Untitled – 19 Jun 2024

An untitled rant about things that are clouding my head.

Morning ladies and gents. Here are the things that I want to catalogue on the 19th of Jun 2024. This is a brain dump of all that I’ve been thinking about over the last few days.

1/Rain is here in Mumbai 🙂

Love it!

I know there is muck and stink and all that but I am ok as long as I can go home and shower. I think it’s my most favourite season. While it’s still hot and muggy, the shower sort of cleans you from within. Like a shower for the soul!

If I had my way I would get wet each time it rains. Someday I would have a house with a terrace and I’d just lie down while the rain gods belt me with their amrit and prasad.

I know a lot of folks I know dont like rains and it’s ok. I also tend to not like it when the aircraft shakes likes a mixer in the monsoons. But then its a small price to pay for the gorgeousness of baarish 🙂

Here’s an exhibit.

2/ Am taking a backseat from day-to-day operations at C4E.

Something that I’ve wanted to do for long.

Not because I want to retire but because I want to be able to do more with my time. I want to expand us beyond the borders of India and build more things for the entire village. I also want to take a shot at building a unicornable idea. Right now, C4E does not look like one.

I tried to go offline and pass on the baton a few years ago and when I did that (I went to EBC) and I lost 66% of my business.

Fast forward to 2024. In C, I have identified a fairly able person. Plus I’ve trained over the last two years. And we’ve set things in motion.

We are experimenting till Sep of 2024 and then we’ll see where it goes.

I just need to figure if she would stay with me for the long haul. My experience of having people stay with me is not the greatest. And since it’s just not one person that has moved on, it has to be me at fault. So that.

Also, my insecurity with “my” people has sort of resurfaced with this decision. I thought I had made peace with people moving on. But now I know I haven’t been able to. And I dont know what to do to settle this. I dont know how people find people that would stay together for lifetimes. I dont know how to get used to see people drift away from your life. I dont understand how people you decided to build your life with are no longer in your life. There are times when I still think about all those folks that have moved on. While I need to have happy memories, I tend to get not so pleasant ones as well. And now that I have put this ball in motion, am mindfucked half the times, thinking about when (not if) when C moves. Ok, clarification (realised this while editing). It’s not about her. It’s about me and in my inability to hold people together. Plus this is a recency thing. I realised that less than a month ago that one of my super-long-term friends moved on without telling me. And I am yet to come to terms with that. So that.

Anyhow. We’d come to it when we come to it. For now, the transition is in place.

3/ Lost sight of 40 crores target.

For context, I had decided that in this financial year, I would do a topline of 40 crores. And Q1 is almost over and we are not even at 40 lakhs. I’ve lost sight of the goal 🙁

I can justify this by saying that am building the base for the next phase of growth. After all, we have processes for most things, we have documented a lot of things, there’s a transition happening at C4E. There is no need for me to be involved in large decisions. Etc etc.

But the hard cold fact remains that we are VERY VERY far from 40. Heck, the way we are going, even doing last year’s 4 looks tough!

And no, I am not worried or anything. I am putting this on record. And no, there’s no pressure on anyone from my team to do more than what they want to. Just that we need to be aware of this and then at some point act on it. And since the transition is underway, it’s C’s problem now ;P

4/ Being unhealthy.

I dont know what to do about it. Despite being a diabetic, I haven’t moved a muscle on things. I dont know what to do. Thing is, apart from this health thing, I am NOT lazy at all. And even when I see my energy waning, I am not inspired to do more. Just today I walked 1000 steps and I was puffling like I had run a marathon!

I even have my why to live and yet I am not willing to work on my how or what. As an aware, intelligent, smart and all that man, I know this is not the right thing if I have to do more in life.

But I am unable to fix it. Maybe I will pick some sport. Maybe yoga. Maybe I will finally join a gym, my hernia be damned. Or dance. I really really would like to have a chiseled physique like Jason Statham’s. Sigh.

Oh, I am munching on snacks as I write this!

And this is it. No, no intervention is needed. This is my public journal of thoughts and ideas. I am ok. As ok as I can be. Thank you for indulging me ;P

The C4E 2023-24 Annual Shareholder Report

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.

A secret. A confession. And a solution.

A longish note after a few hard days at work.

TW: I talk about dark days of my life as an entrepreneur. I talk about things that may be construed as triggering, depressing and of mental health challenges. PLEAES PLEASE PLEASE do not read if these things affect you.






Here’s a secret.
If you want to derail me and my life, all you need to do is talk to me in an impolite, rude or condescending tone. 

Let’s park this. I will come back to this.

