8 Jul 2024 – Morning Pages

TW: Death

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I dont know what to write today.

But thankfully, I was reading a book yesterday and somewhere in it, it asked, “what would I stop doing if I got to know that I had 6 months to live?”

This is my post to answer that. Let’s go!

So if I had 6 months to live, I would do the following

0/ Fix my will.
I have a vague draft here. I will fix it if I could.

1/ Spend time with my parents
In terms of family, I only have my parents, my sis and a little bit of VGs. I haven’t been a good son per se and I would like to live with my parents. Just that I wouldn’t want them to see me wither away.

I think my sis is ok.

VG’s fam is a self-contained unit and I am merely imposing on them. So I will stay away. I will maybe meet them once and give the kids a happy memory to have with them, in case.

2/ I will pay back all the loans that I owe
Today I have a lot of loans on my head. I would find a way to pay that loan back. I dont know how would I make so much in 6 months. I will try and sell my organs? I dont even know where I can go to sell those. Lemme try!

In case I am unable to, I will ask VG to manage that loan for me. Maybe Poo. Not sure if either would take it upon them but I can try. If they dont, I would write an apology letter to my creditors and request them to not bug my parents.

I think that’s all I can do.

3/ I dont want to be remembered.

I dont think I have done anything interesting or large. And thus I will burn all my documents, photos etc. I would delete all my social media presence. I would wipe my drives, computers etc.

I dont know how to do this exactly but I will find out.

I would delete all of my public work – blogs (including this one), books, films etc etc. I would take my name off the films that I’ve been a part of. I would let tnks get lost in oblivion – it already is in oblivion. I would request all the YT videos to be deleted (from others that host me).

I think this is it.

I would’ve loved to have climbed Mt Everest, experienced how it is to be a billionaire, what it feels like to date a supermodel, what it feels to have lived in abject poverty, what having your own child feels like etc etc.

But as I write this, on the 8th of July, I am ok with none of these under my belt. Guess I am almost a stoic.

So that.

Chalo moving on. Let’s start the day. Oh, from today on, am going on my strictest diet regimen. I will only eat the dabba I have access to. I have deleted the food ordering app from my phone.

I do have some travel coming up (including an overnight stay for three nights in the hills), despite my not wanting to take it up. So it would be interesting. I will buy a lot of chewing gum and a lot of almonds to get by.

Over and out.

More tomorrow.

7 Jul 2024 – Morning Pages

Wrote this on the 6th Jul. Publishing it now.

Its 6 AM. I have about 30 minutes before I leave for a meeting. And here are the things that I want to write / talk about.

1/ Last few days have not been the best for my head. Money, health, relationships. Let’s just say a lot is on my mind. No, I dont need help, yet. If I do, I shall take proactive measures. I think if I fix my food, a large part of my issues would be fixed. 

1.1/ On the food, I think I will try to eat mindfully from today on. This is my perpetual struggle. I dont know why I want to eat it all. I was talking to someone about it and I realised that my insecurity from the times I have been jobless are so deep-seated in my subconscious that I want to eat it all.

2/ I missed the walk yesterday despite publicly committing to it. I could’ve but I dont know what came over me and I did not. I had the time. I had the inclination. I even made a public commitment. 

3/ 5 days without coffee. If I can manage today, it would be the 6th day. Lets see how it goes. 

4/ I am carrying only the iPad and a book as I step out today. So that’s cool. Let’s see how it goes. I am increasingly trying to go without a laptop. An iPad is a poor compromise for not having a laptop – it’s like a phone and very ineffective. But I am willing to experiment. 

5/ I can feel my age now. I can’t stay alert post 9 PM. I find it tough to wake up. I am not alert at times. Yesterday I noticed in at least 3 calls that I was unable to talk well. 

6/ Track of the day is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0pHFJELNKZk. I really want to discover new music. 

7/ I’ve been trying to write a letter to a friend for more than a week now and I can’t seem to find inspiration. I plan to work on it today before my 915 meeting. 

8/ I want to get back to a standing desk routine. I have discovered that I can use a makeshift setup at home and use it. I am writing the second part of this letter from this jugaad standing desk. And I can see myself doing more of this.

