Be The Best Of Whatever You Are

It is increasingly clear that India will get back to work in the next 2-4 weeks. However, it won’t be business as usual. Some will get back to work earlier than others. Many of us will be out looking for jobs as the companies we worked for will try to rebuild themselves without us. The road to recovery will be long and hard, but each of us will have an important role to play as we help rebuild the economy.

The biggest lesson we’ve learned from this lockdown is that we are more resilient and self-sufficient than we give ourselves credit for. Another big lesson we’ve all learned is that when we are faced with impossible odds, the best response is to act – don’t stop to dwell on spilled milk.

There is a beautiful Douglas Malloch poem that I read in How to Stop Worrying and Start Living written by Dale Carnegie that captures the essence of that I would like to convey to those that are getting ready to get back to work or to look for a job:

 

If you can’t be a pine on the top of the hill,

Be a scrub in the valley — but be

The best little scrub by the side of the rill;

Be a bush if you can’t be a tree.

 

If you can’t be a bush be a bit of the grass,

And some highway happier make;

If you can’t be a muskie then just be a bass —

But the liveliest bass in the lake!

 

We can’t all be captains, we’ve got to be crew,

There’s something for all of us here,

There’s big work to do, and there’s lesser to do,

And the task you must do is the near.

 

If you can’t be a highway then just be a trail,

If you can’t be the sun be a star;

It isn’t by size that you win or you fail —

Be the best of whatever you are!

My Morning Routine: How Successful People Start Their Day

My ex-boss used to repeat this phrase so often that it has been permanently imprinted in my brain:

If you replicate 100% of the actions of successful people, you will get 75% of their results

The lesson was to copy the routines, strategies, and habits of successful sales- people so that their results could be replicated, and it worked! I also found that this approach could also be utilised in other areas of my life like working out, meditating, listening, learning, investing, managing etc. This is one of the primary reasons that I consistently read autobiographies of successful as well as not so successful people.

While these autobiographies provide the mental conditioning required for the long road ahead, very few provide details on the daily routine these people deploy to start, run and end every day. While I have always been in awe of how a Warren Buffet, a Richard Branson, an Amitabh Bachchan or a Brad Feld find the time to run a much larger operation than mine, write books/blogs/poems, make videos, devote time to their respective social causes, be famous and make it all look so effortless, I was certain that there had to be a secret to the system or hack that they were using.

To find an answer to the riddle, I subscribed to various podcasts, read multiple books on time management, signed up for several productivity apps or hacks, attended seminars and even bought expensive diaries and journals. These solutions would only work for a few weeks and also at the trade-off of my close ecosystem going insane. (Sorry, Sandy)

Invariably, I would find out that these systems were built for a machine and inflexible for the needs and wants of an entrepreneur’s time. Even worse, these systems would make me feel guilty if I missed out on a dot or a tick or on making a task list. I had to look for something better!

Then I came across a blog post in my news feed that listed out the morning routine for a regular joe like me and I was intrigued. I went through the website (where the blog was posted) and saw several examples of morning routines that I could identify with. I signed up for the newsletter trusting that I had finally found the answer I was seeking. But my prevailing habits won and I didn’t end up diligently reading those newsletters or making any changes to my routine.

At the beginning of this year, as I was cleaning out my inbox, I found several Morning Routine newsletters. That’s when I promised myself that I would make the change this year. I took the first step by buying the book ‘My Morning Routine’. I started to write down the elements from the morning (and evening) routines of people being interviewed that aligned with my own goals and life situations. Then, I began to incorporate those changes into my daily routine and have witnessed excellent results for the last 52 days of this year.

Who is this book for?

I believe that this book is for any individual who wants to focus on getting results versus getting busy. It is written as a collection of interviews of CEOs, artists, journalists, actors, entrepreneurs, authors, VCs and working parents.

In my honest opinion, it is a must-read for entrepreneurs and people working inside VC firms (especially you Nikita, Karishma and Sandesha)

My Morning Routine is available on Amazon

28/2019


The Power of Meeting New People

Why did I pick up this book?
I did not realise that my skills at meeting new people were severely compromised as I always walk away with a ton of business cards and meaningful connections from all the start-up/venture capital networking events. That mirage was shattered about 3 weeks back when I found myself at a social event where I knew just 2-3 people and NONE of them were interested in start-ups. I realised that I did not have any interesting discussion topics to initiate and build a conversation on and found myself unusually tongue tied.
Initially I blamed this on being out of practice because as a salesperson I was a master at building rapport with my customers but as I dug deeper I quickly realised that most of those interactions were transactional in nature (where I was saving my conversational partner tons of money) so there was a reason why they were being kept in the conversation. I finally concluded that I did not have any skills at networking in a crowd that I had (seemingly) nothing to offer.
It was this realisation that initiated the quest to look for a book that will help me with overcoming this handicap. A few searches and reviews later I found a book that had tons of great reviews and a title that echoed with what I wanted to achieve.
Where can one buy this book?
I could not find a Kindle edition on Amazon.in so I opted to buy the paperback edition which is available here.
What is this book about?
Debra Fine introduces the concept of “casual conversation” which is, paraphrasing Debra, a way to open conversations beyond the usual “business talk” or “polite talk” that most of us engage in when we are at networking events. Debra encourages the reader to dig deeper into a conversation so that the reader can understand their conversation partner better and build a meaningful connection.
The author provides lists of topics to speak about, the should do and should not-dos, the pitfalls and even the way to exit conversations gracefully. The objective of the book is to get the inner introvert in most of us to learn the skills of conversation opening, maintaining and (most importantly) graceful ways to exit a conversation.

