exceptions but people do NOT understand the discipline. Rant for a different day). So, at most companies, especially at family-owned businesses, all marketing projects and initiatives are treated like cost centres. And thus they pay ridiculous money (too small if you are wondering what the definition of ridiculous is).

I knew I couldn't demand a lot of money. Thus I quoted a fee that would mean just enough profit for me to invest into paying a website guy to put their logo on my clients page! But they wanted me to work for half of it. And I said no. After exchanging a million emails and negotiation tactics by F, who's always on my side, they agreed to my terms.

We started the work and all went well. I told myself, my team and F that we were worried for no reason; they are a big company and they are unlike others that we word for. Lets deliver great work and even if we don't make money, we would make them respect us and slowly we'd teach them the importance of marketing and brand and take it from there.

But (there's always a but around the corner) when we delivered what we thought was a good output, we were in for a surprise. We were told that this is not what they expected. The list of deliverables was made a mile long (5x than what we had agreed, while the cost was kept the same), the contracts of the models (there was some sort of photo shoot) was extended (without paying them extra). And worse of them all, the conversations became condescending and on each call we were reminded that the project is a favour and how we are not capable of handling it and how the team is worthless. Well, you call me names, I am fine. But do not abuse my people!

And then they started to reject things that have been previously "approved." We kept calm and continued to change. At a point when the team could no longer give new options, I got an external team to work on this. Let me remind you, I was making nothing on the project and by getting this extra team, I was now actually gonna lose money on the project. But because I could see a bright future, I decided to "invest."

Even though it looked like a good great decision at the time (and I stand by it and I will do this again to make a client happy), I now know I shouldnt have. Not because I did not want to lose more money or time. But because the way I and my team were spoken to should've told me of their intentions and approach toward work. Agreed that we did not do path-breaking work but thats what they had signed up for. They knew what we were gonna get to the table.

So, we fired the client. Lol. Did not fire per se. We just refused to do any further work for them. And no, I did not leave the brand hanging in the middle. I delivered what I was expected to (even though it was not part of scope originally agreed upon). I gave open files. I paid my models and vendors and external consults. I took the financial hit and then I sent a polite email thanking the client for opportunity to work and then asserting that I wont work with them anymore. And I told them if they could pay me for the time and effort and investment and all that, great. If they could not, I would consider it as charity. Thing is, I cant get into arguments. I am an Indian. I let go of things. Chalta hai. There are, after all, bigger battles to fight. 

Also, in case you are interested in the other side of the story, well, I dont have it. I've been trying really hard to get them to tell me what flipped the switch but answers are yet to come. I know we are not the best team but we try the hardest. I know we are not super fast. But we are faster than most I know of. Anyhow, hope they have good reasons. For me, there are lessons and takeaways.

Here's a list.

How do I work? How do I want to work?
  • Customer, client is the king. I want to pamper them like Amazon does. Probably more than what Amazon does. After all, in a services industry, most often it's the buyers market. And since you feed me, I am willing to go the extra mile for you. And more. 
  • Respect. Above all. To people who work. I dont want people to out of their way but I expect them to have professional courtesy. If you are polite to me, I will bend over backwards for you and open my pants, if you will. But if you are not, I may be small but I am independent. I answer to no one and thus, I can tell you to take a hike! 
  • Win-win trumps all. Agreed that its business and everyone wants to make money. But then you are paying me for my time and I am delivering a certain thing. Its a transaction and like most transactions, it has to be fair. You come into it with an ulterior motive and hide things and expect to squeeze me, push my back to wall, trust me things wont go well between us. Rather, be open and honest. Allow yourself to trust me. I will trust you. Lets aim for a win-win. You give me enough money to be able to push my team to deliver great work. I will give you enough value that you'd want to compensate me more. Dare you not get into that cat and mouse game where it's a zero sum game and you think you will only win if I lose. 
  • Loyalty to work and nothing else. I am not here to massage egos or make friends. I am here to do great work. And if theres something that I cant deliver, I will say so in as many words. And help you find the right person. The idea is bigger than you or me. Look at the sky on a clear night, preferably from a hill station. You will know what I mean. 
Thats about it for the time being. I am sure there are more lessons but lets park it here for the time being. 

Phew! Finally this is out of the system and I feel great! Thank you for the patient hearing. 

Wait. Dont go. Are you looking for an events / digital / marketing agency that would put in as much skin in the game as much as you do? Are you looking for marquee names or you want someone who's as passionate about your brand as you are? Do you want long term partners that believe in win-win? May be speak to me and see how we could work together? 

