Independence Day

16 Aug

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
And that worries the shit out of me!

Two words can predict someone's professional outcome accurately

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

Here are the 3 states for a potential customer

  • Yes, I want your product/service
  • Maybe
  • No, I don’t want your product/service

Unfortunately, most sales people will rank these 3 states (in terms or desired outcome for them) as

  1. Yes
  2. Maybe
  3. No


When in my opinion, after a yes, the most desired outcome for any sales outfit should be


We don’t need your services right now 

We don’t think you are right for the job

We already have something similar working for us

No, we can’t work with you for now 


But we have been trained to not take no for an answer. Keep perusing.

Doesn’t work anymore


The best gift you can give yourself is to be so good that you get a yes or a no, right away.

“Maybe” is this false sense of hope.

Can I meet you in person to explain in more detail? 

Can we give you a free trial instead to see if it changes your mind?

Can I explain the benefits once more

All in hope!


The hit rate of this approach is far far lesser than if you were to come back with a fresh new product/service for the same customer or pursue new customers.

Because sales organizations are so poor at accepting a no, customers are incentivized to keep lying and give this false sense of hope.

Imagine the total value of all hot, warm and cold leads in the sales funnels of the world today

And the waste of human effort that goes into pursuing it.


As a sales professional, learn how to take NO as a closure.

A sign to move on. To improve the product or sell the same product to someone else.


And as a customer, force yourself to say no as soon as you realize it.

Don’t linger


Reaching out to the same customer with the same product everyday and expecting a yes from a maybe, is insanity! 

Step 1

Advice is what you seek when you know the answer but you wish you didn’t. 

All of you have choices when taking decisions.

And one of those choices is our preferred one.

We know of it.

If we were to toss a coin, we would find ourselves wishing for that option’s side to show up.

So stop lying and identify the choice that you wish to go for


Step 2 

Humans tend to overestimate the pain we feel and underestimate the happiness we experience

Once you have identified the choice, imagine yourself going for the choice

And imagine the worst case scenario once you have taken the choice

The worst possible scenario that you could find yourself in


Step 3

Getting comfortable with your loss is far more valuable than getting excited about your gains

See if you can make yourself comfortable with the worst case scenario

Do not try to mitigate it. That destroys the logic.

Instead assume the worst will happen and then see how would you feel, how would you react

If you find yourself ok with this scenario, go for it.

Else, the other option it is.


As humans, we tend to calm down a lot more if we are aware of the worst, than if we dream about the best!  

Blue pill: 

Restart your life 10 years back, with all the knowledge you know today 

Red pill: 

Fast forward to 50 years with $10Mn in your bank account 

People judge you based on the choice you make. Rarely questioning why you made the choice. 

You could realize you haven’t learnt enough, and thus the red pill. 

Or even with what you know you won’t be able to get to $10mn by 50 and thus the red pill. 

You could realize $10Mn is nothing for you at 50 and you want a shot at more. Thus the blue pill. 

Or the journey is more important to you than the destination and thus the blue pill. 

The pill you take doesn’t define you. The reason does 

The decisions you take in life don’t define you. The reasons behind those decisions do. 

Here is a random prediction 

There are more meaningless “I love you” being spoken as of this moment, than all meaningful and meaningless “I need help” 

People don’t seek help. 

From other people. From books. From videos. From content. From life. 

There is a misplaced sense of pride that stops them

Pride will make you afraid.

Pride will make you feel powerful when you are not. 

Pride will force you to not learn. 

Pride will ask you to not ask. 

For help. 

Everytime I pretend to be smart and in control, I learn nothing. 

Every time I ask (for help), I learn a lot. 

Every time I say “I need help” someone helps.

I just don’t say it too often

Pride has left more people alone, than loneliness ever will. 

Every professional team is characterized by 2 core aspects 

Knowledge (/skills) and values 

And through this you can create a management consultant’s dream tool – a 2×2 matrix 

So there are 4 kinds of people who could be on your team 

1. Don’t have the same knowledge and don’t share the same values 

These are usually not part of the team. Even if they creep in, they are easy to find and get picked out. 

2. Have the same knowledge and share the same values

As rare as they are, these are the ones that truly move organizations forward. These are the team members everyone craves for 

3. Have the same knowledge but don’t share the same values

Super super dangerous. Because here is the deal about knowledge and values 

Knowledge is acquired 

Values are adopted 

And the minute one of the team members acquires more knowledge than the other, the gap in values makes this knowledge gap even harsher. To the point that it can’t be even explained. 

I can’t code better than you but I will steal code to make myself better 

I am a better sales guy than you and I will bribe my customers to always stay ahead 

I am better with people than you are, so I will manipulate them to agree to me 

4. Don’t have the same knowledge but share the same values 

The tribe you should be looking for.

