Symbiosis Hill

Sunday morning. The traffic’s eased up, a clear day, the weather is between 17°C – 20°C. Today’s route was longer and a fun 38 minutes. Starting from Shimla Office up the length of Ganeshkhind / University Road, left onto Senapati Bapat Road and then to FC Road through the connecting BMCC Road.

The route has both uphill and downhill stretches. The uphill was steep enough to have to use the lower gears all the way down to the large (1). The gears on the bike continue to be a learning opportunity. When switching down to large (1), I have to anticipate and switch the smaller gears up first or the pedals will spin with effort and low traction.

There were several other groups out today. Persistent Systems were out for their annual marathon, Ananda Foundation had a walkathon and there were a few other riders whose route overlapped mine for some distance.

It was a treat to see riders take on the uphill on mountain bikes and slim road bikes. The incline up Symbiosis College was hard and my legs screamed as I watched the other riders made it look effortless. I managed the climb up and the downhill from there was crazy fast and exhilarating.

The length of FC Road continues to be under construction and I think it’s shaping up well. The pavements are being rebuilt to allow for 2-wheeler parking and ample walking area for pedestrians. That’s our cities version of ‘smart’ pavements.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, bike riding has helped give a different colour to everything that’s around me. When city riding wears off, I’ll look forward to bike rides out in the areas around town.

I want to Ride my Bicycle

I’ve been bicycling to work. I’m getting better at it gradually. Commuting on a bicycle maybe slower than a quick 2-wheeler ride, but has other benefits. It’s helping me avoid driving to work. I also get a short workout twice a day. It’s a different way to experience the ride home, the shops, the route and promises a lot more freedom than walking to work.

Coping with the traffic on a bicycle is getting easier with experience. At the stop lights, the entire width of the road fills up faster than you would expect. Almost always, it’s faster to walk your cycle across the crossroad than it is to wait and get through with the normal traffic.

The downside is the deep potholes I have to watch out for that. I think they can easily bend the wheel rims if hit when riding quick enough. At night, these are harder to see so I’ve memorised the route. Having high visibility clothing is also a great idea.

The bike I’m using is a Schnell Sierra which I think is made in Pune. It’s quick, lightweight and comes with a 24-speed configuration. I’m still getting used to changing up and down. On a bicycle, gear-changing is about anticipating when you’ll need to change up or down. I’ll also need to figure out which gears to avoid riding on to lower the wear and tear on the chain.

The plan for now it going all the way upto 15 March. That’s when I expect it’ll get too hot to keep going.

2019 is here, wish you dear reader a Happy New Year!

Mr. Boland Roberts, Bishop’s School Pune

Mr. Boland Roberts was former principal of The Bishop’s School Camp from January 1973 to June 1999. Mr. Roberts as he was fondly known as passed away on the 12th of April 2018.

He was my principal for 11 years. I thought a note of how I remembered him would be my contribution in celebrating a truly incredible person’s journey.

The most amazing thing about Mr. Roberts was his beaming smile. It makes it hard to imagine the person who owned that smile was also a disciplinarian. If you knew the gentleness of his smile you’d have trouble reconciling those ideas too. When I remember him, he’s leaning over me as a much smaller boy, smiling down and asking me a tough, direct question to engage me. He often moved around the school grounds after morning assembly in his black cape, occasionally speaking to boys he ran into.

Other old boys will recall he personally handed out certificates before school gatherings, providing a firm handshake and verbal encouragement to every boy for every reward. I remember receiving a book at his hands in class VI and every time I went up there to meet him, it was special. He did his best to make it so.

Class X of ’93 had a serious run in with him. They were caught by him in the St. Mary’s annual fair despite having clear instructions that they were not to attend. This was a classic moment of rebellion and they were pulled up by Sir himself. Schools can go much easier now, but back then I believe Mr. Roberts genuinely wanted the boys of Bishop’s to be gentlemen ambassadors of the school.

He was my principal in class X of ’94 and continued to lead the school up to his retirement in 1999. He ran the school with vigor and I’m sure he enjoyed every day of it. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and I believe his immense contribution in making Bishop’s an institution will be remembered.

Summer Cold and Arduino

I have a cold and it’s a miserable feeling to have one in the Summer. I tried to be careful when spending time with my Son this Sunday morning. The Arduino kit we were working on required us to work together in close contact.

We ran into a tiny issue that needed debugging. The Arduino IDE picks the default board and we changed it to the right one to get it working. He had a real blast changing the LED delay times and uploading the code to the board. I’m looking forward to the different experiments we’ll try together. I wonder if he’ll be able to read and change the code too?

Persistence is its own Reward

Are startups owed an exit? It sure felt that way when I wrote this piece. Somewhere down the line, my thinking changed.

All founders are desirous of the big exit. Be it a venture investment, IPO or maybe even being acquired. An investor and startup come together when it’s a win-win, right? The investor believes that the startup is a compelling story, that they would miss out if they didn’t invest. The startup believes taking the investors money and involvement has greater rewards than the trouble.

Then there are dire situations where founders are struggling and they believe they need a cash infusion to stay afloat. I know of many such journies. I too was at that point once. It felt then that an exit was owed. I denied myself the reward of persisting. A lesson learned.

You deserve an exit when a competitor believes they have to buy you out, an investor believes that you’re a must-have investment, a strategic investor thinks you’re going to deliver on a key priority, or it’s just simply too hard for you to go on. I imagine I might have missed some other rational or irrational scenario, but otherwise, there’s no exit.