At the end,

Even though we believe and behave as if we are immortals, all of us have a super finite time here (about 80 years if you are lucky). And while the average is about 80 years, we never know when our time runs out. I mean a meteor could hit us right now and before I "publish" this post, it could all be over and I won't even know. Neither would you for that matter! If I do get to publish this post, I could get into an accident on my way home from Starbucks. I won't know how many people did this post reach and all that. Or I could die at the old, ripe age of 80 after posting 10000 blogposts (I am at 1500 something posts, written over the last 13 years) and doing all the things that I wish to do!

So, I was reading something and somehow I stumbled on to this post by Kevin Kelly. I pick two things from that post.

A. KK starts by talking about when he was 29. Back then he lived as if he only had 6 months to live (P.S.: He's still alive and kicking at the age of 65). All his actions and thoughts were guided by the knowledge that he would be gone in the next 6 months.

After those 6 months, he estimated the time he had left (he calculated the approximate date of his death, by looking at statistics and other medical information). He used/uses this expiry date as a goal post. He put a widget that counts the number of days left in his life. At any given point in time, he knows the exact number of days that are ahead of him. And this "fear" (or may be "awareness") helps him decide the things that he wants to spend focus his time on. A ticking clock time-bomb is such an important tool for motivation!

B. The other thing that he talks about is how one of his friends (Stewart Brand) sees life in 5-year chunks - he says that anything worth doing takes about 5 years. In my experience this is not true but I am sure this is how things are.

So, if we combine A and B, it could probably become yet another system that helps us do more. How? By buying a time-bomb!

Lemme talk about me as an example.

While I want to live forever, I will assume that I am going to die on 1 Jan 2026. And that leaves me with little less than 8 years (3174 days to be exact). And thus, apart from personal things, that means I have just two things that I can do well before I die. One of those things is C4E. The other, I dont know yet.

So, all I ought to do is focus on C4E. All other things become recreation, for the lean days, for the days when I am so tired that I don't want to work on making C4E the greatest entertainment business in the world. Of course in these next 4 years, situation could change and I am ok with adapting to the change. But the endeavour would be to focus on just C4E! Every act, every investment will be towards that one goal.

Does that mean I will leave all other projects hanging in the limbo? After all I am the kinds to have multiple things running at the same time - in fact it makes me who I am!

No it doesnt. Two reasons. A, I have traditionally been a bad finisher and now that I have started to finish things, I will take all open projects to conclusions. And then, either handover to others or find a way to merge them with C4E. B, this multi-tasking, inter-disciplinary approach, swinging on multiple trees is what makes me, me. It has served me well and I enjoy it. I just need to reshape the priorities and I should be ok.

So yeah. The time is limited. 3174 days in my case. How about you? How many days do you have? How many 5-year long projects can you take up? What are those? Tell me about it. Lemme know if I could be help. Please?

Thats it for today. 3173 more to go! Thanks for reading.

P.S.: And the meteor did not hit us before I hit the Publish button. Let's see if I reach home.

P.P.S.: Some books that you may want to read about life and death (especially in context of today's day and age) are: When Breath Becomes AirBeing Mortal and The Last Lecture. You may also want to see Steve Jobs' address at Stanford. Here.

P.P.P.S.: Here's some trivia - Steward (KK's friend, the one that talks about 5-years) is also the creator of Whole Earth Catalog that Steve Jobs talks about in his Stanford talk. Plus the phrase "Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish!" originated on the last issue of the catalog. Here...

P.P.P.P.S.: Writing something on my blog after a while. Not that I was not writing - I did average about 500 words a day week (which is WAY less than then average that I want to maintain - 1000 words a day). Most of it went towards #book2 and some of it towards the gyaan blog. Funny thing is that I dont really have any regular readers but the blog feels like "home". 


Highlight of the day has to be the session that I took at IMS. They wanted someone to work with MBA aspirants and make them understand the nuances of things that happen during the GD phase of the selection process.

This was after a while I was doing something like that. And I came home with a few things. Here's a list. In no order, as always...

A. Realisation that I suck at public speaking. I would want to believe that I am good at it. But I am not. I do have a speech impediment - I stutter, speak fast, gobble up words, have a nasal voice. Thankfully, all these can be worked on.

The things that are tougher to work on, confidence, presence, ability to structure thoughts - I have those. So, nothing to worry about. Need practise. Thats about it!

B. The "proud" and "popular" decision that I took to NOT read newspapers and consume just the online pieces, its backfiring.

Why? Because when I was reading newspapers, I was getting something in my head (howsoever crappy, biased, inaccurate it were). On the other hand, when I consume stuff online, I often get lost in the forest full of trees of knowledge. And the way I consume new information, I tend to look at just the highlights and not the details. I am doing what Feynman says is knowing the name of something. And honestly, I dont know how to fix this.