Now, another secret.
More like a confession really.
The last few days at work haven’t been the best. Dont think people who work with me or know me apart from work would’ve spotted it. Or may be they would’ve. I don’t know. The point is, all I do is work. My life starts and ends with work. I wake up, work, eat, work, nowadays try to catch the sunset (see this reel that I posted today), work, sleep and repeat. 

What I do may not be meaningful in the grand scheme of things but it gives meaning to my life. It probably helps anchor the lives of a few other people as well (but I am not sure). So when I don’t have great days, it affects me and my raison d être and I don’t know what to do about it. Most people have a family to go back to. I have a Rubik’s Cube. That too I crammed the solution to and I have since forgotten. So, all I end up doing is closeting my emotions on my echochamber (on my Roam) or writing cryptic posts on my blog (or twitter) or eating crap (Dal Makhani mmmm).

This time, today, I choose to do none of these. I am going to put it out. On my blog. Here. After all, I chose to live in public and live more authentic this year. 

So that.

Now, why’s that I haven’t had great days at work? 
Simple. Go back to the line I opened this piece with. 
“…talk to me in an impolite, rude or condescending tone.”

In the last week, almost EACH of my clients has spoken to me (or my team) in a tone that’s not the best or polite. And today yesterday, a friend who’s also a client spoke to me like never before. That was probably the last straw that made me think this much and all.

Of course, he can’t be wrong, he’s almost never wrong. He knows more than me and all that. And as a result, things in my head have spiralled down an abyss. You know, like Alice fell down that Rabbit hole?

And I know that I am not bouncing back to my A game anytime soon. I take time. Of course, I will fake it and the world will continue to see me functioning as I do on other days – reliable, high-functioning, in a hurry, high on energy, dreamy-eyed, lost and other such things. As I write this, its 8:30 AM, I am at a Starbucks 20 KMs away from home, sitting on a table facing the wall with my back as straight as I can stretch to. Someone looking at me would see a old man going at it!

To be able to find my groove, I would need to find peace over the next few days. Not inner. Am ok on that front. But the outer one. Like you know, get my space. Since the last relationship went sour, I’ve become this loner who likes to have his space and his freedom.

So, I don’t know how I’d find my outer peace.

I would also want to get a closure on the reason for this. I mean would could’ve gone so wrong at so many places that we have so much trass from all sides? I am unable to understand why do these people, all from different industries, and different parts of the country chose to speak with us like that. Nothing is broken at any of these clients. We may not deliver award-winning work but we are reliable as fuck. Plus, we at C4E work really hard to ensure that we deliver more value than what we promise, often at our cost. You know, underpromise and overdeliver. To each of my clients.

And this has been hardwired in the heads and hearts of each person that agrees to work with C4E. That we would overdeliver come what may. Money is never important. We could lose money on projects (I’ve often done that). I would beg, borrow, and steal to keep the kitchen going. I’ve done that in the past. I would do it again if I had to. I’ve kept my team lean. I dont pay them as much as I want to. All to preserve sanity and not go beyond our aukaat (while taking shots beyond that). 

Wait. Before I digress. So, the funny part is, ALL our clients know this. Each of them. And they see it. And yet they tend to talk to us in a tone unwelcome, uncalled for and unneeded. I know they dont know that am soy and snowflake and easily hurt and their simple act of trying to push me to do more would derail me. I think I am still ok but I can’t imagine how my team feels!

But then, why be impolite? Why be condescending? Why be rude?

Maybe, a large part of this sadness and disappointment is my expectation from life and people itself. Maybe I am too simplistic (and wrong) in believing that people don’t have egos. Maybe people at the core are bitchy and mean for no reason. Maybe people love playing power games. Maybe people like to just poke with harmony and see what comes out of it. What if Joker was right all this while? PS: Even if they are wired differently, I will continue to chart my path. If I had to go live in a village where costs are low, I would. I would retire in Goa or in the hills where at least I can breathe free!

The other part could be that my approach to life could be unsettling for the world at large and they can’t understand it. I am trying to build a utopian world where everyone is kind to each other, everyone is engaged, everyone is chasing meaning (and not vanity goals), everyone sees magical possibilities. Where its one for all and all for one. Where I exist because we exist. But maybe everyone is hardwired into creating kalesh for kalesh’s sake? PS: Dont think this is the case though. I know people are really really good. I really believe that people do create magic.

I’ve been thinking about this for the last few days now and I am at my wit’s end. So, I kinda give up on trying to find the reason or answer. All I know is that I will chase my utopia till I can. 

