Last week, I had brief interactions with 2 different entrepreneurs – one came across with very high self-confidence and another came across with somewhat low self-confidence.
Normally these differences are not so stark to notice it, but in these cases, I immediately noticed it as the former came across more like – arrogant and delusional, and the latter came across more like – humble and pessimistic.
My first thought was – is one better than the other?
We have been told by motivational speakers that having high self-confidence is the key to success in life. But based on my limited information available on the public internet about their financial success, both seem equally successful.
That got me thinking, what’s the correlation of someone’s self-confidence with their success. Initially, I looked at it only from a financial success perspective, then quickly realized, that’s a very narrow way of looking at it.
In addition to financial success, some people might also care more or equal about other factors in life like relationships, friendships, legacy, etc.
Another factor is – some people are not always authentic. They may show themselves as someone else than who they truly are.
I think there are 4 kinds of people:
People who have high-self confidence, and also display high-self confidence
People who have high-self confidence, but display low-self confidence
People who have low-self confidence, but display high-self confidence
People who have low-self confidence, and also display low-self confidence
Let’s dive into these in detail –
1. People who have high-self confidence, and also display high-self confidence
These people often come across fearless, but also arrogant and delusional
They have high self-confidence due to their past success, but that quickly turns into “I know it all” mindset
These people don’t seem to be more open to feedback from other people, listening to other perspectives and ideas
Because of these reasons, my hypothesis is they may not have many true friends or long-lasting relationships – people who are around them for their financial success and status
2. People who have high-self confidence, but display low-self confidence
These people often come across confident, ambitious, but also self-aware and approachable
They seem to be more open to listening to other people’s ideas and feedback and because of their humility, more people seem to relate with them and often have open and authentic conversations
They tend to under-promise but end up over-delivering
Because of these reasons, my hypothesis is they have true friends and long-lasting relationships, and people genuinely care about them and want them to be successful
3. People who have low-self confidence, but display high-self confidence
These people often come across humble, self-aware, and ambitious
They are authentic about their confidence in personal circle, but fake it in professional circle
While they doubt their abilities and have more pessimistic views, they prefer to come across positive in achieving their ambitions, and because of that, people are open to give them chances and willing to help them
They seem to over-promise but fall short on delivering some of their promises
Because of these reasons, my hypothesis is they have true friends and long-lasting relationships, and people genuinely care about them and want them to be successful
4. People who have low-self confidence, and also display low-self confidence
These people often come across more pessimistic, less ambitious, and unsuccessful
They often doubt their talent and skills, and it often causes other people to also not believe in them too
They have more pessimistic views about feedback, ideas and advice other people give them
My hypothesis is – they struggle to build long-lasting relationships as while people genuinely care about them and want them to be successful, eventually they stop helping them when they realize their advice is going in vain
In the end, it seems neither of the extreme conditions is great (#1 and #4), and it’s better to be more balanced (#2 and #3) – i.e. it is better to be a little less confident in certain situations even though you are very confident and at the same time, it’s better to be a little more confident than what you feel in certain other situations.
Amongst the better ones, I think it is better to be someone who truly believes in themselves and have high-confidence, but continue to practice being humble, self-aware and open-minded by displaying low-confidence.
My reflections on what worked well and what didn’t in 2018 and what I would continue to do and do something new in 2019.
I’ve started this practice a few years ago — to retrospect on the last year’s achievements, misses, and learnings and define the goals for the next year at the beginning of the new year. I have written about why I started doing this exercise in my previous post, but if I want to summarize it in one sentence — it would be — to be accountable and answerable.
But before I begin, wish you all a very Happy and Prosperous New Year 2019!
Retrospective for 2018
Overall, it wasn’t a great year for me. Primarily on the family front, but also on personal and professional goals front. While I made satisfactory progress across many areas, there isn’t any particular accomplishment that I’m very proud of.
Let’s look into what went wrong along with why it went wrong in certain situations —
The biggest loss
The biggest loss for me and my family was my dad passed away in May 2018 due to a heart attack. On one hand, it felt like it was a sudden death, on the other hand, it happened over 4 months.
He had the first heart attack and stroke at the beginning of Feb, which resulted in semi-paralysis and speech-loss. With his strong will-power, medication and the support of close family members, he recovered pretty well and was getting back to his normal life, but eventually lost the battle to another attack and passed away at the end of May.
