The Happiness Project: ” Happiness Is A Choice” (Vol I)

I heard this talk at the INK Conference last week, and it really just changed my life.  I was actually in the makeup room with Aisha backstage (and now I’m kicking myself because I wish I had talked to her then, but of course I was super lame and too busy trying to practice my own talk).  But anyway, I still got to observe her and the way she was interacting with everyone around her.  And it was just so awesome- her zest for life.  Her will to just….do what she wants, when she wants, how she wants.  So. Awesome.  (Yes, now that I’m reading this back it sounds like I’m a creepy stalker but I don’t care, she is an inspiration and I learned a lot from her that day- I hope she reads this one day and knows that).

You know how sometimes, you have to hear the right thing at the right time to give you a good kick in the pants?  I think that’s what this talk did for me (I would encourage you all to watch it).  But I think my biggest takeaway was that she gave me permission to be happy.  I know that’s strange to say, but it was almost like I thought it was illegal to just focus on how amazing my life is and how much I love it.  I felt like I needed someone to tell me, hey, everyone has great things in their life, appreciate it! And it’s ok to do that.  In fact, that’s the way it should be.  All the time.  24/7, 365 y’all.  I guess I got so influenced by all the people who are like, wow I don’t have this and jesus I just wish I had that, life’s just not fair etc etc etc I forgot that I was allowed to say no that’s dumb and not the way we should be living.

So now, I’ve taken life into my own hands and I feel like I’m focusing on being happy/doing the things I love to do.  Turns out, I’m not doing many things differently, just focusing on how grateful I am that I get to do them.

A few things on my list that I have been previously been unsure of, but now know that I am the freakish .01% that really enjoys it:

  • I want to be the best startup entrepreneur I can be.  By god, I want to build one of those elusive Unicorn companies (one of the 4 born in 2011) and I want to put in the blood sweat and tears to do it.  Our team is going to do it the good old fashioned way, by outworking everyone else out there.  Which means jesus, I’m sticking to the 4 books per month rule, and maybe bumping it up to 5. I only need so many hours of “social” time- after that, I just get antsy and think about all the startup things I could be learning (or if we’re in a group with other people, I try to strike up conversations about their job so I can learn about their startup, which doesn’t really bode well sometimes because they’re thinking man we’re not at work anymore Anu get the hint, but that’s ok, I’m gonna roll with it)
  • I also want to be me.  That sounds strange, but I gave this INK talk at the INK conference, and I did it in the way I wanted to deliver it, (I haven’t seen it yet but I didn’t shut myself in the bathroom right afterwards and angrily journal how awful it was like I did my first TEDx talk which means it was better than last time).  But honestly, it just wasn’t me.  It didn’t feel right.  I’m not that person I was projecting.  I can’t really walk around with a stick up my butt all the time.  Well maybe I can, maybe I have to, I don’t know. I still haven’t figured this one out yet, but it’s one of those things I kind of want to think about.  I probably won’t have a good answer for a while, but at least I know what I don’t want to be or do.  I think that’s a start.
  • Comedy.  Life is way to funny not to laugh, people need to do it more often.  Going back to the previous point, I didn’t have enough funny/this is so random and strange but I’m going to do it anyway sort of moments, which I’m going to work towards changing.  I think it helps that I met the most amazing people at the INK conference (my fellow INK fellows), who really made me realize- man, these are brilliant beyond brilliant people and they can look past the outer facade and take what you say at face value just because you said it.  Granted it’s the perfect world, but hey, why not just associate yourself with people you feel comfortable around?  For the first time in a long time, I didn’t feel like I needed to project a certain image to be taken seriously.  The only other place I feel that comfortable is with my team at work (which is great because we spend a lot of time together) but now, finally, I found people who are amazing and awesome (and also think life is way too short not to laugh).  I’m definitely capitalizing on this.

There’s probably a lot of other stuff I’m not talking about or thinking of right now, but I wanted to write it down before I forgot.

But really, here’s to being happy- by choice.



