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How discipline helps you achieve peak performance as an entrepreneur

How discipline helps you achieve peak performance as an entrepreneur

This blog post started out as an internal memo I wrote to Team Zindagi – but some of it’s been adapted to suit my blog audience.
There aren’t a lot of times I can recall when I give up on something I’ve started. But after becoming a Systems Engineer for Cisco, I was really close to putting in my papers.
  • I had recently moved from professional services to systems engineering (someone who now had a Sales KRA) – and I genuinely sucked at closing.
  • In my previous role a professional services engineer, I could get by doing my job, by knowing just two or three technologies really well. But as a Cisco pre-sales guy, I was expected to sell “anything Cisco makes” – which was a lot.
  • I’ve always been a perfectionist – “If it’s not upto my satisfaction – I’ll not deliver it.”
  • As a result – I couldn’t cope up with the job’s expectations. I started missing deadlines. Many of my presentations went lack lustre. I became a liability for my sales counterpart.
  • I had recently gotten married AND gotten enrolled in a executive MBA from Faculty of Management Studies, Delhi University – which demanded mandatory attendance 6 days a week!
  • I wasn’t able to give proper time to any facet of my life – my marriage, my studies or my job. There were occasions where I’d go from office to my MBA classes, then take a cab to the airport. The next day, upon returning to Delhi in the evening – I’d attend a 3 hour lecture before going home.
  • When in the class room, I was working on compliances and cross-references, responding to RFPs, replying to my mail, creating BoQs – while all the time thinking – Sure buddy, THIS is how you’ll pass Cost Accounting 101.
  • The pressure had gotten to me. Something had to give.. and it did. I had to decide and let go of one of these facets of my life. I quit my MBA – something I had worked so hard to get into 😢😢.
“You have to be so disciplined that even your distractions become focused.” ― Onyi Anyado
The above experience got me thinking about how to incorporate discipline in my work day, get better at time management and how I can accomplish more in the time allotted to me. I realised I had 5 facets to my life: My personal fitness, my education, my family n friends, my work, and my future / stuff I want to achieve; and I needed to allocate time for each facet.
This message is an attempt to distil my learnings and encourage you to try the tools I use to achieve peak performance. 
A special thanks to my friend and (then) sales counter-part in Cisco (Mr. Arpit Goyal – Brilliant sales guy; the Zig Ziglar of our times) because of whom I had my eureka moment to make this blueprint.
That day, sitting next to me in the Cisco office in CP, he asked me to prepare a BoQ for a customer and put his wrist watch right in front of me. The pressure induced by the needles of the wrist watch made me finish off the task in 1/4th the time I usually took for making a BoQ for such a solution!
I keep giving you challenges every day and see you rise up to the occasion to face them head on. You’re not afraid to work on new tech; you use your analytical muscles to solve problems and build solutions that make this great country smarter and closer to technical excellence. Genuinely – I see you all with a sense of pride – every day watching you grow as a team is a pleasure.
That said, seeing you operate each day, I see a team that’s capable of a lot more but not able to achieve peak performance.
  • We tend to be lackadaisical at times – Knowing your calibre – Work that can easily be finished in X minutes, usually stretches to hours.
  • When there’s a clear list of prioritised tasks in front of you, sometimes I see you gravitating towards the task that’s neither important not urgent (but perhaps provides you a technical challenge that excites you).
At times like these – the “engineer” in me wakes up and my immediate knee-jerk reaction has been to roll up my sleeves and dive in to help out and fix the problem at hand.
However, I believe that a “I’ll do it myself” is not the right attitude for me to take as a leader. I know my team has the right talent and It’s my responsibility to channelize it so that we succeed jointly as a team.
As CEO of Zindagi, I find a lot on my plate each day. The emails, SMSs, Whatsapp messages, voicemails, etc – they can get really overwhelming at times. As you know, I’ve parked my fitness regime for sometime. But despite everything; I do believe I am able to find time to mentor you guys, spend time with family n friends, to study and learn, and to grow this company.
Here’s how I operate each day (Tips I got from Tim Ferriss in his book “4-Hour Work Week”):
  • “What I do” is more important that “How I do it”. What’s the point of being effective if you’re not efficient! For every task assigned to me – I always look at the opportunity cost; and what is their expectation in terms of my responsibilities. I then juxtapose it with my current list of tasks and determine how I can find time to complete the additional work.
  • Three times a day, at scheduled times (10:00 AM. 1:00 PM. 3:00 PM) – a reminder goes off on my phone asking me – Are you being productive or just being active? 
    • I agree with Tim when he says “Being busy is a form of laziness – lazy thinking and indiscriminate action.”
    • I force this question on myself – Am I just inventing things to do, to avoid the important stuff?
    • I study my RescueTime report to see what are the top three activities the I use to fill time to feel that I have been “productive”
    • There’s a post-it note next to Mom n Dad’s photo frame on my working desk that reads “If this is the only thing you’ll accomplish today, will you be satisfied with your day?”. This small note acts as a constant reminder to me, to be “effective” rather than efficient!
  • I do not multitask. I CAN’T multitask. I pick up one task at a time focus on completing that before moving on to the next.

Your work laptop is just THAT – a tool to get WORK done.

