I am the best result I know – of a genetic socioeconomic lottery.
Born into a family that loved me immensely, inculcated the right value system, could afford quality educated, provided food and shelter.
Nothing even remotely as bad as most people in the world have. All this, for no hard work on my part.
Lottery, as I called it.
Something I should have been grateful about.
Just that I wasn’t. For the longest time in my life.
Just because I worked hard, and thought right, I felt the world owed me results.
I felt I deserved more.
Not because others felt so. Because I thought I was entitled to it.
It was only much later and through a set of life-altering experiences, that I realized entitlement to be the worst enemy of success.
And I have worked hard since then to abolish this sense from within.
And as I am learning about what’s working, what is not, and more importantly why do we behave the way we do when it comes to entitlement, I find myself applying these learnings to how I act as a parent
If there was only one lesson that Vidur could take from me, it would be
Grateful for everything. Entitled to nothing.
The easiest thing in the world is to expect something from someone else
I expect you to love me
I expect you to show up
I expect you to understand
I expect you to care
I expect you to appreciate
I expect the world to…
The hardest thing is to expect something from your own self.
Something that you expected from others.
I expect myself to love
I expect myself to show up
I expect myself to understand
I expect myself not to expect from others
Most people seek from others. Some give to others. Very few give to their own selves.
They say entrepreneurs make better investors. Because they know the grind. They have been through the emotions. They recognize the fears and the irrational optimism.
Entrepreneur turned investor
A combination that works
Just that, it doesn’t.
An investor’s default response is meant to be no. An investor’s job is to enter and exit businesses. Their mind is trained to meaure risk. Figure what will make it fail. And the probability of that.
Entrepreneurs are stupid. They don’t need the 10,000 reasons why something would fail. They need that one reason why it would work.
Two very different mindsets
Coke studio 9 (Pakistan version) released recently. Besides the awesomeness that it is, the thing that caught my attention the most was it’s entirely produced and directed by Strings.
Strings – the music duo that created music, fantastic music, for 22 odd years. Charmed and mesmerized everyone.
And are now producing music. Not creating it. Producing it.
It struck me – that’s why entrepreneurs turned investors fail. They stop producing and directing. They only invest.
Creator turned producer
Consider that as a combination.
Consider that, as a mindset
Under promise and over deliver does not work anymore
Customers expect more
Employees expect more
You should expect more from your own self
Momentum is precious. The only valuable act you and your organization can indulge in.
Making sure you over deliver.
And because you can over deliver, go ahead and commit more
Over promise and over deliver
On 31st January, I went live on Facebook to share the nearbuy brand brief, as part of our search for a creative agency.
It was honestly a natural thing for us to do. We were frustrated with the current pitching process in the industry. And realized there were so many awesome agencies that we had no idea about. How do we reach out to them?
So we did what we do everyday. Speak to the world and ask for help.
Just that, there is no brand in this country that has ever done this.
Gone public with its brief. And that too on Facebook live video.
What was normal and natural for us, wasn’t so much for the world. It ended up challenging set notions in the industry.
Did we expect that? No
Did we hope for that? No
Has it helped us? Absolutely yes
Could we have planned for it? Don’t think so?
We think we know ourselves. And we might.
What we don’t know is at what point will our natural self become special for the world.
And special people don’t work towards that moment. They play their own game.
Every single moment
Our brain has the power to think, to imagine
And what’s separates humans from other species is our ability to imagine the future. The possibilities. The multiple outcomes.
And most of us misuse that power.
We misuse the power when the ability to imagine is used to imagine the worst.
And all possible ways something could go wrong.
And all possible reasons why something will not work.
And all possible outcomes that will make us fail.
The habit of imagining the worst has killed more people than death ever will.
And yet we do it to ourselves everyday
Not to be prepared. Not to be aware. Not to fight it back.
Rather to retread. To not pursue. To have a reason not to go through.
To tell ourselves it’s too risky. Not worth it.
