Finding Inspiration In Others

I remember back in college there was a day when we were doing an exercise in my entrepreneurship class. Our Professor divided us into teams and told us to come up with a business idea and present it to the class. After that the best idea would be chosen by way of voting. The dominating Cruella that I am, I pitched the idea of a disaster management company and got my team on board with it. To be honest, the idea was not properly thought out. After all, we were given a short amount of time to come up with it, no internet or other reference resources, and half my team members couldn’t be bothered to even look interested in the exercise. But I had great conviction in the purpose of the idea. It was going to have a real impact in people’s lives and that’s what I want from my work. Unfortunately, the rest of the class didn’t see it that way. Based on the voting, the winning idea was something to do with a machine that puts on your shoes and matching make-up for you.

But it was that day and that exercise that taught me two crucial things-

  1. I realized that I wanted to impact people’s lives; I discovered a purpose to live
  2. A lot of people are shallow, have tunnel-vision and are not at all altruistic

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When I think about what I want from my career, I realize that at some point my career goal and my life goal will become one. I want to be in disaster and rehabilitation management. That means, when there is an earthquake or a war or any disastrous event of a large scale, I want to have systems in place to act quickly for rescue and subsequent recovery. Right now there’s a huge gap between a disastrous event and renewed normalcy in everyday life, and lots of people are falling through that gap. I want to plug that. I’m not saying that I will cushion the fall and prevent the event from having the slightest bit of impact on lives; that’s just not possible. What I want to do is to reduce the impact of the disaster on these lives. I know that this will require a humongous amount of money and I can’t even think of where to start. I thought that the best way to do this would be to build a business in some other area where I can earn profits, accumulate part of the profit for the future, and a couple of decades later I will have enough to pump into the disaster management wing. I don’t know if that’s the best way. But I do know that I will not make the disaster and rehabilitation management a profit maximisation business. I don’t ever want to think about what my investors will say, or what the market will say, or which corner to cut to save money, or anything on those lines. At the same time, I don’t want to worry about having enough money for this. But like I said, I don’t know where to begin so if you have an idea of where to start, let’s catch up!

I have worked in three different companies so far and all of them have vastly different environments. I don’t know about you, but my environment has a huge impact on my thinking. Some of you will read this and say I don’t have an internal locus of control and that will prevent me from being a successful entrepreneur. Maybe; only time will tell. But right now I’m glad that I can draw inspiration from people and things around me. I feel refreshed, smarter & inspired when I talk to people who are opinionated about global social phenomena. Not just opinionated, but also passionate about doing something for it. Of course, too much of brooding over it or talking solely about it is also annoying. I like to hear people talk about issues like the Nepal Earthquake, or Boko Haram atrocities, or the ISIS war, as though they were directly impacted by it. It’s during these moments that I feel humbled about my life and realize just how small an entity I am. My everyday actions are nothing if it doesn’t impact other people. I want to have a big positive impact on the world. I want to have the power to improve people’s lives and be able to use that power.

When I was working at Facebook, I was surrounded by people who were crazy passionate about the vision and purpose of Facebook. They truly believed/believe that Facebook is changing the world and it’s a thing every single person should have no matter how remote their location is. I was always jealous of their passion. I never understood why that vision was worth being passionate about. I mean, yes Facebook is changing the way the world communicates and consequently changing the way the urban/developed society does things (Egypt’s fight for democracy being the best example). But is it a necessity for every last person on Earth? No. Is it at the first level of Maslow’s Need Hierarchy Pyramid? Hell no. I never understood why some of my colleagues talked about the lack of Facebook in rural India in the way that they should’ve talked about the lack of electricity in that same area. But I was always amazed by that passion. Sometimes I would look at them and feel sorry for myself for not feeling that sort of passion and hence not being able to understand why they would sacrifice personal life for work.

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For the longest time I’ve said that I want to start my own chain of hotels but I could never explain why. I haven’t yet found the kind of passion I need to start the process of setting it up, which has led me to feel a bit lost in my career right now. Recently I read the AMA held by Rahul Yadav, the infamous CEO of Housing.com. The one thing that stuck with me was his response to whether he would like to do an Ola like thing. He said no he wouldn’t because the problem that Ola thinks it’s solving has already been solved by Uber and very well too. Reading that statement made a lot of things clear to me. I will not start a hotel just because I think I want to or because I think I will do well in it. I will not add another name to an existing long list of hotels which caters to people with money. I will not be just another choice for a person already spoilt for choice. Does that mean there’s no new opportunity in this industry? Well, opportunities always arise when the world shifts. And the world is shifting pretty drastically. There will be opportunities I’m sure; I just need to keep my eyes open.

Another thing I’m passionate about is creating jobs. Call it a Narendra Modi’s “Make in India” campaign inspired passion if you will but I’m absolutely in favor of this campaign’s objectives. Manufacture in India or build businesses in India and create jobs. Which is why I want to start a physical business that needs people for it instead of an online business that can function with 2-3 people with computers. By no means am I undermining the value of online businesses. I’m merely stating my interest areas.

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It’s ironic that I started to write this post because I’ve been having an uninspiring couple of weeks. The only instances which have made me feel a rush of emotions are when I read about political developments across the globe. Maybe it’s the crazy heat in Hyderabad.

As I close, I want to give an open invitation to those who are passionate about disaster & rehabilitation management (or have the money to give for this :P) to connect with me if you have something similar in mind.

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