For the past few months, I have been goading you to respond to a bot on Slack everyday at 8 AM. This bot asks you four questions, collects responses and shares them with me:
  • How are you feeling today?
  • What did you Achieve yesterday?
  • What will you Achieve today?
  • What’s blocking your progress?
Honestly, this is not a way for me to track how you’re doing so I can do your performance appraisals. The purpose of automating this questionnaire is to give you a chance to list down your priorities for that particular day! This is so that you “attack the day” and accomplish all those tasks which you enlisted in the 3rd question.
  • Do not EVER open the lid of your laptop screen unless you have a clear list of priorities and tasks that it’ll help you achieve.
  • Remember, a carpenter uses his saw and hammer to get his work done, a gardener has a hose and a hedge trimmer. You, my friends – have your laptop.
  • When you’re in front of your work laptop – Work! Don’t have Facebook or Whatsapp open somewhere in the background – Sign out of any non-productive applications which pop up unnecessary notifications. I’m myself guilty of having gone down the rat hole of scrolling through status updates simply after clicking on a ostensibly benign notification asking “Did you see X’s comment to Y’s post?”
  • Turn off all notifications and distractions – focus on the work at hand.

Challenge yourself on every task you perform. Set deadlines that are “impossible” to achieve

Imagine that you’ve planned for this amazing vacation with family which you’re really looking forward to – it’s your well deserved time off, where you’ll have fun with your loved ones. The last thing you’d want is for a customer or a co-worker to call you up while you’re enjoying the cool ocean breeze (or fresh mountain air, if you may).
If you work for a corporation, you’ve applied for a PTO (Paid Time Out) well in advance.
Now, tell me if this sounds familiar and if you can relate – a few days before your planned holiday – your productivity, focus and performance are at their peak! You make every effort (most of which are successful) to ensure that all emails are answered, all leads on salesforce are closed, your inbox reaches zero count, etc – basically, you do everything you can to close all items you’re responsible for.
Why does this happen? Why do people like to boast that “Pressure brings out the best in me!”. Well, it’s actually something called Parkinson’s law (Thank you Tim Ferriss for introducing me to it). Parkinson’s Law dictates that a task will swell in (perceived) importance and complexity in relation to the time allotted for its completion. It is the magic of the imminent deadline. If I give you 24 hours to complete a project, the time pressure forces you to focus on execution, and you have no choice but to do only the bare essentials.
So, pressure DOES bring out the best in us! If that is indeed the case, why not use this phenomenon to our advantage? Why not intentionally induce such pressure on ourselves by setting short deadlines on everything we do – so that we can do more… be more… achieve more in our life.
Time is the greatest asset you have… the number of breaths you’ll take in, the number of times the seconds hand of the clock moves for you – all of these are finite and counted. Work towards optimising the efforts you put in to every task.
How powerful is this concept of being able to “Buy more time”!
Imagine the possibilities of how you can use this time you “bought”:
  • Spend more quality time with family?
  • Learn a new skill
  • Set up a part time business while working your 9-6 job.

Perfectionism is your enemy!

I say this with a lot of responsibility as the founder of a company which values quality – perfectionism is the enemy of productivity! If you’re ever tasked to do a certain activity, set an impossibly strict timeline to achieve that task. You’ll be surprised at how much you’d have accomplished when the countdown expires.
Get the bare essentials done; complete the MVP (minimal viable product); make the initial draft of the design doc or Visio file and send it out for review.
You are what you tolerate – I’m not asking you to tolerate crappy quality – I’m telling you that CONSISTENCY TRUMPS QUALITY! You’ll always have time to refine it once you receive additional feedback upon review.
I often use for setting these timeline pressures on myself. Egg Timer is a simple countdown timer – simply type in the number of minutes you’re setting for this “induced pressure” – and start working! It’ll provide you a full screen window showing a simply Javascript countdown clock!
Example usage: (defaults to seconds)

Jot down your affirmations and read them to yourself periodically

“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” -Mark Twain
An affirmation is a promise; an oath; a vow that you make to yourself. Affirmations allow you to put into words who you are, who you want to become and what you wish to achieve. They’ll remind you of your own beliefs and values which you wrote down at a time when you had clarity of thought, focus and motivation.
Life’s hard – you’ll face disappointments at each and every step. With all the things that will happen to you every day, you’re bound to lose motivation, get depressed, and forget why you started on this path in the first place. It’s at times like these that your affirmations will help bring you back on track. I suggest writing them down in your journal and reading them daily.
Here are a few of my affirmations to get you in the frame of mind to write your own:
  • Every obstacle I face is molding me into the person I need to be.
  • The work my company does, contributes in the progress of this great country.
  • Entrepreneurship is a path of service and prosperity.
  • The passion I have for my work enables me to create real value.
  • There are no limits to what I can achieve.
  • My reputation is more important than profits
  • I always treat my team with respect and dignity.
  • I am assertive when the situation warrants it.
  • My work makes a difference in this world.
  • My courage, self-confidence and unwavering belief in my entrepreneurial dream keep me laser focused.
  • My creative mind plays an important role in all of my decisions.
  • My integrity influences every aspect of my business and personal life.
  • I am a lifelong student.
  • I am responsible for my success and failure.
  • I surround myself with people and things that inspire me to live my full potential.
  • I help others climb the ladder of success as I make my way to the top.
  • My financial abundance is a by-product of chasing and catching my vision.
  • I take entrepreneurship seriously, without taking myself too seriously.

