The Existential Question. Help me please!
|Jun 22, 2019|
The Existential Question. Questions.
Ladies and Gents!
As I write this, I am at a Starbucks and while ordering my coffee, I realized that I have deeper relationships and friendship with these Starbucks guys than I have with people I know for more than 20 years. Which is a good thing and a bad. I'd go into the reasons in a bit. Maybe in the next letter. But for the time being, I have another predicament that I need an answer to. I know you guys may not have an answer but I still HAVE to compile my thoughts in one place and what better than writing my heart out?
So, I met Anurag Batra. He is a senior from MDI, in fact, from the very first PGPM batch at MDI. Apart from that, he is the publisher of Businessworld magazine and assorted specialty magazines - ranging from music to real estate to politics to advertising to marketing and I don't know what else. He's been at it for at least 15 years if not more. And in the last 15 years, thanks to his hard work, acumen, luck and probably because of the sheer time that he's been in the business, he's become important, famous, connected, wealthy (I am assuming) and all that. In short, everything I want to be. Except famous.
All this while, I have seen him from far - this means that he's been a halo, a foreign concept that you knew about but someone you know exists in a different universe but you can't touch him.
When I got access to his life.
Yesterday, I met him at the sidelines of an event that one of his publications was organizing. He had told me to meet him at 4. And like the old boring person I am, I was there on time. But he was nowhere to be found. I was told that he's in the ballroom where the event was happening. And he took some time to emerge from the ballroom but when he did emerge, what a show he put up!
In the pre-function area, there must have been a 100 people if not more. Anurag made it a point to talk to EACH of those people. He floated among those people, made a connection with almost everyone, cracked a joke or two, asked his assistant to fix a meeting with EACH of those people, gave his phone numbers to people he found interesting, made generous introductions for whoever asked for one, continued to move and did not rest for a single second. He got a VIP guest a beer when the bar was still closed. He asked a young entrepreneur to share a pitch deck. He invited a musician to moderate a panel in one of his forthcoming events. He talked to people as if he had known them for ages. He was this unstoppable ball of energy that had probably consumed I don't know how many Red Bulls and had a million Duracells up his brains and could put a young Shahrukh Khan and a current Ranveer Singh to shame.
I was his shadow for about 3 minutes before I got bored with this and sidestepped.
And this is when it hit me.
The reason for his success.
That he genuinely loves people and he enjoys meeting them.
In fact, its probably a large part of what he does for a living!
Spending those 3 minutes with him, I learned that while AI and automation and decentralization and other things will change the world as we know it in near future, today, each piece of work, business, play is an outcome of people-to-people relationships. Its people that create magic. And this is what I probably lack. I mean I don't go to parties, I don't know how to tolerate people being indulgent. I don't value recreation. I probably have a negative EQ. I don't even know what to do at a party.
I lack the people thing.
I need to upgrade this.
Of course, Anurag runs the business but he's got people working FOR him to do that. He probably has zero things that he personally works (compared to me - everything I do, I do by myself and with my very own hands and on my very own clock). And then he's got a staff of people who look after HIS brand, his work and other things that elevate him (which I don't have).
As someone who wants to be like him (and more), this is the second thing that I lack (that I don't have a "staff").
I don't have people that look after my affairs.
The ones that I work with, they work WITH me on things that they want to work on. And that means that when they work, they are torn between looking for their interests and mine (which are often different). I am not saying its a bad thing - of course, everyone has to grow and its a crime if each person does not work for themselves. But I spend considerable time with those and thus all I end up doing is build them and not me. Plus, often decisions are taken from multiple lenses and the impact gets reduced. So, I am thinking, do I get so selfish, so centered that I stop this attempt at getting people to work with me and rather, for me? What do you think? Please do tell me. I mean I have failed to get any traction going when people work with me. And more than anything else, it's my failure to inspire them enough to give it all and more to push things.
This is in contrast to how I have decided to live my life - enable others while not seeking any personal glory. I met this reader a few days ago - he says I am full of contradictions - I say something and I do something. This is probably another contradiction - I want to remain behind the scenes and yet I want to have a large reach. I don't know the answer. Do you have one?
Coming back to Anurag. I took him on a side and told him that I am going to go back and get some work done.
He looked surprised.
He told me that you never leave a room full of people unless you have something super urgent waiting for you.
To him, meeting people came above everything else that a man could do.
Maybe because he is a known media professional, he had access to people and more importantly people want to meet him (unlike in my case, invariably it is me that chases people). Plus he's been at it for last 15 or so years. I may say its unfair for me to compare myself to him. But then I am not young anymore. I also have been at things for the last 12 or so years. And I have nothing to show for it. Ok, I am digressing.
The point is that I need to develop this faculty where I am ok to shake hands with strangers and lower my guard and try to become their friends. But to be able to do that I have to be someone that they want to shake hands with. You know what am saying?
I will come back to this in a bit. Lemme talk of yet another incident.
While I was there, Anurag did introduce me to people.
For each introduction, he said I was his junior from college. Not because he was trying to be patronizing. But probably because he did not know what else to use to introduce me.
And while I am ok being the junior from college, I am not sure how many people would remember me from that introduction. That's something that I have always struggled with. To describe who I am and what I do. I have varied interests, a vast library of knowledge. But I have zero achievements and thus no label. There is nothing that people would remember me as. Another thing, while people may have great interactions with me, I am not sure if those interactions would convert into business.
I have struggled to find an answer to this question for years. And I am nowhere close. For deciding to call myself one thing means that I am not all the other things that I am. And I am not ok with that. Why can't I have it all? You know how Bukowski would say that he's not much of a petty thief?
So, if I were to take a hard decision and put myself in a silo, the options I have to describe myself are...
a writer (I write books, scripts, letters, etc)
an investor (I have a few investments into startups)
an event manager (I run C4E - an events / marketing agency)
None of the three encapsulate what I want to stand for. There is definitely a lot more than what any one of these can capture. Plus I am not sure if I am better than 99% others at any of these. I mean, I can write but what I write does not move mountains (you know, Bhagat Singh). I am an investor but the cheques I write are very small and none of them has yet turned into a Unicorn (Sacca). I run an events agency but who wants to talk to an event manager when you have a room full of other interesting people?
So, that's the third thing I lack when I compare myself to Anurag. A tangible personal brand that leaves an impact and makes me memorable. And more importantly, makes others want to create magic with me. You know, like I like to say, people create magic!
Now, assuming that I will learn what it takes to talk to people in a crowded hall and I have a great intro for when I meet people, the last superhuman ability that I need to learn is to remember things! I first interacted with Anurag about two years ago for a project. The project did not materialize - a lot of factors were at play. But Anurag remembers it well. Till date. I don't know how he can. I mean he must be talking to a million people on a day to day basis and would have zillion conversations with them. And yet he remembered the one we had two years ago. I clearly lack this ability. I mean I don't remember what I ate ten minutes ago. The man remembers things we spoke about!
These four things.
I lack the ability to endear people that I've just met
I don't have a team that is willing to put my interest ahead of theirs (and of course I will look after their interest as well)
I don't have an effective (or memorable) personal brand
I can't remember things (without a tool, aide or notes)
If I have to be what I want to be, apart from doing the hard work and being lucky and all that, I need these 4 things.
How do I get to this? I haven't got an iota of a clue. Help me!
I mean, what can I do?
And no, I can't focus and do just one.
Thank you for standing by me.
1030, Starbucks, Infinity Mall, Mumbai