Pandemic Lessons: Choice and Respect

So here I am, on my 52nd day at home. I haven’t stepped out, at all. Even to fetch milk or groceries or go for a walk. 

I have gone through many phases: starting with optimism, then losing my footing to see things change so fast. Then my body staring to feel fear, which I couldn’t relate to, and I figured I was picking up the collective fear around me and from social media.

After that it has mostly been a blur: between household chores, cooking and work I don’t know where the day vanished.

But then I did go into hopelessnes for a bit and then turned the corner within a few days. 

Today I sit down to write that this is not about having hope or being hopeless. This is about choice. Your choice. My choice. 

  • There are so many versions of truth out there, which one is truer? I can choose, I can also choose not to choose.
  • There are so many predictions on the post-pandemic world. By people you consider as having some influence on your life. You can believe any of them, or none at all.

It is also about respect – Our ability to respect the other’s truth. 

In the past few days, I have been listening to some of my friends saying, Stand in your own truth, often with fair warning that people won’t like it, especially in these polarised times.

So I am consciously spending some time looking at what feels true. Yes, I choose to believe that for me to navigate these times, I have to lean into my feelings, and not just look for more and more data and expert opinions. Because all the data I have looked at and the opinions I have listened to don’t give a full answer. Maybe because there is none. 

I was at a founder’s event last September in Boston. And out of all the leading lights and founders sharing the stage and giving their insights, I found one voice which was very interesting to me. I started following them on social media. And I have gained a lot over these months simply by reading their posts. Yesterday they went live on one of the platforms and spoke about the lockdown, which didn’t ring true at all to me. That was interesting to me, that I could detect that. The same thing happened with an author last week.

But it is their truth. And I choose to respect that. It is simply not mine.

I was at a webinar last week about how to sell in these uncertain times. And all the panelists spoke about bringing more and more empathy into their conversations. The question in my head was, “But, were you not already doing that? Were you selling with less empathy or none at all earlier? Isn’t this simply a new situation that we are all in? How did empathy become a new thing?”

Again, it’s their truth. Not mine. 

I believe this is a time to look for answers, certainly. But they are not out there. They are in me. 

I am on a social media group of entrepreneurs, mostly male. Usually they are a bunch of positive people encouraging each other. Now they are simply wringing their hands and sharing their fear. They are looking at each other for answers, and that’s not happening! 

You know what time it is (lockdown has a way of screwing up with the sense of time, doesn’t it)? It’s time to see for myself what do I believe in. What do I stand for? And operate from that place. 

Let me go in.

I am a beautiful being, full of light and love. I love to give, enable others. I am only limited by the restrictions my beliefs put on myself, or the beliefs the society has planted on me, some unknowingly, some in a designed manner. So, theoretically, I am unlimited. 

And I believe that is the truth for not just me, but all of humanity.

So I don’t think we are meant to be limited in this way, being in lockdown for the 50th day and counting! 

Yes we need to give our healthcare systems the time to cope up with the pandemic. And we are getting there. Equally important is that we focus on building our immunity (yes, I know it’s a privileged thing to say, but I am in a place of privilege, and if you’re reading this, you are too. And we can do a lot from this place for those not equally privileged). Sunlight, clean air, nutritious food, supplements, exercise, meditation – whatever it takes. We have one pandemic at hand, who knows what else could come up?

If we are meant to be unlimited, then I am going to question anything that sounds like it’s striking at the heart of that. I am not an activist. But I can make small dents in my universe, my way. I have been seeing people being deplatformed from Youtube and Facebook, for saying things that are their truth, often backed by credible data. I think they have a right to say their opinions, however uncomfortable it might be for me, however inconvenient it might be for certain businesses or ideologies. So I donated money to fund a digital platform that lets them say their stuff. Small dent, maybe no dent even. But I choose to be on the side of being unlimited.

I see my friends sharing posts that sound like priming us to think limited: “just focus on not dying, ok?” No, not okay with me. I am here to live, be ALIVE, not spend my time trying to just beat death for a few years. And any close friend who shared that with me heard my opinion about it. Usually I ignore posts like these. But now I think I have to stand up for limitlessness. I respect their choice to share, and I respect my choice to counter it with what I know to be true for me. 

So it’s really down to ‘respect’. Respect another’s right to have an opinion, a way of life, choice to wear a mask or not. Don’t cut them down, from your space of being a person, a person of privilege, a person of influence, or even a person working for the government. No need to be fanatic about anything, just let others be. 

