“With my dress, I was selling confidence and with its success, I was getting confident. Confidence in what you do is crucial”
Diane von Furstenberg
“Time to kick people and by “kick” I mean challenge, is when they’re on the way up, to remind them that when you’re growing, make sure your head is not growing too!”
“My biggest mistake was thinking I shouldn’t show my mistakes – I learned I should.”
“Your goal should never be starting a company. Focus on the change you want to make, find people who share your same purpose and eventually you may have an opportunity to build something that helps create purpose for others and has a positive impact on the world.”
“There is a myth that being successful demands giving up commonsense values; integrity, generosity, courage, empathy etc. I respect ambition but not ruthless ambition.”
“For the economic, social and political benefit of all, the Web must be recognized as a public good”
“If you are not undermanned, you are overstaffed, and you will never see your heroes”
“All I had to do was wash dishes and I could earn $1.20 an hour. That was more than 99% of the people make back home in Pakistan.”
“It’s important to have good people around you.“
“The clean energy economy can happen in the next 10 years. So when I think out 100 years, we’re going to be in a world of extreme abundance and peace and prosperity where people live these glorious lives or we’re going to be toast. It’s one or the other.”
“Business isn’t all that complicated. If someone is out in the desert walking around, they’re going to be thirsty. You just have to ask them what they wan to drink. If you have the humility to listen to other people rather than just hawking stuff, you are going to have a loft of customers”
“I always try to maintain a sense of reality and ensure that I surround myself with people, who understand the times in which we live”
“I have always chosen to ignore the conventional wisdom in favor of the ideas that interested me”
“My biggest mistake was that I always sold stocks way too early. Selling your winners and holding your losers is like cutting the flowers and watering the weeds.”
“Find a good business – and one that I an understand why it’s good – with a durable competitive advantage, run by able and honest people and available at price that makes sense.”
“There’s one investment that supersedes all others: Invest in yourself. If you can increase your potential 10% 20% or 30% by enhancing your talents, they can’t tax it away. Inflation can’t take from you. You have it the rest of your life”
“One must continuously go through learning curves to stay relevant. A part of learning is done through reading, and the other part, which likely more important, is talking with bright minds, from different fields – scientists, writers, policymakers, philosophers etc.”
“What I want to do really is leave something of value”
“If you are present and awake, you become this great thinker, this great worker. You become a fine-tuned machine. Yogis refer to the state of yoga, which is the same as Heaven on Earth.”
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.” __Steve Jobs
What’s your thing? Not your dad’s thing, not your neighbors thing, not your kids thing, not your grandma’s thing, not your manager’s thing but your thing, what is it? My sense is you can’t put a finger on it, so are about 7.5 billion others on this planet, you are not alone. I will take a wild guess and say that if you are asking this question, you are definitely in the 99.99 percentile of the world’s population (one of the 0.75 million people) who are likely asking themselves this question.
It’s easy to say “just be yourself”, “do your thing” but not easy to do it, otherwise the whole world would’ve already done it. The problem is not really in doing but really in developing that conviction about your thing. For example, I love writing, art, design, coding and running, a few things I really enjoy and wouldn’t mind spending a big chunk of my time in a day doing one or all of them. The challenge is two-fold, one believing that any of these things is going to pay my bills and take care of the family and even if I believe, how do I figure out which of these things is my thing? May be it’s a new thing that combines two or more of my interests?
Is the thing already within me and not something external that is magically going to appear one fine day? I think it’s latent and my job is to surface it, support it, like protecting a small fire and kindling it until it grows to become a huge fire. It’s a marathon. It’s a process, day in and day out.
Once I figure out what the thing is, then the next step is to develop conviction/faith in it. How does one develop conviction in something, isn’t it through experimentation? Can faith develop overnight? Is it a flip of a switch? I don’t think it is, faith develops over time, as we see small progress being made each day. For that kind of experimentation to happen, one must be ready to experiment, fail, learn and try something new the next day. How do you know if you are failing or succeeding? It can’t be done inside your own mind, your thing has to come in contact with the people you are trying to serve. They have to provide that feedback and that feedback becomes the life blood in refining your thing. All of this takes time, practice, discipline, daily hustle, daily communication with your users.
Someone put it like this, “How much suffering are you willing to take”, may be that’s it. How much sacrifice and suffering are you willing to go through to accomplish your thing? Embarrassment, cold-calling people, falling flat on your face, feeling uncertain, feeling fear and yet moving on, what a way to keep it real, that’s why I love entrepreneur’s journeys. It’s the ups and downs and facing harsh realities, facing one’s self, facing the dark abyss, the feeling of eating glass every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
I digress, so how do you surface “your thing” to the forefront of your day, how do you make it your thing everyday and live it, breathe it and do it? Are there rituals, practices and tools to help you work on your thing daily? As Stephen Covey put it, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” and to make your thing the main thing is the main thing.