Then there is future. There is always future. When we’re looking into the future, the exit goal clouds the constructive, path-finding attitude. So set it aside. You can build a future if you believe you have one. Surprise your self and those around you every day. Look to inspire and get that next customer, that next user, the next investor, the market and so on towards the larger more complex ideas. Trust me, as the future unfolds – you’ll see there are limitless possibilities to surprise you. I don’t say this trivially, I did find a future myself and I’m sure you’ll find yours.

Forty

I’ve turned forty! I really hope I’m getting wiser, some of the signs say otherwise hilariously.

The morning began with getting my son to the school bus stop. After we got on the bus, there was lingering anxiety for so many things. For instance, where did he lose his pencil-box? There are so many things that aren’t in our control. A dear friend called to check in with me. It didn’t take long for us to get around to his business, to trade ideas and to share advice.

In this past year if I’ve learned anything it’s that as I get older the debt that I owe to my parents, family, colleagues, and friends only grows. I’m glad to have such awesome people to share my journey.

How Goes the Running?

My average running times this year have improved from ~ 8:20 mins/km to < 7:50 mins/km. Today I posted a personal best of 7:20 mins/km over 3km. It’s great to follow my friends Shantanu and Sudhanshu on Runkeeper who’re posting times well below 6 mins/km. While I’m slow in comparison, I’m happy with the improvement I’ve been able to see and I think with the right plan I might be able to improve further this Summer.

This is me on Runkeeper.

Pune Angels

Angels who can trace a connection back to Pune and willing to invest in Pune-based technology Startups.

I know of *many* such stories.

The idea of Pune Angels has the potential to do tremendous good in our backyard. It came up in two different conversations. It goes to show you really can’t stop a good thing from happening.

I’ll continue to bubble the idea through the many digital back channels in our local eco-system.

A New Home

Sukshma now has a new home. It’s no longer hosted on wordpress.com and is now self-hosted.

I did it because I think being able to say whatever it is you want to say, without ads, without the constraints of some corporation is more valuable than ever.

That leaves me with another question – What do I really have to say?

I’m just happy to try out self-hosting and I hope it’ll work out for me. Fixing https remains. I’ll get around to it soon. And maybe I’ll blog a bit as well.

I’ve had to disable comments in order to fight off spam. It didn’t take long for spam comments to find their way here.

Perseverance, or the Art of Just Not Giving Up

At today’s deAsra Foundations’ Entrepreneur Excellence awards, Sonali and Anand Deshpande shared 5 ingredients that they believe were instrumental in Persistents’ remarkable success. They are dream and dream big; create your team, you must know you can’t do it alone; focus; be ethical and lastly persist. These are certainly great ingredients for me to take back with me from the event, especially that last bit.

I’ve written about perseverance in the past. I believe it’s the most necessary ingredient of the five. There’s always more to write about it as there are several miles to go before I’ve made it.

I do work with people who care about their work deeply. The upside is that when they’re charged up, it’s inspiring to watch them go at it. The downside is that when things aren’t going to plan, frustrations and tempers can tend to get in the way. I also know of colleagues who can be both passionate about their work and calm, composed all the time. I admire that quality, I don’t have it and if you know you don’t perhaps my experiences will help.

The temptation to simply give up due to change always lurks around the corner. It isn’t easy for all you entrepreneurs, innovators and even the smallest of revolutionaries out there. If you’re selling a product- perhaps the market’s changed, or if you’re leading a company- your backers believe you’re CTO material and not CEO (i), or there’s just been something unprecedented. Or imagine for a moment, you’re in the middle of that umpteenth pitch to a customer for a partnership you want, and it goes south in the exact same way that all the others went in the past. As you walk away disappointed, that recognizable thought crosses your mind “I think I’d like to just walk away from all this” (ii).

A similar sequence of events regularly triggers the urge of giving up from inside me. In the first of my many encounters, I’d cave in, respond aggressively by taking none of the responsibility for working on the root cause. Over time I realized that my response was working against me. If I wanted to thrive I’d have to figure out a way to beat that. While I’m now better at staying in the game, the cue still leaves me dispirited and it takes a day to recover momentum. I’ll need to make more progress to beat that response as well.

I’ve read about and applied a simple habit reversal training (iii). I’ve seen how it can help adapt and change responses to everyday situations. But can it work with the more complex and infrequent triggers?

The way it works is to help you in unraveling the instinctive activation of the response you want to change. A good intervention should allow your higher decision-making capability to step in and take control over instinct. Simply put, you then decide if you wish to respond differently.

The first step is to observe and list triggers that lead up to the behavior. Next, you’re required to notice and write a post-it or card for every instance you believe triggered the habitual response even if you went through with your habitual response. An x on the card can help indicate if you successfully sidestepped the cue, or a check mark if you gave in. At the end of the day, you count your cards and start over the next day. Repeated enough times, the act of writing “did not give in” notes on cue ought to replace the expected reward you’d otherwise get by giving in. If you stopped writing the “give in” notes altogether you shouldn’t even have that thought cross your mind (iv).

I’m optimistic that anyone can work on changing themselves and I’d like to give it a shot and share what I’ve learned here.

(i) I just couldn’t help that quip :-).

(ii) I’ve been there and it still takes me a while to bounce back from such an event even if I’m not going to give into it. Realising that you’re not going to give in also sheds light on what you really want from the situation.

(iii) Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg.

(iv) I wouldn’t say they never cross your mind as learned habits don’t really disappear but become dormant.