26 Nov 2015

When You Should Apologize... Or You Shouldn't

“Vishal, you didn’t apologize to me.”

“For what?”

“For having spoken rudely to me two days ago.”


“When you got angry and insulted me when I said that you shouldn’t ride bikes because they’re not safe.”

“Well, I love riding. And you persisted despite me explaining how integral a part of my life it is.”

“That doesn’t allow you to be rude.” Her voice grew louder.t

“I wasn’t rude. I just told you that I wouldn’t stop riding and that you should back off.”

“So you won’t apologize?”


“THEN YOU DON’T DESERVE ME!” she cried. 


This occurred in a mall. She violently pushed away her chair and walked away in a huff. I finished my burger, got up and walked quietly, mentally fist-bumping every man who gave me a look of admiration (feminists, please keep your judgement to yourselves).

Unfortunately she did not break up with me. But she refused to speak to me for three (peaceful) days. It’s the small moments of joy and happiness that we should appreciate.

Standing up for what you believe in was always considered a taboo. Mankind has evolved in leaps and bounds in technology or quality of life. But our limbic brain - our lizard brain - stays as apish as it was about 15 million years ago. If someone is offended by what we did or said, the status quo demands that we apologize. Why? Because the person was hurt. It doesn’t matter that the our sentiments were hurt before by him. This logic is messed up. But then, society is messed up anyway.

Apologies exact a toll on the offender, as this article states. When you apologize to someone, you hand the power over to them - the power to extend forgiveness and appear like ‘the bigger person’, or to deny the apology and make you feel like crap.

This does not mean that we should not apologize when we do something wrong (Aamir Khan, are you listening?). But apologies should not be trivial, or rendered often or lightly. Especially not when you meant what you said. Because when you apologize for something you meant, you silently tell the ‘victim’, 

“Your approval of me is more important than my personal feelings.”

And that sucks.

You know this, right? Haven’t you found yourself in a situation where you thought, “I shouldn’t have to apologize.” Yet, may of us do it. Why? Because of social pressure, which induces a feeling of guilt. And trust me, as much as that feeling is real, it is irrelevant.

Here is what you should do to get rid of the feeling of guilt:

  1. Be comfortable in your skin
    The main reason for this feeling of guilt stems from being unsure about ourselves. Fear and anxiety often dominate our thoughts during such periods. But we have to free ourselves from these insecurities, and take back the power of being secure in who we are - with our flaws and strengths. Read this article to know how to overcome self doubt and get comfortable with yourself (h/t to Kamini for sharing it).

  2. Choose your battles

    “Life is too short to spend it on warring. Fight only the most important ones and let go of the rest.” - C. Joybell C.

    Not all battles are worth fighting. in fact, most are not. And guess what. Fighting too many battles leaves your tank empty when you need the energy to stand up for yourself the most. Choose a battle which has serious, long-term implications. Let go if the consequences are little.

    You will encounter trolls and dismissive people. But remember: their picking on you does not reflect on your inadequacies, but on their own. Carry on with your work. But when they make a habit of it, you must throw back one punch. One punch which makes the world stand up and say to them - “Oh! You got ‘owned’!” And then, don't apologize for throwing the it.

  3. Don’t be a d**k

    Shane Watson was batting with a cramp. Shikhar Dhawan was taunting him on the field, acting like he had a limp. Dhoni intervened. He was having none of this. He openly indicated to Dhawan, “Don’t be a d**k.”

    How many times have the Aussies sledged their opponents? Those instances are more than the number of stars in the sky. But does Dhoni use a thorn to draw a thorn? In fact, during his press conferences, Dhoni comes out with responses which put the media and opponents in their places without being apologetic. And it makes us go, “Oh! He ‘owned’ them!”

    Mount personal attacks on someone who pisses you off and you become easy pickings for your instigator. He can show the world that you called him a/n [insert expletive here] and gain sympathy. All this while he was the person who started it.

