Personal Founder Flaws Manifest Themselves At The Company #Startup

It’s amazing how my personal flaws and biases manifest themselves at our company, NextDrop.  To be fair, so do my strengths, but it’s crazy how your company is pretty much a mirror of yourself (+ other co founders).

One of the things I’m absolutely horrible at is asking for help.  Lo and behold, which of our investors or advisors has heard from us recently? And usually we only go to them way later than we should.  Luckily, no major disasters have come about (yet), but really, we could be doing much better on this front.  And it would make me feel a heck of a lot better anyway, knowing we have a team that has our back (BECAUSE WE DO).  Which makes me realize, on a personal front, I need to ask for help when I need it- BECAUSE I HAVE THAT TOO.  I don’t know why, and I am still in awe that I have the friends that I have (they are so cool!), but I need to just accept that fact, show them a lot of love, know they’re going to be there for me, and use it to help me live a happier and more joyful life.  (Why don’t I do this again?)

Second: contrary to Silicon Valley lore, I think trying to be a martyr and sacrificing your personal needs for that of the company is the worst possible thing you can do. Because subconsciously, you devalue your own company.  If you’re ok with your personal needs not being met, you’ll be more likely to be ok with your company’s needs not being met by the outside world.  I’m just thinking back, and had I put my own personal needs first, I would have made better decisions for the company.  Let me take that back.  No outcome would have changed at Nextdrop, but I think the process would have been much faster and smoother.  And at a startup since time is money, that’s HUGE.

Anyway, I think the first step is realizing your blindspots.  The second thing is doing something about it.  Check on step one.  Not sure how to go about step two but…it’s on the to do list.

Why is there always so much work to do again?


Ever since I was a child, I’ve had a tough time dealing with this idea of privilege.  Initially I’ve seen privilege from a purely economic perspective, but as I got older, I saw it from other angles as well.  And the way I dealt with privilege (or lack thereof, as was the case sometimes) was just..anger.  Anger and sadness.  Which didn’t get me very far.  One of the most profound ideas I have come across to deal with privilege is from Roxanne Gay:

One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do is accept and acknowledge my privilege. This is something I am still working on. I’m a woman, a person of color, and the child of immigrants but I also grew up middle class and then upper middle class. My parents raised my siblings and I in a strict but loving environment. They were and are happily married so I didn’t have to deal with divorce or crappy intramarital dynamics. I attended elite schools. My master’s and doctoral degrees were funded. I got a tenure track position my first time out. My bills are paid. I have the time and resources for frivolity. I am reasonably well published. I have an agent so I have every reason to believe my novel will find a home. My life has been far from perfect but I have a whole lot of privilege. It’s somewhat embarrassing for me to accept just how much privilege I have.

It’s also really difficult for me to accept my privilege when I consider the ways in which I lack privilege or the ways in which my privilege hasn’t magically rescued me from a world of hurt. On my more difficult days, I’m not sure what’s more of a pain in my ass—being black or being a woman. I’m happy to be both of these things, but the world keeps intervening. There are all kinds of infuriating reminders of my place in the world—random people questioning me in the parking lot at work as if it is unfathomable that I’m a faculty member, whispers of Affirmative Action when I achieve a career milestone I’ve busted my ass for, the persistence of lawmakers trying to legislate the female body, street harassment, strangers wanting to touch my hair, you know how it is.

The ways in which I do not have privilege are significant, but I am lucky and successful. Any number of factors related to privilege have contributed to these circumstances.  What I remind myself, regularly, is this: the acknowledgment of my privilege is not a denial of the ways I have been and am marginalized, the ways I have suffered.

We tend to believe that accusations of privilege imply we have it easy and because life is hard for nearly everyone, we resent hearing that. Of course we do. Look at white men when they are accused of having privilege. They tend to be immediately defensive (and, at times, understandably so). They say, “It’s not my fault I am a white man.” They say, “I’m working class,” or “I’m [insert other condition that discounts their privilege],” instead of simply accepting that, in this regard, yes, they benefit from certain privileges others do not. To have privilege in one or more areas does not mean you are wholly privileged. To acknowledge privilege is not a denial of the ways you are marginalized, the ways you have suffered. Surrendering to the acceptance of privilege is difficult but it is really all that is expected.

