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 Powai Proximity Problem

I live in Ghatkopar and its about 35 bucks away from Powai. And all the places that I typically hang out at - Starbucks, LPQ, Mohini etc. And places like Harry's that I like to go but they frown when I go in chappals and shorts.

So since I've moved to GK West (as VG calls it), I try and not go anywhere else but Powai. For shopping, for eating out, for fun, for parties, for running errands, for working, for doctors and for anything else that a 35-year may have to do.

Except office, that is about 150 bucks (and an hour) away from GK. And places that I cant avoid the travel to - client meetings, my homoepath in Mahim, airport etc. When I do have to travel to these places, I ensure that I leave GK by 7 AM and am on the way back by 4 PM. Thats how you avoid traffic in Mumbai. There is no other way. And there is no worse way to waste life.

So, when I have to meet people, I "request" them to come over to Powai. Unless they really really really can't make it and I really really really want to meet them. Or unless I am already at work and they could meet in en route to GK.

But then life is not that simple. There are tons of issues with it. Here's top three that I can document.

A. Monotony 
Most of my friends want hang out at newer places, experience new things, taste new tastes, go to the newest fancy thing in the town. For me, all these are merely incidental. The idea is to catch up with friends and we can do that at a Starbucks or at one of the numerous places around Powai. Or even a drive for that matter.

However, I am told that the idea is to have a good time and good time is a combination of good food, good music, good shared activity and good conversations. There are varying degrees of contribution of each factor. For me, the conversation and activity contribute 50% each. Food and music is immaterial. So, at Powai, I we can find any activity that we may want to indulge in, at any budget (which often is not a challenge as most of my friends are richer than me) and almost all cuisines. So, I dont see the need to step out.

I understand that for people other things could have varying percentages. And I ok with it but I dont understand why would the group travel to Bandra (about 40 minutes and 200 bucks) to just eat a salad and go back to their respective places. Sum total of all hours wasted in all this travel is criminal. And on top of that, our time is severely limited.

B. Limited contact with others 
As I try and build AWSL and C4E, I realise that human connections are super important if you want to get ahead in life. So this is something that I anyway suck at. I am not an extrovert and I suck at sucking up. I am generally nice to people but I cant be overtly praiseful. My EQ is questionable and my empathy for others borders on the ones that sociopaths have.

I am working on changing this. Not tough if you ask me. However most people dont operate at the super-rational level that I am trying to achieve. And thus it gets tough to call them to Powai all the time. Or meet them at 4 at Saki Naka. Or at 3 at Andheri.

The other issue is that other constructs that allow you to mingle with people require fake camaraderie. And that requires sessions of alcohol, smokes, drugs and other such things. The only thing that I abuse is Coke. I thus get stuck with it as well.

One way to resolve this is by considering new contacts as work. And then, just like I dont question the need to go to work, I probably wont question the need to go to meet people. Lemme give this a shot in H2-2017.

The other way is to do such brilliant work that they really really really want to meet you. And travel to where you are. This is something that I can work on, starting NOW! 

C. Old age
As you grow old, you get set in your ways. You develop strong opinions about things and places and people. And worse of them all, you develop opinions of self <this entire blog, this particular post, the thoughts and all that are a manifestation of my opinion of myself - which is pretty huge>.

This opinion of self (aka ego) needs to get broken soon and fast. And that can happen when you expose yourself to new things, new ideas, new people and such. And all the new things, ideas, people dont really hang out in Powai. The composition of people at Powai is not a representative of what we have in Mumbai / MH / India or the world. And it is definitely not representative of the kind of people I want to hang out with.

And who are these people that I want to hang out with? Entrepreneurs. Startup folks. Athletes. Rich people. I want to hang out with people who create new things, solve real problems and as they say, move the human race forward.

Assuming that they would want to hang out with me!

Brings me to a rant. I am driven by the lust to improve myself. In everything I do. I want to be healthier, richer, happier. I want to push my limits. I want to climb the Everest! I want to do a lot of things. And I want to do all those things well. And for that I need a certain kind of environment (not that people without that environment dont do things well - I am programmed to do it like that) and leave Powai (or Mumbai for that matter), I cant seem to find the same. Its funny because we live in the world full of information and connecting with a Bill Gates is as easy as sending him an email - his email address is in public domain. And yet I cant seem to find the kind of people I want to be around. 

And you know a funny thing? I am happy to get away from Powai for that.