What’s the last word here: I believe life has its way. It’s bigger than a virus, it’s bigger than all of us put together. And life will show us a way out, to return to limitlessness.

You can choose to believe it. Or not. I respect your choice. 

To the Men in my Life

You taught me about being honest
With myself
Because I saw the weight of falsehood
Is just too much to carry
Thank you for that!

You taught me to get up and walk
Not let the fear
Get the better of me and keep me down
So I got up and walked
Thank you for that!

You taught me to forgive
The people who gave you
The wrong end of the deal
Because they were your very own
Thank you for that!

You taught me to be of high integrity
Because you were too scared
To have any
And I swore I wouldnt be like that
Thank you for that!

You taught me to stand up for myself
When I saw you wouldnt
I found reserves that 
Every woman taps into within herself
Thank you for that!

You taught me to love
Passionately, fiercely, madly
And that it means nothing
Without integrity
Thank you for that!

You taught me to 
Celebrate myself more
And cut off the chains 
I put on myself
I thank you for that!

You taught me to look within
And see how i stopped myself
The thousands of ways
I held myself back from my possibilities
Thank you for that!

You taught me the power of words
To take one into breathtaking views
The power of the written and
That of the deleted
I cant thank you enough for that!

You taught me to be fiercely me
And reminded me
Of things long forgotten
So I could dream again 
I thank you for that!

You taught me to step into new realms
And showed me the fears 
And doubts that come up
“Lean back into yourself”
I thank you for reminding me that!

You taught me about change
When you called me a Healer
Years have gone by but
Every milestone, you share with me
I thank you for that!

You taught me about fierceness
Of the need for change and what you can do
Once you let go of the stories
And decide to write your own
Thank you for that!

You taught me about music
And how you can be friends
With little else
And yet see each other across time
Thank you for that!

You taught me
I thank you for that!

Happy 2020!

Maybe it’s time to have 20/20 vision.

Normally, I would tell you how my 2019 was, the strides I made, the times I failed, the times I grieved, and so on. But are these normal times?

2019 was the year that brought up so many things that deeply challenged our closely held beliefs. Worse, for many of us, they challenged basic tenets of humanity.

Every day we heard about inhuman atrocities, raging rainforest fires, gross misuse of platforms and outright injustice. Everyday many of us indulged in name calling, got frustrated with friends and family for holding a different point of view. 

Tiring!

But everyday we also heard of large scale protests going further large scale and questioning governments. Everyday we heard of people coming together to help the unjustly targeted. Everyday we heard of small and large acts of philanthropy.

Inspiring!

These are times of great change. I, for one, think that the only way I can ride these waves of change is by being me. 

  • When I think I have to build and run a business the “tried and tested” way, I give in to the cacophony. 
  • When I think I have to buy far far more than I need, I give in to the greed. 
  • When I think I should always go by data, and never use my intuition, I walk away from me. 
  • When I give in to the anger over the atrocities, the scheming behavior, or the blatant disregard for nature, I add to the swirling negativity. 
  • When I feel sad about a thriving community left without the Internet, rights and dignity, I give my power away, the power that I could have used to change things.

So, 2020 is about being me. That means questioning long held beliefs, double checking on all information around us, being skeptical of all knowledge that takes me away from myself and forces me to focus only on the external.

Being me puts me in touch with my true self that is joyful and empathetic, lively and compassionate. When I am in touch with me, I don’t have to numb the pain with a drink, or a Netflix binge. When I am angry, I don’t have to lash out. When I am me, I allow all feelings to come and go, so they get their place in the sun, and not live under my skin maneuvering my reactions.

The more I am me, the less angst I contribute to the world. And the world can do with a lot less of that, to be the powerful, joyful organism it is.

Happy 2020!

14 Years of Entrepreneurship

A few days ago I completed 14 years of being an entrepreneur. I did a Twitter thread on it. Replicating here. I am grateful for all the attention it got, and the great responses I received. There are more people like me, going through the exact same struggles. And there are people who thought it was an inspiring story, and that of grit.

