NextDrop As I Knew It Is Dead #Startup

The company is not dead, just everything about it is changing.  I know logically it’s a good thing, but that doesn’t mean that it’s still not painful and sad.

It’s painful because it’s the end of an era.  It was beautiful in it’s own way.  I got almost $1M and 4 years to figure out how the business/startup world works.  I understand why it’s really really hard to have lower middle and lower income paying consumers and the only people who have really done it well are the likes of fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies.  I understand why the water situation is as messed up as it is and only getting worse.  I understand why governments work the way they do (or don’t).  And the thing that kills me is that I’ve finally realized that I can’t solve every single one of these problems.  There are too many to solve at once.  You have to pick one.  And unfortunately some of them I am just not the best person to solve.  Some of them would be smarter to wait for other people to solve.  And I hate that.  I hate when I can’t solve all the problems that I see.  I feel like I am letting the world down.

 

But there’s another critical thing I realized.  It’s that there are other passionate people in this world trying to solve problems too.  Different problems from me.  And I need to rely on them to solve those problems.  We need to work as a team to make the world a better place.  I want to meet them, and tell them what they are doing is amazing.  I’ve started, and I want to get better at that.

But most importantly, I want to pick the one thing that we at NextDrop can do really really really well. One really important problem we are going to solve and do a kick ass job at it.  Build an amazing product that make billions of people around the world really really happy and bring together the brightest minds to make that improbability the most probable future for our planet.

And that’s all I really have to say about that.

For now at least.

I Get Knocked Down (And I Get Knocked Down Again) #startup

That cliche/adage 2 steps forward, 1 step back is so true.  Except in the startup world, it’s more 2 steps forward, 5 steps back.  And then you make a lateral move 3 spaces, so that you’re in a different spot than you were last week. Same level, but at least a different spot.

I think that’s what a startup is about. It’s about how many punches can you withstand.  Literally that’s it.  I think of a boxing match (mostly from the 3 movies I’ve watched about it which clearly makes me the expert).  But it always seems to be the underdog just needs to keep waiting, defending, taking the punches, and just make sure not to get KO’d.  And then they need to keep their strength to make their move.  Defend, defend, defend, offensive (powerful).  So it’s like 5 steps back for every 1 powerful step forward.

I feel like that’s what it is right now.  Holding the ground, planning the next move while the punches keep hitting you.

I suppose that’s where you get the term keep your eye on the prize.  Because that’s the only thing keeping you from falling all the way over.

Fat

I’ve recently come to the sad realization that I used to starve myself.  Starve may be exaggerated, and it was not on purpose and not in very obvious ways, but I think my deepest fear was that I would not be thin.  And I would unconsciously do things in the name of “health”.  Namely, I would not eat enough.  The fact that I have always been super lazy when it comes to food doesn’t help. But if there wasn’t a healthy option around (read: most of the time) I would wait until I got home and eat something (again, probably not enough).  The only reason I even noticed this was because I fell sick this week, and I noticed that I had not been sick in a while.  I also noticed I am sleeping much better and I had far fewer headaches than I used to have.

Additionally, most people have been commenting on my weight gain.  I must say, I have gained weight in places I didn’t even realize I could gain weight.  I’m sure there’s more places that exist to gain weight in, but it’s just…very strange.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, I just can’t go back to the way I (now realize I) was: Semi-starved, always something wrong, irritated, sleep deprived, and generally quite shitty.  If I had to pick weight gain or that, I pick weight gain.

Now the trick is to figure out how to eat enough AND go back to the way I was 6 months ago.  Just because that felt a lot better.  And I think that’s important too.  Feeling good about yourself.

It’s just going to be a lot lot lot harder than I ever anticipated.

I suppose I must go back to the drawing board.

Such is life.

Failure #Startup

Failure in the startup world is nothing short of the most intense and mortifying pain on the planet.  Because it’s the murder of your ego.  My ego used to be the size of Texas and Alaska combined.  I was pretty sure I was the hottest thing since sliced bread.  Except I was really good at pretending I didn’t think so because lord, that’s not ok to let on.  And when problems start happening, you hope you can just buy yourself enough time to figure out how to fix it.  But the solutions you are thinking of are quick fixes because the one thing that you have to do is the one thing you can’t do.  It’s admit defeat.  It’s pulling the breaks and saying holy shit this isn’t working. We need to change ASAP.  That is scary. Because what if your whole company goes under?  That’s not allowed. We just need more time.  We’ll figure it out.  That’s what real startups do right? But the catch is, you’re in the rut and you’re not thinking radically different.  So nothing significant happens, so nothing real gets fixed.  And then the problems prolong and the problems get bigger and people get angrier and situations get worse.  

I think this is how most startups die.