On the health front, I failed on most of my goals.
Workout My key goal was to complete 3 routines of P90X-3 — that is 30 minutes intense exercise for 90 days — and repeating it 3 times in a year. Unfortunately, I didn’t finish the entire routine even once. I started it 3 times but ended up giving up in the middle after 4–5 weeks into it.
So in short, collectively I’ve worked out only for 3 months than the planned 9 months.
Meditation Overall, I failed to meditate consistently. I did it only on a need basis — more like 1–2 times a week.
Food Overall, I have been following good food habits like reduction in sugar consumption, eating less junk food,etc., but since I have failed in a consistent workout, I have also slacked in eating a lot healthier food.
On the work front, we have made great progress, but again, we failed to achieve our planned goals.
After raising the pre-seed capital in Oct 2107, the biggest focus for Avoma last year was to build the minimum sellable product and technology. We launched the first version of our product in beta in Sep 2018, launched our partnership with Outreach.io, onboarded some paying customers since then, and built a team of an amazing group of 9 full-time employees.
So overall, we made a lot of progress, but I still feel we could have done a lot more on the customer acquisition front. I think if we could have sped up our product execution to address some of the feature gaps and invested more in our Sales and Marketing initiatives early on, we would have won some more deals that got pushed to the next year and some deals that we lost to competitors.
Reading I did a decent job in reading a book per month. The books I read are (with my ratings) –
Blogging I failed miserably in this. My last year’s goal was to write a blog post per week. I only wrote 1 article about last year’s retrospective for this blog and 4 articles for Avoma blog.
Even though I had many thoughts and point of views to share, I ended up not prioritizing blogging over other important tasks at hand.
Learning new skills
Playing Guitar This is something I had not planned for 2018, but ended up starting at the tail end of the year. I’m still a beginner (3 months into it), this has been one of the best decisions I have made to invest 2–3 hours every week to learn guitar.
Playing Tennis This is another thing that I had not planned for 2018, but also ended up starting at the tail end of the year along with Guitar. In Tennis also I’m still a beginner (2 months into it), this is also one of the best decisions I have made to invest 1–2 hours every week to learn tennis.
Goals for 2019
For 2019, I won’t be changing a lot of things from my 2018 goals — just a couple of minor changes.
Continue to spend quality time with the kids, wife, mom and rest of the family on a daily basis— these times won’t come back again
Complete P90X-3 routine at least 3 times
Meditate for 15–20 mins for 3–4 days/week
Continue to follow good eating habits — no/less sugar, no/less fried/oily food, more protein, more vegetables and fruits
Continue to write 1 blog post/week — including both for personal and Avoma blog
Learning new skills
Play Guitar and Tennis reasonably well by the end of 2019
If you haven’t already done any retrospective for your 2018, then I would highly encourage you to take a moment and think about it and write down what worked well and what didn’t in 2018 and what are your goals for 2019 — even if you don’t plan to share it publicly, write it for your own benefit.
Once again, wish you all a very happy and prosperous new year to crush your 2019 goals!
A friend called me recently out of nowhere and asked — “Dude, how do you deal with stress while running a startup? I feel so stressed every day and want to know how do you handle it”.
We don’t talk that often, so I was surprised to receive a call from him and on top of that, was even surprised to hear that he wanted to talk about stress!
Quick background — he’s a first-time founder running a B2B company. He’s solving a good problem, has built a great product and technology, has raised some money, and has already got some marquee customers onboard.
But before jumping to answer his question, I probed him to give me more context — What does he mean by he is stressed? How exactly does he feel? What is the current state of his business because of which he’s feeling stressed?
His primary concern was — he was getting too anxious about the deals taking a lot longer to close. Some days things go well, and he’s close to closing a deal, and the next day it all goes south with lots of uncertainties and delays making him anxious. This anxiety was causing more problems as he was not able to focus well on other business priorities. In the end, he was not finding things were under his control.
With this additional context, it helped me understand his situation, but I also felt it wasn’t just about this one issue (“deals not closing faster”) at hand, but a more holistic approach to how he was running a startup.
Obviously, running a startup is hard. It’s a rollercoaster ride of ups and downs — and probably there are too many downs than ups. There is always something that doesn’t work as per your plan. There is always something that takes the twice amount of effort, cost and time than you intended.
So the first thing I told him was that he’s not alone. Most of the people who are running a startup are also in the same bucket. Everybody has to experience this rollercoaster ride.
