When You Are Your Own Biggest Dream Crusher

Lately, my day has been starting with WTF Anu.  WHAT ARE YOU SAYING.  Is that what you really think about yourself and what you want to do with your life?  Just kidding- that’s what it SHOULD have started out with, instead of just being in a funk and accepting the heresy that my brain tells me, about myself and my life, as absolute truth.

Turns out, I’m my own biggest dream crusher. Of all time.  Kind of like Candy Crush, but much more sinister, and less fun. My problem is that now that I’m heading home, I remember all the things that everyone says about how I’m making (X,Y,Z) decision totally wrong. And I’m screwing up my life.  And I’ll regret it forever.

Also I’m probably killing puppies.  Not really, but the way they look at me, you’d think I was.

I have mostly realized that I don’t really have an absolute plan.  If I say anything otherwise, it’s mostly lies.  Apparently, this goes against nature, mankind, God, and Monday Night Football.  I’m only assuming this, because it seems to be heretic to say these things.  It is unfathomable to not have a, come hell or high water, this is what I will do plan.

And by plan, maybe because I’m a woman, or maybe because my ovaries expire soon and I can’t get a refund or whatever, my plan needs to include a man. A man plan.  Hell, at this point maybe a woman would be ok.  I’m not really sure.  It doesn’t matter.  Point is, significant others need to be involved in this plan.  Because I won’t be able to procreate and make sure our human species doesn’t die out.  Because we are close to extinction and me spreading my genes will save us from destruction.  Oh wait. That’s a different Will Smith movie.  Right.

Which begs the question, WHY AM I TRYING TO ANSWER QUESTIONS WHICH I HAVE NO ANSWERS TO?! And more importantly, why is my brain beating me up for not being able to answer these questions? It’s like those kids that just keep asking why all the time.  At first it’s cute, then it makes you think and you are happy to think about it, but after the 5th why, you’re just over it.  It’s really unproductive and annoying. I’m at the 6th Why. Now it’s just tiring.

I can’t tell you why I choose to do the things I do.  And more importantly, why do I need to? And why do I feel inadequate for not having answers? Does that make these decisions wrong? No. I think it just makes them hard to explain. Two very different things.

That’s the hard thing about hard things.  Sometimes they don’t make sense.  You just need to jump and hope you fly.  And if you don’t, know that you won’t die, and you can try again tomorrow.

After all, isn’t tomorrow another  day or something?

It’s Going to Take However Long It’s Going to Take

I’m somewhat sleep deprived, and in this personal hell hole which I create for myself, I feel the world caving in on me. Ok ok I’m being dramatic, but from going to sleeping 8 hours every day to have a day or two with 5-6 hours of sleep, I’m definitely being a sleep diva.  But you know what? I like being a sleep diva. I’m going to keep being a sleep diva because god damnit I love my sleep. I feel like the world is full of sunshine and rainbows and unicorns whenever I sleep enough.  JUST BY SLEEPING.  It doesn’t even matter what happens to me. HOW AMAZING IS THAT.

Except not today. No. Today I’m trying to prioritize 50 things which is really hard for me to prioritize in my sleep deprived brain. God damn you sleep deprived brain.  I hate you. I’m kidding. I love you. Except you’re being really rude right now. You need to stop saying all these terrible things to me. BRING BACK NICE ANU BRAIN ON 8 HOURS OF SLEEEEEP.

 

Ok yes this is rambling. But getting back to the point of all of this, I realized that shit takes as long as it’s going to take. Trying to hurry something, especially something creative, is a waste of time. If I want to produce quality, it’s going to take the time it’s going to take. Period.

And no whiney sleep deprived brain is going to do anything about it.

Le sigh. Back to trying to do my personal finances, pay bills, get a presentation done, finish a website, trying to get done in time to actually go out on a Friday night and not stay at home with television and computers, and grant applications. Oh. Clean email inbox. Oh. Bank not shutting down my bank accounts for not providing proper documentation.

Yes. All going to get done.

This Is The Story Of A Girl

Does anyone remember that song? That cried a river and drowned the whole world? I don’t know why I was thinking about that, as I am sitting in a coffee shop (yes, my new office), waiting for my business partner.  I am just coming back from a meeting which my friend invited me too – it’s called BNI.  At first I was skeptical, but as I sat there I realized something profound.  I know absolutely nothing about networking.  Not just networking, I know nothing about a lot of things. Most things actually.

I think the Zen Buddhists call it the beginners mind.  But let me rephrase that.  I knew something about it, and I got by.  That was my previous incarnation.  But now that I’m entering this new phase, I need to seriously re-skill.  And this is one of the skills I want to pick up.

A few other skills: understanding marketing.  My boyfriend helped me realize that marketing is basically storytelling, to a person who really wants to hear the story. Seth Godin says a similar thing.  Steve Jobs and Martin Luther King were some of the best storytellers out there.  And they had patterns for how they tell stories.  I’m trying to study them and tell good stories. Nancy Duarte has a great TED talk on this.  

Networking is just being helpful, but in an organized way.  This BNI chapter will help with that I think.  I was in awe at their dedication to the art and craft of networking.  They are of the opinion that spending 10K hours on something, with the right guidance, produces really great stuff.  I think they’re right.

