The C4E 2023-24 Annual Shareholder Report

Hello! 
So FY24-25 is upon us.
And here’s my attempt at reporting how the last year was and what we plan to do this year. 

Before I start, I wish to reiterate a few things that I will not compromise on while we build C4E. 

  1. We will always be a culture-first, open company and we will prioritise the health and wellness of our people over profits. And this does not mean we would take it easy. See the next point.
  2. We would not be outworked. (credit to Will Smith for the seed). We are not the most talented team but we would be the most hardworking team. We would work harder than anyone else but we will also choose what to work on, how to work and who to work with. 
  3. Today we may be offering a service X. Tomorrow we may offer Y. Day after Z. Whatever we may do at any point in time, we would do it in the C4E style (I need to write this guide) and all of us at C4E acknowledge that we are in this for the long haul and we are preparing ourselves for a Mahabharata – whenever that dawns upon us.

So with that, let’s go.

PS: In this entire piece, I am very mindful of the use of I and We. And I haven’t used these two words interchangeably.

1/ So, what is C4E?

Lemme start at the start.
What the heck is C4E?
I get this question a lot.
And here is my attempt to write about it.

I’ll start with what we are not.

We are NOT a communication business.
Yes, we make our money by offering services in brand strategy, social media, website design, marketing collaterals and more. We do this for large companies, startups and individuals. We do this by working on ongoing retainers and one-time projects. We do this by ourselves and with the help of numerous contractors. And we compete with other communication agencies of all shapes and sizes. And when someone asks who we are, we introduce ourselves as a communications collective.

But… but that’s how we make money.
Our identity as a group is different from what we do to make ends meet. 

So more than anything, C4E is a village. Inspired by this post, here is my revised definition of the village. 

We are a virtual place (for the time being) where each person is part of a village, a community larger than themselves.

Each person at The C4E Village is at most separated by two degrees. Each has been invited by someone we trust. And there is inherent trust and safety in being part of this community.

At the C4E village you can lean on others for help, support, input, connections and if nothing else, to have a good time!

Saurabh Garg

No village can ever exist without its people.

So if I were to ever talk about what business we are in, I would say, we are in the people business. Each thing we do is to bring people together, learn from each other and grow on the shoulders of each other.

Plus, we will always be big on culture. We will be open. We will encourage freedom and movement. And yet offer reliability. And like most communes in this VUCA world, we would make ourselves a perpetual learning machine. 

So today the C4E Village operates as a communication collective. Eventually, we would take some other shape. Whatever that is.

2/ What did we do in 2023-24? 

If I were to capture this in one line, I would say, 2023-24 was a great year for us but it could’ve been better. I like the idea of being divinely discontent! 

2.1. Here are some wins to start with…

2.1.1/ We added more people to the team than I had imagined.

In 2023 we were 5+.
Now we are 10+.
We pay 30+ people every month.
The fee ranges from 5K to approx 150K.
No. I am not the highest-paid person at C4E.

If things go the way they are, we will be 20+ by the end of this FY.

PS: + refers to people who are third-party contractors that are not “married” to C4E.

2.1.2/ The C4E Delivery Model

While we’ve grown in numbers, we’ve remained a remote-first team. At some point in this FY, I will get a physical office in Mumbai but no one would be forced to be in office.

Despite our distance and the nature of work, we’ve been able to arrive at a delivery model where we deliver with insane reliability! It is built on the pillars of overcommunication, redundancy, frugality, freedom and trust. This has to be one of my biggest achievements. I know that as we scale this would get more and more tough to manage. But like in the previous times, we will learn and scale.

Happy to give gyaan on this, in case. 

2.1.3/ We clocked our highest turnover since we started

We incorporated C4E in 2016.
Back then, I created the legal entity to be more tax efficient. Now, of course, we are a business with people and projects and profits.

We closed the last financial year with our highest turnover yet. We clocked in the vicinity of half a million dollars. I can share the actual number if you want. Ask me.

In terms of numbers, YoY, our turnover grew 86%. This means if we billed 100 in 2022-23, this year we billed 186.

In the last year, we made 178 invoices, served 43 clients, and offered services across 10 business verticals. In the previous year, these numbers were 135, 32, and 8 respectively.

2.1.4/ Acquired a few large clients

While I take pride in being the best friend to a founder, the nature of business dictates that we get some large companies. These companies help with retainers and that helps with building the team. So we were keen on getting some retainers and luckily friends and mentors gave us access to leads that we could convert into clients.

Some new clients that we started working with include GE Healthcare, Ajax Engineering, HDFC Ergo, Ageas Federal Life Insurance, Lux Cozi, Case New Holland, and others. As third-party contractors to other agencies, the team worked on Incredible India, AMFI, Microsoft and more.

We did lose a few clients. In most cases, we decided to pause our engagement. More on this later.

There’s a red flag here, however. Most of these new clients offered work to Saurabh Garg. Not to C4E. Today, the business is large enough that we need to have a structured business growth team that builds business independent of Saurabh. This is one of the problems 🔴 (I will use this dot to capture problems) I will work on with the team as we go along.

2.2. Some losses

While the year was great all around, we made some blunders and losses as well. Here’s a list of the ones big enough that they need cataloguing… 

2.2.1/ We had to let go of some colleagues and some colleagues let go of us.

While each person who comes into C4E is carefully vetted, we do make mistakes. So there was someone that we had to let go of. This is the second time since I started C4E in this avatar that I had to make the decision to ask someone to leave.

On the other hand, at least two colleagues chose to stop working with us. In both cases, they chose to move on because the money I could offer them was not enough for them. And that is the second thing that I want to fix as we go along 🔴. I want to pay more to my people. And to pay more, I need to earn more. And I need to work on that. We need to work on this.

2.2.2/ The Red Sparrow (TRS)

To be honest, this is more of a loss at a personal level but because I used C4E’s money for this, I am accountable. And I must document this.

So, neither we nor I are no longer a part of TRS. I was unable to communicate my vision to my co-founder and I was unable to spot a merit in her vision. We tried to disagree and commit but that road too wasn’t taking us anywhere. So instead of raising a child in a broken home, we decided to part ways. 

Films remain a dream. And I will ensure that at least I am a player in the film business. This is thing number 3 that I want to work on 🔴.

2.2.3/ We had to let go of some clients

I will not use specific names but I realised that ALL (bold statement) clients that we let go of had the same traits. These are…

  1. Unclear briefs
  2. Unreasonable expectations (though I love the idea of being unreasonable)
  3. Neverending iterations
  4. Micromanagement
  5. No value on time. Time is THE most non-fungible asset and I do not want to commit to a place where time is treated as if it’s in abundance. We are not in the business of renting our time and we will not be held accountable to a clock.

