Reflections from Manila

Thinking-out-loud about how I spent the last 15 days, what it taught me about myself and what I could do from here on.

I was on a break of sorts (more on this “break”) in a bit for about 15 days in Sep. I was in Manila with M&m and here are my thoughts and reflections from the trip.

A/ I plan large and do less.

When I was going to Manila, I told myself that in the 15 days, I am there, I would learn swimming, do 10000 steps every day, do OMAD, try to do yoga, learn webflow, finish startup school lectures, write (book / blog / script).

These were simple things, to be honest, considering I had nothing else to do.

And out of these few things, I did ZERO!

Even though I made a tracker and tried to hold myself accountable, I could not. Here’s a screenshot from the tracker…

Heck, I did not even follow the tracker!

I need to fix this and I dont know how to. Thing is, if someone asked me to stop doing something, I could easy. I recently came off a 4-month break from coffee. I haven’t had coke in over 4 months. I can easily do OMAD. But I can’t seem to start doing new things.

Any one knows any secrets? That can help me get more willpower? Or help me not suck at being consistent? Should I get myself an accountability coach?

B/ I suck at consistency.

I realise I suck at being consistent.

I am more like a sprinter who can work in high-energy spurts and do incredible things. But I can’t do marathons, even if I am to move just a few inches everyday. I even wrote about it while I was in Manila.

I would’ve been fine if I had an infinite life. But I don’t. And everything in life is a result of consistent effort over a long time. You know, compounding. The 8th wonder of the world. Work, relationships, wealth, health, reputation, impact, opportunities – every damn thing needs time and they only grow if you are consistent.

While I have remained consistent and have grown on my personal values, I think I have a tough time staying consistent with things. If I have to do more with my life, I need to be uber-consistent. And I don’t know how to go about it 😐

C/ Home.

V’s home is probably the only place apart from my parents where I feel at home. Apart from his, I am not at comfort at all even at the homes of other people that I can die for (SG19Jan etc.).

While I was there, I was part of the daily humdrum of the life of a happy, closely-knit family. Even though I am not a part of their family and not related by blood, the 5 of them accepted me like their own. Not for a minute I felt like an intruder or a stranger. And if you know me, this is a rarity – not because people make you feel like an outsider but I need a lot of time before I get used to surroundings and people. And I have this incredibly BIG need for my personal space. Leave alone my bed, I can’t stand someone living in the same house as me. For a few months, I had a domestic help living in with me and each cell my body revolted at the thought (not because he was domestic help, the revolt would’ve been if it were even my significant other – I know I am broken).

Ok, I am rambling. This is not the point. It’s accepted that V’s home is mine.

The point is, when I was coming back (in the flight), I did not know that I would crave for a home like his. I have been a nomad for a long time now and I never imagined that I’d like to “settle down” and get used to a familial bliss.

No, I am not saying that I want a family and a home but I was craving. I am merely capturing this feeling.

So that.

The other thing within this home variable is the India and non-India conundrum. For me, India has been home (and within India, I have lived in a few cities) and lately, I have been thinking about getting out of India.

Yes, yes, YES, YYEESS I know that it’s India’s century and there’s immense growth and all that here. I know that reverse brain drain is real and people are moving back to India. I know we are growing as a nation. And yet I know that I don’t want to be here in the near future. I may come back to die here but I am very sure that I don’t want to be here in the near future. This I have no doubt on. Even if my business, connections, ideas, and even the family is here.

I dont have a rational reason to get out of here. Like all humans, I have a rationalising creature and I can give a 1000 rationalising reasons why I want to be out of here. And none of them will make sense, now that the decision is made in my head.

So, I have been thinking about where I could go. I would have said the US at the drop of a hat a few years ago. Now, Dubai or Singapore look like better options. Even Bangkok.

Of course I am assuming I’d be able to move to these places. I am definitely not getting a naukri at these places – I am unemployable. I will have to create something and going by my track record, I think it will be tough. But then, if life doesnt throw tough challenges at you and you are unable to take those head on, why are you even alive! So, more than anything else, this is a problem to be solved and I need to put my head together to find a way (you know, either I will find a way or make one). And I shall. Just need to find time to do so. Lol!