Learn how to avoid sitting by yourself at a networking event!

What do I love about this book?
I love Debra’s direct but structured approach. It is obvious that she is writing this book from personal experience because many of her simple tips and techniques seemed like common sense approaches when I read them but, in all honesty, I would not have done them without her nudge.
Secondly, the conciseness of the book must be appreciated because Debra could have gotten into deeper details and written a book with twice the number of pages and most like lost my interest half way through. However, the direct approach kept the book at a meagre 139 pages, so it can be read in under 3 hours and her recommendations put into practice. The conciseness would also make it easier to refer to those portions of the book that I want to get a refresher on.
The best chapter in the book is Chapter 8: Crimes and Misdemeanours because Debra lists out the 8 types of activities that lead to the murder of a meaningful conversation. There were parts of this chapter that made me chuckle and several parts that made me gasp in horror because I could vividly recollect conversational crimes that I was guilty of.
What I did not like about this book?
While I believe that the self-deprecating stories about the authors own struggles were important to share so that I could relate to her and it made me comfortable, there are multiple places where those stories seem forced and are overkill.
Who should read this book?
In one word, everyone!
I believe that this book provides a solid skeleton on how to make meaningful connections with new people, develop meaningful relationships, therefore, this book is recommended to anyone and everyone.
89/2018

Book Review: The Maruti Story

Being born in the early 1980s, I have been a witness to Maruti’s slow takeover of the automobile market in India. I faintly remember sitting with my cousins in the trunk of our first Maruti-800 that my father & uncle bought together. It had the glass panel lifted so that we could avoid our heads banging into the glass each time the car hit the brakes or a pothole.  

My family had to sell the car due to a serious loss that the family business suffered, but in 1989 we bought a new car that stayed with us for a decade. A cream coloured Maruti-800 with the registration number MKO-1044. I have vivid memories of sitting in the front seat of that car while my uncle would drive me around town. This was also the car I learnt to drive in and the one I had my first driving mishap in. Once, while trying to park the car, I turned too sharply leaving me only cms (notice how I didn’t say inches because I was that close) away from a wall. In an attempt to help me avoid scraping my car, 4 watchmen from my building picked it up with their bare hands and hauled it into my garage. A few years later, that car got stolen, but by that time the family had bought a Maruti Esteem and also gifted me a Maruti 1000 to drive to junior college. We have owned many a car since then but a Maruti continues to hold a special place in our memory, all of which came flooding back when I read about the painstaking efforts and risks that individuals like RC Bhargava took in bringing a true “people’s car” to India through The Maruti Way 
Book summary: 
The book is narrated from the viewpoint of Maruti’s current Chairman, RC Bhargava, someone who has served the company since its incorporation in 1981. He tells the story of how an impossible project, provided with an impossible timeline was completed in a hostile business environment. The book narrates detailed stories on the various issues that Maruti faced e.g. import constraints, labour issues, political pressures, infrastructure constraints, etc. and how it solved these issues by utilising Japanese management techniques coupled with a dose of Indian pragmatism.  
Maruti’s management was treading on a thin line since it was a government sector company. had Despite being denied the freedom that private companies had, Maruti was expected to churn a profit and grow rapidly.  How Maruti achieved this improbable task and became India’s most valuable automobile company kept me hooked throughout.   
What did I love about this book? 
An automobile company has various moving parts (repair shops, suppliers, spare part stockists etc) within and outside the company, therefore there could be various issues that have conflicting motivations when looked at from different vantage points. The solution to those issues could pit two parties against each other unless the issues were fully understood, and all the stakeholders bought in on providing a solution.  
There are many things to learn through the book as Mr Bhargava divides different issues into specific chapters, explains the problems from various vantage points and exhaustively describes how these problems were successfully resolved by Maruti’s management.  
The chapter on “People” boldly stands out from the rest of the book. It is a chapter I can read again and again.  I rate this book alongside Simply Fly & the Virgin Way in my list of best books for an entrepreneur starting the journey in the Indian entrepreneurship space.  
What did I not like about the book? 
The book provides vivid details on how most of the problems were solved but very little depth on their failures. It felt as if I was reading a management book on the best practices to start an automobile company in India.  

Similarly, there were a lot of details about how Maruti 800 was chosen to be the first car to roll off the production line but surprisingly, provided very little information on the automobile launches that bombed e.g. the revamped Maruti800 in the early 2000s, the Omni, Gypsy, and even the first edition of Baleno.
Who is the book for? 
This book is apt for all entrepreneurs & founders. Since Mr Bhargava was a co-founder of Maruti, most of the challenges that he describes are easily relatable to, by founders. It is the way in which he finds creative solutions to resolve these problems and persistently continues to drive growth, that can be a lesson to all. 
79/2018