Fulfillment, Gratitude, Perseverance

  • Fulfillment comes from Gratitude

One of my favourite Marcus Aurelius quotes that I often find myself going back to is: “When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive- to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.”

I’ve been making mental notes about things that I feel thankful for, and the place you create when you are on gratitude mode, is frankly like no other- it is safe, happy and makes room for more abundance to come your way. To feel fulfilled not by your status, position or particular state but by a blissful peace within your own self that no one can take away (no matter what), is important and makes all the difference to the quality of your life. The circumstances don’t have to be perfect (they almost never will be) but you must build within yourself a place of love and abundance that will empower you, even when things don’t go your way- and a place you can keep going back to for rebooting and starting over.

  • “It’s your decisions and not your conditions or circumstances that will change your life,” Tony Robbins. 

I do believe that how you decide to feel about a particular situation is more important than the particular situation itself. With this realization comes a unique power- that no matter what, you have control over how you feel and how you live. Choose what you focus on, choose to feel empowered and don’t play the victim, ever.

  • Two things that ensure growth and progresslearning and experiences.

Each day try to be the weakest person in the room- because that will lead to learning- and over a few days/weeks/months that incremental learning will compound itself to give you exponential results.

  • Achievement is not more important than fulfillment.

It is sometimes for the best to not achieve everything on your list, because it gives you the motivation to keep going on and goals to look forward to.  If you operate from a place of fulfillment, your achievements or failures won’t affect your core peace but if you measure your self-worth and esteem through achievement metrics, there will always be a void. How to be fulfilled? Be thankful for the journey, the love and the good things that have happened to you than anxious about what future holds or worse, worry about what happened in the past.

  • Perseverance

People who succeed are mostly (with the exception of a few outliers) those who work and persevere on a single idea for a long time. It might not look pretty or grand at the beginning but in a few years you see their success. Persevere on a single pursuit for success rather than always trying to transition to a new thing. Finish what you start, or at least give it your all before you adopt a new passion/milestone.

  • Favourite new words: Competence porn

(Competence i.e. the ability to do something successfully or efficiently). The truth is that how you do anything, is how you do everything. What I’ve started to see is a pattern in people who are detail-oriented and efficient about a particular thing, usually, apply those skills to everything they do. Efficiencies and diligence lay down a foundation for success.

  • During an interview someone asked me “What is leadership for you, personally?”

My answer was- For me, leadership is making sure that people on your team feel fulfilled by the work they do, and feel that their contribution is meaningful. Leadership isn’t dictatorship rather about making sure that everyone is growing and progressing in some way. It is important for me, to add value to their life, so that in return, they add value to the organization.

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Rajeev Circle Fellowship 2016

Rajeev Motwani was the mentor to the founders of Google. Larry Page and Sergey Brin started working on their thesis project called PageRank under him when he was a Computer Science professor at Stanford. To have been selected for such a prestigious fellowship was truly an honour, and even better was, to see how one man’s legacy still carries on in the lives he touched as a mentor, guide and friend. Asha, his wife and a brilliant angel investor, is the one who still drives his legacy forward through this fellowship and encourages talent from India and Pakistan to visit and explore the possibilities and opportunities in the Valley.

12 fellows from India and Pakistan were selected on the basis of the the projects/ventures they were working on and the potential impact their idea would have, given the right resources, mentors and funding. We were hosted in the same house where Larry and Sergey worked on Google, and even went to IPO in that very drawing room where we had our morning sessions.

Palo Alto’s energy and intensity is rather infectious. It makes you want to believe in serendipity and that you truly never know which miracle awaits you around the corner, or in this case, a cafe or a co-working space. We attended conferences such as the TiECon which had a truly competent and high-profile line-up of speakers and doers such as Vishal Sikka, Kailash Satyarthi, Anjula Acharia Bath amongst many others. Even visited the Maker Fair which is a treat for anyone remotely interested in technology since that is where the geek cult belongs..you truly feel transported to another world altogether. Those guys are doing things like drone racing, robot and submarine wars and AR/VR stuff that makes you think how far really is the Jetsons like ‘future’. It is entertaining and exciting to watch..but made me realize one fundamental thing: The US is developed- and a lot of what people are building is noise (i.e. apps/filters for editing cat photos). The average entrepreneur isn’t looking to solve social challenges because honestly, they live in their developed world bubble- which is where entrepreneurs from emerging worlds can truly step forward, and take the giant leap ahead into the future. We should explore how technology can solve the most pressing issues of our time- and gradually, as more people realize this, our combined hope of a better and abundant future can safely build up. Just how Peter Diamandis talks about his in book called abundance, we can truly leverage tech to address complex social challenges of poverty, unemployment, inequality, and high mortality.

