3 things happened, to converge to this post
Zero to One isnt a life story. In true Peter Thiel Style – its prescrptive in portions and preachy in part. I was hoping to know about him as an individual than know about his views as an authority on technology.
Hard Thing About Hard Things – was a true life journey. It could very well have been Ben’s autobiography (and it is indeed). He just spoke about what he did. What he felt. What he spoke.
But the beauty was how his life story seemed to relevant to me (and am sure to several million others). Even though his life journey is unique – something only 1 in millions would experience.
Thats the power of a personal story.
What I did through my Quora posts – is share my life.
What I do when I speak to folks in colleges, or on the phone – is share my experiences.
Not offer advise, definitely not try to offer mentorship or guidance. And the response I receive is humbling to say the least. Numerous people have written – sharing how it motivated them, drive them to think, to question and eventually to act! The email above being a perfect case in example
Never shy away from sharing your story.
Its your story – but it helps people drafts theirs
In ways that you cannot control or even imagine
Hard work isn’t too
Resilience doesn’t always
Perseverance is almost natural or not
But guess what’s contagious….
And if used with the right words, for the right cause in front of the right people
It can do the unthinkable
They say that I can move the mountains
And send them crashing to the sea
They say that I can walk on water
If I would follow and believe
With faith like a child
– Jars of Clay
I still remember the call with the Groupon UK CEO, just as I had been named the India CEO
The call was brief. Congratulations, a few pieces of advice and an ending remark
“Call me whenever you feel like. It’s lonely at the top”
I didn’t make much of the last remark. Because I never thought it would be true for me. And it still isn’t.
I love my colleagues, speak to them everyday on things beyond work, have vacationed with them. And share a wonderful chemistry.
But what I crave for – is to hear from my customers and employees.
Honest, unfiltered feedback.
I get 100+ emails everyday from customers and reply to each of them. Mostly are to solve their problems. Very few are sharing ideas, experiences, their life. I love receiving those. Have made a few friends as well.
I get 5-10 emails a week from employees. Mostly offering terrific ideas. But in a 240+ group, it’s lonely not to get more.
I feel loneliness at a different level.
It’s driven by knowing the fact that people are perhaps intimidated to reach me because of my fancy title. That they feel it’s not worth my time. Or I won’t respond
And then I read this today
It’s beautifully summarized as follows
Too many people are afraid to write. Do it some time and see what happens. Just ask: What’s the worst thing that can happen? And: What’s the best thing?
The top is lonely. And scary.
Make it less so for me! :)
You are climbing a mountain. An area of surreal natural beauty – green, thick, intervened by waterfalls.
You can’t believe your eyes. You pull out the camera, focus and click what you think is the best shot you will get.
You climb further up. Not surprisingly, the view has got better. It’s wider, it’s nature spreading her arms. It’s more magnificent than the one before.
Even though you thought the one before was the best view you have ever had.
The journey will throw you in situations that you think are the best possible so far. But that doesn’t mean it’s the best possible.
The best views are always from the top.
When I ran the marathon in December 2013, I was left with a weird question in my head.
Leading up to the day of the Marathon, I had never really run a full 21kms. The maximum I had was 14kms – 5 days before the marathon day.
And as a newcomer, you are given 3 hours to complete the 21km stretch. Thats 7kmph – brisk walking I’d say!
Was it possible that I didnt prepare for the marathon at all, but would have still ran the 21kms on the day?
The math (7kmph == brisk walking) suggested yes! This realization was unsettling. And as I love doing, I asked myself a tough question
So what is it that I can do, for which I will have to prepare each and every day. I cant cheat the system by suddenly “running” on a decided day, if I hadnt prepared for it for every day before it!
6 PACK ABS!
The marathon training has done some good. From 85kgs I had come down to 79Kgs. However, the days post the marathon were spent in celebrating the success. And I was back to 82!
I needed to exercise
and I needed a diet plan
Basically I needed a trainer.
And it was Ajay Singh again (Groupon colleague and the same guy who shared the video that changed me!)