    Stay calm and go about your work. But when you must, respond to the situation, not the person. This emotional balance will help you keep critics at bay, maintain inner peace and command respect from those around you.

  4. What matters more?

    Does the person matter more, or what he said? If it’s the former, is he having a bad day? Is it a one-off instance or frequent?

    If it is one-off, can you find the reason behind it, or ignore it? And if it is frequent, do you want to stay connected with someone who behaves like a jerk all the time? I don’t need to elaborate, do I? You are smart enough to get the drift.

If you stand up for yourself, there will be consequences. People will call you arrogant, selfish, a jerk, rude, and many other adjectives. They will hate you. But this isn’t hatred. In reality, it’s jealousy - of your guts to speak your mind and stand up for what you believe in. After all, people often hate those whom they want to be like.

Nobody owes you anything, and you owe nothing to anyone. If someone tells you what to do and you don’t want to, follow Robert Downey Jr.’s advice.

Stop apologizing for what you think is right. Live your life with no regrets, like your mom will be proud to read about it if it appears on the right hand side of the front page of a newspaper. For all you know, some day it will.

16 Nov 2015

11 lessons I learned from Jeff Bullas in 3 Days

You have seen his caricature everywhere, and almost certainly have read his blog posts. If not, the online influencers you follow have definitely mentioned his name. You cannot deny that.

Jeff Bullas was in Mumbai for the 2-day BNLF event organized by Indiblogger. His keynote on day 1 was awesome, and his masterclass on day 2 was… well, a masterclass.

Where Vinita (of the BlogwatiG fame) and I REALLY got lucky was on the third day, when we got the online marketing guru exclusively to ourselves. Jeff, Vinita and I spent the day roaming around Mumbai. We discussed many topics - culture, sports, experiences, politics, blogging, psychology and more. That Vinita and I learned a lot from Jeff is an understatement. I’ve put together a list of 11 splendid lessons Jeff gave us in 3 days... lessons which you would happily pay money for. But I'm sharing them with you for free!

Clockwise - Vinita, Jeff and me

Disclaimer: This is a really looooong post. And yet, it covers only about 7 percent of what we learned. However, this 7 percent can turn your life on its head.

The best lesson is the last one. So I hope you stay till the end.

1. Our biggest challenge
“The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones.” - John Maynard Keynes.

If you have to walk away right now because your spouse is calling, or your child is crying, make sure you take this one lesson with you.

The adage of “thinking outside the box” has been beaten to death. Yet, almost everyone finds it impossible (not difficult… impossible) to do, because we are rigidly anchored to old ideas. “It’s always been like this” is our fallback theory.

Takeaway: Before you think outside the box (or even try), unlearn old practices, and learn new ones. Out with the old and in with the new. Because the day you are through with change, you are through.

2. Re-invent yourself

“I have re-invented myself many times over the years”, says Jeff. The last time he he did was in 2008, when he adopted social media and started his journey towards becoming the guru that he is today. And he continues doing so.

The world is changing at the rate of knots. What was indispensable a few years ago is now redundant. We’re perilously close to Digital Darwinism, where technology advances so fast that mankind is unable to keep up. Yet, most of us stay trapped in our comfort zones because… well, “it’s always been like this”. Remember point #1?

People who have flourished are the ones who have re-invented themselves, time and again. You must re-invent yourself too - repeatedly. Unless, of course, you don’t mind becoming as obsolete as the walkman. (By the way, the walkman can still demand a premium today. Can you?)

Takeaway: If you still are counting the laurels of yesterday, you are not doing enough today. What you achieved in the past may have worked, but that is the past. It’s time to do something new. As Gary Vee says, “do what is relevant in 2015, not in 2007.”

Which bring us to the obvious question: “How do I re-invent myself?” Well, read on.