I finally get it.  I finally get why everyone loves cooking so much, why it’s all the craze, and why, actually, I love reading about stories of people who learned how to cook and love it.  It’s about perfection.  It’s about having complete control over something in life, and, with absolute certainty, know what the outcome will be.  Now that I think about it, I feel like that was a line in Julie and Julia.  You rarely find that anywhere in this world, and when you do, you hold on to it like there is no tomorrow .  It’s the same reason I fell in love with basketball.  If I made 50 layups a day for 4 months straight, I’d perfect the layup.  Hard work was directly proportional to immediate results.  If I heat the pan to the perfect temperature, and wait for the perfect moment, my dosas will come out perfectly (yes surprise surprise my mom was sick so I was cooking food for my dad, and he wanted dosa). And if it doesn’t come out perfectly, there is a logical reason for it.  I can reduce the heat of the pan, stop being impatient, and learn to read the signs better.  It really is master-able.  Because on the third try, when I actually paid attention, my dosas weren’t bad, I must admit.

I’m not saying that I’m going to start cooking like a crazy person, quit my job, and join Le Cordon Bleu anytime soon.  And I’m also not saying I’m going to try and be a better cook (sorry folks, I optimize for nutrition, not taste).  Because I still don’t want to make time for cooking.  I realize my problem is that I try to do too many things at once. And I”m ok with that. Because while I’m making my dinner, I’m definitely trying to catch up on what’s happening with the last season of One Tree Hill, while also reading about the latest startup that Sequoia funded.  And I will continue to make BBQ gobi for the foreseeable future (because I think slightly carcinogenic food groups will boost my immunity and besides I’m not really interested in sitting there and watching it cook).

I guess what I realized is that being a bad cook is a misnomer.  You just haven’t practiced enough to be able to cook things to perfection without thinking about it.


So Good They Can’t Ignore You: The End of the Beginning

It’s been 6 months since I started the “So Good They Can’t Ignore You” kick.  I didn’t really live up to my deliverables, but I think I got exactly what I wanted out of it.  Sometimes, when you turn a quarter of a century, you figure out a thing or two about stuff.

One thing I realized about myself: I always want to win.  I don’t need to push myself even harder than I already do.  If anything, I need to push myself to take breaks (because that’s when the breakthroughs/really good ideas happen).  Another lesson I have learned over the past 6 months: vacation is IMPORTANT.  The day you get up and don’t want to go to work, that’s when you know you need a vacation.  Because right after you take a day or two off, you’re just as pumped as ever.

I have always loved reading, and I always will.  And whenever I have a problem that I don’t know a solution to, I go online, purchase a book, and read it.  And guess what: I usually come up with the answer to my problem.  (I mean, I didn’t necessarily come up with it, but the smart people who write these books sure do).  Books are my guru, and that will never change.  I always like reading to stay on top of my game.  Sometimes, other things take priority, and you don’t have a chance to read as much as you want to.  But I know that if it is humanly possible, I will make it happen.

So in conclusion, I’ve realized that I am ALWAYS trying to be so good they can’t ignore you.  I always have, and I always will be.

I also realized that I don’t necessarily want to be the best.  I just want to know that I’ve TRIED my best (two vastly different things).  I know that sounds really hippie like (and I generally don’t like hippie talk), but at the end of the day, it’s sort of true.

I’m doing the best that I can, and that makes me really happy.

So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Week 8 Wrap Up & Week 9

I finished The Kobe Code, am 60% of the way done with Venture Deals, and I added another book to the list which I finished: I Moved Your Cheese.

The Kobe Code was actually pretty good (barring the terrible English).  There were a lot of times I thought the author was just trying to take up space, but besides that it was a decent read.  I would actually say that Kobe Bryant is much more relatable than Michael Jordan.  I actually think I can do what he does.  Michael Jordan is kind of epically crazy.  But it’s good to have that too I suppose.

I Moved Your Cheese got really good reviews and it’s a quick read.  Basically, the gist of it is something like: we’re all in a maze.  First notice that you’re in a maze, then you can leave the maze.  And if you get really good at the whole zen thing, you’ll realize that the maze is all in your head.  I think I just summarized the book.  It’s interesting the way he tells it, but I”m not sure it was all that amazing and revolutionary.  But maybe I’m just biased.

Progress: I’ve actually seen myself get better and more detail oriented.  We made a 2 minute video and I was very proud of the work that I did on it.  Given the amount of time I had, I think I did a pretty good job- especially at the end when I really just wanted to be done with it.  But I made all the changes that needed to be made- despite the feeling of oh man why can’t this just be over!

