So, they released the Steve Jobs archive a few days ago and I’ve spent the last few days reading it. And I have been taking notes in terms of the kind of company I want to build at C4E. We are today a communications collective. Tomorrow we could be something else. But the ethos and values and the very fabric of the company has to be in place! Of course, it will evolve but the entire evolution also needs a genesis. And thus this effort on reading and taking notes.
While the actual notes I took remain alive in the email archives of people at C4E, what I share here is a slightly redacted version. Removed names, specific incidents and all that.
This is part 1 that I read / thought / wrote on a flight to Bangkok. Have fixed typos, grammar and redacted a few things. Have added underlines, bold text and other formatting things.
Hello hello. This is your captain speaking. Lol. I was trying to sound like Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible 4.
This will be a long email. Bear with me. Havent written a long one in a while. So I may be rusty. And there will be multiple threads.
ONE. WHY ARE WE HERE?
Here – earth.
Here – with each other.
Here – at C4E.
The answer to me is clear. In my head and in my heart. We are here to ensure that we have the time of our lives. And no, not in the hedonistic revelry drunken stupor manner. But in the way we learn, grow, expand our potentials and more.
I hope this is known to each of you. If not clear already. And if any of you is here for anything but this, then you are in the wrong place and I have set the wrong expectations. So, if you are here for money, for building your resume, for a chill workplace, please revisit your decision. Sorry if I sound harsh but as we scale it will be incredibly tough to keep pace. Oh, and this is a good time to do so. I will put ourselves on a very fast-track path to growth and I will demand a lot. And of course, I will take care of all of us.
Thing is, we are a community of high-functioning individuals, each accountable to everyone else, with infinite trust in each other. “We” comes before “I”. Always. And I really think a lot about that para from Will Smith’s book that talks about his love language being the one of growth and abundance and progress and action and collective. That is exactly my love language. And since all of you are fairly young (including P and P), I’d advocate you all to have the same. Keyword is advocate. Not mandate. Cool?
Coming back to learning, growing, expanding potential and all that, this can only happen if we are one with each other. This oneness is a very vague concept. And it’s impossible to get in that space – we live in different places, our lives are different, our tastes are different and so on and so forth. But since we are one in our mission (to live the best version of our lives and not make work our cages) and vision (make a dent in the universe in our own way), there is some degree of one-ness that we can achieve. And we must try harder each day to be there. We are in what Steve described Reed College as…
I have stopped counting the number of times other people tell us that we vibe well with each other and we operate well as a team. So that’s a good place. We need to find our Mahabharata that ensures that we are financially free. And then life can be so much more enriching and beautiful.
Oh, I hope you understand what we do right now is only to make ends meet and survive? We don’t have the ambition to be just a creative services company. We can sure be a creative products company where we make our things and sell but we don’t want to rent our time to write copy and design things or project manage. It’s a matter of time before we stop what we are doing (even if it will scale in the next few months). We really need money to experiment. Fuel, you know.
Also see this…
Ok, so on the flight I read Steve Jobs book. And I cried. For two reasons.
A, The guy is brilliant and I never had the chance to see him. And I will never be like him and I will never have the impact that he’s had on the world. Second, a lot of things he talks about, well, have knowingly or unknowingly inspired me do to do things.
B, You know how each time we find something incredible about running a business, I realise that we already have something similar. This means only one thing. That we are destined to do well. If not as a business, as a team. And individually for sure.
C, He literally predicted AI!
D. Who do you work for?
Even though Steve says this..
My answer is different.
You don’t work for SG. You don’t work for C4E. You don’t work for anyone else. You only work for yourself. And that is extremely important. If you think you work for SG / C4E / Anyone else, you are wrong. You work for yourself. And thus you need to make this place, make all of us the best set of people to work with. And be around!
THREE. GROWTH SESSIONS
I want to change the format. Each alternate week, we would get a guest to talk to us about what they do. Starting next week. C, ask me about it. And we’d write a blogpost on it.