3. What are you good at?

Jeff firmly believes in Pareto’s Law - that 80% of your results stem from 20% of your work. And he follows it to the ’T’. He focuses on the 20 percent activities which yield him maximum returns. The remaining 80 percent he either delegates, outsources or ignores. This not only lets him focus on what he is good at, but also helps him excel in those areas. And you know that in today’s world, ‘good’ and ‘unique’ don’t cut it anymore. You have to be remarkable.

To find what you are good at, Jeff suggests that you read ‘Now Discover Your Strengths’ by Marcus Buckingham. Along with insights on discovering your forte, this book gives you an online test which sheds light on your five key strengths. Based on those strengths, you can take up what you are good at and start a journey towards reinventing yourself.

Takeaway: 80 percent of your results stem from 20 percent of your work. Draw a list of your activities to map out which ones give you maximum returns, and which ones waste your time. Pareto’s Law will make you better at what you love, and drill the much needed focus into your life. And yes, read ‘Now Discover Your Strengths’.

4. Think bigger

“The population of Sydney is about 4 million, and that of Australia is about 25 million, which is less than the population of Mumbai”, said Jeff. He possesses in-depth knowledge of each city and country he visits. But I’m digressing here.

If Jeff intended on catering solely to the Aussie audience, he would have run out of new customers quickly. So his focus is not just Australia. It’s the US, Canada, India and the whole world. A sizable chunk of his readers are from India. Who would’ve thought! Jeff has also delivered keynotes at Kuwait and Beirut too. “Stop thinking local. Think bigger, think global” is his mantra.

Takeaway: The internet is a fantastic platform for you to reach out to every relevant person in the world. So stop catering purely to the audience in your city or country. You have no idea how your work can positively impact someone in a different continent. Think bigger. The world is your oyster.

5. Your purpose in life

Find out what you really want to do in life, and pursue it. Once you do, you will forget phrases like ‘Monday morning blues’ and ‘TGIF’. You will look forward to waking up each morning, and won't have to work another day in your life. You will not only be productive, you will be happy.

Takeaway: “Many people go to their grave without singing their song.” - Jeff Bullas (h/t to Vinita for the reminder). Which song will you sing? Someone else’s, or your own?

6. How we unknowingly waste resources

“I spend a lot of my time working with competition than working against it”, Jeff said to us over tea at the BNLF event. This is popularly known as coopetition. Here is a quote from an ebook by Copyblogger to validate it:
There aren’t many ‘lone wolves’ out there anymore. Partnerships and cross pollination are the name of the game. If you’re building your business on an audience attracted by your authority on a particular topic, you want to spend most of your time working with, not against, the ‘competitors’ for that audience.

Unfortunately, the vast majority spends time competing against each other. This leads to drain in resources like time, effort and funds. And how much do you have to show at the end of these wars?

Takeaway: Collaborate with your competition to offer value to your audience, and reap the rewards faster. You will double your business while investing less than half the resources.

7. Have an audience before you need it

Understandably, full time bloggers want to make money off of blogging. When Jeff was asked how bloggers can get deals to write sponsored posts, there was pin-drop silence in the hall. The whole audience listened with rapt attention - like Batman was speaking to us. Batman… sorry… Jeff, had one thing to say:

"Have an audience before you need it."

Banner ads and Adsense will not help you make money unless you get massive traffic to your blog. Instead, work on building an audience which you will own rather than rent. Build an email subscription base, encourage readers to share your content and return to your site, and strive for simplicity and value addition to offer terrific user experience.

It’s also important to put yourself out there. Brands rarely approach bloggers asking them to write sponsored posts, unless the bloggers are extremely popular. Until you reach that level of popularity, keep approaching brands and pitching your ideas of sponsored posts.

Takeaway: Have an audience before you need it. Grow this audience by offering remarkable value and making them share something personal with you in return. Read GrowthHackers and inbound.org to learn how you can grow your audience.

