Playgroup Days Ahead

My son will be joining his playgroup in another ten days. We’ve never left Megh by himself before. For all of us here at home, this is certainly going to be an interesting turn of events. The folks at the playgroup have designed the first two weeks to be short play sessions. The first couple of days are thirty minute sessions, followed by sessions of forty-five minutes going all the way up to two hours. For the first few days, I’ll be playing the role of parent on duty waiting in ‘hiding’ while Megh settles in with the others.

If you’ve never watched kids getting settled into a playgroup, it can be a harrowing the first time. I’ve watched two little boys of about two, or two and a half wail away for their mothers. At one point, I almost felt as if they were attempting to outdo each other in the intensity of their cries. The mothers were nearby and hiding behind the classrooms with instructions to not get involved. One of the toddlers spotted me, or I guess he spotted the fact that I had car keys on me. He latched on to me and asked me to take him to his mother. Toddlers don’t need to learn, or to socialize. They simply need the love of their parents, family and near ones. Everything else that you think is happening, is really just a byproduct. Once they settle in to the playgroup, they learn because they have the attention of their teachers.

The one sure way to mess things up is to make a big deal of what are really  little things. I think Megh will fare well and adapt to his new environment. I’ve watched him play with other children and work with teachers before this. His behavioral response in an unfamiliar environment, like many other boys, is always a notch above his usual self.

For my wife and I, I hope we will take time off to celebrate this milestone.

The Unmatched Gender

Not so long ago, my wife let me know as to how upset she was that I was still differentiating between our Mothers. She’d asked me to call them both Mom and I’d always sneak off to find a way to make them more addressable in my head. “Could I call them ‘Mom’ and ‘Mum’?”, I came back. “How would I know who’s who when I want to tag a photo?” I said frustrated. With that I’d escaped to the insensitive man-cave of logic. The surprise is that there is indeed a subtle rationality to what she was asking of me. I’ve pondered over and presented my case here.

We’re brought up in a world that values big goals over little ones, performance over uniqueness, scale over nurture, efficiency over engaged. Essentially we’re creating tradeoffs, but for women tradeoffs are absolutely useless. Imagine believing that you’re giving up on time with your child for time at work, or that you’re giving up your home for someone else’s? How would life work if these were indeed rational choices? In fact, how would things work at all without the simple belief that everything changes and the necessary encouragement this belief gives in making the choice presently? It is not that men discriminate more than is necessary. But it is that women are presented with truly difficult choices and they seem to be getting better at making them work. There is that inescapable argument that we’re missing out on developing this certain quality.

I face difficult choices as I go along and I do need to get better at them. Just the other day someone I respect stated with a razor-like clarity that if one were to build and take a product to market, the founders better be 100% committed. This is how the product startup eco-system works and it’s fair if we think about the expectations of those invested. Anyhow what’s right isn’t the point. Let’s look at it another way. The act of choosing could’ve easily dissuaded Zuckerberg, Gates – should I leave Harvard to build Facebook, Microsoft? and the Google founders – finish PhD. or start a Search company? If these choices appear to be straightforward through their eyes, think of the many Gates’, Zuckerbergs, Brins and Pages who did not build a Google, Microsoft, or Facebook in favor of a Harvard, or a Stanford. Reality is that we won’t know a good thing until and unless we see it through.

Women make such choices work out all the time. They’re figuring out how to be themselves and yet be a part of a workforce dominated by men. They’re figuring out how to be good homemakers and yet play a meaningful role in the world outside their homes. They’re figuring out how to be a good Mother and yet grow their career. They’re figuring out how to be a good Daughter and yet found a new family. They’re applying what is universally acknowledged to be a key Business leadership trait*. They’re doing this at the level of an entire gender that accounts for half of everything on this planet. Indeed, what if they were running things?

Dedicated to the Women who’ve helped breath life into this post. Wish you a Happy Woman’s day.

*Opposable Mind: Winning Through Integrative Thinking.

Freedom?

When you label your self,

… a Blogger, don’t lose the freedom to keep it to yourself;

a Visionary, don’t lose the freedom to spot the obvious;

in Love, don’t lose the freedom to be hurt;

a Leader, work hardest to hang on to the freedom to follow;

a Competitor, don’t lose the freedom to be inspired;

a Pragmatist, don’t lose the freedom to imagine;

Well-spoken, don’t lose the freedom to speak with silence;

a Father, always nurture the freedom to play;

a Founder, never lose the freedom to fail;

… Enlightened?

Feel for you. You will indeed miss the freedom that comes with ignorance and change.

Late Evening Chat with an Entrepreneur

The most amazing thing about experienced entrepreneurs is their ability to think effectually where instead of trying to predict the future, they make an honest attempt to invent it. Even if the future might appear to be uncertain or unpredictable, an effectual approach helps you quickly learn what you need to do now to change things. Earlier this evening, I had a marathon four-hour session with one such entrepreneur who carefully helped me draw connections between my background, aspirations and ground realities.

