FAQs for LFWc3 (Long-Form Writing Cohort 3)

A quick FAQ about Long-Form Writing Cohort where people get together and help each other become better writers.

Hi! 

These are some frequently asked questions about our Long-Form-Writing-Cohort 3 (“LFWc3”). Should you have a question that is not listed here, please send us a tweet. Our handles are listed below. 

Regards,
https://twitter.com/joshi_hemant_
https://twitter.com/pradx
https://twitter.com/saurabh
#LFWc3

Let’s get started!

What is LFW?

LFW is an attempt to create a cohort of people that love to write long form. And like with all such cohorts, you better write if you are here. And when you write, you MUST write long-form. Pieces that are longer than 2000 words. 

The obsession with long-form is only and only to encourage us to build a writing habit, and give each other a goal that is a little tough and yet achievable (you know, just outside of our comfort zone). This is where people shine the most! And now, it is your time 🙂

What would we write about?

You can write about anything, really. As long as each piece has more than 2000 words. These could be articles, essays, blogs, books etc. 

Of course, you may write poetry, as long as each poem is part of a compilation that goes beyond 2000 words! Dr Shruti wrote a lot of poetry last time around and actually published a book

When do we begin? 

You start by filling out this form. This is your first step to showcasing your commitment to this.

We are gathering interest right now. Plan to start from the first weekend of Jan 2023. We would be together for the next 6 months, meeting each other each week. 

Who is this NOT for?

If you are…

  1. Unable to commit 4 hours a week for the next 6 months 
  2. Unable to commit to the time that we decide for each other. If we decide that we’d talk at 7, we will start at 7. Time is THE most important commodity! 
  3. New to writing. The cohort is best for people that have built a writing habit already and are looking for an accountability group to up their game. Think of this as an advanced-level writing class!

Time Commitment? 

You need to carve out 3-4 hours a week. Out of this, 2 hours for a weekly group call and another 2 for hour-long 1v1 calls with your two buddies. 

We hope to meet each other for the next 6 months, once a week. So essentially we are together for the next 6 months. 

Money?

The first two cohorts were free. We volunteered our time. 

This time around we are thinking of keeping a nominal fee to pay for running this cohort. In the ballpark of Rs. 1000 per person per month. Mind you, this is a ballpark. The actual number could be 500. Or could be 1500. Or even zero for that matter! 

Mind you, we would not take this home. We would use this money to ensure that the cohort runs smooth (paying volunteers, tools etc) 

PS: In case you are unable to pay this fee, we are happy to waive this on a case-to-case basis. 

How many participants? What’s a buddy?

We would have no more than 16 people in this cohort. Anything more than this, managing, accountability and other things become uncontrollable. 

Each member will have two “accountability buddies” and one from the organizing team. The idea is to keep you and your buddies on track! 

The buddies would be allocated on the basis of your shared interests, geographies (we want people to meet), writing motivations (film writers need to be buddies with each other) and general whims of SG ;P

When do we usually do meetings?

  1. The larger, group meeting would be on the weekends, post 7 PM IST. On Zoom. Or any other tool. So, if you have an active social life on the weekends, you may not be able to participate. 
  2. The other is between you and your buddies. You choose the time / tool. But you must be on a weekly cadence.  
  3. We communicate with a Discord group. Discord. Not Whatsapp. 
  4. Since we are a remote-first cohort, we want your camera to be on when we are meeting. If you are camera-shy or live in a bad network area or the camera is broken, request you to NOT be a part of the cohort. 
  5. We would encourage in-person meetings as well. This depends on various factors – people in the same city, time, local travel etc. 

Do we keep a specific objective in mind while participating in LFW?

Preferably yes. 

You could be wanting to write books, film scripts, short stories, and even academic writing! As long as the output is more than 2000 words. 

Because this allows you to stay on course. Otherwise, it becomes a generic room you go to, enjoy the banter and get out. We want people to be a tad serious about writing. Like they said in Fight Club – if you are here, you better fight. We want people to be the man in the arena. We want you to participate. And not just be a critic

What happened in the last LFW cohorts? 

In the first cohort, we failed. More on a different post, on a different day. 

In the second cohort, one of us wrote and published a book, and another wrote a couple of drafts of her book. I found friends that I would probably last a lifetime! 

What language can you write in? 

Any language but prefer English / Hindi so that more people can consume your work. 

Assuming that these are the two most popular ones. Open to more languages as long as there is one more person that can comprehend that language and give you feedback et al 

More questions? 

Send me a tweet. I am at https://twitter.com/saurabh.


That’s about it! 
Thank you for reading. 
Team LFWc3 
PS: LFWc3 is brought to you by Hemant, Pradeep, Saurabh, C4E, PPP and friends. Show these people some love 🙂 

in2023, I will…

A list of things that Saurabh Garg plans to work on #in2023. This is my annual post where I list my goals and ambitions and dreams and all that.

Hi! 2023 is upon us. And this is my annual review of what I did #in2022 and what I want to do #in2023. This will be a long post and for the ease of writing and your reading (if someone is reading), I will divide this into sections. Here…

  • Why this post? What does this post mean to me?
  • How do I do the review and do a yearly plan?
  • What did I plan to do in 2022 and how I fared?
  • Plans for 2023 – Grand ones, small ones and the ones that I would not pursue.

With some disclaimers, let’s dive in!

A. Why this post?

Simple answer. I like the idea of having a sense of control over where I am in life and where I am going. You know, I want me to happen to life (rather than life happening to me) and this review helps me stay the course. All this planning gives me an illusion of control. Of course, it’s a mere illusion. Life has a mind and a plan of its own and there is nothing I can plan or do that will allow me to control it. But I still do this nonetheless.

Apart from this, at a spiritual level, I feel more connected to myself after I have taken time to sit down and do a review and imagine where all I want to go. With all the million dreams and ideas and thoughts, I do get overwhelmed and get scared about the amount of work I need to put in. I do get sad that one life will probably not be enough. And I get to know my limitations as a human and I become a tad more accepting. In fact, recently in a conversation, I told one of my closest friends that I have accepted that I am past. I told her that I have accepted that I will never be the big deal that I have always wanted to be. I admitted that I will die unfulfilled and I would not know what it takes to move the world. So, I need some tethering, some sort of a compass that allows me to not lose my shit.

Plus, I like the idea of living in public. And this public documentation and disclosure help me with a sense of accountability. Of course, the goals I chart for myself are very lofty and I often dont reach the finish line. But that’s ok. I like to shoot for the moon.

With that as the background, let’s get into the how I go about writing this post.

B. How do I do this?

Pretty simple.

I start with my vision board. Then I look at this excel sheet where I have mapped all that I want to do in life. And this document that has my life themes / ethos mapped. I follow it up with a scan of tags like LifeGoals, in2022, in2023, in2026, et al on my notes app (Roam, Apple Notes, Notepads). While I do this, I make notes (mostly on a mindmap). I use Year Compass to help me think better. #in2023 I plan to make a planner of my own. And then I try to make sense of things by putting them in categories of health, wealth, relationships, career, contribution and others. I use the following chart…

Once I have gathered all the information, I go over all those one last time, finalise the mindmap, copy-paste from previous editions and start writing this post.

PS: In case you are interested in knowing how others do it, you may want to check posts from Sahil Bloom, Dick Bush, Shane P and others.

PPS: I need to write a longer post on how I do this. Maybe sometime later. #parkedIdeas

C. What did I plan and do in2022

the top three goals for #in2022 were…

  1. Write and publish book2
  2. Lose weight, get fit (and learn dance, run a marathon etc)
  3. Make money (revenue, debt etc)

The longish post on all that I wanted to do in2022, is here.

Funny thing is that I have chased these exact goals since I can remember and I did not get even close to even one of these.

For book2, I made a few starts (LFWc2, 80K words for AK in the month of Oct) but I was unable to close it.