8. The only way to discover your potential

As a child, Jeff suffered from asthma. Today he runs marathons and is an avid bicyclist. He cycles almost everywhere he goes. He pushed the limits of his body and came out on top. Jeff - 1, asthma - 0.

Likewise, to discover your potential, you must keep pushing yourself to progress to the next level. Read this amazing Zen Pencils comic strip on how Bruce Lee pushed his limits.

Jeff pushes his followers too. Many in his coopetition circle might not agree with his frequency of tweets, but it works for him. “If your audience is not complaining, you are not pushing hard enough”, he says. Amazing!

Takeaway: “If you don’t hear complains, you are not pushing hard enough.” This is applicable to your body, your mind, and your followers. Even remarkable has an expiry date in today’s day and age. Don’t stop progressing.

9. Optimize for conversion

Many businesses start blogging merely for brand awareness. While awareness is important, what matters more is knowing what you want from your audience.

Don’t use campaigns purely to create ‘brand awareness’. Optimize for conversion right from the word go. Conversions don’t have to be sales. They can be newsletter subscriptions, signing up for trial offers or becoming a lead.

Takeaway: If you create guides, DIYs or blog posts for awareness and educating your audience, ask for something in return. Optimizing for conversion makes people return to your property, and helps you build an audience before you need it (see point #7).

10. What to do when your product is expensive

I faced a problem with a specific landing page on which we were selling tickets for an event. The target audience loved the content and gave feedback like “we have never seen anything like this in India.” Yet, nobody bought tickets. I asked Jeff.

“The more your product costs, the more the number of steps to get customers onboard should be”, he said. Jeff has an intricate system of converting users. Using Infusionsoft, he segments his audience. People who show interest in his products by clicking through on the Calls-to-Action are provided with more value-added content before he pitches for a sale. Even in this category, he has sub-categories, and customizes his messages for various groups.

The vast amount of information he shared had my head spinning, and I had to focus hard to avoid ramming into the car in front.

Takeaway: The higher the price of your offering, the more circumspect your audience will be. Increase the number of steps to convert your audience to customers.

11. Done is better than perfect

We’re down to the last, and most critical lesson (thanks for staying till the end). Many of us (including yours truly) have images of how we want things, and refuse to move forward unless something is exactly like that.

During his keynote, Jeff spoke about someone who was not ready to take her blog live because she wanted everything to be perfect. Here is news flash: Perfection can never be achieved! We will always want something more, and then more, and more. The project never goes live and eventually, it’s shelved. When Jeff said this, I felt like he was looking right through the thousand bloggers present and speaking directly to me.

Perfection is a utopian state, something we are always in pursuit of. Even global influencers like Jeff are constantly working on improvement. So start now, and pursue excellence. Success will follow suit. You have a whole lifetime to pursue perfection.

Takeaway: Done is better than Perfect. Stop waiting for the perfect moment and start now. Period. 

It was one of the best days of Vinita’s and my life. We showed Jeff CST, Marine Drive, and Colaba. We visited CafĂ© Mondegar and the Gateway of India. At the end of a lovely day, I shook hands with Jeff and Vinita hugged him. He then looked at me and asked, “Won’t you give me a hug?”

“I thought a hug would make you uncomfortable”, I said.

“Naah, mate. I’m good with a hug”. And we hugged.

Jeff, we’re really glad you came to India and spoke to us all. And dear reader, I’m glad you stayed till the end. If you take something away from this post, you can thank Jeff and me. And if you are upset about not being invited to the day out, it’s Vinita’s fault. She told me not to invite you.

10 Nov 2015

Nothing Can Match Drives and Memories

“I’m bored”, I said. “Why must all Mondays be like this?”

“You’re especially feeling like this because of your vacation”, Vikrant said. I had just returned that morning from a 5-day trip to Goa. I was missing the beaches, the food, the lovely weather and… well, everything that we do in Goa. Add to that the Monday morning blues and the feeling of staring at a computer screen, attending meetings, and wading through office politics for six whole days and the moodiness was compounded.