Truth be told, I am often flexible on morals. I like the idea of doing whatever it takes to build a life I want to live. No, I am not talking about doing illegal things. But I am ok to bend a few rules if I have to. As long as I am not taking away from someone more deserving. I sometimes feel I were a tad evil – I would’ve done so much better! If I could sell my soul, I would probably be rich enough already to pay myself well and pay my people well. But then I get back to my thought about trying to build a long-term, sustainable, boring business that everyone tapdances to work on an everyday basis. 

The other part is these lingering thoughts about the challenges of running a service business in the market that we are in. We work hard to make other people’s dreams come true and in exchange, we get to make just enough to be happy about. Some days we make more than what we need but most days we merely get by. Luckily we are at a good place – on any given day, most of our clients are great companies, folks and all. They pay us ok money. We are challenged enough. All is well. But then when there are days like the last few and especially yesterday, I start questioning what we do.

The last bit is, maybe this is the trigger to push harder on my attempts to build a business that does not rely on just a few people or companies. Maybe build something that has hundreds of customers spread across geographies. Maybe I need to rethink how I work and slowly move on to a product business or something. I don’t know yet. My head’s in a soup. You can see. Lol.

Anyhow. Long rant is over. The point is, when someone speaks to me in a tone or a manner that is not kind or polite, in my head, all hell breaks loose. I spiral down and this is where I am at right now.

Of course, I will be back. I am strong like that. Vanita calls me a survivor. I survived COVID-19. I survived people cheating on me. I have survived so far. And I shall. Maybe i’d get a tee that says, “I am a survivor” :D. Lol!

Ok, more later. Thanks for reading (if you did). And yes, all is well. My back is still straight. I am still surrounded by a team that will move the mountains for me and for our clients. And we would continue to give our heart, head and soul for the work we do.

Oh, if you are reading this and you want to hire a great team to work with you – look us up 🙂

The busyness-idleness conundrum

A short rant on (the lack of) work. And an attempt to fill my Saturday evening with words.

This will be a short post.

It’s 9:58 PM on Saturday evening. And I am at a Starbucks (not at a party or whatever). And I am bored. I mean I dont know what to do. In an ideal scenario, I would have been working but I dont know what to work on. Oh, work here means things I would do to earn a living. Whatever I had to do (the deliverables that I had to do for clients that pay us) is done.

Of course, I have work. But most of it is for the future and for building C4E as an org. Things that I want to do to impact tomorrow. For example, the party of 9. I can create content for that and invite people to be a part. I could even action the SoG Grant. I can think about how to bring back LFW in the 4th cohort. All these things are work for me. And I can do those. And there is more. My Asana to-do list is 100 pages long. But these are not really work per se. I dont know what to call this.

Work is what helps me earn my dal-roti. And lemme come back to it.

So, I dont have work. And I “blame” my people for it. I mean I dont know if it’s blame or a respectful celebration of their hard work and dedication. They take ownership and they deliver. I drop them into deep ends all the time and they more often than not float. And they tell me when I need to intervene and throw them a lifeline. And that’s that. The best part? Most clients are happy about how we work. And the clients dont want to see me. Or talk to me. Even if I want to proactively pick up things and intervene, I wouldn’t know what to do. Each thing that I can think of and could’ve done is being done by someone from the team. Truth be told, the results are not really what I want (I can push more, do more). But I know that I am teaching my people skills that will serve them well in the times to come when I am not around. If I were to intervene, I am sure we can make more revenue. But I have this weird fascination with long-term thinking and at the cost of short-term revenue, I am building a machinery that will continue to crank. And while that’s a rant for a different day, today, at 10:13 PM on a Saturday evening, I am bored! At this point in time, I have not one thing that I need to work on.

Thing is, getting bored is not a bad thing — in boredom lies the genesis of brilliance. But someone like me needs to work. A lot. All the time. To the point that there is nothing that I am doing but work!

I know I know. I can work on personal projects (hello, Book2!). My team has allowed me to get a lot of free time to think. They’ve freed me to explore more opportunities (that is work in itself). They’ve given me the most important gift there is – the gift of time. And I think I am not doing enough to deserve it. And I must work.

But the question is, on what?

Attitude of Gratitude

What if you bring attitude of gratitude at work and bring gratefulness to each piece you work on?

Lemme start with some context.

From the outside, we at C4E look like a marketing, brand and communication services company. Of course, we are more but we look and feel like a service company. And truth be told, we make a lot of money from that. And this means that we lean on businesses to give us work. Work that allows us to put our skills to use, vibe (in AK’s words), monetise our skills and live a good life off that money we make. 

