Words. Wisdom. Winners.
Possible to change career?
“Is it too late to completely change my career after 4-5 years of experience?”
As we grow in our careers, we often contemplate this but don’t make the change, anyway.
“I am too old for this.”
“Of course, I cannot do this at such a stage in my life.”
“I don’t think I have the luxury of having options anymore.”
However, is this correct?
Think of it like this:
“If you have Rs. 100 and lose Rs. 10, will you spend the remaining Rs. 90 on finding the lost Rs. 10?”
Most likely, you won’t.
So if you’re going to work for 40 more years, why worry about 4 or 5 years?
I have restarted my life like this multiple times, in almost two decades of my career.
I started off as a designer of training material at age 24.
I was training to be a scientist at 23.
Then became a management consultant at 26.
Then an entrepreneur at 29.
Then an MNC job at 31.
Then a startup again at 35.
Then a content creator at 39.
And a startup again at 42.
These seem like wild decisions.
But all have shaped me into who I have become today.
Your past only shapes your future, does not deny you of it.
You are dying every day
Someone is tired of their job.
Someone hates their boss.
Someone feels they are in the wrong relationship.
Someone wants to startup but is not sure if it’s the right move.
Someone wants to move abroad, but isn’t sure which country.
Someone questions if they should move out of their hometown or not.
Whenever I get emails like this, I reply to them with my favorite question, “What do you want to do?”
Once they come to that point, my next question is, “What is stopping you?”
This is when reality hits hard.
More often than not, it is our own mind.
We have convinced ourselves that we should not pursue what we want to do.
Because it is too risky, because people will laugh, because we might fail, because what will the world say, because we may not get a chance to recover.
But you know what?
A year from now, you will regret not having started today.
Time goes away and leaves us with only one of these two things: Results or regret.
Even failure is a result.
It tells us what we need to fix, what we need to improve, what we need to eliminate, what we need to work on.
A year from now, you can never be sure of the results, the way you want it.
But you can certainly be sure of regret, if you do not start today.
Make that move.
Every day you spend in this pain, you are not living. You are dying every day.
The peace and the drama
The world’s reaction to your circumstances are determined by your own perception of the same circumstance.
If you make it a big deal, the world will make it a big deal.
If you don’t, the world will not even notice.
The drama, the peace, the noise – it is always our choice.
The world simply reflects what it sees.
It is a mirror.
Not a window.
Biggest productivity hack
Here is one of the biggest hacks of my productivity:
The WhatsApp self group
– Create a group on WhatsApp with someone else.
– Once done, delete them
– Now it’s just you in the group.
– Pin that Group to the top.
– And use it for easy sharing and access.
I have 2 such groups:
To store my important images (PAN Card, License Copy, passport copy, etc.) and documents for each access (tickets, etc.)
Which I use to just type something on the run, or click something, or record/shoot something.
Thoughts on the go! Productivity on the pro :)
Technology could be a life saver, if you use it instead of it using you.
Facts of life
Your grades in college are not going to define your life.
The first company you work for is not going to define your life.
Your first pay package is not going to define your life.
Your life is going to be defined by the meaning you give to every phase of your life. Which may also mean – to look for the best even in the worst, or vice versa. Who you are is your life. What happens to you, isn’t.
I think I am not winning
Do you often feel that everyone is winning in their lives and you are the biggest loser out there?
Here is something that might help:
At 29, I was jobless and with no money.
I had just left my last startup, with no money and no direction.
I remember watching “The Social Network”, Mark Zuckerberg setting up FaceBook, witnessing his success, and feeling shi**y about myself.
However, if there is ONE thing that I have learnt about life, it is:
Everyone is running a different race.
In fact, we’re not even in a race.
We’re on our own paths.
Once you know this truth about life, you will hate your journey a little less. And win in unexpected ways you hadn’t seemed possible.
Worst, and still…
Find the colleague who saw you at your worst and still helped you perform better.
Find the manager who saw you faltering and still chose to listen instead of scolding.
Find the friend who saw your lowest points and still chose to support.
Find the partner who saw you through all this and still chose to love.
Find someone who saw you when you were not “successful” and still chose their presence with you as their success.
Look back at the past
Sometimes, the only way to realize how far you have come, is to look back into the past.
It often reminds you of the fact that while the days felt long, the years that followed were short.
The past, no matter how confusing, didn’t mean the future couldn’t be clearer.
These were the exact emotions I went through, when I went back to Michigan State University in 2015, after dropping out of my PhD program in 2004.
There was so much that had changed in those 11 years.
I went from being confused about my career to graduating from ISB, to working as a consultant to starting up.
Went from disappointing my parents to hopefully making them feel proud.
Went from being a kid, to being a parent to a kid.
In 2004, life felt like a huge mountain to scale.
In 2015, it felt like a wonderfully long journey to travel.
It is not about the year already gone by.
It is about the years still left.
You still have time.
How to prepare for interviews
“Ankur, I am appearing for job interviews these days. And most of the time I falter because of my communication skills even though I know everything.
How can I prepare myself better for interviews?”
I get asked this question a lot often from students appearing for interviews for internships, jobs, and even post-grad interviews.