Over the last few months leading up to this conversation, I’ve researched books including the Startup of You, and articles on the web including my favorite Do What You Love. The writing merely helped by giving me a language to explain what it was that I expected from my future. Having someone to face and trade idea fits was unique in it’s own way. I came away with clearer options, and a bonus refreshed perspective on the same challenges that I earlier felt might be dead-ends.

There is still a whole lot of doing that remains before I can claim that the challenge has been won. This post is really to thank and to underline all that went into making this conversation possible. Common friends, common events, one-on-one discussions, email and phone exchanges that stretch out for well over a year. The threads of our journeys intermingle with so many different people we engage with at work and home. I can’t help but believe that this rich fabric might know some things about you that will surprise you as well.

Finally, both of us did not come into the discussion expecting this. It wouldn’t have been possible to have this conversation and its outcome if he did not firmly believe in the creative practice which teaches respect for intuition and encourages you to recognize that what we expect, and the practice itself are independent and yet interdependent. Without that freedom we make it difficult to welcome new objectives, or new goals that emerge out of any discussion on what is and what can be.

I hope that my own experience will convince you to see all those around you with a refreshed perspective.

Diaper Days Dad

My son Megh is now a little over 15 months old. What most experienced Dads will tell you is that these are the most incredible days of fatherhood. Right around 6 to 9 months, infants begin down the path of self-realization and pick up a sense of identity about who they are, that what they want is not necessarily what you might want and most importantly that they are the center of your universe. They can make you smile, laugh and at times they can make you want to cry out loud too.

I would say that it’s not possible to love you more than I do right now, but I know that it’s not true, becaue I love you more every day. I want to remember every minute of this, every joke you make, every smile. Time is moving too fast and I want to bottle this and have you be two forever. I know that that’s not possible, so allow me to write about you, the things I love, and the things I’ll miss.

A friend of a friend wrote these words on his blog and I can tell you that this rings out true every time I read it. Time flies by too quickly and babies grow up to be kids too soon.

It’s painful to have Megh take his shots. This weekend after he had his chickenpox vaccine, I noticed my hands shaking as I paid the clinic on my way out. I didn’t realize that keeping him still and watching the needle go in would have such a deep impression on me.

A personal favorite are those rare moments when he falls asleep in my shoulders. As he slowly drifts into sleep, his little body steadily eases out, his arms wrapped around me. In that brief moment I know then what being Daddy is, really, really. I renew my promise to always be a source of strength and inspiration for him to go further.

The Secret to Get Up, Go Forward

Resilience and perseverance are qualities that are founded on our ability to keep producing. You will find both in abundance in entrepreneurs who’ve seen themselves through the ups and downs that come with the journey.

By constantly and unconditionally nurturing this spirit, by motivating yourself to get up and do anything that is possible, only then is it possible to continue even in confusion, or when you catch yourself thinking that you let yourself and others down, that you failed to keep to your promises or vision, or that you could have done so much better.

“Always produce” is also a heuristic for finding the work you love. If you subject yourself to that constraint, it will automatically push you away from things you think you’re supposed to work on, toward things you actually like. “Always produce” will discover your life’s work the way water, with the aid of gravity, finds the hole in your roof.

~ Paul Graham, How to do what you love.

Always produce will also ensure that Serendipity works with you.

Always produce will give you the freedom necessary to scale up, or scale down no matter what stage you are at.

The way out could be sensible, or even as inane as writing out a journal entry, or reaching out to a confidante and verbalizing all thoughts. Stay focused on your target and make your move.

The way out is to always produce. No matter what the outcome. We’re geared to intuitively grasp the invisible impact, or meaning of what we do and push forward. Lose yourself in the act of production to create that magical fuel that will keep you engaged in the game.

Related,
Secret Traits of Every Successful Entrepreneur.
How to Make Failure Impossible.
Train and when you cannot, Endure – the story of Duk-koo Kim, NY Times.
How to do what you love – Paul Graham.
Go your own Way – Pinterest Founder, Ben Silbermann’s Lesson for Startups.

Keep Calm and Carry On

I’ve achieved significant personal milestones this week. I am now free of hard debts that I accumulated over time with family. I love you guys for helping me out when I needed you – and I realized I wouldn’t amount to much if I didn’t make that extra effort to pay you back.

My son is now a year old. Between all the nappy changes, hard work on his walking, crawling and the midnight walks around our house as he drifted back to sleep – I have no idea how time has gone by so quickly.

As a Dad busy slicing time between work and home – reminding myself about my aspirations to be a good father first has been difficult and worked out well so far.

I stumbled upon this honest post by Alexis Ohanian, Cofounder of Reddit on his personal story at the time he was building Reddit in YCombinator, Boston. In the middle of incredibly rough weather, Alexis found strength in what he was creating to see things through. This is one post I will want to keep coming back to.