What they don’t teach you at IIM

This month, i complete 10 years of working after my MBA. And, well, its been an interesting journey. If its worth it to anyone, i thought id put down what i learned.

1. Your “well-meaning” Colleagues will give you advice. DONT TAKE IT.

When i graduated from IIM in 2002, i had job offers from HLL and Phillips – both were the “dream jobs” that a Marketing graduate hopes for. But it just didnt seem interesting. So, instead, i took a 50% salary cut to Help Yash Raj Films set up their Marketing Department. This was BEFORE the “corporatisation of Bollywood”…. people were still thinking that movies were all about black money, underworld etc. I think i was the first Marketing MBA in the industry.  My classmates and teachers strongly dissuaded me from taking the job. Some thought i was “Starstruck”. I’m glad i didnt listen to them though.

2. You’re not going to become a CEO in 3 months

Everyone equates my time at Yash Raj Films with the boom in Marketing, starting with “Hum tum” which quickly became a case study and established the rules of Marketing in bollywood. Hum tum was followed by dhoom, veer zaara, bunty aur babli, Salaam namaste, Fanaah, Chak de india, Dhoom 2 etc etc…. suddenly i could do no wrong. However, noone remember that it was TWO YEARS between me joing YRF, and the release of Hum Tum.

That was TWO YEARS of toiling, of making mistakes, of being disheartened. Two years of wondering if i’d made a mistake in choosing this career. MBAs have a habit of quitting their first job within a year. If I’d done that, well… i wouldnt have done some of my most well-known work.

3. When you’ve gotten really good at your job, QUIT

Why do we do a job? To earn a salary? or to become all that imagined we could be?

Some 5/6 years into my Job at Yash Raj Films, everything had gone into autopilot (or so i thought). My learning curve had become less steep, and life was, frankly, easy. Now one would be tempted to feel “Well, ive done the hard part, let me sit back and enjoy it”. However, i saw it differently. It was simple – i wasnt learning, i wasnt growing. You only have one life, only one chance to push yourself – is it really worth it to just… take it easy? I quit, after following the advice of a student. Which leads me to the next two points…

4. Your education isn’t over, keep paying attention.

You think you’ve done all the hard work, or maybe youre proud of having done so little but still having conned the system. In either case its over, you’re DONE! No more studies! Right? Wrong. Boss, the party is just starting. If it is not your priority to constantly upgrade your knowledge, to learn then, in a few years, you will become strictly mediocre. Like your cousin brother, who did engineering, and is working an IT job but isnt really “going” anywhere. And dont wait for someone to organise a “training”.. you should be studying now!

My first 2 years at YRF, i went right back to study. DId my own research. Worked with students across the country – i still use results of their research when i teach. Suddenly all that “Research Methodology” really made sense. One of my biggest eureka moments was when i equated the faffy “Product Lifecycle Curve” into a movies release earning, and actually LEARNED something for once!

Also, For me, Teaching was a great way of Learning. I had to stay sharp, i had to be organised, and over the many hours and  years of teaching the same thing over and over, i had to learn how to keep it interesting for me! And that somehow made all my fundas clearer. I threw in a few of my own too!

5. Shut up and LISTEN

We cant help it. when we are in our early 20’s we are full of exuberance and invincibility. We know best. Well, I’m sure you do. But do yourself a favor and really… Listen. Pretend you’re a master samurai who treats his enemy with great respect, and learns everything he needs, so that the master stroke is…exquisite. Just … listen. Then, the times you open your mouth, you wont be just adding to the static, something im sure you agree happens in most meetings!

While i was teaching “The Business of Entertainment” some years ago at MICA… i think it was 2007, i kept harping on and on about how “the internet will change the world”. One student piped up “THen why arent you working there”. And it made me think…  “you know what… she’s got a point” .And, because i was really  listening, some innocuous words from a student were a clarion call for me to change track. I started looking for  job change.

6. If you’re in a Job because “The money’s good” get out. NOW

I dont mean that you shouldnt earn money. It just shouldnt be the “reason” you’re doing what you’re doing. When i joined MySpace, i was earning really well… mucho dinero. But… i slowly realised it wasnt what i thought it would be. I thought Myspace was a guerilla/fast organisation. But it was an MNC, owned by newscorp. It was less “free flowing” than i thought. After a year and a half, i was desperately unhappy. But man, i was earning so MUCH!

…. but then, i actually LOOKED at my life.

