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". 

At IMS

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 https://project2602.wordpress.com. 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 - www.xmind.net).

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!

Thanks,
SG

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?