Debunking Myths About Passion- By An Accidental Entrepreneur #startup

My friend gave me this idea for this blog post. Which may or may not also be the talk I’m giving tomorrow to those college kids. But this was the thing that I wish I knew before, that I wish someone had told me about so I wouldn’t have felt like such a fraud all these years.

Here goes.

Back in college, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life.  If you asked me Freshman year, I would have said…I want to be a great engineer.  If you asked me sophomore year, I would have said…I want to do something really useful for the world.  If you asked me junior year, I would have said….I want to do…something.  And if you asked me senior year, I would have said..I WILL TAKE ANY JOB SOMEONE WANTS TO GIVE ME PLEASE GOD HIRE ME. (Turns out, nobody really wanted to).  If you read articles about NextDrop, you’ll never really hear anything about some great epiphany I had, my come to Jesus moment where I figured out that this was the problem I have been so incredibly passionate about and this is how we are going to solve it and this is what I want to do for the rest of my entire life.  I know the reporters REALLY wanted that story, because lets face it, that’s a really great story.  But that would be a lie.  The truth is, NextDrop fell into my lap by accident.  It wasn’t even my idea. My friend, Emily, was in this class in grad school and they came up with this idea to send people a text message an hour before water would come so people don’t have to wait for water.  And they had some money to do a pilot and they all had jobs that summer (read: I was the only loser kid who was not hired).  So I said…cool.  That sounds interesting.  And I went and ran the pilot.  And it seemed ok.  And then I realized I didn’t want to be in school anymore so I graduated early and got a job with literally the only person who would give me a job (my dad’s sisters, friend’s cousins best friend- something like that).  He was running a startup and he needed someone to do lots of odds and end things.  Like make sure buttons work on the analytics, and go make runs to buy pencils and staplers.  It was a job, and I was getting paid, so I said..hell yeah.  I’m making money finally! Someone wants to hire me! Hurrah! And then very quickly, I realized I was terrible at this job. And I was probably going to be fired anyway.  Around the same time, it was also becoming clear that the pilot I ran, called NextDrop, had some potential but would die if I didn’t take it over.  So due to the fact that I was probably going to be fired anyway, and it seemed like a cool thing to do, I decided to quit my job and move to India to try and make this thing work.  I had no grand master plans or anything. I didn’t even know what a P&L statement was for the longest time (I had to frantically Google the shit out of all those business terms).  And somehow, we didn’t die.

But all the while, people seemed to think that I was a person with a mission- I was driven to make this change in the world and I would stop at nothing to make this happen.  And I saw all these other people around me and they seemed to be knowing what they were doing- they were on a mission damnit! But if I was honest with myself, I knew that if this water thing hadn’t come around and my friend gave me the same opportunity with…helping teach kids English. Or Coaching basketball. Or maybe something about reducing incidence of Diabetes, I would have taken it.  It didn’t have to do with water at all.  It just had to do with the fact that I felt useful. I was doing something useful in the world.

But I felt like such a fraud.  When Forbes put me on some social entrepreneur list, I felt even worse.  Here I was, knowing that deep down, I would pretty much do anything that was useful, it just so happened I was in this water space and we hadn’t died (yet).  I constantly questioned myself.  Am I really cut out for this? I’m not like all those other people who have so much direction and confidence. I FEEL LIKE SUCH A FAKE ALL THE TIME WTF LIFE.  But I kept going, despite my brain telling me all these things about how I did not belong here.  I wasn’t truly passionate like those other people who make a difference in the world. It was only a matter of time before the world called me out on my bullshit.

And then one day, I realized that NextDrop really did have to die.  NextDrop as we knew it at least.  It was one of the most painful realizations of my life.  After 5 years, we had to put this chapter to an end.  This realization came about a year ago.  And it shook me to the core.  This is when I had to start asking the really tough questions to myself.  Ok Anu, NOW what do you want to do with your life.

I will be super honest, this is what I was thinking. I gave it a shot. But now it’s time to do what all normal people do and get a steady job and get married and have a couple kids.  That actually sounds really really nice right now.  My parents would LOVE that. My family would finally be happy. I can stop fighting this thing called societal expectations.  That takes a ton of effort, AND FOR WHAT. I’m almost 30, broke, and have been doing something in this random space for the last 5 years.  And then I’m thinking- see.  Maybe I’m not cut out for this. If I was truly passionate about what I was doing, I wouldn’t even CONSIDER these options.  Maybe that’s a sign that I shouldn’t be doing this at all.  I NEED TO STOP BEING A FRAUD GOSH ANU.

