About 16 years back I held a camera for the first timeand fell in love with it, instantly
We weren’t rich and this camera was a gift.
Back then films rolls were how we used to take photos.
A 36-photo roll used to cost Rs.100 and another Rs.3 to process one of them.
So an investment of Rs.200 – not knowing which one would come out the way you want it to.
But just the fact that I could imagine a picture, capture it in my lens, and see it convert into an image forever, was fascinating.
And overtime I realized the biggest lesson of my life
I could change the image
At my will
By controlling how I saw it through the lens and how I captured it through the camera
Every single day, we meet people at work
And as we grow, we will meet even more
More often than not, we will have an image of them, even before we meet them
Always remember – you have the power to change that image
At your will
Watch this beautiful video and you will know what I am talking about
Don’t ever let perception come in the way of discovering people
Every interaction can be a new image
Of the very same person
I couldn’t watch XFiles the movie when it was released in india, because the ticket was too expensive
But I don’t remember missing out on it. I remember loving the movie when I did watch it several months later
I didn’t travel to even one city during my masters in the US, because I had to save up for home
But I don’t remember missing out on it. I instead remember the awesome time Ruchi and I had going back to the US several years later
I didn’t have enough money to enroll for classroom coaching for IITs
But I don’t remember missing out on it. I instead remember topping college and going to the US for my masters.
I dont party. I don’t drink. I don’t smoke.
But I don’t remember missing out on it. I instead remember feeling awesome at the end of everyday, having accomplished things at work and anticipating love at home.
FOMO is always instantaneous.
It never ever helps.
Because it does not inspire. It instead scares.
How about converting FOMO into something else. Something that could drive, could motivate, could make us move.
The fear of never being able to do it
Question to Vidur (my 4yr old): “Aap bade hoke kiske jaisa banna chahte ho?” (Who do you want to become when you grow up?)
I want to become me
Life lesson 101
Michigan state university was the only university I got through, for my masters
ISB was the only MBA school worth it’s name that I got through
A. T. Kearney was the only consulting firm that I got through, post mba
Rocket Internet was the only company that shortlisted me, when I quit Accentium
The management buyout was the only option Groupon india had
It’s scary to think what would have happened if either of these things didn’t happen in my life
I never had choices
So I grew up giving no choices to myself
When you are building a company, you must believe there is an answer and you cannot pay attention to your odds of finding it. You just have to find it. It matters not whether your chances are nine in ten or one in a thousand; your task is the same.
Hard Thing About Hard Things
Success is the only mother f***king option; failure is not
Last year, during my fitness transformation exercise, my coach Ajay (who also happens to be a colleague) gave me the best gift ever
A Nike dryfit tee, size medium
It sticks to your body. Showing all your contours.
I called it The embarrassment tee
“Wear it everyday to the gym. Your bulges will show, that extra mass that needs to be worked upon. You should feel embarrassed”
Because then, you have two choices
The easy path
The right path
When you say sorry to the customer, you wear the embarrassment tee
When you apologize on behalf of someone, you wear the embarrassment tee
When you tell employees that we fucked up, you wear the embarrassment tee
When you own up to who you really are, with your mistakes, your shortcomings, but determined to work hard to overcome them
You wear the embarrassment tee
And that is any day better than wearing a loose fit tee of an awesome expensive brand.
Most people only pay attention to the final product of the successful entrepreneur
But what most don’t see is what they have overcome
You see, the biggest difference between the ones who succeed and the one who didnt
Is that they showed up everyday
They hustled everyday
They learnt new things everyday
They improved everyday
They did all of this even though they felt like quitting everyday
And eventually they became who they are
When Facebook recently moved to their new office, Mark Z posted a video of the same. It was a walk through, of his desk, his discussion room etc.
I loved it
And remarked to my colleague that we should do the same when we start our new office
He replied “he is Mark Z. Any video of his will look good. We are not Facebook yet”
This is how most of feel. This is how most of us operate.
However, I am pretty sure that Mark Z doesn’t get up every morning thinking he is someone big. He gets up wanting to do the same things he wanted to do 10 years back. Just that the scale has changed. But never for a moment would he have thought he is any lesser.
When I was young I used to love chess. And everyone around me was better than me. But each time I used to start a game, I used to ask myself – what is it that they know that I can’t know.
Never for a moment did I used to doubt my ability to win.
And I used to fail.
But this attitude made me learn much faster than I would have otherwise.
Every single day when you wake up
Tell yourself that there is nothing
Nothing at all
That can make you lose today
Except your own belief
Self doubt has killed more people than self confidence ever will
The nearbuy team was at ISB this Tuesday, for a PrePlacement Talk.