Of course, this is my version. This is my side of the story. If you spoke to these clients, they would have their versions. And trust me, I have tried to understand my and our shortcomings from them but I haven’t got any clear answers. So that.

3/ A report on SG as a leader of C4E

Brings me to a self-evaluation-ish report. I dont have a strict win-loss-fix format for this. I will talk in bullets. And I will keep my personal goals, plans away from this. For that, I have this tracker.

So, I recently declared myself a benevolent dictator.
I got some flak for it.
And I am ok.
And as a very self-aware person, I know my limitations as a human and a leader. And I know that the current version of SG is simply not equipped to lead the C4E of tomorrow. 

So, I know that I need to scale alongside C4E.

As a result, I have started to invest more time into being a better human and a better leader. Of course, my world revolves around me but I am seeing the shift in me where am ok to be a distant planet in someone else’s solar system! 

I have started to work in a manner that will make my team want to ape (hello, mimetic theory) and do better. And I have started to be more mindful of my words and actions. I’ve even engaged with a coach to help me with the next steps. Most work that he and I are doing is for the org, to be honest, but I am learning alongside.

And in the coming year, I will focus on building C4E (read a dilemma towards the end). This will mean I need to do the following…

  1. Inspire better people to work with us. When I say better, I dont mean our current team is not great. I mean the quality of applications we get needs to be better. We should be spoilt for choice. After all, people create magic and we need great people for grand magic shows.
  2. Put more structure into things. This means, building processes and creating failsafe mechanisms. From BD to delivery to money management. Like I mentioned earlier, Saurabh today is the linchpin that holds the org. I dont like that. Org needs to have more robustness.
  3. Get a design leader on board. This has been my number one challenge for eternity. Lemme put a red dot on this 🔴.
  4. Expand into new service lines or geographies. We already have one retainer client out of Dubai. We service it via a remote team, managed by a partner in Goa. Isn’t this amazing? More on this during the year.

While none of these 4 look like revenue-making actions, I believe these four would give me the grounding we need, the base we need to establish before we can jump to the next level. 

3.1/ The lessons I learnt while running C4E in the last year?

Quite a few! List…

3.1.1/ The respect you get from the world is directly proportional to the amount of money you make.
I have been aware of this for a while but in the last year when I made visible money, I saw the attitudes of people changing. And you know what? I never want to go back to being poor again.

3.1.2/ There could be merit in saying no!
I have almost never said no to things. This is very different from what most people recommend in this day and age and yet I continue to say yes.

However, in the last year, I said no to at least 3 clients that were sucking away more energy than what we got as ROI. In terms of ROI, we want to make any two of three – learning, money or reputation. With these clients, we were only making money. Truth be told, it was hard to say no to money. Especially as a growing business but I am glad we did.

3.1.3/ Safe havens are not where mettle is tested
Nothing new or interesting in this. In the past year, we’ve had multiple instances where people in the team had to step up their game. Some did. Some did not. While we were prepared for such challenges, till we faced those for real, we did not know if we were prepared.

4/ The road ahead for C4E / What do we plan to do in 2024-25?

So, what next?
Afterall, all is well.
Money is coming in.
Clients are happy.
Culture is good great.
Now what?

Honestly, I dont know where to go from here on. I have a vague idea. I need to get the team together to do this. This is a task in itself. Big enough to have a red dot 🔴.

But I do know that I dont want stasis.
I dont want to sit easy.
I dont want to NOT make more effort than last year.

So that.

For starters in 2024-25, I want to 10X our topline.

And I dont know where this would come from. In terms of vague ideas, I shared the following with the team…

  1. New territory – establish presence outside of India
  2. New service – films, design etc. 
  3. New projects – C4Efilms platform
  4. New focus / niche – crypto, d2c, affiliate, funnel, drip, healthcare etc

Each of these four has the potential to add a multiple to our topline. Each is doable. Each is equally tough.

So these four.

I dont know which one will we end up working on. We are still thinking. One thing’s for sure – whatever we do, we dont want to compromise on our values, promises, ethos or culture.

Oh, while the team will figure this part out, here are a few things that you can help us with.

4.1/ What do we need help with at C4E?

I’ve made this list of open challenges at C4E. The intention is to keep this as an open document and build C4E in public. You are welcome to pick up any of these and throw help, ideas, inputs, connections etc.

To make it palatable, at this time (7 April 2024), the key problems are…

  1. Build Brand C4E – We are still not a brand that people aspire to attach their name to. As a client, as a team member, as a contractor.
  2. Creative leader/owner – We need someone to lead the creative function. Someone hands-on. Someone willing to help the team and hustle.
  3. Set up an office outside India.
  4. Build a product / productised service – We want to be out of service business.
  5. BD for C4E – We still don’t know how to acquire new business. Our pitching muscle is weak. I suspect once we get a creative leader on board, we will be able to fix this.
  6. C4E website – Lol

At a personal level. I need help on the following…

  1. SoG – building the next edition of SoG.
  2. Brand SG – I want to attract clients and people and opportunities. And thus I will have to build my brand. I’ve never worked hard on it, even though I have a lot to say about it. Maybe in this year. This is also a large goal for me for 2024.
  3. Hire for Team SG / SG’s office. I need someone to be dedicated to helping me do more.

Brings me to a large dharam-sankat. Aka dilemma that I talked about earlier.

4.2/ SG’s Dilemma

So, here’s a dilemma that I am stuck with.

At the place where C4E is at, I have three paths.

  1. I can easily become a “regular” business, squeeze my team and take home a lot of money. And then live a good life.
  2. Invest profits into building a product / startup that has a shot at being a unicorn. Today I don’t. And I’d be honest. I really really really would like to be among the richest people around.
  3. Grow C4E into a communication business and take a shot at being a CLA, if not an Ogilvy.

Each day I wake up with a different want. Each day I want to take a different direction. I know the answer would come from within but this one large decision is what I need to work on and then go all-in.

5/ In the end…

As I end this, here’s a question.

What can we at C4E help you with?

Some ideas could be…

  1. We are good at building a great culture. At least at our scale. Do you need gyaan on that?
  2. We want to be the shoulders for your success. You stand on top of our shoulders and do well. Tell us what boost you need and we’ll do that.
  3. Throw any problem at us – marketing, communication, strategy, brand, etc. We are resourceful. Relentlessly resourceful at that. And we know a guy that knows a guy!

So yeah.
This is about it for the report.
Please do write to me, should you have any questions. Or feedback. Or inputs. Or brickbats.

PS: If you have feedback for me at personal level, you may please use this form – https://forms.gle/28bVP8DYz2WGdHdp8. This is 100% anonymous. Like I mentioned earlier, I am a self-aware individual and I am willing to work hard to become better.

