Why I'm terrified—Making hard decisions

As I write this I’m on a flight to a destination I have no particular business being in—San Francisco.  I’ve felt like I should be there for quite some time now that I finally decided to give it a shot. 

Some of you may already know, but for those who don’t, I recently left the startup I was working at and moved out of NYC. 

Not for any negative reason, it’s actually the opposite. I served my purpose while there and am on to figuring out what’s next for me with the support of my former team. 

Fortunately, I’ve managed to leave all of my previous work engagements on good terms. I’ve realized leaving on good terms is a skill in of itself. 

Saying no to an opportunity is almost always harder than saying yes. The reason is if you say no, the other person may become ‘better off.’ 

Yeah, it’s counter-intuitive. What we’re afraid of is not the person becoming ‘worse-off’ without us but ‘better-off.’ 

To feel good about ourselves, we tell ourselves that we’re worried about the other person losing out more often than is the case. 

This illusion causes us to commit to things we don’t entirely care about or to stay in situations we don’t want to be in longer than we should. This applies to all forms of relationships, romantic, family, friends, etc…  

Ripping off the bandaid hurts. Saying no, hurts. 

This is why making hard decisions is, well, hard. 

What I’ve learned is that it doesn’t have to hurt as much or be as hard. 

Here’s the secret: 

Through awareness that you’re worried about the person becoming ‘better off,’ you can catch yourself. Instead, you focus on finding a way to make the person you’re saying no to better off. 

It may not always be possible to do this though. However, what matters is that you try anyways. The effort isn’t wasted because you’ll feel better having done it than not. 

Let’s use an example, you’re thinking of leaving your current job. 

Help find a replacement. If you can’t, create an instruction manual for the next person to do the job better. Your employer is now better off without you and you assisted in making them so. 

An example where it doesn’t work, you break up a long term relationship. 

Tell the other person what they were doing wrong. They may hate you for it but it’s better they know the truth than not. They may even appreciate you for it in the long run. You’ll also feel lighter for letting your emotions out.

Now back to the story, why am I going to SF and what am I going to do? 

The simple answer is—I’m figuring it out. 

For those who’re inclined to learn more: I don’t have a job offer and no one’s expecting me there. I am working on a side project that may turn into something more but that’s to be determined. 

I plan to travel for the foreseeable future as I figure out what I want to do. 

I’ll be back in Seattle from Sept. 21st onwards.  


Lighting a Match

A post I’ve deeply enjoyed learning from, maybe you will too.

“I used to be afraid a lot. Many of my childhood memories consist of days spent in a perpetual state of worry over one thing or another. I dreaded going to the dentist and going to get vaccinated. I wouldn’t talk to the girl I liked in my class because I was scared the other kids would find out I liked her and tease me. I’d come home from school alone and stalk around the empty house looking for intruders, scared and yelling in my most intimidating ten-year-old voice. As a teenager, I was scared I’d get laughed at in gym class because I didn’t look as manly as some of the older guys. Wherever there was a possibility of something unpleasant happening, I was there, worrying about it – often many days in advance.

I felt guilty. If there was a chance I might have hurt someone or misrepresented the facts even slightly in something I’d said, it would eat me alive. I wouldn’t cross the street anywhere but a crosswalk, even if all my friends did, because my parents had told me not to and I knew how badly I would feel about going against their wishes.

I never skipped class. Not even once until my junior year of high school. It was like the possibility didn’t even exist in my head. I didn’t smoke or drink in secret. I had to get the right grades, I had to get into the right school, I had to… because if I didn’t, then… then what? I didn’t even dare think about it, but surely something unfathomably horrible would happen and everything would be completely miserable forever.

After graduation, I went into business for myself. It consumed my whole life. I had to make money, because without lots and lots of money, I was sure I’d never have the kind of life I wanted. I wasn’t happy, and as far as I was concerned, I would never be happy until I was rich. I hated the work I forced myself to do, but the fear of what kind of life I would have to face if I didn’t make money spurred me on like a slave driver. I thought of it as “determination” at the time, but it was fear. I wasn’t so much running towards where I wanted to be as I was running away from where I was.

