The Maths of Life

When a man marries his girlfriend, he immediately creates a vacancy.

Okay, this is not my quote. It is from James Goldsmith. But it doesn’t matter whose quote is it because the point is – it highlights an unpleasantly interesting truth.

The truth is, you like something when there are no strings attached. When strings get attached, you start disliking the same thing!

We observe it all the time, but we don’t pay attention to this pattern much. Here is a story that affirms this observation.

In 1999, I met with a person called Milan (name changed for privacy).

He had a clerical/administrative job in a school. His work hours were 8:00 am to 1:00 pm and his salary were more than enough to take care of his needs.

But Milan hated his job. His passion was teaching maths to children.

Milan was excellent with academic maths and loved teaching. A lot of students used to come to him to learn maths.

Frustrated with his boring job, he quit his job. Soon he rented a space, ordered some furniture, and open his maths coaching classes.

He got the first batch within just a week of opening the classes.

Within just 3 months, he was running about 4 batches in a day. He was happy with his work and he rented more space, partnered with a couple of other teachers and hired a few more teachers.

They were four people running their coaching classes and gaining a good name amongst young children and their parents because of their quality maths coaching.

More and more students started joining his maths classes. And he was almost compelled to start more batches.

Now, apart from teaching maths, he also had to look after the administrative and operational aspects of running a coaching class business.

It turned out that he just loved teaching maths, not running a coaching class business.

His operational costs were increasing day by day – and the revenues he was generating through fees was not enough to take care of the costs.

His “hobby” shifted from teaching maths to share-market day trading. He started hating maths and started spending more time at a sharebroker’s office.

To make a long story short, after a few months, he shut his classes down because he could not sustain it and got an administrative job again with some organization.

His life went on but certainly, it was not something that Milan and his near ones would have wished for him.

The Math of Life Utpal Vaishnav

Lessons:

  1. Don’t turn your hobby into a business (especially if you are not up for understanding the business aspects of converting your hobby into a business).
  2. Your boring looking job gives you time and money to pursue your hobby, be aware of that and find peace with it.
  3. In business, there are a lot of things that you do which you may not personally like but you still need to do. That’s normal. If you don’t know how to lead yourself on the face of unpleasant yet important activities of your business, you will be out of business soon.
  4. The maths of life is not 1+1 = 2. Its answer could be different in different situations. What people do not get is that both the digits (1) are defined passively – by a lot of external factors. In other words, in business, 1 does not represent a constant, it is a variable!

Your relationship with the hobby will remain healthy if you don’t try to convert it into a job – or a business.

May the Force Be With You

Reading a very powerful writeup by Albert Camus. Here it goes:

“In the midst of hate, I found there was, within me, an invincible love.
In the midst of tears, I found there was, within me, an invincible smile.
In the midst of chaos, I found there was, within me, an invincible calm.

I realized, through it all, that…

In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.
And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.”

~Albert Camus

Above write-up brings in tremendous hope and reestablishes the faith we all should have in ourselves if we are on our path to living our personal legend.

While reflecting on those lines, some thought-pictures are created in my mind. Here they go:

In the midst of desert, I found there was, within me, a beautiful lake.  In the midst of night, I found there was, within me, an unbeatable morning.

I realize through it all, that …

No matter how difficult the challenges are, within me, there is a force that wants me to push back. The force wants me to live my personal legend there is no matter what.

May the Force be with me … and with you.

light within darkness

Startup India Standup India: Create Something Today

Has Indian startup eco-system seen a better initiative than this – Startup India Standup India?

With Government of India’s Startup India, Standup India initiative, which is intended to build a strong ecosystem for nurturing innovation and Startups in the country, I am seeing the Sun of new hopes for creating something on the face of an uncertain next.

Startup India Standup India

Since the thought of building the Startup ecosystem has got an attention from the Government, the economy is going to be benefited from it. You get better at what you focus on!

Highlights:

  1. A Rs. 10,000 crore fund for startups
  2. A single point of registration for startups
  3. A simplified regulatory regime based on self-certification
  4. A fast-track mechanism filing patent applications
  5. A credit guarantee fund for startups
  6. Tax exemption for three years, and capital gains
  7. A Startup India Hub for collaboration
  8. Relaxed norms of public-procurement
  9. Faster exits for startups
  10. Atal Innovation Mission to encourage entrepreneurship and innovation
  11. Innovation focused programs for students
  12. An annual incubator grand challenge

More Info on Startup India Standup India Initiative

With this initiative, I visualize that the Indian youth will get better at creating more rather than complying or consuming.