9/ 730. I am now at a Starbucks. The chairs here are sucky. I think I will walk a kilometer to go to a Starbucks that has better chairs. I can’t sit here for 3 hours as I wait for a friend to arrive. The only good part is that am not carrying my laptop. So that. 

10/ 7:48. I am at the other, smaller Starbucks where the chairs are nice. 

11/ I had a chat with my folks while I was on the way here. It sucks that they continue to ask me tough questions about money even at this age. I don’t know when would I reach a point where money would stop being a bother. I know I am not prudent with money and I must be. And I will find a way to do so. But at this time, today, my folks are not happy about my money situation and it sucks. 

12/ I think that I am unable to make people around me understand how I operate and how I think. I mean I don’t know how to explain to my friends why do I want to organise even lunches with friends on a Saturday. And then at the same time, I take off for 4 days without explanation to people that I hardly know. I am unable to talk about how I am probably not suited for fancy places and I find myself at home at mid places. This concept of mid-places is also a tad unclear to explain. In my head, I know what a mid-place is. If you are reading this, you know me and you don’t know what a middle place for me is, well 😀 

13/ At #CSS04, one of the attendees told me that I need to stop with the self-deprecating humour. Yesterday I was talking to a young coder and she told me the same. Two very different people who’ve met me in very different contexts have told me the same thing. And I don’t think the two of them even talk to each other. 

Of course, I know that I revel in playing down myself but I didn’t know that it was not serving me. Now I know. I will thus make a conscious effort toward it. I am not sure if there’s a specific way to do this. But I will. May be next time you see me play down, please point it out to me and I will correct myself. 

These playing down things could be one or more of these – “I may not know it all”, “I could be wrong”, “i don’t have a lot” etc etc. 

14/ Do you think getting the subscription to YT Premium worth it? I think it’s 200 bucks a month and I lot more than that right now (I can think of three – 650 for Google One, 650 odd for Netflix, 650 for Apple Storage – and I am sure there are more). 

15/ This working on iPad is not cool. I am unable to get in the flow. Even though there are no distractions (multi-tasking sucks on iPad), I can’t think straight. May be this needs getting used to? I don’t know. I will give this a few more days before I quit. Let’s see. 

All things above this, I wrote on 6 Jul. Now, we are at 7 Jul. Here’s the notes in continuation. 

16/ I slept for 8 hours yesterday. But my recovery is still 50%. I need to journal more religiously to understand why it’s that bad. One large component would be food. That I am fixing from today on. 

I slept 8 hours on the 6th night as well but the recovery is still less than 50%. I think its the diet that I need to now work on. Let’s see.

17/ Deleting all the food ordering apps from my phone. Let’s see how we survive.

18/ I am writing this from a Blue Tokai (and not a Starbucks). BT opens at 7, SBux at 8. This one hour is important.

The only problem is that at BT, the charging ports are less (and my laptop needs to be charged (old you see)), the wifi is poor (and the mobile network is also not the best). So it is not the most optimal place to work out from. Let’s see.

I wish there was a 24/7 cafe around my house. I would have loved to work from there. I can go to the airport but it’s too far from where I live. May be on some days I will go there and work the entire day.

Let’s see what I end up doing.


So, that’s about it for the day (and yesterday).

Over and out.

3 Jul 2024 – Morning Pages

Here’s an attempt to get back to morning pages. Read, point gaps in my thinking and lemme know what I can do better.

I am back with Morning Pages. Let’s go.

I don’t know why I ordered this book. But I did. I normally don’t read a lot. But I read some pages of this book. I tend to like business books – this is anything but that and I spotted myself refusing to put the book down. 

One of the things that the book talks about is that the author’s father would be up at 530 and writing for 2 hours every day. And then he would go about his day. This is similar to the advice by Julia Cameron. And this is what Anjum Sir talks as well. Riyaz.

And I must. And I will. And why writing and why not my single largest goal? Well, because most of my work needs to move people, shift opinions, and persuade and if I am good with my words, it would become easier. Plus at this time, writing would help me get some clarity on my thoughts and open doors. Once I know what I am going to work on, I will follow Mochary’s advice on spending the first two hours of the day on key tasks.