All that said, I loved University Avenue (Couppa Cafe, Burma Ruby, Blue Dot especially) and the campus of Stanford. God! There is no other place that has made me feel so inspired by its legacy and I just keep thinking about how centered and at home I felt on its campus. I had always thought about an MBA there, but visiting and taking classes/talking to students/meeting the Business School, Design School and Center of Social Innovation teams and faculty just filled my heart with a sense of belonging. I hope I can be back on that campus soon enough, and contribute something valuable to it. It’s one place where I feel that legacy truly lives on.

As a result of their network through Google and Stanford, Rajeev and Asha have a tremendous network in the Valley. We literally had entrepreneurs, investors, mentors and media people come over to the house and talk to us about our ideas- and gave us truly valuable feedback on each individual idea. The collaborative and encouraging disposition of these humble overachievers is to learn from, and gave us all a lot to ponder and reflect upon.

I think the most important thing that happens to you as a result of something like this fellowship is the transformative paradigm shift in your mindset. Yes, as entrepreneurs and makers we were all driven and self-motivated, but our time in the Valley, opened our minds up to an entirely new world of possibilities. I’m well traveled so it wasn’t the fascination of a new place, rather the umbrella of the legacy, the people we met, and the inspiration we brought back with us.

I’m working on exciting projects in the next billion domain- building resources and platforms for the newly connected. I was always fascinated by how we can leverage technology for social impact, and the fellowship enabled connections in the Valley that are contributing immensely to my work now.

You might have grand plans for yourself, but you must always accommodate room for serendipity in your life. The Universe might have bigger plans for you than you have for yourself, after all! Having said that, I do believe in cause and effect- your intention and your input drives the output- the harder you work, the luckier you get, right? Keep going 🙂

 

Need of the hour: Social Innovation

 

I came across this on Sir Richard Branson’s blog: “I’ve always felt that social impact and profitability are two sides of the same coin. The most successful businesses are prosperous because they offer products and services that make tangible, positive differences in people’s lives (without destroying the planet or causing more harm to others, of course),” Richard says. “Viewed through this lens, social impact is a powerful selling proposition.”

Building Aqaya as a social enterprise has taught me lessons that I’d like to share.

  • Most people will discount all your hard-work just because your aim is social impact, but your idea can appeal to the rare audience- a small, select group that is fueled by the same ambition as you, to create prosperity and empowerment for others. Find them, early on, if you really want to pursue the idea long-term.
  • The needs of the communities, especially in the rural areas, are vast. I went in thinking I would train artisans to make beautiful garments, help them earn higher and thus improve the quality of their lives. But no, as I spent more time, I realized much broader needs such as lack of electricity and resources to allow them to spend their time at trainings. Thus, Aqaya’s model has been evolving, we are testing prototypes for NFC technology, renewable energy and organizing programs for awareness on health issues and organic farming. Given Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the basics of life missing from their lives, would not allow them to indeed be happier- thus Aqaya Source Foundation needed to elevate to a level of becoming a holistic provider for its communities.
  • As I increased my buyers’ list and got more artisans on-board, the model’s need for technological disruption dramatically shot up. Training their family members in computers was the first step, but I needed to do more than that. The question that has been on my mind for more than a year: How do I bridge the gap and make knowledge and opportunity accessible on a massive scale? Hence, the need to find exponential solutions- we’ve decided to take the NFC route to empower communities with resources once they get connected and online. As the prediction goes, there will be an additional 3-5 Billion people online by 2020, and through ASF we’re working on finding ways to cater to them.
  • Our training programs need to be made into educational content for our artisans. With advancements such as smartphones for INR 251 and RJio, it presents immense opportunity to bring awareness about possibilities to them. Earlier, I could show them YouTube videos, now I can bring the world to them. This is amazing. When the student is ready, the teacher appears. As I stay on my path to social innovation, several other factors are making it easier for me to find solutions. That’s what social entrepreneurs need to make use of: their macro-environment. Stay up to date, use new information and rapid iteration. Try, test, if it fails- move on, try something new. I spend a lot of time thinking about how to bring digitization to the communities. Possibly with NFC chips that could connect consumers to artisans or through selling platforms that promote artisans, or through educational content that bridges that gap- I’m testing, trying and experimenting.
  •  Influencing the whole value chain, instead of focusing on one entity. To sensitize the market and the average consumer, the respect for artisan crafts is needed. I could not have kept on producing without the consumers willing to buy from me. Making artisans and their crafts relatable to the consumers was more important than manufacturing the designs. Lionizing and championing artisans who do the work has helped, describing the plight of the producers certainly helped- but it’s an ongoing process.
  • I’m reading Krishnamurthi’s work which talks about how self-concern is what motivates every single one of us. Pursuing a social enterprise idea might be satisfying and rewarding to you, but ultimately it is self-concern, that drives all of us. Be honest about your motivations- yes you can make your idea very profitable, but social entrepreneurship moves rather slow compared to other tech-starups. You won’t raise millions in funding right away, for investors are mostly impact-averse. If the motivation isn’t real, you will give up for the road is longer, harder, rougher- so if your idea really doesn’t reward you or bring you internal satisfaction, move on to something that does. Don’t half-heart anything, give it your best while you’re at it.
  • If you’re still willing to go ahead, congratulations- it will be a hell of a ride. Keep striving.