Thank you!

6/ Notes

  1. I would have liked this letter to be more extensive. But I couldn’t for my life figure out what to write. But then, am glad I started. I plan to send a quarterly update as well. I hope to get better as we go along.
  2. This is inspired by AK’s shareholder report series. The latest one is here.
  3. The last time I wrote something like this, I published it here. I plan to be more regular from now on.

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?

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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.

in2022, I will…

A list of things that I plan to work on #in2022. This is my annual post where I list my goals and ambitions and dreams and all that.

Hello! So a new year is here upon us. And more than anything else, to me, it means that I have a new list of things to do, new impossibles to chase down, new shiny objects to get enamoured by, new dreams to be converted into reality and in general, take new shot at a fresh start.

Thing is, I love the idea of new. New people, new places, new opportunities, new years. The new year specifically to me is an opportunity to reset. To restart. To be a buffoon again. For what’s it worth, I find the notion of a restart or a reset very very cool. Even though I am older by a year and ought to be a tad wiser, most probably I am not. And I am ok with that. For one, I refuse to believe that I am older. At least in my head, I remain a young, fool that continues to believe that I will live forever. And second, I continue to believe that life is malleable per whims.

PS: I must say that even though I believe I would live forever, I am very very aware of my mortality. I know the time is limited. And to make matters worse, none of us knows when our time would be up. So, I am an ageist. I like the idea of doing things here and now. Yeah, I am full of dichotomies and made up of contradictions.

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?

PS: This moon and stars analogy is wrong it should be the other way around cos the closest star is the Sun, but you get the drift.

So, in this post, I will try and list down things I want to do #in2022.

But before that, a quick recap of the year gone by.

If I were to summarise 2021, I would say it was a mixed bag. I did manage a few things, some that I have never imagined. Like the trek to Everest Base Camp. And I messed up on more things than I would’ve liked. And I made more mistakes than I thought I was capable of. I would list those on my echochamber. The worst is that I am hurt and guilty that I left a few people in the lurch. I mean my hurt is a thing but they must be angry, livid at me! Thing is, one of the maxims I live by is that I want to do onto others as I would them to do onto me. Thus, if I dont fulfil a promise or honour a commitment, I feel really bad. In 2021, there were quite a few of those. This year, I will try to reduce these mistakes.

PS: Here’s contradiction # 2. While I dont want to make mistakes, I know that unless I throw a million darts, the odds of hitting the bullseye are abysmal. So, I need to keep throwing darts. And that would mean I would make mistakes. And that would mean I would end up leaving people in the lurch. I would probably not be able to honour my commitments. A solution could be that I can tell people up front about the “risks” and potential fault lines of working with me. At least they would know what they are getting into? May be.

So, coming to the #in2022 plan,

There are just way too many things that I do and as a result, the energy and attention are scattered all over the place. To a point that I can’t even seem to make a list of things that I want to work on in the coming year. But then if I look at those things closely, there is this pattern that seems to emerge. There are a few broad themes that I chase in life. No, none of these are unique, neither is the combination unique. Just that somehow I am gravitated towards these, even if I want to move away. So, rather than going against the force of nature, I thought, this year, lemme embrace this!

So this year, I will do something different. I will not make a list of goals public. Rather, I will identify a few broad themes that I want to stand for in life. And thus, rather than chasing a list of goals this year, I will create systems that allow me to be consistent and insync with these themes. And if along the way, my goals are met, I’d talk about those and celebrate those.

Without further ado, here are the themes for 2022…

1/ Network.
The importance of being insanely connected was always known to me but in 2021, I saw it in action. I totally understand, at a deep level, when people say that your network is your net worth. #in2022, I want to work hard on amping my network. If this means I need to send out 1000 cold emails this year to random people, I would (this is an example of a goal that I would typically set for myself). If this means I need to find a system to manage all the people I talk to and conversations I have with them, I would. If this means I need to leave a lot of money on the table, I would. If this means I need to dress well and put myself out of my comfort zone by going to parties and getting into inane discussions about films, politics, food, wine and all that, I would. You get the drift.

2/ Open doors. For self. And for others.
This is a mini-theme in continuation to the one above. I would work to open as many doors as I can for myself and for others around me. Especially for the ones that have put their trust and faith in me. #in2022, I will become a super-connector. I would become like Red, “a regular Sears and Roebuck”?

Brings me to the next thing.

3/ People first.
I am not a creator per se that can work in isolation and create magic. And then hope that those wonders would allow me to earn a livelihood while I sit in a cave. Neither am I a maverick that is so good that I create one piece of work that allows me to earn passively. And I am definitely not the one to create schemes that promise “lessons” to others and profits of that.

Plus, most of the work I get is from connections I’ve made over the years. The key clients that I work for right now, I first made their acquaintance in 2006, 2013, 2014 and 2017 respectively. The most recent client was “acquired” in 2017. 4 years ago. Clear example of the value and utility of long-term thinking / relationships. So, #in2022, I will do whatever it takes to become a people magnet. Attract people. Add value to their lives. Expect nothing. Invest. And let the seed of the relationships germinate and compound. And wait for the fruit.

PS: This is similar to 1 and 2 but there is a tiny difference. While 1 and 2 and more action-oriented, this one is little more open-ended. I mean I dont know what it takes to be a magnet. I have a tough time holding attention of people when we are not talking work and here I am. Trying to a magnet!

Also, this year, I am making a commitment to help a friend reach his life goals.

4/ Do difficult things.
All my life, I’ve had it easy. From parents to family to friends. Actually no. Things haven’t been easy at all. It’s probably my attitude that makes them look easy. Digressing. The point is, I believe I can do even more difficult things than what I do right now. Or have ever done. So, #in2022, I will do things that take me out of my comfort zone. For example, talking to strangers, dressing well, asking for help, calling a spade a spade, leaving behind dead weight when I want to move on, not being afraid of ridicule, chasing rejections, getting into more debates (even if they are public), putting myself out there, etc etc.

In one line, take more shots at things that I know for sure are out of my reach.

5/ Cash flow.
Since I took my first shot at entrepreneurship (no, not the time when as a kid I rented comics), each thing I worked on, with each idea, I would chase everything but cash flow. #in2022, unless I see clear cash flow with things I am working on, I will not work on those.

Except when I get to learn with those ideas. Or when the idea allows me to build on top of what I’ve already built. Or when an idea expands the cohorts of people I know.

So, any new “community” play is out. And yes, more “new” things are probably in.

PS: This is a bit hazy, to be honest. But I hope to crystalise this in a few weeks.

6/ Ship.
This is linked to the one above. Most times, with most ideas, I would merely imagine the start point and the end state and then I would forget about those. This is probably why there was no cash flows with ideas. #in2022, I would ensure that I ship. Enough of talking.