Still today, many smart grads think that since they’ve finished their degree education, they should get a highly paying job if they “comply” to the set standards and commonly accepted norms. Not an effective strategy in 2016. A better way is to create something that only you can create. Be a Linchpin!

Why it it a better way?

Because you will be the first in your own creation. Rather than worrying about getting chosen, you will be able to choose!

Is it a silver bullet?

No, it is not and I am sure this initiative will pass through iterations and improvements in its due course but this is the nature of any new creation … and guess what, effective startup founders are comfortable dealing with uncomfortable situations with ease. Be one.

Opportunity is to focus less on compliance and more on creation … create something today. Let us Start Up India!

3 Ingredients of Creating a Great App

Ah.. we’re in 2016. Creating an app has never been quicker + easier than now!

If you have about US$5k and access to a good app developer, you can create an app.

At the same time, creating just an app does not matter much: In 2008, just creating an app was enough but today it would be half-witted to expect that.

Now, people have enough experiences to differentiate between an ordinary app and a great app.

People have good options to get their things done. More than one option in most cases.

When people did not have options, creating an ordinary app worked well. Not anymore.

Imagine that you’re traveling in a desert and you’re extremely thirsty:

You are halfway and you do not have a drop of water in your water bottle. You have been 
searching for a water source but you haven't found one yet.

A group of villege-men passes by and you ask them if they can offer you a glass of water.

They want to charge $500 for a glass of non-purified water which has sand particles.

You pay them and drink water.

What if you're in your hometown with abundance of purifie water at your disposal?

You ignore villege-men's offer, don't you?

In the App World, users have an abundance of purified water :). They’ll ignore you if you offer them dirty water. An ordinary app is like dirty water; a great app is like purified!

Here are the 3 Ingredients of Creating a Great App

great app

I reiterate – the below 3 are the ingredients of creating a great app:

  1. Attention to UX: Attention to UX will make the app more relevant to the user.
  2. Continuous testing: Continuous testing will instill the right habits for your app success.
  3. Measuring the right metrics: Measuring the right metrics will tell you how you’re doing against your app success goals.

A great app is made with users in mind, tested continuously and measured against the right goals.

A great app also means that the life of people associated with creating or consuming the app will be great. Users want it so their needs are fulfilled. Since users use it more, founders make more $$$, and since startup and its founders make more money, the programmers get to spend a lot of time on the hacktivities that make them happy :).

Great App = Great Life: for Founders; for Programmers; for Users! #startups #ux Click To Tweet

If you learn to make an app great, you learn to better your life. This is no exaggeration!

How to Create a Great App

The process of making an app great is the process of making anything great: may it be a strategy, customer service, organization management, personal leadership, writing skill, or a relationship!

The reason it is so difficult to focus on these 3 important ingredients is that it requires you to acknowledge that your original execution was imperfect.

#Startup world is looking for ppl who continuously work(hard or smart or whatever)to make it work! Click To Tweet

Is unconditional commitment to continuous improvement a part of your startup vision?

If not, it is going to be more difficult. If yes, you have an edge. Leverage it!

SketchNote: 5 Startup Lessons Learned from Steve Jobs

Who said Steve Jobs is not alive?

Though Steve Jobs is physically not present in this world, he’s still alive in our hearts through his larger than life creations.

While I did not have the privilege of working for him at Apple, NeXT or Pixar, I have the privilege to learn from the people who have been there and done that.

Yes, I’m talking about Guy Kawasaki and his wonderful article on Entrepreneur.com.

A couple of days ago, when I was reading at night, I stumbled upon this wonderful article: 5 Things I Learned About Successful Startups From Steve Jobs!

I read the article attentively. I liked the lessons. Since the majority of the clients I work with are startup founders, I thought I will arrange a brainstorming session with my team on the subject sooner than later … to better our startup consulting muscles.

The need was to summarize the article quickly, understand the crux of it, and share it with the team members along with context-specific and relevant examples so we can leverage the learning offered by Jobs via Guy!

I don’t know if I will ever create a product, service or an outcome which will put a dent in the universe like Jobs did but I know one thing for sure: I’ll DIE EMPTY and unleash my best work every day. Thanks, Todd Henry!

At that point, my best work was to summarize the article in some way but how?

Last week, I met my friend Tanmay, who is a master of sketch notes. He’s an artist who ships. I enjoy observing and learning from his fascinating creations: his writing, his photography and his sketch notes.

Since Tanmay is living in Chandigarh,  meeting in-person is not as frequent as it used to be so when we met last week, we spent some good time and talked about topics where our interests intersect. Sketch note was one of them.

“What if I create a sketch note for of this article?” I thought to myself.

