Makeup

If you haven’t guessed, I’m sick and I’m kind of quarantined at home (because the doctor said my virus was contagious until tomorrow- don’t know how they got the timeline but I’m going with it) which is the only time I get to spend glorious time thinking about the nothingness of life.  Which makes me think I need to find more unplanned day time.  Anyway, another tangent.

Point is, makeup is something, like dance, I thought hey, maybe I can get into.  So I tried watching a few YouTube videos on it. (Isn’t that the way we’re all supposed to learn nowadays?) I think I’ve realized that if I wasn’t into it before (even though there was ample opportunity to get into it) chances are I won’t be interested in it now.

I think it’s because of my face. Some people look really really good with makeup on.  It’s not like they didn’t look good before, it just looks even better with makeup.  (Hence the point of makeup).  Luckily nowadays, since I’ve been to a few weddings, and the awesome brides let us get professional makeup done, I’ve seen the professionals try and enhance my face.  And I just don’t see it.  I mean I SEE it, but I don’t see the exponential benefit of it.  Incremental, sure.  My blemishes get evened out, there’s some color here and there, but other than that, I don’t see it.

What would be better, I have decided, is if we invented technology that allows us view the world through a Mark III camera so that the world looks like a more beautiful place.  I’m serious.  Nowadays, because I get to work with professional video people and advertising agencies (yes, that sounds weird to say, but it is seeming to happen a bit more than it used to) I get to see myself on really really nice cameras.  Those pictures of me with minimal makeup look way better than the pictures with all the makeup. So either invest in genetically modifying eyesight, or…just skip the makeup thing and wait until human eyesight advances (at some point it probably has to, I mean this whole white and gold dress thing made it popular) because it really doesn’t change my face as much as the effort would require. I think.

Hair, on the other hand, is something I’m really interested in.  I recently colored my hair red (deep plum actually) just for kicks.  I actually like it a lot.  And cut it short.  I’ve decided short hair is my jam. I love it.  I don’t know how people love long hair, it’s so…LONG.

So in a day of goodbyes, I think I’m letting go of my 1 day old dream of becoming really good at makeup.  Never going to happen. Ever.

Maybe the next time I get sick, I can try and tackle hair.

The New Era

So there’s a couple things.

  • I used to equate dance to being on a great team.  I craved being on a team that accomplished greatness.  I first saw a great team in action when I saw The Alvin Ailey Dance Company for the first time at Berkeley.  It was breathtaking.  And after that, the greatest teams I’d seen in person all related to dance.  Little did I realize that…wait a minute.  I’m ALREADY on a great team.  NextDrop.  We’re really accomplishing groundbreaking things.  It’s like my brain hadn’t caught up to my own reality.  Which made me question, again, why I”m doing dance.
  • I don’t know enough about dance to get into flow (decent, albeit a bit dry, TED talk about it here). I think different types of activities have a different barrier to entry to achieve this sort of…immersion.  Some things are a lot easier than others. Dance is not one of those activities.  It takes at least a few years to even get close to that sort of creative process to flow.

Things that I have learned:

  • If you have the right team, work gets done even when you’re not there.  Funny how that works out.  Trusting your teammates is the greatest thing possible.  I was reading this great blog post about it, and I think it’s really true.  If you trust your teammates, each person can focus on the things that are the 3 most important things you need to focus on during that day that moves the entire company forward.
  • I like to work on creative projects, no matter what the area.  I don’t think I know enough about dance, but there’s a lot of things I do know enough about and that’s the sort of stuff I want to focus on.  My roommate and I had started writing a book, but for some reason it didn’t feel right.  Yesterday (the one day we were actually in the same house, mostly because I was sick) we finally realized the problem.  It wasn’t the content, it was the medium.  So we decided to create a YouTube series about starting businesses in India.  I’m pretty stoked about it.  I’m pretty stoked about working with her on a collaborative project.  I think it’ll be a lot of fun.

Dream a Little Dream: Part II

It’s that time again when I go after something that I really want to be doing.  Only to be mildly disappointed.  It’s not exactly disappointed but more…ok.  That’s cool. I’m doing this thing. Now what?