On 17th Jan, he shared the diet plan that would lead me to the healthiest phase of my life
6:30am: 2 bananas + 10 almonds
8:30am: Protein Shake + Oatmeal + Apple
11:30am: 2 tbsp Lemon Juice + Veg Salad (Olive Oil Dressing) + 1 Green Tea
130pm: 2 bowls of boiled Kidney Beans + 2 carrots + 2 borwn bread toast with peanut butter
400pm: Handful of nuts + Green Tea
700pm: Protein Shake + Roasted Veggied + 1 bowl of boiled chick peas
900pm: Green Tea
Drink 8 bottles of water everyday
No sugar at all
And then he added a clear piece of instruction
Dont eat anything that is packed, processed, canned or on someone else’s plate!
I measured my body fat percentage on the 1st of Feb = 26%. Your abs shows when body fat reaches sub-10% levels!
Basically – I had to burn my fat.
One way was to not consume it – which is something that the diet plan ensured.
The other way to get into an intense fat-burning exercise regime – Weight Training
Weight training builds your muscles. And when you strain your muscles you body spents energy the entire day trying to recover from the “shock”. Cardio, on the other hand, stops burning fat the minute you stop doing it!
Ajay gave me the schedule – one body part a day
and so it started – the race to the abs!
BF had reduced to 18%
The abs could be felt if I dug my fingers into my stomach. But that wasnt the point
I weighed 78kgs
This was a month I lost! Was travelling almost all of it – and wasnt able to work out.
Surprisingly, the unregimented diet that I was on during this month, didnt increase my weight or body fat. Testimony to the muscle-burns-fat logic.
It was working!
BF reached 15% – it was getting harder to burn more.
“Concentrate on your legs. Thats the biggest muscle in the body – and can sustain the most pain. There are only two modes when you are doing legs – vomit or faint!”, advised Ajay, in his true style
That month, I lifted 100kgs on my legs!
My personal deadline for the abs. BF had reached 12% and the first 2 packs were showing. The rest 4 were buried under what seemed like irritating-hard-to-dissolve stomach fat.
Aparently it was water, and not fat! It was time to reduce the water flab around your lower abs.
June 23 2014
I weighed 72kgs – an incredible 14kgs below my highest
Body fat had reached 10%
I stopped all salt in my diet (salt absorbs water). And reduced water content to 1 bottle a day
The first day was tasteless. The next day I called Ruchi to ask why she had added salt to my lunch.
She replied that she hadnt!
Brain >> Senses!
July 7 2014
I finalized the photographer for a shoot.
Yes – I was planning to have it all this while. Life doesnt give you too many opportunities to get shot in 6packs!
July 12 2014
Day before the shoot
Body Fat: 8.3%
No salt for the past 2.5 weeks
July 13 2014
Day of the shoot. Went to Ajay’s gym for “pumping” – spent an insane 2 hours out of my wits!
Sharad (colleague who got the shoot organized) and Ajay were there during the shoot. Absolutely weird and amazing experience. I realized I suck in front of the camera, am too concious and I cant carry looks that are not me!
When the photographs finally came in – I couldnt believe my own eyes. I was looking at a body that didnt feel like mine. It was a healthy body – a confident one! And one that had been an absolute pleasure to build.
I sent a text thanking Ajay for all his help. His reply was fascinating.
The best part about bodybuilding is that it is not a team effort. It is just YOU. You cant blame anyone for your failure so no one gets the credits for your victory.
What I told you all through is something easily available on the Internet and I have shared it with several others. You have to believe and know for a fact that it is only you who decides what happens to it now.
The power of knowing that you alone control this – is a powerful one.
Because its really the same with everything else as well.
Here I am – from an era before
And here I am today
Lessons I learnt from this phase
Amen to a life life this, forever!
DO EPIC SHIT!
Updates (based on feedback)
Day 1: Chest
Day 2: Shoulders
Day 3: Abs
Day 4: Back
Day 5: Arms
Day 6: Legs
It’s been a while since I have spoken to Oliver Samwer. But I track him closely. If I were 13 I would call it a man-crush
Here is a guy who has probably told himself – I want to be the most powerful and aggressive guy in the Internet space. Not for money (he has plenty, I assume), or fame (he doesn’t even give interviews easily) or glory (his business model will always have more cynics than believers).
But for the sake of building things – faster than anybody else. And better, in most cases.