We HAVE to be a virtual California. Experimenting. Planting bombs. Open. Inviting. Creating new possibilities. Again, planting bombs.
FIVE. PEOPLE / HIRING PODCAST
Here is what I want to do.
Record a live podcast. With all of you in live audience (on Zoom). And I will invite AD to interview me on building teams. And each time I say something that you think I am faffing or we don’t do, PLEASE interrupt. C – ask everyone for their calendar. Including AD. Lets try to do this on Sunday the 23rd. I want Poo to be around as well so see timezones.
Oh, here’s Steve…
Just had regular coke on the flight. Love the taste!
You must read this exchange between Steve and Andy (Intel guy).
Funny that we face this in our lives these days. Where people want to be paid for their time and do not understand that in the long-term this shortsightedness of charging for time and expertise from friends is a bad idea.
NINE. Similarity with C4E. Bored of using caps
TEN: MISTAKES AND REGRETS
What AI is doing is what computers did. Made people do more things. You did not have to learn programming to use a comp. With AI, you don’t have to learn art.
12. ON WORK-LIFE BALANCE. I did type in caps. Lol
You know my stand on it. You don’t have to agree with it. But Steve agrees with me 😀
Also read his thoughts on why you ought to NOT have a “career”. Also see this TED talk by Larry Smith.
13. On contracts and why I don’t generally trust paperwork (but will increasingly rely on documentation)
I want you to see the highlighted part only. Rest is context.
Also see the last pars on the right hand side. “I sort of feel like I work for most of these people because they’re the ones that are doing all the brilliant work.”
Who does this sound like? 😀
14. SoG to CoG. F*@K!
From Shoulders of Giants to in Company of Giants!
This never ever occurred to me till I read this page. Its incredible. Amongst you I am in the company of giants. Each of you is a giant in your own right even if you are all but 18. The page is about a book called Company of Giants where Steve gave an interview. He never used the word Company of Giants per se in it but it sparked an epiphany and this is what I am writing on. So, two things.
1/ We’ve always imagined that we are on the shoulders of giants. This comes from my core belief that I am not a giant and I have a lot to do. But I also miss the point that I could be a giant to some for sure. You know, the ones that are yet to get as old as me. So at least I can qualify as a giant. And this is true for each of you. You may be young but you can do teach a lot of things to a lot of people and they can benefit from your experience. And that’s amazing. So, we are essentially all giants with the awareness that we can and must grow more. No?
So, we are essentially giants on the shoulders of other giants.
And no, being a giant does not mean we stop learning, we stop trying, we stop doing more things. Or doesn’t mean that we become arrogant, know it alls. We can’t be that. There is no way you know it all. Need to ensure that doesn’t change. Also see this…
What do you think is the most important part of this email? Reply to me. And only to me. I will know if you’ve tolerated this email 😉
2/ Now that I have learnt that we could be giants, we need to do more from there on. With giantdom comes giant responsibility. To remain a giant that others in your company respect. So hold yourself to a higher standard. Do more than what you would otherwise do. There is no right way to talk about more but I hope you understand.
3/ Bonus. As giants, we HAVE to be very very very very very… cant stress enough about who we allow to be in our company. We have to continue to get absolutely the best to work alongside us. We have to be that exclusive group that is incredibly tough to get in. And once someone is in, they remain for life. Even if they stop working for us. Our gatekeeping is not for work. It’s for life. And while we will have people falling through the crevices of life (see my last few tweets before take off), we need to continue to take care of them (and theirs – the people that they love). More on this some other day. But the point being, lets be choosy. There is no way we will not have absolutely the best around us.
Also, in the same chapter, I need to up my game in the threatening department. No?
Ok, that’s it! I need to turn off the laptop.
The book is still half-read. My reading speed is slow :d
Rest of the email when I take the flight from BKK to India. But in the meanwhile, do read this and think and reflect.
Love you all,
PS: Now you know why am dangerous on a plane. And what I am capable of without internet.
This is part 2 that I read / thought / wrote on a flight to Bangalore.