Ask yourself this question: if I didn’t have the power to imagine the future, how would the choices that I make today be any different?
Life is what passes by as you over think? everyday how to live it
At times you find life lessons in the oddest of places.
Security messages when you are onboard the aircraft are mostly considered useless. You have heard them several times. Of course you know how to use a seat belt. It’s 2017! And no, when something bad happens we won’t remember to follow the lights on the floor :)
But there are 2 fascinating life lessons hidden in those messages. And each time I fly, it’s a gentle reminder.
Before helping others, make sure your own oxygen mask is on
Before you feel you are in a position to help someone, make sure you have first helped yourself
Get yourself stable first before you attempt to bring stability to others
Please identify the exit closest to you. Remember, your nearest exit could be behind you
As you move forward in life, your past could help you. Don’t cling on to it, but do recognize that it exists and served a purpose.
Don’t always assume your goals or opportunities are ahead of you. You may have might as well given them a pass in the past.
Another reminder of how inspiration can come from the strangest of sources, if you don’t leave inspiration to chance.
We all hate it, don’t we
This is how the rules are
I am just following the system
I can’t help you. The right person is sitting there in that corner
We are like this only
Sorry ma’am. I understand but I can’t help
No you don’t understand
And yes you can help
But it’s not your fault. You have been trained to follow a system. A rule book. An instruction manual. One that offers an annual promotion and a stable career.
Here is the deal about Bureaucracy
It’s most prevalent not in institutions, rather individuals
I am like this only
This is who I am and don’t expect me to change
I have done this the same way all along
Don’t try to change me. Accept me the way I am.
If we hate the first form of it – how come we are all so comfortable dealing with it in our selves?
10 years back, I was the most stuck up guy I have even known.
An image of myself that I imposed on myself everyday
A misplaced sense of self righteousness
An unnecessary definition of right and wrong. Of dos and don’ts.
And the (now unbelievable) urge to resist changing my own self
Only once I let go, did I begin to discover who I was.
And who I could be.
And I began to like the idea of a better me. At least the path towards it.
Kill the bureaucracy within. The most dangerous people are those that sit and do not wish to change.
As far back as I can remember, I wanted to be a space scientist. An astrophysicist to be precise.
My immediate and extended world knew of my dreams. That of doing my PhD from the US and working at NASA.
And in 2002 I left for the US. To pursue my PhD. From Michigan State University – whose program was a top one in the country. They had a cyclotron (a real one, yes!) and we’re to commission a radio telescope later that year. I was given a 100% tuition fee waiver and an extremely generous stipend to cover my expenses.
A year into the program I was on top of my class. Was working with one of the smartest and driven professors in the team. My peers were fun, intelligent, accommodating.
Life was good.
Just that, it wasn’t.
I was good at what I was doing. But I wasn’t happy.
I figured that a PhD in astrophysics would mean staying in the US for the rest of my life.
Coming back to India would not be an option.
Because India would never have meaningful work for an ambitious, hardworking, diligent Ankur Warikoo.
Back in 2003, I predicted that for the REST OF MY LIFE, India would not have anything meaningful for me.
And I came back (undoubtedly the best decision of my life – but that’s another story)
In the past few years, I have been (secretly) tracking the work that ISRO is doing.
Last week they sent 104 mini satellites into orbit in a single launch – a world record.
And I love how each time they do awesome work, and I read about it in the press, all I can see is this
Don’t ever say that the world is not ready for what you wish to do.
That the world needs to change
Because The one that needs to change is the man in the mirror.
Thank you ISRO for showing me how wrong I was, through the best manner possible – your success.
Note to self: The world doesn’t need our stamp of approval. It needs our participation.
Our parents grew up in a very different world.
India back then was a different land
That of limited opportunities
That of rationing
That of settling for stable than a shot at the moon
And for no fault of theirs (and ours), they raised us accordingly.
It doesn’t matter how good you are. You will win only if someone else loses.
There are enough smart people out there. The way to get through JEE is to hope that most of them don’t perform on the day. The way to get through medical is to see someone else fumble.
