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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5 stories relating life to business

“You never have an idea of what you might accomplish. All that you do is you pursue a question. And see where it leads.” Jonas Salk

Life is a fascinating journey and every morning I get up and look forward to the new challenges that I will have to face and learn from through the course of the day. You need to keep that perspective to live life fully. Over the course of this week I have talked about 5 recent personal incidents. They were instrumental in giving a different perspective to my usual business approach.

1. Sales & Relationships: An encounter with a street merchant helped me understand the importance of building a deep relationship with key clients . It enhances and improves the selling process when the person you are selling to, trusts you. To read the entire story please click here.

2. Squash & Strategy: This story is another affirmation of why the tortoise won the race. When embarking on a new journey take time out to study what you are getting yourself into. You should have a clear idea about goals and time frames and should build your strategy around this foundation to maximize your true potential. To read the entire story please click here.

3. The Gym: This story talks about the value of partners in our life and the instrumental role they play in helping us reach our true potential. By selecting your partners carefully you increase your chances of achieving your goals. To read the entire story please click here.

4. Different Perspectives: This story is about two individuals in the same setting and their completely different perspectives on how to go about life. It talks about flexibility and viewing life from multiple perspectives to get a better understanding. To read the story please click here.

5. Crossing the Rubicon: This story talks about crossing the point of no return.This applies to setting up a business, deciding on a career path or even selecting a life partner. We have to ensure that we make these decisions after careful thought and for the right reasons. To read the story please click here.

This week I have thoroughly enjoyed writing this segment on life and business. I may just make this a regular feature to keep things an open perspective on matters. I hope all of you enjoyed this series too, I look forward to your comments and feedback.

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Crossing the Rubicon

The Rubicon, is a river in northern Italy which Julius Caeser crossed in 49BC from which point it was not possible to go back. Crossing the Rubicon hence refers to passing through that point from where return is no longer possible. This may be due to a host of factors, such as, it being physically impossible to turn back, too expensive to go back or that the path is too dangerous. Working with startup companies I find it a most exciting part of the journey when that point of no return is crossed . However, please make sure that before crossing your Rubicon you are doing so for the right reasons.

When I setup this blog on the 1st of January 08 I crossed a point of no return. I let all my readers know that I was going to spend the next year updating this blog on a daily basis with advice and insights on entrepreneurship and life. I did so because I felt that I had a little experience which could help others who are in the process of setting up a company or working at a startup for the first time. From that day onward I had a responsibility to everyone who was reading this blog to make sure that at the end of every week I gave some advice which could be potentially helpful. It doesn’t make a difference if I have one reader or a million, my responsibility remains the same. Eleven weeks later writing my blog has become one of the most fulfilling part of my week.

If you are on the verge of starting your own business, deciding on a certain career path or even getting married, the one thing which you keep in mind before making these big decisions is “do it for the right reasons”. You shouldn’t let anyone force you into such decisions Look at them from all perspectives, align them with your value and belief systems and when you make up your mind ,cross your Rubicon without a whisper of a doubt.

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