I thought I had sent this email once I landed in Bangalore but it never went. I opened my notes for the third part of the email and I realised I hadn’t sent it. So here it is. A lot of book is still left. Let’s see what I cover on this flight (UK866 to Bom).
Ok, captain is back. Lol. No captain. Your chaperone is back. The one that doesnt speak to Prak well. So onto the next part of the book.
15/ Steve’s Job
Steve Jobs’ job was – “number one, recruit; number two, set an overall direction; and number three, inspire and cajole and persuade.”
- I think I will spend more and more time on the first one.
- The second I dont know how to do.
- Third I dont do at all – I am capable of and I will increasingly start doing. While I will do this for things that I control a tad more (DD and not P3), you will see me doing a lot more of this. At no point we mean that we will not retain our independence but I hope you get the drift.
He said, “It is always a team of people, and the chemistry between that team of people, that makes great results”
Well. If I said that I’ve been saying this exact thing for a long time now, will you believe me? Lol!
17/ Steve’s Values
Though this has not been articulated in as much detail and I may be wrong but this is it…
“Life is short; don’t waste it. Tell the truth. Technology should enhance human creativity. Process matters. Beauty matters. Details matter. The world we know is a human creation—and we can push it forward.”
This is Steve. I dont know what my values are TBH. Except that I like to be independent and free. I like the idea of enabling people. But I am not sure if that is my value. I think I need to action this and discover my values. Let’s see when I do that and what those values would be. You people know me from unclose. Lemme know what you think my values are.
You know, when he died, I remember clearly. It was morning our time. I was sleeping. My ex called me said if I had seen news. And I asked what happened. She said Steve had passed. And I remember I cried. F*#k as I write this, I have lump in my throat and my eyes have welled. The point is, I am emotional. Not about my family or friends or you. But about Steve. A stranger that was a monster. Cos that is what I have pegged my entire life to. And you can probably see my attempts to ape him. Attempts to be a fanboy of what he created. I dont know why am writing this but it just came.
No, I dont want people to cry when I die. And I know I will die in anonymity. Once I am old, I will fade away to some obscure jungle. I dont want no one to see me as frail and all that. My memory has to be that of a person in control. Ok digressing. Lol.
So Steve. When he died, one of the eulogies said that the greatest contribution of the man and the greatest irony is that the news of a person’s death was consumed by millions around the world on the very device he helped create. Now that’s impact. What a f**king guy!
4/ Giving a shit about?
Steven P Jobs (guess what’s P? And see a TED talk where Larry something is talking about how you’d fail to have a career like Steven P) gave a shit about Apple and he ensured that he had to do whatever he could to ensure that it does well. I give a shit about each of you here, even though I may not agree to anyone. And I hope each of you gives a shit about each other. And that means we need to ensure we do whatever it takes to help each other run our lives better.
18/ “A More Entrepreneurial Apple”
This talks about what he announced to people
So, inspired from this part. I will work on stock options for all of us. Even SJ, AK and V. I dont know the shape but we will work on this. I know you know that all of us get compensated when we have the money but I want more participation in rewards for all of you. Myra’s part remains unchanged. Whatever stock comes in, comes from my part. Will work on this.
TBH I dont like to cede control over how I run. May be that’s why we are still small and all? That I have not been able to give control?
Oh, we need “all hands on deck” for the next few months. More on this later.
19/ On deciding to not sell Apple
Steve loved to walk. I love to talk at cafes. The point is, f2f. In person. Not over camera. For starters, C, I need you in Bom. Lets accelerate.
Wait walk was not the point. The point was, he believed that despite the shit that people did, he wanted to do things. Not for people. But for what he believed. In our case we are WAAAY better. There’s nothing wrong in what we do or who we are. Just that we need to ensure that we dont get this complacent.
I hope none of you have stopped challenging me. This is also the reason why I ran that 2 question survey. I may be stubborn and have a lot of preconceived notions about things but I really enjoy the banter and questions that people ask me. I am not as patient as Steve is. Once I know someone is not getting the intent with which I am talking, I give up. That intent is the starting point. The details is something I am ok to let go. I hope I am making sense here.