Plan your tomorrow… tonight!

  • We normally tend to pick up the easiest task, or the most interesting task – even if it’s not high priority.
  • If you were to plan your next day – you’ll feel guilty writing the “easiest but less important / critical / urgent task” at the top of the list.
  • Without a plan, we tend to lets ourselves get away by answering email, and attending to other low priority tasks. This leads to stress towards the end of the day – when your customers or your manager will call you to ask for status.
  • By planning your day in advance – You are committing the “future you” to do the things the “present you” won’t do.
  • If you plan your day the night before – you’ll not only be able to get more done in less time, you’ll also add clarity to your day.
Before you go to sleep – get into a habit of writing down exactly what you’ll do the entire day tomorrow. Map out your day so you have a blueprint to work on.
“Someday is not a day of the week.” -Denise Brennan-Nelson

The magic of having BIG, ambitious goals – and writing them down

I remember reading about this story of a professor who asked his students to spend 2 hours writing down essays providing excruciating details of “what will a day in their lives look like, 10 years from now” – they had to describe what job they’ll have, how many children, their spouse, the kind of house they’d be living in, the cars they’ll be driving, etc.
Here’s what happened – when these students met at the college reunion 10 years later, they found that almost each and every one of those individuals had “become what they’d thought they’d become”!
Team – i sincerely suggest you try this too. Spend time to jot down all you intend to achieve in the next 10 years – think big; be ambitious; be over-ambitious. What looks like over-ambitious today – will appear achievable in the coming months. Categorise your goals as Personal, Professional and Education related goals.
“You have to dream, before your dreams can come true.” – A. P. J. Abdul Kalam

Tools I use to achieve peak performance everyday

“Don’t count the days, make the days count.” -Muhammad Ali
Finally – here are the tools I use to achieve peak performance every day.
  1. A Broken clothes hanger converted into an iPad stand
  2. A Generation 1 iPad used only as a stopwatch.
  3. An A4 size paper which is my “Daily Achievement Blueprint”
  4. My timesheet log (A ruled moleskin notebook)
  5. My daily journal (A ruled moleskin notebook)
  6. My Idea pad (a waiters pad)
Here’s how I manage each work day:
  • Each night, before I sleep, I fill up my “Daily Achievement Blueprint” (DAP)- it’s a document I received as a part of having attended a Udemy course facilitated by one of the best speakers I’ve listened to – Mr. Chris Haroun. Click here to watch this course.
  • On the top 30% of this paper, I list down my 5 top personal, work and education goals. I also mention my “North Star” goal – the most important goal for me to achieve out of the above 15.
  • On the bottom 70% of this paper – my entire tomorrow is broken up into “30 minute chunks”. I fill up these time slots on what I will work on at these times of the day. This is my map – this is what holds me accountable to myself. Whenever I’m jotting down my tasks for the next day, I can glance up at the top 30% of the paper and compare how this task ties in with my long term goals – it also allows me to prioritise each task.
  • This way – when I open my Mac the next day, I already know what I need to start working on.
  • My work desk also consists of a make-shift iPad stand which let’s me prop up a generation-1 iPad that I bought in the year 2011. This device serves just one function now – that of a large timer.
  • Whenever I start any task (anything – be it me calling someone, someone calling me, my writing a proposal, replying to my email, writing a blog post, communicating with my team on Slack, etc) – I rush to start the clock to know how much time I will spend on that task.
  • In my timesheet log, for each task I worked on, I scribble down a quick description of the task and how much time it took me to finish it.
  • For the times when I travel, I carry my DAP in a A4 size folder which has a clipboard in it.
  • Right before dinner, I spend 5 minutes writing in my journal – it’s a summary of how my day went and how I  could have done stuff better.
  • Here’s what I realised after the first few days of writing in my journal – it started to depress me to write down how my day went. My journal entries looked like “complaints about my past 10 hours”. So I decided to incorporate some of the ideas of Tim Ferriss’s 5 minute journal into my journal entries.
  • Basically, Tim says – Visit your journal twice a day; once in the morning – where you write down:
    • What 3 things that you’re grateful for?
    • What three things would make today great?
    • Jot down a few of your daily affirmations… then in the evening, you visit your journal again to list down:
    • 3 awesome things that happened today
    • How could I have made today even better?
  • Finally, wherever I go, I always carry a small “waiters pad” with me – something that’ll fit in my shirts pocket or slide comfortably in my jeans. This is my idea pad. Any time I think of an idea, I have this pad handy to jot it down.
  • An idea need not be a business idea – it could be an idea for a better way to do the work we do at Zindagi, an idea about a new blog post topic, something very operational which I would forget if I don’t get it down on paper immediately, etc.
  • The “idea to have an idea pad” is borrowed from a man for whom I have a lot of respect. Best selling author and successful entrepreneur, James Altucher.
Here is the “before” and “after” of the Clothes hanger. Use a good quality pair of pliers, and be prepared for a couple of hangers to go waste in the process. Please be careful not to injure yourself in the process.
Here’s a pic of my “Idea Pad”:

What do you think?

