Journey of a Serial Entrepreneur

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How to get from where you are to where you want to be

5 nuggets from ‘The Alchemist’

“If you can concentrate always on the present, you’ll be a happy man “ Paulo Coelho ‘The Alchemist’

‘The Alchemist’ is a story about the journey of life. It follows a boy who slowly discovers himself and what his true calling in life actually is. Through the story several fundamental topics such as life, struggle, love, money, courage, fear, sadness, success, death and destiny are discussed. When I re-read this book recently, several of these topics related to me on levels which I had not thought about before. I was able to put myself into the boys shoes and actually relate to some of the experiences as an entrepreneur. I decided to outline 5 key topics from the book in this week’s blog series;

1. Personal Legends: What is it that you always wanted to be or do? Are you currently doing it or have you chosen a completely different path in life? Finding one’s true calling and following it is not as difficult as it seems. You need to have an open mind, free yourself from external voices, which constantly tell you what you can and cannot do and then figure out what you want to spend every single day of your life doing. To read my story please click here.

2. Your Heart: When was the last time you just did something because it felt right? We all face an information overload in today’s world. It causes us to over analyze and rationalize to an extent that is completely unnecessary. Along the way we lose ourselves and the reasons why we chose one pathway over another. We need to keep the conversation between our heart and our brain at a healthy equilibrium to help us reach more rounded decisions. To read more please click here

3. Fear: Venturing into the unknown gives the best of us cold feet sometimes. What is important to remember is that this is a natural emotion and one which we need to learn to recognize , face and work our way through. We need to understand where it stems from and deal with the core and root issues instead of fighting it blindly. To read more please click here.

4. Courage: An essential quality, one which everyone should focus on developing. It provides a strong foundational base to lead a richer and more meaningful life. You will continue to find yourself in sticky spots in life, be it pertaining to business, career or your personal relationships. Each of them will require you to standup for yourself and face them head on. To read more please click here

5. Tests: From the simple to the complex, we will face a multitude of tests during the course of our lives. How we deal with them and what we learn from them is of the essence. Some will be so severe that every waking minute of your day will revolve around them and it is in these tests that we truly discover ourselves and who we really are. To read more please click here.

Everyone derives different meaning from ‘The Alchemist’ and what it meant to them. These were some of my interpretations on a few of the book’s core issues and how I was able to relate to them. If you have read the book and have any insights which you would like to share I would really appreciate that.

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Tests

“…before a dream is realized, the Soul of the World tests everything that was learned along the way. It does this not because it is evil, but so that we can, in addition to realizing our dreams, master the lessons we’ve learned as we’ve moved towards that dream. That’s the point at which most people give up. It’s the point at which, as we say in the language of the desert, one ‘dies of thirst just when the palm tree’s have appeared on the horizon.” Paulo Coelho

Tests are points of inflection which determine the course one’s life will take. They come in varying degrees of intensity from the simple such as sticking with your diet plan to the complex such as risking all your life savings for a business you believe in. How we cope with these battery of tests moulds our life and has a direct impact on our level of happiness, success, health and stress levels. We go through a mix of emotions whenever we are put through one of them and go into this internal dialogue which weighs out the pro’s and con’s and attempts to make sense of the situation. 

At times we are confident how we will deal with them as compared to others when we stay up all night wondering why out of all the people in the world, it is we who have to go through this. It is during these complex tests that we develop the ability to look deeper into ourselves and see all the steps which have lead up to this point. For example, if you have ever started a company you will know that getting that first big client is just about the biggest test a startup goes through. Day and night the team does its best to identify, convince and close that deal. Yet weeks and months go by and no deal is closed. It is at this point that each and every team member is tested on their commitment, belief and faith in the company’s offerings. Do you quit or do you go back to the drawing table and figure out why you have not been successful? 

In the book ‘The Alchemist’ the main character has to pass through several tests before he reaches what he truly desires. Along the way, life tempts him with the easy way out,  tells him to settle for less than he knows he deserves and at multiple times leaves him with nothing to hold on to to gauge how badly he wants to reach his goals. We will undergo everyone of these tests on our journey to fulfilling our personal legend as well. There have been times in the past when I was starting out that quitting and heading to the corporate world was often on my mind. It was a time when I really had to ask myself “What is it that I truly want?” and “What was is it that makes me truly happy?”. It was an intense time in my life but I got through it and am happy with the path I took. 

Everyone will face similar tests, whether you are an entrepreneur or not. At times we may just give up hope and take the easier way out, doing that is human so don’t beat yourself up about it. If anything, look back at that time and figure out why you took that decision, was there anything you would do differently now? Learn from those tests and they will help you overcome the future ones with a more ease. 

The next time life puts you in a bind keep your chin up, stay focused and follow your heart. 

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Courage

“Courage is the quality most essential to understanding the Language of the World.” Paulo Coelho

To overcome your fears you need to first have the courage to face them. You need the will and strength to break down all the barriers, be they physical or psychological. Taking that first step requires courage, the need to believe in yourself, your personal legend and your ability to move forward. The beginning of this process is a difficult and lonely place, for this is a decision that has to be taken on ones own . This one decision will impact the rest of your life in ways you have not even begun to fully understand. As you develop this virtue and inner strenght you will tread further on the path to accomplishing great things. 