For fitness, I didn’t even move an inch. I did order a yoga mat in the last week of December!

For money, while I had a few good months, I was back to the same spot where I started the year with (taking on more debt to service expenses). I know what I do and how I operate is not sustainable but I remain hopeful that what I do will someday make sense.

#note2self: The surprising thing is that none of my goals were related to the work I do (brand consulting / events / marketing consulting etc). I mean the money goal is an outcome of work but I did not specifically plan what work I would do to make money.

This year as well, I will keep the three large ones the same as the previous years (book2, health and money). I however will add a few smaller goals (some new ones, some old ones that I haven’t been able to work on at all). I will come to those in a bit, but #in2023, I will put a larger focus on health than on anything else.

And before I get to other things, lemme do a month-on-month review of how I spent 2022. Wait. More than a review, this is a list of highlights and lowlights from the year gone by.

C.1. Month-on-month highlights from 2022

  • Jan – Signed a couple of new clients. One of them would eventually make me spend 3-4 months in Bangalore. More on this in a bit.
  • Feb – FT crossed 100 episodes. Thanks to the effort by AD and the team. While it’s helping us create the noise that we have a popular podcast, it is offering no tangible value. Not sure what to do about it. And no, not shutting it for sure.
  • Feb – Lost a client. This is one of those rare clients where I (and C4E) was let go because I did not perform.
  • Feb – Met Ankesh Kothari. I’ve met him just twice but he’s left an indelible impression on me. I wish I could be friends with him!
  • Apr – Did an event at Indore. Loved it. Wish I could do larger, grander events. I think it will never happen and I will die with this as an unfulfilled wish. And no, I am not ok with it. May be if I get to make a film, that would replace the trill of putting an event together? Let’s see.
  • Jul – Exchanged tweets and got an opportunity to work with a billionaire. While I had the opportunity, I couldn’t convert. This has to be amongst the biggest fails of the year for me. The other thing to note here is that Twitter helps me create grander opportunities than any other social network.
  • Aug – Along with Shikha, produced my first ad-film as a producer. I plan to expand this further in 2023.
  • Sep – DD went live – thanks to the hard work of Chandni, Pooja, Anshika, Vaishnavi and their team. This is one of my most ambitious projects. I hope we can take it to its destiny.
  • Oct – Started to keep a weekly track of what did I achieve at C4E. I should’ve done this sooner. Inspired by the tweet from Elon Musk where he asked Twitter CEO about what he did this week.
  • Nov – Thanks to VG, moved into a house far fancier than my aukaat. My worry is, now that I have lived here, how would I adjust to living anywhere else?
  • Dec – Stumbled upon Zakir Khan’s work. And I am enamoured. Like all his fans, he speaks to me at such a deep level that it feels as if he’s baring my soul on camera! See this for example. And this.

So that was my 2022 in a nutshell. Lemme catalogue big losses and wins.

C.2. Big Losses #in2022

Here is a list. In no order…

1/ I lost three big clients during the year. One I lost because we couldn’t perform. I have learnt my lessons from the loss and I am committed to not repeating. The other two we let go by ourselves. And that’s ok. I am realising that I am not ice cream and I can’t please everyone. I am ok to let go of revenue opportunities if I dont see myself or my team getting respect, learning new things or expanding our luck surface area. Oh, we did get QUITE a few new clients.

2/ I spent good 5 months in Banglaore and I couldn’t capitalise on my time there. By capitalising, I mean I should’ve been able to build a network there. But I. was unable to. As I retrospect, I realise, I made three mistakes.

  • I lived FAR away from the startup hotspots and that meant I couldn’t travel from where I lived to where those events were.
  • I did not carve out time to meet more people. I was lazy and I waited for the magic to happen. No, it doesn’t happen if you dont move your ass.
  • I did not have a personal brand. If I had one, people would have travelled to meet where I was. And would have taken time out at a time when I was available.

While the first two are fixable easily (I will now ensure that I live in the middle of the hotspot and I will invest a LOT of time in meeting people), I need to think hard about the third one #in2023.

3/ Got an opportunity to work with a billionaire and I couldn’t capitalise on it. Truth be told, I did EVERYthing in my power to make it happen. Including wearing a white shirt and shoes to go and meet him IRL but for some reason, I could not capitalise on it.

So this. Now onto the wins…

C.3. Big Wins #in2022

Here is a list. Again, in no order…

1/ Strengthened Team C4E. Against all odds. And I had to take on debt to be able to meet the payroll (I still need to make enough to fund the team on a month-on-month basis). But I did manage to strengthen the team.

This means that people that work with me at C4E are engaged and they like it here. We are building a company that is safe, kind, humane and inspiring. Each day is exciting for people (well, most days, not each day). They enjoy and look forward to interactions with each other.

Of course, I am merely hoping all this is true. The team at C4E may or may not agree with this. If this pic is to be believed, they are happy 🙂

Team C4E and friends. Oct 2022.

2/ Operated from a sense of scarcity. A prime example is point 1 above.

3/ Interacted with two dollar-billionaires. Even if those meetings were of no use and even if they would not remember my name. Just to be standing next to them was inspiring. I hope I can meet more such people. And become one of those 🙂

4/ TRS and PPP started to make money! I have been funding these for years and we finally have cash flow coming in. Whatever they make is still not enough to run their operations but it’s a start nonetheless. Podium anyway makes some cash flow. #in2023, I hope these three (and DD as well) makes enough to break even.

That’s about it. I am sure there are more but these are the ones that I want to highlight as big achievements from the year.

#note2self: All my wins and losses are from work. Maybe I need to think harder about this.

C.4. Lessons from 2022?

So here are some lessons from 2022 (most of these have come from this post where I listed 22 lessons I learnt in 2022; some are new).

  1. You can’t control the outcomes. You need to keep at it. Take steps. One at a time.
  2. You need a marriage of ethos before you can do anything together with others.
  3. People are inspired by things that give them the opportunity to do things larger than themselves. You know, showing them the vastness of the sea?
  4. Community trumps an individual.
  5. Young people are fascinating. We all need to spend more time with young people.
  6. Ready, Fire, Aim is the best damn strategy.
  7. Timing is everything and one must ALWAYS err on the side of action. If you dont act fast, you lose opportunities. And while opportunities are not scarce, that particular opportunity would disappear faster than you know it.

As I work towards my goals #in2023, I hope I can keep these at the top of my mind and act!

D. The plans and goals and dreams for #in2023

I will divide this into large goals, small goals, things I will say no to and other random words.

D.1. Three Large Goals for #in2023

The three large goals for 2023 remain the same as they were in 2022 and in 2021. And maybe in 2020 and earlier.

The point is, there is nothing else that I want more. The other things I already have. I mean I have a family that is as supportive as one would want. I have friends that back me up when I need them to. I have a team that loves each other. I have clients that talk to me with respect. I am slowly building a community of people that have the same ethos as me.

I can’t ask for anything in the relationship department (except for love – I am giving up on that). So, the three goals are…

  1. Write and publish book2
  2. Lose weight (get to 30″ waist), get fit (and learn Bhangra, run a sub-5 marathon, do Killer Boogie etc). Within this, I will focus on health / fitness and add things like yoga, massages, steams, multivitamins, protein shakes, cold showers et al to the routine. In fact, I have promised that this year the only reading I would do would be health-related books. And I will take notes and I will implement those in my life.
  3. Make money (pay back the debt I have on my head and then make enough revenue to pay Team C4E more than what the market would pay them and live to that maxim about enabling others)

If I could add a 4th to this list of three, I would say I want to amplify my personal brand. But let it be in the “other goals”. Here they are.

D.2. Here are “other goals” and plans

Here’s how I will reach these goals. In no order…

1/ Build Brand SG
The goal, the Northstar metric of this is that when I walk into a room, people must know who I am and they must want to get into a business transaction with me.

