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pic credit: Dialog

After the #ngage session, after the food ran out, few young people (age 20-30) asked me questions. I could distill them to this question.

” I want to do a startup on something I love, but cannot find time with my current job. Should I quit? “

My answer is A BIG NO.

I’m 37.  If you have asked me the same question when I was 30, I’d have said yes.

I remember, back then, when a uni undergrad pitched his prototype during a hackathon, I asked him, “are you gonna do a job, or continue this prototype after graduation?” He said he’d do a job, but would improve prototype as a side kick. I laughed saying “you are not serious. Hence you will not make it.’

I don’t know what happened to him or his side kick. But I do know, what I said to him was wrong. I am sorry. I have seen more of  the world since.  Hence I beg to differ.

Here’s the reality I witnessed that changed my answer from yes to NO!

 1) Work is work

Work is work, either when you are employed, or running your own thing. Actually work is very much harder when it is your thing. In both cases, you’ll be judged by the quality of the work you do- the ownership you take to improve things in you, and around you. So get good actual work experience. Take back something that you can share in interviews with a gleam in your eye.

The HR managers I talk to, say “I’ll hire anyone ( no need of certificates) who’s willing to work hard”. Because most of the educated young people today, are sitting on their certificates, and have taken advise from entrepreneurial gurus to ‘work smart’. Work smart has been tactically reduced to ” just get by doing the easiest and laziest”. ( Logic: If I am paid the same salary, why should I work harder than them)

 2) A Good boss

At young age, a good foundation is equivalent to work a good few years under a good boss. A good boss is someone who uses your strengths and improves your potential. Who instills discipline in you. Makes you go get. Inspires you.

This is so important if you want to start on your own. Many lose this opportunity for the sake of next best opportunity- usually an improved benefits package. 2 years is now considered way too long a time to spend at one place.

 3) Why start from scratch?

when you startup on your own, let’s imagine, with out work experience, you may have to learn everything from scratch. You go through the process alone. It’s a time killer, an emotional black hole.

In a job, you see the processes, you can observe. You learn from many. Your risk is low. Learning is high. Of course you have to be ultra curious  and hungry to learn and be proactive. No body gives you opportunities. You create them, or you get none.

4) You do have extra time to do a side kick.

Yes, you definitely have time while doing a full time job.

Cut down your TV time, movie time, Facebook time, Weddings ( a colossal Sri Lankan time waster) etc. etc.

5) Be stable. Learn to save. Learn to minimise risk.

Read the above point few times. Forced will power only lasts until you run out of cash to put food on the table.

6) Build a Network of people who can help you.

If you have done good work at your job, if you have helped people to do better, you can use their blessings. They’ll introduce you to people who can help you. World is full of good people.

When you have above 6 things under your belt, you are on a good launching pad. Side kicks can well be full time work, gradually.

P.S: There are many people who have taken the leap of faith and have become super stars. We hear about them on media. But we do not hear about the people who did not make it. We do not hear each of their stories. There are many. Try to take the middle path, not veering in to extremes of high risk adrenaline or lethargy. 

min of happiness

I saw a small boutique type M.D.Gunasena store in Fort, in front of the World Trade Centre. Been the book worm I am, made a mental note to visit it after the meeting.

They provided the same discounts they provide at the book fair. That tempted me to browse the books inside. ( At Book Fair, all I could do was to browse through a puddle of humans).

I came across “The ministry of utmost happiness” by Arundhati Roy. It was a wonderfully designed hard cover wrapped in a thin layer of polythene. I thought it would cost a lot, might as well get it on kindle. Yet to my surprise, it  was just Rs.1300 (with 15% discount). As of now the kindle price is $19 ( Rs.2900 +).

min of happiness 2

 

I read a lot on kindle, multiple books at a time. Mostly management, technology, and leadership genre. Yet this book, with its’ exquisite hard cover design, shiny papers with a nostalgic aroma, and eye soothing blend of multiple fonts – got me to throw away all other books, kindle and distractions- to sit down, to switch fan on, to sip water,  and read it like nothing else mattered in this world. Every sentence in the book feels like hand made and mind crafted. sometimes I read a sentence twice or thrice to capture the beauty of words creating a magical landscape of characters and their surroundings.

This is the first time in , may be , I don’t know like in 5 years, that I’ve sat down, completely ready to immerse in a novel. Funny thing is, been an avid kindle reader, I go to the reviews and comments section of books. I could remember there were many negative comments for this book by readers and reviewers. That’s why even with the heavy discount, I hesitated for a moment to purchase it. I realised how much I am now conditioned by the internet comments.

Back to my old ways. Reading a book completely.

Back then, I used to read a book or an article, underline all the words I don’t know, jot down all those unknown words in an exercise book one after another. Then I’ll take Malalsekara dictionary and find the meaning of each word, write it on the exercise book. Rather than memorising (COPY PASTE), I would read the book again, pausing at each underlined ( unknown) words. I would pause because I wanted to check if my mind can come up with the meaning. If I could not, I’ll look at my word book and would INSTALL that new word in my mind.

Here I am after 15 years, doing the same – learning new words and new rhythms of story telling – sharpening my linguistic saw.

There are things you cannot outsource. There are things that cannot be ‘Uber of this’ or ‘AirBnB of that’. As much as there are trends, we should not be enslaved to think that everything can be outsourced to cut cost or look sexy launching an app. There are many failure stories, that does not get your attention.

There’s so much of human touch needed in serving the customer now. Never been a time like this where products and services are sold in abundance, but customers want personal attention. This is a conundrum. Growth does not mean just achieving new numbers. Growth requires the expansion of your existing relationships with customers. When organizations outsource their core value areas for the sake of sanity and cost, brutal outcomes may happen.

For example: I was rudely surprised when I was treated badly by an insurance agent, when I needed their service the most. After 2 and half years of paying monthly premiums, here I was looking for the first service from them. The person had no regard for this. He treated me as one of those ( I understand there are bad customers ) crooked ones. I immediately got back to the sales person who sold me the policy. He understood. Patched things up. In insurance, what matters is that interaction the customer have once in a while. Those precious moments decide whether the customer would stay or not.

Most of us, when we hear about “innovation” tend to visualise staff retreats, having fun and been creative by expressing ideas. Then come up with that ‘aha’ moment, and go and work on it. Once in a year routine, may be twice a year.

Far from it. Innovation in reality is loads of hard work, an emotional drainage, and a creator of many awkward and uncomfortable moments. If not driven well, it can derail even the most honest intentions.

Right now, in this age, if the head of organization is not leading innovation process, nothing will happen differently. Discussions may happen, but changes won’t be there. From next week, it will be back to old stuff.

So, then what is the role of the leader? Instead of thinking I have to give the grand vision and inspire people to follow, a leader must co-create space that people on their own generate new ideas, test, get it right, fail, generate ideas again, repeat.