Guilty of Stereotyping GenZ and Millennials

Millennials, and now GenZ get a bad rep. And it’s not new, you know! As a GenXer (NOT A BOOMER!), I have faced it too: “Your generation just doesn’t work hard enough!” was what we were told!

So I am going to talk about a few Millennial/GenZ people who are on my mind this week. And how they busted some myths that are floating around about this generation.

Myth: They only think about themselves
First, Pradeep and Lalit, the co-founders of the NGO, Learning by Locals. Earlier this week, I visited them and spoke to women students of a fellowship they run. It gave my privileged butt a bit of a reality check. It’s one thing to do my volunteering online, and quite another to walk down slum alleys to reach a tiny room filled with young enthusiastic women hungry to learn from you.

Pradeep and Lalit run their modest, for-profit outfits, Delhi by Locals and FilmArt respectively. They come from less than privileged backgrounds. But they find time to identify challenges in neighborhoods such as Sanjay Colony, near Okhla-II. And actually think of solutions to make it happen, and then raise money to execute. Both these youngsters are the alumni of Manzil and are trying to carve out their own income streams, while ensuring they are able to help the communities they have access to.

Makes me think. What makes someone with limited means actually create initiatives that enable others: girls to step out of their rigid familial and societal structures and get job ready, or create safe spaces for the youth in slums to hang out gainfully (reading, playing carroms or chess, or engage in discussions), or run surveys to really understand the challenges faced by the youth living in slums?

What makes Pradeep and Lalit and people in their network, not worry a whole lot about how much money they are making, but give of themselves to others, just so they have a better chance at life? I just assume they are built a different way. The media is filled with stories of the great resignation or the great return or Insta reels are about workcations and how Mondays suck and so on… Thankfully, there are these youngsters who are showing me real stuff.

Myth: They don’t work hard, they don’t ‘get’ consistency.
I just got to know that a podcast I follow run by two millennial girls is coming to a close. They have done over 110 episodes over the last 2-2.5 years. I have no idea if they have a lot of listeners or they earn money out of it. But I suppose they don’t do it to make money. They do it for expression and creativity. How many people do I know who can keep doing this month on month for over 2.5 years? Hell, even I can’t write a blog here that frequently.

They just showed to me that one can keep this going, for the sheer fun of it, for the million ways their creativity has grown and taken various shapes over this time. And even now, it’s not really coming to a close, it’s just going to take a whole different form.

If someone tells you, millennials are lazy, they don’t show up, they don’t do the work, they are not consistent, point them here. I refuse to believe they are outliers.

Myth: They don’t care what happens to the workplace; they just up and go
I am sure every manager out there has a story that goes that way: their subordinate left without notice, or if they did serve the notice, they didn’t put in the effort, the lack of interest was so obvious.

I am guilty of believing this myth too. Until a GenZ came in and taught me differently. She came and quickly figured out that she wanted to explore something else, and decided to quit. She was in her probation period, and as per our policy, she just needed to give us a week’s notice. She told me that she would stay for as long as it took me to find a replacement and smoothen out things. So instead of a week, she gave me 5 weeks. That was more than enough time for us to get things in order. Why did she do it? She had borne the brunt of such exits, and was compassionate enough to not put us through the same.

Makes you think, eh?

We love stereotyping, don’t we?

For every stereotype I build or believe in, I stop a person (or two or many?) somewhere from expressing what they really want to express. The more the labelling, the closer the walls get, the harder it is to breathe.

And that’s what this generation (or the ones that came before it, or the ones what will come after) needs: be able to breathe freely.

Being Alone

Last month, I wondered how to make my 50th birthday special. And after a lot of thought and back and forth, I decided to do a solo trip. I have never done it. A couple of months ago, it may have even been unthinkable for me. I still ended up choosing the safest places to be, but I did it.

So from the outside it looks like I took a holiday. Umm…I was working on most days, even on a Sunday for an hour or two. But there was no expectation from anyone that I had to. But I was just doing the bare minimum to keep things going, so it wasn’t stalling anything. So yeah, it was a holiday.

From the inside, was it a holiday? Yes, sure. But it was more than that.