To be able to achieve this, I need to be known as resourceful, reliable, intelligent, trustworthy, effective and all that. And I need to be known as an expert. On things that those rooms are discussing. I still need to work on what those things are but a broad selection would be Marketing, Startups, Storytelling, Coolness, Writing, Productivity, Creativity, People, Mentoring, Problem Solving, Web 3 and more. I know this is a LOT and I need to reduce this list to a handful.

The tangible goal is to have 100K followers each on Twitter, Linkedin and Instagram. I also want to be more visible on the Internet and in the media. Again, I dont know how to do that but I shall try. I recently created a team to help me with it. Let’s see where we reach.

2/ Preserve my mornings.
I dont think I have issues in waking up early. I will continue to do that.

The change I would make is that no one would be able to reach me before 9 AM. Maybe 10. I would in general take up meetings early (to reach early and avoid traffic). Now, I will try and refuse those. Nothing before 11 if it includes travel. Of course, I know that I may not be able to maintain this but I will do this as much as I can.

3/ Save my energy.
This means I will let go of people and things that take my energy away. Even if I have had years and years of vested interest and investment in those. You know, sunk costs.

While this energy concept is new to me, but as I grow older, I realise that this is an important one. More on this some other day. But I will sort of fade away in the bushes. You know, how Homer does it?

That!

Homer is DA bomb!

4/ Become a People Magnet
While I try and preserve my energy, I also want to become a people magnet. This means I want to attract talented, bright and interesting people to meet me and shower me with whatever they can offer!

I dont have a tangible for this. In vague terms, I need to be the person that people want to meet even if they have to travel miles and miles to meet me.

5/ Eat home-cooked food.
Till the April of 2023, I have a house that comes with domestic help. I will try to eat as much home-cooked food as I can.

Post-April I need to find a place to live and will see if I can afford domestic help at that point. We shall see when that happens.

6/ Get frugal.
I anyway dont spend a lot of money needlessly. But I will become even more frugal with it. I have spent 4528 since morning today (morning of Jan 1, 2023). Lol! And each month, I will save at least 40% of what I make. At least till April when I have to pay just a tiny rent. Post that, we shall see.

7/ Chase 100 rejections
I’ve been wanting to do this for a while now. I think this year I will try and chase these rejections.

8/ Become a shoulder for others.
SoG will become my life’s purpose, goal, Ikigai, whatever. I need to do more of it. There are multiple things within this – SoG book, SoG grant, Team SoG and more. Each has to become big!

Oh, I will roll out the SoG Grant (I first thought about it in 2021) this year.

9/ Help others reach their goals.
See this tweet and this one. I will try and remind people of these goals each month.

10/ Establish C4E Base
I wrote the following in my 2021 plan…

Adopt an old bungalow and convert it into a cultural hub of sorts that creative people can call home. Maybe replicate it across the world. Like Soho House but far more affordable and far more meaningful. Got inspired by this person. Part of Personal / Curiosity.

Saurabh Garg, 2021 Plan (link)

I want to make this happen this year. This is also in line with my thought on being a people magnet, having more handshakes (compared to Zoom meetings), becoming a shoulder for others and do more!

11/ Do a Startup
What I do at C4E is fantastic but I am still a services company and I need to find a way to not rent my time.

12/ C4E International
In case I am unable to do #11, I will try and take C4E beyond India. The long-term goal is to be out of India and I need to take steps in that direction already.

#note2self: Need to do a similar review / plan for C4E. Apart from international operations, I am thinking about evolving into a collective (getting more people to be a part of the loose network), establishing niche agencies (women, youth, web 3 etc), creating a line of products and more.

13/ A Film Script
I really want to have my name in a film. And I want to do whatever it takes to make it happen. But then I am on the edge on this. The priority would be book2. If I get that out of the way and I am left with time, I may pick this up.

So these are minor goals for #in2023.

I know this is a long list but these are all secondary goals. Ambition is to get the primary ones going!

Other things that I want to do but I am saying no to in2023…

In no order…

  1. Poker. I will get back to it once I have achieved financial freedom.
  2. Pool. I thought about getting back to it. But I realised I am not good at it to be world-class and thus no point putting time and energy into it.
  3. LHV (unless I am compelled to do it for elevating my brand).
  4. Needless travel. While I love to travel and I like the idea of exploring newer places, with a heavy heart, I will say no to it this year. Unless it’s for work or with my family. So, no friendly trips, no needless holidays, no relaxation ones.
  5. Minimalism. I have always liked the idea of having no material possessions and living an untethered life. I will change this. I will acquire things that make my life more comfortable, more convenient and more productive. So for example, I will buy massage rollers, shakers (for protein shakes), hardware for computers etc.

PS: These are the 5 that I can think of right now. Over the year, I will keep adding to this. Maybe I will bring some from the 13 above into this!

Let’s see.

So, in the end…

I’d like to end this post and the year plan with two things.

1/ I plan to live a lot more in public this year. This means that I will share what I am up to on a public forum. This sheet specifically. This is WIP and I will evolve this over the next few weeks.

2/ This is a vision board that my friends made for me on my 40th birthday. I am reproducing it here (have redacted a few things). Before this year, I have never had a team of my own. The only people I have been responsible for (and there too I did not do a good job) were my family. But now I have people to take care of and be accountable to. And thus I will have to work hard to live up to their expectations.

I will use this board as a reminder to self!

This is what the team at C4E made for me. I was surprised that they could capture my ambitions and plans so well, and that too in one document!

The mantra for 2023?

As I end this, I would say that the mantra for 2023 would be…

Me. Enabled by we.
We. Enabled by me.

Here’s a post that I wrote on the last day of 2022 that captures this well…

This is how I would summarise the year that went by.
And how I hope 2023 would be. Posted here first.

That’s about it for the time being.
My review of 2022.
And ambition for 2023.
Apart from this post, I have captured these on a mindmap as well. In case you want a copy, please do let me know.

Oh, and here are posts from previous years.
2022 – Annual Goals
2021 – Annual GoalsJan-Feb-MarApr-May-JunJul-Aug-Sep-Oct-Nov
2020 – Annual GoalsJanFeb-MarApr-MayJun-Jul-Aug
2019 – AugSepOctNovDec
Older posts – 20182017201520142013, and 2012.

Here’s wishing you a glorious, fascinating, fulfilling 2023. May it is the best year of your life.

Thank you for reading!
Thank you for your support and patronage!

Saurabh Garg
1 Jan 2023, Mumbai

PS: Here are a few disclaimers…
  1. I tend to operate on extremes. While planning, I assume that I am God and I can do everything and anything. So I am VERY VERY optimistic about my plans. So if I know that I want to write 100K words in the year, I will plan to write 200K. And while doing a review, I am harsher on myself than I am optimistic. So if I end up writing the 100K words I had planned, I assume that I’ve written just 50K.
  2. Each year, thus, I list down a million lofty things that I want to achieve in the course of the year. And beyond. I always aim far beyond what I know I am capable of. I mean unless I aim for the moon, how do I get to be in the middle of stars?

22 life lessons from 2022

A list of 22 life lessons that I learned in 2022. In 2023, I hope to leverage some of these to ensure that I do better.

So my fetish for making lists does not seem to be stopping. Here is another. And this time, I have 22 life lessons that 2022 has taught me.

In no order, let’s go and dive into the list of life lessons…

1/ The world does NOT owe you anything. While you need to keep the faith and keep trying, you need to know that you will HAVE to work hard.

2/ The world is a mere reflection of your true self. Depending on how you are, the world is an incredibly kind place. Or an unkind place. If you are kind, the world will be kind. If you are unkind, the world will be that. If you feel that the world doesn’t care for you, and leaves you lonely and miserable, in all probability it is you who’s not caring for others, who’s leaving others lonely.