“You have an advantage over many of your competitors: the excitement and goodwill of customers who will support your ideas.”

In my daily meditations, I channelize some version of this: “I function from a place of service and surrender. I trust the timing of life and seek to be a source of love, abundance and service.” 🙂

 

Discipline & Impacting lives

The goal isn’t to be better than anyone else, it is to be the best that I can be. It’s about putting the work in, without the fear of consequences or results.

If we embrace the temporary nature of our existence, and how short life really is, then we start appreciating the journey, rather than what lies at the finish line. I think life is beautiful, because it has an end and a time limit, and you never know how or when might be the end of it. It is this beautiful uncertainty where the good things happen. Through the journey of Ironman 70.3, I’ve started to appreciate and value each day, more than what might happen at the finish line. I have started seeing inputs on a per day basis, rather than a long shot, which makes me more productive, active and compassionate. Discipline, for me, is the highest quality of life. Having read Bhagvad Gita, and done extensive research on both Eastern and Western philosophies, a pattern that’s repeated the most is the power of Discipline. Just how Aristotle wrote, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” I feel my best self when I am leading a life that flows effortlessly because I’ve made discipline a habit. I don’t have to ‘control or try’, for a lifestyle that reflects highest quality of life, or the best version of me, is a habit, a second nature to me rather than something I’m aspiring to. It takes days and months, sometimes years to make this a reality, but then it becomes a lifestyle, rather than something on your ‘To-Do List’. Sure, when I started, I wasn’t the person I am today, but it is because of the difference that I’m able to see in myself, that I know what a great personal conquest this has turned out to be.

Another lesson that has come my way, in this journey, is that once you realize and accept that your life is inconsequential in the bigger plan of the cosmos, you stop focusing on the insignificant and petty things. A failed training session or an accident, isn’t the end of your life, you can’t see it that way anyway, for it doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. Fighting mediocrity is often made to seem a personal conquest, when in fact, it is a matter of impact, impacting others.

The best way to transcend the boundaries of time is to live in a way through which you can impact the most number of people. How I see impact now is to make others’ battles your own, and to fight for the greater good, rather than your own little personal combat. You never exist in isolation, and humans are social creatures that thrive on the feeling of connection, so yes, I’ve come to believe that in order to achieve highest nature of existence, you have to be able to make a significant contribution to others’ lives. If legacy is your goal, and if you want your name to transcend your generation, you should aim at making lasting impressions through everything you do. In a way, this needs to become your discipline.

Once you shift your perception to discipline, you start fighting for reasons bigger than yourself. It is not only your life that you need to succeed in, but you’ve to make others successful through your journey too. It is never about you VS life, but about humanity VS life. “It is but right to wage war against evil oppression. That is the message of the Gita. Perpetration of violence- don’t silently support the infliction of atrocity. “

Be patient, you are never in control, but you have a duty to act, and to act well. If you’ve been following my blog posts, my goal is ‘legacy’, thus, my true goal automatically becomes impacting lives. Through my journey of Ironman, I practiced discipline in a form, I’d never imagined before, and received lessons that make me feel more alive and awakened than before.

Here’s to becoming the best possible versions of ourselves, and leading the highest quality of lives.