People are abundant. Options are limited. And your caliber only ensures eligibility. Not success.
India today has changed. But the way we have been raised hasn’t.
So what do we do?
We still measure ourselves against others.
We still track competition more than we should.
We still play to defend, not to win.
We are constantly fighting someone else. Not ourselves.
It’s time we realized that times have changed.
You can only do those things that are determined by your own rules
The minute you are fighting someone else, playing someone else’s game, you will fail.
Because someone else is good at it already.
I spent almost the entire past weekend trying to resolve a conflict at work. I knew I had to intervene to solve it. I had to take charge. Fix it. Make sure the problem was solved and not just the situation.
It seems the conflict did get resolved.
It seems I had some role to play in it.
All that I did was listened.
Listened for more than 9 hours – both sides – independently.
Nodding my head, because I agreed with most of what was being said.
Shaking my head within, shocked at how similar the views were, how similar the objectives were and yet the two sides felt they were at the opposite end of the diameter.
I didn’t offer any advice
I didn’t share my opinion
I simply listened
Finally got them into a room, share my inference of the situation in 5 mins and allowed them to talk.
This time around they were clearer in their communication, focused on the end goal, empathetic towards the other side. Wiser from the experience, it seems.
They felt heard, understood, I would like to believe.
This weekend, I played the role of a founder.
When I listened. And helped sides see each other.
All other days, I am just another guy. Looking for someone similar. Someone who would listen.
Being heard and understood is the most understated feeling in the world.
Being the one who listens and understands is the hardest role in the world.
And as a founder, you will experience both. No choice.
People stand in line for hours when an iPhone launches, to be one of the first to buy
Women tend to express their emotions better than men
Research suggests that high EQ is a better indicator of success
Squatting is one of the fastest cardio ways to burn fat
Driving a car in the first gear leads to higher fuel consumption
All completely unrelated statements.
All statements that we know of or perhaps have read about somewhere
Maybe Facebook (fuck!)
How many of us stopped to say the golden word?
Why do people stand in line? Why do women operate that way? Why is EQ important? Why does squatting help? Why does the first gear even exist then?
Why is the world the way it is
If you are not a fervent truth seeker, you are simply accepting the world’s definition as yours.
Don’t stop at the why until the why can’t be broken down further.
Because the quality of your life is determined by the quality of your questions
Imagine an angry mail written to you
Imagine a conversational fight you are in the middle of
Imagine an individual being mean to you
Imagine a situation that requires you to react
At that moment, your instant feeling and thus your instant reaction – is conclusively the wrong one.
It’s the hardwiring of evolution that tells us to attack back when attacked. That’s how mankind has survived.
And while the threats have been less threatening, the damage has become less damaging, the nature of the attack is mostly not even personal, we still react as if to win the war.
Whenever you are reacting towards a situation where you have been attacked, do yourself a favor and DONT react the way you instantly feel like react.
Pick any other reaction except the first one.
The first reaction is our basic instinct taking over.
Drop the first reaction. You will always emerge first because of that.
IQ was what got the previous generation to succeed. Mostly.
In today’s world of distraction, instant gratification, unlimited access and boundless opportunities – your ability to focus is what will make you stand out.
Focus is the new IQ
Here is the deal about focus
It’s spelled as “consistency”
The irony of today’s world is that everything is instantaneous and yet the time that it will take and the discipline it will require to be sucessful, hasn’t shortened one bit. Infact might have increased.
If one is not consistent – in their thoughts, in their actions, in their conduct and their drive to learn – focus will only be limited to a 5-letter word.
What you know doesn’t mean shit. What is it that you do consistently? ??
Smart people and nice people think their smartness and niceness diminishes each time they say no to someone.
They believe they are saying no to their own capability of helping.
To their own ability to solve.
What we rarely realize is that the art of saying no is the highest level of respect you can bestow onto yourself.
