Words. Wisdom. Winners.

My ISB Interview

“If I were in the panel, I would never shortlist this resume.”

With that, he dropped my resume, the corner of which he had been holding with his thumb and index finger.

The single page resume floated in the air, before landing on the pristine wooden table.

What could I have said at this moment?

January 2005
Taj Palace Hotel, New Delhi
My interview for ISB

It was my first time entering the grand Taj Palace in Delhi.
As if the nervousness wasn’t enough, the grandeur of the place left me overwhelmed. 

I felt small.
A harsh reminder that I wasn’t supposed to be here in the first place.
Applying to an MBA program that preferred 2 years of work experience.
Real-life experience.

I had none.
All I had was a drop-out status.
And a confused state of mind.

My name was called out.

I open the door, to enter a large boardroom.
In front of me are 3 gentlemen.
Sharp suits. Cheerful faces. They looked smart.
Or maybe that’s what I thought everyone from ISB looked like.

Was I even a fit?

They introduced themselves.
2 alums and 1 from the administrative team.

They ask me for my resume.

I had a colored resume.
And it had a footprint, as a background.

“Why does your resume have a footprint?”
“Because it was my print on the sand I have walked on?”

I thought that was a deep, smart answer.

“Good thought. But most likely will not work in a corporate setup.”

Oh! There is something called a corporate setup? 

They asked me about my US experience, why I dropped out, what did I learn there. 

And then came the question.
“What would you like to do, post ISB?”

“I honestly don’t know. I am hoping I will figure it out through the year. My peers, professors and the setting will expose me to a lot more than I know today.”

“But still, what are your preferences?”

“Ummm – I really like numbers and I am good with them. So maybe, finance?”

“If I were in the panel, I would never shortlist this resume.”

The admin team member had the corner of my resume held with his thumb and index finger.
He made this remark, raised it above his head, and let go of the resume.
It came floating down, landing on the wooden table.

Which gave me 2 seconds to digest what just happened.

“In that case, I am happy that you will not be part of the panel.”

WTF! Was that rude? Too direct? Unnecessary? Cocky?

He smiled.
I heaved a sigh of relief.

3 weeks later, I received the email :))

ISB took a bet on me.
I had nothing to offer.
And I, till date, do not know why it chose me.

That 1-year just changed my life.
It changed everything about me.

Because while I went to ISB looking for a job and a career and a salary and a brand and a position and all the nice things, I went to ISB looking for myself. 

Who am I?
What am I good at?
What am I not good at?

And the ISB opportunity gave me those answers. 

Some people work hard to get the opportunity.
Some work hard once they get the opportunity.

How to read books effectively

5-step process to remember everything you read in a book:

  1. Reading on a Kindle

When I read a book, I highlight a lot.

Anything that catches my attention, intrigues me, fuels my curiosity.
Sometimes entire pages.

  1. Exporting the highlights 

What I love about this is that I do not feel the pressure to finish a book.
Whatever I read, however much, has takeaways in the form of these highlights. 

I will then export these highlights into a pdf and email it to me.
Kindle allows that.

  1. Sit with the highlights

I now have my own summary of the book. Not crowdsourced. Personalised.
After a week, I sit down with this pdf for 15 mins. And ask myself one question:
“How can I apply this to my current life?”

  1. Report progress after 30 days

After a month, I would sit again for 10 mins (doesn’t take longer) and see how, if at all, any of the new paths led to some revelations. 

Maybe I agree with them more.
Maybe I realised they don’t work for me. 

This check-in is critical.

  1. Create a re-read list 

Basis the impact and resonance I felt, I add a book to my re-read list, which means I will read it once every year.
These are phenomenal books (for me) where each time I pick them up I have figured something new that has helped me.

There is a twist though.
The re-read list at any point cannot be more than 12 books. 

So if I want to add to it and I already have 12 books, one book has to be dropped. This keeps me honest with the quality of this list.

This 5-step process has helped me assimilate most of the knowledge I can derive from books. 

It has also made me appreciate the power of books.
How, at the cost of a pizza, I get to download someone’s entire life and learnings!

I recognize this process seems too dependent on a Kindle. 

The Kindle just makes the job easier. But the process can very well be done with a physical book too. 

Positive vs. toxic job

5 signs of a job worth staying in:

1. You are respected for who you are.
2. There is acknowledgement of what you do.
3. You are rewarded for how well you do it.
4. There is growth while you do it.
5. You are mentored when you lose track.

1 sign of a toxic job:

You dread going to work everyday.

Keep looking ahead

When I started working out 11 years back, my instructor told me 2 things:

Never close your eyes, even if in intense pain.
Always look in front. Never down.

It was later that I realised he wasn’t talking about working out.

He was talking about life!

Society’s influence on you

Everyone out there seems to have an opinion on you.
What you should do.
What you shouldn’t.
How you should live your life.
And how you have messed it up already.

The world doesn’t require another template.
It requires another rebel. 

Be you, anyway!

3 life hacks that have saved me time and again

  1. The 30-day rule

When you desire a big purchase, do not buy it right away.
Give yourself 30 days and ask yourself if you still want it just as much as you did earlier.