I wasn’t alone…

want to keep reading? click here.


Updates

  • In San Francisco from the 7th to the 21st

  • Going to be in Seattle from the 21st onwards

  • Recently hired an executive coach, have learnt a lot about myself in the process

  • Back to reading and writing a lot






Turning Twenty Two

Growing up, birthdays never really meant much to me. 

Growing up, birthdays never really meant much to me. 

July 28th wasn’t a school day so I never really had the pleasure of being wished ‘happy-birthday’ by peers who would act a little nicer because it was a ‘special day.’ 

This year though, I made it a point to do something memorable. I invited a few of my close friends to a dinner that hopefully we won’t forget anytime soon.

Recently, I’ve started to work on being more intentional. 

There are often moments where I find myself doing something to be socially validated. It started when I was pretty young, I felt ashamed of my name and have continued to until recently.

I remember telling teachers in middle-school it was the letter A followed by B AB and somehow they still managed to mess it up and called me Abe like Abe Lincoln. 

It’s not that it bothers me when people don’t pronounce my name properly, I’ve learned that I was more frustrated at myself for not saying anything. 

Being intentional starts with speaking up when it matters. 

I’ve been a bit quiet the past few months because adjusting to city life hasn’t been easy. 

I’ve learned the conflict isn’t due to other people or my surroundings but rather it’s within. 

I’ve exposed myself to new environments, people, and lifestyles that make me uncomfortable. 

Unlike many people who’ve attended college, I rarely went to parties, can’t dance and never drank or smoked. I also don’t consume most popular culture: music, tv, politics etc… This was primarily due to the fact I wasn’t exposed to it growing up. 

I’ve recently come to accept that it’s okay. 

I always felt a bit self-conscious when I was around others who did those things. Questions like, “do they think I’m weird?” would run through my head. What I had never thought is there’s something incredible about being different and having a unique story to tell. 

Underlying these insecurities there was this thing called confirmation bias, the tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one's existing beliefs or theories. 

Here’s how it works: cultural norms popularized certain symbols and as children grow up they unconsciously start to adopt them from their environment.

On the flip side, what most people don’t see are the people who aren’t ‘on the dance floor.’ Let me explain, have you ever realized that at many venues the dance floors are actually pretty small? 

Often, a small subset of the attendees at a social event actually end up on the dance floor. Everyone else huddles around and watches them. Since the dancers are the center of attention, you get this Fear Of Missing Out. 

In reality, there are many others just like you in your immediate surrounding but it’s not obvious to you that they may feel the same way.

I find this metaphor may be applicable to many other scenarios in life like education, careers, and relationships. 

With amplification of often ‘fictitious experiences’ represented in overly posed images and short videos by social media, it’s too easy to focus on the people who appear “perfect.”

Without being cynical, I often challenge myself to think what’s behind the curtain? Is that person truly happy in that job? Do they actually love their partner? Is a degree in psychology really worth it for her to become a screen writer? 

Before, I wouldn’t feel too comfortable asking those questions. Now, I don’t. I just ask. 

After moving to the city, I’ve started to experiment with consuming new forms of content and engaging in different environments. 

One of the questions that I still have a hard time answering is, “do I really want to be here?”

Many times the answer has been no and I’ve had to muster up the courage to leave. Sometimes, I couldn’t and that’s okay too because I forgave myself. 

Although, I’ve never really given birthdays much love. I’ve changed my mind, there’s little benefit in fighting with myself. 

The present moment is way more fun when I choose to be intentional about how I spend my time with the people around me. 

I hope this post keeps me publicly accountable. 


Lighting a match…

Some links I’ve deeply enjoyed learning from, maybe you will too.

“Secure attachment in childhood serves as a visceral map for a healthy relationship in the future.”

“The question in distressed relationships is always the same all over the world at every age: ‘Where are you? Do you care about me? Do I matter to you? Will you respond to me? Will you be there when I’m vulnerable? Am I safe with you?'”

“When the answer is ‘I’m here,’ you can deal with almost anything” You don’t have to solve all your partner’s problems – just be emotionally present with them.