Less show, more soul

People ask me what I do now, and earlier my response would’ve confidently been, “Oh I’m an entrepreneur…I launched a fashion e-commerce company.” 6 months later, as I’ve evolved and interacted with people in the industry, both adorned and produced intricate designs, I am a lot closer to identity crisis than I ever have been. Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do, I love how fashion is the ultimate amalgamation of beauty and art. I love the feeling where my eyes feel feasted and life seems like a never-ending couture celebration. Pause, though.
Now, here is where relativity comes into play. In this glamorous world, people love looking better than the other. It makes them happier to see that a certain somebody, who they might not even know personally, is feeling inferior to them. Ah damn, I have more Chanel on me than she’ll ever dream of.
As much as I love being in that vibe where everybody just transcends into assuming the roles of Gods and Goddesses, where dresses are majestic, looks are divine and paparazzi blinding, I now, already, find it exhausting and repetitive.
I can no longer avoid the eyes of the two hungry kids who came knocking on my car window asking for change, or for that matter, the number of homeless people I saw sleeping on the road. I was returning from and going to these masquerades where people just don’t discuss the helplessness or evil in the society, but I couldn’t stop those images flashing in my head as I sipped oh-that-fancy-wine-from-the-time-when-I-wasn’t-even-born. Sure it tasted good, but as I mingled and greeted people around me, I couldn’t help but feel the lack of something in my life. What good did all this account for if I couldn’t sponsor that child’s education or meals? For all I know, they were sleeping somewhere, probably happier than most people at the event, knowing exactly how to survive on nothing but hope of a better future. How I wished for someone to come, slap me out of my drunkenness, and talk to me about being socially conscious or elevating standards of living of the poor in my country. Now, that’s the type of conversations that stimulate me, the kinds where you talk about ideas, revolutions, making a difference, being truly centered and giving. Sure I can drop witty comments, be that crazy, fun, party girl but what I really hope for is meeting people that are unconditionally immersed in the beauty of life. My idea of sexy is someone who is soulful, loves whatever it is that they do, strive to become exceptionally good at it, and are willing to surrender themselves to a cause, idea, or purpose unconditionally. It is so hard to have meaningful conversations these days, because people talk about their routines, jobs and everydays, forgetting that there’s a bigger being they’re a part of. Everybody is trying to fixate themselves into that small idea of molding perfect lives, blindsiding their own individuality. My focus now is to be socially conscious, to be kind, to respect this gift of life that we’re blessed with. I want to put life into all the conversations and interactions of mine and talk about ideas, purpose, spirituality, giving, pursuing excellence and witnessing as much life as we can, as fast as possible. You might not be here tomorrow you know- so if there’s anything I can ask of anyone reading this- go out there and try to make one life better, that’s all. Make someone smile a little wider, laugh a little harder, worry a little lesser, more secure and less alone..start with just one person, just one act, even if it’s yourself at this point. Make one less of all the negatively affected people. Less show, more soul.

Will women EVER feel safe in India?

I am a runner, I love running outdoors, discovering new routes and seeing new places. In fact, that’s how I love to explore new cities. I recently moved to New Delhi and will be living here for the next couple of months. A transition like this is bound to make you feel insecure, anxious and uprooted- amidst all the excitement, there is a feeling of having to start-over. No qualms about the re-do part, because I’ve genuinely wanted to do this for a while. I know people around, and I’ve been to the city too many times to feel completely lost around here. I’m trying to embrace this city, settle down and discover Dilli! The only question on my mind though- am I really free here? By free, I mean safe for some incoherent reason…

Everywhere I go, right from the building that I live in to the streets, and to every single corner, I feel eyes following me. It makes me feel really conscious and nauseous at the same time. It could be all in my head, or it could seriously be happening. Earlier this morning, I was leaving Leisure Valley with the plan to run back home. As soon as I got out of the park, I was waiting to cross the road when an Innova stopped on the other side of the road- and the driver was point blank just staring at me. Cars were behind his and started honking, but he just sat there and wouldn’t budge. Then he moved his car to the turn, stopped again and signaled at me. I felt something I hadn’t felt in a while. I felt fear. What if he followed me back home? What if he tried to do something on my way back? I was frightful that he would come for me, and I kept looking to see if he’d drove away.

Guess what I did just after crossing the road? I got into an auto-rickshaw, ended my nike+ run and exhaled a deep sigh. My body wanted to run longer, and I could’ve easily run the 4K back home- but I chickened out. After the exhaustion of running, I did not want to have to go through a personal attack or combat of any sorts. I chose to not fight. I call myself a warrior, I’ve done MMA and Kung Fu so when push comes to shove, I can really protect myself. But it’s one of the things you know, you know have the ability but you kind of wish you’re never tested on those lines..