I can’t explain what exactly happened, but during this process in which I was trying to just be super real with myself and who I am, I started listening to podcasts and interviews with people that I really admired.  Tons and tons of them- as many as I could get my hands on.  And I suddenly realized something: THEY FELT JUST THE SAME AS I DO! The interview that really changed my life was one with Cal Newport, and his theory that follow your passion is the worst advice to give anyone.  He said that once you start getting good at something, it automatically becomes your passion.  And it started to make a lot of sense.

And that’s when I looked at my life trajectory in a new way.  What if passion isn’t something that I’m born with, but through random events, I happen to get really good at? Why is that such a bad thing? It doesn’t make for sexy headlines, but at the end of the day, it still makes me happy. I know more about the water sector than most people do at this point, and I actually enjoy learning more about it.  I can tell you stories about how government contracts are done, how the water mafia works, and how India gets water. I find most things in this world fascinating, but what if passion is just the decision to focus your attention on mastering one topic? I’ve been running a company in India for the past 5 years and I’ve made every mistake in the book.  If I try it again, how can I not be better at it? And if I’m very honest with myself, I enjoy so many things about running my own company.  I love the freedom it gives me.  I love the fact that no two days are the same.  And I love the fact that I have control over my own destiny.  It’s scary when you realize that sometimes it doesn’t work out.  History is never written by the losers- nobody talks about that bit.  And hey, if you lose, why would you want to advertise that? There’s a very very real chance that I will try again, and it will still not work out.  But that’s the chance and risk I”m willing to take.

So I’m here today, as one of those losers who usually don’t get to write history or talk about the losses, who still choses to try again.  I am convinced that you aren’t born with passion necessarily, but after you keep working at something that you find brings value to the world, you learn to love it. And you learn to be passionate about it.

We are actually in the process of shutting down our first company, NextDrop. And starting a new one.  Called NextDrop.  It’s still in the water space, and my business partner and I are taking all the learnings from our first company together and applying it to this new one.  We’re now trying to focus on water data.  We want to monitor the worlds water data to prevent a global water crisis.  The way we want to do that is through the internet of things revolution. Using connected sensor devices to reduce the amount of water we use in commercial, industrial and residential complexes.  Our goal is to cut consumption by 20%.

Do I have any idea if we will succeed? Absolutely no clue.  But sometimes that isn’t the point.  Do I want to get paid to continue the thing that I find interesting and useful to the world now? Hell yeah I do.  And maybe, just maybe that’s enough.  Enough for me to get up in the morning with a smile on my face saying yes. I can do this. I want to do this. This is so awesome.  Not every day, of course.  But as long as the good days outweigh the bad ones, I think I’m still winning.

Thanks so much.


Sometimes You Just Have To Cry On The Phone To The ClearTrip Customer Support Dude #Startup

Not even to get free things either- mostly because your life is just a hot mess and that was the last straw the whole Diwali airline price tickets going up and then they took my goddamn money and they didn’t even book my ticket AND THEN THE FARE WENT UP ANOTHER 2K INR. No wait, AND THEN THEY SAID THAT I WOULD GET THAT MONEY BACK AS CLEARTRIP MONEY IN MY GODDAMN CLEARTRIP WALLET. WHO THE FUCK USES THEIR CLEARTRIP WALLET?! And then I lost it because THAT IS LITERALLY HALF THE MONEY IN MY BANK ACCOUNT RIGHT NOW BECAUSE THE GOVERNMENT HASN”T PAID US IN A YEAR. Bastards.

But then it turns out I heard the guy wrong. I get my money back.

But that’s not the point of this story. There is no REAL point to this story other than sometimes your life is a hot mess.  And if you run a startup, it’s almost always a hot mess.  Mostly because you never have money.

Which is really ironic because this weekend I have to give an inspiring speech to a bunch of college students about entrepreneurship.

Don’t do it kids. If you want to avoid hot messes, don’t do it. If one of your friends is like..dude…lets do this thing. I think it’ll be great. RUN THE OTHER WAY.

Kidding. I love what I do. I love what I do. I love what I do.

Yes. I will keep telling myself that.



Just Show Up #Startup

I was listening to this great podcast with Lewis Howes and Sophia Amorusa and her theory is that 99% of the time, it’s just about showing up. The reason it spoke to me was because that’s how I’ve been feeling over the past few months.  I don’t exactly know what I’m supposed to be doing, and I feel bad because I don’t think I’m putting in the hours that I feel like I should be putting in (although, that figure is actually quite arbitrary and I don’t really believe I waste time but still).  The point is though, I wake up every day and I try to do something.  And over the past few months the somethings have started adding up to things that feel like progress.  Even though there’s still a long way to go, I can’t believe that just simply showing up makes this big of a difference in life.

