My Life System #75: Entrepreneurial Mindset – 2

The third trait is passion. It is about bringing our best self to work. Our infectious zeal can create positive energy even in the toughest of times. And yet, far too often, I see people focusing on all the things not going right, and deflating even their more enthusiastic colleagues. The entrepreneurial mindset is about staying away from such conversations, and working to change the narrative. There is no business, no family, no relationship which does not have problems. We can either focus on all the things that are wrong, or look at the positives and work enthusiastically to amplify them. As I told some colleagues at work in the context of Netcore, “There is a good core and a bad core. We need to make sure we don’t forget the good core even as the bad core’s troubles can overwhelm us at times. The good core is what we must all work passionately to build and grow, even as a small group of us works to fix the bad core.”

Michael Jordan said, “The greatest thing about the game of basketball to me is the passion and the love I have for it. Because when you have a love for anything, you’ll go to the extreme to maintain that level…To be the best at anything, you’ve got to have a certain love for that to make you overcome all the obstacles that will be thrown in your way.” Passion is what will give us the ‘fire in the belly’ to climb mountains beyond mountains, to walk on fire, to win even the toughest battles.

Many others have also written about the entrepreneurial mindset.

HackTheEntrepreneur: “[Entrepreneurial mindset is] a way of thinking that enables you to overcome challenges, be decisive, and accept responsibility for your outcomes. It is a constant need to improve your skills, learn from your mistakes, and take continuous action on your ideas…The biggest killer of the entrepreneurial mindset is not what you would expect. It’s not failure, the economy, or bad ideas. It’s doubt – in ourselves, our surroundings, and our abilities. Self-doubt kills many dreams, long before any external factors can come into play.”

MIT Sloan, quoting Rowena Barrett: “An entrepreneurial mindset helps leaders create value by “recognizing and acting on opportunities, making decisions with limited information, and remaining adaptable and resilient in conditions that are uncertain and complex..An entrepreneurial mindset is resilient, resourceful, and solutions-oriented — even when the conditions say otherwise. People with these mindsets are lifelong knowledge-seekers who are curious and creative, and they are critical thinkers. They’re self-directed, action-oriented, highly-engaged. They have optimistic interpretations of adverse events and see problems as potential opportunities. They’re about looking to others, and the value you can create for others by solving problems for others, and they surround themselves with an intentional community of positive influence and critical guidance.”

Accion: “A positive attitude and outlook is a must for successful entrepreneurs…Cultivating a positive attitude is not about sticking your head in the sand and ignoring things that could go wrong, but about learning how to mentally reframe your response. There is no point in wallowing in mistakes. One way to change your outlook is to look at a negative pain point and ask “How can I actively correct this?” By exploring your reaction and response to a perceived problem, you’ll soon learn to cultivate a positive approach to change. Positive people look to challenges as a way to improve and learn, so you should try to focus on this skill.”

Fashinnovation: “An entrepreneurial mindset is a set of skills that never keeps still in a certain moment. This mindset is always looking for constant innovation that can make a difference in your journey. The passion for what you do and seeking innovation can be life-changing.”

Entrepreneurial thinking is a state of mind – one doesn’t necessarily need to create a startup to experience it. All of us can bring this mindset to what to do: learn to solve problems rather than complaining, ask ourselves what we would do if we were not afraid to fail, and convert our passion into a viral energy that enthuses those around us to give their best.

My Life System #74: Entrepreneurial Mindset – 1

I was recently giving a talk to colleagues at work, and I talked about some of my experiences as an  entrepreneur. In the Q&A, I was asked, “What is the entrepreneurial mindset? Can each of us be an entrepreneur while working in a company?” It was a good question; on most previous occasions, I have spoken to fellow entrepreneurs and so the answer was obvious. While I did give an answer then to my colleague, the question stayed with me and I realised it deserved a better response.

According to me, the entrepreneurial mindset has three elements: problem solving, not fearing failure, and passion. Let’s dig deeper into each of them.

