One more revolution completed, amid the pandemic. Yet, it was an eventful year with lots of good memories, a new workplace, and a new set of friends.
As I look back at a good life, I would probably do a few things differently, if given a do-over.
Actually attend college, instead of just writing exams. Have fun and make lifelong friends. While I am at college, maybe study engineering too.
Stay in Hyderabad
Instead of having a whimsical decision to move to Chennai for a job after post-graduation, I would stay in Hyderabad if given the same choice.
I would have stuck out longer with my first startup, giving it a real chance of success. I will hustle more, instead of folding it after 18 months.
Shorter stay in Frankfurt
Instead of spending 7 years in Frankfurt, I would return earlier. Maybe have our first child after returning, rather than before going to Frankfurt. My wife disagrees with this entirely.
Better Financial Planning
Earlier years were ad-hoc and reactionary. Although I corrected it later, I would sure start early.
Although I cannot change the past, here are a few things I would like to do in the future.
- Start a company, grow a company
- Write a book, maybe a few books
- Travel the country
Every book on entrepreneurship seems to follow the same template.
- Research your market
- Do some Excel modelling
- Raise some money
- Start the business
These are no longer relevant to the current environment, at least not relevant if you are looking to start a small business or a startup.
A better book (or video, or a course) would be along these lines:
- How to get a business idea. The power of observation and second-order thinking.
- Building an MVP. MVP is not limited to technology, it is something that lets you test your business idea in the real world.
- How to sell. The difference between success and failure of a business is the ability to reach your customer and sell to them.
- How to market. Marketing is the fuel that runs a sales machine. The ability to create a message that resonates with your ideal customer and to be able to deliver it to them is an art as much as it is science.
- How to scale. When you have validated that the market is interested in your idea, the ability to scale the production, logistics, sales, and marketing as well as formalizing the operations – finance, accounting, customer service, partner management, and others.
- How to grow. The strategies around growing the business beyond the original idea, and finding related business opportunities ensure business growth and continuity.
- How to exit. Like starting a business, it is important to prepare your business for an exit.
What have I missed?
There is a deluge of knowledge today. On platforms like YouTube and LinkedIn, there are so many thought leaders who could be followed for great insights. But how do you absorb, retain and apply this knowledge? This has become the real challenge.
My 2 part system for knowledge management
1.Store and Index. No, I am not building a knowledge base, database, or even write things done (which I should!). I tend to commit things to memory. What is important is to be able to recall on demand.
Like in databases, where index point to the actual content making it easy to lookup, similarly, attaching the new knowledge to existing knowledge make it easy to retrieve. This is where mental models come in. These are ways you form a big picture about a subject and then link the new knowledge to it or refine the model itself.
This allows me to consume the knowledge and make it my own. I will not be able to quote anyone verbatim but my worldview is a distillation of the knowledge from gurus in their fields.
2.Read, Index, and Discard. Sometimes it is better to discard the info instead of trying to retain it. If something catches my fancy I tend to remember just the metadata and discard the actual info. When the time comes where this information is needed, I can look up the information based on the metadata I remembered like author, context, channel, keywords, etc. With the world’s information available at fingertips just knowing what to search for, is a win.
How do you deal with information overload?
As I turn 42, I feel that it is a significant milestone. I feel something unique and different about the number 42. Maybe that’s the reason Deep Thought computed that 42 is the “Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything“.
My life felt like 6 distinct phases of 7 years each. Was that true? So I sat down and recorded my life phases. I was almost right.
- 00-07 The Forgotten Years
- 08-15 The Student Life
- 16-21 The Lost Years
- 22-25 The Best Years
- 26-33 The Globe Trotter
- 34-42 The Guru
The Forgotten Years
I have a handful of memories of this phase. Some from Cuttack where I was born, some from Nagpur where I spent a few years. I am not even sure if those memories are true or just imagination.
The Student Life
This phase started as we moved to Hyderabad and I have my first true memories. Memories of the house I grew up in, the school I went to and of course the friends I made, few of them turned out to be life long friends. The careless years, which in some sense made me what I am today since I got hands on a computer in this period. I also look back with regret, as I made my dad buy a really expensive HCL Beanstalk PC worth about ₹95,000. He was going through a bad patch, yet he bought me the PC. Only when I saw someone take away our car, did the reality sink in.
I could never repay my debt to him. I owe my career to him.
The Lost Years
If there is a do-over, I would like to live this time period differently. I’d like to go to college, make friends and have fun. Instead, I moved to 3 cities helping out my Dad. However, not everything was lost. This period built my character. I learnt from both good things and bad. It instilled honesty, independence and a calculated approach to risk-taking. It also made me an introvert and cautious person.