For some reason, that really hit home, and gave me a lot of peace. We all have privilege, we all don’t have privilege.  The only thing we can do is acknowledge it and move on.  It helps us be grateful, but it also reminds us not to be assholes as well.  Because hey, maybe that’s our privilege talking.


If Time Is A Man-Made Concept, Why Is Patience A Virtue?

I think that’s why patience IS a virtue.  To help us understand that time is, in fact, a figment of our imagination.  Something that humans created to help us understand the complexities of life.  In Anita Moorjani’s book, Dying to Be Me, she talks about how she had a near death experience, and in those moments when she was conscious but not alive, she realized that everything in the universe was happening all at once.  Which, to me, makes sense (in a weird, quantum physics sort of way). I haven’t finished Stephen Hawkings book, A Brief History of Time, but at least the beginning sort of lends itself to support that idea.

Which means that if time is fake, then you’re really not missing out on anything.  You’ll get to it eventually, if not now, then maybe later.  (Which also lends itself to support this idea of “reincarnation“).

And maybe that is what Karma is- a whole lot of unresolved FOMO.  Which is strange as hell, but hey, life is stranger than fiction right?  And maybe that’s why people talk about living in the moment? So we don’t accumulate all these things that we want to be doing with our lives, all this fear that we aren’t…whatever, whatever-ing?

I have huge issues with FOMO, as do a lot of people my age, I think.  But if this is all really what I think it is, then maybe Ekhart Tolle and company is right.  Just focus on making the best damn time right now, because you’ll get to everything eventually. If you stop worrying about it.

Can I help it if I have an overanxious personality? Apparently, I can. Ugh.

#TheDatingDiaries: I Could Have Never Been In Love

I’ve been realizing more and more that love, like a lot of things in life, is in the details.  You’d have to slow your life down enough to notice small things.  And that was something I never wanted to do.  Never did.  Which means, I never put myself in a position to…even have a chance to be in love.  Accidentally on purpose I think.  Is that a thing? I think it’s a thing. I’m making it a thing. Officially a thing.

Life is like that though, I think.  To really squeeze all you can out of it, you have to be vulnerable.  I don’t think that’s just in love either.  You could apply that to work too.  When you’re vulnerable, that’s the only way creativity can thrive.  The only way the best ideas come about.  But it also means that you can be hurt.  At work, in love, in life.  That’s the chance you take.  You roll the dice and hope that life doesn’t just crush you to bits.  Well, lets rephrase that.  You know life will crush you to bits, but you hope to God that you have the strength and the know how to pick yourself up and keep on going on.

I think this is the point in my life where I take the leap of faith.  The leap of faith that slowing down your life is really the way to move forward.  Slowing down life and learning to live the in between bits.  The bits of life that usually go unnoticed.  Or at least usually unnoticed by me.  The leap of faith that it’s not about the quantity of things you do, but the quality with which you do them, and most importantly, the personal growth that comes out of it.

Letter to my 23 Year Old Self #Startup

I was talking to a young entrepreneur recently, and the things that he was saying reminded me of what I used to think when I was 23, and just starting NextDrop.  I went home and looked through my old journals and, well yes.  Those were almost exactly the same words I’ve used (we probably read the same articles).  But I also realized how far I’ve come since then.  I’ve grown so much and man, so many things I wish I knew back then.  Would have saved me a lot of pain and anguish.  If I could go back in time and digitally deliver a letter, this is what it would read:

Dear Anurag,

Yes, first of all, I’m not going to call you Anu, your name is Anurag, I know you wonder every day why your mother gave it to you (it IS a boy’s name no matter how much she denies it), and yes, all the airport security guards still laugh at it when you walk through security, but you know what? It’s actually a really great ice breaker, and it’s really funny when you see grown men in uniforms laugh.  You’ll usually be really stressed or rushed and when you hit the security check, it’s comic relief.  Reminds you to not take life too seriously. So don’t hate on it too much, ok?