First and foremost, an entrepreneur solves problems. There is little in the world that cannot be made better. An entrepreneur sees the friction, asks the questions, and comes up with a solution. As Uri Levine writes: “Start by thinking of a problem—a BIG problem—something that is worth solving, a problem that, if solved, will make the world a better place. Then ask yourself, who has this problem? Now, if the answer is just you, don’t even bother. It is not worth it. If you are the only person on the planet with this issue, it would be better to consult a shrink. It would be much cheaper (and probably faster) than building a start-up. If many people have this problem, however, then go and speak to them to understand their perception of the problem. Only afterwards, build the solution. If you follow this path, and your solution eventually works, you will be creating value, which is the essence of your journey.”

The entrepreneurial mindset is about bringing this same approach to the work that one does – what is it that’s not working well, why is that so, how can it be improved. An entrepreneurial mindset can thus be applied to any situation. There is no process which cannot be made better, there is no product that cannot be improved. Even as we go through daily life at work, we tend to become mechanical about our tasks, doing something today in the same way it was done yesterday and the day before. If we can just push ourselves to stop for a moment and think about a better way to do things, we can make productivity enhancements which can benefit many others. So, don’t just look for problems at work and complain; come up with solutions and solve them.

The second characteristic of an entrepreneurial mindset is to not fear failure. Too often, we stay away from the risky path because we are afraid of the outcomes and their consequences. Most of our life we are taught to eschew risk-taking, so it is not surprising that when given an option, we choose the path of caution. I tell my colleagues, “When you are working in a big company like Netcore, you have an opportunity to think differently and innovate – and you have a safety net. So, don’t let the fear that the idea will not work hold you back.” A mindset change is needed – where leaders and managers need to encourage their staff and teams to be bold, innovative and dynamic. Some ideas will fail, but a few will succeed. A culture of experimentation is a must for success. For those working, failures and setbacks must be seen as possible stepping stones to success. As Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed 700 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 700 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work.”

My Life System #73: Thanking Others

One word we all like to hear is “Thanks” and yet we don’t use it enough with others. None of us are Robinson Crusoes living all by ourselves on an island; we are forever dependent on others. A “Thank You” is a good habit to cultivate – it brightens the recipient’s day and it makes us feel good.

There is a sound economic explanation for being thankful. Jon Stossel writes: “How many times have you paid $1 for a cup of coffee and after the clerk said, “Thank you,” you responded, “Thank you”? There’s a wealth of economics wisdom in the weird double thank-you moment. Why does it happen? Because you want the coffee more than the buck, and the store wants the buck more than the coffee. Both of you win. Economists have long understood that two people trade because each wants what the other has more than what he already has. In their respective eyes, the things traded are unequal in value. But this means each comes out ahead, having given up something he wants less for something he wants more. It’s just not true that one gains and the other loses. If that were the case, the loser wouldn’t have traded. It’s win-win, or as economists would say, positive-sum. We experience this every time we have that double thank-you moment in a store or restaurant.”

Irrespective of how many challenges life throws at us, there is much that we have to thank others for – not just our parents, teachers or colleagues at work, but also the kindness of strangers. The person in the bus who got up so we could sit, the person in the queue who let us go ahead because we were in a hurry, the bellman at the hotel who held the door ajar as we were trying to lug the suitcases with both hands, the bus conductor who waited a few seconds extra so we could get on board, the sales person in a store who went the extra distance to ensure we got what we wanted, the person who stopped for a few seconds to help us find what we are looking for in a foreign city. Every one of these interactions was done without expectation of reciprocity; every such moment is a “thank you” moment. We may probably never see that person again, but a gracious acknowledgement from us ensures the cycle of good deeds continues. In some cases, we may be the recipient, while at other times, we may be the doer.

From The Clean Space: “Martin Seligman, a leader in the field of Positive Psychology, wrote “when we take time to notice the things that go right – it means we’re getting a lot of little rewards throughout the day”– it’s a virtuous cycle that only makes you feel better and better. Every time you express or receive gratitude, your brain releases dopamine, making a recurring connection between the action and feeling good. It also helps reduce stress reactions in your body.”

We will all echo James Clear’s sentiment: “I’m starting to believe that “Thank You” is the most under-appreciated and under-used phrase on the planet. It is appropriate in nearly any situation and it is a better response than most of the things we say.” So, let’s make this small change in ourselves: thank others when appropriate. And hopefully, we will have our own experience of the “double thank-you” moment.