Reading list:

This week, I plan on finishing (God I really hope I actually finish!) Venture Deals. It’s incredibly dense and tends to give me a headache if I’m not in exactly the right mood to read it.  I also plan on Reading this months’ Harvard Business Review, along with a book on coaching- Leading with the Heart: Coach K’s Successful Strategies for Basektball, Business, and Life.    I think that business and basketball are really closely related, and since basketball is something I understand, I figure if I read enough about it, I’ll learn how to apply the same principles of success to business.  I’ll probably think about that one more and write about it.  But anyway, that’s this week’s reading list

I think I’m giving up trying to program for now.  I could be doing that, but all the other things I could be doing somehow seem more important.  I could be wrong, but that’s the decision for this month.

So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Week…Who Knows/The Jillian Michaels Theory

Apparently, I’m really not good with this whole sticking to a regimen thing.  But I’ve always known that and I’ve known it was something I have to work on.  That being, said, I think I have a few theories as to why January went off great, and February was pretty dismal.  Even in my performance at work (yes I actually score myself everyday) in January I averaged 6-7/10, and in February, it was around a 5.  Here are the variables I can think of:

1.  I just came back from vacation in January, so I was more enthused about…everything. That’s what some people say, but I don’t buy that really.

2.  In February, I never had any weekends to myself.  I was visiting family every weekend this month.  While this is great and fantastic, it is not really a time I can turn “off”.  I need some time to nothing.  And reflect on stuff.  January had lots of that- whereas February was pretty much devoid of any Anu gets to recharge time.  I think this is a major reason why January was so much better than February

3.  The Jillian Michaels Theory:  This is probably going to sound ridiculous but in January, I was obsessed with Jillian Michaels workout DVDs (they are amazing by the way).  However, in February, I decided to just go to the gym instead.  I thought all I needed was exercise- but I think I was wrong.  The workout DVD made me FOCUS- because it packed an hour’s worth of blood sweat and tears in 20 minutes.  So every minute, I had to keep pushing myself.  At the gym, however, I did stuff at my own pace, and pretty much never pushed myself to do anything I wasn’t comfortable with.  I spent double the time, and got probably similar workouts/calorie burn, but the thing I was missing was FOCUS, and pushing myself- especially when I really didn’t want to keep going.

Things I want to change in March:

  • Going back to Jillian Michaels!  We’ll see if this is going to give me the results I want (focus wise)
  • Spending weekends unwinding (either with friends or doing nothing in the house which is actually ridiculously fantastic)
  • Focus on each task, each day:  Things are starting to get a little crazy, but the only way to effectively deal with it is to take each hour as it comes, each task as it comes, and each day as it comes.  And fight to make sure each minute of each day counts. If I can do that, I think March will be pretty great.

So where am I with the reading?

  • Finished Executive Presence: The Art of Commanding Respect Like a CEO:   It was an OK read, but if you are short on time, I think you can skip this one.  There was one interesting chapter on personal branding (i.e. think of yourself as a brand and then think of every single action as a marketing campaign) but I think its really for more higher level CEOs (i.e. people with thousands of workers under them).
  • Half way done with The Kobe Code: 8 Principles for Success: I am liking this one.  The Jordan one was much better (and I don’t think it’s due to their difference in work ethic/style) but just that Jordan was done with his career when his book was written and Kobe is still making his (albiet its probably at the end of it).  Either way, it’s pretty good, and maybe worth reading.  It’s funny, I can almost see why Jordan achieved the success he did, and Kobe is where he’s at.  I think Jordan’s attitude was just…better.  For example, Kobe’s view view on fear.  Kobe uses fear to motivate himself, bu Jordan never even considered failing.  I like that.  Anyway, more on that later.

So this week, I should be done with Venture Deals, and the Kobe Code. I’m also going to try to do an hour of Python learning a day.  Probably when I get up in the morning, and after I work out.  Lets see if I can squeeze that in as well.

Here’s to recalibrating, and trying again!

So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Week 3 Roundup/Week 4

This week was pretty busy, and so I only got 25% of the way done with Founders at Work. But oh man. It’s pretty much rocking my world, and changing the way I think about NextDrop.  Highly highly recommend this book.  And this is all straight from the mouth of people that made it.  So who am I to argue with it?