Moving on.  You sort of think you’re the shit.  You’re afraid to say it so you couch it in self deprecating humor, but deep down you’re really thinking you can make your company into the next Google or Facebook, and you can kick ass like Michael Jordan.  You’re working your butt off, you’re reading all the right things, talking to the right people, you’re on track.  But you’re afraid to look like a cocky prick about it because you don’t want to turn into one of THOSE douchebags. But really?  They’re actually still a step ahead because they are at least being authentic.  And the sooner you do that, (be authentic I mean) the sooner you can get on with your life.  Being a cocky asshole is sort of part of the young entrepreneur process, so don’t worry, just be real about it and move on.

Which brings me to the next part.  As soon as you start trying to be the shit, and executing on this grand goal that you have, life will throw all hell at you.  And you are going to fail.  A lot.  And very often.  Everything you thought would take 3 months has now taken 1 year.  Nothing is as you think it is.  All the spreadsheets and the books you read and the advice you got can’t prepare you for what you are doing.  Because what you are doing isn’t written in books.  What you are doing is creating a new market that nobody has touched before, because guess what, you’re creating it right now.  After the first year and a half, you’ll realize that you need to stop reading things and listening to other people, because what you need to be doing is paying attention to what is happening right in front of your face.  And using your gut to make decisions.  Which is just as scary as it sounds.  You thought you had a map but you realize it’s not taking you where you want to go.  So you have to chuck the map, and navigate in the dark.  Sans GPS.  Hurrah.

And it gets better (and by better I mean worse).  You’ll start comparing yourself to other startups and other companies and you’ll feel like a failure.  You’ll make unfair comparisons in your head with other founders and startups in completely different industries.  This gets worse when you go out and try to raise money because that’s what potential investors will do in their heads.  They’ll tell you all the reasons why you are going to fail. Why you will fail. How you’re doing it all wrong.

And it continues.  You’ll realize (the hard way) that there are different kinds of entrepreneurs.  There’s one who goes for the in and out, work like hell for two years, get acquired, and bounce.  The work 24×7 365 and then sell.  But you’ll compare yourself to people like that and think you’re not working hard enough.  And it will just amplify your own insecurities, so then you’ll try to work harder, not take vacations, not see friends, not have a life.  Because isn’t that what all successful entrepreneurs do?

And then the moment will come when you will break.  Emotionally, mentally, physically.  Break.  You don’t realize it, but that is the turning point in your life.  That is the moment. And what you do at that moment changes the trajectory of your entire history.  You’ll realize at this point, you have 3 options: You can quit, you can keep doing what you are doing/keep pushing through, or you can try and reassess your entire life.  We both know you will never choose option 1 because you’re way too competitive for that.  But we also know that in the past, you would have chosen option two.  It’s the most obvious choice, right? I mean isn’t that what we’re supposed to do- push through the pain, and persevere? That’s what everyone in the startup world tells us to do right? Because if we can’t do that, maybe we don’t have what it takes to be an entrepreneur? Which is what secretly, deep down, you’ve been struggling with? That people will find out you’re a fake? You don’t deserve to be here? You shouldn’t be doing this?

But then you’ll hear this really tiny voice, coming from deep within you, that makes you consider option 3.  And you think it’s completely crazy, and you think you should ignore it.  Don’t ignore it.  That’s when you decide to reconnect with your family and friends. Your support network.  And they make you realize that option 3, though the scary choice, may be worth taking.  What the hell.

And soon, you’ll realize it’s the best decision that you’ve ever made.  You learn about life in all it’s amazing glory. You learn that yes you are the shit, but not in the way in which you thought.  And the things that make you amazing are not what you initially thought they were.  It’s not your intellect, but your ability to be humble that makes you successful.  Your ability to listen, put ego aside and get the right things done when they need to get done, even if it’s the most unsexy work on the planet (which it usually is btw).  It’s your ability to not just read spreadsheets, but get people to understand what those numbers mean, and build a team to make that dream happen.