Thankfully, apart from this being a rational problem staring me in the face, the good part is that I don’t have a home per se (apart from my parents and now, Vs) that holds me back. Plus I am not sure if I want to build one (I do want to buy houses and all that but I don’t want a home). In fact, instead of a home, I’d love to build a few versions of a Village or a Base across the world. So essentially, I’d have a “home” even when I am on the road and travelling. So that.

So, one of the things that I need to tackle over the next few days is to figure out where I’d spend a lot of my time in the near future. And of course, there are more life decisions to be taken. Lemme talk about those.

D/ Life Decisions.

Now that I have reached an uncle stage (40+), I want to make a few large decisions. The kind of people I hang out with, the kind of people I partner with, the kind of things I work on, the kinds of goals I chase, the kind of things I tolerate. And so on and so forth.

And if this means I need to cut some ties, I will. If this means I need to take a few harsh calls, I will. Even if it hurts. I often remind myself of Prof Jordan Peterson’s sermon on going thru pain of seeing your loved ones suffer. In my case, the loved one are people (more on echochamber) and inanimate objects (businesses, ideas etc).

I’d take each decision from the lens of reaching my goals and fulfilling my ambitions.

The biggest variable will be how I get to spend my time. Do I feel engaged? Do I feel respected? Am I doing something meaningful? Am I doing new things? Am I getting closer to my life goals? Am I making the world a better place, even if in an insignificant manner?

While most of these are intangible, you often can spot patterns. Case in point? I recently completed a year of self-reviews for C4E. I was reading some of the older posts and I realised that while we as a team have remained the same (still on the edge, still a bad month away from ruin, still scrounging around to make ends meet), the kind of challenges we are working on have become larger! So, there’s growth.

Growth! That’s a variable I need for sure. I want to take on larger challenges and not do the same thing over and over again.

Another variable would be people. Am I with the ones that are genuinely invested in my success? Am I spending time with people that I want to help go beyond? Can we create things together? Can we live together? At a village / base!

Oh, a large variable would be the ability to move around and travel. I mean at Manila, I loved being in a new place, in a new bubble, amidst a new place. I LOVED being on the road. I loved the unpredictability that I had to wade through. I hated (and loved) that there’s no easy wifi there. I was so immersed that I hardly clicked any pics (here are some that I did click).

Living as a local for a few days at Manila, I was reminded of the times when Kila and I would stroll around aimlessly in some random gully in a random city in a random country. And while we did not have the money to buy things or chase experiences or pay for admission or eat the fancy things on display, we did soak in as much as we could and made plans of taking over the world. Oh, our naivety! And come to think of it, we dont even talk to each other these days. Wait, I am digressing again.

So at Manila, like most of my trips abroad (and at new places), I did not go to even one touristy place, even though there are quite a few around. Please don’t ask me why and please do not ask me for recommendations – I was on a trip to discover myself and reflect on things.

One of the most important epiphanies was that as I grow older and the time I am left with is shorter, I want to get back to a life where I am on the road all the time. To be honest, in the absence of a home or any tethers, at this point, the only thing stopping me from doing that is a freelance gig with a social media agency in Mumbai (where I need to show in person often). All other clients, work can be managed remotely (apart from meeting people). At this point, I can’t quit that (cos money) but now that I have decided that I will cut a few businesses (see the photo below; found it on insta), I will hopefully be able to in near future. Let’s see when.

Oh, I am hoping to start a couple of additional things (an ad-film production thing and something with C and AK) that may keep me anchored to Mumbai. But I will ensure that I retain my freedom to be on the road. Or the freedom to take a flight at a whim.

Brings me to the next point. The fear of flying.

E/ Fear of flying.

I would have taken 500 flights in my life. If not a thousand.

No, I am not exaggerating. This year alone, I have taken 23 flights and if I were to assume that I take 30 on average in a year, simple math puts the number at 450 (I took my first flight in 2005 or so (DEL to BLR) and there were years when I took about 80 flights!).

And apart from a few bumpy ones where I was scared to death, most have been very eventless.

However, lately, each time I take a plane, I am scared. Not of the bumps. Not of the cramped seats where I’d be confined for hours. But of all that I have at stake. In case I dont make it on the other side, I would leave so so so many windows open.