3/ People are lazy. People typically will revert to mean to their general level of laziness. You know, entropy.

4/ People are incredible. While there are lazy people, some are incredibly good! And your job is to identify those people.

5/ Ethos is everything. This year I picked up a project that paid me ok but made me work closely with people that had very different ethos from mine. If I were a mere contractor delivering things to them against a predecided structure, I would have done well. But I was expected to do more and I failed. So, when working on long-term, fluid projects, always check for alignment of ethos.

6/ Sunk Cost Fallacy is a real thing. I am still unable to come to terms with this. I need to work on this #in2023.

7/ Show people the vastness of the sea. If you manage a team, the whole drumming up and showing them the vastness of the sea works wonders. The team at C4E is a testimony.

8/ Start writing. For writing opens doors that you did not even know existed. Thanks to my writing, I could meet two dollar-billionaires this year (one IRL and one online). And another that manages a fund of more than a billion.

9/ Youth will surprise you. Even though am a big believer in “if youth knew and if age could”, my interactions with numerous 20-something-year-olds have left me spellbound. Each has surprised me beyond belief and I know the world is in better hands.

The old ones that dismiss these young ones as frivolous, inexperienced, unaware, are in for a rude shock. Even Steve famously said

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. Yet, death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it, and that is as it should be because death is very likely the single best invention of life.

It’s life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now, the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. 

Steve Jobs, link

10/ There are wartime people and peacetime people. You need to understand who is who and surround yourself with the right ones. This is inspired by Ben Horowitz‘s Wartime CEO and Peacetime CEO riff. Read it here. See it here.

Also, this life lesson is probably the most important as it will allow you to not choose the wrong shoulder to lean on when you need to lean. I made the mistake of considering a good friend as a wartime one but then he was clearly a peacetime one and because I relied on him, it caused me a lot of pain.

11/ Your heroes WILL fall. So rather than blind adulation of your heroes (aka Hero worship), learn the art of abstracting the Heros from their heroics. What you find enthralling in a Hero could merely be the act.

12/ The life of constant hustle is NOT for everyone. If you are someone that believes that you are not “feeling” it while you grind away, it’s okay to go back to a 9-to-5 and enjoy a stable salary.

On the other hand, I need to not judge people for the lack of it.

13/ The ability to design has to be the SINGLE most important skill that a person can acquire in this day and age. This may sound counter-intuitive when there are apparent high-value skills like coding, writing (copywriting), coaching, speaking, sales, presenting et al.

Thing is, the world we live in will increasingly become more and more “visual”. Text will become commonplace and tools like chatGPT would make it easier. No code will make it easy to do pilots. Sales team would be easy to hire in remote locations. But the ability to doodle well enough to communicate an idea would remain in short supply. And it will become the single largest differentiating factor.

I wish I was not 40. If I wasn’t, I would drop everything and learn how to do basic design. And no, what you do on Canva is NOT design.

14/ The iPhone 14 Pro’s screen is NOT unscratchable. Sigh!

15/ Remote work is a farce. Nothing replaces a handshake. Or a pat on the back.

In fact, you need to live at the very epicentre of activity for the profession of your choosing.

You may argue that there are people that have found freedom of location and are travelling. They are exceptions, edge cases. And most of us aren’t that. So, to maximise the odds of success, satisfaction, life expectancy, opportunities and all that, we need to live at the epicentre. If you want to do a startup, be in Bangalore. If you want to make films, Mumbai. A chef? Paris. Dont have the money to make the move? Hustle!

16/ Live music is the best form of music.

17/ Ready, Fire, Aim is the best DAMN strategy to get things done. Most great things that happened to me in 2022 happened as an outcome of this. In fact, if there was one life lesson that I would want you to take away from this list, it would be this.

Lemme repeat.

Ready. Fire. Aim.

18/ Mimetic Theory is a great place to start if you want to understand people. Even though a lot hasn’t been said about it outside the startup circles, it is probably the single most important thing you can learn if you want to understand what moves the world.

While mimesis has been discussed a lot in philosophy, from whatever little I’ve read, I like what Girard has to say about it. I may be merely recommending him because he reaffirms my worldview. Nonetheless, this is a brilliant video if you want a primer.

19/ Your body can be trained to do whatever you want to. This year I was able to do a 40+ hour fast without putting in any specific training / preparation. I want to be able to do a 12-day fast at some point in time in my life. Let’s see when.

20/ People that are not in your boat will never be able to empathise with you. You are the only man in the arena and you are there by yourself. So when you share things with others, even if they are your best friends, they will not be able to relate to the pain you are going thru.

In 2022, I’ve learnt that a good way to get over the disappointment of your close one’s inability to get your grief is to journal. In private.

21/ Action speaks louder than words. Nothing new in this. Found this truer in 2022. With friends, clients, team, strangers and everyone else.

22/ This too shall pass. Each of my list starts and ends with this. Good times dont last. Bad times dont last.

And this brings me to the end of the list. Of 22 life lessons that 2022 taught me. Of course, I learnt these the hard way. The intent of capturing these here is to save you the pain and the grief. How benevolent, Mr Garg!

What are some lessons you learnt in 2022 that you’d like to share widely?

PS: Like I said in the beginning, I love making lists. Other lists that I have published here are…

  1. Guide to freelancing career in 2023
  2. 40 things I want to do in my 40s
  3. In 2027

PPS: Here’s a few disclaimers…

  1. These come from the personal experiences that I gathered over the last year.
  2. Some of these may have been with me for a while but they sort of solidified over the last year.
  3. I have obfuscated some facts and events for obvious reasons.

Mild Success vs Wild Success

What do you want to be? A mildly successful person? Or a wildly successful one that has made a dent?

This is a rehash of an old SoG Letter that I wrote way back in Jan 2019. Original here.

This post is inspired by two things. 

A. This tweet. Link.

The tweet is a quote by NN Taleb and it says, “Mild success can be explainable by skills and labor. Wild success is attributable to variance.”

Side Note. NN Taleb is one of the most influential thinkers of contemporary times. His concepts on Black Swan, Antifragile and Skin in the Game have shaped my thinking and my approach to work. Oh, and I have the rare distinction of being blocked by him! 

B. A conversation with AS that made me think hard about the kind of things I want to do in life. He asked me what was my grand plan for life. And while I have thought often and thought hard about this, I was for the first time that I could put it in words. Thank You, AS for asking that question.

So, while thinking of the answer, I knew that I wanted to be a Wildly Successful person (and not just a mildly successful one).

And what is this Wildly Successful person?

Lemme start by defining the two. 

Mild success is a few millions, some cars, luxurious life, respect from your peers, considerable impact within your community and so on and so forth.

Example?
CEOs like Indira Nooyi. These people rest on the laurels of an organisation where they “work” and paddle carbonated water. 

Wild success is billions, irreverence for cars or luxury, actions that impact the whole of humanity and like Steve said, the ability to push the human race forward!

Example?
CEOs like Steve Jobs. These people actually created products that have enabled almost all creative people to do more. 

Thing is, Indira Nooyi could do so well because she was and is smarter than your average business executive and she worked really hard and stayed on the course. Most of my classmates from MDI would chart the same path to being mildly successful. They are smart, work hard and are on their way to the top of their corporate ladders. By itself, it’s not a wrong thing, to be honest. Who doesn’t like 2 cars, 2 houses, 2 kids, 2 house helps, 2 club memberships et al?

But then, this life is not for me.

I’d rather be Steve. Steve Jobs could get wildly successful because of what he worked on, how he worked, the kind of things he did, the decisions he made and all that gave him that shot at sending the ball out of orbit (and not just the park). And while he did all that, he had his quirks, he lived life on her terms, and he chase things that he believed were right. And along the way, inspired others.

Of course, he got lucky. Numerous times. Luck had to play a part in his wild success but the path he was on was not going to ever make him just mildly successful. It was either going to be wild. Or it was going to take him to ruin. Something Elon stands for. Even Warren for that matter.