So here goes:

I complete 14 years of entrepreneurship today. Lots of feelings – from being joyously inspired to dredging the depths of despair- often on the same day! Here’s looking back at each year to identify the key state of business, and the state of my mind! 1/n

2005: Start up | Excitement

Co-founding Knowiz as a content services company. Co-founder is the brain behind it. I have no idea what’ll happen, or how. I trust her to figure it out. Each proposal is a high, each small deal evidence to a biz model. 2/n

2006: Hard work | Fun

More work comes in, and we deliver working late nights and super early mornings. We hire an office space and our first employees. Every project is challenging, but we overcome them. 3/n

2007: Hard work | More fun

More clients, more work. The team is growing. More challenges. And to keep the cash flow going, we still don’t take salaries. But we are still enjoying building the company. 4/n

2008: Not enough money | Worry

There are not enough projects to keep us afloat. Plenty of competition out there: from big wig mag companies to freelancers. We take on projects that are not core to our skills, but we still deliver. 5/n

2009: Recession hits | Stress 24×7

Clients back out from retainers, projects dry up. Media and IT, our focus industries, are badly hit. And so are we. One by one, people leave. From a team of 12, we are back to just the two of us. 6/n

2010: Co-founder quits | Fear

Co-founder quits, I pay her off with money I don’t have. Why? No real reason, but a voice in me that says, Keep going. Shouldn’t listen to voices, but I did. Start building a team again. 7/n

2011: Learning the ropes | Courage

I sign up for an entrepreneurship program that makes me see my blind spots. Also start exploring meditation and spirituality. Somehow find the courage to keep learning, keep going. “Just show up, dammit.”  8/n

2012: In debt | More fear

Not enough cash in the business, but I continue to find new projects. Hard to get retainers, but keep trying. Team puts up with delayed salaries, rallies behind me. I hide myself in the loo and cry. Often. 9/n

2013: Merger | Panic

Meet a spirited, high-integrity person who set up his agency in 2011. We eventually merge to become a digital marketing agency. I am in panic. Company financials are a mess, but he bravely takes it on. He believes in the merger, our values, vision. 10/n

2014: Inefficiencies | Stress

Business starts picking up, deals are now larger. Little tolerance for inefficiencies and incompetence, thanks to new partner. Working style clashes, client issues, cash flow: stress aplenty. Meditation keeps me sane. 11/n

2015: Another partner | Excitement

We set up a product company, with a new partner. Decline funding, decide to do it ourselves. We grow the service company, with new offerings, bigger team. Tough, but mostly fun. Joyful. 12/n

2016: US focus begins| Hope

Services stay stable, product development is slow. A client goes bankrupt, wiping off lakhs from receivables. Yet we persist. Shift focus to US market. New highly competent team change the pace and game! 13/n

2017: Heartbreak | Stoic

Year of heartbreaks. More inefficiencies. Fights. Partners say they quit. I hold them back. We plod through depression, lose key team people, deal with bad clients. US market improves cash flows. Ease, in sight. 14/n

2018: Ease | Free

Finally, with more clients across the world and a highly competent team, we hit ease in biz. Lots of projects, delivered well, continuous cash flow. I have phases when I don’t even know new client names: yeah, that good. New product idea. 15/n

2019: Measured growth | Detached

There is more ease in doing business. Cash! Team is growing. New product is out; could be a big one for us. Two more products taking shape. Tech team looks real good. Services growing well. But I am detached. Just keep doing. 16/n

Mine is not a story of success by regular standards; it’s simply a story of persistence. You can only persist when you know your Why. What’s ours: We are here to build a culture that enables people to be themselves and get better at that, and find joy in work. 17/n

You can only persist when there are people to support you: business partners, spouse, kid, team, clients, random strangers who help. And angels. And be grateful for that. 18/n

You can only persist when you have it in you to believe in light when it’s all dark around you. And get others to believe that there is light, we just don’t see it yet. 19/n

But you know my story is a story of success by my standards: we have clients who rave about us. We have super success stories of people who have found themselves at Niswey, and we know we are making many more. 20/n

We are focused on profitability, believe in measured growth, and in integrity and joy at work. We know our way of doing business is not the normal way, but we believe this is the new normal. We are successful, in those terms. To more success! n/n 

Liking the Company You Built

Yesterday I saw a person who looked quite like the founder of a much respected public company walking down the road. Something about the way they walked made me think for them: What if you don’t like the company you have built anymore?

I follow the company and know quite a bit about how it works, and how it has grown. I have a lot of respect for the company for the great things it has achieved. Yet, the founder’s body language made me do a ‘What If’ scenario. So this post is just my imagination going down some random rabbit hole. Any resemblance to anyone living or dead is purely coincidental. With that, let’s see where my imagination went.