Funny how the Powai Proximity solves itself! 

I cried

Few facts first.
  • I am 34. Will be 35 this year. In other words, I will be past my prime in a few months.
  • My bank balance as we speak is 39000 and change. And no, I dont own a house. Or a car. I do own some stock.
  • I have no clue what I want to do in life. At different times in life I have wanted to make software, produce movies, become a travel writer, be an investor, teach, play poker professionally, play cricket, become a politician, make documentaries, be a twitter celebrity, become a publisher author, an adrenaline junkie and I dont even recall half of the things! A bucket list is here
Why am I talking about all this? Because I just a documentary on Warren E Buffett and at a point in the documentary, I cried. Will come back to it in a bit. 

For the time being, if you are alive and you think you want to be a better person, you have to see it. Its on youtube here. Dont know how long its gonna stay there. Do see it while its around. Content like (expensive to produce, insightful etc) belongs in the public domain. Never know why museums are ticketed so high. In fact one of the things that I want to do in life is to create such things. That allow humans to learn more. 

Am digressing. 

Coming back to the documentary. I've known of WEB since 2004 (atleast) when Prof. Bakshi first talked about him at MDI. And since then I have consumed numerous pieces of text about him. I am, what they say, a fan. And I adulate him all the time. 

So, when I heard about the documentary, I did not think much of it. After all whatever WEB says can be easily summarized in few lines. I was half-expecting it to be boring and yet another "fan" made documentary that will recycle facts and snippets from other previously published pieces of text. 

But I couldn't be more wrong.

The documentary had original footage and interviews with the most important people in his life - Charlie, Melinda & Bill, his children and couple of friends (including Carol Loomis). I got the rare look into his office. There were pics from his family album, footage from his personal archives and above all - interview with him, on things that are important to him. For the first time, I saw WEB as a human being. I saw his private life like I've never seen before.

It just made the demigod more human.

So, in the documentary he talks about things like Coke, Float, Bill Gates, Philanthropy, Moats, See's Candies, his family, his team, various companies that he's bought and most importantly, about himself.

While watching and I could be wrong here, I realised that the relationship with his wife probably was strained. After all he was busy reading all the time. And she admits that she and WEB differed on their respective approaches towards philanthropy. She believed that she had to give more money, sooner. He believed in the power of compounding and wanted to wait out as long as he could, before he gave it away. In the end, he got what he wanted, like he has always had.

And when the documentary talks about his decision to give his wealth away. And when they showed that press conference when he signs those letters to give away his wealth to his children and Bill Gates, I broke. I cried. With tears and flowing nose (despite my nasal polyps) and all that.

I dont know why I ended up in tears. Probably the gravity of the decision? The impact that his life would have on the world? Probably it was his greatest gift to his wife (that I think came too late and WEB would say, came just at the right time)? Probably because his life is in contrast to mine and Ive been thinking a lot about mine lately.

This is where I talk about me. Rant.

Compared to WEB who is super-focused at what he does, I am all over the place. And not that I havent tried to come back to one thing, its just that it feels stuffy when I do that. I am not myself. May be I am not supposed to be focused. And like Sheldon says, "we will never know."

I dont know what I want to do. I am competitive but I am not like WEB. I want to make the money - to use it as a tool to work towards making the world a better place. And how do I make the world better? I dont know yet. Neither did WEB. But WEB had the tools - reading and focus - and the understanding of things like reputation, compounding and other things. And most importantly he was in the game to come out a winner. And he knew what game he wanted to play. So, he played the game. And everyday he trained himself along the way (and continues to do so, even at the age of 86). And eventually he reached a point where money became unimportant. And then he figured (thanks to his wife and other things in his environment) how he planned to make the world better. Wow! What a life! What a person! 

For me, it I need to know the game I ought to be playing and then honing the skills till I have a superior, unfair disadvantage over others. So that I can make money.

Except that I am 35 and I have bills to pay. 

The other thing. Do I even need to do this? Do I really want to do this? Why do I even want to make money? If my memory serves right, I have always wanted to be the richest man in the world. I wanted to be a dollar millionaire at 25 and a dollar billionaire by the time I am 35. I actually told this to a friend at MDI (Saumya J - hope she remembers). Another 5 odd months to go. I am worth about 15000 dollars. About a gazillion times less than what I had planned. 