“People think that conflict is the issue in distressed relationships. Conflict is the virus, the inflammation is emotional disconnection.”

"When you can be vulnerable for a moment and that person turns in and cares about your vulnerability, THAT’S the person to go with.”

“Emotional responsiveness is the basis of a secure bond” — It’s the willingness that someone has to tune into you emotionally and to allow themselves to feel what you’re feeling.

“People think that conflict is the issue in distressed relationships. Conflict is the virus, the inflammation is emotional disconnection.” — A happy relationship isn’t the same as avoiding conflict.

“We don’t educate people about relationships. We teach them trigonometry in school but heaven forbid we teach them about the most important thing of all.. relationships.”

— Dr. Sue Johnson


Updates

  • I’m moving again soon, let’s meet for coffee if you’re in NYC

  • I recently met Adam Robinson, it was a chance encounter that I won’t forget anytime soon. Ask me about it when we meet if you’re interested!

Becoming a New Yorker

Moving to the city where dreams are made of

It’s when you stop doing what’s expected of you that you start being.

Two weeks ago I moved to the upper west side in Manhattan. Before moving to the city, I had only been here for work and an occasional event. Never truly experienced what it has to offer.

Having lived in New Jersey all my life, I often found myself looking for hustle. Others who’re putting in the effort to make something of themselves no matter what it takes.

What I hadn’t realized is that most of them are too busy working towards their dreams in cities. From the person selling umbrellas on rainy days in front of NY penn. station to the suit wearing wall street stock trader. They’re all here rubbing shoulders on the subways.

There have been three major changes in my lifestyle since the move:

First, my average walking speed has significantly increased.

The increase in walking speed is partly due to crowds walking fast and partly due to having somewhere to be. Similar to how a river works its way to an ocean we, as people, work our way to the things we care about. Speed is an after thought of wanting to get somewhere not a conscious decision.

Second, I’ve started reading significantly more.

Subways are libraries on wheels with a BYOB (bring your own book) policy. It’s typically too loud to listen to a podcast or music underground. Aside from people watching the only thing to do is read. Every one else around you is also reading so you’re peer pressured as well.

Third, I’m developing better taste.

With a dense population comes richness in art, culture, fashion, music, and food. I’m currently living on the upper west side. Working most of the week in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and occasionally out of our office on Canal Street. I typically meet with friends in the East/West village for dinner or in SOHO after work. Each locale has a culture and life of its own.


A much longer blog post is to come with the debut of my new personal site abhi.nyc

Since moving, I haven’t had much time to read articles as I’m still trying to find a sense of routine with the transition.

What I’ve been reading:

What I’m watching:

How to Make it in America

“A group of 20 somethings living in New York City. Ben and Cameron work on starting a fashion company, while enjoying their lives in the greatest city in the world.” IMDb


What I’m struggling with…

As accepting as I am of change, it’s still difficult.

Starting a new job, living in a new place, and surrounding myself with new people isn’t easy by any stretch of the imagination but I recognize that comfort comes with time.

Fortunately, friends and co-workers have made the move enjoyable.

If you’re ever in the city let me know, coffee’s on me!

I finally "dropped" out, now what?

Though, I did walk at graduation. There's proof too.

Activation Energy

A newsletter to provoke thought, to inspire, and to catalyze action.


Getting Started…

All students dream of the moment that they’ll get a degree and walk the stage in front of their friends and family to commemorate 16 years of being told what to do & supposed learning.

Despite having two classes left, I was allowed to walk at graduation to experience that very moment. It's possible my mind will change in the future, but it wasn't a 'congratulations worthy' moment for me. It felt as if the University was offering a final receipt (degree) to students on their way into the "real world."

So why not finish the two remaining classes?

To make a long story short, the week before graduation, I re-connected with an old friend after tweeting at him. A casual exchange quickly turned into a formal interview process as the 2nd hire at his startup. At the time, the opportunity felt right to me, so I decided to commit. It's true when they say opportunity strikes us when we're least expecting it. Fortunately, the startup is in NYC, so if you're curious about what I'm up to send me a message so we can find a time to meet up or chat!