I was still smoking the same cigarettes, drinking the same amount, eating the same food, living in roughly the same house. My “lifestyle” wasnt very different. SUre money was accruing in the ol’ bank account, but… was it worthi it? We spend75% of our waking life at our job – how much money is worth “losing” 75% of your LIFE?

I was about to turn 30… and i thought… is this really how its meant to be? I quit. And took the biggest risk of my life.

7. Life is short, but DONT RUSH.

We have very short event horizons. Its hard to think about the fact that life will be longer than a 3-4 yr window. So we’re always hurrying. Hurrying to get a raise, to get a promotion, to take a better job, to close the deal, to prove ourselves. And when we are hasty, we sometimes make hasty or shallow decisions…

Your career is going to be unbelievably long. You’ve got more time than you think. Take it from me. Ive been working for 12 years now, and trust me, ive barely BEGUN! SO dont be in a rush. Dont try to do it fast, try and do it RIGHT. Try and do it WELL. Trust me, as your career progresses it will make you stand out.

When i quit myspace, i had 150 job offers. Instead i thought… before i know what im going to do next, im going to really explore my passions, my daydreams, see which ones im truly serious about, see what i really wanted to do.

I worked in Fair Trade, Architecture and Urban Development, Independent Music, as a teacher across Business Schools, i wrote (and sold) a TV show, helped a movie get crowdfunding. I learned how to survive earning 30k a month – which was 10% of my previous salary. I realised that even then, if the work was exciting, nothing else really mattered.

I took all the time i needed before i aligned myself to my life goal. And because of that, there is a strang “certainty” about my life, which is irrespective of how my “job” is going. Because, well, Life’s good.

8. Understand that this is your LIFE

THis isnt a movie playing out. This isnt an ignored moment fading into another. THis is YOU, dying, slowly. How do you want to be remembered? When they write your obituary, what do you want them to say? What is actually worth while?

For me, I came to a conclusion that a good life is one that helps as many as possible. You may come up with something else. But itd be nice if you thought about it.


I wanted to have 10 neat bullet points, i have 8. On reareading this i feel that maybe its a bit rambly. Maybe its a bit trite. Maybe you’ll read this and laugh at me. WHo knows? ….which, DOES  bring me to another point.

9. Life is Unpredictable – so enjoy yourself right NOW.

We keep thinking that “WHen THIS happens, THEN life will be perfect”. WHen i earn this much, or hen we get married, or when i have a child, or when my children graduate…. But think about it. Right now, this moment. You’re healthy. Your family is happy. THings are pretty much ok. Nothing massively catastrophic happening. People love you. Your stomach’s full. Its pretty damn perfect, no?

You’re going to look back at this time with such nostalgia and wistfulness na…

So, dont wait for something to make you happy. just… BE happy. NOW. Because life is unpredictable – store up your happiness today for a potential rainy day.


The rest, will take care of itself. I think.


About Tarun

Joker, smoker, midnight toker. Teacher, writer, general gadabout
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60 Responses to What they don’t teach you at IIM

  1. Desi Mba says:

    Hi Tarun, Great post!! Would like to publish this on our blog at DesiMBA as a guest post. Just thought should check with you first.

  2. Reading the 3rd point made me remember Sergei Polunin, ‘the youngest dancer ever to be made a principal with the Royal Ballet’ at age 19 ( http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/newsnight/9705123.stm ). He famously quit his job the reason being he had achieved his childhood dreams and wanted to grow further as an artist, as an actor now.

    You’re a great guy, sir. Excellent post.

  3. Fantastic post. Loved it. A bit of thought provoking too.
    Keep it up man. 🙂

  4. venivedivici08 says:

    Your blog makes very good reading on paper but in reality it is very difficult to implement. You took a 50 % pay cut and joined yashraj. You are from IIM. Even with a 50 % pay cut , you are making at least 50 % more than the average MBA/Engineer. You come from a privileged background. Not everyone does. Most of the parents of limited means want their kids to do engineering and medical so that the kid will grow up, make a lot of money, be happy and not live the same life that they did. And it is very difficult for 22 year old students to break their parents’ hearts.

    • Tarun says:

      once again, im not saying “dont earn money”. im saying that if money is your sole driver, you may look back at your life and feel unfulfilled. Ive learnt that if you do what you love, you try and become the “best” at it, and money follows. But, to each his own. This is simply my take, and what I’ve learnt

      • Samay says:

        Totally agree!

