#BookLists : Bill Gates

I thought it would be neat to now start tracking what other people are reading. I saw this in the LA Times (Bill Gates Summer Reading List) and thought I would repost:

If anyone has read any of these I would love to hear how they were! For now I’m adding them to the reading list.  I haven’t made much progress on my reading list for a while unfortunately.  I’m hoping to get back on track with that soon.

Do The Right Thing #Startup

The Do The Right Thing test is pretty straightforward: do the right thing so you can sleep at night.  If you can’t sleep at night, you’re failing the test.

If you’re doing anything right, you’ll come to a few crucial moments when you know this is the time you can choose to do the right thing, or the thing that makes life (and maybe business) easier now.  It is incredibly tempting to do the easy thing.  Or do the thing that makes business today better.  And a lot of important people may say that this is how business is done.  This is the way you have to run your business because everyone before you ran business that way.

But I refuse to believe that. I refuse to believe that you can’t do the right thing and make a successful business.

And I think it takes a few people who decide to do the right thing to set the precedent and show that you really can do the right thing, and do good business.

 

 

Great Leaders #Startup

For every 99 shitty things you have to do as an entrepreneur you get 1 really sexy, glamorous one.  Today I was lucky enough to be in London judging the Unilever Sustainable Young Entrepreneur Awards and in the process I got to be a part of the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan.  The best of the best were there and I was lucky enough to speak to them.  I got a shout out from Paul Polman in his speech, which was pretty great.  I got to speak to the CEO of Safaricom about our business and his too.  All in all, it was incredibly stellar.

But most importantly, I realized something about the leaders that I admire most.  They listen amazingly well.  It doesn’t matter who they are talking to, they are present, ask great questions, and make you feel heard.  They have this uncanny ability to do so.

And that’s added to the list of new things I want to be: A great listener.

On The Road Again

So starts the month of travel.  It’s a strange thing, going between countries and continents and cultures and worlds, all tied together by the one quest to move business forward.  I suppose you can say in some abstract sense that’s the way of the world.   

History has a funny way of coming full circle, like my life was a magic realism novel written by Isabel Allende, with a forward by Tina Fey.  I’m judging the competition that I participated in with Unilever in London 2 years ago- read: I get to sit on the other side this time.  Dinner at Buckingham Palace, second time around.  London is such a beautiful city and yet I probably won’t know what to do with myself.  

Los Angeles, San Francisco, California, United States of America.  It’s funny when you’re mostly reading international media about the place you used to live in.  Maybe in some way I still live in.  But not physically, only somewhat mentally, spiritually, culturally.  

People like to ask the question -who are you.  Whose or what side are you on? What box can you tick?  Not directly of course, but in ways to avoid the deep conversation, trying to be polite.  I don’t mind impolite because lets face it, we are all itching to be real. The proxy question to answer all the questions: where do you see yourself living long term?  

I have decided that life isn’t black and white and trying to live in the black or the white would mean you’re missing out on all the good stuff.  The grey is where life lives.  Of course you need some black, and some white to make grey, but only a little.  I think those are your principles and values.  And they are very personal, non replicable.  After that, everything else, I think, is grey.  Also dynamic.  Because how could we be static beings with static thoughts in a world where we are presented information every second of every minute of every day? How are we the same person we were even 5 minutes ago?  

So the answer is: I don’t plan on choosing.  Both. All of the above.  And why limit ourselves at all? Why can’t we be a combination of every place we have visited, every person we have met, every book we have read, and every movie we have watched?  And say that unique summation is, well, me.  

I think that’s the real question people are asking.  Less about my geographic inclination and more about who I am and who I plan to be.

And the answer is: I have no idea. But whatever it is, it’s going to be pretty damn good.  

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.