You learn that the most successful people listen attentively to everything (wherever and whoever it comes from), but they have the acumen to know when it makes sense and when it doesn’t.  When to listen and when not to.  The most successful people have the emotional fortitude to make really tough decisions,  and most importantly, live with them.   You realize that success isn’t defined by numbers.  It’s a very human thing.  The human connection is what makes it all happen.  Making spreadsheets, numbers and dreams come alive.

Finally, you come to realize that this is the reason you exist (or at least part of it). You realize that this is your dream, and you want to keep living that dream.  To create things in this world that never existed before.  You finally realize why you really do what you do.  Not because it’s sexy or cool or en vogue, but because…you want to work with smart people to take what’s on paper and make it into reality.  That’s why you get up in the morning.  And you’ll realize that…you’re hooked.  You love startups.  Not because you love money, but because you love creating.  You’ll finally come to realize that you and startups are intrinsically tied together, and this is your calling in life.  Not many people can do what you do, so you may as well put it to use.  And enjoy it in the process.

You’ll also realize that work (and yes, startups, though they are a calling, are, at the end of the day work) is only a part of who you are as a human.  There are so many other parts to you, parts that you’ve ignored, that you realize you should start getting to know.

You’ll feel blessed because not only do you love what you do, you have so many other things in life to look forward to.  Life.  LIFE.  That insanity which is life.  After this experience in the startup world, you’ll realize just how much you don’t know about…literally everything else. And you’re pumped to grow in those ways too.

So Anurag, what I’m trying to say is…at the end of the day, please believe that everything is going to be ok.  Remember that it’s not about trying to be perfect, it’s about trying to grow.  That is the entire point. And as long as you’re growing, every day, you’re winning.  You have a lot to look forward to in life.  Always remember that.

Lots of love,

Your 28 year old self.

Is It Weird That I See Beauty In Every Woman?

Nobody believes me when I say, no really, you look good.  They think I’m just being nice.  But I don’t see the point of being mean.  Even to myself.  Especially to myself.  If I can’t tell you that you look good, does that mean I can’t tell myself that I look good? Because I usually do, most mornings.  I mean of course there’s those days that you just hate everything equally, yourself and your appearance included.  But those are usually not the norm, and I know I’m doing it and I usually just try to make some joke about it so I don’t take it, or myself too seriously at that point.  Usually in the form of a blog post.

Here’s the thing. If you keep talking about how much you hate things about yourself, then I’ll feel weird when I don’t participate in the conversation.   See, I made a pact with myself a long time ago- I decided I’m not going to hate on myself.  What’s the point? If I don’t like something, just change it.  And if it can’t be changed, just live with it.  It’s really not so bad. And hey, aren’t we told to appreciate what we’ve got? It’s a pretty good practice, turns out.

So really, you’d be doing me a HUGE favor if you stopped hating on yourself so I don’t have to seem like a dick when I don’t chime in and hate on myself.

If you need help, I can get you started on how you are probably really good looking.  That’s usually what I see when I look out into the world.  Lots of beautiful women who don’t see their own beauty.  And it makes me so very sad.

I Can’t Put Lipstick On Right (And Other Things I Just Cannot Do)

I have this vial of lipstick that one of my best friends from high school gave me, and it’s fire engine red and awesome and I thought hey.  Lets try using it all the time.  Only problem is that I have no idea how I should be using said makeup.  Mainly because I am appalled that I have to do more than just swipe it on in the morning.  WTF ADS, YOU LIE TO ME! 12 hour long lasting blah blah blah my butt.  By 4pm I felt cracking and peeling and by 5 I thought my lips were going to DIE.  It was awful.  HOW DO PEOPLE CARE FOR THEIR LIPSTICK?! It’s like a whole new person you have to care for on your own face.  I CAN BARELY TAKE CARE OF MYSELF PEOPLE.  I’m proud when I get enough sleep and shower and eat 3 meals a day.  On good days I go to the gym and eat vegetables. On even better days I cook something that resembles food. That’s about the extent of my personal skills here.  