Compare me to 2 of the 5 people that I spend most of my time with. Last night I went on a drive with them. Both are pretty successful, on all counts. Happily married (to two wonderful women), each(family) has a kid. Both own cars, properties that run into crores (almost dollar millionaires), they have fulfilling careers, are reasonably fit and suffer from no large, life-threatening ailments to speak of. Days are full of mindless action that a high-performing naukri entails and weekends are spent with family and watching movies and running errands and there are holidays twice a year. And they both seemed pretty oblivious to fact that life could mean more (they are, as WEB says, "sleepwalking through life" - which is not wrong, but that is not for me). And I seemed lost for words to explain what that more could be. 

I saw this glimpse into WEB's life and I immediately knew what that more is. More is spending time doing things that you are uniquely positioned to do - outcome of Ovarian Lottery. In my case, more time I spend with life and things, more I realise that my purpose is teaching. Its mentoring. Its entertaining. Getting people to achieve their dreams. Ideally a combination of all four. I just need to find a way to reach a point where I could do it at a scale that impacts billions of people. Lately, I have started saying that by the time I die, my work has to impact a billion people. I dont know the shape of my work and I hope I will find it as I go along. Just that it sucks that I am 35 already and there is that looming threat of an unpredictable end. Often when you expect it the least.

Anyhow, a few other things that I am taking away from WEB and the documentary are:
  1. Health. He gives an analogy that if you could get just one car for the rest of your life, how will you take care of it? Your body is that car. Will you not take care of it? 
  2. Focus. Though I am not sure I best exemplify this. So I am going to leave it at that.
  3. Relationships. I need to have a Susie around. Though I am not sure about kids. 
  4. Compounding. If there is one thing that you could take away from his life, it would be compounding. Not just in terms of money but other things. You write everyday. You workout everyday. The key is everyday. Build on top of other work.  I dont know if there is anything that I own that is compounding. 
  5. Reputation. Enough said. 
  6. Purpose. WEB made all the money in the world that he could. And then he gave it all away. Why was he doing it? What made him tick? I think the answer is that he was super competitive. More than anyone else. And he enjoyed it. And thats what made him do what he did. And when he gave it all away, he would have thought of no other, better way to use that money. The best part? Rather than he getting into things, he gave it to people he thought were best suited to use it! (circle of competence).
  7. Death. Mortality is a very very real thing. And with each passing day, we are getting closer to it. And that means, each passing day, you have to try harder. And we ought to do things that make us happier, better and more fulfilled. 
That's it.

Do see the documentary. Its worth its weight in gold. 

The Umbilical Cord

Yesterday I was in Delhi and I had to give my passport to people at Gravity (they have a show coming up in Budapest and since I havent been to Budapest, I am keen on going). I could have sent it via a runner but then I decided to drop by. Half expecting A and S to be around - the two guys who've taught me the events business (and the skills I use to run C4E). If not for them, I would not know what is this events management business and wont have all the travel that I get to do or make whatever money I get to make. In one line, my life would suck so bad without them.

While I was at Gravity, I traveled far and wide, I stayed up for days to put up shows, I did things that I did not like with people that weren't worthy of my time, I have cried, I have laughed and I have partied. I have learnt all that I know from that place. In fact I think I am a minor version of the guy who runs that place. I think like him, I talk like him, I am elitist at times like him. I make the same mistakes. Hell, I want the same car as him!

It's at Gravity that the idea of entertaining others struck home. I started realising that purpose of my life could be entertainment. I started thinking of writing while I was bored during the slow part of the season. And while I worked, I got exposed to so much that the scatter brain in me got ever more scattier. It fuelled my appetite for knowing more things - even if I were merely scratching the surface. This was the second time (after CLA) when I felt alive. At CLA, it was sheer brilliance of people around me. And at Gravity, it was the breadth of exposure I got.

So, when I left them to start 5x5 and work on #tnks, I started feeling this void. At least in my head. It was like the Stockholm Syndrome I think. I missed the unpredictability, the petty issues that you face while working, and other such things. I was like that junkie that needed a shot in the arm every once in a while. At first I would merely twitch at the separation. Then it started hurting in the head. I felt as if I were lost. But then, like all other things, I came around. I got settled in the routine at Mumbai. The book happened. SWI, C4E happened and I thought I had moved on.