While reading online is great, I can choose what I want to read on. So, most of what I know tends to be from one of my favorite buckets - startups, decision making, evolution, human behaviour, business, investing, cultures etc. Now as a social animal, I need lot more than these disciplines. And thus, more.

Also, lately I have been thinking about reading. When I say reading, there is books, there's blogs, there is newspapers and there is reading for business - industry reports, opinions etc.

Lemme talk of books first. There are three distinct ways in which I hope to read to learn from books.

  • First, I am becoming convinced that reading entire books (for learning) may not be the most efficient method. Like Naval said in a recent podcast, most books have one or two points to make and then they use 300 pages to drive home that one point. I can do better by reading book summaries and other such things. Bastardised form of learning but I am ok with it. So, books like Blink, Influence etc. would fall under this category. In fact thanks to platforms like TED, Youtube and podcasts, you can watch a 18-min video and you would have consumed the entire book. Or you download a 30-min podcast on your phone and as you reach your office, you would know about a new thing!  
  • Second, when you read about lives of great people - thats something I ought to continue doing. When you read a biography, you are not just learning from the lives they lives, you are also living their lives with them, seeing what decisions they made and how they made those decisions. The best part? You have the advantage of the hindsight! 
  • Third, there are few exceptional non-fictional books that pack more points than one. Case in point? The one that I am reading right now - Sapiens. The other such book that I immensely enjoyed is Tools of Titans. Its essentially a "listicle" 2.0 book (list of lists), it had lists of things, daily habits and other such things from some of the most successful people. Such books ought to be read cover to cover. 
Keyword, read to learn. This does not include fiction. Books that I read for recreation. Like John Grisham. Or Lee Child. I am planning to pick Simenon. Let's see how that goes.

Blogs - well, I follow some 400 odd blogs - I dont read them all. I skim (and skim fast) and I am happy with the approach. Unless while skimming, something catches my fancy. I then sort of deep dive into it. I read arguments in favour and against. I try to read more opinions. I try to think (not too deeply though) and once I am convinced, I try and take a stand. This piece about reading is one such example. Everyone says that you ought to read. I know. I agree. But then there's so much to read and the speed at which I read, how do I ensure that I read a wide range of things? The way I have just explained! 

Newspapers - I ought to start reading. The thing that I am not happy about with newspapers? What they consider news, I consider them non-events. Things like Virat Kohli buying a 100-crore apartment is not news. But since that is what sells, that is what they write. I dont blame them for this. Look at me. I am so used to the idea of free things, I would not pay any money for high-quality journalism / writing! So, for newspapers, I ought to pick and choose what I read. 

Business - thankfully, my day job is not analysing businesses (which people like WEB do). As a result, I dont have to read things like annual reports where they apparently "hide" things in plain sight and you have to be very diligent to be able to sift wheat from chaff. I reckon that it would be a very time consuming process and since I do not hope to be a master of one particular discipline, I can get away with it. 

I'd rather know about a lot of different things, make connections and let serendipity and happy accidents guide me home. 

C. Retention. While I was taking the session today I realised that I dont retain much from what I read. I had the same realisation the last night when I was at a friends place and we were talking about impact of technology on traditional walled-gardens like banking. I have read about the subject in detail but I could not recall specifics. And its not a cool thing.

In fact I've spotted this trend lately. Little signs that I am growing old. It's exactly like they said it would be. Creeping over slowly, imperceptibly as I am busy with my day to day life.

So, I need to work harder onto undo-ing these things. One way is to write. Because, I have noticed that I tend to retain things that I write. Ok, digressing. And not to forget, other things that old age inflict upon us.

D. Handwriting. My handwriting sucks so bad its not funny. While taking the session at IMS, I made notes and when I had to give feedback, I could not read what I had written! Poor students.

But then, its something that I am sure I dont want to work on. Let the handwriting go down the drain for all I care. While I love the feel of pen on paper and on whiteboards, I continue to be a fan of typing (on an Apple keyboard ofcourse), unless they come up with a new way to capture thoughts.

E. In the end, I loved spending time with students. I was in the zone.

I would love to do it lot more - with other MBA aspirants. And students in general. I am not sure if I have a lot to contribute but I do have a lot to learn. About myself. About the world. And the ideas that these young ones have.

Need to figure out a way to do so. May be pick 5 students, work with them through the year and prepare them for this? Seth Godin did something similar. He calls it the altMBA. Lemme think more. Will be back on this.

So yeah! This is it for the day. Thanks Ojas for asking me if I am free to take these sessions up!

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?