Each time we say no, we chose what’s important as against what’s urgent (or worst still what’s pleasing others)
Each time we say no, we make ourselves vulnerable to the world’s narrative of ourselves. And we accept it
Each time we say no, we say yes to things that matter. That move us forward.
I get asked for help more than I deserve, on a daily basis.
For funding, mentoring, ISB help, speaking sessions.
And I have a polite template for saying no to most of them.
Not because I don’t want to help.
Because I can’t.
Because there are other things that take precedence. That I have signed up for. That I am already on.
It shocks me how so many people show an absolute disregard to their time and allow others to step on it at will.
They will pick up stuff and crib about it. Projecting they were somehow forced or tricked into it.
But it’s always our choice.
True success is not how much time you spend doing what you love.
It’s how little time you spend doing what you hate.
I have a “problem”
I have been trained to think that everything is a consequence of me. I am the source of the current situation. My thoughts, my actions led to what we are witnessing, especially if it’s bad.
I may not admit it all the time, but within I am already cursing myself. Scrutinizing myself. Killing myself.
It is hard being this way. But I don’t know any better. This approach keeps me honest and keeps me up. All the time.
Here is the deal with being honest with one’s own self.
Most of us don’t do it.
It’s so easy to blame others.
It’s so easy to blame external circumstances.
It’s so easy to think that something else led to this. Something we didn’t control. We did the best we could.
Because this approach makes us think we are still good enough
And good enough helps us sleep well at night
The next time something bad happens, start by assuming you are responsible. This is different from blaming yourself, where you will play the victim and console yourself.
Make yourself responsible. What is it that you did that led you to this. Did it make sense? Was it right after all? Could there have been an alternate approach?
Could you be the one that needs to change, and not the world?
If you run into an asshole in the morning, you ran into an asshole.
If you ran into assholes all day, you are the asshole
Yesterday at lunch with two super smart startup founders, we got talking about their pitch deck.
Pitch decks are super fun. I look at the nearbuy pitch deck every other week – trying to make it clearer, sharper, more succinct. And surprisingly find obvious ways of doing so, that weren’t so obvious before.
I told them – your first slide should be declaring who you are.
And you should be ok with it. Ok with what you you have written. Ok with who you have projected yourself to be. Ok with who you are.
That set me thinking. If you had pitch decks, what would your first slide say?
Would the world get it?
Would they see the same image when they meet you in person?
Would they agree with it?
Would you be comfortable with it?
The first slide of our pitch deck should be what we wish to tell the world. Not what the world wishes to hear.
Two emails – selling something to me – eyeing for my attention
Which one will get a response?
Which one went through more effort to write?
Which one will continue putting in the effort, despite the response rate?
If we don’t respond too well to lazy work, what makes us think that the world will respond well to ours?
Which one will you be today?
I am privileged that a lot of people write in seeking help.
What shocks me, consistently, is how few of them know what help they need
My standard response to most emails is my favorite question
“How can I help”
Here is the truth
No one will figure out how they can be useful for you. You have to do it for them, if you need them.
How can I help?
The question you need an answer to, before you seek help
Help doesn’t come from a spray and pray approach. That’s advice, you are mistaking it for.
People will help you only when you have helped them understand how they can.
Self driving cars
I am amazed at the pace with which this industry is being transformed. There isn’t any month where an incredible video doesn’t surface – from different companies – showcasing real life implementation.
Without knowing much about the technology – here is an admission I would still make.
It isn’t possible that everyone started to build this at the same time for us to see so much action happen simulataneously.
Instead, it seems that “someone discovered” that self driving cars was a possibility. And then the best brains lept at it to prove that they were the best brains.
Mankind gained from this competition, as a consequence.
The tools had existed. For a long time. And very few people bothered to look beyond.
Until one of them did.
And then competition took over.
The race to build something better and before led to attention towards the algorithm that could take over the tool.
And before we knew it – tools had become redundant.
The steps towards progress are clear
People. Tools. Algorithm.
Don’t stop at tools. That’s progress half done.