Coming back to this habit of writing every day. There was a time when I wrote every day in the morning. After a while, I didn’t know what to write about.

Now I think I can write about work – after all that’s my biggest thing at this point. No, I will not send emails. I will not make presentations. I will write them and then shoot them out after the first 2 hours are over. I know I will get distracted when I write. And I will thus lean on the iPad to write. I am writing this on the iPad. On Google Docs. I don’t know if I will publish this. But I am writing here because I can’t open multiple tabs. I am writing here because I am not giving in to my habits of checking news, scrolling Twitter timelines, responding to emails etc. It’s 645 and I plan to do this till 730 today. I will try to wake up at 5 tomorrow and then write for 90 mins. I don’t know what I would write about, may be I will make a list and get into the habit. 

Ok, lemme talk about the habit I want to build. And the habits I want to break. 

Lemme give you a gist of my day. 

I wake up without an alarm on most days – typically between 6 and 630. I put on some music. Am listening to a rock music playlist today on my laptop (I picked the mouse to copy and paste the link – but no – no other devices shall be touched). I open my mailbox and reply to things that I think are important. On some days I open my trackers and fill those in. Some days I will open Asana. And then I would open WhatsApp – that’s where all of my work happens. I will reply to any conversations that need my attention, I would give yes or no to things and I would pick up whatever comes to my mind at that time.

Typically things that come to mind are typical tasks that need attention at work.

Here, I want to change my wake-up time to 5 AM. And then write for 90 minutes and then get some sort of yoga / workout in. Maybe I will join Cult – I will check this out today. I will also get myself a Keto meal subscription. Expensive but I will get it. 

I then putter around the house, get ready and leave for Starbucks between 745 and 815 – depending on when I had woken up.

Once at Starbucks, I’d get myself any black coffee and do more “work”. 

To be honest, I don’t work anymore. The team at C4E manages most work. I only pretend. But I want to change this too. I will start putting in the work for the following things… 

  1. SoG Network
  2. Networking 
  3. Design capability 
  4. International Expansion 
  5. Distribution 
  6. Startup idea 

While the focus is these six things, these could take the shape of emails, writing posts for LinkedIn, or connecting with folks. Let see.

May be I will edit these morning pages and put them on the blog (doing it as we speak) – after all an iPad can only do limited things. Maybe I will fill these trackers? Or maybe I will find someone else to do this and put it on WordPress and make a LinkedIn post of highlights and a thread for X – I think I will outsource this – do you know any kid who can do this for me a tiny sum? Lemme put a call out and see where this goes. 

I am trying to avoid coffee – haven’t had it for two days. Let’s see how long this lasts. Also, since I need to order something when am there, I have started to buy sparkling water. And that means I will have a lot of glass bottles around. And I will start putting flowers in those. 

Then around 12, I get bored of Starbucks and I want to go somewhere else. I either go back home (I have started to call this house home) or The Clubhouse. I order myself lunch / snack. I eat and I sleep. I really want to change this. Actually no. I will not change this. I will read if these naps are a good idea – if they are, I’ll continue. If they are not, I will quit. If naps are not good, I will stack meetings around lunch.

I put an alarm if I have important calls. In case I don’t, I leave the house and step out. I don’t have a specific destination in mind. Starbucks mostly. Some days, Infiniti Mall. Some days Blue Tokai, some days Jamjar, some days Clubhouse. Somedays random new place. I need to break this habit and find a place to go to – may be a coworking place. Maybe Clubhouse. Maybe work from home – I do have a table that I can work on. So, I don’t know. But I need to get out of this habit of whiling time. Maybe I will stack all my calls in this time. I can mould my team and most clients to accept that calls can only be done post-12. 

Post that I try and go to the beach. I want to add a habit of taking a picture each day and putting it on Instagram. Oh, I will remove Instagram from my phone and put it on the alt phone that I will not carry with me. 

And then I come back home and as a matter of habit order some kachra (I am deleting Swiggy also from my phone) and then eat it while I play chess (which I recently deleted) and watch reruns of FIR (I will quit this too). And then I while some time on Instagram and then sleep. I want to add some meditation before I sleep. My life goal is to have more meditation minutes than AK

Most days I sleep after 10:30. I want to sleep around (if I have to get up at 5). To be honest, I have it all that allows me to do so. Most times I can control my work. Most times I can push dinners to 730. And I must. 