What if you don’t like the company you have built anymore?

You began with the idea of a great offering, which became successful after some false starts, perhaps. And then the company grew and suddenly there were a lot of people in the company.

You realized that not everyone was behaving ideally, at least not your idea of ‘ideally’. So you had to figure out to communicate what your ‘ideal’ is. You built out the culture document and communicated it to the team. And it worked for a bit. But tremendous growth took over. Ideal couldn’t keep pace with Growth as it had its own way of dealing with things. A transgression here, a turn-a-blind-eye there…and pretty soon ‘less than ideal’ became a way of life. And the culture. As the company spilled over into other office spaces across cities and continents, the well acclaimed culture document became a relic. A great read, but a damn tough thing to do and practice.

Fifteen or so years later, as you address a company townhall or a partner’s meet, you know you have come a long, long way. So much has been achieved: much wealth creation for thousands, a growing ecosystem that has spawned more businesses and communities, rising stock price… So much! It’s nothing short of spectacular.

Yet, you walk back to your office desk, after the speech and pleasantries are done, a bit slouched, hoping no one notices you as you cross the road.

Did you, in that moment, come to face to face with the fact that you don’t much like the culture anymore? Outwardly, cool and great. Inwardly, cut throat competitive and non-inclusive.

Did you come face to face with the fact that while the communities got built around camaraderie, support and help, they are more competitive than collaborative? And that they are still not as inclusive as you would have liked them to be?

You sigh. Maybe that is the price you pay for growth. Great products…check! Great stock price…check! Great brand…check! Great culture…erm, no… And it feels like it was never possible in the face of growth and competition.

Why sigh? It’s the norm, yeah?

Deep down, something just feels wrong to you. Maybe it was a non-negotiable, to build a company you really, really like. But you didn’t know and hence got out-negotiated by Growth’s win-lose games.

Now you know.

So what now?

The Second Paradigm Business

The Second Paradigm

Author David Hrostoski (and his beloved Miriam Wagoner) used the term first, at least, as far as I am concerned. The term ‘Second Paradigm’ came through in the book, The Ascension Manual for Planet Earth, which is essentially a book by a Sirian (belonging to the star system Sirius) being, Burgiel, channeled by David.

The blurb about the book says, “While The First Paradigm is rooted in fending for oneself, The Second Paradigm recognizes that to take care of the whole is not only for the highest benefit of all life, including oneself, but is actually the only way forward as a species.”

The old paradigm has been all about taking, one that’s driven by the head. Take. Hoard. There’s not enough for everyone, so hoard. Don’t care about what happens to others or the planet, just take. Be cut-throat and competitive.

It hasn’t really worked, has it? Most people live in abject poverty, many don’t even have access to safe drinking water. The planet is crawling with pollutants, species are dying left right and centre. And the rest of us on the Internet, alive with our various health issues, are mindlessly binge-watching the brand new interactive content being served up. All along our hearts feel jammed, constricted. Is this all we are?

No, the old paradigm hasn’t worked.

So we need a new one, one which is about giving, one that’s driven by the soul.

As David and Miriam say, “We’re being asked to step forward as soul-aligned, highly-intuitive, and connected beings with deep trust in divine guidance and truth.”

Asked? Asked by whom?

Remember the unrest you felt after all the movies were watched, all the work was done, all the vacations were taken?

You’re being asked by that very feeling of unrest. When you found yourself utterly bored. When you asked yourself, is this all I am meant to be?

This post is not about taking you down that rabbit hole where you come of age, no no no. That’s your job, not mine.

I am here to unpack (it’s a word I learnt to use from David, possibly because I listen to every word he puts out by way of book, posts, social media posts, podcasts or videos) what The Second Paradigm means to my business.

When I co-founded Knowiz in 2005, my co-founder, Taru and I knew we wanted to build a culture of positivity and excellence. Times changed, good times turned to bad, we hit all the walls that entrepreneurship presents. Taru left to take up a job, while I chose to continue to run the (nearly non-existent) business.

Why?

Back then my answer was, “I don’t know. Something in me says, I have to keep going!”

A few years later I met my current business partner and he asked me the same thing: I would have shut shop long ago, why didn’t you?

“Because this is a good thing. My people are happy. How we run the business helps people be who they are, and then become better versions of themselves. We stand by each other. Because we put our soul into our work, create good work. Something’s gotta give!”