Team, I don’t expect you to mimic what I do. This blueprint is what works for me – maybe this will motivate you to develop a system that works well for you; or perhaps you can pick up some tips that’ll help you squeeze more out of each day.

Too Jurassic?

You may think that this concept of writing on paper with pen is too jurassic in this Generation-Y day and age. We’ve got Evernote, OneNote, Samsung Galaxy note, iPad and it’s magic pen, etc – and this bloke here, who calls himself the CEO of a technology company is still using thereby bloomer tools of yore.
Well, truth be told – I love Evernote. I’m a premium subscription user. Evernote (and it’s sister app Scannable) is the second most used app on my iPhone (first being Gmail). Matter of fact, I’m writing this text on Evernote for Mac.
Multiple times in the past, I’ve tried using digital tools for tracking my time, managing my tasks, or making journal entries – but for some reason – it just doesn’t work. It’s like – 2 imaginary hands come out of the iPhone or Mac, catch hold of both my ears, and suck me into operational tasks as opposed to tracking my activity. This is the reason I prefer to maintain an “air gap” between the “tools I use to get work done” v/s the “tools I use to track/manage/record the work done”

Too Claustrophobic?

Do you find this kind of time tracking close to paranoia? Do you think you can never work like this as it “shackles you”, “inhibits your creativity”, “prevents free thoughts”, etc?
Well, my humble suggestion to you would be – give it a try. I believe in this system! I’ve seen it work for me… me, the guy with a history of being the biggest procrastinator ever! It taught me the value of time and task management. It taught me discipline. It helped me become a better at entrepreneurship.
There’ve been times when I’ve hit the pause button on this system for a few days, and for those days, I’m  completely lost in terms of what I achieved, how I contributed to my team/company, did I move closer to my goals or away from them?
There’s a scene in the Bradley Cooper starrer, Limitless – where the protagonist starts experiencing side effects of the NZT drug. He’s unable to account for the way he lived his life for the last 12 hours.
Ok i may be exaggerating a bit here – but my system does have merit…
I now know I need to hire a VP, Operations for Zindagi. Someone who’ll help in team management, handle followups on tasks, own the Trello Kanbans for each project, and help with the admin functions. How am I so sure I need an operations guy? I looked at my timesheet logs for the past few weeks and found that 55% of my time was being spent in post-sales / operations activities as opposed to being pre-sales activities, executive decisions, business development or learning a new skill! There’s no way I’d have gotten that kind of visibility without the timesheet log.
When I look back at my day – I can easily quantify what I achieved, what I could have done better.
This regime has greatly helped me in managing my time, getting work done, squeezing time out for family and friends, and taking me closer to achieving my goals.


Team, there are two kinds of people in this world – those who see things happen, and those who make things happen. At Zindagi, we represent the latter. I consider you as Entrepreneurial Employees who possess the zeal, the innovative mindset and that desire to execute, that makes you achieve peak performance at all times.
“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.” – Steve Jobs
I believe we’re all doing great work. I believe we’re making a difference to this world by our actions. And I see the passion for technology in each one of you.
I remember taking advice from someone before plunging into starting my own company. He said “I don’t get it – you’ll be doing the same stuff that everyone else does – you’ll perhaps do it with a lot of passion – that’s it. So what?”.
“My mother said to me, “If you become a soldier, you’ll be a general, if you become a monk you’ll end up as the pope.” Instead, I became a painter and wound up as Picasso.”
– Pablo Picasso
I wish to see each and everyone of you become trusted consultants, problem solvers, and domain experts who not only have thorough command over their respective technologies, but can document and confidently articulate a complex solution in simple language to top decision makers.
A key requirement to achieve such peak performance is to incorporate discipline in your daily schedule. I humbly request you to try the above methodology for the next 30 days. I’m confident that it’ll make a positive impact to your personal and professional growth. If you find that it helps you – spread the word; motivate others to try it to achieve peak productivity.
Dear readers of my blog – thank you for taking the time to read this post. I’m eager to know what systems you use to incorporate discipline and increase performance in your day to day routine to help you reach peak performance. Happy to receive feedback on what you think of my system. Please share your comments below. Thank you.
Part 4 – Kuch Apna Karna Hai – My journey as an entrepreneur

Part 4 – Kuch Apna Karna Hai – My journey as an entrepreneur

The picture on the left is from the Diwali Mela of 2017 organised by our resident welfare association. Aditi had bought a heap of embroidered lady-suit pieces from our last vacation to Kashmir at wholesale prices, and we were hoping to make a decent margin after selling them at a 30% markup.
After 5 hrs of manning the booth… we packed up and came home. In summary:
  • We were able to sell only 1 suit for a price of 1,500 rupees. [The stall’s rent costed us 4,000 rupees].
  • We realised that embroidered suits are NOT in Delhi fashion.
  • We realised that ladies like to buy readymade kurtas… and not suit pieces.
  • For the next 6 months…everyone we visited was pleasantly surprised by a gift… an exquisite hand-embroidered piece of clothing from Kashmir.
BTW – The Diwali Mela of 2016 was a grand success for us. The “naya naya” entrepreneur in me wanted to try my hand at retail selling. After some brainstorming… Aditi and I decided to sell clothes for new borns. Much to the chagrin of mum and dad, we set up our stall. Parents response:
  • “Why are you doing this? You don’t need the money…”
  • “You’ll embarrass yourself, and us too”
Well, we weren’t doing this for the money.We were doing this as a joint husband-wife activity, a byproduct of which could be a tiny profit.
We had both quit our jobs almost at the same time to become entrepreneurs… and thought of selling “baby pyjamas @ 300 rupees for a pack” to passerbys seemed like good target practice to let go of ones inhibitions, increase confidence and improving selling skills.
Besides, I believe that everyone should practice selling. Selling a part of life; and is needed for just about everything we do or hope to do – and I see no shame in it . In fact, I’d encourage and support my kids to develop selling and persuasion skills. Selling is an integral part of being an entrepreneur. It’s a pity schools in India don’t teach entrepreneur skills, financial skills or selling skills – I believe our youngsters need someone to inspire and inculcate them into the art of managing a business.
Previous blog posts in the “Kuch Apna Karna Hai” series…
Profanity Alert: The text post contains some swear words.