When the possibility of a new creation emerges, the devil who lives within you, known as resistance gets even stronger (yes, Steven Pressfield, I get it.) and tells you 100 reasons why you should not venture into the unknown.

Some of the reasons that were telling me that I should not venture into creating a sketch note were:

  • I don’t deeply understand what sketch noting is;
  • My drawing was really bad;
  • I do not have good tools at the moment;
  • What if my sketch note will look ugly (I never got good marks in my drawing class while schooling);
  • I haven’t read the SketchNote Handbook from Mike Rohde … yet;
  • I don’t know how to begin …

All BS reasons: my lizard brain, as Seth Godin puts it, was doing everything possible to convince me how I am not the right fit to start SketchNoting but somehow I was able to pull the plug.

I started creating a sketch note. I think it is better to call it Digital SketchNote because I did not hand-draw it. I digitally drew it. On my Macbook Pro.  But I think when it comes to creating something, tools matter less. Intention + first quick action + willingness to continuously iterate to put it in the right direction matter more.

'To starting something up, first quick action matters more than the wealth of tools.' #startups Click To Tweet

This is the 6th iteration of the sketch note I created 2 days ago. First one was ugly. The second one was little less ugly and this one hopefully is not as much – LOL :D!

So here comes my first SketchNote:

Startup Lessons Steve Jobs - SketchNote

I have spent 4 hours designing this SketchNote. Maybe it is much more time than what a seasoned SketchNoter would have taken and the quality of this SketchNote may be primitive, I enjoyed every bit of this experience.

Fun thing was that in the process, I got some design direction from my better half Kavita, who runs her own graphic design studio, KreativePencils. It was fun to be on the receiving side of the direction in this project!

Does it all matter?

It matters to me at least. It matters to me not because I created my first sketch note. It matters to me because I ventured into the sea of an unknown once again!

Exploring an uncertain next with an immense faith in yourself, regardless of the skills or the tool, gives me inner strength and happiness.

Steve Jobs had said,

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”

So yes: the dots are being connected. With Jobs’ insights; with Guy’s expressions of Job’s insights; with Entrepreneur Magazine publishing it; with the lessons learned from Todd and Pressfield are intersecting; with Tanmay inspiring me to look at SketchNote as a subject and Kavita filling the gaps of the talent that I have … there is no better way to begin a new year!

Thank you, Steve Jobs. Thank you, Guy Kawasaki. Thank you Entrepreneur.com. Thank you, Todd Henry, Thank you, Steven Pressfield. Thank you, Tanmay. Thank you, Kavita. I am grateful to your contributions in my life.

And one more thing!

Thank you so much the reader of my blogs for reading through, criticizing and giving feedback on my ideas, thoughts and point of views. I am grateful to you. I am because you are.

I am grateful to you. I am because you are.

Ubuntu!

 

Depthless Impulse Vs. Slow Mastery

What is one of the most common behavioral patterns of young startup founders?

Depthless impulse married with an action bias.

Action bias is good. Action bias with impulse is accident prone. Action bias with depthless impulse is disastrous.

Action bias=good. Action bias+impulse=accident prone. Action bias+depthless impulse=disaster. #quote Click To Tweet

Here’s a story of a young such startup founder and his mentor:

A young startup founder went to his newfound mentor and said passionately, “I am committed to learning your thinking process. How long will it take me to master it?”

The mentor’s reply was casual, “3 years.” Impatiently, the young startup founder answered, “But I want to learn it faster than that. I will work very hard. I will practice every day, 12 or more hours a day. How long will it take then?”

“5 years,” replied the mentor.

“But, if I really, really work hard at it and give my best shot. Maybe 16 or 18 hours a day if I have to. How long then?” asked young startup founder.

The mentor paused for a moment and said, “Well, 10 years.”

“But, I do not understand,” said the disappointed young startup founder. “At each time that I say I will work harder, you say it will take me longer. Why do you say that?”

Replied the mentor,” When you have one eye on mastering my thinking process, you have only one eye on the path that leads to learning my thinking process.”

Same is the case with many young startup founders. They get so much excited about the end result their idea might produce, they fail to give their 100% into walking the path that leads to the end result they had once imagined.

Depthless impulse is easy, getting into the verticle depth of the matter is not. It is painful. It is boring. It takes more time than what you think it should take. But above all, it is a surefire way to achieving your best potential. And, the whole notion of the startups is to achieve one’s best potential, isn’t it?

Startups who do not want to invest in verticle depth cease to exist sooner than later.

Not because they don’t figure out the different ideas to pursue, but because they don’t pursue the ideas differently.

Don’t let you startup cease. Only action bias won’t save your startup. Practice slow mastery over depthless impulse and experience it yourself.