Takeaways so far:

1.  “Don’t worry about people stealing your ideas.  If your ideas are any good, you’ll have to ram them down people’s throats.” So comforting actually.

2.  “Always seek excellence: make your product better than the average person would.” I need to keep remembering this.

3.  “It’s neer been that, ever, for me.  It’s always been, “I know this can be huge, I believe it in my heart. How on Earth do we make this happen?  Why don’t other people think it’s huge yet? It’s just this complete, everyday banging your head against the wall trying to figure out how to convince other people that this thing is the biggest thing in the world.”  This is what I think, pretty much every day.  I’m glad other successful people think so too.

4.  “Recruiting is a classic example.  I don’t even hear the first “no” that somebody says.  When they say, ‘No I’m not interested,’ I think, ‘Now its a real challenge.  Now’s when the tough part begins.”  Also very comforting to know!

5. “‘We’re number 1 or number 2 by the end of the year or we don’t matter.’…How is it realistic to say that you’ll go from 17 to 1 or 2 in a year? It’s crazy, but the company rallied around it.  I’m surprised really pleasantly by the ability of people when challenged to rise to the occasion.”  I feel like this every day at work.  I set a goal, and they meet it.  And now we’re just trying to see how far we can push.

6. In a startup, you’re on this mission together.  Everyone has to feel that, and you have to hire people who are willing to believe in something they are trying to accomplish.”

This week: Continue to be inspired by other people in Founders at Work

So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Week 2 Roundup/Week 3

Finally finished the Jordan book- it was fantastic.  At the end of the day, I can’t say I want to be exactly like Michael Jordan, but here were the main things I want to adopt:

Focus:  The man broke a large task into chunks, and then just focused on doing that chunk to the best of his abilities.  That translates to essentially taking it one day at a time, and making sure you did your best on that day.

Passion:  He loved what he did.  You can’t burn out on doing what you love.  I love reminding myself of that.  It helps me work harder.

Hard Work:  He was the best because he outworked everyone, plain and simple.  There’s no substitute for hard work, and if anyone tells us otherwise, they’re full of it.

Passion+Hard Work= Greatness.

Week 3 Reading List:

Founders at Work- Stories of Startups Early Days by Jessica Livingston

I’ve heard its a good read- kind of an entrepreneur essential.

Learn Python the Hard Way by Zed Shaw (Week 1)

I have decided that I need to learn how to program in Python because that’s what the NextDrop code base is and I need to be able to understand it.  So I also bought the Udemy course on it and intend to follow it and learn Python.





So Good They Can’t Ignore You: I Wanna Be Like Mike

I’m actually  not one of those people who was indescribably and desperately in love with Michael Jordan (I was born and raised in a Laker loving family).  But I have to say this: Michael Jordan was a great man.  I’m reading this book about him- I”m 25% of the way through and I’m already learning things I can incorporate in my own life.


“Why would I think about missing a shot I haven’t taken yet?”

“I never looked at the consequences of missing a big shot.  Why? Because when you think about the consequences, you always think of a negative result. If I’m going to jump into a pool of water, even though I can’t swim, I”m thinking about being able to swim enough to survive.  I’m not jumping in thinking to myself, ‘I think I can swim, but maybe I’ll drown.””

It’s this innate knowledge, bordering cocky almost, that let Michael Jordan succeed.  But here’s the thing- he had to have that confidence even when he was failing.  Even when he didn’t make his high school basketball squad.  He felt the same way.  That’s the only way he became great.  Just know that you are going to make it.  With NextDrop, I know that it will succeed.  I thought I was crazy (especially with all those people giving me skeptical looks), but I actually couldn’t (still can’t) even imagine a future without NextDrop making it big.  I thought I was being naive.  But now I know that I’m actually just being Jordan-esque.  And hey, I’m putting in the work to make it happen.  So there we go.


“Even when he’s smiling and talking to his teammates, or walking through a crowd, you know he’s in the tunnel looking towards the end.”

“Tomorrow, I don’t know what I’m going to do.  I think about today.  People don’t believe I don’t know what’s going to happen next week, next month, or next year, but I truly live in the moment.  I have created the  opportunity to have a choice.  That is how I’m going to live.”