My method to ship remains the same – find partners to work together. I know I cant do things by myself. Just that, this year, I would be more prudent and judicious with how I partner up. All this while, I would look for ambition and passion as the filter. I assumed that I could manipulate get them to see world from my lens. I was mistaken.

Going further, I would look for just the ethos. Once that’s in sync, other things are easier to work on. I for one am very clear in how I operate and what ethos I have and thus I should be able to filter people on the basis of that.

And of course, vice versa. The ones I choose to work with may not like me or my ethos. So, I need to fit in their ethos-system as well. Unless this marriage of ethos happen, I dont think I would partner up.

7/ Finish.
Again, linked to 5 and 6, I am guilty of starting a million things and not taking even one to a logical conclusion. As a mentor (AS) pointed out (way back in 2019), I think I know the path that I need to walk to get to the end line and thus I dont actually do it.

So, #in2o22, when I start a project, I will know the “end state” of that project before hand and I will ensure that I take it to the end state. If a project’s end state is planned for after 10 years, I will know the milestone for each of those 10 years. And aim for each of those. Of course, each idea is like a human being. You imagine it to have some sort of life and in a few months, you realise that it is on a very different trajectory altogether. Which is fine. But when I give birth to an idea, I will ensure that I know the milestones for that. And work towards shipping and finishing those. So that!

8/ Self First
While a lot of what I want to do is for others and by others, I will make myself the centre of my universe. If I wasn’t already. I would also work towards making my word have more gravitas. And I would want to be known for my ability to get things done and open doors.

This was on my list last year also to be honest but I couldn’t work on this.

9/ Grow
This is a simple one.

Will happen automatically if I stick to the themes. I want to grow as a person, as a thinker, as a doer, as a getting things done guy, as a speaker, as a business person etc.

So these are the themes for the year.

Coming to the goals, of course I have a long list of goals that I want to chase this year. Here they are…

The tangible and measurable goals for the year.

For example, I want to be 32″ when I end this year. I have made a bet to get my photo plasterd on a hoarding if I am not. I also want to buy a luxury car this year. That means I need to be in a debt-free state. Then, I want to be Japan for a bit. I want to have more followers on twitter. Publish my book. Run a marathon. Climb a 6K meter mountain. Start playing poker again.

I am not listing any of those here. The top three goals remain the same. These are…

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

Yes, there are other sub-goals within these goals. And there are other philosophical goals. I have a sheet I’ve been using since 2017 or so to list my goals. Should people ask for it, I am happy to open it up and add to this post here. But that would be meaningless as I am sure that I want to chase themes and not just the goals.

So yeah! That’s about it for #in2022. Let’s make this the best year of lives so far!

Over and out!


PS: Like each year, at some point I will write a list of the highlights of the year gone by. And the lessons I learnt. Need a few more days for this. Let’s see when I post that.

PPS: I need to talk about the moonshot and lifegoals and how this years fits into that grand scheme. I need another post for this. For the time being, this is dense enough for me to lose whatever hair I’ve left on me.

PPPS: To be able to write this, I relied on Year Compass, my vision board and my notes that I’ve been taking over the years. The North Star has remained the three large goals that I want to achieve in life – climb the Mt. Everest, have a billion dollars in cash and impact a billion lives.

PPPPS: Here are previous updates from me…

2022 – Annual Goals (this post)
2021 – Annual GoalsJan-Feb-MarApr-May-Jun, Jul-Aug-Sep-Oct-Nov
2020 – Annual GoalsJanFeb-MarApr-MayJun-Jul-Aug
2019 – AugSepOctNovDec

And here are yearly posts from previous years – 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2015, 2014, 2013, and 2012. I may have some data / notes from the years prior to 2012. I can try and pull those out but I dont see the merit and thus they shall remain buried in some drive somewhere.

Finally, to be honest, as I read the updates for 2021 and 2020, I realised those were written so much better. And not a lot has changed. I am still talking about the things that I talked about years ago. I am in stasis 🙁

Quarterly Update – JASON 2021

Saurabh Garg’s quarterly letter to friends, mentors, seniors, co-workers and others about how and what he did in the months gone by.

I send this letter to some of my mentors, friends, clients, and others that have shown a disproportionate interest in my life. The letter includes unfiltered, unedited, raw thoughts about life and work and all that. Even though I send a shorter version of this via email, here is the unabridged version for everyone on the world wide web to see and react to.

Hi! I am Saurabh Garg. You may remember me from conversations we’ve had over the years (or recently, in some cases). This is a quarterly-ish update about my life, to people like you that have shown an interest in my life. 

Here we go…

“Executive” Summary

For me, the months of JFM 2021 were a turnaround compared to how 2020 was. I got new work, moved back to Mumbai (from Goa), and tried to get more things done. Post that, AMJ 2021 was about consolidation. I finally got some cash flow going. And thanks to that, I hired some people across various projects that I support. I even started investing. And most importantly, I started saving.

JASON 2021, however, in one word, was disappointing. I could not sustain the momentum. I lost a few projects. More than the money, I lost face. And I lost my reputation. One of the projects overshot the budgeted estimate by 3X. I should have expected that considering that it was a film. But I did not. I started a syndicate to invest in startups, but I could not close any deal per se except making personal investments.

And now, I am back to a point where I am seeking work and taking whatever comes my way, even if it’s paying me peanuts and taking away my soul. It sucks, but I am grateful that I have work, even in this day and age.

And yes, I do have a few things in the good-things department. Allow me to talk about these in a bit.

Meanwhile, here’s a detailed update.

A. Losses / Shortcomings / Failures

This one is a long list. At least ten things on this one. Trying hard to make it shorter and save the face :D.

i. Work. At work, I took on a project that I thought knew I could deliver great things. But I could not. Despite all my earnest attempts, and it sucks that I failed at it. This is one of my most visible and public failures, and I have accepted it and decided to move on. The lesson I am taking away is that while I aim for the moon, I need to try and recognise things that are not moving and cut losses sooner.

ii. SoG Grant. Could not work on it. I could not issue it. Got busy. And once I had time, I did not have the money required to support the grantees. Will get to it at some point. The lesson I am taking away? Side projects need to be taken up one at a time. And once I commit to one, I need to allocate some budget to it and keep that money aside.

iii. LHV. Started with an angel investing syndicate with a couple of friends. Tried hard but could not get traction. I had overestimated my ability to get access to people that could invest in my decisions. While we could not raise the rounds required, we put our savings into the companies we were backing. So, the heart is at the right place. Just that I could not execute it well.

iv. Podcasting. I tried my hands at hosting a few more shows – one for investors, one for marketers, and another for people that I find interesting. I couldn’t get enough guests to be excited about any of these shows. Plus the handful that I could get, I don’t think the conversations were good enough. And then, since there was no traction per se, I lost interest.

