Banker to books, that’s what my journey has been about. Born in Mumbai, where everything is a race to the end and everyone is busy making money, I too joined the race and bagged a few degrees for myself which got me a placement in the banking sector.
Five years of work later, I had gained a lot of valuable experience but found myself looking for something more fulfilling. A philosophy I strongly believe in is: You don’t need a vacation, if you love what you do. If you have to wake up in the morning and push yourself to go to work, you’re probably heading downhill.
So I decided to switch industries and do something which helps my personal development too. I’ve always been an avid reader and found an escape from reality in books. During my sabbatical, I read a lot of books on business, self-help, marketing and psychology which helped me gain more clarity on what I want to do. (A Harvard Business Review research suggests that employees are more productive and efficient after returning from a sabbatical.)
My favourite take-away was from Jeff Bezos’ TED Talk, where he says: “One of the huge mistakes people make is that they try to force an interest on themselves. You don’t choose your passions; your passions choose you.”
Resetting at 30, as co-founder of The Open Library Project came with a lot of challenges. Not only did I have to start all over again but it also meant transitioning from an employee to an employer, which was an entire different ball-game.
It means moving out from your comfort zone to taking risks, from micro-managing to delegating, and from efficiently executing plans to formulating strategies for your business.
During all these transitions, apart from having a really supportive and encouraging partner Satyajit Roy, to whom I am eternally thankful, I also learnt how purpose is what makes business sustainable.
When choosing a purpose, make sure that what you choose is outside of yourself.
Simply because personal passions are exhaustible and choosing a purpose outside of yourself gives a sense of fulfilment. Choose a tremendous purpose, one greater than yourself, and you will find that passion isn’t elusive.
Being around books by thought leaders and eminent personalities was like a Masterclass of my own. Our podcast series led to an opportunity to interact with a few of them.
What makes certain start-ups fail and what drives others to their tipping point? The gap between an interesting concept and a ‘must-have’ is the purpose of your business.
The book How Will You Measure Your Life by Clayton Christensen, talks about how to measure different metrics (success, failure, depression and fulfilment) in your life and striving to stay within the success and fulfilment quadrant. It effortlessly applies the principles of business success to the principles of life, stating that businesses that succeed and outlive the founders are those with a sense of purpose.
A start-up is much like having your own baby. You nurture it and try and incorporate a deep and ethical value system into your business. Relationships with a strong sense of purpose (mother-child, husband-wife) usually do not reflect immediate tangible results but grow to be long term fruitful relationships driven by purpose.
I don’t truly understand the magical formula for a work-life balance, because for most entrepreneurs these two things are not independent, but I do believe that our lives need to be a combination of success and fulfilment.
We quickly realised that for our business to be sustainable we need to find our ‘why’.
The WHY for The Open Library Project, based on Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle, was to make expensive and industry-specific titles easily accessible at a minimal cost and develop a growth mindset among members by curating the books as per industries, allowing an individual to develop desired skill sets, in the times of information overload.
One and half years into my many firsts—first time entrepreneur, first ever concept of a rotational library, first real risk taking—today I feel more confident and fearless.
When did I learn to handle financial pressure? When did I take up a task so spontaneously before? When did I make up my mind that if you want to change something you have to be the change?
It was a choice. A choice to take the risk of optimism.
The book Play to Win by Larry Wilson played a huge role in helping me develop this mindset. It talks about the fear of failure and how many people “play to not lose” rather than PLAY TO WIN. Due to the fear of failure many entrepreneurs never try to dream big as they fear the consequences.
Networking has played a huge role for us at The Open Library Project and I am now able to appreciate the “Power of Asking.” We need to let our ideas and beliefs out there in the universe and the eco-system without the fear of being rejected.
It’s never too late to press the reset button in your life, define your why and then measure your life on more meaningful metrics of purpose and fulfilment.
Books for me have become my mentors, who inspire me to work hard to reach my tipping point, encourage me to stay positive and take the risk of optimism, warn me against my irrational fears, teach me how to convert those fears into excitement, guide me towards my purpose and most importantly never let me stagnate as an individual and an entrepreneur.
Our true self is buried under cultural conditioning, other people’s opinions, and inaccurate conclusions which become our belief of who we are. Reading books has allowed me to meet many authors in spirit and today I am on a mission of unlearning and carving my own path to personal and professional fulfilment.