Vikrant sensed it, and offered to drive down to Datta Snacks in Panvel where we could drink kokum sherbat. We had time to reach office, but not so much that we could drive from Kopar Khairane to Panvel and back.

“Dude, you’ve already been away from office for 5 days, right?”, he asked.


“So how will one more day hurt? Plus, this will prepare me for the week ahead too.” Fair point.

So he stepped on the gas of his recently-restored Suzuki Gypsy. The feeling of speeding past office on a Monday morning brought a smile my face. Vikrant assured me that we would return in a little more than an hour. This was also an opportunity for him to really test the Gypsy’s abilities - he hadn’t opened the throttle in a while.

The road to Panvel passes from under the Mumbai-Pune Expressway. As we approached Kalamboli, I thought aloud that the Expressway would have been a great place to test the Gypsy. And as we approached the diversion, I waited for him to turn. Instead, he went straight and got onto the Expressway.

“Vikrant, what are you doing? We will miss work!”

Tune apna mooh kyun khola? Ab chup chaap chal (Why did you open your mouth. Now come along without resistance).”

Datta Snacks? Be damned.

Even worse, office? Back to fair point.

So we drove along. Vikrant rarely shows emotions - stoics would be proud. But today, I could see his teeth. The engine had done its 1,000 kilometres run-in so he opened the throttle. The Gypsy motored along at 110 km/h on the Expressway, but the fumes which get into the cabin were giving me a heady feeling. Anyway, the breeze compensated and I survived till we turned for Lonavla. We stopped at a hotel to have breakfast and fresh lime soda. And I started feeling better. Maybe it was the soda, maybe it was the feeling of sitting in an empty restaurant on a Monday morning while people were rushing to work… but Vikrant knew that the best way to rejuvenate me was to put me at the wheel. Again, if you know me, you also know that I am not formal with friends. And I love the ghats of Lonavla. So the “oh, are you sure? She’s your baby” dialogue never took place. I sat on the driver’s seat and prepared for a lovely drive up to Aamby Valley. I was keen on testing how the front sway bar and the CEAT Plus One R16 tyres would aid the SUV’s performance on the twisties.

For a vehicle which had been introduced around similar times to the Yamaha RD350, the vehicle’s stance was impressive. I had to put in some effort in turns because she didn't have power steering (Vikrant is a boisterous Jharkhandi who didn’t want power steering). But every turn I took, the 16” CEATs ensured that the Gypsy stuck to the line that I took. The heady feeling was quickly replaced by one of relaxation. Here’s a little secret: just before Aamby Valley is a diversion which is off-road terrain and leads to a village. When I offered to take the Gypsy there, Vikrant’s eyes lit up and he snatched the steering back (not literally, of course). And the SUV went through the ‘course’ with remarkable aplomb. On rocky terrains where one would gingerly have to drive a sedan at the speeds of 10-20, the Gypsy seemed comfortable at 60 kmph. This time, I heard Vikrant laugh.

By the time we were back home, it was 4 already.

There was hell to pay for the next day. Not only because both of us called in sick just an hour before office started, but because our other friends shared a piece of their mind about our adventure without them. Especially because Vikrant didn’t hand over the keys of the Gypsy to anyone until the previous day. To compensate, he let everyone drive the SUV around the campus during the lunch break (our office had a 140-acre campus). And as they say, all’s well that ends well.

4 Nov 2015

What Happens When You Sell Out to the Wrong People

Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez were slugging it out at the Malaysian MotoGP. The way they were going at each other, something had to give. And it did!

Rossi pushed Marquez off his bike.

I was furious! “FUCK YOU ROSSI!” I screamed, running towards the TV. “WHO THE FUCK DO YOU THINK YOU ARE!”

My mother came running from the kitchen. “What happened, Vishal?”

"GO BACK TO YOUR WORK, WOMAN!” I shouted, and continued hurling abuses at Rossi.