Lesson: Get into a partnership without doing any research, get screwed, and hit rock bottom.

  • First, find a job that pays you a little over half a crore rupees each year – where, after 2 months, you’re bored and don’t get any feeling of job satisfaction.
  • Start reading biographies of famous entrepreneurs like Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, etc – stand in front a mirror and say to your reflection – “If they can do it, so can you!”. Then repeat it 100 more times while doing a Rocky Balboa impression. Think of a name for your company… After days of thought, decide on a name that means “Life” in Hindi/Urdu.
  • Meet an old acquaintance at Al Bake restaurant in New Friends Colony… He tells you how devastated he was after having been fired from Cisco, for reasons not having anything to do with his performance. Realise that this can happen to you too and, while gobbling up those rolls dripping with mayonnaise that Al Bake is famous for, you determine…decide… commit to take action! Go home… and watch Rocky part 4 (coz that’s the best one, and gets you all pumped.. especially the training scenes!… DRAAAAAGOOOO!!!)

  • When in Gurgaon for a customer meeting, pay a visit to an old acquaintance from one of your previous jobs from 9 years ago. Have a couple of beers with him. Get WOW’ed when told that his company is doing AI, machine learning, robotics and all sorts of crazy shit, and has offices all over the world. You…get a geek boner. Get convinced that all that he’s saying is true, coz.. well, he said it… so it must be.


  • Get offered a partnership to start a new venture by his elder brother…. It’s a deal which has them and you sharing both sharing the profit and loss at a ratio of 70:30. Say “Yes! I’ll do it!” and agree to transfer your share to a joint account. Do NOT bother asking them to share their financials or last years’ balance sheet.
  • Quit your job after having worked there only 3 months. Pay the company back, the 5 lac rupees “joining bonus” which would have been yours, had you stayed 6 months.
  • Transfer your share of the agreed-upon amount, thinking that the Gratuity payout you got after working for Cisco for so many years will now be put to good use!
  • After a couple of weeks… Ask your new “partners” why they haven’t transferred their share – get impressed by an answer which has words such as sweat equity, capital infusion over a timeline, company valuation based on future value, and other such horse crap.
  • Have them setup a new office for you in Nehru Place…It’s pricey, but hey.. why not?! You’re going to be sharing the rent 70:30 anyway, right!
  • Find it odd that you’re being asked to visit Gurgaon multiple times each week and report to your partners, and give “commits” on what all new business you’ll get them. Hmmm… this doesn’t feel like being an entrepreneur. It’s pretty much…more of the same.
  • Get told that you need to present a “business case” to your partners for every spend – rent, laptops, Zindagi employee salaries, etc. Spend the next few months wondering if you made a bad decision.
  • Get told by your partner’s employees over coffee, that the company is bankrupt and that they haven’t received their salaries for the past 3 months. Tell this to your partners. Next day… Find out that the guy who told you this is no more (in the company.. at least). Feel sorry for him, and for having ratted him out.
  • For the 10th time… ask your wife “Why haven’t you told your parents about my decision to quit my job and start on my own?”… and then hear the same polite answer… “Oh, it slipped my mind love, sorry – will tell them the next time we meet”. This to yourself – “There you go…Woman intuition has spoken! This whole thing was a bad decision on your part.”
  • Then one day, one of your team members walks up to you and says they were not paid their salary for last month. You get pissed. “AAAGGGHHHH! HULK… SMASH!!”. You put across your point firmly to your “partners”. Two weeks go by, your team member still doesn’t get paid. You transfer the money from your personal account. “Uhhh… Hulk… SULK…”
  • Tell the “partners” that this “partnership” isn’t working. That you’d like to quit and retain the company name you chose. Get told that you’ll need to transfer 3 lac more to ensure that the “transfer is smooth”. Decide that it’s better to pay up than get involved in “legal issues”. Get the paper work done.
  • Realise that you’ve just been fucked. Let that feeling sink in while driving back home… while taking a walk in the local park… while nibbling at your dinner that night.
  • Realise that you can’t let your team know what you’re going through; and that you need to appear positive, confident and motivated at all times.
  • Thinking that the worse is over now that you’re free – go back to cool expensive office to find that the rent for the past 3 months has not been paid. Go over the bills and realise that the rent agreement is in your name and not in the name of your partners. Find a place to sit and gain composure upon seeing what you owe them.
You make a discovery – panic can induce projectile vomiting.
  • Decide not to share any of this with Ma and Pa. [P.S. Ma… I know you’ll read this blog… now you know]
  • Decide not to borrow money from your friends… Your ego won’t allow it.
  • Accept money from you wife – the money she got as “Shagun envelope” gifts when you two got married. You walk away slowly with the wad of cash…muttering to yourself repeatedly… “Shame on you, you fucking piece of shit! Shame on you.. You f…”
  • That day, go to the gym in the afternoon and do a 200 KG Deadlift. Make loud grunting noises on each rep.
  • Start saving on expenses wherever you can..
    • Stop driving the car to save fuel, strictly use UberPool or metro.
    • When at the super market, look at the price label of an after-shave you like and upon seeing the price, put it back down saying “Who needs these anyway”.
    • Reduce your whey protein intake so the tub lasts longer.
    • Realise that Mattra-Kulcha is a perfectly fine meal to make you survive the whole day.
    • Argue with every parking wala bhaiya for overcharging you by 10 rupees.
  • Make cold calls to MNCs to sell your services. Wait in the reception to meet the IT heads / CTOs to offer your services… Get told each time that “Sorry, we can’t work with a company that hasn’t been in the market for even a year”.
  • One day, when coming back from another sales call with no positive leads – call mom and dad and ask them that you’re near Safderjung and if they’d like something from Rajinder Ka Dhaba. When they say yes to some tikkas and kebabs…
    • Open your wallet to find 165 rupees in it.
    • Get told that Rajinder ka dhaba only accepts cash.
    • Go to the ATM machine and find that all three of your bank accounts are empty.
    • Unsuccessfully try using the credit card to take money out of the ATM machines.
    • Call the credit card company and tell them that their card sucks!
    • Go to a back alley behind the restaurant, find a corner where no one can see you… and cry, till the point your tear ducts are dry… and then, cry some more.
    • Go home and tell mom dad that you took a wrong turn and missed going to the dhaba.
  • There I was – Zero business, Zero money in the bank, Zero motivation to move forward…