If you are someone who also goes through the same, this is what would help:
1. Make a list of top 5 questions, you want to be really good at answering
These are usually the same questions that get asked in almost every interview.
2. Video record the responses to these questions, EVERY DAY.
While recording, do not look at yourself on the screen. Look at the camera pinhole. Focus all your attention there.
3. Play it back, in 2 separate modes
– Listen to the audio of the recording (do not watch the video). Make a note of all the things you want to improve upon. Pick them up the next day.
– Watch the video without the audio (mute the video). This is how the interviewer views you – your body language. Make a note of all the things you want to improve upon. Pick them up the next day.
In just 30 days, you will not be able to recognize yourself!
A new project
It was my first ever job in life.
I had just come back from the US after dropping out of my PhD. And the first thing I did was look for a job, because I really needed to earn money.
Thankfully, a dear friend referred me to a job at her current company. After a series of interviews, I made it to the final round, where I was asked (much to my surprise) what my salary expectations were.
I had never worked before. I didn’t even know if this was an allowed question.
How does it matter what my expectations are? You must have a budget, no? So just give me that! Because I am starting from zero!
Anyway, the role did come to me. And I was now earning 15K per month, which was frankly more money than I ever thought I would make.
I was to join the R&D team for a corporate training company. We were to get a mandate from a client around a training need (say, sales training for on-ground sales team), research about it extensively, and then develop the training curriculum that would be imparted via our trainers.
It was a lot of fun.
Lots of research and writing.
Life was really good for the first 2-3 months.
And then came the big one!
One of India’s biggest FMCG companies wanted us to design a sales training program for their field staff. These were individuals who most likely did not even have a college degree and their job was to go to every possible shop in their area and make sure they were ordering the products of the company.
And we had to train them how to do it best.
I was given the project.
And I had NO IDEA where to even begin!
Forget everything else, I was surprised that the team of the largest FMCG company required training. Shouldn’t they be training the others? I mean, what do they not know that we can tell them? What can I tell them?
So I spent the next one week, trying to get the answer. I went on “beats” – which are sales trips during the day, for these sales folks. I just observed them. Their mannerisms, their conduct, their selling skills, their morale, what they tracked, how they recorded.
I did this in Delhi, in Meerut, in Agra, in Ahmedabad.
And boy, was I surprised?
Some of them were SO GOOD.
And some of them were visibly bad!
And that is when I understood the need for this sales training – it was to elevate the average. To make the not-so-good learn from the good and even a small difference per person will add up to a big difference for the company.
The training programs we used to design until then were PPTs with exercises. The usual training program that you would have experienced as well.
And I was sure that this crowd would hate that.
Imagine, not even going to college, spending your day moving from shop to shop, selling purely on relationships and now made to sit through boring PPTs with font 14 text on it!
I love movies.
Have I told you all this before?
I LOVE movies.
Not every movie.
The good ones. But I love the idea of a movie. Of stories, summarized in 1-3 hours.
So what I decided to do was to create a movie.
A day in the life of Ramesh.
Ramesh was my hero. My Shah Rukh Khan.
He was the best performing sales guy in the company.
And I decided to chronicle his day, from start to finish.
How he got up and made a plan for the day.
How he kept a record of his sales.
How he approached the shopkeepers.
How he formed a connect.
How he handled objections.
Everything that I had learnt observing the best folks in my sales trip, was part of Ramesh’s world.
And I used PPT to make that movie. Because I knew nothing else.
For a week, I worked 16+ hours, creating a movie on PPT, using animations.
It was exhausting. BUT SO MUCH FUN!
I was convinced it would work.
And it did.
It was loved by the client.
And by the sales teams I was trying to help.
I was suddenly a hero.
I was Ramesh :))
But then, something weird began to happen.
I began to get a LOT of such work.
And a LOT of other work as well.
And back then, I did not know how to say no.
So I said yes, and was instantly burdened.
I was working crazy hours, clearly not doing a great job of my work either and was still getting a lot of work.
And I could see my peers chilling. I mean, relatively chilling.
It felt that some people’s work had been taken from them and given to me.
I just couldn’t understand this!
Was I not supposed to be the one who does quality work? Why am I being made to do quantity work now?
Frustrated, I set up a meeting with my manager.
I was livid.
I couldn’t quit because I needed the money.
But I wanted to make sure she heard my anger and frustration.
The meeting started and I vented. And vented. Blaming everybody, including the Prime Minister of India!
She listened patiently.
When I was done, she took off her glasses and said:
“Good people pay a far higher price for being good than bad people pay for being bad.”
Did you just dump some motivational garbage on me?
“Ankur. The world is selfish. It just wants what it wants. So when it finds people who are good with what they do, the world decides not to risk it any further. And begins to give ALL the work to those good people, while taking it away from the bad ones. So, if you find yourself overworked, it is because people know you can do it. They wouldn’t trust anybody else, except you.”
“So, you have 2 choices in life. Be good with your work and thus get a lot of work. Or suck at your work and not get any work. What do you want to choose?”
That day and this.
I have never forgotten her words.
So, the next time someone comes up to you and says “I have a new project for you” realize that they are giving it to you because they believe you can do it.
Else they would have given to someone else who could have done it!
Only responsible people are given more responsibilities.
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