So that!

Wait. Is there a lesson? Is there a point to this post?

So, the lesson thus ladies and gents is twofold. 

A. Understand what kind of success you chase. Wild. Mild.
I know I do. You? 

B. Once you know what you are chasing (mild or wild), if you are chasing, look at what others in the same league (mild or wild) did and then tread the same path.

It is that simple! Rest is a function of effort, consistency, time, luck and variance. Over and out!

Lemme know what you think.

PS: When I thought about I'd like to become wildly successful and when I thought about the kind of people I think I want to become (I will not get into details but some people that I want to be like are Chris Sacca, Tim Ferriss, Naval Ravikant, Jason Calacanis, Chamath Palihapitiya and others), I realised that there is a clear pattern. These people have a LOT in common. Here's a small list... 

- Great deal-making ability
- Envious network. Especially, a large set of loose connections that are willing to look past the biases that close friends may have
- Ability to communicate well
- The knack of spotting trends
- A very big bias towards action
- High-agency

I am sure there are more things that I can't spot right now. Just that to be able to create this variance that takes from your mild to wild, you ought to at least have what these guys have. Get the drift?

Loose Connections – The Holy Grail to Networking

If you want to network better, you need to become better at creating better (and more) loose connections!

This is a rehash of an old SoG Letter that I wrote way back in Jan 2019. Original here.

So, what is ‘Loose Connections

There are two kinds of connections that you make when you network professionally. 

A, Strong bonds. 
These are people that you implicitly trust. These are the people that will have your back in case you are stuck. These will stay with you through thick and thin. These typically are people who you grew up with, the ones that say next to you in college, the ones that you hang out with on a daily basis. And so on and so forth.

B, Loose connections. 
These are people who are at a 2nd or 3rd-degree of separation from you. These are the people that you wave at, at the water cooler in your office. These are the ones that you know live in your building but aren’t really friends with. These are the ones that you respect but for some reason, you’ve kept a distance. 

So why do I talk about loose connections? 

I really, sincerely, honestly, dil se believe that these loose connections are more powerful than your strongest bonds when it comes to pushing professional / work agendas. 

At least in my life, I have seen these loose connections giving me more work, leading me to more opportunities and opening more doors for me than the best of my friends with their best intentions could.

From things like my first book to my blogs to job opportunities to freelance gigs, I can track them back to a combination of strong bonds and loose connections working together. 

What about you? Which “kind” of connections has helped you in the past?

And as I go along, I am actively working on creating a super large pool of these loose connections. You know, like they, I know a guy that knows a guy? That! 

And how do you forge these loose connections?

Simple. Go out and seek such opportunities. 

For example, a few days ago, I went out with a few folks that I connected with on Twitter. In that group of people that hung out together, we had three travel enthusiasts, one legal expert, one stand-up comic, a videographer, a digital nomad, and one right-hand person for one of the leading fashion designers in the country. It was an eclectic bunch and the conversations had the best that I’ve ever had in life! 

And how do you create opportunities?

Here are three steps that I have used in the past. 

1. Identify the thing that you want to work on. Identify the top 1% of people in that trade. And identify the kind of work you want to do.  

For example, I am working on this film these days. And for that, I need to know EVERYONE that is in the trade that is in the top 1%. And because I want to be on the business side of films, rather than looking at people like Amitabh Bachchan, I am keen on talking to people like, say, Manish Mundra. Or Sandip Bhargava

2. Look at the kind of people that these people talk to. Get into a conversation with those people.

These Manishs and Sandips of the world would be busy and may have very limited time to give. There is absolutely zero chance that these people would talk to me. But the people that work for, work with, work under these people would be a little more approachable. And thus I can get into a conversation with these guys a tad more easily. 

3. Add value

This is the most important part. Rather than mere chit-chatting with them and getting into a social conversation, can you add value? Look for things that they are stuck with. Open those doors. You know, be that loose connection that could help them untangle things that they are grappling with. And don’t do this with the intention of getting something in return. Add genuine value to people. Be of real help. Open doors. And then sit back and let the magic happen.

That’s it!

Do let me know what you think.
Oh, and read Go Giver. Really. 

And while you are at it, do read how you can kickstart your freelancing career in 2023.

How to start your freelancing career in 2023

A comprehensive guide to how to start your freelancing career in 2023 and live life as a creative freelancer on your own terms.

In 2015, I quit my job as a digital strategy planner with a leading social media and digital marketing agency. I started freelancing and at the time I barely scraped through. Fast forward to 2022, “I” now bill almost 10 lakhs a month (on average – some months less and some months more) and I am more than ok! In this guide to start freelancing, I talk about how I did it and how you can too.

PS: the “I” is a small team that works together to deliver on the work I bring in. And the 10 lakh I talk about is what we bill as a team. We operate as The C4E Collective.

PPS: Again, 10 lakhs is the average. Some months, we do more, and some we do less. In all fairness and honesty, in the best month, we billed about 22 lakhs, and in the worst, we billed 4.

So, here’s a guide to how I broke into freelancing and how you can do too.

Lemme start with some background.

I think believe I am destiny’s child.

I have been extremely lucky and I am grateful that I am where I am. A lot of things (that were mostly out of my control) had to happen to give me this life I have. And I manufactured a handful of things to augment the ones that were out of my control. And I need to work VERY hard on building blind faith in my self (something I lack).

In this longish piece, I want to share what I did and maybe you can pick some lessons from here! 

So, if I am at a 10 lakh a month number, it is because of all the people I’ve met and the opportunities I’ve created. The keyword here is created. Unlike popular belief, I do not believe in waiting for things to happen. I seek them. I try and create them. I put myself out there, in rooms where there are odds that I would meet people better than me. Once I am in there, I am ok to make a fool of myself. I am ok to be laughed at. I am ok to raise my hand when no one else is daring to. And I believe in playing long-term games and doing it for the long term.

PS: Long-term is anything more than 5 years. I’d want to push it to 10. But 5 I think it is for the time being.

Before we start, please note that this is NOT a list of freelancing hacks for writing or for anything else. For the simple reason – I don’t know if they exist. Rather, this is a list of things that worked for me and these may or may not work for others. However, there are lessons you can pick from what I believe in and what I did and you can adapt these to your situation. And yes, like all “advice” this is not one-size-fits-all. Please tread with caution. 

Lesson 0. Freelancing is a (VERY) long-term game. 

Let’s start at ground zero.
Freelancing is a long-term game you play with long-term people. 

Today, each opportunity that knocks at my door is a result of a relationship that I “created” years ago and then took the effort to nurture it. I allowed them to compound. 

Here’s some data. My most recent client is someone I know for almost 2 years (thanks to a podcast that I produce). The second most recent client is someone I walked up to randomly at a WeWork (in 2018), and became friends with. So, 5 years. The third most recent client came via someone I know since 2013. And all the other clients came through relationships built prior to that!

Update: Since writing this post for the first time and publishing it, I’ve cracked three more clients. One I’ve known for 5+ years. The other for 7+ years. The third taught me at MDI (16 years ago). So, the point has been reinforced.

So, please get this tattooed on your forehead that as a freelancer, you will have to play a VERY long-term game. The one that will probably last you for the rest of your life. And thus each thing you do, you need to think from that lens. 

Oh, and starting point of this game? 

Relationships. 
With friends.
Acquaintances.
Strangers.
Loose Connections.
And everyone else in between. 

Lemme talk more about this in the next step.

Lesson 1 – Build Relationships irrespective of your intent to start a freelancing career

If I could teach the world how to build relationships, we would have reached Moon Mars by now. And to teach this to an aspiring freelancer would be even more difficult. Allow me to try.

First things first. I define a “relationship” as a thing that makes you want to spend your time with another person. And vice versa.

So, how do you “build” this want? How do you manufacture it?