PS: We want to not get stuck here and be out of this loop (of chasing client work, delivering on that work and then waiting for money to hit our banks) at some point. Plus, in the words of Steve, we are here to make a dent at scale. Marketing / communication / branding may not be the best way to do so. So, we want to get to a place where we do what we like to (vibe, plant bombs and make dents) and have access to patrons that allow us to live the life we want to. PS: This may be construed for FU money (which I may not agree with in this context. And why I don’t agree is a different post for a different day). 

Ok, I digressed. 

Coming back. 

So, as a marketing services company and in the day and age of Dall-E, Midjourney, chatGPT, freelancer.com and all the other such things, we have to work very hard to get work. Plus, we charge a premium compared to companies our scale / size. And we work in a certain manner – we choose who we work with, we mostly work on our terms, and we are VERY big on ensuring our culture / cult is above everything else. After all, life is short and we better live it the way we want to! 

This means that for each project we get, we need to bring our A Game. And while we deliver on what we commit, we at C4E MUST operate from a place of gratitude. We HAVE to be grateful that we get the opportunity to work on the business that our clients trust us with. 

Contrast this with how most other professionals think and operate (at least the ones I meet). They tend to think that work is essentially a business transaction. 

A client has a job to be done. They have certain expectations / budgets. You have a skill to offer. You ask for a certain price for your skill / time / experience. Each of you agrees on a fair value of the transaction. 

They give work and offer money. 
You deliver and take money. 
And everyone goes home happy. 

However, I don’t agree with this. 

The thing is, we are in a buyer’s market. This means that the customer is indeed the King and the Queen and everything else. And they have a million options to choose from. And they now have tools to lean on and not even hire a marketing setup for support. 

So, when you get work and you take it for granted and you shit on the clients (and call them dumb for wanting to increase the size of their logo, laugh at them not knowing the next cool creator, cringe at their seeking approvals from entire top leadership et al), you do them and your work and the opportunity a disservice. 

What if you approach it with gratitude? 
And empathy.
And attempt at arriving at a solution that nudges their brand and agenda forward. And you’d magically see the quality of work, interactions, and satisfaction go up! 

No, this is not mystic, manifestation mumbo-jumbo and all that. This is as straightforward as it gets. You love something enough to feel grateful about it being in your life and your love for that fills you! Think of your loved ones. Isn’t your love for them rooted in gratitude? Aren’t you grateful that you have them in your life? Of course, you may not love the skill you’re able to monetise but you can for sure love the money, opportunity and freedom it gives you! 

What if we apply similar thinking to our work? What if for each piece of work, you work on, you feel close to it, you feel engaged with it, and you feel it as a part of your life!

That, ladies and gents is the thought blurb for the day. 

Lemme know what you think. 

PS: Thanks to AK, CM, and V for the comments, thoughts and edits. Thanks to Parry, AC, Anand, Arpit, Moksha, Kushagra and others for reading and sharing inputs. 

PPS: I could’ve added more nuance to this and could’ve talked about the following…

  1. Work-life balance / work-life harmony 
  2. Live to work vs work to live 
  3. Meaning of life in the large scheme of things 
  4. Balance (I dont have a lot of things in life apart from work)
  5. Long-term thinking – build relationships (long term) vs transactions (short term) 
  6. We being as good as our last delivery

201021 – Morning Pages

A short note on how the day was and what’s on the top of my head. Not a lot apart from work.

7:19. Yet another hotel room. Loving this life where I work for a large part of the day. And then I drag the small suitcase to the hotel that I want to. And while I do that, I catch up with a friend. And then I sleep. And then I wake up and get writing these morning pages. I could get used to a life like this. In fact, this entire movement around and not having a stable place to be at is giving me the feels! Yeah, man. The feels!

Ok. In terms of yesterday. Work and all. Thoughts and all. Life and all.

So the second day of the workshop went ok. It wasn’t as good as the first one. But went ok. I can improve on a few things. Let’s see how the next one is. One thing is for sure. I need to talk more about this to people. I mean I think I do a good job and this deserves to reach more people. Need to make it more popular and known. #note2self #sgTodo

The other things that I was supposed to, I did work on a lot but I could not find to close all of those. I’d say I could’ve done more. Let’s see when I get to a day when I have done enough to be able to have a big smile on my face when I am writing these morning pages.

Today I have a lot on my plate. Let’s see what I deliver on it. It’s 7:40 right now and once it’s about 9, I will have to literally dive into work! And I have a few lot of things that are open ever since I’ve come back from the base camp. Including a travelogue that I want to write about the basecamp trek!