I know that being an independent content creator is important to me. And yet, for some reason, I am unable to push the pedal on it. I think I suffer from imposter syndrome. I think I am not good, and I am constantly questioning why would someone listen to what I have to talk about. So that. I need to find a solution to this. The lesson I am taking away? None!

As against the planned goals for 2021 (listed here), I have missed almost all the goals. There are a few that I want to talk about. Just to remind myself that those are open. Here…

  1. Book2. I have been missing this for a long long time. While I know I want to tell this story, I haven’t been able to work on it. Life has kept me busy. Must work on it.
  2. Brand SG. I had decided to work on creating a personal brand for myself. However, I did not even begin to move the needle on this. This would’ve been the single most important thing that I would have worked on. In fact with each passing day I realise the importance of having a great personal brand. This is something that I will make a priority #in2022.
  3. Marathon / Fitness. This has been a goal since I can remember. And I am unable to move myself. Thing is, I can’t even walk a few steps without losing my breath. Plus the hernia. I don’t know when and how will I start on this! While I write this, I must mention that I could hike upto the Everest Base Camp (in Sep-Oct). And come back. Alive.

There is more. But this is it for the time being. Will do a longer review towards the end of the year.

B. Wins / Achievements

There were a few wins as well. Here are these.

i. Everest Base Camp Hike. Managed to hike up to the Everest Base Camp.

To me, this is the hardest and coolest thing I’ve ever done. I have posted some photos and stories on Instagram. If you are curious, do check those out. Come to think of it, I was very very sceptical about my ability to do it. But I did it! In fact, I did better than almost everyone that I went with. And one of the outcomes of this hike is that the resolve to do the Everest is now stronger. More on this in subsequent posts.

ii. The daily morning pages that I write? Well, I wrote those every day till I had to leave for EBC. A total of 280 days on the trot. I did not miss a single day. And I restarted as soon as I got back. Since then, I have moved these to email. Lemme know if you would want to get that email. To me, this simple act of doing this every day, even if I was busy, has been the most therapeutic thing ever.

iii. Co-produced yet another short film. This one should be ready for screening / sharing next month. The path we take would be the same as the last one – start with festivals and then try and get it a home at some OTT platform.

Again, the bulk of the work was done by my partner, and I merely financed it. The ambition is that at some point, I will be able to make commercial, large-scale films. These are baby steps to learn, experiment, and get my name out in the market.

iv. Brand workshop for a startup. I ran a brand workshop for a startup. I loved it! More than anything, I love it the most when I work with people to discover things that even they seem to be unaware of. You know, unknown self! I must find a way to do more of these.

So that.
There are some other minor achievements as well.
I shall skip writing about those.

Moving on to the next section. About the shiny new toys that I am excited about.

C. New projects that I am excited about?

So I have just the December to go before 2021 ends. 1 month may not be enough to do a lot of things but here are a few that I want to work on.

i. Lose 2 inches. Right now, I am 35″. I would like to be 33″ at least. For this, I would want to reduce what I eat, get on a lo-carb bandwagon and try and do OMAD. Let’s see how this goes.

ii. Book2. Lol! I plan to take this as the only non-money-making thing I’d do from December onward.

D. What help do I need?

So, there are a few things that I need help with. Here’s a list.

i. Connect me with the biggest hustler you know of. This has been an ask since I have started working on these letters. I define these hustlers as people that are out there. And they are seeking work, doing things that are out of their league, making connections, aiming higher than they’ve ever done, and more. I want to learn from them. And I want to be inspired by them and their stories.

So, please connect.

ii. Keep me away from Naukri. Thing is, since I can remember, I have wanted to stay away from Naukri. And I have pretty much managed to. For that, I have had to juggle as many things as I can. However, this time, I am this close to giving up and taking up a Naukri. I do make enough to get by, but I put in too much effort for too little ROI, and I can’t seem to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

So, please help me get “meaningful” work and stay away from Naukri! PLEASE!

In terms of what I can do, in the past, I have worked on producing large-scale events, crafting brand strategy, consulting on digital marketing, ghostwriting, content strategy, and more. I know this sounds scattered but I do have the requisite expertise and demonstrable experience for each. And client references. Both good and bad.

Help me find gigs (freelance only, please) with businesses doing interesting, exciting and impactful things. I want to stay away from the run-of-the-mill stuff, please. 

iii. I want to work with a billionaire. Do you know a dollar billionaire that I could work with? I really really want to work with one. In fact, I am willing to give up on the no-Naukri promise if I get to work with one. I am also willing to give up to 5 years of my life and work on their agenda with as much dedication as you may imagine me to have.

Do you know one?
Can you make connections?
HELP!!!

E. Finally, what can I help you with?

If there is anything that I can help you with, please do let me know. In terms of specifics, there are two things that I can think of.

i. Connecting with others. I believe I have a wide network, and I can find connections where you’d assume they dont exist. In one word, I am a super-connector. I am shameless, and I can knock on the doors and try to open those. For you. To be able to be of help to you. Please let me know in case I could be of use 🙂

ii. I am very resourceful. Plus, I am very handy with marketing, content, writing, the Internet, futurism, emerging technology, and more. If you are stuck on some project, some idea, something, please reach out to me. I would love to be of any assistance / help / inputs / use to you.

***

Guess this is about it from this update.

See you in Jan 2022 with an update on how 2021 was, the plan for 2022, and may be more.

Thank you so much for reading this.
And your patronage and attention.
Means a lot!

Gratitude and respect,
@saurabh
Delhi, 30 Nov 2021

PS: Should you want to give me anonymous feedback on this email (or anything else), please go to https://forms.gle/28bVP8DYz2WGdHdp8. And yes, I LOVE not-so-kind, brutal, and honest feedback.

Here are previous updates from me…
2021 – Annual Goals, Jan-Feb-Mar, Apr-May-Jun, Jul-Aug-Sep-Oct-Nov
2020 – Annual GoalsJanFeb-MarApr-MayJun-Jul-Aug
2019 – AugSepOctNovDec

Quarterly Update – AMJ 2021

My quarterly letter to friends, mentors, seniors, co-workers and others about how and what I did in the three months gone by.

This is a letter that I send to some of my mentors, friends, clients, and others that have shown a disproportionate interest in my life. Since I am embracing living in public, here is the unedited letter for everyone to see, read, consume, comment on, etc.

Hello! Hello! I hope this letter finds you well. The second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic was very devastating. I hope you and your loved ones came out safe.

For me, it wasn’t as good as I would’ve wanted it to be. But we shall prevail and continue to move. Ahead.