Life is Like Technology: It’s What You Do With It

I was listening to this podcast on the Tim Ferriss Show (interview with Seth Godin) and I realized something profound.  He mentioned in the beginning that we keep track of the wrong things, why do we keep track of all the times we’ve been rejected? Why do we keep track of all the things that went wrong? Why do we do that to ourselves? Life is just a bunch of events and data points, and it’s all how our mind chooses to perceive it.  The whole half empty or half full thing.  So if we keep tracking the things that went wrong of course we’ll think life is shit.  Why wouldn’t I think life is shit?

He has inspired me to start a “Things That Made Me Happy” Journal.  Either things that went right, really cool things, things people did that made me happy, or things I did for myself. Whatever.  But I’m choosing not to think life is shit. I’m choosing to see the best in it.

And now I have a whole journal to look back on and prove my point.

My Life Is A Poem

I was listening to a podcast with that title this weekend and it made me reconsider my life as I know it.  I like the idea of poetry because it negates the need to be linear, or even logical to the eye of the beholder.  Logic and beauty lies in the imagination of the creator, and the few who choose to deem the poem beautiful.  It never is meaningful to the entirety of a population, and it was never intended to be so.  The purpose of poetry which is the purpose of art which is the purpose of a creative is to create something that they find meaningful, beautiful, and representative of their own voice and ideas.  Their own purpose, their own devices.

My poem begins with the end, and circles back to discover the ways to make that reality happen.  Throughout that journey, other narratives and themes unfold, almost as a byproduct, but then happen to be potentially the center of the poem. Love and fear, right and wrong,  responsibility and freedom.

It’s a work in progress, and may never be complete.

Push Through #Startup

I think the most critical days are not the ones where you feel the best. The most game changing ones are the ones where you feel the worst.  The ones where you feel like shit and you don’t even want to get out of bed (not because you are tired, you just don’t want to face the day).  It’s not the ones you are most excited about, it’s about those days that you dread.

I was listening to this podcast interviewing John Wallace, and I liked the way he put it.  The people at the top just outwork everyone else.  It’s that plain and simple. There’s no hacks, no shortcuts, it’s good old fashioned work.

I feel like in this day and age people get contradictory messages about work.  Don’t work so hard, work smarter.  I call bullshit.  You not only have to work hard, you have to make sure you’re working hard on the right things in a smart way.

And it’s those days where you really don’t want to be doing anything that separate the people at the top from everyone else.   Are you the one who is going to push the bullshit to the side and focus on the endgame, even when you don’t want to?



Why Meditation Scares The Crap Out Of Me

Mostly because it forces you to face yourself.  Nobody really tells you that.  They always talk about the wonderful medicinal benefits, but really, you have to go through hell and back before you see those benefits (that’s the asterisk and small print we don’t ever read).


Luckily, lately, I’ve  been learning how to listen to those voices and pretend like I am talking to the psycho that lives in my head that feeds my psychotic lies.  And I breathe through it and just think to myself, ok.  So what? There is pretty much nothing I can’t come back from.  If people come back from cocaine overdoses and go on to find god and start the next big thing since sliced bread, how the hell will I NOT be ok? Yeah I’ll probably mess up.  Maybe a lot (and by maybe I mean definitely). Maybe with systems that shouldn’t be messed with and I’ll burn my fingers and then not do that again.  Maybe nothing will happen and I’ll be So this is the new boundary.  But you have to push the boundary. And the only way to do that is to realize that the voices in your head are not very nice.  They lack compassion. The real you is actually quite compassionate and forgiving.  The real you is the one that is noticing all these conversations going on in your head.  Some people call it “awareness” some people call it “soul”. I just call it the “real me”.

The real me actually says, well. I was made a certain way, and if things or circumstances needed to be changed then they would.  I must be enough the way I am.  Perfection is not the point. Ever.  In fact, perfection is the delusion we all live with.  You know the reason it’s not the truth? Because it’s different for everyone.  How can a universal truth be different for everyone? It can’t.  So there.  (Take that perfection).

And then once I am more advanced in meditative practices, the “real me” will probably be able to realize.. dude.  Why am I talking to a psycho? Why am I feeding psychotic tendencies? Why is that a thing I am doing in the first place?

Definitely not there yet, but at least that’s where I know I need to go.  Just…letting go of the psycho that somehow lives in my brain and has set up permanent shop.



When Did I Become So Whiney?

One day you get up and you’re like…WTF.  Why do I complain about everything and never seem satisfied with anything?  And you kind of see yourself looking at yourself from above and you think damn.  This is a recipe for disaster.  One thing happens and then another thing happens and then when the world doesn’t act according to your plan (spoiler alert: It NEVER DOES) you get pissy and horrible and obnoxious.  WHY DOES THIS HAPPEN.  WHAT IS THE POINT OF BEING PISSY AND HORRIBLE AND OBNOXIOUS?!

