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.