160221 – Morning Pages

Nothing special here. You may skip reading this one.

6:43. I slept at 2. Woke up around 15 mins ago. Not sure what all to write but a few things on the top of my head.

Its been a few days that I am in Mumbai. I ideally want life to fall into a routine of wake up -> Starbucks -> Work -> Eat -> Sleep. But it would not happen. I need to run way too many errands for way too little time that I am here for. And I want to meet quite a few people (friends, mentors, strangers etc.). This meeting with strangers has helped me find work over the years. And I need to continue to do this if I want to make my ends meet. You know, tough times call for tough decisions.

So, morning pages.

Yesterday was a long long day. I worked non-stop from 8 AM on. Till about 6. And then from 8 till 1030. Well, work was a combination of writing, editing, powerpoint-int, giving gyaan, seeking gyaan, and whatnot. After living the thug-life over the weekend, yesterday was good. Just that, when I came back home to the dump I am living in, I was incredibly sad at that. Plus, yesterday was one of those days when I did not want to come back to an empty house. No, I don’t want an object per se that wants to wait for me. But someone that I could be myself with. And allow that person to be herself. And be her home. And all that. I guess you get the drift. And no, am not crying about working hard.

Oh, I have to put this on paper. Since I was working like mad yesterday, I had way much coffee and I did not eat anything till about 5:30. The last meal was at 1 AM the previous night. So, without planning for it, I ended up eating once a day and fasting for about 16 hours. Yay for that. Let’s see if I can do the same today. I have as much packed a day as I had yesterday. Time shall tell!

Yesterday a friend asked me for tips on how to live a life of a freelancer and I realized I had no clue. What I did know is that I could find places and opportunities where I could point her to. While searching for things, I found this Twitter thread by Chuck Gopal (I love everything he does) and I think if you are thinking about going freelance, this is worth its weight in gold! Do see it.

This also made me realize that I need to act on that large idea of mine where I want to make Goa a hub for knowledge workers where they can live and work remotely from. The guide to living and working from Goa was the first step. As the next step, I want to aggregate resources, pool businesses, and invite people to work from Goa. After that I have to create an on-ground infrastructure to make this happen. I mean you may read a post and you may land in Goa. But what after that? So there’s a lot of work. Need to get going with this. #note2self

Finally, as I end this, here’s a good thing that happened. Today, I start editing / proofreading yet another book. Yay! For someone else. This is the second book I am working on. And I am getting paid for it. And this is fiction (the first one that I am still working on is biographical). I love this feeling of helping others. And this allows me to learn from what they are writing! I mean what else could I ask for in life? The only trouble is that am way too particular about things and I will probably take more time than I estimated. And I need to be able to deliver enough value that more people are keen on engaging me!

So that, I think this is about for the day! Time to get going with the day. Like I said, I have a long one!

No, nothing on #book2 today either. I think I have lost the plot with the daily notes. It sucks to not chase what fans my fire 🙁

PS: The rasa, the juice, the joy, the pleasure on these morning pages is disappearing. This has started to feel like a chore now that I do mindlessly. The amount of writing I get done is reducing by the day. I mean it requires me to think about things on the top of my head. And then write. And edit. And then publish. And all that. Of course, my writing muscle remains active. But then what? To what end? Can I make this better in some way?

So, I need a new strategy for these morning pages. Sigh. Funny the kind of questions that I trouble myself with! Chalo, over and out.

260121 – Morning Pages

What if you could treat life as a video game? You know, you play the game of life. And not just live or go through the motions.

7:09. Woke up about 10 mins ago. With a stomach ache. I think it’s the Maggi and Coke combination that is fucking my system Or all the coffee I had. Or the heartburn from the lack of Internet and all that. Something has to be done about the food situation.

Anyhow. So yesterday was super eventful. I had some million calls to make and in between had to sort a billion other things. And as expected the Internet decided to not work. The Vodafone signal decided to disappear. People decided to be at their worst. Sigh.