I mean lets just play through this scenario.  I’m being a pain in the butt, and really, life isn’t going to change just because I’m throwing a hissy fit.  It doesn’t work that way (believe me, I’ve tried).  And then to top it off, the people who are trying to help you out and help you feel less terrible are being treated like crap, because, lets face it, you think the world owes you something and you’re being victimized by God and it’s just not fair, nobody will understand and everyone has it better.  Obviously.  (Hence the temper tantrum).  So then you alienate everyone and everything and then you’re sitting at home watching Netflix reruns of God knows what eating lots and lots of Ben and Jerry.  Besides helping out the sales targets for Netflix and Ben and Jerry’s, this really doesn’t benefit anyone else.  (Unless you pirate shit and grow your own food and make your own food, then you are literally not helping anyone, and you are literally useless.  You should really be ashamed of yourself).

Anyway.  I guess today I got up and I was like…WHAT AM I DOING WITH MY LIFE?! I mean, I don’t know the answer to that question, but the more basic question is…WHY AM I JUST NOT DECIDING TO BE HAPPY?! I mean really.  WHY NOT?! WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?! (Yes, the answer is lots of things, but for the purposes of discussion lets limit it to the fact I am not choosing to be happy otherwise you will turn into my therapist).

Life is life man.  It’s going on no matter how you choose to feel. So why the HELL would we not choose to enjoy it?

I really have no idea.

I’m going to start asking myself this every morning.


My Spirituality Drives Me

When I was smaller, I just thought it meant helping people.  And that drove me for a long time.  As I’ve gotten older, I still don’t exactly know how to define this energy that lives inside, and I’m still trying to understand it, but that’s a huge part of what defines me.

I’ve been stealing pieces from things that I hear, discarding parts that I don’t agree with, and creating my own new thing.  I still don’t know what it will look like in the end, and I don’t even know if it will ever even be done, but this thing that I’m constructing is my code for life.  My code and my decoder.

The books that have influenced me the most are:

YouTube has a lot of great content as well.  The meditations I like are:

Meditation apps that I like (I haven’t paid for it yet but I still enjoy doing the free stuff): Headspace

If I had to distill it down, this is what I have so far:

  • Listen well, to yourself and everyone and everything around you.  We all need to find our purpose on this planet and the universe speaks to us in millions of ways.
  • We have to engage with life, not just think about it.  We also can’t just engage with life and not think about it at all either.  It’s about balancing both.
  • We can’t avoid pain.  Pain is how we grow, and is almost a necessity given the existence of it’s opposite: joy.  We need both in life to be whole.
  • Meditate to clear away all the crap, so you can make room for the good stuff to come in
  • Judgements are useless, especially judging yourself and other people
  • Your mind weaves stories that are also quite useless.  Entertaining and emotionally draining, but ultimately useless.
  • Feelings are important and you shouldn’t ignore them.  You should also not let them control you because they aren’t really you.  Feel them and let them pass through.
  • Altered states of consciousness aren’t helpful (unless you reached them on your own)
  • Compassion and empathy are key.  And if you aren’t compassionate to yourself, it’s really hard to be truly compassionate to everyone around you.

I think it’s a continually evolving process, but it’s what keeps me sane most of the time and what gets me through most days.  I’m just at the initial phases of attempting to put these into practice, but I’m hopeful that it will lead…somewhere good.

To be Continued.

The Truth

I wish I knew the absolute truth.  The truth of who I am, the truth of who I’m supposed to be, the truth of what I’m supposed to do.  Sometimes I think I know this truth, and then it turns out it’s this insane little voice that’s really just trying to derail me.  It’s my ego.  It pretends to be the truth, and then I follow it, and then I end up with a huge mess.  My ego is a liar face.  

How do you learn to tell the difference between ego and intuition? I don’t really know and it still gets me into trouble. I usually just have to apologize to the people I owe apologies to for running a muck.  I am a good apologizer.  It’s a good skill to have I think.  

I don’t think intuition can project into the future.  I think your intuition can only live in the moment.  And all it does is help you understand how you are feeling right now.  And maybe what decisions to make today.  Maybe.  I don’t even know if it can tell you that.  

One thing intuition can’t do is protect you from pain. Or preventing you from making choices that cause you pain.  Because pain is how we learn and grow and it isn’t a bad thing.  I think we have given our ego the task of preventing us from pain and it makes no sense.  This is why it makes us do crazy things.  Because we have given it a crazy job to do.  Terrible bosses.  We are terrible bosses.  Poor ego.  It can only do one thing: Fail.  Which is probably why it says well to hell with it, lets go down with a blaze of glory. 

And then we are those weird people who follow the crazy voice (and not the good crazy voice, the bad crazy voice).  

Nobody talks about the bad crazy voice.  I listen to the bad crazy voice a lot. I’m going to try and stop doing that.