Sometimes The World Breaks You Down

It’s really funny because now that I’m reviewing all the things that I want to change (because you know what they say, if you keep doing the same thing expecting different results, that’s literally defined as insanity), I’m realizing that most of the things I want to change have me going back to the way I used to be.  And by used to be, I mean how I was growing up.  How I was back in high school.  How I was in college (at least the first two years).

I think the biggest difference is that I didn’t know what the real world felt like back then.  I didn’t have anyone telling me that I couldn’t do it, or my own experiences telling me how difficult things would be and how I’m just not measuring up (yet).  And I thought the way to cope with the world was to…assimilate. Believe the constructs people told me to believe.  Being nice doesn’t pay off.  Hard work isn’t enough.  You need to be doing the right thing.  You need to work your ass off to make it.  Oh yeah, you’re probably not going to make it.  You’re not going to make the money you think you’re going to make.  Life doesn’t work out the way you think.

And to be honest, a lot of that is true.  Except here’s the thing- the solution isn’t changing the ways I thought I needed to be changing.  In fact, the way to deal with it, turns out, is to be the way I used to be.  That’s the only way to really solve these problems.

I used to work so hard.  Now I know what I need to actually be working hard on the right things (because I have done most of the wrong things already).  I need to be optimistic.  But at the same time, I need to live in reality and accept that I’m wrong most of the time.  But guess what-so are you.  The only way to win is to accept it as fast as possible and change.  Oh yeah, you know what keeps people sane? Turns out, it’s actually gratitude. Life is just a bunch of data points, I prefer to string them together to form a narrative that brings me the most joy. Also, money is super important.  Really really important.  It may not be the only thing that makes you happy, but let me tell you, if you don’t have enough to pay your bills and live the life you want, it’s a bitch.  But you know what? If I work hard enough and I keep my eyes open to reality, the money will come.  It will.  I know it.  I don’t know how- oh wait. I do.  Because that’s the way I used to live before I stopped believing it could be that easy.  Let me redefine easy.  Facing the hard things, and putting in the work to get the things done that needs to get done.  Also, no is not really a word I was familiar with.  (Stubborn much?)   It just means you don’t see the win-win I am seeing.  So clearly, I’m just not articulate enough.  Solvable problem.  Everything is a solvable problem.  I’m also not made up of my emotions.  Emotions tell me something is off, but it doesn’t guide my decision making.  I make decisions from a state of joy.  Not fear.  Like when you go to the grocery store when you’re hungry.  Terrible idea.  Best example of fear based decision making though, turns out.  Learned my life lesson.

Finally, thanks Derek Sivers.  I’m really really really trying not to be a donkey.

This is what my jet lag is telling me.  I think it could be decently right though.

Happy Holidays

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.

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.

I Never Saw My Life Past 28

Not like I thought I was going to die or anything- I just…had absolutely no clue how my life was going to turn out.  It was just a black hole after 28 (literally, age 28.  Not 26, not 31, 28).  So it shouldn’t be shocking that in my 28th year of life, there has been a lot of existential crisis-ing.

 

I think I’ve been making a lot of decisions with my gut over the last 4 years (pretty exclusively I may add) and the rest of me is trying to catch up.  Mostly my head. Because it is exploding with conundrums and paradigm shifting…let downs really.

The harsh reality is that if you don’t create a version of yourself in your head, your subconscious will do it for you. And that subconscious will fill this version of you (or what you’re supposed to be) with ideas and paradigms that it sees around.

Meaning: I set myself up to fail and be disappointed when my brain caught up with…the real me.  Because let me tell you, I pretty much do…NOTHING I’m “supposed” to be doing.  Said another way, I’m kind of exclusively… a-typical.  And my brain has been having a really hard time computing this.  It’s just been really angry and self hating actually, to be perfectly honest.  And it sucks.  This self hating thing I mean.

I’ve literally spent the last month or so catching up with what I thought I was supposed to be and who I really am.  And most of it has been shocking and surprising (to nobody but myself I may add).

I’ve had the privilege of being able to really do whatever it is that I’ve wanted to do with my life.  And be whoever it is I want to be.  It’s funny when you do that though.  Because it takes an adjustment period when you realize…you’ve stepped over to the other side.  There’s no turning back now.  You’ve made too many choices to be able to keep your feet in both worlds- the “normal” world, and the world that you’ve created over the last 4 years for yourself.

It’s a really really really strange thing when you realize that crossed the point of no return.  Mostly because I’m not used to commitment.  Ask anyone who knew me back in college or before.  I was all over the place.  And I preferred it that way.  But now, after I’ve had time to let it sink in, I’m actually…ok with it. I’m actually excited about it.  I get to hit the reset button in life again.  I’m recreating the mental version of myself given my new trajectory in life.  This time I’m going to be proactive about it- visualizing my 30’s.