At 41, the best part of my life is just getting started. I have started to pay back my loan. I have a fabulous team that I love and I want to take care of and taken care of by. There’s some meaning in the work that we do. I have started to get access to larger and grander things and I seem to have reached the first steps of a ladder to sky and what I’ve worked for all my life (impact at scale) seems to be reachable (I am still decades away from this but I now know this will happen!). So, things like planes, heath, fate, randomness and vagaries of life are, well, unpredictable and thus the fear.

I don’t know a solution to this.

Planes are necessary evils, especially for someone like me who HAS to travel at each opportunity. I shall shrug and get on with it! And this month alone I will take at least 3 more flights (if not 5) – all for work. Just that with these domestic flights, I’d get bored. On the flights to Manila, I saw like three films. Lemme talk about those as the next part.

F/ Films.

Even though I want to play a large role in the films business, I have trained myself to not follow popular content on streaming platforms. I rarely see a film. And I feel I’d rather create than consume. I know, you’d say how can you create without knowing. That’s a different debate for a different day.

Today I want to talk about the three films I saw on the long flight back home.

ONE/ Surrounded (2023).

Before I talk about this film, I want to put on record that I will be surprised if this film does not win a lot of awards. Actually, it may not. I don’t understand this business even though I want to be a player in it.

This film is EXACTLY the kind of film that I’d like to make. Exactly the kind of story I would have liked to write. An underdog. Facing adversity. Despite all odds, trusting her instincts at each fork.

I am not the understand the direction or acting but I was riveted to the screen the whole time the film played. Do see it, if you get an opportunity.

TWO/ Covenant (2023).

The best of this film was non-stop, mindless action. And just when you think the film is over, it starts a new arc! Loved the writing. Loved the pace. Loved everything. In fact, I took home a couple of things from it.

a, there is this dialogue that goes something like, “you seem like a guy that pays his debts.”

I want to be the person that pays his debts. And I want to be around people that pay their debts. This will become a very important metric in life.

b, Ahmed. I can write a book about him but I will spare the torture. I want to be an Ahmed to people. I think I am to quite a few. And I need an Ahmed in life. I have Paras that comes close. Probably. I may have a C. A KP. But I don’t think I have an Ahmed. And I need one.

What’s an Ahmed, you may ask me. Well, go watch the film.

THREE/ No Sudden Move (2021)

This one was a very very interesting story. Till the film ended I was left guessing what was even happening! It all looked like a random pulp-fiction-esque narrative (I could be wrong here – you know my relationship with cinema!)

So yea. All three were good. I can recommend all three. If you asked me to pick one, I can’t pick one. Go figure.

G/ M.

I typically dont talk about her in public places and if I do, never in detail. Today I will. At least try to. So while I was with her, I realised that she’s no longer a lump of pink flesh. She’s a human, growing fast and as a pre-teen she has her quirks and whims and likes and all that. And as a part-time parent from far to her, I realise that I am so unequipped to handle. I dont know how V and S manage two smart kids.

As she’s growing, she is finding new things to occupy herself. Her world is expanding fast beyond the pink room full of books and soft toys and all that. I sort of caught her picking hats and sunglasses and accessories at high-street fashion stores. She wrote an essay on why you can’t have monkeys as pets and it had the story arc and all that! She likes to use the iPhone to click photos and she’s damn good at it for her age. Here’s a few unfiltered, unedited pics that she clicked.

She’s growing as a human and I dont think I am ready for a world where she will operate like a mini-adult. She’s the most precious thing to me and while I have been trying very very very hard to make this world a better place, I am scared.

Okay, this is too much revealing. Moving on.

H/ Heat / AC / Etc.

Manila was HOT. Not warm. But HOT. Like RED HOT. And I can’t function when it’s hot. And I realised that while I was in Manila. So, I need to be at a place where AC is an acceptable tool!

Funnily, when I came back to India, the house that I live in, the ACs were not working. And I was like, I ran away from Manila cos of the garmi and here I am, at home, no ACs!

So that. Nothing more.

And I think this is it for the time being. The post is now 3000 words and the length of this post will make AK jealous, my job here is done. Took me three days to write but I am glad how it has come out.

Over and out.

PS: No, I did not talk about Manila at all. Of course, I spent 15 days and I had a lot of fun (and I suffered through a lot of garmi as well) but I can NOT talk about touristy, leisurely things that people do! In case you are looking for things to do there, PLEASE run a search 🙂

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