But it was only in 2018 that I could clearly articulate why I continued despite the push back (there’s a term from David/Burgiel again!) from life. It’s because what I was trying to run was called a Second Paradigm business. It gives, it works from the soul, it creates space for others to be their authentic selves. And I didn’t want to give up building that.

 

What does The Second Paradigm Business look like?

I don’t know. I am still figuring out. But here’s what I know.

For a start, it means that the leaders of the business have to lean more into their soul, their intuition and take decisions based on what they are guided to do. So it’s not always all logic that rules. It will be what the intuition tells you to do, no matter what the logic says. Think back to the perfect person you didn’t hire, because something felt off. Or the perfect prospect you said No to (though it was really good money!). Or the merger that looked really bad on paper, but has panned out beautifully.

It takes a while to learn to trust your intuition, but the leaders will take on that learning, if they have already been answering the pings for a soul-aligned business.

The leaders talk in terms of Universe conspiring. Of mind-blowing coincidences or synchronicities. Even miracles.

Oh how sweet (some may sickeningly so)! In theory, it sounds all things nice. In reality, the leaders are just human beings on their own journeys. So when days are rough, there’s not much talk of a benevolent Universe or coincidences. There’s heartbreak, and anger and fear and hurt to wade through. Or lack.

But if one of the leaders can hold the space for the rest while the wading happens, the business can continue to evolve. Or if the leaders agree that while the spats and fights and disagreements happen, we will stay united in our purpose of building this Second Paradigm business.

And as the leaders align on this paradigm, I am beginning to believe that a compounding of energy happens, which is far more than the sum of the energies of the individuals. This attracts more people with similar energies to join the company. Clients too. And that’s how the proverbial flywheel moves.

 

So do I expect everyone in my company to be intuitive and giving, and all that?

I would sure love that. But for now, the answer is no. My expectation is that they be themselves. Of course, many people are not even aware of who they really are, so that can be tough.

But let’s look at giving. If there are unhelpful people on the team, then I will let them go, no matter how good they are. So that’s a basic criteria, a non-negotiable. Have people around who are helpful. Whether they are giving in terms of volunteering or charity, that’s not my charter, for now. If there are people on the team who want to be better at that kind of giving, the leaders must extend all support. And at Niswey, we do.

How about being intuitive? Some people are, some people don’t want to be seen as intuitive. That’s okay with me. But there are established scientific ways to tap into higher parts of you; or for the non-believers, ways to tap into knowledge within you which is not drawn out through memory or logic. Take flow, or being in the zone, for instance. If we can institute ways to get into flow at will, we would go a really long way into improving quality (and quantity) of work. Which will make any non-believer happy.

At the core of The Second Paradigm business is unity. The sense of oneness with all, the planet, all life. Because once we understand that we are one, we will never think of taking, we will only want to give. No, I don’t understand it yet. (Though we instituted Customer Oneness as one of our values more than five years ago. That was intuitive, don’t you think!)

A tiny little business, in a developing country, with all of 15 people in the team. Trying to be a Second Paradigm business! It may sound stupid to a lot of people (maybe they are the first paradigm-ers).

But as a Second Paradigm business leader, I know, we are enough. We are enough to make a difference, to ourselves, to each other and to the planet.

You Have Help

I have been on this movie watching binge for the last three weeks. Thanks to Youtube algorithms, movies kept showing up on my list and I kept leaning into my intuition to watch them. Some were forgettable. Most weren’t. And the one I just finished stood out. It’s called All in Time. It’s a 2015 release, and gets a 5.4/10 on IMDB. So I guess, you won’t take a second look. So in case you haven’t seen it, I have the spoilers.

Set in 1999, a banker at Lehmann Brothers quits his job to follow his passion of being a band manager for the band that he has been a fan of for years. Things don’t pan out as per his plans. The band is about to split, and he ends up with a mortgage, a beaten up car, and no girlfriend. All this is despite a ‘great’ idea to have a time traveller concert – you know in which people pretend to travel back in time to hear a band.

Twist? It turns out that actual time travellers turn out for the concert, which of course is a runaway success, with his new-find singer, as well as his old band uniting to thrill the audience.

And then he figures out the the key people trying to support him through his shitty time are well, time travellers too!

That explains the 5.4. Yeah?