I've had to make a lot of 'big' decisions in the past two weeks, and it hasn't been easy:

  • What I'm going to spend 75% of my time doing for the foreseeable future

  • Who I'm going to spend that time with

  • Where I'm going to live for the other 25% of my time

What made making these decisions hard is drowning out the noise of social pressures and shiny objects. Once I was honest about what matters the most to me right now, the decisions became clear.

It all came down to one word:

Growth.

I find that I grow the most when I do things that make me uncomfortable.

"Hard choices, easy life. Easy choices, hard life." - Jersey Gregorek

Accepting this offer made me uncomfortable because it felt irrational not to work at an investment bank, consulting company, or major tech company out of business school. I had to consciously say no to all the perks and benefits that those opportunities had to offer and instead optimize for growth in hopes that the tradeoff is worth it in the long run.

My new role is in operations, something that I don't have much expertise doing. Running an early stage technology startup can be broken into two core components: operations and shipping product. Operations encompass building and maintaining customer relationships, recruiting, marketing, legal, financial, and investor relations. In my current role, I get to spend 80% of my time focused on the customer (of that 40% is identifying pain points to create products that deliver value) and the remaining 20% on the rest of the functions.

I'll be living in NYC with enough money to afford some creature comforts for the first time. I've realized that I don't need a six-figure salary out of college to be happy. However, I do need some food, a quiet place to call home (near work), and a gym membership. If you're interning or visiting, let's hang. I'll be staying on the Upper West Side. (103rd St. close to central park.)

Lastly, I'm the youngest person in my office at Prehype. A venture studio that co-creates startups with some of the world's finest corporations and entrepreneurs. Managed by Q & Ro, are some of the major companies that have come out of Prehype in NYC. I've found the kind of people who think alike but still can challenge me to think deeper and improve.

With that said, not everything is perfect.

I still wonder if I've made the right decisions. In doing something new, there's simultaneously a sense of fear that you'll fail and excitement that you'll succeed. I wouldn't have it any other way because, at this point in my life, I have very little to lose.


Providing a Catalyst

Every week I’ll share key insights from a conversation I had learned a lot from in a series called, Providing a Catalyst.

While speaking to a friend about the decision to work at a startup vs. a reputable company here’s what he said:

There are only two ways to get career clout:

1) Personal achievements

2) Attaching yourself to a reputable name

I'll give three examples from people I know:

1) Personal Achievements.

Person A is an absolute force of nature. He writes articles and an email list read by thousands. He teaches an online course in discipline x. He hosts a podcast with top industry leaders.


2) Attaching to a reputable name.

Person Y attended Harvard. He studied for 4 years like any other college student. There's a chance he may be the laziest, dumbest person to ever attend. But his resume says "Harvard" which gives him more clout than the smartest, hardest working person at North Dakota State.

After college, he worked for a FAANG (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, Google) company. Again, he may done nothing important there. But now he can work for any company he wants.

Smart kids always want to achieve, in part because they see that reputation is like a mask faking your capability.

But honestly, it's the most time and energy efficient way to jumpstart your career.


Person Z is another great example. She's from my hometown, some no name city in middle America. She got a grant to work on a BS college project that's basically some CAD drawings in a powerpoint.

But at parties, when ppl ask where she works she says:

"Oh, I work at Up-and-Coming SF startup founded by reputable person AB"

"What's that"

"It's reputable person’s company. He's basically my boss."

0 effort. 0 achievement. All of the clout.

Working at a startup is an adventure. It's thrilling.

The adrenaline and uncertainty is addicting.

But the opportunity cost is:

1) Giving up the time and energy to work on your personal projects.

2) Giving up the chance to work at a reputable company in exchange for a company that MIGHT become reputable.


Lighting a Match

I hope something here inspires you to do something or learn something new.

Linking the same links as last time as they’re still very relevant.

Guide To Choosing Your First Job In Tech - Naval Ravikant

If you're just coming out of school, Naval guides, prioritize your career trajectory above all else and choose an environment where you can both build a strong network and rise through the ranks quickly. Evaluating whether a job offers both requires a framework, and Naval's is extremely simple—and effective.