And another thing. Eye liner.  It always looks sort of charcoal pencil-y.  I feel like there are solutions for this. Like gel things maybe.  I have this on the list to Google but I am never satisfied with it.  I also blame the lighting in my house.  And by blame the lighting in my house, what I really mean is that when I get ready I am usually somewhat lazy to turn on the lights.  So really, I think I look great and then I go outside and I see my reflection somewhere and I’m like…WHOA.  What just happened here? But by then I’ve already left the house and like I said I’m sort of lazy know. (Note: This is sometimes prevented by my roommate who acts like my mirror and doorkeeper and tells me to change outfits or iron outfits, but sometimes I have to leave the house earlier than she gets up so on those days, that’s when all hell breaks loose).  

 ALSO.  I am so anal about time.  I’m like Uncle Scrooge when it comes to my time.  I hate it when I’m late, or other people are late, or I don’t get to finish things, or I feel like I am wasting time.  I CANNOT RELAX ABOUT TIME.  I feel like if I ever have a heart attack, it’ll be something related to time.  (I think that could potentially be something pretty philosophical, but I’m really too sleep deprived right now to dig deeper into that).   Also, did you notice that I said the word time 5 times in this paragraph? That’s how anal I am about time.  Not even trying to use a different word here. TIME.  

I’m not really sure where I was going with this.  But it felt somewhat therapeutic, I must say.  Like now maybe my brain knows that I need to learn this so elves will magically inception knowledge into my brain.

That, by the way, is TOTALLY how the world works. 

I’m just saying.  

Cool Is Such A Relative Term

I know people say that, (ok maybe nobody says that) but I haven’t really thought about it until recently.  (And by recently I mean maybe 5 seconds ago).

What the hell are we all on about anyway? If we’re trying to reach some arbitrary standard that changes every 5 seconds (and by 5 seconds I mean maybe 2 generations, and hopping geographies), how the hell is anyone realistically supposed to get there?  Someone cool in America would potentially be such a loser in India (except if they were white, then they’d just be an easy mark), and take someone who is hot shit over here and transplant them somewhere else and who knows what will happen.

I guess I am pissed because now, when I FINALLY have a chance to think about how to be a cool kid (Yes I know, 15 years late, better late than never right?), I realize…what’s the point? Because I have to ask myself the question- cool…where?

Which then begs the question that every teenage drama tries to depict.  Maybe you just need to do a damn good job of being you, and as long as you are happy, maybe that’s the only real thing we can really measure.


Are you happy now? God. Now I just need to get on trying to be me. UGH.

Fine. I’ll do it already. Jesus Christ.

The Difference Between What You Should Do To Earn Money And A Hobby

I think the major difference between doing something for a living and doing something as a hobby is your ability to contribute and innovate in that field.  I think that we are all creative innovators, in some way shape or form.  I think the thing that you want to do for money is the thing that you feel so strongly about that not only do you work every day to get better at it, but you think you can contribute something to that body of knowledge and push the needle, in your own capacity.

It’s a concept I’ve been struggling with.  How do I know I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing as my vocation? How do I know I picked the right thing? I realized something important at my dance class today: yes, I want to get better at dance, absolutely.  But do I want to contribute to the field of dance in some way, shape or form? Not really.  I don’t want any expectations, I don’t want any stress, I don’t want to feel responsible.

And I think that’s the main difference.  With startups, I want to get better but I absolutely want to contribute to the industry, read about it, talk about it, and create a bit with other smart people.  Push the envelope.

It’s one of the few things I feel that strongly about.  Where I don’t mind being held responsible to give back.  Leave a mark, in my own right.

And if you’re not passionate enough to make that commitment, maybe it should be kept as your hobby, and not your vocation.

Just some thoughts.