I think if I can run this routine for a month, we should be ok. I don’t have any travel plans for the rest of the month. I need to be in Delhi for a meeting but that is towards the end of the month. So all is well there. If I can get a routine going for even 25 days, starting today, we would be ok. 

So that.

Lets see where this goes. 

Wish me luck. 

PS: Here are some gaps.

  1. I haven’t allocated time for thinking (deep thinking) here. 
  2. I am not sure if I will follow this routine. If I can do this from today till the Delhi trip, I think I would be ok. Let’s see. 
  3. Original note here that I have edited.

C4E Review – H1 2024

H1 2024 report for C4E and the business.

Hi!
6 months of 2024 are over.
And that means it’s time for a review.
Let’s go.

Also, for context, here are a couple of posts that I would use as reference points – C4E 2023-24 Annual Shareholder Report and my #in2024 letter.

I will break this report into sections. These are…

  • What is working well for us?
  • What is not working well? What are our challenges?
  • What is the plan for the rest of the year?
  • Some personal updates
  • Parting notes

Come join me for a ride.

Wait. Before we get started, here’s a postcard for you 🙂

This is from the most recent CSS (#CSS4) that happened on the 29th of June.

1/ What is working well for us at C4E?

This is my second favourite part (wait a bit for the favourite part).

So here are the things that are working well for us.

A/ We refuse to die.
To me, this is the biggest and the best thing ever. We’ve got our ups and downs but I believe that are not dying anytime soon. In fact, we are larger and hopefully stronger than ever.

B/ People seem to be happy
Most people at C4E seem to be happy.

Of course, I could be wrong since I dont get to talk to most folks on a day-to-day basis. And when I talk to clients, most clients seem to be happy with how our people conduct themselves. So the first pillar of C4E – People – is in place. They are happy. That translates into them putting in the effort for clients. Clients see that. And they shower praises. And then its a loop. So alls well.

But then I do see a challenge in making my people participate in non-work activities (such as Growth Sessions, thinking for the org, expanding our services). Apart from a few enthu cutlets, org-wide we are not really on a treadmill per se.

And in spite of that, I can safely say that my vision for the village seems to be coming to life. So that’s a BIG win.

C/ Clients
We retained our clients (though not at the money that I would have wanted to earn). We acquired new clients. And we let go of clients where money-mazaa-effort equation did not add up.

On this, allow me to elaborate. We are ok to ask for less if we have a lot of fun with work. We are however not willing to work with clients where we get paid less, we dont have fun and work is demanding beyond reason. While we are in a buyer’s market where clients get to dictate things, we continue to hold our heads high and only work on things where either we make money or we have a lot of fun. Or in rare cases, we get the benefit of the brand.

D/ Processes
As with any small business, the first chasm to cross is when you put in processes. We have started to!

While a lot of these are still not documented, we are much more structured now compared to when we started. The next step is to document these processes.

E/ Succession. Lol.
I am trying to not run C4E on a day-to-day basis. And I am almost there. The year-end review of C4E will come from the desk of Chandni. Hopefully 😀

F/ Cut losses
In the last 6 months, I’ve got out of two of my favourite projects – TRS and Podium. And the decision did not come easy. It was like letting go of a limb. Two in this case. But then I had to do it.

Of course, I continue to believe in the potential of both of these projects and I really wish I could manage them better. One ran for over 6 years. The other was for almost 4 years. I was unable to take either to profitability. More than that, in both cases, we couldn’t make decisions that would have taken us towards profitability.

I’ve learnt very very expensive lessons from both. Expensive in terms of time, money and mindspace. I will try to not repeat those as I seed DD (the only other for-profit idea that I am working actively on apart from C4E) and help Prak with PPP.

The point is, going forward, I will cut losses fast.

G/ Planted new 💣💣💣!
This means, we bought new domain names. We are now proud owners of VersovaIsHome, Decoding Duryodhan and a few more. What would each do, I am not so sure at this time. But kuch to hoga.

2/ What is not working well? What did I miss?

