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? 

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?