In a seminal 2002 study, 3 scientists put 12-month old infants through an experiment

Through a glass window, the infants saw a man enter a room.

In front of the man was a large “something” with a huge button

The man banged his head into the button and lo behold – there was confetti like stuff in front of him

Several men entered, banged their head on the button and the same “magical show” happened

 

The infants were then introduced into the room

And their natural response was

To bang their head against the button

 

And then the scientists added a twist

Same setting

Instead, the men entering the room had their hands full – holding bags

And they, yet again, pressed the button with their head

Several men repeated the same

Hands full with bags

Pressed the button with the head

 

This time now – when the infants entered the room

They surprisingly didnt use their heads to press the button

Instead

They used their hands to press the button :)

 

Pause for a minute and think about this

 

And translate this into real life

How often do we see people in repeated action

And begin to believe that its only THAT action which will yield THIS result?

It is only when we see the constraints of those people, do we recognize that our natural response could have also caused the same result

We just didnt try

 

What people do doesn’t matter
Its why they do it, that does

Realization

11 Sep
2017

Most of us have been raised to admire the extra ordinary

To be inspired by them

To be in awe of them

To want to become them

BUT

Most of us have been raised to be ordinary

To be average

To follow the herd

To take the path already taken

To admire is easy

It’s easy to watch great people

It’s easy to see how they did it to listen to them

But it takes a lot to become them

And we haven’t been taught how

As if it’s something we had to be born with

Consistently put yourself into situations others have only watched and admired

An overwhelming majority of emails and messages I receive end broadly the same way

What do you think of the idea?

Am I on the right track?

How should I plan my life?

What’s the best advice you can give me?

And my personal favorite

Want to pick your brains on this

 

 

This form of help-seeking is lazy, at its best.

When we ask such questions, we may think we are being considerate of someone’s time

But if the opposite person truly values their time, then this approach is frustrating

You expect someone to navigate through your story, your circumstance, your context, and then distill all the thoughts into one or two powerful implementable points?

Because you asked?

 

Try this the next time

Be. Ruthlessly. Specific

And relevant

 

That shows you have a problem

And you have taken the effort to narrow down the reasons

And have identified someone who could help

And are respectful of their time

While aware of where they can help and how

 

If you get a response, you know for a fact that you have a conversation going.

With a sense of purpose.

 

For all the times you ask for generic advice

Someone who could have helped, chooses not to

Here is a view to life

That is conclusively true

Our brain is a muscle

That requires training

Training that it rarely gets

Because it’s the hardest thing to train

And life is not a bed of roses

It will be hard, supremely hard

At times, or most often

But hard for sure

Just as much as it will be easy or enjoyable

Here is a contrarian view to life

That is also conclusively true

To prepare for these hard times

You have only one route

Train your brain

And to train your brain for such times

You have got to pick up the things you hate doing

And go fucking do them

Hate waking up early?

Wake up early

Hate eating healthy?

Eat healthy

Hate approaching new people?

Approach new people

Hate studying?

Study

Because when you do things you hate

You don’t win some tactical battle

You prepare yourself for those worst moments

That will surely hit you

So that you don’t fall apart

Don’t protect yourself

Prepare yourself

When you are dining at a restaurant, or relaxing at a spa, or getting pampered at a salon – the cost of that service is usually ridiculously low compared to what you end up paying.

So we argue we are paying for the softer aspects

The ambiance

The treatment

The expertise/quality of the experience

 

Ever wondered then – why does the experience diminish if the one serving you gives you the impression that they don’t care?

Why do unhappy servers affect us so much, when it’s not them that we are consuming

An unhappy server serving the best tasting food – not good enough

An unhappy masseuse delivering the best quality massage – not good enough

 

Here is my prediction why

Because at a subconscious level, we are also paying for that individual’s inability to enjoy life, at that precise moment

When we are sitting having a nice meal, the server is serving us. Not enjoying.

When we are getting a lovely massage, the masseuse is not enjoying

All the occasions when we are being served and enjoying, the server is NOT enjoying.

They are serving us.

Which is why, when we see someone unhappy, we feel our money wasn’t put to use.

And we hate that, don’t we?

 

If you are in the serving business, each time you truly show that you love serving – people will feel wonderful being served.