-

If you had to sum up Naval's philosophy in one quote (or perhaps, more appropriately, one Tweet), his advice for finding your first job in tech would come down to a single concept:

“All returns in life, including in relationships, are from compound interest.”

You want to rise, early in your career, to a senior position because that position will accrue more compound interest over the 30+ years of your life than if you take your time getting there.

“Some of the most successful people that I've seen in Silicon Valley had breakouts very early in their careers,” Naval says. 

— — — — — — — — — —

What You’ll Wish You’d Known - Paul Graham

In practice, "stay upwind" reduces to "work on hard problems." And you can start today. I wish I'd grasped that in high school.

Most people like to be good at what they do. In the so-called real world this need is a powerful force. But high school students rarely benefit from it, because they're given a fake thing to do. When I was in high school, I let myself believe that my job was to be a high school student. And so I let my need to be good at what I did be satisfied by merely doing well in school.

If you'd asked me in high school what the difference was between high school kids and adults, I'd have said it was that adults had to earn a living. Wrong. It's that adults take responsibility for themselves. Making a living is only a small part of it. Far more important is to take intellectual responsibility for oneself.

If I had to go through high school again, I'd treat it like a day job. I don't mean that I'd slack in school. Working at something as a day job doesn't mean doing it badly. It means not being defined by it. I mean I wouldn't think of myself as a high school student, just as a musician with a day job as a waiter doesn't think of himself as a waiter. [3] And when I wasn't working at my day job I'd start trying to do real work.

When I ask people what they regret most about high school, they nearly all say the same thing: that they wasted so much time. If you're wondering what you're doing now that you'll regret most later, that's probably it. [4]

— — — — — — — — — —

Other interesting links…


Thank you for reading this edition of Activation Energy.

Don’t hesitate to hit reply, share this with a friend, or hit like… ❤️

I screwed up, big time

So, what's next?

Activation Energy

A newsletter to provoke thought, to inspire, and to catalyze action.


Getting Started…

I know it’s been a while since I’ve sent out the last edition of this newsletter. To be honest, the last few months haven’t been the best for me. I completely stopped doing the things that I enjoy. Writing this newsletter is a part of me getting back to it.

Why else am I continuing to write it?

  • This newsletter allows me to reflect on the thoughts sparked by things I’ve read.

  • It’s a great way for the people close to me to stay updated on my state of mind.

  • Standalone, each newsletter serves as a resource for people early in the process.

Recently I’ve been reading a lot on early career decision making by people I admire, see links in the lighting a match section…

While reading Paul Graham’s essay in particular, I realized the source of a lot of my angst over the past few months. I’ll get back to this later.

First, a quick recap for those who aren’t that close to me. At the end of last spring I was in a committed relationship with someone I cared deeply about, I was working close to full-time at a well regarded startup in NYC, and I had an internship offer to work in a supply chain operations role at Amazon for the summer.

At the time, I made the decision to take some time off from “checking boxes.” Leaving all those opportunities on the table, I moved to an unknown city, Seattle, to work on side projects and build a relationship with a friend I respected.

During my hiatus, I spent some time traveling across the west coast, India, and London. Had I stayed back and took a summer course, I was on track to graduate a semester early with a degree in supply chain management. Instead, I decided to take the fall semester off with plans to not return to college.

Fast forward a few months, my trip had caused a significant amount of friction in my relationship. This prompted me to come back in an attempt to fix it. Unfortunately, the damage had already been done.

Parental pressure made me re-enroll in college to finish my degree. Rightfully so, they wish the best for me and believe a college degree increases my options. However, they don’t understand why I’m not interested in finishing my degree.

While I do the bare minimum to finish school, I’ve had a lot of time to reflect.

I recount these experiences as a note to myself and to offer context to you. Writing this is definitely not easy for me, but that’s what tells me it’s important to.

Back to Graham’s essay, he notes, “Instead of working back from a goal, work forward from promising situations. This is what most successful people actually do anyway.” He defines working forward from promising situations as going ‘upwind.’