I have no idea why the universe let us survive, but death was right there, I was staring it in the face, it haunted me at night, it tortured me during the day. I still feel it breathing down my neck, but I think that’s ok.  It helps keep all of this real, and reminds me of the transient nature of life (or startups).  

I have new commitments and priorities now.  It doesn’t matter what the consequences are, but I need to trust my gut and do what, deep down, I know what needs to be done.  We need to surround ourselves with advisors that tell us the harsh truths about life and startups.  We need to surround ourselves with people that push us to be better, and think about life in interesting and different ways.  And most importantly, we need to commit to take care of ourselves.  Because without that, we won’t hear that voice deep down, saying that thing that needs to be said, that you really don’t want to hear.  And most importantly, have the courage to act on it.  

I don’t think people understand just how tiring that is. Having the courage to do the right thing. So. Goddamn. Tiring. 

But you do it. Because what you really want to do, all you really wanted to do, was build a different tomorrow. And most of the time, between the HR paperwork, the investor pitches, and the accounts cleanup, you forget that’s why you really did this in the first place.  

I think the only way to survive is remember why you are doing this. And even if you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, at least try to feel the warmth of the rays of hope, underneath all the heaps and heaps of shit that’s currently burying your reality. 

  

Stress Ghosts and Posture

Have you ever seen that horror movie I forgot which one, but the American one that was a Japanese remake and at the end we realize the dude has a ghost sitting on his back the whole time? (Ok yes, maybe I just described every horror movie ever made ever).  But yes. That’s what I’ve realized my stress is.  A stress ghost, weighing down on my back.  I’ve named her Elvira.

Because as I was working out this morning and I was thinking about wow, how come my posture isn’t as good as it was a week and a half ago, it can’t be muscle deterioration already, and I realized Jesus.  It’s because I literally feel weight on my back. It takes actual effort to keep it straight because of the weight of the stress ghost.  It also constricts my breathing, not in a panic attack sort of way, but more in a, I know I’m not getting all the oxygen I can right now sort of way.  

Which is quite shocking when you think about it.  What other physical manifestations of stress are there in our lives that we don’t even know about?

Anyway. Damn you Elvira.

Stress Eating

I used to do this freshman year of college, quite a bit. It’s a really easy habit to slip back into, especially when unexpected stress hits you in the face.

Or for me, for some reason, I was so stressed out yesterday it felt like little evil elves were stabbing me in my eye sockets.  (Yes, that was the mental image I had all post 5pm).  And since I don’t believe in popping pills when I KNOW it’s stress related, and I had said, absolutely no going back to your 9 year old habit of going to the gym, instead of picking up the habit I was hoping I would (i.e. meditation), I went to my favorite ice cream store.  Or more accurately, since I live in Bangalore, I conveniently ordered some of my favorite ice cream to my house.

Except I decided to make it at least a little bit useful.  I said ok Anu. I’ll let you do this but you have to A/B test it (oh yes, because I’m a nerd like that).  I really really really just wanted the pain to go away and I said ok if the pain goes away with ice cream, then you win (you, Anu, the one who won’t do what the other more logical Anu wants). But if I win, then next time you’ll remember this and you’ll try the other coping mechanism I said you should have (i.e. meditation).

So I ordered my ice cream and lo and behold, the pain went away. For exactly 10 minutes. And then it came back, full force, but added about 10 more serial killer like elves who were really trying to rip apart my eye socket.

So instead of meditating, or eating more, I went to sleep. At 8:30pm.  And turns out, that worked great too. I got up this morning, and serial killer elves were gone.

I figure stress will keep coming back. But next time, I’m at least a bit more equipped to deal with it in a slightly more productive manner.

Also, PS, dear serial killer elves. I really dislike you. Please go away. I feel like you have presents to make before December or something.

Time Vs. Money

I realized that ever since I was a small child, I have tracked the use of my time like Donald Trump tracks his money.  It’s been my most prized possession ever since I can remember. And to this day, I am probably one of the biggest time Nazi’s on the planet.  Because, in the true startup sense of the word, I figured that when you spent time on the most important things, value would be generated.  So if I optimized my time, my life would generate value (both monetarily and otherwise)

Except here’s the thing I realized.  Both time and money are manmade concepts.  Both of them are fictitious.  Both of them are only used by humans to understand more abstract concepts which our brains can’t fully comprehend:  Value and life.

All of which to say, neither of these things is the point.  I used to think that if I managed my time the best way possible, I would somehow discover the meaning of life.  That’s not true.  That’s pretty much the same thing as saying if I generate and spend my money in the most efficient way possible, I will discover the meaning of life.  Again, not true.  I’m  not saying that both aren’t important, and both don’t need to be managed (they do). I guess what I’m saying is, I used to think I knew the point, and now I’m saying no.  I’m back to square one.  That is definitely not the point.