Well, to get other people to spend time with you, you could start by becoming interesting, likeable, approachable, dependable and all that. The tough part is that each of these words is subjective and there is no tangible definition per se.

However, while the definitions of subjective things vary, there is indeed something tangible that you can offer to others.

Value.

You could add value to others. To them as people. To their businesses. To their lives. Value is tangible. Could be small, big, large or whatever. But most people know it when they see the value.

And on the other side, when you meet others, you need to have patience, listening ability, zero judgements, an open mind, empathy and willingness to offer value (even if they are the ones pitching to you). You need to gift others your attention without expecting anything.

No, it’s not easy; we all struggle with ‘no expectations’ on various levels. 

What has worked for me is that I have offered value (hopefully immense) without asking (or even expecting) anything in return.

Lemme give an example. A friend needed someone to talk to her boyfriend and show him opportunities in the digital marketing space. I thought I could give gyaan. I did that. That person got placed at some agency. And then he gave me a project to work on! Simple and effective!

Thing is, when you offer value without expecting anything in return, the people on the other side start to see you as one of “them”. And not a third party that they’ve engaged for a “project”. And once you are “one of them”, you earn a seat at the table. Where both (access and rewards) are higher.

PS: Of all the strangers that you’d offer value for free and without expecting anything in return, there are bound to be a few that would take you for a ride. You would invest time, energy and everything and you would get nothing. And that’s ok. Really. We pay taxes. There is leakage. You accidentally spill your coffee. This is how life is. Just that each time you are taken for a ride, identify the red flags and next time, avoid similar situations. So start with an expectation that once in a while you’d be left on the losing side.

Lesson 1.2 – Don’t wait for these relationships to happen, create them. 

Thanks to Karan Johar and Walt Disney and others like that, we assume that a “connection” will “click”. You’d be roaming around in a park and in your lap would fall the handkerchief laptop of a gorgeous woman client and as you give that back to her, you would exchange numbers and she would give you a lot of love freelance work.  

Lemme pop your bubble.
No.
It doesn’t work like that. 
Not even for romance.

If you read Neil Strauss or Kevin Mitnick or have seen Anurag Kashyap films, you know you’d have to plant some goons to tease the woman of your dreams and show your heroics to save her. 

Same with freelancing.

You need to plant things that will create opportunities for you to come across as a hero that the client can not live with! 

So, in one line, you need to create these relationships.
You need to walk into rooms you are not invited in and try and locate people you want to learn from, collaborate with, or simply keep around. You need to be intentional and deliberate about it! 

Lemme give an example.
I was working out of a WeWork in 2018 or something. I took the floating desk because it was cheaper. While I sat there, I overheard this man talking about marketing and branding to someone else on the phone. While he spoke, he made a lot of sense. So, I decided to walk up to him. And introduced myself. He was kind enough to reciprocate. And this started my friendship with Aditya Save, who has helped me get work, helped me find people for my team and has taken my input for his work!

So yeah. That.

Create relationships.
Be deliberate about it.
And put in the work required to create relationships.

Oh, here are some actionable ideas…

  1. Join groups where interesting people hang out. I am a member of a few others. Lemme know and I will get you added. Needless to say, I am part of scores of Whatsapp groups, each discussing a wide range of ideas and each on mute ;). Here’s a plug – I run a WA group where I send gyaan on marketing. Join Marketing 101 if you want to.
  2. Go to meetups. LinkedIn is rife with opportunities to do so.
  3. Take memberships (if you can afford it) at places like WeWork, Soho House et al that have a curated selection of members.
  4. Engage with tweets and messages from interesting people on social platforms. Without getting creepy. Start with me or Aditya!

Lesson 2 – Be reliable when freelancing.

In my experience, people dont want to work with “the absolute best” or the “greatest in the world”. 

They want to work with reliable people. They want to pay and get work done. They dont care about a Picasso or a Mario Puzo when they want a piece of art created. They want it to deliver enough to solve a business problem. As a “creative” individual, you can continue to chase perfection. Or show progress. To the world. And while you do so, be dependable. 

I mean think about it. You want to go from point A to B. Would you wait for the “right” car to come in or you’d hop into the next one?

More often than not, people do not care for you being exceptionally good at one thing (I know this sounds counter-intuitive to common wisdom where they want you to the world-class at one thing). People care about paying and getting work done on pre-decided timelines.

So, be reliable. 

Lesson 3 – Start Small.

You cannot start freelancing expecting a gig worth a lakh a month. You build up to it, in terms of both skills and confidence and ability to deliver and ability to demand money.

We’ve engaged a designer that billed us 500 bucks for a FB post a few months ago. And today, he pays his house EMI from what he bills us! 

If back then he said he would only pick up work worth 1 lakh, he wouldn’t have moved towards financial independence. At least not with us. 

Lesson? 
Never hold out for the biggest fish. 
Start small, but keep at it. 

The keyword is, keep at it. And dont say no. And offer value. More than what you thought you could.

Lesson 4 – Spread yourself wide! It is a freelancer’s paradise

Again, counter-intuitive to what common wisdom is. But has worked for me like a charm. Read on.

I cannot stress enough that everything that’s come to me has come to me because I widened my interests and attention. Just by doing this one thing, I’ve met a LOT of people from a LOT of backgrounds that knew a LOT about a LOT of things.

Each interaction allowed me to pick up more things that I can talk about and can eventually work on. Each interaction made me a tad more interesting for the others to talk to. Each interaction gave me a higher chance to be in rooms that I would otherwise not be welcome in. 

The same reflected in the kind of work I was doing. When I started freelancing, I worked as a marketing consultant for a startup. And I did brand strategy for an agency. And I did an event production for another agency.

No, I am / was not “the best” at any of these three.
I was merely dependable. See lesson 2 above.

When the COVID-19 lockdown happened, my biggest source of revenue (events management) came to a standstill. However, my ability to deliver brand strategy and marketing consulting allowed me to survive. And then I expanded from there on.

Today, I do the following – ad-films production, marketing consulting, digital brand planning, ghostwriting, podcasting, content, investing and more! This spread has allowed me to bill 20+ lakhs in a couple of months). And no, I am not great at any of these. I am not even good. I am just dependable.

And oh, I started small and upskilled and ensured that I delivered more than what I promised.

The point is, go out there. And expand yourself thin. Always be on the lookout for experiences of different kinds, and you will meet people from different industries, with different dreams, and very different lives. And rather than trying to fit them into the mould that you’ve created for yourself, be open and accepting.  

Lesson 5 – Overdeliver. Even as a freelancer and while freelancing.

This one’s quite simple: Say you’re asked to write just a blog post. But when it comes to delivering, you send in a series of tweets along with that blog post, to help get traffic to that post. Or, you share those five insights you had while writing that piece. 

Your clients will see it. They will remember you for going above and beyond. And they would see that you are the kinds to deliver more value than what you are paid for. 

Result? 
You are perceived as someone who delivers value. 
Top it up by being dependable. 
And then top it up by being the one that does not expect a lot.
Why would people not work with you? 
Why would you not scale? 
Why would you not reach the 10 lakh a month number?

Quite simple. And effective.

Lesson 6 – Make yourself discoverable as a freelancer. 

Jo dikhta hai, wo bikta hai. 
Location. Location. Location.
The baby that cries the loudest gets fed first. 

There are numerous parables like that. Each makes the same point. 
Be out there.
Be discoverable. 

You’d start attracting opportunities the second you begin putting yourself out there. You invite people to discover you. And then you back it up with overdelivering. And you invest in long-term relationships. And you become a dependable person. 

How is it that you will not build a solid network that gives you work? P.S.: You may want to read this post on networking.

In the words of Daniya and Chandni (am making them discoverable by adding them here), “Think of it like this: It starts with you seeking opportunities and ends with people discovering you. What happens in between is all the things we spoke about – relationships, offering value, and reliability.” 