But then there was this silver lining as well. The opportunity to talk to a few entrepreneurs that are still building their business, thanks to Spotlight (an event that we at Podium have cooked to get aspiring entrepreneurs and investors together). It was so gratifying to talk to them and try and see that there’s so much that I can do. This is what I have been gunning for, all my life! I wrote this thread about it. It is here.

The larger thing here is that this looks close to what I want to be doing in life. You know, life purpose.

Which is what? Create opportunities for others! I have realized that I may not be the kind to go super deep into things but I am definitely the one that can look at the large picture and recommend simple shifts and nudges. It is amazing to see the aha moment come on their faces when I point out these simple things!

Of course, I am not the only one that is doing this. There are so many more people out there that do a better job. But then that does not diminish what I do. And I think I need to scale these things.

The other thing that happened and what I want to sort of write a #SoG on is equating life to a video game. Lemme give some backstory. As a kid, I loved those 8-bit Nintendo video game machines and game cartridges. You know, Contra, Mario and all that? But these were expensive things and you couldn’t buy either the game or the cartridges. So we’d rent them from local stores. This was probably my early exposure to timeshare, I guess. And because these were rented, we’d have limited time with those. Which meant that within a day or two I had to play out the entire game. I had to play to till my heart was full, till I had killed the boss, till I had got to the princess, till I had found all the hidden easter eggs, till I had found the bug that gave me unlimited lives in Mario, till I could boast that I have cleared all of 8 stages of Contra without losing a life. All this had to be done in a limited time. The time that I did not have – I had a school to go to, watchful parents, one family TV where I could hook the machine, the enmity on the cricket ground and I don’t know what all.

But somehow, I could manage the game.

Yesterday when I was thinking about things in life, somehow this dawned onto me – what if I treat life as a game? What if I am in the game? I need to play it out. I need to defeat the Boss. I need to get the princess. I need to find the wrap zones to help finish the game faster. I need to master the moves. I need to find the equivalent of up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, start for this game called Life.

And suddenly, all the fuckery, all the issues in life, all the things that have been affecting me started to look like problems that I could try and solve. And to the brain I’ve been given if you throw a problem at me, I will try to solve it and find an answer!

So that!

What if things that affect you, you try to look at those like a problem that needs to be solved? What if you play it like a game? You know, learn for the first few stages, level up your skills, acquire new powers, solve challenges that are increasingly tougher, get rewarded with coins that trick your brain into releasing dopamine. Listen to this clip. Do you think you feel good instantly?

Oh, man! there are so many of these people playing the Mario track. I just went down the rabbit hole. There is a guy on the guitars, another on two guitars, there an entire orchestra, there is a guy beatboxing! I can waste an entire day listening to these. And as I type this, I have this silly smirk on my face!

Wait. Coming back.

If I you treat life like a game, things probably will look better. Life’s a game and you have a limited time with it and you need to play and learn and evolve and beat the boss. As simple as that.

Guess that’s it. There is more that I wanted to talk about. Lemme try quick bullets. Dont want this to become a tome.

1. I realized that working for someone else comes with its challenges of managing other people’s egos. You don’t need to be just good at what you do, but you have to know how to navigate the corporate jungles and dirty politics that people engage in.

2. The freelance life doesn’t exactly set you free. You are still exchanging your time for money. What sets you free is a thing that makes money even when you are asleep. Like Naval says, you need leverage. Need to get to that.

3. For a change, I am not inspired by anything to do with the Republic Day. Far cry from the staunch nationalist that I was growing up. I think this is a good thing and a bad thing. Good – I am not being a jingoist. Bad – I am sort of losing my identity! I am as Indian as they come!

4. I saw that I had written in the last few days on #freewriting for #book2. I realised that most times, what I write for book2 is inspired by what’s happening in life around me. Now that’s not cool. I am not here to write a biography. The idea is to write a fictional story that entertains people!

So that. I wish I had the time to write more. Each time I write, I get some more clarity. I think I think the best when I am either writing. Or talking.

Chalo, onto #freewriting for #book2 for the day. I hope today’s post is not something that happened to me! I am at 8:45. Will write till 9:15.