In things that I want to capture is the intolerance and the worst and the best that religious conversations bring out. Yesterday, on the alumni group of my business school, the alumni committee wishes everyone on the occasion of Eid. Someone responded and asked why did they skip wishing on other festivals. It was not long before it took a communal angle. And then from there it just went downhill. People that have gone to a premier business school engaged in heated exchanges, name-calling, questioning, and dunno what else. And this is a group of highly educated, reasonably smart people that are probably more aware than an average joe.

I dont know what has happened to the country that I’ve grown in. I dont know what to do about it. Can’t blame others. Can’t find the problem. Can’t fix it. DAMN!

Anyhow. This is about the morning pages. Here’s the journal.

  1. Emoticon: :). I feel good. Even though I did not sleep ok, I am at a desk, staring into the sun, appreciating it as it comes up and fills me with life. No photo can do justice to how it is.
  2. Mindful Index (on a scale of 10): 1.
  3. Things that I am grateful for
    1. I am grateful that I have this sun coming up as I am writing this. I am so so so content in this moment. I have no worries and even though things I am working on need urgent attention, I am not anxious.
    2. I am grateful that I love water so much. I have had 2 litres since I woke up.
    3. I am grateul that I am able to plan a large part of my day.
  4. Things that would make my today great
    1. I would love if I can deliver on open projects. If not all, some.
    2. I would be great if I could actually go back home. Only to meet my parents. And nothing else.
    3. Like yesterday, If I can skip coke, it would be great. In fact, I would love it if I could do OMAD.
  5. A daily affirmation. I look great and I have this brilliant sense of clothing and dressing.
  6. Amazing things that happened yesterday? 
    1. I could yet again make things happen for people around me. This time I did not create opportunties per se but helped people close on projects that they needed help with.
    2. I had a tough conversation with someone else about things that needed to be done. I am typically the kinds to avoid tough conversations. But I managed one. I should lean more into such tougher chats more often. #note2self
    3. Got CM to agree to spending sometime everyday on helping me with where I want to be in life. I have tried to have multiple people like that but none seems to be panning out. Let’s see if CM sticks. Wish me luck.
  7. What could have made yesterday better?
    1. If I could deliver on more things at work, I would have liked it. I had decided that I would not sleep last night till I finish various projects. But I could not. The day would’ve been better if I could.
    2. If I could have got about 10 minutes of meditation in, it would have been better. I would try to get it in today. Right after shower. Let’s see.
    3. Again, if I could skip coffee, it would have been amazing. To be honest, I would not be able to do it today either. But I can definitely skip Coke. And gun for OMAD.
  8. Quote for the day
    “Discipline not desire, determines destiny.” – Anon. Thanks to Harshit for sending me this. Must say that he sends me a quote everyday and I read those and they are really unlifting. He’s been doing it for 1069 days as we speak. I am amazed as his consistency!

Guess this is about it for the day. And here’s the streaks…

  • OMAD – 0
  • #book2 – 0
  • NOFAP – 0
  • #noCoke – 1. Avoided it. I almost had one. But then skipped.
  • #noCoffee – 0. Had quite a few. Let’s see if I can quit today on.
  • #aPicADay – 12. Yesterday’s here.
  • Daily Journal – 13
  • Money spent – 19501. Again, random expense. From today on, need to get these in order.
  • Killer Boogie – 0
  • 10K steps a day – 0
  • Surya Namaskar – 0
  • Daily Mail to #teamSG – 13
  • 10 mins of meditation – 0
  • Minimaslism Counter – -3 +1.
  • Morning Pages / Meditations – 13

151021 – Morning Pages

A #shortPost for the day where I talk about what I am thinking about.

8:27. Home. Woke up a few minutes ago. Had a very very long day. Worked so much that I did not realize when it was like 11:30 in the night. I think I did this much work after a while. Which is ok. Right now, I need to work hard to make things work. But the thing is, I feel spent. Even though I have slept for like 7 hours. It’s like, you know when you have nothing to create, nothing to do. You feel all your energy and creative juices have been taken away from you. If I feel like this on a day-to-day basis, I would probably feel burnt out.

Anyhow. Moving on.

So the plan for the day is go to some Starbucks (nearest is 12 KMs away :() and get some work done. I need to move out. I feel the need to see things on the outside. I am so glad that lockdown is over and I can go out and all that. Just that Delhi does not offer a Starbucks next to my place. That’s one thing I miss btw about Mumbai. I could literally walk to so many Starbucks outlets. Sigh.

