Monday, September 12, 2016

A Pivot All Too Necessary

I resume the rest of my life today. 

That sounds good. All it is, though, is a return to work, after a forced break of two weeks, as I had to go away to India to attend to my father. But, as forced breaks do, this was a break in all senses - a reordering of priorities and focusing of minds - and there is nothing better to restart on an unusually warm, sunny, mid-September morning in London.

Timing is right otherwise too. It has been two years I had to step back from entrepreneurial life, primarily as money was running out. It was like going back on time, taking on a limited role, doing what I would have done several years ago in my career, and settle into the usual balancing acts characteristic of 'corporate' life. In my mind, it was always temporal, a compromise, a tactical retreat - two steps forward, one step back - meant to build up to the point that I am at today.

The trick, though, was to keep remembering this. For all its faults, monthly paychecks can seriously distract. Particularly if they come after a long fallow period, of declining credit ratings and not-too-subtle social humiliation (when some people stop coming to your parties, or your lack of income was cited as proof of your lack of abilities). With all the world approving, it is difficult to remember that the monthly paychecks bring the opposite, but more damning evils, like wrong people flocking to your parties or your own creeping doubts about your abilities! I had to keep reminding myself that this is not about the paychecks, though in a hard sense it certainly was, but about reaffirmation of my ability, of learning and thinking, in order to try again soon.

The other challenge was choosing the moment. Realistically, this should have been financially or opportunistically defined. The question to ask should have been, either, do I have enough money to try again, or, is there an opportunity walking through the door. However, in this blog and other conversations, I kept asking a different question: Do I feel ready? And, this question, the inward turn, was perhaps natural as I started from a state of giving up, a psychological point unconnected, I shall claim, from the declining bank balances or limited opportunities (the latter was never the case). Feeling ready has been all that mattered.

And, I do feel ready. After all these trials, I feel more connected, and more committed, to what I set out to do. And, this quest for readiness has the additional advantage of being deliberate - I am not being pushed to change my life either by a positive or a negative development, but by myself, at a time of my choosing and for something I deeply care about.

Indeed, it is silly to claim that I arrive at readiness just like that - I go to India and the moment arrives - and I was working towards this for a while. I knew I was not ready, but I was good to explore. Over the past several months, I kept myself open, saying yes to almost everything that came my way - exploring every conversation a little, seeing some to its logical conclusion and keeping the worthwhile ones alive for the future. Being ready now makes me do the opposite - choosing the things I would pursue and saying no to the ones I would not want to do.

And what I want to do is completely different from what I have been doing so far. I am staying home and travelling less, focusing more on UK and doing a lot less in India. I have started building a portfolio of projects, primarily expanding on the previous work that I did to establish a competency-based learning platform, but focusing on Open Frameworks rather than closed business models. I am also trying to focus on writing too, side by side with all the other work, and combining the ongoing blogging with more serious efforts, as well as my explorations in History of Ideas. And, finally, I have started working on two 'long-view' projects, one focused on Africa and the other one on Kolkata, which are about developing entrepreneurships, particularly in the new and emerging industries. 

So, in all then, a pivot - and hopefully, the most significant one I have attempted since 2004, when I left everything behind and travelled. The fun is in changing and in chronicling that change, as I intend to do as I go along.

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"Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the grey twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat."

- Theodore Roosevelt

Last Words

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

- T S Eliot

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