When I started business, it was an uphill task getting our product line ready, to the day we had our first customer meeting. Everyday is a test of courage and committment and continues to be so even a couple of years down the road. Over time I have been able to overcome some obstacles, but I am still fighting to overcome others. To gather courage and use it as a concentrated force has to come directly from your heart. In the ‘The Alchemist’ the main character is in continuous strife with his heart. There is a constant struggle between the rationalization of the brain and the urgings of the heart to go with his gut to fulfill his personal legend. You can sense the anguish he feels when torn between the two and the inner peace and joy he feels when he goes with his heart.

Being an entrepreneur you will find yourself in this conflicting state many a time. It could be in the shape of standing up to your team when you believe the right actions are not being taken, giving critical feedback, admitting when you are wrong and changing your ways when it is so required. You will experience doubt and reservations specially when you move outside your comfort zone. I still get this feeling when I push myself to go further than I have before. It is however most invigorating , makes me feel alive and keeps me in touch with the world. Start developing this virtue , it is one that will take a lifetime to master.

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Fear

“Don’t give in to your fear….If you do, you won’t be able to talk to your heart.” Paulo Coelho 

Embarking on a journey of fulfilling your personal legend and following your heart can be quite scary at times. This is often because you are embarking on a course which breaks away from tradition and are going down the path less travelled. The first step in this direction is usually the hardest you will ever take. Your brain will be rationalizing against it and will be in continuous battle with your heart leading to a most confused and scared state . The worst thing you can now do is fight these emotions, instead , accept them for what they are and learn to understand what is triggering them.

The more we fight them the greater the urge to rely on logical decisions. We hence often miss out on the human element because we are suppressing what we truly want, alligning it instead to what society deems acceptable. When the human brain can reference past experience with tangible outcomes the fear of the unknown is greatly reduced and it becomes relatively easier to make that first step. When I got out of university I had to cross this personal Rubicon. On one hand there was a high paying job with stability and repute and on the other was this blur with our business plan being the only guiding light. I took the latter because deep inside I knew that the startup route was the one for me. 

I sought advice from many people before I embarked on this route. A lot of entrepreneurs shared the good and the bad times which they had experienced, highlighting some of the common problems I would have to face when starting out and ways to handle them. All of this helped subside the fear and the blur began to take shape. Trust me, this was still a difficult first step to take, however, once I had done so, every subsequent step become that much easier. We have to accept fear as a natural reaction which everyone experiences at one level or the other. Instead of fighting it , understand where it stems from and do you best to overcome the barriers.

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Your Heart

“…Wherever your heart is, that is where you’ll find treasure.” Paulo Coelho

I used to be of the opinion that the brain dominates all rationale behind decisions we make in life. Over the last couple of years I have begun to change this opinion and do believe it is actually the heart which is in constant communication with you and helps process our thoughts through the brain as a filter. The brain uses logic and the past to determine whether a certain action or thought is worth pursuing. If the brain becomes too rigid a filter, most of the communication from the heart gets subdued in the process. The longer this continues the more we lose touch with ourselves, our desires and our wants. Life becomes increasingly more inflexible and we find ourselves on a path which is very different to the one we originally set out on.

The problem is, that there is a stigma attached to decisions made through the heart. They are said to be emotional, not well thought out and impulsive. I agree with this to a certain extent, but to make decisions without input from the heart will have you relying too heavily on the tangible . Finding yourself in this predicament as an entrepreneur means you are losing out on much needed human elements.  Experience shows this element is a critical one and losing out on it, may have you doing or saying uneccessary things.

The Alchemist covers this element in some detail and talks about how, no matter how hard we try to bury the communication from our hearts, it continues to remain in your sub conscious. When you are making decisions, whether to start a business, select a partner, hire an employee or close your business make sure you are making a well rounded decision. It has helped me feel a lot better and happier when I have approached situations from a balanced position, making sure that I am not missing out what is happening between the lines.

“Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second’s encounter with God and eternity.” Paulo Coelho

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Personal Legends

“It is what you have always wanted to accomplish. Everyone, when they are young, knows what their Personal Legend is.” Paulo Coelho ‘The Alchemist’

As a child I knew I wanted to go into business. Maybe it was my father’s influence , my interest in related subjects at school came naturally. It is one of those mysteries of life which are hard to explain but deep down inside, you just know this is the way to go. However at twelve years of age, no dream is large enough and no hurdle too high. Then, between the ages of thirteen to nineteen, different things happened which changed my life.. I learned the hard way for one so young that business was not always a bed of roses, that people lose a lot of money while in it . On the other hand, I also saw that investment bankers have a glamorous lifestyle through which they get to be involved in business, whilst not having to assume any risk.

Social media also played a part, and by the time I was in high school the concept of being a businessman got buried under all of these influences. So much so, that I changed my mind and was now getting ready to become an investment banker and live the good life. I got into business school and everything was going as planned till…..my first internship at an Investment Bank. I quit three days into the job. There was just something wrong  for me with this environment . There was an obvious disconnect, we were on different wave lengths. I took this as a sign and went back to the original plan. Switched from business school to study Economics and decided to get to know more about the ‘real’ world .

I made a lot of friends who shared a similar passion and soon each one of us was helping the other get to fulfilling our dreams. Along the way we faced many challenges which tested us, it is not easy to say no to  high paying jobs straight out of college and working for minimum wages building something from scratch.  The few of us who remained true to our dreams are still fighting through daily challenges to get to where we want to be. In the book the Alchemist tells a boy a story about how, leaving the path of your Personal Legend will soon arrest all the signs for this on this new path, life will consume and cover you with all its activities and soon you will find yourself doing something very different from what you had originally planned on doing. Instead, trust your instincts, and do not be afraid of pursuing what you really want in life. I know it is easier said than done but my experience has been more than worth it.

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