Untitled / 11 Feb 2018

One of those posts where I ramble without an agenda. While I decided that I will do these on sgEchoChamber, I am doing this here because I want to maximise the odds of serendipity. How? Topic for a different post. This one, read at your peril. 

Last night two few days back, I wrote this open letter to Steve Jobs. While I havent been ridiculed by anyone for it, yet, while I was thinking about it, when I re-read it, I was like, the fuck dude. I want whatever you are tripping on! Maal must be so good. No?

Thing is, I need to know that life does not work like that. You know that song? The Bittersweet Symphony? You know what it says? "You're slave to money and then you die." That. All you do is try to make ends meet. Everything else is an illusion. Sooner I get that in my head, better it is.

I may want to change the world and make a dent and impact lives and inspire people and all that but fact of the matter is, at this day, I am nothing but an epitome of mediocrity. For the 35 years that I've been here, what is that one thing that I can be super-proud of? Nothing!

I am not successful by any metric -- societal (dont have a family, dont own a house, dont own a car, bank balance runs in low 5-figures, both my companies are small tiny etc), personal (I am unhealthy, get frequent mood swings, have less friends than fingers on my hands etc), evolutionary (dont plan to procreate, I am short, bald etc). All I am is a middle-aged man trapped among voices in my head that bounce around and get louder by the day. The kinds that makes people delusional. Delusional. Thats the word that defines me.

Wait. I may not be that either. The ones that are delusional actually have blind faith in their capabilities and they actually do great things. I dont. I am waddling in mediocrity. And the worst part is that I feel helpless about it. I want to change things but I cant. I am stuck! I think I need more resources - time, talent, people etc. How do I get those? May be if I had money to put in?

Money, Mr. Garg, cant be the root! There has to be more.

I mean I dont know. There are people who start from scratch and zero money and do amazing things. Most startup guys are in this category. They are driven and they keep at it till they make money. Then I know of people who are paupers and somehow get married to rich heiresses and then build their empire on top of the largess that they get from the family (of course they are good and know what to do with that money). Then there are people who get lucky (seated next to a big dude in the plane, etc). And there are people that inherit legacies and then they work hard to make em larger. And finally, there are people like Saul, who build churches atop rocks create empires on top of crimes. Well, not crime as in crime but something that the society would frown upon!

Irrespective of the route they take, people do amazing things. So amazing that the world takes a note. And their work impacts people around them. And in most cases, people away from them. Here's a slide that I use when I speak to prospective hires, investors, partners and others (P.S. this is an always WIP deck and hence this is a WIP slide).

EACH one has had impact on more than just their immediate circle. Hope you get the drift. Drift reminds me that am drifting.

Coming back.

The point is, this post is full of self-doubt and self-flagellation and all that. Which is ok I think. Once in a while I need to be grounded as well. Like someone once told me, "dar mujhe sachet rakhta hai" (fear keeps me aware). Posts like these allow me aware. And make me take a break and reflect and think.

Hopefully, someday, the clouds will part and sun will shine through. And as they say, someday all this will make sense. May be it will not. May be it will remain one of those unfinished things that I will take to my grave? May be I will get to it in 2881 days? Who knows.

What I know is, I ought to keep walking.

Dear Steve,

A friend asked me, "if you were to write to Elon Musk about your aspirations and ambitions and what you want to do in life, how would you?"

This blogpost is in response to that. But before that, few caveats.
  • I will NOT write to Elon. Rather, I would email Steve. Thing is, the outcome and vision and purpose-driven approach of Elon is fascinating and exciting. But Steve, the legend, is what is inspiring. I love the fact that he was a hustler (compared to an Elon that is a tinkerer). 
  • I'd assume that ambition is personal, more tangible. And aspiration is little more altruist. Read more here
So, here's the letter. 

Dear Steve,

Thank you.

For being who you were are. And being an inspiration that makes me want to do more and make that dent. Or ding. Or whatever.

It is you who taught me that our actions must create consequences. Consequences that are larger than self. Larger than our imagination.

It's by following you (and your actions and your words) over the years that I have understood my limitations. And I have found ways and means to overcome those limitations. I still suck at getting things done but I am getting there. All thanks to you.