Here’s a thing that I will add to my weekly review. What notion of mine was challenged by the team this week?
His entire third act is about focus. And I think I need to bring that in my life. And in the lives of all of us. Let’s see how. Any thoughts?
22/ Brand C4E
If Steven can be concerned about complacency for Apple’s brand, we HAVE to be VERY mindful.[REDACTD]
Sorry if I am harsh but this obsessiveness over brand, especially our own, needs to be there. For clients, they are happy with good being done better than their existing standards. We need to outrank our own standards each time.
Ready Fire Aim is great. Planing bombs is excellent. But do we want to plant a bomb in our own home? Do we want to open fire in our own backyard?
23/ C4E’s core belief
He says, “But Apple is about something more than that. Apple, at the core—its core value—is that we believe that people with passion can change the world for the better. That’s what we believe.”
What is our core belief?
I think it would be similar. That people want to live their best lives and while they do so, they want to do meaningful work. And once work has meaning, people do magic.
No it’s not as sharp as Apple’s. But we will find that out. We will craft it. But till the time we get there, we need to be obsessive about rallying as well as we can.
24/ Here’s to the crazy ones…
Here’s an experiment. I used to remember the lines verbatim. I am going to type those without seeing the lines.
Here’s to the crazy ones. The rebels. The misfits. The troublemakers. The rounds pegs in square holes. The ones that have no respect for the status quo. You can laugh at them, disagree with them, vilify them or ridicule them. But there’s one thing you can never do. You can’t ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Cos the ones that are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, actually do.
And here’s the actual one.
“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”
What did you learn from this?
25/ 2023 Goals.
I need to do this pronto. The forest that we remind ourselves from time to time.
I can NOT stress enough that we need design chops. We’ve been trying hard to find someone but I dont have the money to compensate. More than the money I dont have anyone that sees like the way I do. There’s V but she’s in Kol. Need someone to handhold me and help me with design. There is so much we can do if we can pull this design thingy!
Each product we make, each thing we sell has to be design first. And no, not quirky design that pleases us and our evolved sensibility but what we can share with the world that the world accepts. You know how high fashion is good and all but in the end people go to basic H&M and Zara and Bata and all. That. We may have our own quirks and likes and all but in the end there has to be a commercial angle to design.
What gap are we bridging?
Apple bridged this gap…
What bridge are we building?
Who are we enabling?
Apple enabled following..
Remember, we are as good as our last delivery.
Ok, taking off. More later.
This is part 3 that I read / thought / wrote on a flight to Bombay.
Part 3 of the epic Steve Jobs book thingy. Before anything, question. Do you think we should make this open source? As in publish this on C4E blog? Or will it become way too self indulgent? Batao batao. Tell tell.
Ok coming to the book.
29/ Golden Age.
He says, “Our real Golden Age is being fueled by the maturing of our people.” When we get to golden age of C4E, it will be brought about by EACH of you becoming giants. I dont like words like mature etc. But growth. I hope you understand.
He also talks about more and more people coming from behind them. That’s what we need to start. While we will add more people, we need all of us to get the next generation ready. And no, not in terms of age but in terms of how well they understand who we are.
30/ On optimism
I think it’s incredibly useful to be optimistic in life. This quote reminded me of this – “One of my favorite quotes from him is where he says that optimism is the essential ingredient for innovation.”
You know, how I say, I am glass half-full person and how I say it will happen with time. All of us need to be that. Optimistic. But at the same time paranoid. Should never rest on the laurels of the past. Must always want to do more.
31/ Three things.
Steve on Bob Noyce (intel) – “His job was to, number one, recruit; number two, set an overall direction; and number three, you know, inspire and cajole and persuade.”
I think I am on to this already. I have yet to work on the direction part. I dont know how to cajole / persuade or whatever. But I think I know this mantra. I need to do better. What do you people think?
