Zero to One : How I Turned 2017 Around
The year 2016 ended on a sombre note for me. On the one hand, I wasn’t well for several months and on the other, a relationship I had nurtured over the last year and a half was under strain. I had mostly kept this private, only letting a few people know. The first quarter of the year 2017 started with one situation after another, aggravating the situation further. First, there were unexpected turn of the events at the workplace and then, a complete meltdown of the relationship. My health too took a turn for the worse. 2017 seemed like it would be the worst year of my life.
Fast forward to now. It is the start of the final quarter of 2017. 6 months have passed since March 31. I am positive about work, I am healthy, I am eating well and I look forward to making the year 2017 one of my most successful. Last 6 months were not easy but I am glad I came out strong enough to talk about them with pride. The short lesson was that if you are having a rough time, keep digging - there is always light at the end of the tunnel. The more detailed version of how I turned the year around is below:
- Friends: Despite all the tussle in my life, there were some bright spots. My friends and family stood like a rock in their support. From friends who spent countless hours talking about my strengths to others who worked with me on goal setting to others who replied back to the silliest WhatsApp messages to others who met for coffee and dinner at the drop of a hat, being blessed doesn’t even describe this. Not naming the blessings but you know who you are — from Hyderabad to Pitampura to Bengaluru to South Delhi to Germany. All of you — you are special. Thank you. Gratitude doesn’t even describe what I feel from having you in my life.
Lesson -> Cultivate friendships. And, don’t be afraid to show your wounds to your friends. Not everyone cares but the right people do, and will. And, they will help bring the pain down. Significantly.
- Goals: While friends built a healing channel, progress towards my goals provided a solid focus. Getting back to voracious reading is something I am proud of. I am on my 69th book for the year and on target to complete my Goodreads Challenge of 100 books in 2017. I also set a goal for picking a new language (German). In September, I started baby steps and use it while speaking to some friends on WhatsApp. I also wanted to start a group of my peers for information sharing. I did that in September and a group of 20 members already has senior leaders from Oyo Rooms, Hike, Go-Jek, Endurance, Hello Rooter, JP Morgan, Rate Gain, Apple, Amazon, 1 MG, Ola, Dunzo and more. I also wanted to start blogging again. This post is on my blog. Achieving the goals hasn’t been easy. Some weeks I have just not been able to read, several inconclusive experiments using different blogging engines just added to frustration and learning German has been more difficult than waking up on Monday mornings. However, I ensured that I keep moving forward. The reminders on these goals kept staring me every week. Some weeks the motivation just happens. Make the most of it then.
Lesson -> Have big goals. Align them for your growth. Make whatever small step towards it. Some days you will move fast. Some days slow. A month later, three months later, you are always somewhere better. Setting a goal and being at it warrants posts on its own and there are tonnes of fantastic books on it (recommend The Power of Habit Book by Charles Duhigg)
- Travel: Traveling to several countries in April, May and June was crucial to starting the turn around. To be honest, this was not something I had planned. From Sri Lanka to Switzerland to Germany to Netherlands, some countries I had visited before, some I had not. Some countries I had landed rather fortunately, and at some for work or interviews. This subsidized a lot of my travel. This was also during my peak depression. Hence, I wanted to be super active. I didn’t want to visit just the hotel and the airports. I wanted to see different cultures. I wanted to be tired and sleep as soon as I hit the sack. I visited the entire Switzerland and completed a small consulting jig in 6 days, covered Dusseldorf and Cologne in 2-days and Amsterdam in 4-days. Seeing the world is strangely cathartic. It tells you how small you and your troubles are, and how there is so much to see and explore. It also strengthens your survivor instinct and you look forward to travel, and to future.
Lesson -> Always save for travel and get traveling when you can. You don’t need to leave a job or go broke. Like everything in your life, if you give it focus and priority, you will find a way to make it happen. I am determined to travel twice a year now. Explore new places, meet new people, come back refreshed, come back changed.
- Explore: If you exit a job without another in hand, your first instinct is to apply left, right and center and settle for the first reasonably good job that comes your way. That is what I wanted to do too. However, I didn’t. I took time to talk to friends, ex-colleagues and recruiters about different jobs and organizations. With my self-confidence low, I prepared very hard for the interviews — clocking in more than 100 hours of effort for each interview. Except one, I cracked every single one of the interviews. This boosted my confidence and in a strange way I am prepared to be wrong with choices, and start all over again.
Lesson -> Exploring is useful. Not settling is fine. Wasting time is not. You are sometimes not sure what you are seeking. Keep hustling, keep looking, keep giving it your best. You are more confident of your choices once you have tried.
- Learn: I wanted to write Grow but wrote Learn. Learning forever is the mantra of growth. I had read Carol Dweck’s The Growth Mindset a couple of years back and it had stayed with me. Every interview I took, every book I read, every colleague I spoke with, every recruiter I had a call with, every interaction I do, I feed it back to my system. Last year, I had also undertaken several courses and read several books on Machine Learning. It has primed my mind for feedback. Sometimes it can go crazy on the other side with a lot of negative feedback. The trick I discovered almost by chance was to look at positivity, look at positive affirmations. The book — The Secret, and several other books on affirmation, helped me look for a brighter tomorrow. I always tied my affirmations to my success and not to an individual or a company or a goal. I don’t know if the universe conspired but I do know that my mind worked better. This helped me move away from what Eckart Tolle calls Pain Bodies. I had a tendency to nurture melancholy and it was a self fulfilling prophecy. Any small event triggered the Pain Bodies. It is as if your body was satisfied only if you were sad and anxious. It sought anxiety and pain. Luckily, reading more, traveling more, making progress towards the goals also helped with being aware of the pain bodies and not nurturing them.
Lesson -> Learn but keep a super positive intent. Don’t learn wrong things and get wrong ideas about your competence. Learn to improve, learn to correct, learn to grow. Don’t feed your own sadness and sorrow. It can be addictive.
Am I feeling the best I have been? No. Can I fall to bad times in the future again? Probably. Do I have a coping mechanism in place. Hell yeah. Bring it on :)