Wait. Maybe Gurgaon could offer what Mumbai had. Maybe I could live in Gurgaon for a few days? Yeah! Sounds like a plan.

Must act and find a place. Let’s see how do I find short-term rentals. In an ideal world, I want to live in a hotel. Let’s see if I can afford one. Shall spend time looking for one. Know of any decent ones?

Also, here’s a thing that I have been thinking about. Can I create a like where I am a writer / podcaster / YouTube / content creator? Where 1000 true fans pay me enough to not worry about work? And then I create that dent. I mean could being a content creator be a path to financial independence? #currentThoughts

Guess this is about it. Here’s the song for the day. Hotel California.

And here’s the journal.

  1. Emoticon: :|.
    Still feeling shitty. I think it’s the general state of mind that I need to work on.
  2. Mindful Index (on a scale of 10): 1.
    Need to work on this. Yesterday, after shower, I did sit for 3 minutes of meditation but even that was difficult. Need to amp up.
  3. Things that I am grateful for
    1. I am grateful that most people that I am with, they allow me to be who I want to be.
    2. I could avoid coffee yesterday. Now that I have gone without one for a day, I will try to not have it today either. Let’s see how it goes.
    3. One amazing thing of being at home is that get home-made food. Now that I have it, I realise how much I craved for simple meals. Food anyway is not big on my agenda. So that.
  4. Things that would make my today great
    1. Like yesterday, I think the greatness is linked to work. If I can get some work done, I would feel like I am on the top of the world.
    2. I want to step out and sit somewhere and work. Let’s see when I manage to do that.
    3. I want to meet some of my people. You know, old friends, my team, others that I know already. The ones that I want to see happy, successful, thriving etc.
  5. A daily affirmation
    I am worth a billion dollars and I use this money and access to enable my people to do more with their lives.
  6. Amazing things that happened yesterday? 
    1. I could skip coffee. I have captured this already.
    2. I had a tough situation at work. I have been able to manage it. I may end up not working with that client but at least it’s not getting dirty.
    3. I could manage time to juggle various projects that I am on. It’s a little tricky but I could.
  7. What could have made yesterday better?
    1. If I could’ve got some sort of a workout in, I would have felt better. So far, I havent been able to.
    2. If I did not have to loan my time for money, it have been awesome.
    3. If people in general were little nicer in terms of how they speak, the world would be a far far better place.
  8. Quote for the day
    “Passion is for losers and for hobbies. Have obsession with your purpose in life” – Naveen Jain

And here’s the streaks…

  • OMAD – 0
  • #book2 – 0
  • NOFAP – 0
  • #noCoke – 1
  • #noCoffee – 1
  • #aPicADay – 8. Here is today’s.
  • Daily Journal – 8
  • Money spent – 0 :D. And no, I did not track. Just that I was indoors and did not step out and thus no expenses.
  • Killer Boogie – 0
  • 10K steps a day – 0
  • Surya Namaskar – 0
  • Daily Mail to #teamSG – 8
  • 10 mins of meditation – 0
  • Minimaslism Counter – -3 +1.
  • Morning Pages / Meditations – 8

010921 – Morning Pages

Today’s post talks about the sadness that September brings, the unpreparedness for the walk to EBC and a few others things.

8:27. Starbucks.

September. The month has continued to send me into inexplicable sadness. All my underachievements and failures come back to haunt me. And since I am in this zone where I am sad about things, I often make errors in judgment and that makes me more prone to mistakes. And that means things that can go wrong, start going wrong. And that means the spiral of sadness starts moving faster. And I dont know what to do about it.

So that. Lemme digress and talk about other things.

Yesterday, I was at the shoot of my next short film. While I was there, I got yelled at, despite me being the one who’s enabling all that to happen. I often dont take credit for things I do. I mean the world doesn’t stop if you stop existing. It finds its way. Always has. I just happen to be at a place at a time where I played a role that moved the ball further. Now when I do that, and I say this with all humility, I want to be anything but the person that gets yelled at.

Plus it’s getting reinforced that a producer really has no role in anything that happens. Apart from being the one that’s bankrolling the whole jingbang. I knew it to be honest but now I know it as well. So that’s that.

The action point is to stop this free flow of money to fuel other people’s dreams, unless I am the one whose work is getting created. Or I am the one that will get credit beyond a producer. And thus, I need to move onto the other side. My writing doesn’t seem to work with people. I have no clue what directing is. I am anything but acting material. Plus I dont watch a lot of films anyway. So need to think hard about this love of making films. Lemme add this to the list of things I want to think about in the break in the second half of September. Let’s see what I come up with. #toThinkOn.