32/ Buy people lunches.
Each of you can use this ruse. You are young. Send those cold emails. Buy people lunches.
Also, as I read this chapter, I am inspired to see all that happens in SV. I think I really missed that :(. I think all of us must be at the epicentre of action. Am lucky to be at Mumbai. I have failed at making a network in Bangalore. I would kill to be 20 year old in US / San Francisco. Sigh. See this next para. I couldn’t even comprehend it! I mean it’s so deep. The entire thing about tricks being there for one-time performance and the loss of novelty. Uff. How dare they have such writing prowess and clarity? Prak help me write like that!
33/ Why Apple Stores are at places like BKC and Saket?
34/ On people and hiring.
This is THE most important distinction that we need to make when we hire. This entire page should be crammed up like you would do to a poem you love!
Also I am noticing that Steve’s thoughts in the later years are lot more “practical”. I mean see the progression from the three emails I’ve sent you ;P
35/ Management by Values.
Thing is am finding the same piece of advice over and over again. Or I am merely reading the same things over and over again. Look at this line – “He called it management by values. What that means is you find people that want the same things you want, and then just get the hell out of their way.”
I mean come on! Thank C4E. We want ethos. We want alignment on culture book. We want people that want same things like us. And then I am saying I need to get out of the way!!
36/ Why I am BIIIIIIG on even the subtle signs of creeks coming up in our culture / communication etc.
Read the following para.
For context, he talks about how a tiny word in the way management thought at Apple made Apple into a bad place from great. And he spotted it as soon as he was back. And now he’s talking about that subtlety is not really to be ignored. Plus he’s talking about alignment on why / values / rason d etie (whatever that word is).
And the matra part that got clipped in the image above – he says, “And that’s one of my mantras around Apple and Pixar: that recruiting is the most important thing that you do. Finding the right people—that’s half the battle.”
37/ Not sure of what I think of this. Opinion?
“a teacher is someone who stands with you in the dark and holds their flashlight just long enough for you to find your own flashlight.”
This is the best damn definition of teacher I have ever seen!
Remember my fascination with the sense of urgency and yet my inability to push it? I got reminded of that again with this quote – “what can be left to later, usually is — and then, alas, it’s too late.”
You will see me pushing for a lot more things to be done faster. Please be warned. And this passing of Sid Rao (even though I did not know him personally) has been hard on me. I looked upto him and he was my age.
40/ PLAN TO MEET PEOPLE
I read this and had goosebumps. This is where he’s talking about meeting his future wife. No, am not sure if he was a great husband, but this para spoke to me!
The point is, you can NOT plant to meet the people that will change your life – I did not plan to meet R, S, R Sir, any of you and yet once I met, I knew each of these would play a role in my life and I recognised and I went ahead and literally begged and did whatever I could to be in their life and be of service to them. I am sure I have missed having the clarity of mind on a lot of people. But I increasingly try to evaluate each person as one of the two – a, someone who I can give some input and may be help shape their lives and b, can that person be impactful in my life?
And when I see that my answer is yes to the above question, I put in the effort to be their friend and show them my love / affection / attention. I speak in the love language of having everyone make money together etc etc.
You know all those ABC kids that I was spending time with? Those SoG kids? I really think I could add a lot to D, S, S, A, A, N, N, V, AK etc. And each of you knows amount of effort (time, money, energy, personal equity) I put in to earn their respect etc. But I failed, except maybe with AK. Or a bit with V. The point is not my failure. The point is, I need to get more convincing in my communication. And more importantly, when I spot a giant that I could stand on the shoulder of, I need to drop everything and persuade them to start liking me. Ajeet Sir is one (C met him the other day). I do so so so so much for him. And yet he refuses to accept me. I am willing to submit to him. But no. He won’t accept me.
Similarly, each of you needs to find YOUR people that will change your life. I hope all of us can change of each of us. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE go forth and find more people. And if your interactions allow you to recognise that they can change your life, PLEASE do whatever it takes to stick to them. C – A could be for you. AC – P could be for you.