My Life System #72: Secrets

For anyone who likes reading mysteries and thrillers, a common theme is how many of the main characters have secrets which tumble out as the pages turn. These cause the twists which make the stories so exciting. Our own lives have their share of secrets which we do not want others to know about. We also want our private spaces that we don’t want others to intrude. It is as true for teenagers as it is for adults. These secrets make each of us a bit mysterious and life that much more ‘thrilling’. A key question that many of us will face at some point is whether we should share these secrets with the ones we love or not. More often than not, the right decision is to be open and transparent because secrets in real life, as in fiction books, have the habit of unravelling when we least expect them.

During my IIT days, I enjoyed the occasional alcoholic drink with friends. It started with wanting to be part of the group and not be left out. As long as one limited it to just one glass or two, it was fine. (Only once did I go overboard when I mixed a few drinks in the interest of experimentation. The result was not pleasant.) I don’t think I ever told my parents or close family members during those growing up years about it. I didn’t know how they would react and decided it was best to keep it hidden. When I was engaged to Bhavana, I told her about the fact that I did drink once in a while. While she didn’t say anything, I realised it was not something she liked. And soon thereafter, I gave up drinking entirely. What I am glad about is that I shared it and did not try to hide it.

Chrstina Herson writes: “We should share more secrets, and there are many reasons why. One is that we use a lot of mental capacity keeping secrets. A study showed that we are actually thinking about a secret three times more often than actively hiding it from others. This results in a cognitive burden that is associated with poorer mental and physical health…So, just thinking about our secrets can burden us and thus decrease our motivation seen from this cognitive perspective… Sometimes, we face adversities and here, our social relations are a very important resilience factor that enable us to hold pressure and bounce back. When we share our inner thoughts, we create a social reciprocity that creates trust and an even stronger relationship.” Michael Slepian adds: “The hard part of having a secret is not that you have to hide it, but that you have to live with it, alone in your thoughts. When the only venue to work through it is your own mind, you are not likely to find the most productive way of thinking about it. Like a carousel that just never stops, each time you think back on it, you may go through the same motions, having the same negative thoughts, reiterating the same regrets, and finding yourself getting nowhere. It often takes a conversation with another person to escape the loop… When you open up to others, others will open up to you.”

The fewer the secrets we have, the happier we are. We don’t want something gnawing at the back of our minds that one day someone will bring out the secret in the open – deliberately or accidentally. So, in life and at work, it is better to be transparent. And yet, there will be times when for various reasons, we may not want to share. Over the years, I have found my diary to be a good outlet because once I write it out, I can move on – especially if I have made a mistake. I have also realised sharing with family (Bhavana and Abhishek, in my case) is the best way to move on from an incident or experience we don’t want eating away our mental energies.

My Life System #71: Non-stop Flights

I wrote previously about my preference for business class when travelling outside India. “For me, business class is not about the food, drinks or networking. It is about sleep and comfort for my body and mind. For any travel longer than 4-5 hours, business class is a good investment. It provides excellent RoI (return on investment) in terms of thinking time and idea flow.” I also mentioned my liking for the non-stop flights, even though they are likely to cost more. I realised that I should have explained this better.

There are three benefits of non-stop flights. First is the obvious saving of time. Any connection means a minimum of two hours and probably longer. The second benefit is the lower risk of delays because of the possibility of missing connecting flights; there is also the problem of baggage getting misplaced during the transfer. Running from one gate to another gate at crowded airports is not very exciting! The third benefit is the elimination of the interruption in one’s flow (or sleep). It is much easier to plan out for a 16-hour flight than two 8-hour flights with a break; the latter leads to dead and unproductive time especially when one is tired and sleepy.

With Air India starting a non-stop to San Francisco from Mumbai, both the US coasts are covered. The time taken to get to New York or San Francisco is now the same – about 16 hours. The added advantage is that in the case of getting to another destination in the US, the time can be shortened. My hope is that as Air India buys more aircraft, it will cover more US destinations with their non-stop flights in the years to come.