Holidays are for the privileged, right? Yes. But as soon as I reached Goa, I realized that there is a whole new level of privilege, holidays or not.

That is the privilege of being alone. Because most Indian women can’t possibly get their head around this. We are so defined by our families and extended families, so stepping out of the city by yourself is met with a lot of questions: We can do a family trip, can’t we? Why don’t you ask our friends to join you? Are you going for work? Won’t you get bored?

I went alone. I sat in restaurants and watched the people on the other tables. A North Indian family, out on a holiday, but it sounded like they carried their morning breakfast table conversation to Goa: how bad the tea is, how thick the alu paranthas, and so on. I could talk about the whiny attitude, but that’s not what this post is about. It is about them not knowing that we carry our group dynamics wherever we go, so we will never get to see ourselves, truly. What we could be if we had no one around. And it’s not a sorry state at all. It’s of exuberance and pause and gentleness and joy for no reason. And also your ups and downs, and the space to have them.

What a privilege.

And why women? I saw men who looked like they didn’t want to be on this holiday. I saw men giving their wives the break they needed from the kids. Wouldn’t they like to have this privilege too? I have a few guy friends who know this: some go for their yearly solo trips, some gave up after they got married, some have restarted after their divorce. But they know the thing about being alone. For that time, to not be defined by their work or wives or kids or parents.

What a privilege. To know that you are all that, and more. Or less, as the layers peel off, even if temporarily.

What a privilege, to sit quietly and have a drink and a bite of your choice. That doesn’t need to be dependent on what the others are having.

What a privilege, to not have to do anything, and just be. To not be caught up in chores or see if everyone is comfortable. Or if the meal is balanced and to everyone’s liking. Or that the clothes are washed and everyone has clothes for the week. Or that you have to leave the phone on at night, because your elderly parents might need help (mine are gone, so I can now switch it off at night). Or that there is no shrieking dementia person or post-chemo patient in the other room who needs your attention. Or not feel guilty about not putting in your volunteering hours.

What a privilege that you have a team that can step in to do your work. Or that you don’t have to be in the day-to-day things that keep the revenue coming in.

Do I sound uncaring? As if being alone means running away from responsibilities. It could but it isn’t. That’s one’s choice really. 

The point is to give yourself the space to be yourself. I do that all the time at home as well. But it’s still a physical space that needs attention. It’s an emotional space where others need attention. 

Consider taking this privilege, of being alone. Because you need your own attention.

Good Tidings

The virus brought in good tidings, didn’t it? 

You got to pause for a while. Many of us are still in pause.

You learnt to cook or got back to cooking. Or baking.

And cleaning and gardening. Painting, singing, dancing, or learning a new language.

Perhaps workouts and meditation, even. 

Many of us started having foods, brews and supplements to boost our immunity. 

You donated more than you have ever before. 

You let go of friendships and relationships that don’t matter or those that weigh you down. Or at least you became aware that you must.

When you stepped into hope, you could see the fear in people. 

You also saw how the fear in others triggers fear or anger in you.

You even took a course or two, to spruce up your skills.

Or simply caught up on lost sleep. 

You watched the numbers go up, not just the positives, but the recoveries as well. 

Over time you learned, just because you’re positive doesn’t mean you’ll die. 

You stepped out to the park, and took in deep breaths of fresh air in a city that seldom has fresh air. Or clear skies. 

You looked at your career and saw what was not ok. And decided to find more things that are joyful for you.

You looked at the game you had signed up to play, maybe mindfully or mindlessly. And decided that now you’d play it your way. In a way that makes your soul feel uplifted.

You see the tremendous hit on people’s freedoms across the globe, freedoms being taken away behind the pandemic screens. And while your mind wants to scream, “Injustice!”, deep in your gut you also know that this is working itself out. It is not more injustice, it’s simply more out there for us to see. And isn’t that a good thing? Now, you know. Now more people know.

The virus is still bringing in good tidings. Keep your eyes open for them.

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. 


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.


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!

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.


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.

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.


You Are One in A Million!