If you are in the people business, each time you truly show that you love people – people will feel wonderful being themselves

This post is meant to spark a conversation – I am genuinely seeking help on how to build a gender neutral workplace

This women’s day, I shared stats about women representation at nearbuy.com – a piece that went “mini-viral”
Share of women: 34%
Share of women in tech: 29%

Impressive, I assume

 

However, here is the reality

This month, 3 women colleagues – great at what they do, had to leave because of a change in their personal situation (got married in a different city or husband is moving to a new city).

In each of the situations, they wanted to continue working with nearbuy – and we tried to figure out options (remote work etc) but couldnt come up with any elegant situation that didnt harm work or their ability to grow.

Early this year, we lost 2 more colleagues to similar circumstances

And I know (as of today) of 3 more such cases before the end of the year

We lost 8 women colleagues, extremely capable professionals, because they got married or their husband moved cities
In 10 years I have encountered only 1 case of a male professional leaving their workplace because of his partner.

 

How am I supposed to deal with this?
I needed suggestions from the audience – how do I build a gender-balanced workplace in light of the above situation?

PS: Dont need to hear “this is the reality” – I am not looking for validation. I am looking for ideas

 

Nike and me

29 Aug
2017

In school, I was fascinated with Nike, the brand

I knew it as “Niek” back then

And all day long, on every blank space possible – I used to draw the swoosh and sketch “just do it”

I decided that if I ever get a tattoo it will be the swoosh, on the mount of my palm.

Never managed to buy a pair of Nike shoes though. Never had enough money early on and by the time I did, other similar brands came cheaper!

Last year, I read Shoe Dog, by Phil Knight, founder of Nike.

Hands down the best book of last year. Possibly across many more years.

It rekindled my fascination with Nike, the brand.

I wondered what it would be to run in a Nike

I wondered if it was true, what Eisenhower (founder of Nike) said

This birthday, Ravi gifted me a pair of Nike shoes.

One of the most thoughtful gifts ever :))

And I was so excited

For my Monday run

Yesterday, I wore the shoes

Didn’t feel any different

Walked in them

Didn’t feel any different

Started to run in them

Felt the same as my Puma

Ran for 3Kms

The Nike didn’t feel any different

Then I looked at my timer

What every time takes me 18 mins to run, had taken me 15mins

So instead of running at 10kmph I had ran for 12kmph

I had gained 20% in a day.

On a day when I felt there was no difference

My mind was telling me something that day

But my subconscious had been listening to something else for years

Guess who won

It all boils down to the story you have telling yourself all this while

And if there was none, today’s story will win!

There was a time when content was not democratic

There was a lot of effort put into production. But distribution was almost dictatorial.

Set TV hours for each show.
The TV shows were decided by someone else
Their timings were decided by someone else
Their content was decided by someone else
Same for movies
Same for songs
Same for news
No one got to make them.
No one got to chose what to consume
No 10/20/30 second edits – either you consume all of it or you dont

People hated it.
I can understand why

So then came the biggest technology intervention that few talk about

Personalization

 

Content today, is a reflection of your interests, your reactions, your engagement.

Its constantly tracking you, and delivering freshly baked content to appeal to your senses.

To get you hooked!

Creating mini-you in the guise of that news item, that movie edit, that user-generated song, that viral forward

 

This scares me

Personalization is wiping out the ability for us to form opinions.

Technology was meant to help us see things from a different point of view.
Instead, machines are working to make us more and more enclosed in our worlds.
Making us believe that its the entire world

 

Thats why books are unique
A colleague mentioned this yesterday
I love books, because they are not personalized
They werent written for me. They were written by someone.

So we have no choice, but to consume the perspective of the author.
Accept or reject – but consume first.

Which is far better than being supplied stuff that endorses my point of view and never allows for a different one to set in.

Personalization is not a boon
The more you will read, the more they will feed
You won’t become a better version of yourself
You will become an inflated version of yourself 

To work on my neck and cheek bones, I got two bricks, placed them on top of each other, wrapped a cotton cloth around them and created a sling knot.

Idea is to hold the knot by biting it with your teeth. That puts pressure on your cheek bones. And if you make your head go up and down, it works on the back side of your neck.

So everyday, I walk from home to the gym with two bricks hanging from a cloth piece held between my jaws.

People give me the looks

People in the gym ask me what’s this all about

People are intrigued

The responses are quite funny, ranging from “is he mad?” to “wow, look at him”

The attention to this unusual thing, is quite amusing

Except,

My cheek bones are pretty much still there

It might take 2-3 months, even more for the effects to show

There might be no effects at all

Another reminder of life

Unusual things will get you a lot of attention

And that attention will make you believe you are on the right track

But it’s not the attention that influences the outcome

Stop measuring the success of your outcome, by the attention your work gets.