I’ve always wanted to take more intense dance courses, and now that I”m doing it, I really wonder why I’m doing it.  I mean it’s great because I’m learning a lot, but at the end of the day, what am I trying to do here?  I spend about 20 hours a week on dance.  Which really cuts in to the pretty minimal personal time I used to have.  Oh and there’s this thing called sleep.  Sometimes I forget that exists.  And I was just getting to the point where I was learning to enjoy eating food- and not just wishing I could inject it like a heroine junkie.

I think what really kills me is that I was just getting into a good routine with work and everything else.  And the minute that starts going well, I feel the need to introduce this new thing into the mix.  Because otherwise that would be too easy.  Life would be too easy.  I can’t be comfortable. No way.  That’s not allowed.

So now that my life is crazy again, I have to find what works for me so I don’t feel on edge all the time.

Only to change it again in another 3 months when these classes end.

Sometimes I wonder what I’m doing with my life.

(And by sometimes, I mean at least 3-7 times a week).

Learning to Breathe

I’ve been reading more about this, and I found out that most of the world’s population breathe incorrectly.  Which I am almost positive includes me.  I have realized that I don’t even know how to breathe right.  (I’ve been Googling it and it’s still hard to figure it out- oh wait, yup, this article pretty much confirms it, I suck at breathing.  But probably going to do more digging and ask professionals, because I’m a nerd like that).

But it makes you wonder.  If you don’t even know how to do the most basic function of LIFE correctly, what else are we unconsciously doing sub-optimally?  What else are we doing that we don’t even know could be better?  It’s crazy right?

I’m beginning to think it’s all the little things that we can slightly alter about our most basic routines and functions we perform on a daily basis (the unsexy stuff essentially) that has the biggest impact on our lives.

And at a higher level, I am beginning to think that’s how life works.  Most of the time, change starts with doing something super basic many times over to create powerful habits that really make huge positive changes in our lives.

Calling Fitness Bullshit

That’s been my relationship with Golds Gym since the very beginning.  I think the first time I joined a gym right out of college they required me to have one consultation with a trainer.  It was one of the most terrible experiences of my life (and probably his too).  There was a lot of yelling: him calling me fat and saying I needed to lose weight, me telling him that he obviously didn’t know what he was talking about because THE AVERAGE AMERICAN IS OVERWEIGHT SO I CAN”T BE ABOVE AVERAGE SMARTASS.  I was so upset I called my dad and asked him if he thought I was overweight (obviously, no), and then I Googled it to make sure, and then I came to the conclusion that I hated the entire fitness industry because no matter who you are and what your actual needs are, they will tell you whatever they need to sell you their goods.  Even if it’s actually detrimental to your own health.

And that hatred hasn’t gone away.  I went to Golds Gym recently and that happened again.  All I wanted to do was use their machines to check muscle mass, body fat etc… and after the readings, the guy told me I needed to lose 16 pounds.  I told him he was insane.  He looked at me and said no, I needed to lose 16 pounds that’s what the machine says.  I wanted to ask him if the machine said to jump off the 3rd story would he do that too, but I held my tongue and just smiled and said thanks.  I went home and Googled to make sure, and yes, yet again, the geniuses at the gym were incredibly incorrect.

But I think the thing that gets me so upset is that this whole industry (alongside media) is really shaping the way we see ourselves, and they are just exploiting every insecurity every man women and even child has to make a buck.  It isn’t surprising it just sucks because I don’t think I can believe any article I read out there (academic publications the exception).

I mean at this point, i don’t even know what I want.  Health? What does being healthy even mean? Exercising for mental sanity? That’s definitely up there.  For dance? Yoga? I don’t even know.

I guess it’s just back to the drawing books for my own fitness goals.

Coming Home

I love that Diddy-Dirty Money song, I have it on repeat.  It got me through a lot of tough times, waiting for that time to come home.  And to put words to what I felt, was a powerful thing.  I don’t usually take out lyrics, but for this one, sitting at the Chicago O’Hare airport, almost at that destination I call home, it makes me choke up it’s so beautiful.

I’m coming home, I’m coming home
Tell the world I’m coming home
Let the rain wash away
All the pain of yesterday

I know my kingdom awaits
And they’ve forgiven my mistakes
I’m coming home, I’m coming home
Tell the world that I’m coming

I’m back where I belong
Yeah I never felt so strong
I’m feelin’ like there’s nothing that I can’t try
(I’m back, baby)
And if you with me put your hands high
(Put your hands high)

At the place you call home, your sins, imagined or otherwise, are forgiven, you regain your strength, and you gain the courage to keep on moving on.  Doing your thing. Whatever that is.  Knowing that most people won’t understand you, knowing that most people will judge you, knowing that most people will think and say things about you that will make you cringe, it doesn’t matter when you are home. Because home is where people know your truest self, and they see the goodness in you that sometimes you yourself forget.  They forgive, they give you tough love, they make you see the ugly truth, but they give you the courage to change.  Or stay the same.  Whichever one is really needed.