Abhijit… meet Rock Bottom. Rock Bottom… meet Abhijit

  • Next day, in the Gym – do a 130 KG Bench Press (Don’t forget to grunt loudly) while listening to sound tracks of Agneepath, Mangal Pandey, Sardarji, Rocky, and “All time hits of Jazzy B”. Feel glad about the fact that people can’t tell the difference between tears and sweat when you’re perspiring like a pig.



Vriksh hon bhale khade,
Hon ghane, hoh bade,
Ek patra chhah bhi
Maang mat! Maang mat! Maang mat!
Agneepath! Agneepath! Agneepath!

Tu na thakega kabhi,
Tu na thamega kabhi,
Tu na mudega kabhi,
Kar shapath! Kar shapath! Kar shapath!
Agneepath! Agneepath! Agneepath!

Yeh mahaan drishya hai,
Chal raha manushya hai
Ashru, swed, rakt se
Lath-path, lath-path, lath-path,
Agneepath! Agneepath! Agneepath!

Agneepath (The path of fire) – A poem by Harivansh Rai Bachchan

  • The next day, evaluate your options: a) Throw in the towel, give up, go back and join a job, b) Become a freelancer until you become an entrepreneur.
  • Choose option (b) – Become a freelancer. Register yourself on, and other web sites. Start asking all your friends in your previous organisations for work – any work…anything that’ll pay you enough to keep the company afloat.
  • Configure firewalls, write python scripts for automation, set up proxy servers, migrate a startup to AWS, do SDN implementations, troubleshoot network issues, setup video surveillance systems… Do not say no to any work. Pick it up, do research, become an “expert” at it overnight… and then set it up for your customer.
  • Take up multiple part time jobs so that you can pay the salaries, provide for your family and keep the lights running, both in office and at home. Do double shifts.. do triple shifts. Work weekends. Live a student life. Curtail on all surplus expenses.
  • Then, one day – when you’ve saved enough to cover expenses for the next few quarters, when you’ve executed multiple orders to build confidence in your customers, when you can see a healthy pipeline of business coming in – Then…ek baar phir se, rekindle that dream… quit from all jobs so you can focus on what you started out to achieve… once again, nikal padho… kuch apna karne ke liye.
  • Remember the lessons you learnt from all of this:
    • Avoid getting into a partnership with anyone. Be independent.
    • If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
    • Do not get into any business opportunity until you understand and know everything there is to know about the deal.. and about the people who are offering it to you.
    • Cherish all your friends. Your friends can pull you out when you’re in a cesspool of despair when you call out to them for help… they’ll put in a kind word for you to their customers, they’ll give you a part time job, some even sign a quarterly retainer deal with you for your consultancy services. NEVER forget these people and what they did for you when you needed them, and go out of your way to return the favour.
    • Your customers are your best marketers. If you’re good at what you do – slowly but surely, word WILL spread, people will know what you represent, the values you espouse, and the quality you bring in the work that you deliver.
    • Commit to yourself that you’ll make more friends and keep increasing your circle of contacts. Help anyone who you can – in the best way you can. “You will get what you want – if you help others get what they want”.
    • Always carry an attitude of gratitude... for your and your family’s good health, for your loving family who supported you through thick and thin (despite your being an eccentric, stubborn, recalcitrant schmuck), for your friends and well wishers… Always thank the Almighty for having blessed you with the spirit of tenacity and the willpower to not give up.