So, here we go…

Summary

If JFM was a turnaround compared to how 2020 was, AMJ has been about consolidation. Thanks to the work I got in JFM, I have some cash flow happening. And thanks to that, I hired some people across all projects that I support. I even started investing in newer projects. And most importantly, I started saving.

On other things apart from w0rk, during the past three months, I did a month-long cycle of Keto. While I could test my willpower to eat only what the service provider sent, I am not sure if it helped me – I am as fat, as unhealthy as I have always been. This quarter, I plan to add yoga and running. Of course, these things take time to materialize. Maybe the next quarterly update will have some good news!

So without further ago, here is the update.

A. Losses / Shortcomings / Failures

As against the planned goals for 2021 (listed here), here is what I have missed…

  1. No action on #book2. 🙁
    I dont know what to do to help push this. I have done literally everything and I am unable to push. Even the inspiration that I derive from others (in terms of validation from others) doesnt seem to inspire me 🙁
    So that.
  2. I had planned to do a project a month.
    I havent been able to do any. I guess I overestimate myself?
  3. On fitness, I tried Keto but I did not see any benefit. May be I’ll try OMAD all of this quarter? From what I know, OMAD would require a far larger discipline that I have ever mustered. Let’s see.

Apart from these, here are the things that I could’ve done better.

  1. We started doing events and masterclasses with The Podium. That experiement did not do well. However, inspired by that, along with a couple of other people, I have taken a step in the direction of becoming a VC. More on this in a bit.
  2. I am still unable to close windows. Read more about it here.
    There are so many projects that I started that are withering away in various stages of ignoring. Shumbur, WorkInGoa and many more.

B. Wins / Achievements

  1. As we speak, I am on a 200+ days streak of writing every day.
    Yay! Some posts are here.
  2. I continue to ‘live in public’. It translates into my intention of getting my thoughts, actions, and reality in sync. See some posts here. This was one of my goals for the year. I am embracing it and I count that as a win.
  3. On the work front, I continue my work as a brand planner for a digital agency and for cloud-computing tool. Still looking for more work. Till I can evolve into a . Help me find this additional project?
  4. I wanted to start the Marketing Connect Podcast Season 2 but I haven’t been able to. I had to prioritize and focus on work that gives me revenue and a stronger shot at connections.

C. New projects that I am excited about? What do I plan to do in the next 3 months?

As always, I am that kid in the candy store and I keep looking for things to work on. Here are some old / new toys that I am incredibly excited about. Maybe these could be the things that I will ship in AMJ!

  1. The SoG Book. I want to bind some of my best letters into a book that I share with people. For some reason, a finished product delivers a better impact than an ongoing one.
  2. The Investor Thesis podcast. Along with the marketing podcast, I am now working on the investor’s one. I want to learn more about how to make investment decisions as I move beyond what I already know. If you know any VCs, do connect me, please.
  3. The Killer Boogie routine. See this. I am told you can master this in 20 days. I am giving myself a quarter.

Apart from these three large things, I also will also work on the following…

  1. The SoG Grant. The idea is to support creators with a no-strings-attached, microgrant for a project of their choice. More here.
  2. Get active on doing video. All this while I did not want to be on the Internet But I realize that with time, I cannot avoid that. So, why not embrace it? And thus, I will get active on video. Just that the world has had enough and more gyaan on youtube. Who needs yet another person paddling common sense on Youtube? Plus, the production quality is already through the roof – better cameras, tight scripts, slick editing, gaming of algorithms, and all those hidden tricks of the Internet! I don’t think I stand a chance. But that’s the fun. No? Let’s see though how it pans out.
  3. I wanted to raise capital to become a micro VC. The structure in India doesnot allow you that. So I am doing this with the help of LHV. Oh, I may also raise about 5 crores from friends and family to create a micro VC fund to support aspiring entrepreneurs with angel rounds. I am doing this with a couple of friends. In case you have money that you are ok to lose in order to support other entrepreneurs, please do let me know.

D. What help do I need on?

So, apart from the things that I talked about above, there are indeed a few things that I need help on. Here’s a list.

  1. Connect me with the biggest hustler you know of. You know, someone who’s out there seeking work, delivering work, making connections, doing things that are out of their league.
  2. Help me get “meaningful” work and keep me away from a Naukri! In the past, I have worked on events, brand strategy, digital marketing, product, and more. I know this sounds scattered but I do have the requisite expertise and demonstrable experience. Do help me find gigs (freelance please) with businesses that are doing interesting and impactful things. I want to stay away from the run-of-the-mill stuff, please. 

E. Finally, what can I help you with?

If there is anything that I can help you with, please do let me know. I am very handy with marketing, content, the Internet, and more. Plus, I am told I am very resourceful ;). Please DO ASK!

***

So, this is about from the update. Thank you so much for reading this. And your patronage and attention. Means a lot! 

Thank You!
Saurabh Garg
Andheri, Mumbai
4 Jul 2021

PS: Should you want to give me anonymous feedback on this email (or anything else under the sun), please use https://forms.gle/28bVP8DYz2WGdHdp8. And yes, I LOVE not-so-kind, brutal, and honest feedback.

Here are previous updates.
2021 – Annual Goals, Jan-Feb-Mar, Apr-May-Jun
2020 – Annual GoalsJanFeb-MarApr-MayJun-Jul-Aug
2019 – AugSepOctNovDec

Quarterly Update – JFM 2021

The quarterly update for JFM of 2021. I talk about things I did, I missed, lessons I learnt and plans for the next quarter.

This is a letter that I send to some of my mentors, friends, clients, and others that have shown a disproportionate interest in my life. Since I am embracing living in public, here is the unedited letter for everyone to see, read, consume, comment on, etc.

In case you don’t want to read this longish letter, an abridged version is here.

Hello! Hello!

So, you may remember me from conversations that we’ve had over the years (or recently, in some cases). This is my periodic update to people like you that have shown an active interest in my life. Even though brevity is not my cup of tea, I will still try to make this email as short as I can. Here we go…

I am not sure how it’s been for you, but for me, JFM 2021 has been a turnaround compared to how 2020 was.

For starters, I am generally more hopeful about life and things. This has happened because I was lucky to have landed a couple of projects that are paying me well, making me learn new things and connecting with new people. Yay!

Further, I am a little more grounded. Physically (thanks to COVID) and metaphorically (thanks to all that’s in my head).

Finally, I am very very happy that my loved ones and I are safe in these uncertain times. I do have a few friends that get infected but most of those are doing ok. Phew! Hope you guys are good as well. Please stay safe, stay indoors and stay cool!