And home doesn’t have to be the place you grew up, and home doesn’t have to be one location. I think the beautiful thing about this concept of home is that if you live life to the fullest, and you get a tad bit lucky, I imagine there may be multiple places you call home.

All In Your Head

I just finished reading Murakami’s Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of The World and it made me think about how it relates to working out.  I don’t want to spoil it for you (because it was a decent read, albiet a bit predictable) but it had a lot to do with the power of your mind.

The more I read about our own bodies and the things that it can endure, the more I believe that most things that are physically impossible have 80% to do with what we believe to be true.

I was just doing an ab workout and in the middle I started to think about what the point of it all was, whether I should be doing this on an empty stomach, if I was doing it for the right reasons, would I somehow end up working out my abs and get a lower back problem because it wasn’t balanced (and other questions that really didn’t need to be answered right then) and suddenly, I didn’t think I could go on and I stopped.  Once I started questioning why the hell I was doing any workout in the first place, I started to notice the pain and I started to wonder if I should be doing it at all.  And then I just sat there and stared into oblivion for a good 2 minutes until I convinced myself to go on.

Which really begs the question, if the problem is our mind when we are talking about physical things, are we going about it the right way to begin with?

Maybe we should start with questioning ourselves and why we are doing what we are doing.  To be honest, I think the reason I have a hard time sticking to an actual workout is because I don’t want to admit the real reasons I do what I do.

I think if I stop lying to myself, my deepest fear is that I won’t be thin.  There. I said it.  The ugly truth.  I have been thin all my life and I am terrified of what would happen if I wasn’t.  And it’s gotten to the point where it’s not healthy.  Not in the scary, I am anorexic or bulimic sort of way, but more In the getting in the way of happiness sort of way.  And my relationship with food/the ability to fully enjoy my life sort of way.

So there we are.  2015 starting out with a lot of hard truths.  The fact I have a terrible relationship with food, and subsequently, my body.  It’s not unfixable, but it’s going to be a hard road ahead.  Starting with figuring out why it terrifies me so much.  What that fear stems from.  Of being unworthy of love? I don’t know.  A lot of hard questions to answer.

Starting with the scariest place of all: your own head.

I Am Not My Company

Contrary to everything that I have posted before, I think that is the big realization that I want to take with me into 2015.  It’s impossible to take everything personally because if you do you’d be a stressball nervous wreck (oh wait, been there done that). I realized that today as another investor (who I actually like and respect) said oh wait, it’s good you don’t need our investment because we didn’t want to invest in you anyway.  6 months ago, I would have been devastated.  THEY THINK I SUCK OH GOD THE WORLD IS COMING TO AN END I SHOULD GIVE UP NOW.  And the truth of the matter is that at this point in my life, it really doesn’t matter what they think.  Even investors I respect.  Because I’ve been doing this longer than they have.  Running a startup in India I mean.  That’s one opinion based on maybe less than 6 data points.  I have 3 years of data points.  I know we are on the right track.  Because guess what, I know what wrong is and more importantly, what wrong FEELS like.  And deep down, I know we are going to be big.  I don’t need to make a big show of it.  And at this point, it really doesn’t matter who believes me or doesn’t.  I just need to keep on doing what I’ve been doing and…get it done.

I think last year someone asked me what success feels like and how you know you are successful.  And somewhere in the middle of last year, I realized how I would answer that question.  Personal learning and self confidence.  Success feels like having so much faith in your own abilities, your own habits that you’ve created, but most importantly, your ability to learn and adapt to change, that nothing the world throws at you would phase you.  And I think that’s what 2014 really solidified for me.

2015 is going to be an amazing year.

Screwed

In some perverse way, I’ve come to the realization that if larger company (well, usually the verbage they will try and use is the word “partner”) is trying to screw you over, you’ve officially made it in the big leagues.  It means they’ve stopped thinking of you as some rando company that they’re just trying to help out because their boss said so (because he saw us on TV and likes what we do) and they’re thinking damn.  They can make us serious money.  We should ride them. Hard.  Until we can’t ride them anymore.