The way all hiring should be done 

The quadrant based on which teams should be built 

I can’t code better than you so I would love for you to review my code for me 

I am a better sales person than you, so come along and we will close together

I am better with people than you are – let me tell you how 

I am not as good as you, but I will seek your help to become better 

From now on, whenever you meet your colleagues, question which quadrant do you fall in 

And ask yourself, what can I do, if at all, to move us to the quadrant of same knowledge and values. 

If you can’t, then move yourself or the person out of the team! 

Here are 3 predictions for the future 

  1. People entering the workforce today will most likely never die (from natural causes). Some of them might move to Mars
  2. In a decade or so, we will be hiring computers with the right culture. Do they speak the language we speak and operate by values we live by
  3. Humans will cease to exist on payroll. Talent will become on demand and officespace as a concept will become obsolete 

So if your job today has a low probability of fuck up or the impact of your fuck up is non material – get out of that job! 


Because these are the first jobs that will be taken away

In the future, humans will do jobs that are extremely prone to fuck ups. That requires a human to take a call. Despite limited data, through emotions, gut, analysis. Matched with the ability to imagine the future. 

It’s called judgement, today 

It will be called “being human” tomorrow 

I was interacting with a bunch of ISB admits for the next batch. All high IQ, academic achievers who will spend 2 years working before joining ISB. 

Understandably all of them had questions around – does ISB help in the long term, will it help beyond consulting, will it help in international positions, is it going to help shift industries 

I answered most of these to the best of my knowledge

And then I told them – consider this possibility – there is a VERY HIGH CHANCE that none of you will ever die. 

You will not die a natural death. 

There is enough advancement happening, and at a crazy pace, that within your lifetimes we will figure out a way to not let the cells die

There is also a very high chance that some of you may live on Mars 

Now ask these questions again! 

We all get so consumed by the short term, by the immediate, by the urgent – that we fail to appreciate what lies ahead 

And how most of what we are doing have little or no bearing on how our life will pan itself out 

Heck, if we were to never die and live on Mars, even the definition of long term acquires a new meaning. 

Ask yourself – how can a decision that you take when you are in your 20s going to have any material impact if you are to live beyond 100 

And then ask yourself – what questions should I ask, for a life that is never going to end?

What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail

What a fucked up quote! 

It’s impossible to not fail. 

Not everything that you make will have the world submit itself and hail you as their king. 

Not every product you make will be loved 

Not every test you take will have you score the highest or succeed

Not every person you love will love you back equally 

Not every step you take will always be in the right direction 

It’s utterly foolish, almost irresponsible to suggest this 

Because here is the deal 

We don’t fear failing 

We fear people 

We fear their reactions 

And we fear how we will feel once we witness those reactions 

We fear shame

We fear ego

We fear being banished

We fear being laughed at 

We fear not getting another chance to win

What would you attempt to do if you knew no one would react if you failed 

Being a manager is hard work. 

Seriously hard work. 

You have to manage your team, achieve goals, manage expectations, communicate bad news, spend time on hiring, retaining, motivating, firing. 

It is seriously hard work

Yet somehow, everyone wishes to become one. 

There is something appealing about being a manager. Being called a manager. 

And with being a manager comes higher responsibility. 

A bigger team to manage

A bigger area to control

More decision making powers

More influence

A bigger span of influence 

And everyday, I see people seeking this influence. 

Asking for more and more responsibility

For bigger teams 

For more control

Rarely, do I find people asking for more accountability 

Make me accountable for a bigger goal

Make me accountable for a larger purpose 

Make me accountable for higher target 

Make me accountable for the development of my team and my own learning 

The next time you ask for a raise or a promotion, ask yourself why didn’t you instead ask for a higher target instead? 

Managers seek more and more responsibility for themselves. Leaders demand more and more accountability for themselves 

Our lives are shaped up by our perspective. 

Our childhood memories

Our value system 

Our friends and family 

Our experiences 

Our conversations 

Our media 

Our governments

Over time, all these help establish the perspective. The frame of reference against which we see ourselves everyday. 

And we come to accept it as our own. 

To the point where our path to success has been verified by only one person out there 


Suddenly, the biggest threat to our success becomes the perspective of other people 

How do they see the world differently. The very same world. 

We don’t want to change our path to success. We don’t want to mix it up. What if it messes up the chances. What if it’s rejected by my mind. What if it isn’t what I agree with? 

And yet, time and again, people who have opened up their minds to wider perspectives, are the ones we admire and adore. 

Don’t let anyone else define success or failure for you. But hear them define it for themselves. That might influence your definition. 

When to advertise? 

12 Jun

Most advertising is about “launches”

Here is our new product 

We have raised funding 

This is what we are going to do 

This is who we are

This is what the future looks like 

Time and money worth Billions of dollars is invested, everyday for such advertising speak 

There is another form of advertising, far cheaper and far more effective. 

The one that happens once the job is done. 

The one which isn’t about what you are going to do, rather what you have achieved. 

Ironically, such advertisement is most often not sponsored by you. It’s crowdfunded. 

We did it > We will do it 

Let the outcome of your actions become your advertisement, instead of the initiation of your actions.