Till I spoke to them a few weeks ago. I was putting up an event and I needed some help. I spoke to S and all the memories came rushing back. It was like meeting a lover after a gap of few years and you rekindle memories of the good time and bad times? And like lovers meeting after a long time, we had so much to catch up on. Slowly we started talking more and before I knew, the relationship was back. To the extent that I felt strangely attracted to the beautiful mess that that place is. On top of this, at the back of my head, I've always known that I belonged there. It was home. I could go back anytime I wanted to and they would accept me with open arms.

Back to the visit last night. So I went and I was meeting A and S after months (dont even recall when I saw them last). As I walked into their office, I was literally shaking. I could not speak for the first 5 minutes. When A asked me how were things with me, I had no clue about how to respond. I dont know if it was adrenaline or something else. But I could not speak. For someone who's been given the gift of gab (well, almost), I was short of words. I was not short. I knew what to say. I had the thoughts and the words but I could not blurt em out. I guess thats what they say when they say you've been struck by lightening. Think of the time when you met the love of your life for the first time. Or, you see that you've won that award that you've been dying for! Or you hit the lottery. Or any of those things.

And while all this was happening, like a thunderbolt. I realised that the place is not the same that I left. I no longer belong there. I am welcome and there are people and memories and all that. But I dont belong there. The umbilical cord has snapped. Now I know what they mean by moving on. I've moved on - a first for me. So, while I care, I am no longer emotionally attached to them. Or to the place. Oh, and apart from the guys who led the business, the entire team was amazing (at least the initial set of people I worked with were). With time, people came and people went and the camaraderie, sort of, seized to exist. I think the place did not have or foster a "culture", if you will, that makes people irreplaceable. Ok, am getting off topic now.

The point is, if you know me well, you would know that I have hard time getting over things. So, this is like a big deal! Big enough to merit a long, ranty post.

This feeling of not being tethered to a place is new to me. I do not know how to react. So, I spoke to a couple of people that were around when I was there. Both echoed the same sentiments. The place aint no same no more. And both agreed that they have fond memories of the time we spent there, they too are done with it.

So yeah. The cord, is gone. Here I am, on my own. Wish me luck.

Modern Love - next steps

Note: Second email to a few writer friends, seeking contribution. See this for backstory.

Hi Guys,
Trust you guys are well.
We some new people here. For their benefit, this is an attempt to create a community-authored (or crowd-sourced as marketers will say) blog of sorts where we capture true, real-life love stories from urban, modern, middle-aged Indians. You may want to read more at my blog.

Coming to the point.
So, first things first. I have got few submissions. I uploaded some at This is a pre-pre-alpha version right now. And it's been put up to show you the kind of stories we could capture. There is a love letter, a story, a tweet storm and a thought.

Second. This is the second email in series. Last time I wrote to you guys, I had this vague idea about what and how I wanted the project to look like. Since then, I have some more clarity. See the mindmapish list of things that I have thought of about this project (source file is here and you can edit it using a free tool -

So, I now know that it will be a blog and a thematic quarterly magazine / special edition. I know what could it look like. I know the success / failure metric. Of course, I am open to suggestions. More the better. Please email me!

Third. Next steps (aka immediate tasks)!
  • Need a name. We can't call this Modern Love. For a simple reason that NY Times uses it and while we are “imitating” them, can't lift the name! So, suggest some names please. 
  • Manifesto. Need a raison d'etre, if you will! Something that captures the attempt in one line. The one I wrote reads, “This is a collection of personal stories, anecdotes, experiences, incidents and other such things that emerge out of a middle-aged, modern Indian's pursuit of love”. Not very happy. Help me with it. 
  • Submission guidelines. I don't know how to do this - no experience with running a “mag.” Will need serious help. Any inputs? So far, I just have two things that count as submission: A, it has to be a real story. Or inspired by real-life events and B, the story has to be set in contemporary India, by and for “modern” Indians 

Finally, I plan to wait till 31 Mar on this. So far I have 7 stories. Another three have been promised. If by 31 Mar, I get 20 stories, I will go live on 1 April.

If not, then whatever stories I get, I will bind them into an anthology and pester Sachin (my publisher at Grapevine) or Crossword to bind them as a book and put it on Amazon / Flipkart etc. That's the least I can do - give each contributor an opportunity to get the credits of publishing a piece in an anthology. Not the best thing but a great consolation prize if you ask me.

That's about it! I love when these projects sort of take shape!

If you have any questions, please ask me and I will be happy to help!


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?