If the thoughts, holy shit don’t they have any integrity how hypocritical can an organization be, run through your mind, then you’ve probably been in this situation before. Which is also why I really appreciate the fact we are in the regular corporate space.  Because I feel like this happens everywhere, but at least I can justify it by saying well, they’re supposed to be assholes.  That’s their job.  Being hypocritical, assholes.

But see, I can handle the asshole part- it’s the hypocrisy that gets to me.  Which is probably why I really like working with governments (NOTE: this does NOT include politicians and elected officials).  The regular joe government (non elected) officials are not trying to pretend.  They’ll lay it out for you.  This is what I care about, and this isn’t.  (At least you can deduce that).  They’re pretty straight shooters.  And for the record, most of them really aren’t assholes (even though they come off that way)- they are just misunderstood.  At least most of the ones I have worked with.  I usually get where they are coming from.

Government contractors on the other hand. Man.  If you saw the ish that goes on in that space, man.  You would cringe.  It’s just so sad.  I mean, I understand why things are the way they are.  It’s hard to place blame on one party- it’s just the vicious cycle that has been perpetuating for decades and decades. It’s like being in a warzone and watching the same war being fought, day after day, with millions lying dead on the battlefield and no end in sight.

And yes, we are right in the middle.  With many people trying to kill us. I think of us as the war doctor.  You know, the military doctors that actually are there to save lives.  As doctors, they could choose to be anywhere.  But they’ve chosen to be there, out on the battlefield, to save as many lives as they can.  And to support their side. Support their country of choice.

I guess that’s how I feel about being in the government contracting space.  We could really be anywhere, doing anything we want.  Most startups stay out of the government space for this particular reason.  But I WANT to be on the side of the government.  Because in this war, I don’t think they have any real friends.  Only frenemies trying to make a buck at the cost of the citizens the government is serving (no matter what their slogans and company values say).  And even with all this crap, even with all these parties trying to crush you, it gives me comfort to know that we stick to our values and we fight for what we think is right.

And I really hope that one day, as the spoils of war that we will eventually win, we can show other government contractors that you really don’t have to be hypocritical assholes to make a buck.  All you have to do is make great products that actually produce change and create REAL value for the people.

Apparently, (barring marketing slogans and MBA induced PowerPoints) it’s a foreign concept in this space.

And trying to do what your slogans actually say is heretical, punishable by death.

Let the war begin.

Built to Last

I still remember what I wrote in my college entrance essay- I want to build things that withstand the test of time.  At that moment, I was sure the realization of that dream was to become a civil engineer, and be a part of the creation process of civil structures. Pretty soon afterwards, that dream was crushed (no way in hell I was going to be getting into a building I designed or constructed, mostly because I value my life and I don’t want to die).

But that’s what I love now about my job.  I love building companies.  From the ground up.  Literally from scratch.  Building a company that withstands the test of time and eventually moves to the echelons of greatness. And I know that’s not what entrepreneurs are supposed to say. They’re supposed to say they love technology (usually using the words disruption and innovation), or being passionate about solving a problem, or making a crap ton of money, or I don’t know.  Something else investors like to hear.  Or the media likes to hear.  And it’s not that all of those aren’t true, because they are.  But for me, what gets me up in the morning is thinking about where this company is going- how are we rethinking what the company of the future looks like? The company ruled by knowledge workers and smart creatives? What does that look like? What does that feel like?  Because that’s where I think we have a lot of room to innovate. Company culture and structure has pretty much stayed the same since we were manufacturers working on assembly lines with little to no automation. HOW is it possible that the same company structure works today?

And if you think about it, you spend most of your waking hours at work.  Which translates to the fact that you spend most of your life at work- literally.  (Just count the hours).  So wouldn’t it be the thing that impacts your life the most?  How do I want it to impact me?  How do I want it to impact the people I work with? What boundaries can we push today to be just crazy enough to be doable?  How can we change the way companies function over the next 100 years, and impact generations to come?

I don’t really know what my future looks like, but because I am morbid and I read it in a book (so obviously it must be a good idea), I thought about what I wanted people to remember me by. I have a lot of thoughts on the personal front, but the only thing I want to read on the professional side is this:

Anu Sridharan: a woman who co-founded one of the greatest companies of all time.

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