Not for me. I think it’s a great message for me today. That when you are going through your dips, your shit, your tunnel, there’s always help around. Well, some guys get lucky and have time travelers come to help them out. Some people like me believe in God, angels and spirit guides helping us out. And don’t forget, we get help all the time from our families and friends and random strangers.

Yet, when you’re in the tunnel, you’ll feel alone and helpless. But it’s only because you’ve forgotten that you are always being supported. This is the second time today that I have been given the message that I am not alone. So I feel compelled to write this post.

Think back on your hardest times, times when you thought you would die, times you thought it’d never end. What happened then?

About the time you thought your heart was splintering to pieces because the love of your life moved on? Sooner or later you learnt that you could love again. As passionately, as deeply. More calmly.

Do you remember friends who helped you through that time? The books you read that gave you peace? The lyrics that were the tuning fork for your tears to flow as you resonated with the music?

That was help.

Think about the time you cared for the elderly people at home and extended family, and then thought this phase would just keep going on and on? It ended, didn’t it? Some passed away, some are healthy and fit now. And all through, you did a good job.

Sometimes a neighbour helped, sometimes a family member, most times your home help put in more hours without even expecting to be paid for it. Sometimes a doctor at the nursing home called you by name and offered you food, as you prepared to be the bystander for the patient hospitalized. That was help.

What about the time you felt abandoned by a business partner and had to run the business all by yourself when you didn’t know how?

You just went to events and fortuitously found a person who got you into an entrepreneurship program, or met another person who would become an investor in your company. And then you would meet more people through them who would change the course of your business and life. You would find clients who support you and who send you notes to say that you’re a source of inspiration for others. You would find people on your team who will send you messages to say, ‘You’re my hero’, even after they have left your company.

And if you stuck with it long enough you’d even start finding evidence that the way you want to run your business (which is not what most businesses do in real) is the way ahead. And that’s because some people on the other side of the globe also think like you do. You’ll find help, even from the other side of the planet. And maybe, even from other planets.

So, in short, you have help.

But you may not even recognize it sometimes. In the movie, the protagonist is hell bent on winning his lady love back, when he gets to learn, if he did, he would only end up overshadowing her gift, never letting her find her place under the sun, however unwittingly. So he decided not to pursue her: he was helping her, even though her heart was breaking too.

Did you know when you were looking after the sick, you were learning how to be patient and compassionate? Which would stand you in good stead at a later time? Patience and compassion are good qualities to have, trust me on that.

Did you know when some people were ganging up against you, though you were in the right, was a help too? It made you see who was for you, and who wasn’t. Help.

We always have help. We probably don’t recognize it. And often don’t even acknowledge it, when it shows up, refusing to believe what the mind cannot comprehend.

We have help. We just need to open up ourselves to it and ask for it.

 

Decoupled Aspirations

Some of us have goals in life. Some have the plan to reach them, or to handle stuff. 

Sometimes it works exactly as the plan, we reach the goal and we are happy. Sometimes it works exactly as the plan, and we end up unhappy. 

Often it doesn’t work as per the plan. (There’s really no sure-fire method to making this work, is there?)

Often we find ourselves frustrated. 

“Things are not going as planned.”

“I haven’t met my goals yet! I am a loser!” 

“Why did this have to happen now? It was so not in the plan!”

I found myself having a series of these conversations last week. 

Co-founder, Abhinav and one of the team members, Nilanjana were having a discussion, and I happened to become a part of it. The discussion was about the current challenges being faced by her. And by the end of it I heard myself say, “You seem to have had a plan. And now things are not going as per the plan. In fact it has nicely blown up in your face, or so it seems. My guess is you are hung upon the plan going exactly as you want it to go. Can you loosen up your hold on it? Allow the plan some space to breathe and let it take its course?”

“In other words,” I said, “You know, be detached from the plan’s evolution?”

I was trying not to bring the Bhagavad Gita reference which many of us have grown up hearing: ‘Do your duty without any attachment to the results of your action.’ The last thing I want to do in the workplace is bring up stuff that has any reference to religion or spirituality. Especially to a team of millennials. 

And like a true millennial, she responded, “You mean like decoupled architecture?” (She has been writing on decoupled Drupal architecture, hence the question. Separate the backend from the fronted, so both have the freedom to do their job in the best possible way). Millennials can make innovative connections that will never occur to a GenXer like me.

I said, “Yeah, like that.”

Decouple your aspirations from how they should work out. Have a plan, but don’t get married to it. 

And thus, we stumbled upon the term, Decoupled Aspirations.

