2014: A Year of Introspection

The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.Abraham Lincoln

2014 was a most interesting year for me, due primarily to the fact that it started off with much introspective questioning about a lot of things in my life! Things such as, where I was in life, what I really wanted, fears about burnout and the fact that I had become a bit too comfortable in my ways. One thing I am sure of and that is…that the last thing I want to do is to lead an ordinary life! That is a trap which is all too easy to fall into once you have acquired a base set of expert skills.

I had identified a few key areas where I wanted to make definitive changes this year. They were primarily, my business, my health, taking time off and expediting and enhancing the learning curve . A year is a surprisingly long time to achieve goals if you plan correctly. Listed below are some highlights from each significant area.

Business

Since launching IDENTIFI at the start of 2011, we have been through a significant number of changes and pivots. We had been experimenting aggressively but our most glaring problem was we did so without being close to our customers. To rectify that problem this year, I started to take on consulting projects. This allowed us to get a lot closer to our target demographic and learn at a much faster rate. It also allowed for significant revenue generation which helped expand our tech team even further this year.

Lastly, we signed on some great partners in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Malaysia which impacted the business significantly. Moving forward, this will be a growth strategy that we will be pushing further in 2015.

I am looking forward to 2015 as we continue to take on more consulting projects while refining our product portfolio and constantly learning from our customers.

Health

As entrepreneurs we can develop extremely unhealthy lifestyle patterns. Lack of exercise, pizza and fast food fueled diets and generally, a reactive attitude towards our health. This was an area in which I needed to bring about a major change. The first change was adopting a cleaner and more healthy diet, one which cut out most complex carbohydrates and sugar. With a focus on lean meats, lots of vegetables, nuts and indulging in a lot more home cooking. My cooking skills have improved considerably this year which is something I am really proud of!


The next addition was getting into the habit of following a consistent gym plan and sticking to it. Other than disruptions due to travel, I do manage to get in a minimum of 3 days a week at the gym. To further add to this goal, I signed up for a ‘duathalon’ which consisted of 7.5km running and 18km cycling. (More on that later) Managing to bring my body fat % from 21.5% to 13.3% this year as a result was a most rewarding personal physical achievement!

The last major change was developing a morning ritual which included rising between 530am – 6am, doing 10 minutes of meditation followed by simple gratitude exercises ! This has been transformational! Not only have I managed to gain increased clarity of thought through this change of routine but it has also helped me add 2-3 hours of productive time to my day.

All of these achievements were the result of small daily changes. These small but regular changes have helped me become increasingly more mindful of each decision and has led to my enjoying compounded benefits as each day goes by.

Duathalon

This was a pretty major event for me in 2014. There are so many parallels between taking part in an endurance event and becoming an entrepreneur. Even a week before the event I felt as if I wasn’t ready and needed more time to train. There were times when I wanted to pull out…knowing that if I did so, nothing would change in the world. It brought home and reminded me of all the people who “want” to start their own business but never really pull the trigger. This brought home the realization in a most emphatic manner that you will never really feel you are ready until, you just go for it.

Once in the race, it is a mistake to keep up with the elite runners. You lose off too much steam too early, which comes back to bite later on. Pacing yourself is very necessary if you want to ensure you cross that finish line. You need to be clear of your goals because if you are not, you will most likely run out of steam well before ending what you started!

At the last 2km of the race, my right knee started to hurt excruciatingly. I had discovered during my training, that I overpronate, which causes excessive strain on my knees. There were many times during that last part of the run that I wanted to give up. What kept me going was the fact that fellow runners who passed me, encouraged and motivated me and even bystanders were pushing me to go that extra distance to finish what had been started! In the same fashion, when running your own business you are bound to experience similar feelings of doubt and a desire to quit. Which is why having a set of close friends and supporting family members is critical to ensuring that you make it.

Nothing however beats crossing that finish line! It’s a short fleeting feeling of exuberance for sure, but it is exhilarating! A myriad of things come rushing in as reminders of all the small and not so small things that have led you up to this moment. Makes me appreciate the quote “It’s the journey, not the destination” a lot more.

Time off

Over the last couple of years I have rarely taken time off, and it has been something that I have really wanted to do this year. Apart from several trips back home with family I took one major trip of 10 days for my birthday in Phuket….being disconnected from the internet was as much part of the holiday as the actual time! We had taken a fantastic villa with every comfort and convenience imaginable and this time-off, really gave me the much needed headspace and clarity to think through some aspects of where I was in life and where I wanted to be.