      • To start with, a pretty good write-up I must say, though provoking too.
        Also I share your thoughts with the money and content relation.
        2 purely perceptional comments apart from that.
        1. The facts in the write-up (considering its your life in real) looks quite unnatural at some places with given flow.
        2. Also you could never tell what options others do have while they make their choices, its hard to say that all can make choices you could.

      • Tarun says:

        1. It IS my life, and thats how things panned out!
        2. I agree. this is what *i* learned. maybe it doesnt work for everyone.

    • Deepak Verma says:

      I’d like to add here, in agreement with Tarun, that many great men, such as Sachin Tendulkar, Jack Welch, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, also say that you find what you love, early on – that’s the way to success. Pursue it with all your might and love.

    • ashishthakur says:

      @venivedivici08 – i don’t agree with you because of 2 things (1) by choosing something SOMEONE ELSE told you to go study something or work somewhere, you have already given YOUR life away – if that is how you choose to lead your life then you should not be cribbing/complaining – you have ALREADY made your choice (2) your assumption of salaries that IIM graduates make seems completely driven by newspaper reports and overall impressions of national median versus IIM graduate medians – not as accurate as one would like to believe …

  5. Samay says:

    Tarun, a small follower on your huge Twitter fan following. A heart felt article which is true to itself! Absolutely agree with each and every point in your article and in fact follow it to the end as an everyday practice! Salute you Sirji 🙂

  6. Superb Post!! Every piece of word i read and i was already hungry as to what is coming next. Loved it!!

  7. hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm……………… you got me confused again!! :- |

  8. Pradeep Nair says:

    Tarun , good post by you.Cherished reading it.

  9. Ajay Ohri says:

    this was awesome. keep it up and I mean everything 😉

  10. Anonymous says:

    nice post- very true

  11. Yogesh Prakash Mishra says:

    Great blog TT. Hope you doing great brother. Very happy to see all you have done and are doing. At least some one is doing something different.

  12. Anonymous says:

    tarun, nice post .. keep writing …

  13. Amit Tyagi says:

    Well said Tarun! Money is by product of your work. the better work you do, the more money you earn.

  14. You write real well Tarun and I think your article will be an inspiration for a very wide and relevant audience that we cater to. May we re-publish this on ManagementParadise.com ?

  15. mindcravings says:

    Wow! Amazing amazing post, Tarun!

    I am going to join MICA this June and am so thrilled to read your post and to know that you can keep on learning and have an exciting career if you want to. A great post for someone like me who’s getting into marketing and trying to find her groove.. super to know you taught at MICA =)

    All the best, for everything!

  16. Satyavrata says:

    Sometime or the other..every body needs to know what is been written here…I thought of learning under you, but as you said..yes life is short but do not rush..but Tarun, i may leave Mumbai with empty hands..so..??

  17. Anuj Ranka says:

    Very Nice
    All things which you mentioned is nothing new or unknown and still I was reading as if I am reading a suspense story.. I appreciate you for this skill of presenting the information in a way where the reader gets involved in it..Keep Up the Good Work.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Because life is unpredictable – store up your happiness today for a potential rainy day: well said !!!

  19. B.N. Aditya says:

    Hi. I’m going to be joining IIM Lucknow this year !!! Any thing to keep in mind or anything you would like to share from your experiences.

  20. I had met you in 2005 at FICCI-Frames, I’ve been a fan of you ever since… looking forward to connecting with you and learning from you! Awesome post!

  21. SSD says:

    1] Well placed emotions
    2] Passion behind the work
    3] Constant Effort
    4] Purpose in the life.

    that is what I learnt from this post. Thanks!

  22. SuperTramP says:

    Brilliant! Reblogged 🙂

  23. Good post. I’m really surprised by the decisions you took at different points of your life! Well, this must be guts & living the one life we’ve got. 🙂

  24. quietudeinme says:

    Good post Tarun!

    Just that I do not believe in being remembered and written obituary for, for it means expecting too much. Life is worthwhile only because when you help, the happy and smiling faces make you believe wholeheartedly in the idea of life , which is more important. This is how I feel about it 🙂

  25. You have opened my eyes…
    And yes guided me to think in right direction as I was moving in my life as a headless chicken.
    thank you sir 🙂

  26. Aditi says:

    Very nice blog. Completely agree….esp. with last few pointers related to when.. i believe lot of ppl of our age group need this kind of gyaan time n again to live life happily.. and Sir, I do remember attending your session in my first year of IIML in 2007. You really leave your footprints behind, wherever you go.