“When you let go of what you are, you become what you might be”

– Lao Tsu

I’m officially on to my next new adventure, which is an internal one, and I think spread over the next decade.  Coming into my own with the words/phrases I (now) identify with: Woman, tech, startup, maverick, joy, partnership, mother, leader, design, compassion, growth, accountability, spirituality, fun, self love, style, discipline.

Wow that’s a lot. But it’s good.  It’ s going to be good.  I’ve decided it’s going to be good.

And I feel like that’s the first step anyway.

Deciding the way it’s going to be. Or at least the way you’re going to respond to it.

 

 

There Is No Antibiotic for Stress #Startup

I realized what I’ve been getting wrong about stress: it’s not something you can get rid of once you have it – you have to make sure it never gets to that point in the first place.

I used to think that stress was something you were supposed to deal with when you felt..well, stressed.  It’s like when you get sick and take an antibiotic and you get better.  Turns out, stress isn’t exactly like that.  Usually by the time you’re sick, it’s already too late.  I mean you CAN do that (i.e. take vacations, wait until you get a super nervous breakdown before doing something…whatever) but it’s definitely not the most optimal.

So then I thought, well, maybe you’re just supposed to avoid stress.  Yeah, that just doesn’t work out well at all.  Even if you weren’t running a startup, life just throws random things at you that are completely out of our control.  So no, avoiding isn’t the answer either.

Which brings me to my realization: you have to take steps to make sure that you never FEEL stressed.  It’s like probiotics or vitamin tablets: take them every day to make sure you don’t get sick.  Prevention rather than treatment.

So what are vitamin tablets in the stress world? I think they have to do with daily habits that people cultivate. I have a strong suspicion that the most successful people also have the best stress coping habits.  They do things every day so that there is no need to feel stressed, ever.  I think that’s highly possible, if not highly probable.  I can’t speak for other fields, but at least at a startup, I think it’s doable.

How is the better question.  Here’s my list so far:

  1. Exercise is an absolutely fantastic way to help you feel energized, and more importantly, help you see the world through new eyes
  2. Meditation lately has been pretty rad, I must say.  I was a skeptic at first but I like it. I think I”m going to keep doing it.  I try to do 10 minutes every morning, but I’ll probably expand that time gradually.
  3. Eating/sleeping enough: I think it goes without saying but just in case it needs to be said, I think this one is huge.
  4. Being grateful/thankful.  I find that if we cultivate this habit, I just feel genuinely happier/joyful more often than not. I’m trying to get better at this
  5. Longer term planning: I’m reading this pretty interesting book by Bill Walsh, super successful coach of the NFL San Francisco 49ers, and I love how he talks about having  a plan for every single scenario out there.  If it can happen, he has a plan.  So during the game, he can sit back and let things happen. Yes there are a lot of calls during game time, but for the most part, he knows that he can handle whatever is thrown at his team.  I am absolutely horrendous at this, but I think if I start putting this into practice, it’ll make me a lot more confident.

Anyway, it’s an idea I’m working with. Still need to flesh it out, but I’m going to start figuring out my daily habits to help me lead a more productive and joyful life.  I’m all about that.

The Best #Startup Advice I’ve Heard In A While

Most startup advice is for seed stage companies.  We’re in this weird position where…we’ve been around for a while.  Honestly, not to say that we still can’t, but if we were going to die, it sort of would have happened by now.  (And I can remember the exact time period when I KNEW we were passing the startup valley of death, I prayed a lot during that time).  Call it god, the universe, luck, whatever, but we’re still here.

That being said, our advisor Rajiv (who has been around the block) gave us some of the most life changing advice.  He said look.  Make your company around you.  If you’re happy, the company will be happy.  Which is sort of counterintuitive right? Because what if we are greedy ass, Ferrari loving models and bottles type people who want nothing more than to make a quick buck and leave? (Ok I’ve been DYING to use that phrase since I heard it a few years ago because I DIDN’T EVEN KNOW IT EXISTED ITS SO WEIRD)

Side note: I have NOTHING against these people, but I feel like those are the people, that if they started a company, would have Wolf of WallStreet ish going on.  I’m just saying.

Anyway.  I realized that…he’s right.  First of all, again, we would have died by now if we were, so…there’s that.  Turns out, we’re actually pretty decent.  In fact, we’re actually pretty good at what we do.  Who knew?  So the best thing we can do is make sure we’re happy, and create a lifestyle around that.  But more importantly to me, is that it extends to EVERYONE at our company.  The best thing we can do is make sure we create a lifestyle where every single person at our company is happy.  Including us.

Recently, I feel like a new person. I go into work every day with a new appreciation for what is possible.  There’s always new challenges coming our way and now, I think the challenge has shifted to creating an office culture where everyone is stoked to be there, so that they can focus on doing what they love: creating products that make the world a better place.

It’s funny how life works out doesn’t 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.

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.