One of the reasons I don’t find an undergraduate business education valuable is because it’s not going upwind. Instead of learning first principles most business students are taught how to perform operations for jobs in the corporate world.

Graham describes studying math as being upwind, it opens more doors than it closes.

“Suppose you're a college freshman deciding whether to major in math or economics. Well, math will give you more options: you can go into almost any field from math. If you major in math it will be easy to get into grad school in economics, but if you major in economics it will be hard to get into grad school in math.”

I believe most business majors are limiting. The unfortunate part about it is that once you’ve completed enough coursework you’re locked in and can’t switch to something more upstream. Especially if you don’t have the financial resources to do so.

I mention the rest of the reasons for my distaste of school in this tweet storm…

The source of a lot of my angst over the past few months is not being ‘upwind.’

With that said, where does that leave me now?

Above all, grateful for all the opportunities I’ve had. Moving forward, I plan to formally learn how to code at Lambda School after graduation. I’m currently waiting to hear back on my admission.

Aside from that, I’m reading, writing, learning design, meeting new people, and launching experiments. If you have any ideas for projects, let me know!


Providing a Catalyst

Every week I’ll share key insights from a conversation I had learned a lot from in a series called, Providing a Catalyst.

I spent last Friday night with Mike Policastro. He’s one of the best criminal defense attorneys in the state of New Jersey, and a close friend of mine. Before becoming a lawyer at the age of 42, he launched a 8 franchises of Bagel Bazaar.

Our conversation centered around discovery and how to find one’s passion.

A few points stood out:

  • When you’re young, invest in as many experiences as possible.

  • Don’t listen to anyone or me, learn from your own experiences. Take into account what others have to say but in the end it’s your decision.

  • Once you determine the direction you want to go in, work as hard as you can.

  • Find and work with people you enjoy being around.

  • Stay as lean as possible for as long as possible.

  • Avoid debt, as much as you can.


Lighting a Match

I hope something here inspires you to do something or learn something new.

Guide To Choosing Your First Job In Tech - Naval Ravikant

If you're just coming out of school, Naval guides, prioritize your career trajectory above all else and choose an environment where you can both build a strong network and rise through the ranks quickly. Evaluating whether a job offers both requires a framework, and Naval's is extremely simple—and effective.

-

If you had to sum up Naval's philosophy in one quote (or perhaps, more appropriately, one Tweet), his advice for finding your first job in tech would come down to a single concept:

“All returns in life, including in relationships, are from compound interest.”

You want to rise, early in your career, to a senior position because that position will accrue more compound interest over the 30+ years of your life than if you take your time getting there.

“Some of the most successful people that I've seen in Silicon Valley had breakouts very early in their careers,” Naval says. 

— — — — — — — — — —

What You’ll Wish You’d Known - Paul Graham

In practice, "stay upwind" reduces to "work on hard problems." And you can start today. I wish I'd grasped that in high school.

Most people like to be good at what they do. In the so-called real world this need is a powerful force. But high school students rarely benefit from it, because they're given a fake thing to do. When I was in high school, I let myself believe that my job was to be a high school student. And so I let my need to be good at what I did be satisfied by merely doing well in school.

If you'd asked me in high school what the difference was between high school kids and adults, I'd have said it was that adults had to earn a living. Wrong. It's that adults take responsibility for themselves. Making a living is only a small part of it. Far more important is to take intellectual responsibility for oneself.

If I had to go through high school again, I'd treat it like a day job. I don't mean that I'd slack in school. Working at something as a day job doesn't mean doing it badly. It means not being defined by it. I mean I wouldn't think of myself as a high school student, just as a musician with a day job as a waiter doesn't think of himself as a waiter. [3] And when I wasn't working at my day job I'd start trying to do real work.

When I ask people what they regret most about high school, they nearly all say the same thing: that they wasted so much time. If you're wondering what you're doing now that you'll regret most later, that's probably it. [4]

— — — — — — — — — —

Other interesting links…


Thank you for reading this edition of Activation Energy.

Don’t hesitate to hit reply, share this with a friend, or hit like… ❤️

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