We decided to follow an unorthodox application process.
We are told this has created quite some activity on campus.
Do I need to add color in spirit, or actually add some real color?
Does it need to be creative or colorful?
Does font color qualify as color?
Will I be rejected if it isn’t colorful enough?
The campus resume template was a comfort zone. They knew what they had to do. And it was easy to establish that you fit in.
And we broke the template. We changed the format.
And when formats are broken it makes people anxious. Or makes them work harder.
Irrespective, the output is magically different from what would have been the case. It will reflect emotional labor.
The world doesn’t need one more format.
It needs one more rebel.
When things are not going as per plan the easiest thing to do is to gain control. To review everything. To approve everything. To become the system through which everything has to flow.
If this process worked in the new world, things would never go wrong.
How about doing exactly the opposite.
Things are not going as per plan, but I trust you to fix them. I am there should you need my help. And I happy to sit with you every now and then to act as the sounding board.
Let’s make it happen
Control a person
And they will slacken when you are not around
Give them the autonomy to take their own decisions
And they just might become you
Peter Thiel mentions his favorite interview question in “Zero to One”
What is that one belief you have that very few people agree with you on?
Here is my response, Peter
The best way to become great at something, is to do multiple things at the same time, all the time.
It goes against the concept of specialization.
Well, if you think about it, it goes against the concept of almost everything we all have been told, as part of our education and training.
Here is my rationale to this belief
If I look back at my life, I have been so many fascinating things
But the thing that I am best is, is none of these. I think I am good at connecting with people. That’s where I find peace, that’s where I draw my strength from.
And all of the above roles have helped me exponentially in doing so. In ways I couldn’t have even imagined. And still can’t. But I know they helped.
And that makes the multidisciplinary path fascinating.
It’s amazing how many people begin to slow down discovering new things, as they grow old. When it should be exactly the other way round.
Come to think of it, there is a reason why the best intellectuals the world has seen, from Newton to Archimedes to Leonardo were all so many things in one.
Come to think of it, the people you look up to, are so many things in one.
Ask yourself “who am I”
And hope that you don’t have a single answer
At nearbuy, as we grow super fast (we have gone from 260 folks 3 months back to 540 people today), the need for communicating and ensuring consistency of our value system and beliefs hasn’t be higher before.
I can spend time speaking and engaging folks, and I will continue doing so. But something has to act as a constant reminder.
So we launched the “Little Book Of Big Things” – a visual compilation of what we stand for. What we should stand for.
Here is a glance
How you feel and how you react to this feeling is often different, and misunderstood to be the same
You feel hurt but your reaction is that it anger
You feel scared but your reaction is that of control
You feel happy but your reaction is that of tears
Only the mentally strong can control what they feel. And that’s fine. It isn’t such a bad thing to feel whatever is it that you feel.
Here is what is bad, though.
Reacting the way you react.
Do yourself a favor and chose NOT TO react the way your heart is suggesting you to react. Pause and chose another reaction instead.
Surprisingly, the second reaction, even if worse off, never impacts negatively as much as the first instant reaction.
Our first reaction to things, especially when we feel negative, are almost always wrong! Just wrong.
First reaction is the worst reaction
At the AllHands call last Friday, I got asked this question
A few confessions to make, while I answer this.
By personality, I am a paranoid person.
I bite my nails. All the time.
I hate losing.
I get scared imagining that someone out there might be working harder than me and I am not doing enough.
I worry all the time of whether I am taking the easy path.
I worry that I will be wrong, if I don’t invest in myself.
So I am emotionally very hard on myself. I feel like my heart is always full of emotions. Of things I want to say. Of moments I could cry for. Of just wanting to work so hard that even life bows down.
So the hardest part about being a CEO is to feel the moral responsibility of 540+ people every single day.
I feel responsible for them. For their safety, for their happiness at work, for their career opportunities.
I wake up every single morning with a nagging thought in my head of some incidence yesterday involving the unhappy state of an employee. Something someone wrote. Something someone felt, experienced. Which didn’t make them feel respected or loved.
It’s this journey that is the hardest.
It’s this feeling that is the hardest.
The easiest thing to build is a company
The hardest thing to build is an institution where people love to come to work
Over the weekend, a conversation digressed over to discussing the super wealthy. A close friend heads the strategy function of one such billionaire and has seen their life up close.
Despite being worth billions of dollars, they lead an unpretentious life. Their homes, spread over acres reflect class. Their daily routine shows how money is an output of their life. Not the outcome.
There is also another section that believes in public display of money. Of lavish lifestyles, of making friends that only care about this side of yours.
I have my preference over which life to lead.