Apparently, that’s the number one thing that set MJ apart from everyone else.  He would only concentrate on that day.  I tried that yesterday- pretending I was going to die that day and just do whatever I felt like doing, and being happy about it.  Yes, it was a little morbid, but I realized that I could push myself more when I didn’t think about tomorrow.  You give it your all ON THAT DAY.  I didn’t realize how much I actually had to give.  Also, I appreciated things a lot more.

Love of the Game Clause:

“Jordan is the only player I know of who had a “Love of the Game” clause inserted into his contract; it meant he could play in any basketball game at any time, whenever he wanted, without getting approval from the team.”

“Historian David McCullough observed, ‘I would pay to do what I do. People say, “Take a vacation,’ How could I have a better time than what I am doing?'”

“You’ve achieved success in your field when you don’t know whether what you’re doing is work or play”

I think this one was huge. I love my job.  I love NextDrop.  I used to think I had to “take a break” from doing it because…I had to.  Like something in me would self destruct if I didn’t.  But now I know I’m not crazy.  Jordan did it.  Great people do it.  I can’t help it if I love what I do.  I would do this in my free time.  This IS what I used to do in my free time.  And now that this became my job, I was finding it hard to figure out what to do in my free time.  But now I know- I don’t HAVE to. Great people do their work in their free time because guess what- they love it.

And that’s just from 25% of the book.  More to come later

So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Week 1 Summary/Week 2 Reading List


Profit and Loss Statement for NextDrop:  Done

2012 Cash Flow Projections: Done

About 10% of the way into the Steve Martin book, I realized that I didn’t want to be reading it.  I thought that maybe I could glean some more details than what the Study Hacks post had talked about but…I wasn’t a huge fan of his writing style.  I think it also has something to do with the fact I wasn’t the BIGGEST fan of Steve Martin in the first place (blasphemous I know) so I decided to ditch the book.  I don’t believe in finishing books that I’m not that into.

The other book, by Marshall Gold was absolutely fantastic, but the review deserves its own blog post because there was so much good stuff in there.  Its also one of those books which I think could be reread a few years later, and you would pick up new things.

So basically, I figured I would summarize the relevant articles from this months’ Harvard Business Review

Harvard Business Review Value of Happiness Takeaways:

“Be Happy.  Be Audacious.”  Well said.

How Leaders Spark And Sustain Change:

“You should view, replay, direct, and edit your behavior continuously.”  Self explanatory, but I think it’s something I want to implement.  I think it really just takes discipline, but at least I know its something that is very important

“What is my definition of success?  What is the unique contribution I’m here to make? What legacy do I want to create?  As you explore these types of questions, you will reignite your fire.”  I think this is a great exercise for employees/potential new hires to see what really gets them motivated, and to make sure we’re a good fit.

Social Strategies That Work:

“[it’s] the difference between teaching a class and hosting a party. In both all the participants are in the same room, but the dynamic could not be more different.  In the classroom the teacher (the brand) dominates the conversation, and the flow is hub and spoke….At the party the guests (customers and prospects) may or may not interact directly with the host…But since most of the guests know and like the host, when the discussion touches on the host, it’s likely to be favorable.”  Describing how to utilize social networking build your brand

How Great Companies Think Differently:

“Top leaders exemplify and communicate the company’s purpose and values, but everyone owns them, and the values become embedded in tasks, goals and performance standards.”

Gilt Groupe’s CEO on Building a Team of A Players:

“It’s not the idea- it’s the people.  Execution is what matters, and execution relies on human talent.”

“Ask the CEO if he or she spends on recruiting and managing people than on any other activity.  For me, the answer has always been yes.”  I think this article was great because it talked about how much time Gilt’s CEO spends on hiring people.  It made me realize it’s something I’m allowed to spend significant time on.

“I am evaluating talent all the time.”  Check- always at the back of your mind- do I want this person working for me?