Oh, the internet at the house I live at, aka, the shelter has stopped working. And funnily, I am ok to face the inconvenience of not having the Internet, when compared to the effort required to make calls to the ISP and getting it fixed. Plus, I am around for today and tomorrow. Day after I am gone.

In the happy, hopeful things to talk about, I have just about 15 days left to go for the break (and the walk to the EBC – I refuse to call it a trek. It’s a walk). I am looking forward to the experiment of not having the phone and being cut off from the world. I do plan to use a phone to make a vlog about the journey and take notes about things that I am thinking about. But that’s about it. I want to be with myself for a large part of this journey. Reduce contact to minimal. Talk when spoken to. Not distract myself with news, entertainment, or any modern, pop-culture-y thing. I’ll try to not even be that problem solver that I have this compelling obsession to be when I am in taxing situations. Let’s see how it goes.

For some reason, while I wrote the para above, I was reminded of the time I spent when I went for Vipassana. I think I must go again. I may not be able to do so in 2021 but I will try and do it sometime in 2022 for sure. #in2022.

The thing though is that Vipassana requires little in terms of physical preparedness. The walk to EBC is more taxing. And I am not ready. I have not worked out. I am not doing any breathing exercises. I refuse to wear shoes. I am eating crap all the time. I am making the walk all the more difficult. I think I need to live the next 17 days the best I can. This means, eat less and do some breathing exercises. I can’t work out, I can’t walk – not time to do this. Lots of work on my hands.

Oh, lemme get this load off my head by writing this. On the work front, I am suffering. To a point that I am back to a point where I no longer have enough coming in to keep my team together and will have to sort of seek out a loan each month to feed my team. I think things are different from the last time around (in the sense that the world has finally adopted this work-from-home thingy and people are now investing in marketing, communications, events, etc). I need to make myself different now to be able to leverage these new opportunities and create work for myself. And my team. And my Kutumb.

I also need to find an office space for myself. I can’t focus when I am at home / house / shelter. I can’t be at Starbucks all the time. Way too expensive and inefficient for the kind of work I do (meetings, selling, etc). So, once I am back, even if I choose to live in Delhi with my parents (to save on rent), I will need to find an office of sorts. Let’s see.

Been writing for about an hour now. Guess will take a break and get on with the day. Here’s the streaks…

  • OMAD – 0
  • #book2 – 0
  • #noCoke – 174
  • #noCoffee – 17
  • #aPicADay – 0
  • Money spent – 1900
  • Killer Boogie – 0
  • 10K steps a day – 0
  • Surya Namaskar – 0
  • 10 mins of meditation – 0
  • Minimaslism Counter – -2
  • Morning Pages / Meditations – 264. I think I will reach 280 or so days before I go for the trek. Let’s see. Maybe the vlog I make will be the morning pages and I will publish those on the blog?

300821 – Morning Pages

Today I talk about producing short films, being a shoulder and one of the greatest fears I have in life – the one of being treated unfairly!

7:53. Starbucks Powai.

Here for a day-long meeting. Have another meeting here tomorrow. Thankfully that’s not all day. I can be in and out. Just that travel to Ghatkopar is a pain with traffic and Metro construction and all that. It’s a sin. It’s a mortal waste of time. Anyhow. So, morning pages. A dump of what’s on my head.

So, I am constantly thinking of how I should be doing more. Wow! I have been able to capture this so well! Do more in terms of fitness, office work, relationships, and all that. This thing about wanting to do more is literally guiding my thoughts, emotions, and actions. To a point that I am living in this La La land. You know, in the sandcastles in the head. Guess I need to jolt out of it. Let’s see how and when I do that. Maybe the upcoming break from work and a computer would help. Of course, the sad part would be that I would have to break this morning pages streak that I have been on since December of last year!

Ok, enough of sadness. Let’s move on.

So, tomorrow is the first day of the next short that I am involved with. This would be the 4th film that I am part of. I have primarily been a co-producer on all these 4. For the uninitiated, a producer is primarily a financier. And then s/he does other things like getting the project together and ensuring that it works out well.

And no, most short films dont really make money. Actually, wait. I must say, a short-film that makes money is a rarity.

The deal with shorts is that the writer and / or the director gets to show their work. The crew gets one more credit on IMDB. The producer / financier is the fool that does not gain anything. Except opportunities to share stories and reels about it on Instagram. And for someone like me who doesn’t care about these bragging rights, there is no ROI. I mean I can get happy with the validation that I lent a shoulder to some people but that’s that. I can sleep a tad better with the knowledge that I acted like the giant that others could stand on the shoulder of. I can be happy that people want to play games with me (ref: yesterday’s post). But that’s that, to be honest.