Neither is right or wrong. It is a way of life. For every warren buffet there is a Donald trump as well.
However the distinction is clear.
One side makes money work for them. It is part of their life but not the factor that determines it. They know they are wealthy. And it ends there.
The other side lives for money. It is a large reason for them waking up every day. It defines them.
And this starts defining the way they act
Money shouts. Wealth whispers.
Over the weekend we sent a special email to the early adopters of the nearbuy mobile app
It entitled them to Rs 300 of credit once they upgraded to the new version of the app. Because they have given us the best feedback so far.
It was a thank you gesture. From us
One of those users copied the sexy part of that email. And pasted it on an affiliate forum. Craftfully omitting the conditions or the fact that this was for a limited audience.
The forum went viral.
We got 5000+ downloads
And 33 one-star ratings
in a day
The brickbat was all about how they didn’t receive the 300 credit on downloading the app.
It wasn’t meant for first downloads
It wasn’t meant for the forum
It wasn’t meant for the world
Let’s replay this
Someone made a false promise on your behalf
Without asking you
And when the promise wasn’t delivered, the world went against you
Reminds you of something?
Each day, we meet people. People we influence. People we leave some impression upon.
They, without knowing us, spread these impressions around. Unknowingly make promises on our behalf.
And the world, when it meets you, isn’t a blank slate. It is already clouded by these promises. It is not trying to figure who you are. It is trying to figure if you are what they think you are.
And at that stage, you have got to ask yourself
Will I be me?
Or will I do what they want?
Every morning we wake up with a feeling. A certain emotion.
Somehow the emotion controls our day. The rest of the day becomes captive to that thought you started it with.
Hence, the world tells you – wake up with the right feeling. Go to bed feeling the right things. That sets the tone for your day.
That’s foolish. It is like expecting one to always be happy. And to have happy thoughts always. And to not allow any other emotion to enter.
Instead, think of how you can control your emotion. How you can change it.
Now suddenly it doesn’t matter what you wake up with. You can always reset it to what you want.
Here is the deal about controlling your emotions. It begins by not reacting to it.
Ironically, the best way to deal with a negative emotion is to not acknowledge it and work on it.
Rather dismiss it.
Stop reacting to every emotion you feel. As if by magic, the world around you will change.
The Power Law of Investing as a concept is quite simple.
And quite powerful.
It states that in investing, your best returning investment will almost always give you supernormal returns, exceeding the combined returns from the rest of your portfolio.
The 2nd best will be higher than the sum of the remaining.
So on and so forth.
Each week I spend an hour welcoming the new members to the nearbuy (formerly groupon) fanily.
And I leave them with this precise message.
Rather a question
“In today’s world, even if you left everything to fate and just existed, you would end up being 5/10/20X of who you are today.
Think of how you can be 100X of who you are today
How much will you multiply yourself?”
Here is the deal about multiplying 100X – you don’t know what will get you there.
No one does
People who do are the ones who are constantly on the hunt.
Who are constantly searching for the thing they are super normally good at.
Who are constantly working on themselves. Invest time. And don’t ever get comfortable.
They don’t know how good they can get.
So they never stop!
It’s a lot like investing
Happiness is a good feeling
It charges us
It makes us confident
It is the goal for almost everything we do
And it’s source can be multiple things – money, love, appreciation, victory.
And we end up searching for happiness.
All our lives
In all our doings
When instead, the search should be for peace
Because peace is what contains you
Peace is what stays with you
Peace is what you gift yourself
Especially when happiness eludes you
There is a certain magic about being calm. And every single day I tell myself – if I remain at peace with myself, with my work, with my world – I can conquer it.
I don’t have to crave to be happy. That’s not in my control. That is not the reason for my peace.
Sukh hai alag (happiness is different)
Aur chain alag hai (and so is peace)
Par jo yeh dekhe woh nain alag hai (the eyes that realize this are different too)
Chain to hai apna (peace is within)
Sukh hai paraye (happiness comes from outside)
– Sapnon se bharein naina (luck by chance)
This isn’t what I wanted
Why didn’t you work hard
Why didn’t you work longer
Couldn’t you be more rigorous
This is wrong
You are wrong
You have let me down. I trusted you
Guess which of the two is the easy path?
Guess which of the two is the right path?
Don’t tell people they are wrong. They know that.
Instead tell them how you didn’t expect them to be wrong.
And tomorrow they won’t be anymore!
Growth can hide a lot of things
Negative Unit economics
High customer acquisition costs
No time for 1:1
No product market fit
No time for family
No time for your health
But there is one thing growth cannot hide
You cannot lie on stage. The audience will always know it is within your heart.