“You Just Can’t Beat the Person Who Never Gives Up” – Babe Ruth

Lesson: Hire a Chartered Accountant

  • Very helpful in filing taxes and maintaining compliances 🙂

Part 5…
Part 3 – Kuch Apna Karna Hai – My journey as an entrepreneur

Part 3 – Kuch Apna Karna Hai – My journey as an entrepreneur

“Can you please look at me when I’m talking to you?”
Said Aditi impatiently. We were sitting in the drawing room after having dinner. While having a conversation with her, my thoughts had drifted to a project the team is working on – and the sound of her voice jolted me back. “But I am looking at you!” I protested.
“No you’re not! You’re looking through me… past me… It’s like I am in your peripheral vision!” She complained. She was right… she usually (read “always”) is.
Multiple times each day, Irrespective of where I am, I simply “zone out” – thinking about my new ideas for Zindagi to work on, our current projects, how we can improve our service offering, how to optimise costs, how to lead the team better, how to keep morale up at all times, how to increase cash flow.
At times like these, I’m present in the room physically, but mentally I’m thinking about Zindagi.
I wasn’t always like this – I chose this path for myself. I chose to launch, execute, grow and scale my business. This path demands a lot of research, networking, planning, business strategy, marketing, sales, etc..
My beliefs are:
  • Zindagi, for me – represents something far greater than me and my personal interests. I want us to succeed in becoming the best at what we do!
  • I have to own everything. If a team member makes a mistake, I need to admit it as my failure as a leader, take responsibility and develop a plan to fix it.
  • They say that there are no bad teams, only bad leaders. All responsibility of success and failure starts and ends with me.
  • I can’t afford to be complacent. I need to constantly strive to improve my team by identifying weaknesses and addressing them. Bad performance from any member of my team is unacceptable. I need to train, mentor and groom anyone who isn’t performing.
  • I need to work myself out of my current job. I need to make myself redundant by grooming my team to step up and take greater responsibilities.

Wearing multiple hats

As an entrepreneur, I get to feel a lot of emotions each day. But the one emotion I never felt since I left my job is of feeling bored. I get to wear so many hats each day:
  • A Solutions Architect – Designing solutions for my customers involving large scale ICT networks, data centres, security devices, IOT networks,Wireless and surveillance systems.
  • A Project Manager – I don’t have formal Project Management training – all my project management knowledge comes from what I’ve learnt on the job as a entrepreneur. I intuitively follow the Kanban style project management approach. Trello lends itself beautifully to this.
  • A Team Leader – Jocko Williams, in his book Extreme Leadership stated “It’s not what you preach, it’s what you tolerate”. I have to build a high performance team… and the only way I know how to do that – is to lead by example.
  • An Accountant – There are stories of the brilliant entrepreneurs who had grandiloquent visions for their companies but before they could achieve any of their dreams, they ran out of cash and perished! I don’t want to be that guy! There are no investors in Zindagi. I believe Zindagi will grow much faster if it had a decent corpus to spend. Until the time I reach that stage, I own the company’s bottomline. Aditi and I have monthly expense numbers at my finger tips – and we know exactly how much we need for the next 2 quarters. I raise all invoices myself and do constant followups.
  • A Sales guyI decide how much business I will do this year. I get to set ambitious sales targets. I load and track my leads on Zoho. I decide my quarterly commits and hold myself accountable for them.
  • A Presales guy – When articulating a technical solution’s advantages to a C level exec, I need explain it in a language that they’d understand. I need to be able to juxtapose multiple solutions succinctly so that decisions can be taken. I’ve enjoyed being a Presales guy for large OEMs in the past – It’s a skill that gives you an amazing feeling of confidence!
  • Customer Support guy – I still make calls to my armed forces customers when they experience problems with their networks. My time as an engineer in Cisco TAC gave me a gift that keeps on giving – the art of troubleshooting; the ability to break a large problem into smaller chunks. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!
  • A Technical lead – I honestly feel honoured when my team considers discussing technical issues with me. They’re bright guys and I’ve seen them solve daunting problems on their own. So, if I can help them, when they walk up to me upon hitting a roadblock, It just makes my day a wee bit better and my sleep, a bit more well-deserved :-).
  • Product Manager – Ah, my latest fixation. I’ve just started out on this venture and am using wire framing tools such as Balsamiq and Keynotopia to work on mockups of products I plan to build.