“It’s not that we don’t know what to do, it’s that we don’t do what we know”
* I had originally published this on Sep 24, 2014 on Linkedin Articles
I used to work 100 hours a week in a game company a few years ago. I used to sleep under the table at the office, some times my nose was bleeding with all the stress I suppose. Then one day I came home to have dinner and planned to head back to work after dinner. My then 3 year old daughter asked me “Why did you come home, why didn’t you stay back at work?”. It hit me in the head like a thunderbolt! I decided to spend more time with her, whatever time I could make by cutting out TV or cutting out playing cricket with friends or whatever it takes.
Do you know your kid’s favorite color? How about his favorite dish? Do you know what she does when she is sad and down? Can you tell how often he talks about something he loves, a game, a book, a sport, a car, a movie whatever? When was the last time you went on a date with your daughter, just you and her and the nature. No hustle bustle, simple noise of the chatter between you and her. Do you know what her marks were in the most recent Math Assessment? How about her favorite song? Do you have a clue when she wakes up and when she goes to bed? Did you try to play with him? When was the last time you both had a misunderstanding and you made it up by being the Dad or the Mom?
We should try not to take things for granted and spend time away in meaningless activities while the kids are ignored to boredom or worse yet to bad influence in some random daycare centers or to a nanny. Spend the time with the kids, it’s a simple fact that “We get what we put in”, Garbage in Garbage out, have you ever heard of that term? We shouldn’t expect children to be all affectionate and understanding if we don’t spend the time to be affectionate and understanding in the first place.
Many parents are clueless, they don’t know exactly why they have children? Some even behave as if they are products of a random act of inebriety or carelessness. If you wanted children so badly, why do you plan on putting them away at their Grandma’s house for months together? If you love your children how come you have no clue what they love? If you love your children how come they don’t have your consistent attention when they need it the most, between 0 – 5 years!
Many friends have given me wonderful explanations to why they put their children away in a far off country at the Gramps house, or stash them away in a cubby at a random daycare center for hours on while they are busy helping the world with its problems!
I am sure you know my position on this one by now, sorry to be blunt but that’s the way I was taught to spend time with my daughter. I am sure most of you don’t need to be rudely awakened like I was!
Spirituality is not about religion and religion is not always about spirituality. Spiritual is ritual of the spirit, without spirit, spiritual is just that, a “ritual”.
What is this spirit. It has to do with the core of one’s self without all the jumbo mumbo (“extra layers”) i.e. job, relation, name, skin color, character traits, physical body and so on. Who is Madhav without the name. He is not the product director, not the runner, not the artist, not the son, not the dad, not the brother. If we take all these “extra layers” away, then who is “Madhav”?
I realize that it’s nothing but the same pure consciousness that pervades the universe, it’s neither distinct or distant from it. However, when I add all the “extra layers”, it turns into this thing called “Madhav”. What the heck is pure consciousness, anyway, I don’t know, it’s the pristine state of something? the original state before it was modified. I’m coming from the assumption that I’m something that has been modified and in some ways tainted due to the “extra layers” associated to me but there must be something, a Madhav, that is untainted and pure, right?
If you are with me until this point, then let’s talk hacking spirituality. Spirituality is nothing but getting to and being in this state where there are zero “extra layers”. If activities such as meditation, yoga, prayers, going to temple etc are helping you eliminate the “extra layers” then they are truly spiritual activities and if they are not then they are absolutely not spiritual.
One could spend their entire life inside the sanctum sanctorum of a temple chanting hymns and yet be far away from spirituality. One of the practical ways to bring oneself closer to pure consciousness is to eliminate as many of these “extra layers” as possible. For practical purposes, it’s hard to remove your name, your body, your job position etc although they may be possible I am more interested in the path that is a process of refinement over time.
For example, one of the layers that we could eliminate is the negative emotions i.e. anger, greed, lust, arrogance, desire. These are the lower level animal qualities. Reducing these animal qualities could be the purpose of spiritual practice. As we reduce the animal qualities, there will be room made for divine qualities. We cannot pour anything into an already full vessel, can we?
if you are still with me then you can imagine how to solve a problem that is well defined, eliminating lower level animal qualities. There are many hacks for eliminating each of these qualities, here are some of my thoughts –
Anger – use speed bumps (speed breakers) in your head whenever you realize that you are angry
Arrogance – develop appreciation for many good things that have come about in this world that didn’t involve you, obviously there are many good people just like you otherwise none of these things would be here. Always, see the good in others, try to be humble
Desire – desire for the worldly objects and pleasure; the only way I have come to manage (not eliminate still working on it) desires is by not getting into them, for example, I don’t drink or smoke, it’s easy to have a drink now and then and tell yourself that it’s okay. Even better is not to start it in the first place.