The only advantage an experienced founder might have over a first-time founder is — how they handle ups and downs and deal with the stress in those situations.
Since I had thought about this for a while and had been practicing few principles in my day-to-day life quite actively, I shared my perspectives with him. After talking with him, I realized these principles are not only applicable for people who’re running a startup but for any working professional who is experiencing the same level of stress and anxiety at their work. I am sharing these principles with you so some of you might find it helpful.
There are many ways to deal with stress, but at a high level, I think about it in 2 ways – 1. Strategic guiding principles 2. Tactical tips
1. Strategic guiding principles
These are some of the core guiding principles about how I operate in life in general. These are more important than the tactical tips.
1. Have a long-term perspective
Most of the things I do in life have a long-term perspective. Any project I start, or a resolution I make, or a deal I sign, or advice I give to other people — always have a long-term objective or benefit associated with it. Very rarely I have optimized something for my short-term gain.
And since most of the things have a long-term perspective, naturally I have the right expectations set from the beginning — the timeline, the kind of outcome, or the effort required to achieve it.
And since my eyes are fixed on the long-term objectives, even if I get any setbacks in the short-term or failures on the way, it doesn’t demotivate me. While I do get disappointed when things don’t work out as per plan, it doesn’t stress me out much as I know I’m in this for a long haul.
2. Focus on your efforts
I’m a strong believer of I can only focus on my actions and efforts to achieve the desired outcome. But, unfortunately, as we know, the outcome will not be based on only my actions and efforts. There will be many other factors that are not in my control, which will play a role to determine the state of the outcome.
And if there are things that are not in my control, then why I should be stressed if the outcome doesn’t result in my favor?
As long as I’m completely honest with myself that I’ve given my best efforts, then I don’t worry and overthink about the outcome. I accept it as it is. But if I know that I fell short in my efforts, then I recognize it as my mistake and decide to focus on not repeating it next time.
3. It’s not critical, unless…
I firmly believe that we’ve been misusing the “critical” word a lot in the corporate world. Unless you’re dealing with someone’s life, it’s not truly critical. It could be important, and some of those things could be urgent, but still, it’s never critical unless someone’s life is at stake.
So next time you hear someone telling you a particular project or deal or deadline being critical, just hear it being “important” and give your best shot to respond it in your best capacity, but don’t stress out as if somebody’s life is in danger.
2. Tactical tips
Now on the tactical front, there are a lot of great tips on how to reduce stress on a day to day basis on the internet. I follow below tactics — some of them quite regularly and some of them on a need basis –
1. Being disciplined
I don’t shy away from touting myself as a very disciplined guy. The more disciplined and organized I am, the more sanity I have in my day-to-day routine. That, in general, keeps my day-to-day stress level at quite low.
2. Writing things down
I typically find myself stressed when I’m thinking about too many ideas, planning for future, contemplating on past, etc. Writing down all those ideas and to-do tasks in whatever crude way help me clear up my mind.
3. Focusing on one thing at a time
I avoid multi-tasking. My experience is — trying to do more than one task at a time just adds more stress. And very rarely it’s necessary.
4. Spending time with kids
I have two daughters (5yrs and 1yr old), so spending time with them every day either in-house or outside in the park always helps me realize that there is more to life than just work.
I’ve been doing P90X-3 routine intermittently. But every time I do it regularly, it helps me to gain both mental and physical strength and confidence. If I can’t do proper exercise, then just a short walk in the neighborhood also helps to gather my thoughts.
I use guided meditation app to slow down myself a bit. I find instant benefits if I slow down my breathing, and focus on the present by scanning the body or on breathing. This helps me to reduce my anxiety.
7. Talking with my wife, family, and friends
In the end, just talking with my wife or close family members or friends about what I’m working on and what challenges I’m facing helps me crystallize my thoughts and sometimes gives me answers that I was looking.
I hope these strategic guiding principles and tactical tips will help you too dealing with your stressful situations.
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The rollercoaster of thoughts and introspection I had when we had almost lost our daughter.
Last week, we almost lost our daughter.
We had gone to Maui, Hawaii for a week long vacation. One afternoon, we were looking for a particular restaurant in a multi-storied business complex. When we enquired to a shop-keeper on the ground floor, she navigated us to the top floor. When we reached the top floor, a shop-keeper there directed us to the ground floor. As you can imagine, we were going back and forth with a 7-months old in one hand and her stroller in another hand, a 5-years old and my parents running behind us — in general, it was a little chaos.