For the sake of creating a massive global footprint which a lot of companies would fear to ever discuss.
He chose to tell himself – I will not do just one thing in my life. Because I don’t want to live just once.
I use Oli as a proxy for how I wish to (and have) lived my life. Doing just one thing is such a waste. I have 87,600 hours for the next 10 years. So why not do 8 things for 10,000 each!
Master of a skill.
Jack of all trades that use that skill.
Being a foodie and not a morning person, I thought getting 6pack abs will be the hardest thing I will ever do in life
And the first month it indeed was
Not a moment after that
The hardest thing is telling your brain that’s it’s not hard at all!
Something about cities fascinates me. Captures identity that goes beyond people.
These are shots from Singapore.
I love emotions.
Especially when thats the only language spoken by brands
No hard sell
Just pure emotions
In a way – they sell our own story to us!
I can live with that! :)
Jumping off bridges is considered too risky. Yet some people do it for fun.
Quitting your job is considered too risky. Yet some people have achieved success because of it.
Taking a loan is considered too risky. Yet some people have created wealth by taking smart loans.
What you define as risk may not be risky for someone else.
The definiton of risk is determined by you. its not an absolute
Do ahead and define risk
in a way that doesn’t scare you!
20 years back I would travel 50km one way and spend an entire day to save Rs. 100 in textbooks and notebooks
15 years back I would stand in line for 2 hours to get a monthly pass made for my bus travel
10 years back I would spend an hour everyday cooking food to save money on eating out
5 years back I would visit 3 shops to get the best price on the laptop
I buy my music on iTunes
I call for bids when I want to buy something
I would much rather pay people to get work done and free up my time
The above may seem as a sign of prosperity. Disguised within it is actually an increasing value for one’s time.
So many people despite growing in life haven’t increased the value of their own time. They take pride in placing the same constant value.
Society calls it being earthy.
They confuse it with humbleness.
If your time doesn’t have an increasing value – you are not creating value. You are merely redistributing it. Because you are “wasting” your time on something that will create much lesser value than it could otherwise.
Place a value to your time. And take it onto yourself to keep increasing it.
Almost always our goals in life are outcomes
The house you always wanted
The car you desire
The trip you wish to go on
The startup funding
The 6 pack abs
Outcomes don’t happen on their own. Outcomes require an input variable.
How about changing your goals to the input variables – the process that will almost conclusively decide the outcome?
Saving to invest every month, and where
Reaching out to an investor every week
Working out everyday
And then – change your league.
Think of the impossible input variable. The uncomfortable one. The hard one. The one you are scared of. The one you always wished you could do but haven’t done till date
Saving even before you spend a penny
Reaching out to investors in the valley
Working out everyday and completely changing your diet
Because someone somewhere said something – which will always hold true!
If you have always had enough money in your bank
If the car seat plastic is still on
If you have never ran to catch a bus
If you have never quit a job because you hated it
If you have never spoken to a big crowd
If you check all doors after you have shut down your car
If you have never danced in public
If you never gone on a vacation alone
If you have never challenged the status quo
If you chose company name over work profile
If you have posted anonymous
Then you have played safe
And nothing great was ever achieved by playing safe. You can’t win by playing safe. You stop living!
Move straight to 4:46
I would want to see this everyday of my life. And remind myself that the vision I work towards is always going to be orders of magnitude bigger than the tasks I conduct today.
Don’t question your days. Don’t size the vision
It’s big enough!
And I am so glad Seth Godin agrees
“Will I get in?” is not nearly as good a question as, “Is it worth trying?”
It’s so easy to talk ourselves into failure before it even shows up
Fortune India 40 Under 40 List!
This month has been particular generous on me.
Won the Promising Entrepreneur of 2013, awarded by Enterprise Asia
Got listed as part of the India’s 25 Hottest Young Executives (under 40) by Business Today
IIT Delhi student, at the entrepreneurship club speaker series.
Ofcourse yes! How else would I get invited to the entrepreneurship club!
Who is an entrepreneur? Someone who starts on his own? Someone who owns sizable equity? The founder?
Well, technically yes. And technically, I wasn’t meant to run the marathon either. So fuck technical.