And how do you do it? 
Newsletters, videos, blogs, Twitter – just about anything that aligns with your voice. Go out. Show up. Showcase what you’ve done. Talk about your work.

The good part? 
All these things compound

Wait.
What do you think this blog post is? 
Why did I spend 15 45 days writing this?
Why do you think I am ranting on Twitter all the time? 
Why do I overshare? 

PS: I have to admit that despite doing all of the above, I remain VERY poor with my visibility and my distribution. Even though I write a lot, I need to work on this and I am constantly in search of amplifying this. And here is a post I wrote on how to build a writing habit.

Lesson 7 – Collaborate with other freelancers and freelancing platforms.

You know how a single twig breaks easily, but the second you pick a bundle, they’re invincible? That. 

That’s how you should view those on a similar path as you.

Together, you learn and attract more. Ditch that greed (of doing things by yourself and keeping the entire pie for yourself) and find people who want to grow with you. Ditch that insecurity that if you share your connections, others will close those deals ahead of you. Ditch that fear that the client will find someone else who’s better.

And in case you need to find a place to start with, start with me. I’d love to. I am a tweet away. 

Once you have one or two connections, go seek more. Join networks. Go to meetups. Tweet at random people. Ask for help. “Hire” people to work with. The “I” I talked about at the beginning of this post are actually my collaborators. It is humanly impossible to make 10 lakhs a month as a freelancer if you are on your own. You need collaborators. You need to pick work and allocate time and divide responsibilities and remuneration. The 10 lakhs we make is divided between the 6-7 of us and as a collective, we are better off than we would be if we did not collaborate.

This collab also allows us to present ourselves as a “large” company and pick larger projects (in value / impact / showcase) that an individual would never ever get considered for.

From here on, as a collective, we may go become a large company. Or will remain a bunch of freelancers working together. No one knows (I dont know what the future holds and I will not lose sleep over it). But what I know today (as of writing – 11 Dec 2022) is, that I am having a ball (with obvious ups and downs) and I am extremely grateful for that.

I am digressing.
The point is, partner with more people.
Do larger capers 🙂
Start with me, if you want more partners. I am a tweet away. 

Lesson 8 – Be the “easiest” freelancer to work with. 

I can bet that you have that friend that is incredibly difficult to please. You could go to the best restaurant to eat at, on a day that’s going really well and this person will spot a problem. 

At work, you would have that colleague that would ask a thousand questions even before lifting a finger and you would know that most of those questions are a way to deflect work assigned to him. You know, passing the buck. Or the pillow. Or as I call it, playing football and pushing the ball to the next person. 

There are people that you want to avoid even though they deliver great work. No?

So, thought experiment.
Switch places.

If you are that person that is incredibly difficult to work with, do you think people will come to you for work? Will they recommend you? Will they ask you to do things? 

If your answer is, “oh, I am the best. If not work with me, where would they go?”, then you’ve lost the plot and wasted all the time reading all these tips to start your freelancing career in 2023.

Thing is, clients are people. And they seek other people that are easy to work with. They like the idea of being easy to work with. They love their peace of mind.

It’s really simple.
When you’re stuck in circles, who do you turn to?
When you need something solved proto, where do you go?
When you want someone to get you out of the soup without asking too many questions, who do you think of?

Be that person. For others. For clients.
People Clients are looking for just that.

So, while you’re being reliable, also be easy to talk to and easy to work with. And see work coming your way.

Lesson 9 – Be a freelancer that people can trust. 

As I grow, I often find myself working closely with companies that often compete. As I write this, I work for 4 different advertising agencies. And each competes with the other on a day-to-day basis. And while the scope of work I take on for them might vary, I am essentially working for companies in the same business.

Thus, discretion becomes important. And it becomes tough for me to earn their trust. And while I have not been able to find a solution to this, I start with full disclosure. And transparency.

If I am working for competing companies, I disclose that to all them. And I’ve seen that if you volunteer information without others asking for that, people tend to trust you a tad more.

Again, trust is something that you need to earn. With time. The longer you work with / work on something / someone, the deeper the trust. While a post on trust would be another 5000 words, if I were to highlight a few points that help build trust, these would be…

A/ Everything that I have listed in the 8 lessons above. I will repeat some in this list.

B/ Radical honesty. There is nothing better than this.

C/ Keeping word. On your promises. On your delivery. Your Zubaan must have a keemat. Thank you, Rajesh Sir for teaching me this lesson.

D/ Be consistent. I suck at this, to be honest. But I am working on this.

PS: B, C and D are about being the most reliable person ever. Also, scroll up to see lesson 2.

That’s it. I am sure there are more things you can do to build trust but these 4 will cover most of those. And in fact, all the lessons I’ve listed would cover them all.

In the end…

Guess this is about it.

These are the 9 things that have allowed me to build a freelancing career. Trust me when I say this that if I have been able to build one for myself, I am sure you can too.

Also, do lemme know if this was useful. And do tell me what else would you want to read about if you are starting out as a freelancer in 2023. Finally, if you have any specific questions, I am happy to talk. The best way to reach me is on Twitter. I am a tweet away. 

A Few Disclaimers

  1. This post is essentially a list of things that have worked for me. These may or may not work for you. This is a summary of my experience only the results may vary 😉
  2. For context, I hold an MBA from MDI and have about 16 years of experience post that.
  3. Thanks to Chandni and Daniya for helping me write this.
  4. Thank you Samriddh, Hemant, Sanhita for reading early drafts and helping me improve this with specific inputs. These names are not in any order.
  5. There are more things that I can write about. In fact, I am thinking I will do a live session to help people break into freelancing. Would you want to learn from me? DM me on twitter and lemme know.
  6. If not on a live session, I think in the subsequent posts, I can write about the following: how to crack the first client, how to build the network, how to price your work etc etc. But I think that’s a different topic for a different day. Do let me know what would you want to read.

I failed.

A note on how I failed Viny (C4E’s CCO) and myself by not being able to ship a printable draft of book2.

Towards the end of Ocotber (or may be early Novemeber), I made a promise to Viny (and myself) that I would have a printable first draft of book2 (of at least 80K words) by end of Nov 30, 2022.

Today is the 29th. And I dont have that.

I failed.

Even though a lot was riding on it. Lot was Viny’s complete loyalty and the first right to get her to work with me once she passes out of college. I can’t stress enough how much I need someone like her around me at C4E. And yet, I failed.

This post is an attempt at reflecting on what I did to create an environment around me that would ensure that I dont fail. I will talk about habits I stacked to ensure that I dont fail. Of course all these are meaningless – after all, I failed! Maybe lessons for the next time?

Here we go…

Four things.

A/ I was off Social Media.
Like really.
I removed all apps from my phone and the only time I would check twitter / linkedin etc was to check on something for work. I was even able to reduce my screentime to about 4 hours a day. This meant I had more time than I could’ve ever asked for.

B/ I was travelling.
Wait.
This is an excuse.
People that travel write books all the time. Look at them travel bloggers. They are literally on the road all the time and yet they are firehoses of content. I did travel but it does not mean I couldn’t write. All I had to do was write 3K words a day. Which, btw, is NOT a big deal for me.

In fact, truth be told, I “found” 75K words for book2 written over various drafts. I compiled all those into Scrivener and I could’ve “cheated” to write the balance 5K and declare the draft ready. I mean the very thought is making me puke. Why would I cheat? Especially to my own people?

The point is, I could not write.

3/ I was snafu’d at work.
True there’s a lot going on with work. I am struggling. And I am thriving. And I am somewhere in the middle. As a small business owner / manager, you are always somewhere in the middle of these three. As a small business owner you have to try to do multiple things while paying your people fair and square. As a small business owner time is not a commodity that you can control.

The point is, I should’ve known these before I made the promise. So, this one doesn’t hold. This is an excuse.