Thanks to you, I know that the only thing that limits us, is our imagination. You taught me how to think big. You taught me to take tiny steps and keep at it till you reach there. You showed me the power of setting lofty goals and challenging what we thought was possible. Thank you, Steve.

Steve, I write to you to seek a favour. Will you please indulge me? I want to talk about what my aspirations are. And I want to talk about my ambitions and what I want to do in life.

Steve, when I look at the world around me, I see so much potential getting wasted in frivolous things. Things that dont add up. Things that dont add value. Things that dont create. Lemme give you an example. Today, I was coming back from work in a train and I saw a young couple arguing about a mobile game. And they were stuck on the game for the 20 minutes it took the train to reach my destination. And they werent happy. What if they could use that time to learn a new thing (by seeing a TED talk, or by reading a book or by watching a tutorial or something). Or at least debate about how they's plan their finances!

The world would be such a better place if that happened.

You know that's what I want to work on. Make people more aware about our limited time here. You talked about in your Stanford address. I was lucky to have seen it. Someone needs to talk to them as well. And inspire them to do more with their time. Of course someone may argue that its all pointless (we die, our kids die, our kids's kids and the world will eventually come to an end and all that we stand for, all that we create will amount to nothing) but I know that while we are alive, when people are creating, they are lost in the work. They get in the flow and the flow is the closest that it comes to Nirvana. The little things that make life miserable cease to exist when you are creating. Reminds you to Carl's Pale Blue Dot.

Life suddenly starts looking so much better. No?

This, Steve, is my aspiration. This is what I really want to do. Its fuzzy AF. The fuzziest thing that I've ever thought about. But I believe that there's merit. 

And what is my ambition?

I want to push limits.

Physical, mental, emotional. And at other levels that us humans can experience.

I know that I am not sorted in the head. There are times when I am elated that I am jumping with joy for no reason and there are times when I so sad that I just want to sleep. But Steve, most days when I wake up, the world does look like a great, inspiring place. Life looks like a "journey" that is worth taking. There are so many people doing so many things that you thought humans were incapable of. Look at Elon. Wait. Look at Wright Brothers or whoever made the first aircraft. They allowed us to fly. Look at Elon. He will not rest till he has colonised Mars!

While I want to push limits, Steve, I know that I am a drifter. I've never had the clarity in terms of where I want to end up. I also know that I dont have one specific talent that I can dig at till I make that dent. I am a proverbial Jack of all trades and I am happy being one. Thing is, I love this drifting. I love that I can walk the surface of a lot of disciplines. I know this is best suited for someone with a lot of money. But its ok. I will make my money. Ok, I am drifting while writing the letter. Coming back. Steve I want to push limits and in the process, inspire others.

In fact, lately, I have started to realise that I get immense happiness and satisfaction and I sleep well at night when I am able to inspire others. And help others. And enable others. Enabling. Thats where the Gold is. Thats what I want to do. Enable.

Now enabling is too broad. If I were to put enabling in a box, I'd say I want to enable a billion people to live better lives.

Billion people. 
Better Lives. 

And how do I define better? Well, better means that if they are poor, I enable them to live in relative comfort and happiness. If they are unhappy, I put on the red ball on my nose and dance for them. If they need access to opportunities, I want to give them that. If they need  inspiration to do more, I want to inspire them.

I want to be the thing, the jester, the platform that enables people to be better. I hope you get the drift. 

One of the ways in which I can do this, is by doing amazing things and by doing em so well that I inspire people. To do more. To #bebetter. And to #livebetter, and #workbetter.

So, my second aspiration, if I may have more than one, is to make the world a better place. And do it by enabling people to be better versions of themselves. And while I become the enabler, my life (where I achieve a set of seemingly super-tough goals -- each goal must push human limits, such as, make a billion dollars, run a marathon in less than 4 hours, live till 120 and more) and my actions and my conduct become a source of inspiration. Just like your life was, Steve.

Thats about it I guess. Phew.

Thanks for reading.

Your's Faithfully,
Saurabh Garg

The Urban Nomads

So, yesterday day before few days ago at a cruise ship in HCMC, we were doing an event for the Indian offices for a UK based company. And one of the acts was a Filipino band that had two singers, one of them a Cuban.

Picture this. Retro English pop. In Vietnam. Arranged by a French woman who works for a company owned by an American. Artists from Cuba and Philippines. For guests from India and UK.