This is my most favourite part. Also, all misses are mine and not of the team.

A/ We remain a company that can’t pay well.
I really really want to fix this. I want to be able to pay top dollar to everyone.

B/ Cash flow is a challenge.
This has more to do with me, to be honest than anything else. I tend to bleed with experiments that don’t need our time or energy. I am investing in things that we do not need to at this time (see 1G above). I am not prudent with money at all.

And some clients have delayed our payments for structural reasons at their end (and at our scale, it is tough to sort of keep a float). I would never not pay our people because clients did not pay. So, I need to borrow. At this point, I now have more debt on me than I had at the lowest point of COVID.

So, I need to work on this. And I will do so over the next 6 months.

C/ Brand.
Our brand remains a challenge. We are still not as well known as we’d like to be. Leave the well part. We are not even known. We are far far away from the big leagues. We are unable to price our services the way we’d like to. We are unable to attract talent that seeks higher compensation.

A few months ago I decided that I would run this myself. However, I have failed at this. I will push this going forward.

C.1/ C4E Website / Creds
Our website is terrible.
Our creds are nice but I am not sure they are relevant in this day or age.

I need to work on this. We’ve made a brief but we haven’t been able to put things in motion.

However, I will push on this.

D/ No action on expansion
When we started the year I had promised that we would open up in a different geography. So far, we haven’t done anything to do that. We are very much in India. Concentrated in Mumbai.

Over the next 6 months, I will take one more shot at building our presence outside India. And I will try and sell something online. Wish me luck.

E/ One loss away from ruin
We continue to be one loss away from ruin.

We are very very leveraged as a business – we make money, we pay a randomly large chunk of that to people who work on projects (leaving C4E as an org with little and thus no savings), we move on. We don’t have a treasury per se. At some point in time, we will have to get that going.

If we lose a client, the ability to pay money to that team goes for a toss. Now that team is supporting other teams. And that goes for a toss as well. The entire business model crumbles like a House of Cards.

I need to ensure that we are not this fragile. Truth be told, I dont know how to do this. Any help?

3/ The plan for the rest of the year

So for the rest of the 6 months, need to work on a few things (as listed above). Apart from those, some others are…

A. “Corporate” Initiatives
It sounds funny to call C4E a corporate.

These include…

  • Putting in place a board of directors (would you like to nominate someone?)
  • Amping up our brand (means a new website, a new creds deck etc)
  • Acquiring new clients (see 2E)

Am sure there are more but these are the top of my head at this time.

B. One more attempt at new geography or a new business
Same as 3D. I will take one more shot at building our presence outside India. And I will try and sell something online.

So that.

4/ Personal updates

Not too much to report here (I dont think I am in the mindspace to talk about this). But here’s a list.

  1. Health is on a fast car without brakes hurling down the steepest hill you can imagine.
  2. On a personal level, I am probably at the lowest point – nothing exciting. I haven’t even been talking to my parents / sibling / friends etc. All I do is think of work and then nothing.

Nothing apart from that on the personal front.

5/ Ending notes 

As I reflect on how things have been at C4E in the last 6 months, the biggest takeaway is that the Village seems to be coming to a reality. If I had my way I would find a physical space – in Bombay or Goa or Dubai or anywhere and then build another iteration of village there.

Second, I am no longer the face of C4E and it’s now split between AK, C, Prak and others.

Third, you will notice that I haven’t talked about numbers at all. And that’s by design. We will never chase a numbers target as long as I have a say here at C4E.

Third Point One. I have also not talked about awards we won (we won none), accolades we got (many), business impact we made (we dont track – we may have to change this) or any other things that typically make the highlight of such reports. The reason is my aversion to these vanity conversations. To me, the most important thing is day to day contentment and happiness of people that have chosen to call C4E home. And there’s no way I can measure that.

Four. I would have liked to capture some lessons from the last few months. Again, I am not sure how to quantify that. So I will leave it at that.

This is it!

If you’ve read this till here, please do let me know what you think and what I can improve upon.

Over to you!

PS: I am glad I could write this. The report helps me take stock of where I am. Where C4E is. And how far are we from where we want to be and how am doing as part of the village.

PPS: Thanks to Pradeep and Prakruti for the edits.