2 traits define people who work with you

Capable

and

Compatible

Despite the best interview processes and intent, there are errors that creep in.

And it’s super critical to take a hard stand on such errors

I have never regretted firing someone. I have only regretted not doing it early enough

The easiest are people who are neither capable nor compatible.

Such cases need deep honest introspection. How did they get past the system, the checks, the balances.

Irrespective of seniority, my experience is that it takes no more than a month to find such people.

Take them out on the first day of the second month!

Next are people who are not capable but compatible

These individuals need attention. Training. Mentorship. Guidance.

If done right, they can win. But organizations need to have the will and more importantly the patience to see them through

In my experience, these individuals can be identified in 3 months. And I would give them another 3-6 months to upskill. Else unfortunately counseled out

Capable but not compatible is a tricky one.

My personal experience – such cases never work out in the long run.

These are hard to conclude, extremely painful to execute and you will almost always want to live in denial.

In my experience, these take easily a year to surface.

Doing the right thing requires immense courage

To me, these decisions is the hallmark of a seasoned entrepreneur or manager

In the long run, compatibility is greater than capability

Let a capable person not tell you otherwise!

Avoid

People who think of themselves higher than you think of them

They don’t want to grow.

They think they have already done everything

They have a misplaced sense of self worth

Developed largely by their own minds

Not by feedback

Hold on to

People who hold you to a standard much higher than you hold yourself to

They genuinely want you to win

They see in you a much higher order than you do yourself

And they act as the motivating mirror

Always showing you not who you are

Rather who you can be

The most dangerous kinds

People who think of themselves higher than you think of them AND hold you to a

higher standard than you hold yourself to

These individuals give you the impression they wish to help you.

They give the impression they want to fight with you

Not to make you a better version of yourself

But to make you lose

To tell you that even at your best, you are only a shade of who they are

(Most so-called mentors fall in this category!)

Knowing the kind of people around you, is the first step to improving yourself

Eliminating the toxic ones is the best step to improving yourself

Independence Day

16 Aug
2017

Patriotism is when you like your country for what it does

Nationalism is when you like your country irrespective of what it does

Are you a patriot or a nationalist, when it comes to your startup?

Vidur (my 6yr old) has been learning the piano for a year now.
And he is really good at it.
He can read and write notes
And usually understands new notes faster than anyone in class
And then plays it by memory
Has also started creating his own music.
Which doesn't have much sense, but sounds peaceful when I hear it

There is one thing he hates though
Practice
And that worries the shit out of me!

Two words can predict someone's professional outcome accurately

Talent
Hard work

Think of a 2×2 matrix – talented (yes or no) on one axis and hardworking (yes or no) on the other

The worst is of course no talent and not hardworking
But the one after that is talented but not hardworking
Because the hardworking but not talented guy will any day beat the shit out of the talented guy

Hard working people know how to convert their hard work into talent
Talented people are poor. They only have their talent!

People use the term as if it's interchangeable. But it's not.

The titles are of course different
Founder – founded the company
CEO – runs the company

If it's the same person with both the titles, it is supremely critical to know the distinction

And I was made to realize it again day before

Founder – executes.
He knows what it takes to build the company, has a view on the market and the product.
Thus, a review meeting turns into a workshop
Where he identifies a problem and rolls up his sleeve to solve it

CEO – delegates.
He knows he has the team to build the company, bases his views on what his trusted people tell him, has his ears to the ground but knows that he cannot be the one fixing things
Thus, a review meeting remains a review meeting
This should be looked at again.
This is great
What drive this conclusion?
Yeah, we all agree this doesn't work. Fix it!
When he identifies a problem, he trusts his team to find out how to solve it
And he ensures there is nothing in their way, to do so

The important thing then is to know when to act as a founder and when to act as a CEO

During a founder conversation, don't become a CEO
During a CEO conversation, don't become a founder

It's been precisely 2 years since we became nearbuy from Groupon

And I honestly didn't expect such high and lows when we started on this journey.

In my head, it was a lot more stable and a lot more predictable
Instead – it was 2 years of fascinating highs and terrible lows.

And in the middle of all of this – the key is then to manage your own narrative.
What is the story you tell yourself every single day

Managing one's mind remains the single biggest determinant of startup outcome

Everything else – market, funding, team – is a manifestation of your thoughts

How you stand in front of your team, your investors, your customers and your vendors – is how the startup stands during the journey

Reminds me of one of the important statements in the Hard Things about Hard Things

I have come to realize that the physical and mental self are two different beings.
Almost independent.