Abhinav listened to the conversation, and later told me that the idea stuck in his mind too. He has read the Gita, but somehow this term got through to him better. 

I had forgotten that I had talked about the very same concept to a friend, also a GenXer, a few days earlier. She replied, a day after this Decoupled Aspirations conversation at work. She said it made sense to her. And i responded, “Yeah, only, we now call it Decoupled Aspirations.”

She called up immediately to chat excitedly, because “the term spoke to her”.

Well, in two days, three people had understood a difficult concept just because we put a different term to it. And a day later, the friend used the same idea to explain something to her 10 year old who sat crying that she wasn’t going to win the student election! It calmed her down.

Wonder why this is happening, this instant understanding? My guess is that decoupling gives a sense of separation of two things, and that leads to creation of some space. And maybe the idea of the space created gives the relief one is looking for. And the room for comprehension.

Comfort Zone Musings

A lot happened this week, personally, professionally. Nothing new in the life of an entrepreneur (or anyone, really!). And as I find a quiet moment on a Saturday, the thought that bubbles up from the past week melee is about comfort zones. Different incidents, different people, different settings—but the common thread is that.

I had been in touch with some people I shortlisted for an open position in our company. One of the key ways for me to judge ability, as well as initiative, is to send them a test to do. It’s not an easy one, but it’s not rocket science either. But to anyone without initiative or the hunger (we are looking for), it would feel like rocket science.

So here I was, down to my shortlisted three candidates.

One did it splendidly well, but had omitted to mention that she had already found another job. So she was out.

Another replied with a mail that sounded like a combination of lying and excuses. And when I followed up on what she said in her mail, she didn’t reply. Maybe she never saw the mail, you might say. I use Streak, so usually I know who has seen my mail, and how many times. So I know she saw my mail about the test 10 times, and the follow up mail once. She didn’t have the courtesy to say, No, thank you. Sadly, I seemed to have been proven right about the combination of lying and excuses. So she fizzled out too.

The third person saw the mail, and chose to not respond either. But when I followed up, she said she was in advanced negotiations for a job, and that it would be unethical for her to pursue ours. So that candidate went bust too.

So when all three candidates didn’t work out, I did what I usually do, which is question my modus operandi. Am I being too tough? Am I being too picky? Do I not want to close this position (what if deep down my subconscious is sabotaging the efforts!)? And on and on.

Then I looked at what I am trying to build. It’s cutting edge stuff, it’s not stuff for the faint hearted. It requires a toughness and staying power that many people don’t have. And while many freshers have this, experienced people exhibit less and less of this. They have defined their comfort zones and want to play in that. Comfort zone of not being asked hard questions. Comfort zones of known evils vs unknown evils. Comfort zones of working for a brand.

And that’s okay.

The other way to look at this is that they have defined their discomfort zones for other aspects of their life: maybe their personal lives push them out of their comfort zones quite a bit, so their work becomes their comfort zone. That’s certainly okay, isn’t it?

Some of us treps go into a mode of lamenting that people just don’t want to play outside their comfort zones. Just because we do, and many of our team members do, it doesn’t mean that everyone out there must either. It’s not their calling. So let’s drop the lament, shall we? And focus on the ones who do like to be out of their comfort zones at work.

Then there are others who play outside their comfort zones at work, and seem to go off-balance really quickly. When you extend help or solutions, they listen but come back and say, “No, thank you. My discomfort zone, my rules.” Sure, that works too!

Then there could be others who say they want to play outside their comfort zones, to learn more, to earn more. But if they are not authentic enough with their work, it starts becoming apparent that their ability to step outside their comfort zones is limited. And then it can become discordant, in terms of being misaligned on what one says and what one does. Is that okay? For them, perhaps. For a manager or an entrepreneur? Maybe, maybe not. For me, it’s not okay.

So what are my takeaways this week from all this?

  • That I don’t have to hyperventilate about people not wanting to step outside their comfort zones. If I want people who do so, I will just have to keep looking and find the right people.
  • That comfort zones come in all different sizes and shapes and forms. And I don’t have to insist that your comfort zone has to match mine.
  • That in case of an integrity issue with what’s being said, and done about comfort zones (or anything really), I want to question it.

On that note, I look ahead to a week that will need me to be out of my comfort zone quite a bit. Both at work and at home.

Cheers!