The highlight of this past week happened on a feedback call with one of our agency clients in Australia. He said, “In the past one year, over a hundred agencies from India have reached out to me, seeing my role as a CMO on LinkedIn. Only yours stood out. You had done your research, and you had something concrete to offer. It was refreshing and phenomenal. It’s just common sense, but then that isn’t so common, is it!”

So we are 1 in a 100! He didn’t have to say that to us, but luckily for us, he did. We felt deeply appreciated, recognized for all the efforts gone to be able to create a service that brings out such effusive words. And we are super grateful for that!

We consider ourselves one in a thousand, perhaps, 1 in 10,000! Or least, that is an underlying approach, as we strive to excel, go further with our learnings, and adapt to changes in the market.

However, think back to what our Aussie client said, “It’s just common sense.” Then why is it so uncommon? We often have these conversations in our workplace. Trying to find patterns in people who demonstrate that they have the will and wherewithal to stick to common sense, and hence become really uncommon. 

Abhinav had a job in an IT MNC, where he could have easily stayed on and made good money. But he went to extreme lengths to deliberately flunk the tests for his job confirmation. Mind numbing work, where growth meant navigating politics to become Project Manager in eight years! He decided his life wasn’t about that, quit and became a partner in a startup the very next day! Uncommon.

Dhiraj struggled to code in his first year of college, when teachers expected you to know a lot more than most students did, and offered nothing by way of help. He spent his vacations taking classes outside college in various languages and came back a real coder, no thanks to his own college teachers. And ran classes after college hours for the next batch of first year students on coding. He ended up running two batches at a time, running from one class to the next, helping many get the foundation they needed for their coding life ahead. And to his surprise, his batches had his own classmates, seniors and MCA students. Uncommon.

Anubhav spent some years coding at the IT job mecca of India, and gave it up. Went to NIFT to study fashion technology. And not knowing what he should do, he decided to shadow the guy who seemed to know what he was doing, Abhinav. While Abhinav had no real job to give Anubhav, the latter stuck on, and found a way to help in a project that paid him a stipend, and then a salary. Uncommon.

Rajat followed the common way of life for a while. Then he hit the authenticity wall at our workplace. He rebounded really fast and has reinvented himself twice in the last year or so. Software dude to digital marketer to career coach to scriptwriter. Uncommon.

In my third year of pursuing a  graduate degree in architecture, I decided that this was not what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. But I continued with the course just to get the degree and not waste my parents’ money. And became a writer as soon as I graduated. Probably a common thing now. But 22 years ago, uncommon.

I have more such stories, of people who have worked at Knowiz and Niswey. And this thread of  being uncommon runs through them.

You ask questions, question the status quo, deeply believe in something (other than money), and want to have a go at the dreams you have, or had long ago. That takes you on an uncommon path.

Some questions I have answered, as an entrepreneur:

In 2008, someone asked me, “How can you run a content business, when there are freelancers who write for half a rupee per word or less?”

I answered, “By choosing a domain like technology that most people find hard writing for, and then excelling at it. I am just going to raise the entry barrier for others.”

In 2009, someone said, “Content solutions are not enough of a value proposition for companies. Your business has no real meaning. Why don’t you shut the business down?”

And I said, “I have a good thing going, and I will just find the right partner to deliver digital marketing solutions, and the clients will be happier.”

In 2010, I found myself thinking, “I don’t like this gaming the system way of digital marketing. What about creating value for the prospect?”

I went looking for the answer, read marketing books, and finally decided that the inbound marketing philosophy felt right, and leaned into that. And soon enough I found a digital marketing geek who thought the same way.

If a client has signed you up for a retainer, but isn’t really using your services, what should you do?

Ask them to take a pause in the retainer, and decide when they would really want to leverage our skills.

If a client hasn’t paid you, and you have asked a few times, but they still haven’t paid, isn’t it time to give up?

No. Ask them again and again. And again. Most end up paying, even if they have scaled down, or are in trouble. If they have gone bankrupt, file a case.

All these answers have taken the company in a direction that is not commonly followed by others. So you end up being in a rarified place, not many exist there. And while that puts you in a highly differentiated place, it also means you have few people as examples to learn from. And it also means that the market you want to serve is hard to come by. But that’s just another challenge to solve, and become even more uncommon.