Greed – I want it all, it’s all mine mine and mine; it’s okay and important to have money and possessions but when they are in excess the chances are you are going to misuse them, unless you have the mindset where money is not the reason for why you do what you do. Money for personal use should be like the shoe, if the shoe is smaller or bigger than your size, it gets very uncomfortable to walk.
Attachment – I don’t know what the antidote is, trying to figure it out. How do you not be attached to the things around, your family, your accomplishments, your possessions etc. I realize that this could all disappear any minute but still quite hard to let go of them while also living with them, I am not a hermit living under the rock, for gods sake I am a blogger and podcaster trying to make a living in an unconventional way, what do you want from?
“The more you invest in your mission, the more profits your business will produce. We are living proof of this. Not such a bad formula, huh?”
“I try to be what I really am and not what people would like me to be. There is a certain peace that comes with that. My reputation is truly my own.”
LEONARDO DEL VACCHIO
“Maintain a culture of respect”
“I find it awe-inspiring that there are an infinite number of ways to improve the world through business. Providing better products and services, or less expensive ones, or more accessible ones, all makes people happier. That’s what it’s all about.”
“If you have the emotional makeup (you can develop it), you don’t care what the experts are saying”
“Curiosity has kept me young as I have grown older”
“Delivering newspapers I had a lot of elderly customers, so I would always put the newspaper in between the screen door and the door – that caring made me different, made me better than the last paperboy.”
SEAN “DIDDY” COMBS
“No matter how small a project you work on, and no matter what it is, put your heart and soul and sense of responsibility.”
“We are better employees when we stop trying to be two people and bring our whole self to work”
“I profess the religion of love, Love is my religion and my faith. My mother is love My father is love My prophet is love My God is love I am a child of love I have come only to speak of love.” __Rumi
Unselfish and unconditional love can be found only in one’s mother. One cannot find this feeling anywhere else on this planet. It took me a long time to understand this truth and the terrible part is, I did not realize this while she was still around on this planet in that beautiful form. It’s not that I mistreated or disrespected her in anyway, in fact, I am very happy to have been a good son and have loved and respected her sacrifices in bringing me up to be an independent, self-confident and useful human being. I don’t have regrets that way but the world around us could teach us to realize that this beauty is so near to you, that it won’t last for ever and to recognize it and cherish that gift to the fullest possible extent while it lasts.
T.S. Eliot puts it beautifully in the following poem, mother is like the garden where all love ends.
“Lady of silences Calm and distressed Torn and most whole Rose of memory Rose of forgetfulness Exhausted and life-giving Worried reposeful The single Rose Is now the Garden Where all loves end Terminate torment Of love unsatisfied The greater torment Of love satisfied End of the endless Journey to no end Conclusion of all that Is inconclusible Speech without word and Word of no speech Grace to the Mother For the Garden Where all love ends.” __T.S. Eliot
One may not believe or know what God means but everyone has a mother and everyone can experience that pure unsullied love from her, that to me is nothing but God. God is neither distant nor distinct from the mother who is full of such love.
Mother’s day is coming up in a few days but we all know very well every day is mother’s day, because, if not for her I wouldn’t be here today, if not for her sacrifices I wouldn’t be where I am today, if not for her inspiration I wouldn’t be who I am today, if not for her discipline I wouldn’t be what I am today, if not for her I wouldn’t be.
Madhav: “When is the heartbreak hill going to come?”
Police: “You are standing on top of it”
Running the 26.2 miles for the Boston Marathon was not easy but I had to do it. I felt it an obligation and my duty to do something about the number of friends and family affected by Cancer, Thanks to many of you, I have been able to raise close to $7000 dollars for Cancer research. The run would have been impossible if not for the great music companion, iPod, loaded with Bhajans, Ghazals, Illayaraja, Warren Buffett. Interestingly, in my practice runs, listening to Buffett was quite interesting, however, on the day of the run, I didn’t want to listen to how I can make $700,000 in 30 years by continuing to drive a 20 year Volkswagen Beetle! Isn’t that intriguing?