The Best Years
After freelancing for a year, I joined MBA on my Sis’s advice, to get my career back on track. I am not sure what I learnt there but made life long friends. I also discovered my style of leadership. I co-founded startups with friends – twice. I also worked for other companies, including a startup, whose founder is one person I admire for his perseverance and wish I had even 50% of what he has. I also got placed from campus into tech subsidiary of a large global bank, which defined my career from that day on.
On the personal front, I got married and had my first child. Didn’t I say it was the best time!
The Globe Trotter
I got an opportunity to move to Frankfurt which helped me in several ways. The best is I could explore Europe with my wife and it felt like an extended honeymoon. It helped us understand each other and after some ups and downs brought us really close.
While on a personal level I was exploring Europe and it’s culture, at the professional level I learnt a great deal. I learnt work ethics from the best in the world. I also learnt good and bad processes at a Fortune 50 company. I also got to work on multiple systems working up and down the stack, years before full stack developer or polyglot programmer were trendy. I learnt how to build, manage and support true enterprise-scale applications.
It was a lifetime of learning stuffed into a 7 year period.
I write this with great humility and wrestling with imposter syndrome. Only in the last year or so, have I finally accepted that I am expected to be a Guru with all the answers. It makes me realize, this is the phase of life where I consolidate my learnings and pass them on. I don’t think I have done a great job, but I try. I hope I have positively contributed to the lives and careers of the people I have worked with. At the startup I worked at, I made it a point to hire freshers and groom them.
Of course, to be a Guru, I need to constantly learn. This period taught me a whole lot. I learnt to build a product, run startup engineering, create a service line, create and execute go-to-market strategy and so much more. In other words, this Guru is also a disciple in some several areas. I am thankful to my Gurus who taught me so much throughout my life.
Special call out to all my managers. I have been unbelievably lucky to have such great managers throughout my career.
Every one of them has shaped me. At 42, if I have some answers, it’s all because of my Gurus.
Looking forward to what the next seven years hold for me!
Recently, I was invited to share my experiences with my alma-mater. I chose to talk about how fresh graduates can maximize their career success.
While several people will ascribe their success or success of others to luck; it is also silently agreed that success is much more than luck. Therefore I prefer Roman philosopher Seneca’s definition of luck.
Luck is what happens when opportunity meets preparation.Seneca
Therefore I focused on how one can increase their luck by working on creating opportunities and being prepared.
The luck factory
Networking that matters is helping people achieve their goals.Seth Godin
- Create a strong network though out your academic life and career.
- Be aware of the strength of every individual.
- Help out others. It improves the strength of the connections.
- It is easy to help others, if you know them, their strengths and interests.
- Never burn bridges.
You never change your life until you step out of your comfort zone; change begins at the end of your comfort zone.Roy T. Bennett
- The most dangerous place to be in is the comfort zone. It kills luck.
- You can’t sit under a tree and wait for an apple to fall in your hands while others will be already selling apples from those same trees.
- When you find yourself in a comfort zone, consciously come out of it. Talk to your manager, ask for a different challenge.
- Or seek out. Not for money but to break out of a comfort zone.
A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.Winston Churchill
- Life happens, industries get disrupted. A pandemic like COVID-19 shuts down everything.
- But opportunities always arrive in disguise.
- Some companies and individual fare better than others. Because they are better prepared, and are open to change; to suggestions; to challenges.
- The are open to move out of the comfort zone and do something new
- Finally, never say or think ‘not my job’.
Life is a gift, and it offers us the privilege, opportunity, and responsibility to give something back by becoming more.Tony Robbins
- Give back, help your network; like you will expect them to help you.
- Recommend. Refer. Connect. Share.
- And give back to the community, society, nation.
- The world is acknowledging good karma and talking about pay it forward
When you kill time, you kill your opportunities for success.Denis Waitley
- Have time; be disciplined with it.
- If you don’t have time, you’ll not be able to capitalize on an opportunity.
- Everything has an opportunity cost – doing something mean not doing something else. So be selective on what you do.
Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.– Thomas A. Edison
- Work hard
- Take pride in your work
- Always give your best
- You’ll be known for these things
I am a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.Stephen Leacock
- You will develop skills with opportunities
- And you’ll get opportunities based on your skills
- Remember to say no to comfort zone and be open to challenges and learning
- And then apply / demonstrate your skills
- Remember that you have limited time and measure the opportunity cost.
- Be strategic on the things your work on, however not at the risk of being closed to new ideas and challenges.
- Be decisive. Once you have decided to do something, give it your 100%.
- It’s not about hyping yourself
- But also not in dark, you need to be noticed.
- What do you want to be known for? Build a narrative.
- Communicate consistent with the narrative.
- Use the social media properly to build your personal brand