I dont even know how many countries is that. But I do know one thing. The mobility and opportunities that you have if you are an artist and are talented!

Thing is, I think that talent allows you to live wherever you wish to. And that is such a fascinating life to have!!

You know what am saying? You can choose a country you wish to live in. If you are talented enough, you can make enough to pay for your bills, and then some more. You can make friends that are not just accidental. You can chase your craft. You can hone it while you earn your bread by performing. You can see sex and cash in action. You know, you happen to things, rather than things happening to you!

Lemme park the talent bit for a while and drift.


There is this thing called the Urban Nomad. Its essentially refers to people that live in urban locales and yet are not tethered to a particular location. These people dont own anything that ties them down to one place (immovable assets, large families, a job that requires you to goto office everyday etc etc). You are free to move across borders and all that. And these people are skilled in one particular discipline that is in demand across borders (painters, photographers etc) and thus they can fend for themselves. Oh, and modern world is introducing lot more professions that allow you to become an urban nomad. Think of those bloggers, language tutors, Yoga instructors, chefs, entertainers and more.

And why am I talking about this? Because I have had this fascination with being an urban nomad and at various times in life I have thought of multiple ways in which I could become one. At different points in time, I have considered becoming a designer, a coder, a photographer, a writer, a yoga instructor, an English language teacher and / or more (assuming I can be all of these).

But then I've, sort of, held back myself for three reasons.

A, I know I am way too good to be cast in just one mould (and at the same time, not that good that I am in top 1%ile of any). This means that its in my karma to be never satisfied. I will run from one thing to another and my life will be defined by "chase" rather than "destination."

B. I've wanted / still want a luxurious life for myself. Ok, not luxurious but abundant life. Where I dont have to think for 5 months (or wait for a stupid cashback scheme) to buy an iPhone X (PS: RG gifted me one and I couldn't say no. Thank you, sir). Where I know I can travel business class without any fear (of poverty) or guilt (of splurging when my parents dont even travel in the plane). Where I know I have provided for enough to discharge my duties as a son and a brother and a friend. Where I know that if I were to take off, people would be happy and will not miss me. There is more. But I am sure you get the drift.

C. I dont want to live as someone who came, saw, enjoyed and left. My epitaph has to mean something. I want to give back. I want to pay it forward. I want to make an impact. And that can not happen if I an urban nomad, drifting from one place to another and one opportunity to another.

So yeah. I have wanted to travel the world and see the sights and soak in the experiences and meet new people and taste the different flavours that the world has to offer and talk to new people and learn all I could and all that. But then I've held back.


Coming back. This That evening at the boat where I saw that Cuban lady, the painful memories of the time when I wanted to move out of the country came back rushing to me. To the extent that my heart actually started aching. And ache as in ache. Like I had to sit down and sip on a glass of water.

But then, I realised that am not talented enough to chase nomadic life. Neither am I someone who has what it takes to hold onto a stable job that can pay me well enough to provide for my family. And I am miles away from the impact. So, I cant. And I need to accept it and put this on the list of things that I could not do (other things include play Cricket for India).

Also, I am reminded of this wonderful post by one of the giants that I stand on the shoulders of, Jan Chipchase. He recently wrote about moving to a new place, a new country. He says if you stop learning, you become obsolete and the best way to continue to learn is to move to a place that challenges you and makes you learn. And he says that the hardest part is making the decision.

For me, I think thats where it is. The #lifeGoal.

I want to be a nomad. I want to explore the world. Learn new things and make the fucking dent. But then, how do I...  leave my family behind? run away from my "responsibilities"? do this at this ripe old age of 35? Etc.

Any ideas?

Oh, I believe that I am one of those birds that hates to be caged!

From Shawhank

P.S.: One of the ways in which I can do this is by becoming a famous author. That allows me to make an impact (I will have an audience), travel (to talk about my book, on book tours etc) and provide for my responsibilities (royalty etc). But then odds of getting successful as an author as tiny as me hitting a royal flush on my first hand at the WSOP ME (whenever I get to it). 

On failing. And getting back up.

As the first month of 2018 is officially over, here's a time to look back. Without trying to link back to posts and give evidence of promises, here is a list of things that I failed (and won) at, #in2018.