The most enjoyable part of this time-off was the time spent with family and friends. Over the last couple of years I have developed much closer relationships with both my siblings. I was not always very good at this, and it is unnerving how you can let such critical relationships slip if you do not consciously make an effort to maintain them.

In the end, these close ties are the glue that hold everything together. It’s far too easy to default into the…I am too busy mantra. This year made me a lot more conscious about these critical relationships and the fact that they are in the main, reciprocal, and grow stronger exponentially based on how much effort you put into them.

Learning & Reading

2014 was the year I read the least number of books in a long time! I subscribed to a great service called blinkist this year, however I managed to read just a book a month. This is something I am hoping to double next year. Zero to One by Peter Thiel was definitely one of my favorites reads this year.

The amount of information that hits us everyday has now reached a saturation point. With blogs, twitter feeds, newsletters, publications and books; keeping notes on key pieces of information consumed has become even more important than ever before. I want to do a lot more of this in 2015. Perhaps a a weekly round-up of the most critical and important pieces of information.

I spent a lot of time this year reading up on and about nutrition and the way our body works. It’s an absolutely fascinating topic which has in turn led me to healthier habits and practices such as juicing, proper dieting tips and the importance of aspects like sleep and keeping stress under control! In this day and age of being busy ‘all’ the time, it has led to our bodies often paying a heavy hidden price. This is something we all need to be a lot more mindful of!

My book

One of the personal goals I had set for myself, was to write a book this year. Unfortunately I chose to write it like a novel rather than a standard book. This was far more challenging than I had anticipated. I only got a couple of chapters deep! For anyone who is interested in reading them, you can access them at: Chapter 1

In 2015 I really want to complete this goal. I will now be writing this book in the standard non-fiction format. One day in the future, I hope to write another variation of the book in the novel format which I wanted to and started off doing. Hopefully, once you have written a book, the next one will become easier!

Sometimes we set ourselves goals and objectives that may not be, or seem possible as a first step. I do believe however that setting goals that are ‘big’ in their vision and achievability are important to stretch us and push us further. Pushing and stretching the boundaries of our comfort zones is the only way to ensure growth!

The year ahead

Every new day brings with it the opportunity for reflection of where we are and where we want to be. With the start of every new year, we must take stock of the year behind us and set down the bigger goals we want to work towards.

– ‘ Learning’ is going to be a big part of 2015 for myself. The vision for identifi is “We imagine a world where a large majority of individuals go home everyday fulfilled by their work, feeling that they have contributed to something larger than themselves.”, getting to that state requires a much deeper understanding of the workplace of today and it’s rapid changeability!

– Health and exercise wise I hope to get my body fat % down to the 9-10% range, the focus this year is on building lean muscle mass. I will again take part in the same duathalon this year as also work towards fixing my knee to enable to me take part in a triathalon…in 2016 hopefully!

– I am really excited about the growth of the Pakistan entrepreneurship Eco-system. It is my hope and plan to work with 2-3 startups in 2015 and help them to scale their operations.

– Taking at least 1 trip every quarter, to get off the grid is something I want to start working towards!

– Writing and sharing my thoughts more actively through this blog next year is also something I plan to work towards. The goal being to write at least once a week, even if it is only a roundup of all the interesting things I read or learn that week.

In closing, writing this blog post was important as it helped me to recount and put down some great memories of the past year as also learning myself that all the changes brought through introspection this year have paid off. If you find yourself stuck at a cross road, stop, and focus on finding your ‘why’, it may just be the most important thing you do this year!

Radical Openess

This video by Jason Silva is brilliantly made. He talks about the birth of an idea and how it evolves over time. Anyone involved in creative pursuits knows the transformative power of a single ‘idea’. The ability for it to transform as we iterate to refine it further. To create something of value where there was nothing before. This video does a great job of encapsulating these ideas into a 2 minute video masterpiece.

Inspiring Visions

I just finished watching the latest and perhaps last episode of Kevin Roses’s Foundation series. It is a series of interviews with some of the biggest internet/technology entrepreneurs. If you are starting up or in the process of building your company I would highly recommend queuing all the interviews and watching them.

The last interview was with David Morin of Path. A mobile application which is building a personal network for our closest real world connections. What I find fascinating about entrepreneurs which are going after large goals is their view of the future. The ability to paint a distant future with a great detail of clarity is what makes visions inspiring.

In this video David does a great job of this and even though he isn’t bouncing off the walls talking about how great his product is and is going to be, there is subtle passionate and authentic undertone. This undertone connects with people who share similar visions of the future and values. It makes you want to take another look at the application and see what you have been missing.

In the end it comes down to….inspiring action through authentic visions.