Change

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Status Quo is a very powerful thing.

Have you ever heard anyone tell you that they are enjoying the hunt for a new job? They might realise that a change is necessary and important; nevertheless they would not enjoy the process. There is a certain inertia in the way things are. Change implies overcoming that inertia and changing direction. This is inherently a hard thing to do.

People hate this process; people hate change.

When a bridge falls, you just see the change happen on the day that the bridge falls; but the change has been in the works for a while. The cracks were forming for a period of time, the stresses were building, the structure was weakening; it is just that you did not have the ability to see it happening. You see the final outcome and hate the outcome.

Many people notice change when it finally arrives at their door. They think, the situation changed overnight. Change rarely happens overnight. Change has to overcome inertia and then arrive to be. Change is usually a long time in the making. It is our ability to perceive this change that is weak.

Therefore people are rarely prepared for change.

Strength had to transform into weakness and weakness into failure for the bridge to fall. While most of us notice the second part, we do not notice the first part. Change is persistent.

Most of the startups are trying to get into areas that are not traditional. They are trying to do things that have not been done before. This means that they need to change the behaviour of their customers. It is wrong to expect this change to arrive when you seek for it to arrive. It will be a gradual process beginning with taking the inertia out of the system.

Set a goal, pursue it, seek it out. Initially, it may seem like nothing is happening. Then slowly but surely, change will become visible.

Speed is exaggerated

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There is an excessive amount of focus on speed, when it comes to building startups. One of the advices that is often provided to startups is to get out of the blocks really fast.

The #FailFast philosophy has probably pushed more startups towards failure than towards success.

If you were building a house, would you want the foundation to be laid really fast? Or might you prefer that time is taken to ensure that the foundation is really solid?

A business is a marathon, not a sprint.

You can get out of the blocks fast; but then, what is going to keep the customers coming back to you? Continuously making yourself better is critical; that is what keeps them coming back. Customers will stay with you when you delight them, keep offering them something better and better to look forward to.

You get paid for showing up and making the product/experience better everyday.

A fast start is like a spark, continuous improvement and delivery is the fire.

Keep the fire burning.

Time Management

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I meet entrepreneurs regularly; I often come across a self-development question that I find really hard to answer. They ask me how do you do so many things? How do you manage time better? I have no clue, partly because I myself was unaware of what time management really meant.

‘To Do’ lists are the best way to put together the list of things that need to be done and get through all of them. Having said that, anyone who has ever done a ‘To Do’ list would tell you how difficult it is to get through the entire list and make sure that all of the items on it are checked off.

I wondered why.

Often, once we make a list of things to be done, we start by getting all the easiest things done on the list before  we cut across to the harder ones. The reasoning is simple, if there are 10 things on the list and 5 are hard and 5 easy, I can check off 5 of the easiest things in just an hour and then there will only be 5 things left for the rest of the day. Instead, if we pick up the hardest thing first, we might be stuck with it for a couple of hours and at the end of it, we would still be left with 9 things to and a lot less time left.

The variable that one misses out on is mental energy.

In order to complete tasks that require hard work, the amount of mental energy required is much greater than that to complete tasks that require little effort.

In an experiment conducted in the US, they took two groups of students and put them in two separate rooms. Both rooms had an oven baking fresh cookies and the smell of cookies was allowed to waft all over the room. The first group of students were told that they were not allowed to eat any of the cookies but the second group was allowed to eat all they wanted. Both groups were kept in the room for half an hour. After this, both groups were given mathematical problems to solve. The second group performed a lot better than the first group. The reason? The first group had spent a considerable amount of  mental energy willing themselves against eating the cookies; while the second group had an abundance of mental energy, having been allowed to do whatever they wished to do.

We all have a finite amount of mental energy at our disposal, and each and every activity that we perform through the day eats into it. Is it not better that we undertake the hardest activities on the list when we have the greatest amount of mental energy at our disposal, rather than when it is flagging?