The run is next morning, we just drove down to Lalita’s in Brighton, for a sleepover that night. You know it’s all going to be great when you are surrounded by such fabulous friends. Lalita, Anu, Minal, Brahma, Vandana, Kiran, Raaga and Mahi threw a surprise by giving me a wonderful best wishes and good luck dinner and a del.icio.us cake!. Next morning, Sandeep got me off on to an excellent start by picking me up early in the morning at 630 and dropping me off at the Boston Commons where I took the runners bus to Hopkinton.
April 20, 2009, the day of the marathon was beautiful crisp day with clear skies and temperature in the low-mid 60s. Chatting up with the runner sitting next to me on the bus, I learnt something very fundamental to anything we want to achieve. This gentleman, a physician by profession, mentioned that he and his wife have been marathon runnners for a long time and that they run it under 3.5 hours. I was startled as he looked nothing like it. Lesson #1 don’t judge by looks! Then I asked him, how do you run that fast, he said, we run with our friends who are 2.5 hour types! Lesson #2, being with the right people is crucial.
The run started in Hopkinton, Massachusetts at 10:30 AM, I started the run with Illayaraja’s Janani Janani and continued to listen to many of his great compositions for the first half of the marathon. At mile 13, just as the energy starts to go low and the mind to starts to switch from ‘this is not that hard’ to ‘yes i can’ attitude, a power booster bhajan by Srikanth was definitely a blessing Jaya Jagadeesha Hare . The energy at the end of that bhajan helped me carry through to mile 14, it was roughly 2 hours and 30 minutes of running so far and some more to go! I then switched gears to Warrent Buffett, thinking that his inspiring Buffetology would bring some perspective to my run, I was definitely out of my mind. How can money-talk bring the mental energy needed to complete another much more grueling 12 mile run! I realized then that money can’t by me (love) what I needed the most, a cheerful yell, an extended hand of a young child with a slice of orange in the palm, a gentle hug from a good friend. I switched gears from Buffett to Bhajans by Boston Young Adults, first of which was Subbu’s gentle instrumental Antharyami Thuhi and Avo Pyare , Pranavaswaroopa , Prem Ishwar Hai and many more followed by Ghulam Ali and Pankaj Udhas, Humko Kiske Gham Ne Mara, Chitti Aayi Hey, Kal Chowdvi Ka Chand.. the song, their magnificent voices, the wah wahs in between kept me going until mile 16.
A set of three or four small hills are ahead before the heartbreak hill at mile 21! Future looked bleak for a moment, as I kept running, pulling myself together to keep up the 12 minute miles, I got my first Surprise in Wellesley. Brian Durand, my colleague and his wife cheered up for me, yelling my name and handed me a bag of Jelly Beans. Those were undoubtedly the most precious beans I have ever had! As I approached mile 17, a second surprise, good family friends, Prashanth, Nagashree, Anjali and Avani were lined up on my right taking pictures and cheering up. A quick break and couple of hugs and hi-fives later I was back on my toes with much more energy than 10 minutes ago and felt ready to take on the heartbreak hill. I had exhausted all the energy gel packets that I carried with me, badly needed them for the last stretch.
Mile 17, Ganesh Shastri screams out “Madhav, Subbu is waiting next to the water table with power gels”, could this race be any more fun I thought, here I was just running around on the streets and so many good friends and family cheering, helping and running along with me in my thoughts. Gave a hug to Subbu, pinned the gel packets to my bib, waved good bye to Ganesh and Subbu and continued my jog. I was on the flyover going above the Mass Pike (I-90), people had told me that it is great to be at that point because that marks completion of 2/3rds of the race, they also warned me that is the lower end of the hearbreak hill soon to come!
Here is the marathon course
After listening to ‘Humko Kiske Gham Ne Mara’ a couple of times, it sure felt upbeat and good, but the reality was the body was not up for much more running. As it turns out, my previous marathon was a physical run up to this point, it was a mental run from here on. Loaded up on the power gel, quenched my thirst with Gatorade, grabbed an orange slice from a little kid (which later on caused a great deal of suffering for our first one Raaga because I accepted food from a stranger! darn kids ;), chewed on a twizzler, finished the last jelly bean and kept going.
After crossing what felt like a large number of small hills, I couldn’t resit but ask the security personnel standing on the side, “When is the heartbreak hill going to come?”, “You are standing on top of it, it is downhill from here, good job, keep it going”. It was definitely a “high” point in the run. Shortly there after, the run was much smoother, a lot more cheering sounds coming from a distance, didn’t realize Boston college students were so cool. They literally yelled and screamed, wrote interesting tag lines on their T-shirts and were doing everything possible to keep the runners on their feet. A bunch of hi-fives with the Boston college kids and the sheer energy they created made the next couple of miles an easy run.