Here we go…

“You know Chintan, love for me has to be that all-engulfing fire that rages on. I want to be consumed with it. I want to revel in the misery of knowing that you are around and yet you are not.” Rujuta was getting poetic.

Chintan was anything but poetic, “I get it”

“No you dont, you liar. How did you even keep that straight face on TV?”, Rujuta slapped his wrist.

“I was naive. And the cameras were of shitty quality back then!” Chintan replied plainly and ran his hand through her hair.

This was their first time they were alone after they had sort of acknowledged that they were more than just acquaintances. Both of them had scars from their previous relationships – Rujuta’s gashes were deeper than Chintan’s. Their scars had made them nomads, they were drifting through life aimlessly. But both of them were now at a point in life where they felt the need to have that comforting person to come back home to. No, they did not acknowledge this yet. Not to themselves. Not to each other. Not to the world. There’s time and place for everything.

“But you know, Rujuta, life’s not as simple as we make it to me.” Chintan egged on. He had still not told her that he was still married. Not that Rujuta would care. But it was still a big deal.

“You’re telling me?”

“I know what you’ve been through but Raju there’s a lot more about me that you need to know.” Chintan had started to call Rujuta that. In her entire life, no one had ever given that as a nickname. She wanted to hate it but she couldn’t pinpoint a rational reason to do so. There was nothing wrong with it, except it sounded like the nickname of a man. She was still not used to the name though and it still felt alien, impersonal.

“I know I need to know more of you. You need to know more about me. Isn’t that what relationships are about? Each day you discover more of your partner. You get more obsessed with each other. You cant take your mind off each other.”

“Bro, you are talking like a 16-year old romantic in conversation with her 42-year old lover.”

“You are 42. And you make me feel like a 16-year old!”

The playful banter was going exactly how they had imagined it to. If Tarana could see Rujuta reveling like that with another man, she would probably sleep better!

***

Ok enough. Was tough – romance is not my strong suit.

Over and out!

As always, if you want to get these updates on your WhatsApp everyday, lemme know. I will add you to the broadcast list.

Hope today’s better!

The Freelancer Gig Economy Mismatch

What can be done to create a better ecosystem for freelancers and freelancer gigworkers to thrive?

The post that I wrote a few days ago? I have more thoughts on it.

I realised that even if I do choose to become a full-time, freelance writer, I would continue to be associated with the marketing / communications industry in some manner. And with the startup universe. Maybe as a mere people-connector. Or maybe as a consultant, maybe as a service provider and of course as a seeker of services (often I get projects that are bigger than what I can handle by myself and I need collaborators).

I don’t know yet.

But I think this would be the new normal for other creative + knowledge workers like me. People would don multiple hats, do multiple things (things that they like) and collaborate with others that have the same sensibilities and yet different, complementary skills.

Afterall, this lockdown and pandemic has taught more people about the importance of life than anything else. And I think a lot of people would choose to work on things that matter to them!

In fact, the good one would go the freelance route for sure! They know that they can choose a location independent life and yet do meaningful work. And because they are good, they can continue to get work without hustling hard for it.

Of course this is counter-intuitive to common wisdom – everyone “knows” that tough days are coming and you need the stability of a full-time job with a large company. But I maintain that we’d see more freelancers! Let’s revisit this in a few months to see if I were right.

The trouble with going freelance is, well, too many troubles! Lemme list a few.

As a freelancer…

There is no regular, predictable supply of work. I mean, as an average gig worker (I am talking for myself), I have access to limited contacts. And once I exhaust those, I don’t know how else to seek work. Of course, if I were good, a referral engine would get built and I don’t need to seek work.

But like I said, I am average and all the people that I work for, may not refer me to more clients!

To solve this first one, I may goto platforms like Upwork, Gigster, Fiverr but from what I understand, getting the first few projects is like a nightmare. You need to be super active on the platform, pitch till you die and you would then, if all goes well, land a project! Plus, each pitch is like a project in itself – after all requirements from each gig is different. So, it is time consuming and yet there is no guarantee of returns.