Okay, that didn’t happen. Here is the real version.

Rossi pushed Marquez off his bike. I sat up in my chair and said “Ooh!”

Mom handed me a plate, saying “ ‘Ooh’ ke bacche, yeh le khaana kha (Stop shouting and eat your food).” And I ate, quietly wondering whether Rossi would be penalized for that horrifying act or would get away scot-free yet again. You see, Rossi is to Dorna Sports (which governs MotoGP) what Robert Vadra is to the Indian National Congress.

Be honest. The first version sounded great, didn’t it? Like I really put myself out there, like it was heartfelt, like passion was running through my veins. You enjoyed reading it. But it wasn’t true. It was grossly exaggerated.

I had a conversation yesterday with a friend about James Altucher. Many of his articles have lines like:

“I’m sorry I lied to you that day I posted on……………..”

“…………and [I] didn’t answer until eventually she left, screaming my name.”

“Fuck you dad. RIP!”

She believes he writes from the heart (no offense dear friend, I know you’re reading this). And I said that he is the Chetan Bhagat of the United States. She scoffed.

Right on cue, James held an Ask Me Anything (AMA) on GrowthHackers last night. For the uninitiated, Growth Hackers is a fabulous portal where people share articles on content, growing a business and online marketing and more. And this was the description.

What did he think he would achieve by mentioning that he went into a ‘depression’ on GrowthHackers, a site dedicated to content marketing? Wait. Maybe this is content marketing. What if James knows that the most effective way for him to market his content (read 'books') is to berate himself? That enables millions to connect with his content, and buy his books.

Kanan Gill summed up the human attraction to grief and misery perfectly (I’m paraphrasing here)

“Suppose we maintain a diary. If we look at a day in 2014, we read about having stepped into a pile of dog shit. That’s all we focused on, that day. The good that occurred found no mention and was taken for granted.”

We like ruing over pain. And we gravitate towards people who share theirs with us. It makes them appear genuine, vulnerable. But is that what we need?

On one side, we have James Altucher who writes about how ‘fucked’ his life has been, in every post. And when I turn my head (or rather turn on the tele), I find yet another news channel slandering a man - something that they have indulged in for almost 15 years.

This man sold tea with his father when he was a child. His mother was a maid at others’ houses so that the family could make ends meet. He joined a political outfit and rose through the ranks to become the Chief Minister of his state. In 2002, a communal riot broke out. The world blamed him for it. The United States denied him a visa. The Supreme Court cleared his name, and he was elected the Prime Minister of India. But to this day, people call him a 'murderer', among millions of other derogatory terms. And he continues toiling to improve the condition of India, to empower the poor and make our country a global superpower. Yes, he is Narendra Modi.

Image Source

Or consider MS Dhoni. The man has captained India to win every competition. But a couple of bad series and we (media and mango men) bay for his blood, prepare the scaffold and wait for the opportunity to take him to it in chains and celebrate with pomp along the way.

Dhoni and Modi are torchbearers of hope for millions across India and the world. And yet we treat them like dirt. If there are people who deserve to cry about how ‘fucked’ their lives are, these two deserve it the most. Yet, their steely determination shows in their eyes as they carry on their work, achieving in a single life what we will not achieve in seven. We, on the other hand, prefer reading stories of people who................. well...............

It’s fine to display emotions. The occasional display shows a side of you that people didn’t know, making you appear more human. But too much self deprecation or broadcasting of misery makes me feel uncomfortable, and it should make you feel the same. Life is about moving forward after all, yes?

James Altucher is fun to read. Please don't misunderstand this post as one saying that you must stop reading his stuff. But for inspiration, look at people who keep moving in spite of the odds rather than selling themselves based on them. It’s time you let people find place inside your heart based on what we want to do. Do you want to whine? Or do you want your life to be worth watching when it flashes by on your deathbed?

For each choice, you have options. Choose wisely.
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