The physical self seems to have no mind of its own (no pun intended)
It loves to sleep
It loves to eat
It loves to laze
It love comfort

The mental self clearly has a mind of its own, but suffers from severe peer pressure and social influence
What will the world say
I know I can do this but am I good enough
I should eat this; I shouldn't eat this

Overtime, the biggest realization is that the mental self's thoughts are extremely contagious
To your physical self
And to other mental selves

In other words,
How you think
Influences your physical self
And influences the mental selves of others

If you now know that you are the source of a "virus",
What would you choose to spread?

Hat tip: calm is contagious

The most fascinating thing science taught me was hypothesis-led thinking

It's the proposed explanation for a phenomenon. Comes from the Greek word hupothesis, meaning "to suppose"

One takes this hypothesis and sets out to prove it or disprove it.

If proven, you conclude. It becomes a theory or a law.

Here is the trouble with the process
Confirmation bias
The tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one's existing beliefs or hypothesis

And here is the deal about confirmation bias
Everyone knows that we fall prey to it
Or, in other words
People expect you to fall for it, because they know they have fallen for it

Now imagine people

When I meet someone, I very quickly form a hypothesis on that person
I have become faster over time, because I care for how good I am with it

My hypothesis is not yet my conclusion. It will take time – months and years – before I can safely conclude on an individual.

But I do have a hypothesis.
And I might share it with others, with the intent of proving or disproving it

People call that "being judgmental"
Because they expect confirmation bias to kick in.
They are sure that my hypothesis will end up being the conclusion, because hey, that's how it works.

Having a hypothesis is important

Having the ability to differentiate between hypothesis and conclusion, is even more important

Having the ability to have your hypothesis misunderstood as conclusion, is what eventually matters

Scrolling through your feed

You come across a post by a friend.

It's long. But it has several likes. And a tempting start.

You begin to read it.

You realize it's bullshit. Or something you don't care about. Or don't agree to. Or don't indulge in.

You of course won't comment.

But there is a very high chance, you will end up liking the post.

Because – you don't want to come across as an asshole. You have gone through the effort and the like, in a weird way, is YOUR redemption.

Ever wondered why 👍 is almost allways the end of most conversations?
It's the most useful emoticon out there

In other words, the like is you way of saying – this isn't worth sharing or commenting. I don't care enough.

Because the ones who care enough – engage.

They talk, they encourage, they refute, they probe.
They engage.

Social media likes are quite the opposite. They mean people didn't quite care enough with your content – so they simply said "I agree"

"I agree" means quite the opposite on social media

2 separate incidents caught my attention last week

A "motivational" post on LinkedIn
Usain Bolt has run 115 seconds in all his Olympic races combined and made $119Mn
That's $1Mn per second
#motivation #success
This is bullshit at its best. If I could I would crucify the original writer.

A conversation with a leading founder CEO from India
I met this gentlemen at an awards night sometime back. And he asks me, "so how does it feel to be rising so high in such a short period of time?"
And I replied, "it feels great that my 16 years of hard work is finally paying off"
(His company started 16 years back – and he has worked his ass off to be where he is today. Little do people know)

I am shocked at the amount of motivational garbage nowadays that sells itself on instant / overnight success.

Not caring to look beyond the obvious. The struggle. The background.

And then Elon Musk signed off day before – in an honest admission

It should be clear – success doesn't come overnight. It requires intense hard work, going through massive ups and downs, giving up a lot in life
And there is still no guarantee.

Because people who pursue it don't have a goal in mind. They simply have a process. A way of living life.
They are scared to make goals – what will they do once they hit them?

But the world of today will have you believe otherwise.
That a million dollars per second is success.
That 30under30 is success
That 50under50, if there is any, is bullshit and not worth talking
That a story of consistent hard work isn't as exciting as that of born genius
That winning the lottery is sexier than building a net worth

Winning the lottery is overnight success. But then lottery isn't success.
Don't confuse luck with success!

Saying no to someone is supremely hard.

We are hard wired to belong – to a tribe, a community, a group.
And in the past saying no meant isolation. Perhaps even death.

And while saying no nowadays mostly doesn't come with a death certificate, the habit has stayed.

If I say no – I will not belong. I will hurt the person. A negative image of mine will be created.

Here is a reminder

When you say no – you say no to the request, not to the person.

True grace is refusing someone in a way they don't feel rejected

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