There were some things that I had put on my To Do list, which I had been pushing for the last 2 weeks. This morning, I started with those tasks and finished them first. Interestingly, I was able to get through them faster and more efficiently. I was left with a lot of time on hand during the day since the easy things were completed in no time.

The simple things can be done when you are low on mental energy, but the difficult things definitely can’t. Every activity dips into a finite pool of mental energy and takes some of it away from you.

If you look at some of the most effective leaders, they are often people who take the bull by the horns, and face and resolve problems as soon as they appear. This is a very important leadership trait.

Hence, the key to managing time well is to optimise the utilisation of your mental energy, and to make sure that you can make the most of the time that is at your disposal.

 

Entropy

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Physics provides the best models to understand the physical world. But sometimes, it also provides the best models to understand the metaphysical.

Entropy refers to the rate of change that can be seen in a system. As the entropy in a system increases it becomes increasingly difficult to predict the next few moments. The more you heat a pot of water, the more bubble formation takes place and it becomes increasingly difficult to find patterns.

The only reason the earth as a planet is alive is due to its ability to hold onto heat. Heat creates entropy. Entropy creates change and that is essential to the existence of life. Mars by comparison lacks an atmosphere and hence does not have any heat in the system, the lack of entropy means nothing lives on the planet. At the other extreme you have a planet like Jupiter, where the entropy is too high, much like the boiling pot of water, making it impossible to support life.

Sorry for the long convoluted way in which this post is going, it came to me when I was watching ‘The Martian’ on the plane.

In business and in relationship entropy is important to move things forward.

If you own a startup and far too many days, you find that nothing much has changed, you know that you are already deep in trouble because the system lacks entropy. Its as if the engine has no heat in it.

Alternately, overheating is also a problem. So, it should not be a case, where things are changing much too rapidly. This removes the possibility of the system reaching any kind of stable state. The business would be in a constant state of change and there is no way to find a model that works efficiently and sustainably.

If your business depends of building relationships, the same axioms hold true. Many B2B companies start to take their accounts for granted since they are already with them. They do not make substantial changes to their products, eventually they lose the account to a more nimble and agile competitor. To the contrary if you keep suggesting too many changes to the client, eventually the client is going to grow tired and cease the relationship.

The challenge is to find balance. Is that not the problem with everything in life?

 

Imposter Syndrome is about achieving Potential

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Karmanye vadhikaraste Ma Phaleshu Kadachana,

Ma Karmaphalaheturbhurma Te Sangostvakarmani

This is perhaps the most important learning that one can take away from the Bhagwad Gita. It is also by far the least understood.

What it says is :

You have the right to work only; but never to its fruits.

Let not the fruits of action be your motive, nor let your attachment be to inaction.

 

This is contrary to human behaviour. Why would you do something, if you were not going to get something in return. The entire point of engaging in any activity is to reach a certain goal. We go to school because, that is the path to college. We go to college to earn a degree, to get a good job.

How many of you went to college for the experience? Would you have been able to convince your parents to make the financial commitments that it takes to attend college had you told them you were going there purely for the experience.

Perhaps.

In most cases, education is seen as a means of getting a good job.

 

But some of us, very few of us, are actually wired to do things because it interests us, or excites us, or makes us happy.

The fact that the activity is not being pursued with an implicit goal but purely for the fun of it makes you better at it. You are not burdened with achieving something. You are free to fail, to learn and to push the limits. That is all is needed to do awesome things!

When you do awesome things, good things come to you. This may be a promotion, recognition or some perks. While you are left thinking, I did not do anything great.

In the world of startups, this can seem extremely accelerated since things have a tendency to change quickly, while at the same time good work is recognised very fast.

Some folks end up feeling that they are being recognised while they did not deserve any of it and that when somebody finds out, their fraud will be caught. They suffer from what is called Imposter Syndrome.