So, coming to the report for Q1, here we go…

A. Wins / Achievements

  1. As we speak, I am on a 119-day streak of writing every day. I have not missed a single day! You can check out some of the posts here. Knowing myself, this is probably my biggest achievement of the last quarter.
  2. I now ‘live in public’. It translates into my intention of getting my thoughts, actions, and reality in sync. See some posts here. This was one of my goals for the year. I am embracing it and I count that as a win. Must write a longer post on this sometime.
  3. AD, the team and I took The Podium into another unchartered territory with events and masterclasses. In the event, we invite some established founders / investors as jury and give aspiring entrepreneurs a chance to pitch their startups to them. The idea is not to get them to a funding round per – if that happens, great. But the larger intention is to give the participants feedback on what they are up to. The next one is on the 24th of April. Lemme know if you want to attend. This is important to me as it takes me a step closer to being a VC.
  4. I am now live on Youtube. This is the first time ever that I have appeared on the Internet. This allows me to now chase more opportunities on Youtube. Let’s see where it goes.
  5. On the work front, I continue to work as a brand planner for a digital agency. I also picked an additional project to help market a cloud-computing tool. Both these are ongoing engagements and I think I need one more project and I’ll be sorted. Help me find this additional project? Other things like Podium, PPP, TRS remain on the back burner for me to be honest. I need daal roti right now.

B. Losses / Shortcomings

As against the planned goals for 2021 (listed here), here is what I have missed…

  1. No action on #book2. I think I am fooling myself that I want to write a book. If I wanted to, I would do something about it. I mean I have been writing morning pages for 100+ days and I ensure that they get written. But the book, I don’t even get started! I don’t know why. There’s something in me that makes me want to not let go of this. And then there’s something that makes me want to not even get started.
  2. I had planned to do a project a month. We are in April and I don’t have a single project to talk about. May be I will ship one of those this month. Or may be a quarter. Let’s see.
  3. I have yet to take any action on fitness so far. I am not walking, I am perpetually tired. I am not eating right. I don’t know what to do about this.

Apart from these, here are the things that I could’ve done better.

  1. I still have a hard time saying no to things. A lot of my actions are still guided by emotions (I am far from becoming a robot). I need to be this. Don’t ask me why. I just think that you need to be attached to the outcome, rather than actions.
  2. I remain a fool and a sucker for approval from people and I continue to be taken for a ride!
  3. I am still unable to close windows. Read more about it here.
  4. I wanted to start the Marketing Connect Podcast Season 2 but I haven’t been able to. I had to prioritize and focus on work that gives me revenue and a stronger shot at connections. More on this in a bit.
  5. I was unable to find a place in Goa. Rather, I am back in Mumbai. Stuck here to be close to opportunities, reliable Internet, and well, people! The time I spent in Goa between December and March was great fun. Even though the world is moving to Goa and is happily working from there, I haven’t been able to. The simple reason is that I refuse to live in a “city” like Panjim / Porvorim. And the phone / internet remains unreliable at non-cities like Anjuna / Vagator. And I need reliable, fast access to communication for work I do. I wrote this long post on my Goa experience. Of course, I will have a leg in that place. Let’s see when and how.

C. New projects that I am excited about? What do I plan to do in the next 3 months?

As always, I am that kid in the candy store and I keep looking for things to work on. Here are some old / new toys that I am incredibly excited about. Maybe these could be the things that I will ship in AMJ!

  1. The SoG Book. I want to bind some of my best letters into a book that I share with people. For some reason, a finished product delivers a better impact than an ongoing one.
  2. The Investor Thesis podcast. Along with the marketing podcast, I am now working on the investor’s one. I want to learn more about how to make investment decisions as I move beyond what I already know. If you know any VCs, do connect me, please.
  3. The Killer Boogie routine. See this. I am told you can master this in 20 days. I am giving myself a quarter.

Apart from these three large things, I also will also work on the following…

  1. The SoG Grant. The idea is to support creators with a no-strings-attached, microgrant for a project of their choice. More here.
  2. Get active on doing video. All this while I did not want to be on the Internet But I realize that with time, I cannot avoid that. So, why not embrace it? And thus, I will get active on video. Just that the world has had enough and more gyaan on youtube. Who needs yet another person paddling common sense on Youtube? Plus, the production quality is already through the roof – better cameras, tight scripts, slick editing, gaming of algorithms, and all those hidden tricks of the Internet! I don’t think I stand a chance. But that’s the fun. No? Let’s see though how it pans out.
  3. Oh, I may also raise about 5 crores from friends and family to create a micro VC fund to support aspiring entrepreneurs with angel rounds. I am doing this with a couple of friends. In case you have money that you are ok to lose in order to support other entrepreneurs, please do let me know.

D. What help do I need on?

So, apart from the things that I talked about above, there are indeed a few things that I need help on. Here’s a list.

  1. Connect me with the biggest hustler you know of. You know, someone who’s out there seeking work, delivering work, making connections, doing things that are out of their league.
  2. Help me get “meaningful” work and keep me away from a Naukri! In the past, I have worked on events, brand strategy, digital marketing, product, and more. I know this sounds scattered but I do have the requisite expertise and demonstrable experience. Do help me find gigs (freelance please) with businesses that are doing interesting and impactful things. I want to stay away from the run-of-the-mill stuff, please. 

E. Finally, what can I help you with?

If there is anything that I can help you with, please do let me know. I am very handy with marketing, content, the Internet, and more. Plus, I am told I am very resourceful ;). Please DO ASK!

***

So, this is about from the update. Thank you so much for reading this. And your patronage and attention. Means a lot! 

Thank You!
Saurabh Garg
Andheri, Mumbai
10 April 2021

PS: Should you want to give me anonymous feedback on this email (or anything else under the sun), please use https://forms.gle/28bVP8DYz2WGdHdp8. And yes, I LOVE not-so-kind, brutal, and honest feedback.

Here are previous updates.
2021 – Annual Goals
2020 – Annual GoalsJanFeb-MarApr-MayJun-Jul-Aug
2019 – AugSepOctNovDec

Tweets vs Blogposts

Even when we are in 2020, why do I prefer blogging over tweets? As a creator, as a learner and as someone that wants to grow!

Hola! 

If you are a longtime reader of this blog (or blogs in general), you would know how blogging as a hobby has been sort of replaced by things like Instagram, tweets, and so on and so forth. Both in general and for me. And how blogging is now a lot more “content marketing” where companies pay peanuts to desk monkeys to churn out words that trap those search engine spiders logs. And how the “content” that is created does not really do anything good to any reader, even if they may want to read about that topic. And how there is so much content that it’s impossible to filter noise and signal; assuming you know what is signal for you! And how long-form writing by non-writers is dying a slow death? 