If you do, go for it.
Chances are you won’t.

  1. Keep a gratitude jar

Everyday, before going to bed, write down something that you are grateful for.
Anything at all.
Place it in the jar.

  1. In moments of weakness, go through the notes.

Always ask “by when do you need this?”

Whenever given a task, even if an order, always check for the deadline.
Very often we have a different definition of urgency in our minds.

Trust is a wonderful thing

Trust is magical, especially in trust-deficient societies.

If you are not used to being trusted, and people trust you, it does wonders.
And the opposite is also true.
If you show people that you trusted them, and they let you down, they rise to the situation a lot better.

I deploy this as a leader.

Whenever any of my team members does anything that defies our agreements, I do not reprimand them. Because there is no point in doing so.

I instead tell them, what I truly believe:
?”I trusted you. And you let me down”

Nothing works more effectively than hearing this.
Nothing makes them harder to never repeat it, than hearing this.

The power of writing

I write every day.
Not type.

Unfortunately, most of us don’t.
Not anymore.

Writing has been replaced by videos, typing, and digital pens.
And we have lost a huge part of our evolution.

Here is why writing matters.

When we write, we tell our brain that what we are writing is important.
That is why our parents (unaware of the logic) used to tell us to write the things down that we were trying to memorize.
Because the brain gets to know, “oh, this is important. That is why she is writing it down. Remember it!”

That is also why I always insisted people come to meetings at (the startup I used to run) with notebooks. And not just laptops.
“Write everything down. Because we forget”.

Which brings me to the second part of why writing matters.
Because we forget.

Our brain is always trying to optimise one thing.
Its energy spend.
It tries to spend the least amount of energy doing anything.

That is how habits work.

If something needs to be done everyday, the brain makes it into a habit.
Because then we dispense the least energy in following that habit.

And that also means, if we do not write it down, the brain goes, “I just heard or saw something. But it wasn’t being written down. So it must not be important. Forget it!”

So, when we write, our brain knows it’s important.
When we don’t write, we forget.

What losing my tennis match taught me

Our colony was conducting a Double Tennis tournament. My team made it to the semi-finals and then we lost.
I played worse than the worst player in the tournament.

And then I spent the entire day thinking about it.
Over analyzing.
Questioning my shots, my strategy.
Nothing really explained it.
Except the fact that I was under immense pressure.

We were the top seeds.
We were the ones who were expected to win the semi-finals.
Heck, we were the ones who were expected to win the tournament.
And on the day of the match, the pressure got to me.

But I handle pressure really well.

I have been in high pressure environments, have been through really tough situations at work and life. So how was this pressure different?

Pressure is of two kinds:


One, the pressure that you feel everyday, because of your environment.

Imagine yourself in a top college, surrounded by super sharp kids.
Every single day, their conversations, their choices, their mannerisms, their opinions add pressure on you.
But this sort of pressure elevates you.
This pressure inspires you.

When we say that competition ups our game, this is what we mean.

If you are amongst people who are much much better than you, on a daily basis, the “pressure” helps you.

But the second kind of pressure is pressure of the moment.

Pressure of performance for a specific event.

Think of exams. Or interviews. Or a presentation. or, in this case, a match.

It doesn’t matter who you are, what you know, what you think, if you do not perform well in the moment, you will fail.

This pressure is damaging.
This pressure hurts.
This pressure doesn’t up our game. It reduces it.

And I realized, I haven’t had an opportunity for a really long time to experience the second kind of pressure.
I haven’t given an interview, sat for an exam, given an investing pitch presentation or anything like this, in a really long while.

My pressure is the first kind – of constantly surrounding myself with smart people and feeling like a duffer more often than not.

That’s what did not work for me!

The best performers are trained in the second kind of pressure. Singers, dancers, sportspeople – they become the best because they know how to handle pressure that is generated in the moment. BUT they are masters in the first kind of pressure as well. Always training with the best, always competing with those better than them.

Unfortunately, most of us are subjected to only the second kind of pressure, while growing up.
Examinations, interviews, tests!

If we do well, we pass. If we don’t, we fail!

And we come to hate pressure, understandably so.

We think pressure is bad.
In this case it is.
But it isn’t if we were to think of it as the first kind.


If you want to elevate your game, bring long-term pressure into your life.
Surround yourself with people better than you, EVERY SINGLE DAY!

Learning a new field

If you are new to a field, here’s a 3-step process to help you learn effectively:

  1. Pick up online courses related to the field.

The Internet allows everyone to be a student and learn from the best teachers available. Do that.

  1. Join an online community around the field.

Facebook groups, Reddit forums, WhatsApp groups, Discord servers – get yourself immersed in the topic and hang around people who live and love the field.

  1. Pick up projects/internships.

Do it for free, if needed. Just learn. Get challenged. Seek feedback.
There is no better way to learn.

These 3 things, even over a 1-month timeline (close to 20-30hrs), will make you go from zero to the top 10% of people in the field.

From here on – the curve will, of course, be steeper.
But you got yourself a good start.

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