Here is my definition. Let’s see how it works
Anyone whose job is to work on systems already laid out by someone else – is not an entrepreneur. That’s managing.
The ones that build systems, challenge status quo, innovate and change things in order to always make them better and efficient – those are entrepreneurs
The first 100 odd people at Facebook are entrepreneurs.
Jonathan Ive is an entrepreneur
And so is Arvind Kejriwal
In Feb 2012, I was ordered to “stop walking” in 2 weeks flat. A pain in my hips had been diagnosed as AVascular Necrosis (or AVN) – a freak thing to happen considering that most of the causes for AVN did not apply to me.
The doctors suggested treating it right away, through a process called Core Decompression – there would be a hole drilled in the hip bone, and a living bone chip from the thigh would be implanted. The natural healing of the bone would take 18-24 months.
I was to be on the bed for 3 months post-surgery. And on crutches or walking support for 5 more months.
In a reply to a Quora question, I realized that this experience taught me a lot. Largely around how the world’s reaction to your circumstances are determined by your own perception of the same circumstance. As if you could project your views onto others, and get them to react in a certain way.
I love flights – especially when travelling alone. It gives me a lot of thinking time. And it was once such flight back to Delhi, when I told myself – this journey has been fascinating. But what could I possibly tell myself to convince myself that its over. Tell life that I have won.
How could I tell life that I have gone beyond the crutches, that it gave me?
The thought stuck. But it was a scary one.
I hadnt had any physical activity for months now. I was fat and inflexible.
I hated running (still do!)
And I hated waking up early in the morning. So not a morning person
Lastly, the idea of challenging myself had to be big. It couldnt be some random running. It had to be big.
And so – as the thought consumed me even further – I decided – I would run the Delhi Half Marathon – 21kms. And I would have to complete it in 3 hours, for it to mean anything.
I had decided to run 21kms under 3 hours, after a surgery that rendered me “unwalkable” for 6 months!
I joined a gym. And started training. It was DIFFICULT!
I couldn’t run for more than a minute, without feeling the need to stop
My leg hurt, really bad
My body was stiff! I was fat (86kgs)! And waking up at 6 was the worst feeling ever!
I think back then, the Marathon was just a dream.
Ajay Singh, a Groupon colleague I admire and respect, shared this video over Facebook
2 things caught me:
“You guys find a fear – that fear will either create you or destroy you. I love fear – because behind every fear is a person you want to be. fear is self imposed, meaning it doesnt exist. You create it, you can destroy it too. Its an intangible”
(2:32 in the video)
This video changed me!
I have seen this video EVERYDAY since then – either on my way to work, or on the pot, or on the treadmill (just listening to it) – but everyday since then.
The months gone by had been hard. Waking up at 5.45 everyday for 5-6 days a week was hard. Lifting weights was hard. Running without stopping was hard. If there was anything that kept me going, it was this video that kept shouting at me – “behind every fear is a person you wish to be”
In Sep, I ran my 1st 5km in one go. Took me almost an hour. Super slow. But a big feat mentally. I was getting there.
Finished 7kms in an hour. Was down to 80kgs from 86kgs
Finished 12kms in 1.5hrs
The marathon was scheduled for 15th Dec, 2013
Dec 10, 2013
Ran 14kms. decided not to run any further for the remaining 5 days.
I had NEVER run beyond 14kms in this entire period. Ever!
Dec 15th, 2013
Started the marathon at 8am (Group E – the group that had never ran a marathon before). Completed the first 5 kmI much faster than I thought. The music helped, fellow runners helped, the weather helped.
Some memorable moments on the way, that almost seemed unbelievable a few months back
By this time I knew I would make it. I was sure that I would complete the 21kms.
The distance I had run till so far. Anything beyond this point was a new achievement for me.
and finally the winning moment!
A selfie with the medal
2:36:15 hrs for 21 kms, at an average of 8.07kmph
Fascinating 12 months…
I am never going to run another marathon again. I hate running
But I beat life to it! :)
Here is me with my partner-in-crime (Ruchi decided to run the 6km Delhi Run and finished in sub 45mins)
Sometime back, TEDx KMC was kind enough to invite me for a talk on this post. Here is the recorded version of the same