  27. Imran Syed says:

    Nice post…thanks for taking the time to put it together!

  28. Over-hyped. You took a gamble, it worked. That’s it!

    • Tarun says:

      I didn’t hype it! I took many risks in my life, but that was not the point. The point was what I LEARNED from taking those risks, both good and bad. Thanks for reading it!

  29. Some cool points in there. On the lines of ‘Screw It, Just do it!’ by Richard Branson. Are you still at YashRaj???? check this out — http://rahulme.wordpress.com/2011/05/30/mumbai-dreams-part-i/

  30. arzvi says:

    nice post. keep em coming..

  31. Antara Kundu says:

    Found it pretty thought provoking Tarun. While I’ve always thought on the same lines as the points 2, 3, 4 and 6… I kind of needed a reaffirmation about the point 8 at this stage of life… and I REALLY needed someone to YELL OUT point 7 to me :-). This piece has helped me.

  32. Anonymous says:

    I think its weird how this post might is getting a couple of comments like “unpractical” or “over-hyped”
    I mean this is what’s wrong with our education i guess, we are taught to look out for the so-called “perfect job” and the “perfect pay-check” and when we’ve achieved all of that we wonder what went wrong! :/
    I believe the perfect way to live life is to follow you passion keep moving on!
    really inspirational post! 🙂

  33. Ash says:

    From where am standing, working for YRF is my dream job. I don’t know if I would ever quit YRF but if your work place doesn’t satisfy you anymore I guess what you did was right.

  34. ashishthakur says:

    Reblogged this on Doodling, Scribbling … and Thinking !! and commented:
    Pretty interesting perspective from a fellow IIM alum. Just for the record, I did not attend IIML.

  35. Anbu says:

    Good Article. I have read about you in the book ‘The Fresh Brew’.

    My concerns with points 3 and 8

    In point 3, I fully agree with the content, but the title you have chosen to give does not sync with the content. “Getting really good at job” does not mean that there is no learning. I could be really good at my job and still be learning something new everyday. The title could have been, ‘When there is nothing more to learn from your job, QUIT’.

    Coming to point 8, where you have mentioned “How do you want to be remembered? When they write your obituary, what do you want them to say?”, Do you think that what you pursue in your life should be driven by how others remember you?? I believe in the saying “What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven in to the lives of others”

    • Tarun says:

      I guess when you’ve gotten really good at a specific job, you’re at the top of a specific learning curve.
      Personally i get a rush from accelerated learning, which usually comes when you know “less” about something, which comes from attempting something new
      As for point 8 – i think we mean the same thing. Instead of writing an obituary, if i had said “When those around you give your eulogy”, i would’ve been clearer perhaps? In your quote i assume “Stone monuments” implies “Material wealth”?

  36. in need of advice says:

    Nice read for someone studying in IIM L currently….but just to make it a point…have read many posts and article on this….but still not very sure how to implement this in life…..not very sure that i will be able to leave when i don’t have anything to learn…how will i know it?…why will i not stop for sometime to enjoy it?…..and in meanwhile my family will grow…then will i be able to move from a well paid job and take risk……i have taken a couple of risks in my career before IIM…but will i be able to do it again? how to keep it going….that passion…that fearless attitude….how to not give in to the pressure?

    • Tarun says:

      well, frankly, for each person its his own journey. Each person has different ways of reading their life. a few things – once you are secure you WILL get bored. Also the very fact that you’re thinking about these things places you ahead of the pack – when the time comes trust yourself to do the right thing!

  37. Sufal S Roongta says:

    Hi Tarun,
    Wonderful post. am at IIM-A first year and would like to have a little advice to get into entertainment industry. Can you please let me know your email id? My email id is p12sufalsr@gmail.com

  38. Hi Tarun,
    Amazing post. Kudos..Just when I needed something of this sort. As a former student of yours at IIML I can truly relate with each and every point. I am in a kind of similar situation , well placed with a high paying real estate firm in Mumbai but not happy with it at all. I am planning to switch to entertainment industry but my friends and peers are advising against it. I am with you on the fact that good pay is not always worth the hours you spend slogging through.

    Would love to hear more from you.

  39. ishansights says:

    really nice blog Tarun, it was really nice read……………

  40. chaitanya says:

    tarun ,so a mba marketing from iim can help us to move into entertainment world
    at else now as times have changed

  41. Anonymous says:

    Lovely …….. That is what life is …. and the way you think is the best possible way to leave a happy and healthy life man ,…
    All the best 🙂

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