Running into mile 23, I was eager to meetup with the all the beacon street buddies and Kiran, Raaga and Mahi. It was indeed a fabulous moment being with family, friends and well wishers, Lalita Pulavarti, Minal, Pavan, Shruti, Prahlad, Nandini, Herb, Neethi, Amog, Annika. Thanks to Pavan for taking this beautiful picture!
Less than 4 miles to go, as I approached mile 23, another pleasant surprise as Lalitha Gunturi, Pallavi and Jayashri cheered me up. I turned up the volume on the iPod, listened to beautiful bhajans by the LA Young Adults, Akash and Vinay . As I slowed down to take that one last energy gel, college kids from BU and other passers-by were kind enough to run with me and a few others for a short stretch to keep up the momentum. It was the last half mile, taking right turn onto Hereford, I gathered all my energy to make the last lap a memorable one. I picked up speed as I took left turn on to Boylston, the finish line was now visible at a distance, running at 6 minute miles I breezed past the finish line. As I returned my ChampionChip and collected the marathon medal, I thanked God and many others who were part of this wonderful experience.
Walking a couple of blocks was harder than running those 26.2 miles, as the wind chill was getting worse and there was no place to stretch, I just sat down in a nearby restaurant and waited for Lalita, Kiran, Raaga, Mahi, Minal, Herb to come along. Since we planned to meet at a different location and I was unable to walk much further, for once I thought cell phones are not a distraction in life after all! I didn’t have one, borrowed one from a Chinese lady and made calls to coordinate. Thanks to Yashoda, she called Lalita and made sure they knew where I was, that was a great help indeed. The ride on the Green line back to Beacon was looong, but fun as I got a free traing ride and special treatment for wearing the Marathon medal. For the first time I knew, how a pregnant lady might feel, having people hold doors and give away their train seats 🙂
Back at Anu and Minal’s place in Brookline, I felt that I didn’t miss much by missing the massage at the finish line. The hot water spa treatment at Anu and Minal’s was just such a great start of my recovery process. Followed by Pavan’s freshly cooked idly’s and Anu’s hot coffee pretty much was enough to justify the long run ;). Anu filled me in on the activities at work and how much the company cheered for me. Kiran drove us home that night, gently and safely. I was glad I didn’t have to drive.
Back in the office the next morning, I didn’t realize the scale of cheer for my run, starting with my manager Ara who updated the entire company with each milestone I hit, by sending out email alerts and words of encouragement. I had balloons, finish line ribbon, Bengay (yeah, you read that correct) and greeting cards in my office. There were a lot of emails from colleagues and tremendous amount of support from our CEO Stan, CTO Yoryos and everyone. Furthermore, the company made significant contributions to the fund raising as well and I am ever thankful to them for being so benevolent!
As I reminisced the 5 hour 31 minute run on the drive back home, a thought occurred to me, that everyone should run a marathon once in their life time, there is nothing like it, when is yours?
“Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use” __Steve Jobs
“When I started Chobani I’d never run a company before and there was no plan, but one thing I saw the could be fixed easily was the factory’s old walls. The badly needed a paint job. So I bought some paint and our first five employees and I all got to work. It was the first and the best decision I ever made.”
“Some of the most selfish people I’ve met are artists – I’m one of them – and some of the most selfless people I’ve ever met are in business, people like Warren Buffett.”
“When you ask, What do you want and what do you dream, you’re able to ask yourself, What am I beginning? We need to have a beginner’s mind to think about what is happening.”
“Information revolution is not just an extension of human capabilities but an extension of brain cells. This super-intelligence will bring about developments we’er never seen before and contribute to humanity”
“I’m very clear that everything I do is authentic, practiced and viable – and the end result is generally beautiful.”
“Health is your own; money belongs to others; power is temporary; and reputation is eternal”
“Investing in people is how we grow. I’m still trying to build the kind of company that my father never had a chance to work for;”
“There is a story I tell about the geologist who fell off a ten-story building. When he blew past the fifth floor he thought to himself, “So far so good.” That’s the way to approach life”
T. BOONE PICKENS
“On November 21, 1783 Benjamin Franklin watched as the first manned hot-air balloon rose from the ground. A skeptic in the crowd called out, “What is the use of it!” and Franklin is said to have replied, “What is he use of a new born child!”. He had a vision of humanity not as it is but as it could be”
“Today’s growing challenge: create meaningful lives for the world’s population. What are the jobs of the future in an age of robotics, driverless trucks and other new technologies”