Lesson: Stop sucking at task management

Have you seen the Bradley Cooper movie “Limitless”? It’s a movie where the protagonist consumes a designer Pharma drug called NZT which makes him laser focused about what he wants to do.
There are days where I become like that… without consuming any drug. There’s so much I accomplish those days! I close more deals; I get more milestone completion certificates signed; I get more creative in designing, etc. I wish everyday were like that.
I am increasingly using Trello for all my task management. There’s a Trello board for Zindagi Team, one for each project, one called “Hum Don0” which Aditi and I use for delegating tasks to each other and then there’s my own board – which has the following lists:
  • Ideapad – Any ideas I have about products that I want to make one day.
  • Inbox – Which has all the action items / to dos that require my attention.
  • Someday list – A list of items that don’t require immediate attention.
  • In Progress – Which has all items I plan to complete TODAY!
  • Next Up – what item I’m working on RIGHT NOW.
  • Blocked / Waiting – A list of all items that are pending on someone else.
  • Done – Everything I’ve completed goes here.
  • Watch List – Stuff that I need to watch – for example, a useful youtube video that showed up in my inbox, or a Udemy course that I bought when it went on sale (coz we all know how RARELY they go on sale), etc.
  • Reading List – A list of books I plan to read. Also contains a list of all interesting articles I stumbled upon.
  • <Topic Name> Learning Plan – Any topic that I pick up, I research a few hours to make a “learning plan” for myself – which consists of URLs of relevant articles, videos and slides. Current lists include SD-WAN, SIEM and SOCs, VA/PT, How to become a product manager.
Here are some points I picked up from Tim Ferris’s book “4-hour workweek”. There’s a printout of these points next to my desk and my bed to remind me to become better at time and task management:
  • “What you do” is more important than how you do it. Focus on being effective than efficient!
  • Three times each day at scheduled times ask yourself – are you being productive or just active?
  • Are you inventing things to do, to avoid the important?
  • If you had a heart attack and had to work only two hours per day – would you be doing what you’re doing right now?
  • If you had a second heart attack and could only work 2 hours a week? What work would you focus on then?
  • What if you had a gun to your head and HAD to remove 4/5th of different time consuming activities, what would you remove?
  • What are the top three activities that I use to fill time to feel as though i have been productive?
  • Learn to ask: “If this is the only thing I accomplish today, will I be satisfied with my day?”
  • Do not multitask! Your brain is incapable of multitasking!
  • Parkinson’s law at a macro level: Attempt to take Monday and Friday off. Also leave work at 4 PM
  • Parkinson’s law at a micro level : Limit the number of items on your to-do list. Use impossibly short deadlines to force immediate action. Use the online stopwatch or use

Lesson: People don’t like to let go of their money

I run a services company – which means, that for every project Zindagi embarks upon – I set clear, definable milestones for the tasks my team undertakes. These milestones are based on customer success factors and have well defined entry and exit criteria.
Once a milestone completes, I raise a NET-XX invoice; where XX represents the agreed-upon number of days after which the customer will pay me.
Typically these milestones are:
  • Project Kickoff / Requirements Gathering Workshop
  • High Level Design Signoff
  • Low Level Design Signoff
  • SATP Execution
  • User Acceptance Testing
  • As-Built document submission
Hardly ever would you get paid on time after raising an invoice. The work done by you will need to be reviewed by multiple entities in the customer organisation. Thereafter, the projects team will give a go ahead to their finance teams to release the payment. The Finance team will, in turn have their own payment cycles; which, if you’re unlucky, could be one day prior to the day when Finance got the go-ahead.
My suggestions to people starting out a services business:
  • Plan your quarterly budget to keep a buffer for processes
  • Invest in a invoicing system that generates automatic reminders when the due date has reached and keeps sending repeated reminders until the payment is made.
  • NEVER work without a PO. You’ll never get paid. Do not, I repeat – do NOT start work until you have a PO in your hand.
  • There’s nothing wrong in asking for an ADVANCE payment. As a bootstrapped startup, we only have enough cash in hand to handle operating expenditure. Any project related expenses are handled through an advance payout. Besides, an advance payment is a mutual commitment between the customer and me for the execution and delivery of the project.
“Abey… De dunga tere laakh rupey agle mahine!”
I was told this 3 months after raising the invoice and multiple followups. He never paid.
There’ll always be customers who just won’t pay you for the work you completed – no matter how much you follow up. My suggestion – take this as a bitter pill and move on. You’ll always find professional organisations who value your talent and share your values. Give your everything to make such organisations succeed.
“You’ll get what you want, if you help other people get what they want” – Zig Ziglar

Lesson: Treat your employees as pure gold!

I have realised that as a services company, my most valuable asset is my team. It’s because of their capabilities to deliver that i get confidence to get more business into Zindagi. It’s because of their efforts that we achieve the most difficult of projects in the most stringent of deadlines. They drive the customer satisfaction and represent the face of the company and its abilities to our customers.
My employees are my first customers!
I treat my team members the way I’d expect to be treated by my employer – with trust, dignity and respect. I don’t expect them to work on weekends – and if for some reason I have to ask them to work on a designated off, I request them, apologise for having them take time away from their families, and demand that they take a compensatory off at their earliest. I constantly seek feedback whenever I implement a new policy or a new tool – I will never force my opinion on my team – instead, I always take a consultative approach.
My team responds in kind – they treat our customers with respect, they solve problems faster, they perform effectively and uphold esprit de corps at all times!
This is my “secret” – this is what gives me a competitive edge over my competition – making sure that my team members are respected, trusted, empowered and appreciated. The fact that my team demonstrate our values consistently is what sets us apart from the competition.
“Above all, keep in mind that a business is a collection of people,” Branson says. “If your people are not happy and healthy, they your enterprise’s prognosis isn’t good enough. But if you make sure they have the time and support they need, you’ll set them and your company up for success in the long term.” – Richard Branson
Part 4…
Abhijit Anand

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