41/ Why I invest in C4E / SoG / etc
I did not invest in a house, a car or anything. Heck, [REDACTED]. Why? Think and tell me.
And no, not trying to [REDACTED]. It’s a fact. Stating like a fact. And hoping for a straight answer, like you would respond to a non-emotional, rational, facts-first question.
Fun fact – I did not know that Steve wrote the Stanford speech himself. I assumed someone would’ve written for him, the way most people get their things done. And he took 6 months!! FCUK!!
42/ The missing BEST thing from the actual speech!!!
I dont know why Steve did not include this in his speech. This is THE BEST DAMN advice I’ve EVER read ANYWHERE. NOT KIDDING. READ!
LIFE AS A STORY IN THE MAKING! FUAAAK!
What makes your heart sing? F#$K!
And you know what, I am so so so so lucky that I think 18 years of my story is amazing so far. I have 10 more years to go till am 50. Am going to make the next 10 the best song that the heart knows. Come sing with me. Tell me your song. Let’s make a symphony of our song. I am sure there could be a case of Miley Spears or whatever that lady AK is fan of and Lucky Ali and Eminem and a dog barking coming together to create music!
Ok that’s about it from this flight. There is one more part coming in. I will send it this week and then we can chat. Till then, over and out.
This is part 4 that I read / thought / wrote at a Starbucks.
So, I had to get over with this. The book is almost done and needs just an hour more. And right now am parked at a Starbucks and I have time till 12. So, I thought, why not?
I do have a flight on Friday (to Goa :D) and I could have used that time. But no, too far.
This is a quote from Bill Gates about Steve Jobs when Jobs was sitting right next to him. I dont know what you see. But I see charm. And all of us need to learn that!
44/ The kind of things we want to use ourselves.
THIS IS EXACTLY what I have been trying to do with C4E. And all of you. I know modern work is broken. I don’t know if I can fix it for large sets of people. But I can fix it for myself and the ones around me. And that’s what I am onto.
I want to build a structure where I can thrive and feel free and do things that I want to. Of course, I want to make money and enjoy the richness that life has to offer. Of course, we have to work incredibly hard, harder than the average Joe and Jane and Them next door. But it has to be at my own term. With the confidence that life could be full of people where we talk to each other with respect and start and end at that.
I hope each of you sees this. And each of you wants to build this place into a kind of place that you’d like to welcome your friends and family into!
45/ Look at the future. Not past.
In hindi we say, jo beet gayi so baat gayi.
Each of us – whatever has happened in the past need to learn from that and move on. Don’t let it linger. Think what can you do next. Life is what’s happening to you now and what will happen to you in the future.
46/ Sic Transit Gloria
47/ As good as the last thing
I know I have shared this already (point 28) but I thought I will share it again. See and internalise.
48/ Shoulder of giants
These are indeed very simple words but very very deep. That’s the point of it. Things are simple. We read them at a superficial level. And then we forget about those. However, to appreciate them really well, like REALLY well, you need to be clear in the head. This is what Steve was probably going for. I cant say I understand and I get what he was on but this is very very useful to read.
49/ One more thing
I don’t know how many of you know the “one more thing” thing but read about it (here).
Let’s POKE life. We’ve done that a lot already. Can we do more? Can we change it for better? Life is a gift and our gift has come with considerable privilege. Each of us acknowledges it and knows about it. Why would we then not chase a higher-order thingy? C4E and communication and all that will happen. But can there be more? Can we all uplift self and others?
PS: This is better heard in Steve’s voice – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kYfNvmF0Bqw
And, that’s about it. What a compilation. I am glad I could take time and read and think.
I would end this with the same thing that most of us know already – Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.
Over and out.
Oh, one more thing.
On this Thursday’s growth session, I will talk about this.
PS: These Thursday sessions are where we at C4E do an open-house conversation of sorts where we invite someone to speak about an idea / thought that is worth knowing. If you’d like an invite, please write to us at @c4ein.