Synchronicity: How Good Things Happen

Ever turned back to look at your life and realized that where you stand today is a result of meaningful coincidences? Back in 1920s Carl Jung came up with the term Synchronicity to describe “events are “meaningful coincidences” if they occur with no causal relationship yet seem to be meaningfully related.”

Ever looked at the synchronicity in your life? Here’s a look at some of mine.

I have a degree in architecture, largely unused, because I switched careers soon after I started working. So it was a waste, you might ask? No. During my five years of pursuing my degree in architecture, I made lifelong friends, and also came face to face with who I really was, for the first time in my life. That was value enough for me.

But 16 years later after I graduated, I would meet a person who would give direction to how I thought about myself and entrepreneurship. I met Darshan in 2011, when I joined his program on entrepreneurship. How did I come to meet him? Through my Architecture classmate (and lifelong friend), Virender.

And sometime in 2012, I remember sitting at a self development workshop Darshan was leading (and I was finding phenomenal value in), and telling him, “This is why I had to do Architecture. So I could meet you!” He smiled.

Meeting Darshan was the start of many synchronicities in my entrepreneurship life. I was at an IT SME event, in 2012. During one of the sessions I attended, I heard a person from the audience ask a question. What he asked, and how he articulated it, drew me to him. And I ended up exchanging cards with him that day. That was Rahul, the founder of an open source IT services company. He went on to be coached by Darshan and take his company to new levels of growth.

Rahul and I kept in touch, exchanging leads for each other’s businesses. Rahul was really interested in what I was trying to do (and had empathy for my entrepreneurship distress) and soon hired us for content development for his website.

This is where things turn interesting.

Darshan invited me to the launch of his new program for startups. At the launch, I listened to the startup founders talk about their companies and what they were trying to do. I particularly remember a youngster talking of heat maps and engagement rates, and his previous startup failures. I thought nothing of it.

But synchronicity wasn’t about to let go.

I ran into him again at a networking event. We ended up chatting for a long time that day over tea and snacks. That day I probably got to know his startup was being incubated by none other than Rahul.

Still I thought nothing of it.

One thing led to another. And one fine day, Rahul figured he was having the same type of conversations with me, as well as his incubatee. He said, why don’t you two collaborate and come to me with a single pitch?

And that’s how Abhinav and I started working together. Many collaborative pitches later, we merged our companies, because we realized it would create phenomenal value for our customers. 

Today, we are building, not one, not two, but three brands, along with Dhiraj, who joined us later as a co-founder for our product.

Synchronicity!

Here’s another stream of meaningful coincidences.

Both Abhinav and I had adopted our way of doing marketing to align with the principles of Inbound Marketing, made popular by HubSpot. In 2013, when we merged, we had pipe dreams of being the HubSpot of India, not really knowing what it even meant.

In 2015, as the largest inbound marketing event on the planet, INBOUND15 opened in Boston, a handful of us stayed up nights curating content around it. Through the next four days we created content based on the sessions being tweeted about and Periscoped. And before the event was over, we had over 20 blog posts live.

Our intention was to be able to report live on the event, so inbound marketing professionals who were not in Boston could find content on INBOUND15. Nothing beyond that. There’s a sense of community and giving which is inherent to inbound marketing. We were just practising that. And we really had no Call to Action for all that content. Not till Abhinav realized we had hit pay dirt (3X our normal traffic from the US), and overnight our white labeling services page went live.

And as always, we didn’t think too much about it. Till a few months later, when we thought it might be a new business opportunity waiting to be tapped. And that’s how we landed up at INBOUND16, trying to talk to US inbound marketing agencies, if they would be willing to outsource to us. YES! Said many.

But it was a serendipitous meeting with Douglas Burdett who runs the Marketing Book Podcast, that would change things for us. He was generous with his advice, and connected us to a company who had tried white labeling and then closed it down. We ended up speaking to one of the co-founders, who too was generous with her advice. We likely shortened our learning cycle by many months, if not years, because of that call with her. At the next INBOUND, we ended up meeting her and her partner, and soon after they became our client!

Synchronicity.

Today we are HubSpot partners, and we have multiple white labeling clients across the world. All because we thought it would be cool to virtually cover INBOUND two and a half years ago! Meaningless back then. Now it is feels like a meaningful coincidence. We are not the “HubSpot of India”, but we are among the only two tiered partners in the country. And we are building our own content marketing tool, so we may not be way off. Who knows!

Eagerly waiting for more synchronicities!