And in that chaos, we didn’t realize our 5-years old didn’t take a turn from the staircase that we took and she went further down to the other end of the business complex.
A few minutes later when we found the restaurant we were looking for, we realized that we didn’t have our daughter with us.
I was pissed. I was panicked. I wanted to blame everyone — including me. But that was not the time. I ran back to the top floor, came back again to the ground floor, shouted her name, asked few shop-keepers sitting outside if they saw a little Indian girl, but nothing helped. We couldn’t find her.
It felt like my heart was beating very fast and at the same time, it was going to stop beating in a moment.
I was furious with myself. How could I let this happen? How could I be so careless? How could I not hold her hand all the time? Would I be able to ever forgive myself for this mistake? What must be she doing right now? Is she crying? Did some stranger find her? How can I reach out to the police? Can they find her on this remote island? How long will it take for the police to find her?
All these questions splashed in mind in the matter of a few minutes.
And right at that time, my wife signaled from the other end that she found our daughter.
And it felt like I got my life back.
When asked my daughter what had happened to her in those few minutes, she said she started crying as she was not able to find us and told one of the shop-keepers there that she cannot find her parents. Fortunately, that shop-keeper calmed her down and started looking for us as well. And when he saw my wife worried and looking everywhere for something, he figured she must be looking for that missing girl and approached her and handed over our daughter to her.
I was shaken by this incident for the rest of my stay at Hawaii. Especially, while flying back to home, I kept thinking about it and kept feeling how fortunate we were to find her very soon.
This got me thinking that irrespective of how much ever trouble our kids give us at certain times, or how much ever demanding or unmanageable they become in certain situations, we love them limitlessly and unconditionally.
And then I started thinking about how my life has changed — mostly for the better after our kids. I realized how I have become better at many things after I became a father. I’m jotting down those thoughts below so that I’ll have better clarity in my thoughts, but more importantly — I can go back to this essay and be grateful to my daughters for coming in our life.
1. I’m a lot more patient person now.
This is the biggest change I’ve seen happened to me after I became a father. In general, I’m a very patient and well-composed person. You’ll not see me losing my cool in public or in friends circle at all. But I’ll lose it at home — when I’m with family. Well, because you tend to take people at home for granted (and you also love them the most :)).
But as a father, you get stress tested at a totally different level than you’ve ever experienced before.
My daughter’s constant saying “no” to every meal and required daily routine, her unending questions, her constant ask to have candies, her non-stop talking about the princesses and ponies, her constant demand to watch TV, etc. is constantly testing my annoyance limit.
But because I love her so much, I just can’t raise my voice and scold her. I can’t see her crying. But that doesn’t mean, I’m not teaching her good discipline and manners. It’s just that — I prefer to be more patient, take time in explaining things, and wait for her to behave well. It definitely takes more time than usual scolding or forcing way, but by being more patient, I achieve what I want, and she also doesn’t feel forced to do something.
2. I’ve become a better teacher.
As mentioned above, I’ve become a better teacher in general. I started talking a lot more than I used to. I’ve learned to explain “why” more than just telling “how” and “what”. I’ve learned to craft stories on the fly with a hero, a villain and the lessons learned out of any situation. I’ve learned to communicate what I want to convey in the language and at a level that my daughter can understand.
I’ve also learned to teach the same lesson, again and again, knowing that what I teach will not be understood, or grasped or practiced in just one session.
3. I’ve become a better listener.
But just teaching to behave well is not enough. I’ve also learned to be a lot better listener now. It doesn’t happen instantly, but after my daughter repeats the same thing a couple of times, I know I need to stop what I’m doing and listen to her carefully.
Sometimes it’s her some non-sense talk, sometimes it’s her creative thoughts, and sometimes it’s something important that she had heard or observed. I’ve learned to listen and understand what she really means when she says something.
4. I’ve learned to put myself into others’ shoes.
But sometimes just listening and understanding is also not enough. I’ve learned to put myself into her shoes. I’ve learned to focus on “why” she’s saying something than just “what” she’s saying. If she doesn’t want to eat some specific meal, or if she doesn’t want to change her clothes, or doesn’t want to wear specific clothes, then I’ve learned to respect her view points rather than forcing what we had planned.