It’s sad that so many people sharing so many deeply personal anecdotes with so many strangers is all gone. I mean it’s now moved to Twitter and Instagram and all that. But I am not sure how many people are blessed with the talent to push their thoughts in mere 280 characters (or maybe 2200 for Insta). I, at least cant. Not that gifted. May be if I work hard on writing, I may learn the art of brevity? 

And this is why I have kept the blog alive. And this is why I love the idea of writing letters (come, be my pen pal?). And this is why I like the idea of journaling, diary entries, notes, etc. 

The thing is, a blog allows me to push my unfiltered thoughts, things I am thinking on, things I am working on, things I seek opinion on. And put those somewhere on the world wild web. For others to see and respond to and allow me to think better.

I miss those times when I’d be brimming with ideas about the blog posts that I’d want to write. I’d have a draft folder thicker than all the 7-8 Harry Potter books combined. And I’d look forward to publishing posts and wait with bated breath for that one rare comment that I would get once in a month or two. It was another level of exhilaration. Something that the Twitter generation would never know – after all, tweets are far faster to engage with 🙂

Anyhow. 

So, today, I am thinking about where do I want my content to go (this is what I’d do with my blog – write write write till I get tired; vomit out all my ideas, thoughts here; and since the blog is in the public domain, I’d try harder to put forth better arguments; and by the time I was done writing, I’d have some sort of clarity). Here is my attempt to think with my words. 

And, with that, here we go. In no order… 

1. Individual as a Media Company

In the times to come, unless you are a media company (even as an individual), you’d lose out. As a business, as an individual, as even a rock or a vegetable. Stories, media, content would help you stay relevant. 

You thus have to think like a media company and churn out content that is valuable and interesting and all that. 

2. 1000 True Fans

The entire idea of 1000 True Fans would be far far more relevant in the times to come. Creators (a word I used when I applied for Gumroad’s gig for customer service) would live lives that they want and will rely on patrons to support them with micro-transactions, micro-donations. And with time, you would see more and more people go down the creator route. We are already seeing the likes of Patreon, Onlyfans, etc allowing people to create economically sustainable lives. 

3. Writing

As someone who likes to straddle multiple things and at some point in time make an impact for a billion people, I need to be very very good with words. After all, words do move mountains. And these words will open doors for me, allow me to know more people, satiate my curiosity, and so on and so forth. 

In one word, my words will give me access. And thus I need to get more active and more aggressive with this! 

4. Text vs Pictures vs Video

If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is worth a thousand pictures. So, to improve the output by a 1000×1000, I need to pivot to doing videos at some point. Not sure though when.

PS: Thanks, Annkur for the nudge. Do tell me what would you want to see on a video from me. 

5. One, single, unified home for content

Right now, my content is scattered at multiple places – my own website, medium, blog, Mailchimp, tiny letter, substack, and more. And with each passing day, these platforms are only going to grow and more platforms would come in. And thus the content will scatter even more. 

And as a result, my patrons (and the ones I want to get access to) would probably not find what they are looking for! 

So I need to find a solution to this. May be I will use the website to showcase the best work and one blog destination to dump these thoughts? I don’t know yet. 

6. Tracks that people want to read about

Continuing with the scatteredness, it is no secret that I am a scatterbrain. My writing, output, and other things are spread too thin. I talk about marketing, entertainment, content, podcasts, entrepreneurship, writing, habits, notes, poker, and a million other things. 

And thus there is no way I can give a consistent experience to readers that are interested in just one genre. I mean if you are a filmmaker, you may want to read what I had to write about The Trial of the Chicago 7 but why would you read about how I refuse to have a kitchen at my home? Or that walking barefoot is the thing you need to practice but living in a city like Mumbai, it’s literally impossible! 

So once I know what and how and where all I am writing, there has to be a way for people to identify “tracks” they want to consume and they must be able to go down that path easily. For example, when you are subscribing to newsletters on those large websites, you have an option of subscribing to certain sections (kind of content) and receive updates from only that section, that track. I will have to implement that! 

7. Twitter

Lemme talk about Twitter. The thing that got me down this path! 

The thing with the tweet is, even though there is a permalink of the tweet per se, to me, a tweet looks and feels ephemeral. It is something that’s hanging in the air. I’d love to change it and have a more solid, permanent, tangible link. Like a URL to a website. A website feels a lot more solid to me. Oh, by the way, the public URLs that I host on my own website on? They are tough to pull off – I keep trashing my website every now and then and I start from scratch! I need to fix this. 

Plus, while most of my greatest connections have come via Twitter, I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that it’s the primary destination where I create content. It can at best be a distribution platform. And heck, it’s a powerful destination! No? 

8. Writing to pay your bills

Making money and pivoting to being a writer! This is a big one. And this is what I am most conflicted about. 

The thing is, I’d love to be on substack or Patreon or something because I like the idea of monetizing my audience, my true fans. Even though I do NOT write with the intention of making money off my writing, I have been told by at least one person (thanks, Krishna!) that he is happy to pay me for what I write. Apparently, it adds value to his life. And that to me is music. 

For two reasons. A, I add value. The reason I even write in the first place. And B, people find it valuable enough to pay! 

So, if I can get 1000 people like Krishna, I’ll be free from the rigmarole of holding onto a steady job! And I can potentially take a step in the direction where I won’t have to work for others. And spend my life like a dog chasing cards – in random pursuits, where the chase itself is a reward! 

Of course, once I start seeking money for what I write, I need to not get sucked into this honeytrap and go down the desk-monkey route. 

The other thing that I am sure of is that I do not want to “profiteer” by sharing things I know. Whatever little I know, I know those because I have had generous people who were kind to me and shared things with me without expecting anything in return. And it is not right for me to profiteer when I myself haven’t paid for those! So that!

A big part of me thus does not want to charge at all. May be I’ll accept donations? I can ask people to donate whatever they deem is ok. But then, while I go with the pay what you go model, do I want to guilt-trip people into paying? Dunno. 

And if and when I do go the monetization path (in whatever shape or format), I need to decide how do I do it. With Patreon? Substack? Stripe? Ideally, I’d love to have a button or something (may be stripe connection to WordPress) on my own website. Let’s see. 

Sigh! You see the conflict? 

9. Accountability.

This is a big one. Right now, I write things as and when I feel like. There is no structure, no predictable cadence, no topic, no accountability. But once I decide that I want to be a writer for hire, I would have to be a lot more accountable. Someone said it right that a predictable routine is one of the secrets behind a free, wild, flowing, interesting life – the kind that gives you experiences that you long for. And the experiences that can shape you into a better man! 

So, I need to probably pull them socks up and get to a routine. For what I write, even if it’s across genres and all that. No?

***

So yeah, these things. 

What started as a rant, a comparison between tweets and blog posts has become a tome that I am not sure who would read. 

I will decide over the next few days and I will of course keep you guys posted. Till then, it’s over and out!