Technical competence.  I am, for the most part, technically incompetent.  At least I was 6 months ago.  I’ve been working at understanding the new world language: web programming.  That term is vague for all the people that really understand this stuff.  But I took a course on the basics of bootstrap, and I wasn’t sure how effective it was.  Until yesterday, when I realized we need to redo our website.  Now I knew there was no way in hell that I was going to be able to redo it, but I think I made progress because my business partner sent me templates, and I could pick one out and knew what we’d need to change (i.e. if it was possible to change) to fit it to our needs. That was pretty exciting.  I don’t know if I’ll ever get to the point where I’m making my own website, but I’m also betting that there will be great GUI’s for that in the future.  I want to focus on understanding what needs to be done and sussing out feasibility. And continue being able to do more on my own.  

I am a horrific designer.  My friend recommended a book, Design of Everyday Things.  I’m hoping it will shed light on this mysterious topic.  I desperately want to be able to build better product.  Right now, I think my skills are almost non existent. I need to at least be able to contribute to some sort of idea of excellence. Right now, I don’t even know what that is.  

I am passionate about being a great entrepreneur.  I think that means that I know a little about a lot of things.  I also have to figure out the things that I’m going to know a lot about.  I am currently gravitating towards marketing, and more UI/UX stuff on product.  Mockups and the like.  Product still terrifies me, which is clearly why I need to just dig in and work at it.  I’m going to start with that book. 

Le sigh.  So much to do. 

When The Universe Has Your Back

Title probably mildly influenced by the book I’m reading: The Universe Has Your Back (which I adore).

Is it coincidence that the day after posting about how I’ve found my purpose, and started socializing my thoughts with the world at large (and more importantly-my family) that good business things started happening? I don’t think that’s chance. Someone else may disagree, and I’ve learned to be ok with that. The absolute truth, if that even exists, is less relevant than your local truth.  I don’t think we ever realize absolute truths until we are dead. What do they say, death and taxes? Only two absolute truths out there.  (And even the taxes bit, lots of people may find loopholes around that one).

Living your truth is hard. I think it’s important though. Mostly because it brings up stuff that is unpleasant that you’ve probably been avoiding all your life (check). But it also brings a feeling of satisfaction that is unprecedented. I haven’t reached the pinnacle of that yet, but I am getting there, and I’m feeling better every day about it.

I’ve also realized that self doubt is useless.  It’s useful during your decision making phase, but after a decision is made, revisiting those thoughts is utterly wasteful.  Energy better spent on CrossFit. Or Indian Fashion blog surfing (my new current obsession).

I’m just going to ride this wave out and see where it takes me. So far, I’m digging it.

Stuff Usually Doesn’t Work On The First Try

I think we read a lot about the Mark Zuckerbergs of the world and think of ourselves as failures if the first thing we try to do doesn’t work out.  I may be generalizing, but I’ll say this- I felt like shit for a long time.  I thought I wasn’t cut out to run a business (insert a million different reasons ranging from I’m a woman to it’s not my personality to I’m not the right type of Indian).

Turns out, all of that is a lot of horseshit.  There’s a lot of things I was doing wrong. But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t cut out to do this thing called running a business.  It just means I was doing a lot of things wrong. And apparently, so do most successful people.  They start out doing a lot of things wrong.  But what makes them successful is they say ok. I am going to fix all these things that I did wrong. And try again. To make it right.  It’s actually that simple.

You just have to have the courage, resilience, persistence, I’m-ok-with-taking-a-lot-of-shit-ness, to keep on going on.

So now, I can start to do a lot of things right.  I have some debt to pay back which was racked up along the way. Hazard of business I suppose. But it’ll feel super good when it is paid back. I’ll feel like an all star.

And that is the plan. Make a new business. Pay back my debt. Make some money. Change the world.

Ok, back to reading Purple Cow.  Fantastic read, by the way.

It’s Been A While: Miscellaneous Thoughts

I didn’t have a better name for a post other than that.  I’m sitting in my living room, watching Oprah, being inspired, as I rearrange my living room.  I am unpacking from an amazing trip to Bali, second Thanksgiving spent with my little munchkin nephews and cousins in a gorgeous exotic location.  I got to talk to my best friend this morning, and my boyfriend and I got to have breakfast and talk about life.  On the way to and from Bali, I got spoiled in Singapore by my aunt and uncle, and I felt like a princess.  I took a shower this morning, but the hot water heater still hasn’t been fixed.  I can’t really complain because I still haven’t paid rent.  I’m hoping to fix that this week. I just bought The Purple Cow by Seth Godin and I’m excited to read it.  In a week and a half, I’m going to go see my grandpa and his partner in France, and finally, I get to spend a month and a half in Los Angeles with my parents, and a week visiting more cousins in Houston, rounding off in San Francisco, and coming back to Bangalore at the end of January.

I think all I’m really feeling at this point is grateful. I’m grateful for a lot of things.  But I think right now, at this moment, typing away on my sofa watching Oprah, I am most grateful for my newfound (or maybe it was lost and recently found) strength to trust my gut.  Even though it may not make logical sense to most people.  I’m grateful that I think I’ve found my purpose.  After a lot of years of searching, I think I know what I’m supposed to be doing.  At least right now, for today, for the next few years, I know what I’m supposed to be doing.  So I’m going to go ahead and do it. I just need to know the next right move.  And I’m making it.

A Few New Ideas I’m Trying To Live By:

  • You can’t give what you don’t have- take care of yourself first before you take care of everyone & everything else
  • You are who you surround yourself by
  • You are also what you believe & tell yourself
  • Align your personality with your strengths & purpose and that’s when great things happen
  • Truth is what resonates with your soul
  • Life is just data points which we string together as a story
  • Relax, it’s going to be ok

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.

UGH.

 

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.