“Two, no matter how well you think you know your organization, if you suspect something’s wrong, it’s probably worse than you imagine. You can’t let those situations continue.” Follow your gut and do something about it right away

“The essential traits I look for are success and passion.”  Good rule of thumb for recruiting

“I gave it simply: ‘Don’t hire him.’ When you check references, you want to have a conversation as frank as that.  It can take real effort to find someone who’ll be straight with you, but it’s worth it.”  Apparently, the main things to look for are personal interview, and then having a frank discussion with at least 3 people who you can have a frank discussion with about the new recruit.  This may take digging through LinkedIn, or have a friend connect you and have a frank discussion, but this is an often overlooked portion of recruitment which we should take seriously.

“Have you ever heard someone say, ‘I just got offered a job.  The person I’ll be working for isn’t very impressive, but I’m going to take it anyway”?  That’s not something talented people generally do.”  Well said.

How Kevin Ryan Checks References:

  1. “Would you hire this person again? If so, why and in what capacity? If not, why not?”
  2. “How would you describe the candidate’s ability to innovate, manage, lead, deal with ambiguity, get things done, influence others?”
  3. In what type of culture, environment, and role can you see this person excelling? In what type of role is he or she unlikely to be successful?”
  4. Would you describe this person as a leader?”
  5. “Do people enjoy working with the candidate, and would former coworkers want to work with him or her again?”
  6. “What areas does the candidate need to improve”

Double Down on Start-Ups

“75% of funds made no money.” Really interesting- who knew?

“Learn Patience. Real Progress takes time- and the discipline to refrain from exiting at the first sign of success.  Mark Zuckerberg held fast to his belief that Facebook should remain private and focus on growth rather than a quick sale, and as a result the company created $70 billion in value it never would have seen if it had been sold early.  And if Amazon had succumbed to the shorsighted scrutiny that followed its IPO, it might never have become the Walmart of the web.  Meanwhile, companies like Myspace, in their rush to find an exit for investors, ended up leaving the stage entirely.” Again, well said and really good to remember.

“Clones and other bagatelles require tantalizingly little investment to demonstrate short term value, but that just proves how simple- and generally irrelevant- the problems they solve are.”  We probably knew that, but it’s nice when someone else says it.

How the Growth Outliers Do It

“On the one hand, they’re built for innovation.  They enter new markets before competitors do; they’re good at experimentation; they hold everyone accountable for new ideas; and they can move on a dime.  On the other hand, they’re extremely stable.  Chief executives have come up through the company; strategy and organizational structure stay consistent for long stretches; client retention is unusually high; and the corporate culture is strong and unchanging.”  This is NextDrop, or what  we should aim for.

When One Business Model Isn’t Enough:

“A company that recognizes which models are substitues that must be kept separate and which are complements that strengthen each other can build a uniquely sustainable competitive advantage.”  Case study of LAN was really compelling.

Wielding Digital Influence:

” To build an effective online network, you need to focus, as Shah does, on three things: reputation, specialization, and network position.  As in the real world, reputation is currency- it’s how you get people you’ve never met to seek you out, give you information, and collaborate with you.  In the virtual world you build your reputation by offering interesting content, drawing attention to your web presence, and motivating others to circulate and act on your ideas.”  Good advice- hopefully we’ll get to try that out.

“Specialization involves demonstrating deep knowledge, establishing links with other experts both inside and outside your organization, committing to learn from them, and being willing to offer relevant information and referrals to others.”  Good definition for reference.

Week 2 Reading List:

I think realistically, I’ll only be able to get through 1 book a week (if that).  But lets be optimistic here.  My book of the week is (drumroll please):

How to Be Like Mike: Life Lessons about Basketball’s Best:  Pat Williams

Did I mention I also bought a classic Air Jordan poster and it’s up in my room in India?  Yeah. I stare at it every morning when I  get up.  It’s actually really awesome.  I’ve never been into Michael Jordan, but I saw the poster at the mall, and for some reason I bought it.  And then I decided to read about his life this week because lets face it- the man is a legend.  Maybe there’s something I can learn from him.

So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Reading List for Week 1

This is my schedule this week:


Harvard Business Review: The Value of Happiness

What Got you Here, Wont’ Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful: Marshall Gold

The 10- Day MBA: Accounting Section: Steven Silbiger

Born Standing Up: Steve Martin


  • Profit & Loss Statement for NextDrop
  • 2012 Cash Flow for NextDrop
  • Blog post reviewing the Harvard Business Review articles, Marshall Gold’s book, and Born Standing Up

We will see how this ridiculously aggressive schedule for week one…