All Right All Right- I’m Mostly Doing It Because It’s Fun.

I was talking to a friend of mine and he’s like umm.. Anu.  Really? You think this is the easiest way to make money? And what is up with your obsession about money?

Good questions.  I actually have no good reason for my obsession with these things other than I think they are fun to think about.  It’s crazy how little I know about something that literally makes the world go round.  I want to think about making money because it’s interesting and useful.  I also think it’s interesting to put constraints on ways you are going to make money. I want to only make money in ways I find interesting.

So at the end of the day, I’m actually actually not doing any of this for the sake of money.  Because if that was what I was optimizing for, I would be doing so many different things.

I’m really just doing it…to see if I can.  And that’s pretty fun.  Pushing your own boundaries.

Experiments And Projects for 2017: Updates

Turns out, I actually don’t like all my projects this year (she said as Feb is halfway over…)

It’s ok. I’m not really the person to care about changing things in the middle.  I’ll be more clear about what I want to do this year.

Project Self Made Millionaire: This is currently underway.  I totally read a book on this (updates in a future post) and I have a plan of action.

Project Athlete: I decided I’m chucking this.  I actually don’t care too much about it this year.  I felt like I should care about it, but upon reflection, I really don’t. I don’t really care enough to count calories, which is pretty much what it’ll take to make this happen ( I think, after the research/interviews conducted).  I think I’ll definitely take it up at some point in time, but not 2017.  For now, I’m just going to eat decently, and try to exercise but not die of exhaustion.

Project Helping People is now changed to Project Meeting People.  I’m just trying to meet as many people as I can, both professionally and personally.  I’d also really like to dig deeper with each person I meet, and record these events.  Thinking about them makes me happy and I want to just keep meeting more interesting people doing really cool things.

New Project: Learn Hindi.  I just realized how utterly useless I am in any sort of Indian language.  For various reasons I thought I would start with Hindi, and then once I gain more confidence that yes, I can actually learn a language, I can move on to other languages.  But Hindi is the language of the year.

Anyway, those are the updates.

This Video Is Blowing My Mind

Ok exaggeration, but I feel like I resonate with so many things in this video that I do- I didn’t even realize it was a terrible phenomenon!

My friend sent me this video by Simon Sinek about millenials in the workplace.  I think I’m right on the border but it seems like nobody can agree on what the cutoff is.  The Atlantic says it’s people born between between 1982 and 2004 and I have no reason to disagree with the Atlantic so lets go with that.  Anyway, I think I fit because a lot of the things they talk about hold true for me.

I definitely have this idealized version of what I want to do in the world.  Sometimes I think it’s pretty entitled, but I’m not sure where to draw the line between entitled and I Have  A Dream, Martin Luther King style.

I think it has to do with what needs to happen to make your dream happen.  I think it’s basically…are you living in reality? I think the things I have a hard time with, and the thing a lot of people have a hard time with (and by a lot, the data points I have gathered include two friends I spoke to yesterday in San Francisco, so yes now they are representative of ” a lot of people”) but it has to do with the fact some good things in life take time.  We were discussing that yesterday.  Somehow, though it sounds logical, in practice, I don’t think we take the time to acknowledge that.

I’ve learned that the hard way too I think.  Lots of failures- and a lot of failure has to do with my own ideas on how long things will take.  I really like this article that the same friend sent me a few months ago, which addresses this point.  Good things are painful, and awful, but at the end of the day, rewarding.

I have come to the conclusion that MOST good things in life take time. And by time, I don’t mean days, or weeks or even months.  I think they take YEARS.

So now new questions arise: In this new timescape, how do you prioritize?  Especially since we don’t have to do everything at once, and also, since sometimes you can start with small steps on one thing and bigger steps on another thing, how do you make sure you’re covering your bases?

I tried a few methods other people have but it just feels overwhelming. Le sigh.  Maybe I need to experiment more.

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.

 

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.

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. 

  

Every Day Is Terrifying #Startup

So I’ve realized that when describing the entrepreneurial journey, “exhilarating” is the sanitized version of “effing terrifying”.  All those “successful” entrepreneurs who are looking back on life thinking, oh yeah, it was so cute back then- remember “the struggle”?  Le sigh, the good old days.  Well I call bullshit.  Ok let me rephrase that.  I am 90% positive I will say the same thing when I look back on this growth phase (until I re-read these entries and remember, oh yeah, that was some sucky ish going on there)  because I can see where they are coming from.  Every day is terrifying but not in the ways it used to be terrifying.  It used to be nauseous terrifying – i.e. I get up every morning with pseudo morning sickness (minus the benefits of birthing an actual child into the world after it all), wondering if we will be alive in 3 months.  Basically it was hmmm…so….do I need to be getting another job or something?

And now it’s not nauseous terrifying, it’s more like…can’t breathe and painful terrifying.  Sort of like being in labour, with all the pain and anguish and screaming and jesus christ just get it over with already that it entails (again without the benefits of birthing an actual child into this world).  You know it’s worth it in the end, you know that you can do it, you know you’ve got it, but GOD DAMN is it painful.

On a completely unrelated side note, is it weird that all my analogies have now become related to birthing children?  But wow it works so well.  Morning sickness, labour, then..BIRTH.

But back to the being in labour phase.  Because we all love that mental image.  BUT IT IS SO APT.  It’s just SO MUCH PAIN.  And doing and saying things that…the second it comes out of your mouth you think…oh god.  Lets take that back.  I’ve had to apologize to employees recently for getting upset at things and being rude in ways I never was before (or ever really thought I would be).  BUT THIS PHASE BRINGS IT OUT IN YOU.

The other thing you do a lot in this phase is rely on your support network to get you through.  That’s clutch.  Otherwise it’s just a lot of pain and nobody to help you through.  Isn’t that why there’s always someone holding the pregnant woman’s hand during the screaming and crying while they sit there saying don’t worry it’ll be ok bits? (I don’t know if that’s just a Grey’s Anatomy thing, but I’m going with it because it works here and it supports my theory and I’m all about that right now with this elaborate analogy thing).  Your support system.  Hold them close.  Check.

ANYway.  Yes.  It’s all painful.  And terrible.  And growth-ifying.  Why do we all do it you ask? I don’t know. It’s the same thing I ask mothers after they just spend a bazillion hours in ridiculous amounts of pain.  And most of them (well, most of them that have children over the age of 6 at least) say it was totally and completely worth it (I think it takes a few years to look back with that warm motherly glow).

So here’s to lots of pain, and hoping to get through it all in one piece (and not kill anyone in the process).

 

 

 

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.