When I started writing my blog regularly, some publications got in touch with me asking me if I would like to contribute to their publications. I do not consider myself a great writer, still don’t; my sister writes way better than me. Also I tend to be very robotic with my explanations.

I started writing just because I could. When I was told that a well known blog would like to republish me, I felt that they had it all wrong. I still continue to feel that my next piece will prove, what a load of crap I have been putting out. This next one will be the reason they will stop reposting my stuff. That feeling never goes away.

Turns out; the post I fear about the most, are the ones that get the best feedback.

The trouble with those suffering from Imposter Syndrome is that, since they are doing it without expecting anything in return they are achieving their true potential. It is hard to understand this, when you compare yourself with those who seem to be really putting in a lot of effort to be the BEST. You are the best because you are not trying to be; you are just doing what comes naturally to you. You have nothing to prove. For you there is just fun there to be had and you are having it.

Truth be told; those who seem to be suffering from Imposter Syndrome are just extremely talented people who tend not to see themselves that way.

If you feel like an Imposter, the most important question to ask yourself is; Are you doing what you are supposed to do? If you are, odds are you are not an imposter but just really humble.

Making things Happen

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For life as we know it, to exist on Earth

Earth had to be at the right distance from the sun, warm enough, but not too hot nor too cold.

Earth had to have a hot core so that the planet is alive and developing everyday. The core gives earth its magnetic field, which shields us from countless radiations.

Earth had to have an ozone layer so that the UV rays from the sun does not fry life on earth.

Earth had to have a moon, so that tidal activity was possible to keep the water cycle active. The moon also shields the earth from astroids.

Earth had to have liquid water.

Earth had to be in a part of space where it would not be hit by a large meteor or comet for a considerable period of time.

 

It takes a lot of things to come together to make something right, it only takes one thing to be out of place to make something wrong.

To tell someone, something is NOT possible, is very easy; to make it possible is very difficult. Entrepreneurs are people who set out to make something possible. So the next time you think an idea is shit, think about it once more.

Belief is the most valuable currency for a startup

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If the owner of a pharmaceutical company that produces Vitamin tablets; says that he believes that Vitamin tablets are a very important source of nutrients for the body and he eats the tablets everyday.

Do you think, he really believes it?

He may or he may not, you can’t tell.

His beliefs are within him.

But do YOU really believe that it helps? Within yourself you should be able to tell for certain. No? Let us say that you do not believe what the man is saying.

I would like to bring to your attention, a recent study that indicates that over the past century the availability of vitamin tablets has increased the quality of life and helped increase life expectancy amongst individuals. In the early 1900’s, life expectancy at birth was 31 years, these alternative nutrients have increase life expectancy to 67 years. The lack of access to these medicines has meant that in parts of interior Africa, life expectancy is still close to 40 years.

Life Expectacy

Source : Wikipedia

Now what do you think?

Are you at least questioning yourself?

 

 

The study that I just quoted was made up! I connected various pieces of data to spin this story.

The truth of the matter is that no matter how strong your belief might be, that belief can be easily influenced by information that someone else offers. So our beliefs are not set in stone.

In my experience, belief often separates success from failure. Hence it is the most valuable currency that anyone can bring to a startup. More valuable than any skill or money. A strong belief makes you push and try to achieve things that others would not. This is what separates the ordinary from the extra-ordinary.

During a startup journey you will come across challenges that at first glance might seem insurmountable. If you have strong belief in what you are doing, you will find a way to make it work.

Doubt has killed more dreams than failure ever can.

I have always maintained that when Steve Jobs came back to Apple he brought this one important ingredient to Apple. He brought belief to Apple. He brought a belief that a world with Apple is better than a world without. All the great, talented and gifted people at Apple were able to rally behind that belief. Look what they have achieved.

P.S. – When I talk about belief I am referring to WHAT you seek to achieve, not HOW. The how will keep changing based on how the market responds.