I’m also saying that my appalling lack of money management skills is really harshing my vibe and I need to get on that, stat.

So really what I’m saying is that I have no idea what is the point.  All I know is that I need to be less of a time Nazi, use some of those skills to manage my money better, and then…with our powers combined…figure out…what the hell I am doing with my life.

That’s pretty much where I am at right now.

#Startup Learnings 101

The whole point of entrepreneurship is learning how to not run away.  It’s learning how to face challenges head on, despite the natural tendency to run in the complete opposite direction/bury your head in the ground when things get tough.

It’s really as simple as that.  Because I think the greatest entrepreneurs have this basic quality.  I am nowhere near where I need to be on this metric.  I’m your classic, when the going gets tough, hit the road kind of gal.  Across all aspects of my life.  Personal, professional, you name it, I have probably run away from it.  I run away from tough gym classes (in college they knew me as the girl that left after 10 minutes), tough relationships, tough challenges in general.  I usually just run.

But today I realized just how much I am missing when I do run.  Because I think the very first time I decided not to run away when things got tough was with NextDrop.  It is a shit house, and has been a shit house since November.  But you know what? The pain and trauma over the last 4 months has been the time I’ve experienced the most personal growth.  And the most rewards too.  I’m doing things I never thought I would have the courage to do.  I never thought I would be able to do.  But it’s happening.  I am doing it.  Who knew?

Here’s the thing. Once you make that one ridiculously scary decision to stick something through, you’ll never know how much reward is in store.  Because honestly? Worst case, you end up in the same place you were at when you first decided to leave.

Probably a few experiences wiser though.

And that. THAT is invaluable.

Good Workout Decisions: Throwing Numbers Out The Window

It’s been 18 days of working out, 3 days since I threw numbers out the window, and today, I finally had a workout breakthrough.  I realized as I was walking home that man, my posture is significantly better than it was a few weeks ago.  And you KNOW when you have good posture (which is very few moments in your life, if you’re anything like me).  And I was like…man.  I feel really really good about this.  And I thought some more, and I realized at work I sit up straight in my chair because…I JUST WANT TO.  It’s so bizarre.  But it’s true.

And of course, all habit theory tells you that you need some sort of hook in order to keep the habit going.  You need something visible that’s important to you, like an early win, to help you keep doing the habit you’re trying to build.  And today, that moment came.  For me, it’s posture.  It’s something I would have never thought would be something that changed so significantly so fast, but man.  I’m totally digging it.

A few personal realizations:

  • Daily 30 minute workouts: Improves posture/build muscle
  • Eating differently: Reduces weight
  • Meditation/breathing: Calms my mind
  • Sleep: There’s no point in living if I don’t get enough sleep. Seriously.

So for now, all I’m trying to do is exercise daily (improve my posture/build muscle), meditate (calm my mind), and sleep (because I can’t survive without it).  And I think I’m doing decently at those things.

The whole eating differently is another can of worms and I am SO not equipped to tackle that yet.  But I guess that’s ok.  As long as I know I’m not trying to change that yet, and I’m not beating myself up over it then I think it’s fine.

I think I’ll tackle that beast next quarter.

(And in case you were wondering, yes, I think of my life in fiscal cycles).

Workout Vanity Metrics

For the first time in my life (or at least as long as I can remember), I can finally sympathize with every woman who hates her body.  It’s this insane nagging at the back of my head that won’t go away.  And it’s incredibly unproductive.

But after two weeks of observation, I think I can finally pinpoint why.  In the startup world there’s these things called Vanity Metrics.  In regular people terms, they are numbers that you think you should be caring about, but really you’re missing the point. because they sort of don’t matter  I have decided that until you’ve really figured out your routine, weight/body fat percentage are vanity metrics.  Because looking at them daily does way more harm than good.

So as of today, I’m throwing out the quants.  Let me rephrase that.  I’m not looking at it every day.  Mostly because, like in any business, you have to figure out what metrics you want to hit and what are best for your business.  If your business is like a lot of other businesses out there, then it is more straightforward.  Look at another company that’s successful, see what numbers they are hitting, and try to emulate.  The problem with bodies and people is that no two people are the same. WE CANNOT DO THAT IN THIS CONTEXT.  And that’s what we’ve been trying to do.  Even at NextDrop, we’ve been trying to do that, and it makes no sense because we’re not like most companies.  You just have to drive growth, and you have to figure out what drives growth for you. And then once you’ve figured it out, you try to accelerate it.

And the whole point of growth accounting is to create systems that make sense for you.  We’re doing that at NextDrop now, and for me personally I need to do that for my physical health.  And for me, right now, the quants are just not helping.  I think I need to focus more on how I feel about things.  Mostly because…it makes the most sense to me right now.  I can’t explain it but…I think it’s the right thing to do.

That’s about it.  Checking back in a month or two to see how things are.