This is my biggest issue – the best work happens when you do something consistently for a longtime. With the gig economy, as a creator, I don’t get to create long-term relationships and thus, long-term projects. I am always left pining for more work! Plus, most projects become a transaction and once the project is over you are out. There is no continuity, no documentation, no love that I can carry with me. I don’t know how to solve for this; apart from getting hired as an ongoing consultant!

As someone who’s hire freelancers…

I get way too many applications if I post my requirements on an open platform. I don’t have the time to sift through each application, respond to all queries. I need a gig done, often fast and I want someone reliable.

The biggest grouse that businesses have is that freelancers are unreliable. They sign-up for the project and then the project becomes a never-ending cycle of a Tom and Jerry chase!

The people I work with, in case I want to offer them another project, they may or may not be able to pick it up. After all they are masters of their destinies! So, even if I want continuity, I don’t know how to keep working with the same set of people.

Finally, most platforms that I use to find freelancers, they create such walled-gardens that I can’t even communicate with the freelancers. I mean I understand that they want transactions to happen on their website but why stifle the communication? The ratings and reviews is a big enough reward for me to search for more talent on your platform!!

So, what is common to two?

  • No trust. The default setting is that you don’t trust the other party.
  • Closed vs Open networks. AKA, WhatsApp groups – most people (both buyers and sellers) start within their respective networks and then move to open networks if the requirement remains unfulfilled. While this helps tackle the trust part, it adds friction and extends the timeline for projects.
  • Ad-hoc demand for both seeker and provider. Once a project has been completed, the seeker may not need services again for a bit. And vice versa. This breaks the continuity and long-term delivery.

These are all I can think of. I am sure there are more!

Wait. What could be a few solutions to this freelance conundrum?

The freelancer-first business life would mean that there has to be businesses that connect freelancers with gigs. There are quite a few of those right now – from an Upwork to Flexingit to a hundred more.

However, I have an issue with how they are managed. Most of these are self-serve platforms where they match gigs with workers and they take a fee off the top. The quality, reliability, contracting, and other things remain questionable. They do have escrows and dispute resolution mechanisms but there is just way too much friction on both sides. As a freelancer, I don’t know if I’ll get paid for what I worked on. As a seeker of services, I don’t know if I’d get output worth my investment.

Plus the biggest challenge?

As a company that needs to hire gig workers, I need to be on different platforms for different kinds of work. Upwork for design, marketing gigs, Gigster for tech projects, Fiverr for low value, repetitive tasks and so on and so forth. And then there are services that are not fulfilled by any platform right now (at least I am not aware of those). For example, what if I need a lawyer? Or a Company Secretary for that matter? Or a CA. What about a photographer in a small town deep in South India? Or the services of a chef for an upcoming birthday of a friend?

I can use age-old yellow books and classifieds websites (Justdial et al) but how do I ensure that these contractors actually deliver? How do I give them the confidence that I am not window shopping?

So, here’s the idea!

How about someone build the yellow pages for the times we live in, an Indiamart of sorts where, as a business, I can find service providers of ALL kinds? And the platform actually manages the entire project for me (and not just stop at matchmaking). You know, I’d love to have a shared COO of sorts for my business!

In fact, I tried implementing one iteration with a friend (Bhuvi Gupta) in a cottage-industry manner but we could not reach anywhere with it. See this post I made on Linkedin and the subsequent form we floated. Our thesis was that COVID-19 has left a lot of great agency folks jobless and they could use our networks! However, we could not make it work.

I wish there was someone who helped me solve this pain. I’d love to be on such a platform – both as a service provider and a seeker.

As of today, the only place that comes close is refrens.com. Run by a friend, Naman, they are solving this very problem. As a company that seeks a variety of things done, I can go to them and they will not only match me with people that can deliver but also manage the entire project end to end.

Super early days for them. They seem to be onto something big here! Lets see what they come up with. I hope they are reading this post and once they do so, they hire me to run their marketing (NS, are you reading?). And if not that, at least get me some gigs and find me some doers 🙂

Over and out.

PS: Keep watching this space for more posts on the future of work, personal branding, and more!

Update on 31 Oct 2020 – Fixed a typo, thanks to Ratti.

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!