4/ I controlled my “desires”.
Lol. Sounds fancy.
Lemme talk about it with little more rationality. So, most of November, I did not have coffee. Or coke. Or any random snacks that I keep munching on all the time. I wanted complete abstinence from anything and everything that may distract me. I managed to stay away for a large part to be honest. But it did not help concentrate.

What could I have done different?

A, I could’ve been a tad more pragmatic. I could have taken a long time hozion to work on the draft. Instead of a month, may be two, three. Or whatever. Just that pragmatism is not my cup of tea.

B, I could have made and followed a routine that’s non-negotiable. That I would sit at a Starbucks everyday at 7 AM and do nothing but write for 2 hours. I know that I am extremely good at this (getting up early and reaching a starbucks and sitting with my laptop open). There is nothing that stops me from this. I guess I got lazy 🙁

C, I could have found a writing buddy to write this with. In my experience, it always helps. If not that, I could’ve found an accountability partner if nothing else. Again, I did have Viny to reach out. But for some reason, I was unable to get her help.

D, I could have reminded that age old adage – Real Artists Ship. In fact, if there is one takeaway that I want from this, it would be this. While writing this, I made this wallpaper that I would use on my desktop. Till I get another slap on my face next time. PS: Other things that have made to my desktop wallpapers are Mememto Mori and This Too Shall Pass. Will make these wallpapers as well.

Guess this is about it. I know I failed. And it’s not a good feeling to have.

And, in the end, Viny, I am sorry. I let you down. I’ll try harder. If you want to give me another chance. Do lemme know.

The MDI Gurgaon Impact on Saurabh Garg’s life

So, I met a couple of friends from MDI for dinner over the weekend. While bantering, one of them said that the time at MDI was not the best phase of her life.

To me, this came as a shocker. For multiple reasons.

For starters, I couldn’t relate to what she said. I mean at least for me, I sincerely believe that the most glorious period of my life was at MDI. I had a ball while I was there. My worldview expanded. I found the teachers that I never had before MDI. I made friends that hopefully would last me a lifetime. I learnt that I was capable of more. The ambitious young boy in me turned into a man that wanted to win the world (yet to do so, tbh).

In fact, the best things in my life came from MDI. Every milestone in my life can be traced back to an event, a thing at MDI.

Here are some. My first real job came from MDI (campus placement of course). The job that changed my life (made me travel the world) came to me because of the MDI alumni network (Suvi, Gravity). The only book I wrote happened because the publisher is from MDI. My first short film (as a producer) could happen because a friend from MDI connected me with the director (Anshul). Heck, my company is called C4E and the name came from the game I played at all hours at MDI (Counter-Strike). The house I live in (and dont pay the rent of) is of a friend I made at MDI. The top 5 3 people I will call when in trouble are from MDI. My agony aunt (and mentor and client and all that) is from MDI. The work I do, a lot of it comes to me because of connections I made at MDI. A couple of business partners (most notably the Podium) came from MDI. The investment vehicle I want to create is with friends from MDI. I went to the Everest Base Camp only because a friend from MDI egged me on and lead me there. The only child I am emotionally close to is an MDI friend’s daughter (who painfully is growing fast and discovering her own world, which I may or may not be a part of).

I can continue to write about other insignificant things but I can not ignore the MDI connection. The impact that MDI Gurgoan has had on my life is immeasurable. If not for MDI, I would be a far different person (not sure if I would have been worse or better) but you simply can’t take away MDI from my life.

While I do understand that she may not feel as strongly for MDI as she has a lot going for her – professional success, a family of her own, holidays and all that. In comparison, I have built a single thing that is larger than the MDI stamp on my CV. If I were to die tomorrow, my epitaph would be painfully empty and the historians would find nothing on my CV that’s worth talking about. But a diploma from MDI. And that speaks a lot. And probably this explains the stark difference in our (her and mine) perspectives towards MDI.

I do understand that she may be talking about the two years that we spent on campus. Even on that count, on a day-to-day basis, living at the MDI hostel was among the best of times. We did not have the comforts that we seek, especially at the age of 40, but we did have hope. We had camaraderie. Not one day was drab!

And no, I am not dissing all the things I’ve had or done. Just that none of those has had an impact closer to what MDI has had on me. And I suspect a lot of others.

So yeah. That’s it.

When my friend told me that MDI wasn’t the best time for her, I was surprised. I simply assumed that everyone from MDI would rate their time at MDI as the grandest and largest.

And with that, over and out!

Perils of being the Creatures of Comfort

A rant on what comfort does to perennial hustlers. And how creatures of comfort are often unable to do what they’re destined to.

Hola! Ranting after a while. Let’s see how it goes.

I started writing this from the hall of a 2.5 BHK house in which I live. It’s a very comfortable place and now that I have lived here for a few days, I know that this is not a good place to be at (or the situation to be in). The rest of the post is about why it’s a bad idea to be in a comfortable place. Especially for people like me.

The thing with a comfortable place is that it gives you the solace you need after a long, hard day of work. But it also makes you lazy for no reason at all. Here are my thoughts on it. And no, not in any order.

A. You tend to get lazy.
You tend to get complacent. You tend to stop hustling. You tend to start to live a comfortable life and then you start questioning the entire idea of even trying to work hard. Leave alone actual hard work. And this is the start of the downfall.

B. This life of comfort is addictive.
Like cocaine. Sugar. Carbs. AC. Monthly Salary.

C. You know entropy?
That happens. Left to yourself, you degrade to a state of non-functioning. And once you are not functioning, you stop moving. Once you’ve stopped, there is inertia and there is a problem in starting. You catch rust. Worse, you start to atrophy.

All these together contribute to making you a weak man. And anyway, someone said these golden words – “easy times create weak men”.

That!

D. There is no opportunity for riyaaz.
And riyaaz as well all know is the stone on which altars of the grandest churches are built atop. In fact, if you dont do riyaaz, you could be the greatest talent in the world with the best damn gift by the lord himself and yet you would be unable to perform when the time comes to do so.

The comfortable places hold you in deep clutches and dont want you to step out of it.

E. The cloistered cocoon.
When you are in a comfortable cocoon, you stop looking outside the walls that you are cloistered into. You stop looking for opportunities. And life just passes by you when you are admiring the pretty pictures that you put up on your walls to create this comfortable cocoon. You know, ivory tower? You have the grandest views of the most lavish expanses that us humans have created. While in theory, you could enjoy those, you are no longer that. You are the man trapped in the matrix. You are not in the arena. You have not lived. You have not fulfilled your destiny.

F. The death of Sisyphus.
When you are comfortable, the Sisyphus in you is no longer pushing the boulder up the mountain. He’s being a couch potato, staring at the boulder. And Imagine the time when he could be back on the mountain and is toiling with it. Imagine a Tom without a Jerry to chase. Imagine a Batman without a Joker. Imagine a Hero without an adversary. The damn joy that you get from your very existence is sucked away.

So that.
That’s the rant.
About comfort and the creatures that are on the fast and slippery road downhill.

Oh, as I end this, I have some disclaimers to make.

  1. The definition of comfort is different for different people. One man’s rubbish is another man’s gold.
  2. These are my thoughts and not my employer’s
  3. What applies to me may not apply to you. So please read with caution and standard disclaimers.
  4. Good to be back to writing. I missed these rants!
  5. I know this is not the best of my writing. But now that I am back at these longish pieces, I hope to continue with these.

PS: Follow me on Twitter at https://twitter.com/saurabh.

Adventure Works Solutions LLP

Adventure Works Solutions LLP is the legal entity that runs C4E.

At C4E we are a communications collective that works with individuals, startups and large businesses on their marketing, strategy and communication challenges. Our work straddles four distinct practice areas – Brand Design, Digital Marketing Strategy, Content Services and Corporate Events.

Know more about us at www.c4e.in.