I have had a very protected childhood. Then, I moved to the UK for my undergraduate got into this habit of running everywhere, and am so consumed by it that one of my biggest fears is a tragedy that’d affect my legs. Be it London, Coventry, Cardiff, Scotland or anywhere that I’ve traveled there, I felt free to explore and create new routes, find secret attractions and meditate anywhere I felt like. Coming back to India, I feel like my love for running is being taken a toll over by eyes that rape. It almost feels like they’ve never seen a girl before, or it is their god damn right to throw sharp ravenous glares at me.

An article by Michaela Cross described how she felt, and it resonates with me so much, in my own country that I’m going to share her words. There was no way to prepare for the eyes, the eyes that every day stared with such entitlement at my body, with no change of expression whether I met their gaze or not. I was prepared for my actions to be taken as sex signals; I was not prepared to understand that there were no sex signals, only women’s bodies to be taken, or hidden away.” What if one morning I set out to run 25K, really out-perform myself and get taken or attacked? It doesn’t sound so hypothetical, cause these things happen for real here, and it just might.

 How am I supposed to sustain the determination if I don’t feel safe? If at every step, I feel like maybe I should go to a park nearby and run inside? I want to win laurels for the country, but at the moment all I’m winning is insecurity. My mind over matter technique will take some training to get used to this indirect, perpetual and prolonged exposure to eyes that hunt. I know I’ll get my way around this, but even if I do, there are hundreds who won’t be able to! Aggressive, starved and vicious packs are out prowling on the road- how do we stop them? What if anything ever happens to me on the road…what if?

 I just want to run you know, that’s all I’m asking for. How am I supposed to feel or where do I go if I don’t feel safe in my own country?

Make India safe, please.

Turning point of my life.

I started this blog when I first started taking steps towards becoming a lifestyle entrepreneur. For everyone who has been following my journey, this is one of the most important updates.

I can’t go back home.

After graduation I chose to live with my parents again because well, home is where the heart is. Living in close proximity to the people who love me unconditionally was the best atmosphere to place myself in. I had missed them while I was away in the UK, and made a deliberate and conscious decision of taking forward my dad’s work.

Once I started working for him, I realized that all he needed me for was really just suggestions and new age ideas; he already had his team of executioners. Was I adding real value?

No!

Thus, AQAYA happened. It had been a burning desire of mine since probably the age of 5 to start something from scratch; I always wanted to be a ‘businesswoman’. I can’t clearly justify my reasons for wanting that since young, but at 18 I kind of realized that I would have to fight for and create the life I wanted. Living independently in the UK, I soon realized that I would need money, actually, a lot of money to sustain the life that I wanted to enjoy. It all became about chasing the dream lifestyle, the island, the Californian residence, the traveling and the experiences. But, that was at 18.

At 21, I had myself registered as a sole proprietor (a small business owner), and AQAYA became my first personal venture. At this point however, I had worked with several start-ups and done a lot of promotional and marketing work for companies and events. That’s all the experience that I started with! I guess the best thing about starting young and early is that you’re completely unaware of the ‘system’, the rules that you’re supposed to follow, the strategies and norms that society enforces upon your thought process. You experiment, you mess around and you learn, and this knowledge is real power, it enlightens and shakes you up from within.

I guess the last year for me was all about locating the pivot of my being. I wanted to figure out what truly stimulates me, what I wanted to become a ‘businesswoman’ for, what I enjoyed doing apart from work, and how I would want to like my life to shape up.

I’m 22, but because of self-education and my drive to try and pursue excellence and really live a high quality life, I feel like I am doing good work. I have a long way ahead of me, but this journey that I have started feels real, like somehow this was what my life’s purpose is. I’m pretty certain I want to end up in the education sector, cause I believe that with education comes empowerment and with empowerment comes true progress as a society.

My decision to move out is very rational- I want to evolve, I cannot get too comfortable anywhere.

I believe in honest and quality relationships, and now it is my time to seek and learn from the best in their fields. My love for learning and excelling has brought me to another city, wherein there are people who are accomplishing and striving for similar goals as me.

Spending 3 weeks away from my routine, my disciplined life at home made me see my ambitions in a different light. Not everyone gets a do-over or a restart button, but this is my chance. There was a time during my trip when I felt like I had hit rock bottom, and it was agonizing. However, I guess, it is in the lowest of your lows, that you find the clarity and an unflinching belief in possibilities, if you truly seek.

I trust now, what I realized then, the trip in itself was going to be the turning point of my life.

Now I’m in a completely new environment, I want to meet and be around people who are striving to become the best and the highest versions of themselves. I need to surround myself with competition and growth. I’m working with several start-ups and training intensely to smash a world record- will keep this section updated!

P.S- The goal is to live the highest quality of life, become world-class, and strive to experience life’s magnificence every minute of my being.