Become one in a million.

A Study in Contrast

About three years ago, in one of our Goal setting sessions, I heard one of our new recruits talk about his goals. The goal setting sessions are ones where people decide what they want to achieve in the year, personally and professionally. People end up learning new languages, learn to cook or play the guitar, take two trips to the mountains, read 40 books, bike to Leh…you get the drift.

I doubt anyone was inspired listening to this youngster that day. I certainly wasn’t. He got some cursory feedback from the rest of the team. I was asked to give mine. I said, I think he needs to get authentic. Some nods and murmurs. And the next person came to talk about her goals.

When I said that statement, I had hoped, he would come up to me and ask me what I meant. To my delight, he did. And till today we continue conversations on being authentic. In fact he became so authentic that he left the company to find and pursue his passion, but is still is a part of our company. And inspiring others.

What really drives me to be an entrepreneur is this vision to create an awesome, authentic, purposeful workplace. Where people get to be the best versions of themselves, and often this means they first have to find their true self. And that can come as a shock to many. Those who just can’t bear to look at themselves, often end up leaving our company. Because we are being disarmingly honest in general. Yes, we tend to keep some bad feelings under wraps, but largely it is out there. Or at least our attempt is to get it out there, so it gets addressed and we can move to the next big thing.

We have a culture of freedom and accountability. You are free to do your work as you like, as long as you take ownership of the deliverables. Ask for help, learn, fail fast, get back into the zone. That’s largely who we are.

Of course, sometimes people who join us think they can abuse this freedom. And they learn quickly, they can’t. They get fired on the spot if they are caught lying about their work. Two months ago, an intern had to leave for this very reason. And it was not the first time we had fired anyone for that reason. I am happier to hear, “I didn’t work on it, I was stuck,” than a lie that goes like, “I have been working on it but I haven’t completed it.” There are timestamps, people. There are ways to know!

All this arises from the core of who we are as a company. And such conversations are a natural thing at our workplace.

Now for the contrast. Sometime this week, this happened. I could hear one of my teams on a call with a client’s team. I could hear the client person drone on for what seemed like a lifetime. When the call got over, I checked with the team what the discussion was about, and why it took so long. Effectively, it was a call that should have lasted 10-15 minutes, but took an hour. Why? Because the client team was simply not being authentic. They came from a deep need to establish superiority over us (after all, they are paying us!), and never, ever miss a chance to raise the blame finger at us. And where two words would suffice, they had to use 2000, to fill up the emptiness of their words.

The contrast hit so hard. Here I am telling my people to take ownership of who they are, fail and take ownership of that too. And then they have to go out and service people who can’t take ownership, and are scared to fail (they may lose their jobs, or just don’t want to lose the next promotion), and only end up sounding pompous and vacuous.

Of course this is my point of view. The client team will have their own point of view. That we are stupid, or incompetent or something. But that’s not the point here.

The point is there are these vast multitudes of people who are simply going through the motions of their jobs, not creating value and impeding any value being created. They live in fear – what will the boss say, what if I get fired, what if I don’t get promoted. They lead “unexamined lives”. And are in places of power. Trumping the rest of the people with a will to be different (yes, the word ‘trump’ was intentional).

My co-founders say it’s a big company thing. Where “Save my Ass” (SMA) is the culture code, and not what emerges of fancy terms like Integrity, Sincerity, Values and other big words pasted on the walls. Well, I am sure many big companies are not like that. And I am also sure many small companies are certainly like that.

What about a startup being incubated inside a large company? A startup is meant to be quick, and usually has no time for time wasting conversations, and the focus is on do, experiment, fail, improve, do…and so on. But if it’s incubated by a big company where the culture has become SMA, what happens? Chew on that. Maybe you’ll think twice before taking that funding from the big company’s investment arm. That is, if authenticity, agility, ownership and accountability are important to you.

All this year, all that I have read, all the videos I have watched, all the talks in an event I attended told me to be who you are, step into your uniqueness, be authentic. And I get all pumped up. And I step into more of myself, encourage my team to do so as well.

But then I also have to deal with this reality of people leading unexamined lives, because some of them pay my bills. What a dichotomy!