I just hope at some point in time in life these things make sense. And the ones that I am lending a shoulder to remember to lend their shoulders to others.

I often think about why I support these endeavors when I dont have the money in the first place. And especially when I believe that I am wise and all that. Lol. I think I suffer from the Dunning-Kruger thingy. I mean I think I am wise but maybe I am not that wise. If it’s pinching me, why am I even trying to do things? Why can’t I just sit idle and let a corpus get built? Even if it takes years for that to happen?

I guess these are those questions that we’d never find answers to. Not that I need the answers. I mean I dont want to find out, to be honest. If I realize that I was wrong, it would break my heart. This risk of being treated unfairly by people that I support is more than the misery of taking on debt and funding my dreams. In fact, this probably is my biggest fear. I hope I dont have to face that day when I see my people being unfair. I mean I know life is unfair. Things are unpredictable. People change. Pandemics happen. But the implicit contract with my people needs to be sacrosanct. Cast in stone. Un-fuckable-with.

Ok, enough. Time to get on with work. Here’s the streaks.

  • OMAD – 0
  • #book2 – 0
  • #noCoke – 172
  • #noCoffee – 15 (wow!)
  • #aPicADay – 0
  • Money spent – 1322
  • Killer Boogie – 0
  • 10K steps a day – 0
  • Surya Namaskar – 0
  • 10 mins of meditation – 0
  • Minimaslism Counter – -2
  • Morning Pages / Meditations – 262

170821 – Morning Pages

A ranty post about work, Starbucks and how I am dependent on public places to get things done.

7:21. Woke up a few minutes ago. Little groggy. Tired as well. I dont know why. I did not do anything that would leave me like this. Plus, I have a long day ahead. And a lot of what I am busy with, I need to be the one talking. So, it’s going to be a long and interesting day. And by the end of it, I would probably be exhausted. Not exactly the kind of busyness that I like but theek hai. That’s where life is right now and can’t complain. Or rejoice. Let’s see how it goes.

Oh, because I am the one talking, if I talk well and I see that people are enjoying what am saying, I would end the day on a high. And if everything goes flat, I would be sad. Yeah, my work is what guides my happiness and sadness.

Ok, yesterday. This amazing thing happened. I worked for more than 12 hours! I mean I am not proud but I realised that that’s all I have to my life. And I could only do this because stores are now allowed to remain open till 10 PM.

I started at 830 with morning pages. Took a break around 12 for lunch etc. And then went back to a Starbucks at 5ish or something. And stayed till 945. So I was up and about for longer. And rather than sleeping by 945, I actually did more things. I must say that the vibe at a Starbucks in the morning is way different than the Starbucks in the evening. There are many more people merely chilling, catching up, gossiping in the evening. The crowds are more effervescent. There are larger groups, noises are louder. Morning is more intimate. People are mostly working and trying to get things done. I think I am indifferent to this vibe per se, as long as I get a place to sit and bury myself in my laptop. And of course, being a morning person and all that, I prefer mornings. Even if the vibe was wild like a club!

Thing is, this dependence on public places to work from is not really cool. I need to be less dependent on things. You know, walk on my journey by myself. Plus, It’s not cheap at all. I mean I spend almost 1000 bucks each day there. Making it the most expensive indulgence I have. But then, I am thinking, if it allows me to get things done, why not? Plus I am sure once offices are open and I get back to a WeWork or something, I would manage it cheaper.

Let’s see.

The point remains that I am more effective when I am not alone. And definitely far far better when I am not at this house. The good part is that I am gonna be out in less than 15 days. Yay!

In other news, I restarted with a lo-carb diet. I mean it’s just been one day but I plan to continue with it till the time I am in Mumbai. Once I go to Delhi, I am sure I would want to eat all the street food strewn out there on every nook and cranny!

Nothing else to report per se. As always, I have way too many ideas. Way less time. And I still dont ship. Sigh. Need to fix it. Somehow. And before I spiral down into a full-blown rant and a depressive cave, must move on. Here’s streaks…

  • OMAD – 0
  • #book2 – 0. No work on any book yesterday.
  • #noCoke – 159
  • #noCoffee – 2. Had none. Had 2 chais.
  • #aPicADay – 0
  • Money spent – 1880
  • Killer Boogie – 0
  • 10K steps a day – 0
  • Surya Namaskar – 2. Did 12 rounds today as well.
  • 10 mins of meditation – 0
  • Minimaslism Counter – -2
  • Morning Pages / Meditations – 249