As a grown-up, even I’m moody sometimes. Somedays I don’t like to follow a daily routine. Sometimes I like to take things slow. Sometimes I like to eat junk food. Then why can’t my daughter have similar thoughts?
Thus, I’ve learned to put myself into her shoes and see things from her angle rather than forcing my plan or decision just because I had planned it that way.
5. I’ve started being in the moment.
I wouldn’t say I’ve become really good at this, but I would definitely say I’ve improved a lot, and I’m constantly trying to improve even more.
As smartphones and wearables are taking control of our lives, and the messaging apps and app notifications are taking control of our attention, we’re not able to give the due attention required to our kids. I know and feel embarrassed when my daughter tells me to put my Macbook or phone down. So I try to spend more time playing with her, listening to her silly stories, doing projects or paintings with her, watching cartoons with her (which I don’t get credit to spend time with her ;)), etc.
But I’ll admit, I’m still not satisfied with my behavior. I’ve definitely become better over the period (I’m less active on messaging apps, have turned off the notifications on most of the apps, got rid of most of the wearables, etc.). But I know there is still room to improve to be more mindful and be present in the moment with my daughters and the family than being with the devices.
6. I’ve started appreciating and caring my parents more.
Raising a child and being a parent is definitely not easy. And I learned it only when I became one. And that made me realize that how much trouble, tantrums, and demands I must have made to my parents, how many times I must have hurt them and tested their patience and annoyance limit as well.
As my parents are getting older and as I’m also getting “smarter” about how to live my life, naturally there are different view points due to a generation gap, exposure, expectations, etc. Before I became a father, I would expect my parents to adopt as per the new generation. I would not bend but would expect them to do so. I would not understand their view point, but would try to force my view point on them.
But as I became a father, and I started bending myself for my daughter, started changing my view points, started becoming more patient, and then one sudden day, it hit me, why I cannot treat my parents the same way I treat my daughter? The level of understanding and compassion I show to my daughter, why I can’t show similar for my parents? And that changed everything. It improved my relationship and behavior with my parents drastically.
I’m more thankful to my parents for what they have done for me.
I’m sure by no means this is an exhaustive list. There are many more benefits of being a parent that I’ve not listed explicitly here. So feel free to share your experience or lessons you’ve learned in the comments section below.
In the end, as a parent, life definitely becomes much more challenging than it used to be, but it’s a choice you make. You definitely need to shift the mindset and accept the new reality. Like many things in life, it’s a baggage of mixed moments — but definitely a lot more beautiful moments than the messy ones :).
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One of the things I observed in my 2016 retrospective was — I had achieved the goals that were clearly defined and had a clear action plan to execute them.
For example — I achieved the goal of improving my fitness by doing P90X3 routine, which required exercising 30 mins/day for straight 90 days.
On the contrary, I did not achieve the goals that did not have any clear action plan. For example — reading a book per month or blogging actively.
Strategy and plan for 2017
So for my 2017 goals, I thought why not apply a methodical approach so that I can be sure to achieve those. I know what I want to achieve, but it didn’t have a clear strategy and specific action plan.
For strategy, applying a top-down approach helps me start with a big picture and then break that into smaller milestones.
At the same time, for a specific action plan, using a bottom-up approach helps me define a day-to-day routine.
One of the goals for 2017 is — to exercise for 9–10 months. So from a top-down strategy perspective, I plan to do 3 repetitions of P90X3 routine. So every 3 months, I will complete a P90X3 routine, and in between take a break for a few weeks.
At the same time, from a bottom-up tactical perspective, I plan to allocate 45 mins to exercise on 6 days a week — preferably at a consistent time every single day.
Similarly, for reading one book per month goal, my strategy is to read ~300 pages book per month.
And my tactical plan is to read ~15 pages per day. So I need to allocate dedicated 15–30 minutes to read ~15 pages every single day.
You got the point. I have done a similar exercise for my other goals about blogging, programming and building a startup venture.
My hypothesis is – having some kind of system and method in place will be crucial in making consistent progress on the goals I have defined.
The top-down strategy is important as it removes the uncertainties of how I’m going to achieve a bigger goal by breaking it into smaller steps.
The bottom-up plan is important as it creates daily habits by consistently allocating a dedicated time every single day.
Now this is a plan. Certainly, it might work or fail. We will see. I will update in 3 months if it worked or not.