In no order,

A. I decided to take up the 2019in2018 challenge. Was on it for a few days in the beginning of the year but with time I lost the plot.

I want to end the year at 30" and its going to take superhuman effort from here on. A large part of it will be diet. And a smaller part (not so small) will be working out. I had thought that I will start with daily walks, easing into jogs and then eventually a run. Ending in an attempt at HM. But January has been disappointing. Lets see whats in store for Feb.

B. A few people I know IRL went and came back from JLF. And their twitter feeds tell me that as someone who's interested in the writing scene, I ought to be there. To be honest, not sure if I want to be on the stage at all the litfests around the world but would love to have an opportunity to be at a place where my books are sold.

No, I dont want fame. I merely want to tell stories, create time to write and of course make money. I am ok if my books get published under a pseudonym and all I get is royalties. Actually, thats an idea there. Need to think more.

Back to the point. I want to get the second book out. And I want to get #BetterYou out this year. Both are stuck. Because I dont have time to work on em. And why do I not have the time? Because I am stuck in the rut :(.

Ok. Cribbing.

Point is, need to get back to writing.

C. I wanted to work on my waning mental faculty. For the same, I wanted to start with these app-based games that apparently train the brain. And, I've been able to more or less do this!


So, a win. Phew.

Been playing on Peak and havent missed too many days. And there's a marked improvement in my scores. May be I am getting used to the games that Peak makes me play. May be I am actually improving. Irrespective. A win. Something that is needed to create habits (you know, the trigger, action, reward triad?)

D. I had started posting a pic a day on my instagram last year.  It went well for a few days and then I lost the plot. All those things that they say that make habits if you do something for 21 days? Yawn.

I need to restart it. For two reasons. One, it allowed me to stay curious about the world around me. And, two, it made me a better photographer and a storyteller. Every pic I uploaded, I would think about what the pic meant to me and I would be forced to pen my thoughts bout em.

Did you follow the thread? You want to tell me what you liked about it most?

Just realised that I still have issues with means or meant. Present tense, past tense and all other tenses. Need to fix em. Where do I start? 

E. I dont know if I have spoken about this earlier but I've been tracking each day of my life since (well, most days) 23 May 2017. I started with a daily log of work and all and with time I have expanded it and most days I track 32 variables. Starting 26 Jan 2018, I have started tracking what I eat. And since day before I've started tracking some 20 other tiny things on Nomie (inspired by Thej). I dont know what would I do with all the data but I like the feeling that I will be able to look back at a random date and see what I was upto.

For example, on 12 Aug 2017 (I promise I cooked up this date to give you a case in point), I did the following...

  • Was in Delhi for an event at Andaz (which is an awesome hotel)
  • Met Vanita, Kunal, Ankit 
  • Spoke to Jinal and Parry about things that they are working on 
You get the drift? 

So, net net, its a win. It keeps me grounded. Keeps me going. Gives me a semblance of stability in a world that is in perpetual chaos. 

F. I started maintaining a daily journal at the beginning of the year. Again, after the first week  I havent been able to do much about it. Will restart it. I think I got stuck with it because I did not know to write on it. Do you maintain one? What do you write on it? 

G. I have not played pool in 2 months I think. Before I did that big project at Bangalore last year, I was getting in 2-3 sessions a week. I need to find a way to spend more time around home. May be on the Maker days? Start with a session of squash / yoga, shoot some pool, write and create. Thrice a week. Lol. Wishful thinking, Mr. Garg. 

H. As I write this, I am in HCMC, trying to put together an event for a client. And since I've been here, I havent done any of those "daily" things that I am supposed to do (Peak, photos on insta, writing, daily journal etc). I realised that its tough to do anything when you are on the road. Immense respect to the ones who are on the road and get things done. How?

Oh, and I carried a pair of running shoes with me on this trip, hoping I will go for a run each day. Lol, high hopes. 


So, yeah, that was January of 2018. Not exactly what I wanted it to be. I remain cognisant and aware. Lets buck up in February and beyond. 

PS: While writing this post I realised that the marathon, lit fest and others are all "properties" owned by event companies. Why can't I be the one to create something like this? #note2self and to Team @ C4E

The Nidhi Kapoor Story

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

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