There are a few disadvantages of non-stop flights, as Directnonstop explains: “There are often not too many nonstop flights between two cities, unless those two cities / airports are particularly busy. Thus making the nonstop flight harder to find than a connecting flight. Also, with fewer flights, that often means less flight time choice. [Also], while many airlines maintain extensive networks of airports they serve, most do not have nonstop flights between every pair of airports. Instead, they might rely on hub airports, or other connecting intermediate airports to get travelers from their starting airport to their destination airport. So, if going for a nonstop flight ticket, one has to sometimes put aside airline / frequent flyer miles preferences and go with whatever airline offers nonstops.”

Many friends I know prefer to avoid Air India for US travel because of some bad experience in the past. I think that’s a mistake – I have had my share of flight delays and unpleasant journeys on other airlines also. I just think the convenience of the non-stop makes Air India the preferred option from India – especially when going to the US. From Mumbai, it is the only option.

So, the next time you are travelling, consider the non-stop flight. It will be a better experience. The 16-odd hours on a US flight to either of the coasts can actually be made more productive with some planning. Going forward, I expect more direct connections between international cities from India – which is good. I still remember my early US trips with the connections either through Europe, South-East Asia, or the Middle East, and flight times exceeding 20 hours. Hopefully, they will stay memories of a world gone by!

My Life System #70: Iteriting

I wrote about “Writing” earlier on in this series. In this iteration, I want to cover an aspect I did not delve deeper into then. It is what I term “iterative writing” – or iterating, for short. It is the secret of my prolific blog posting through much of the past two decades. Here is what I wrote previously: “I am writing all the time – I find I think better when I am with my notebook and pen. My notebook and pen are always with me. The mind is always at work. I am not much for meditation. My equivalent of meditation is sitting in a place with my notebook and letting the thoughts flow. My book becomes a mirror into my mind. I don’t worry about organising my thoughts when I am writing – there is always time to do that later.” I hinted at my process of writing towards the end: “Many times, I end up just rewriting old ideas. There is nothing that repetition will not improve. As Heraclitus put it, “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” It is never exactly the same idea, and we are also not the same. I may rarely look up older notes but the slow evolution and natural selection of ideas is visible in my writings.”

Since I love coining new words (they always catch attention – like “proficorn”), I decided that this process of writing and iteratively improving it needed a new word. The word may be new, but the process is not. As ChatGPT puts it, “Iterative writing is a writing process where you revise and improve your work in multiple cycles or drafts. This approach allows you to refine your writing by making changes and additions until you are satisfied with the final product. The key to successful iterative writing is to approach it with a growth mindset, meaning you should be open to feedback and willing to revise your work.”

For me, iterating is about writing, making public my ideas via my blog, and then working to them better through times to come. I don’t worry about perfection in the first go. Since I am writing for myself, I like to put the ideas out there, then share and discuss with others, and think through improvements via conversations and feedback. If I don’t write, then I cannot get inputs and criticism – and without these, I cannot refine my ideas and writings. My approach thus is to create a ‘permalink’ that I can send to others so they can comment and challenge. My determination to ensure one post daily also helps; I don’t wait for the ideal essay – instead I put it out there knowing fully well that I will make a better version in the future. This is how many of the essays in my Marketing and India series have come about.

Many people I have spoken to want to write but for some reason are afraid. I tell them, “Forget what others think. Write for yourself, but do so on a public medium. Don’t hesitate to share. Once you are done with the first version, you will start thinking about a newer, better version. Make this iterative writing process public because otherwise the thoughts stay private and don’t improve.”

Iteriting also needs iterative thinking and presenting. I come up with ideas, write and then also make them into presentations. I then see which words and phrases catch attention, and then work on making them better. It is thus an evolutionary process. The only way to make it work is to not be embarrassed by one’s early ideas. Only out of these will the better ones emerge over time.

My advice: try it out. Take a few ideas you are passionate about and start writing. See if you commit to one new post daily – this will create the discipline of reading-thinking-writing, which is the key to iterating and creating better. It is the way innovations come about. It is the way writing can also be done.

My Life System #69: Cricket

As an Indian, it is hard not to love and follow cricket. I am no different. As I have grown older, the craze has gone, but the interest has not. When I was young, I meticulously followed cricket matches and listened to radio commentaries. I especially loved the live broadcasts from BBC and ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) – I could almost imagine myself being there at the stadium. (Besides, I loved the near-perfect English accents – which I tried to imitate!) I kept detailed statistics of key players and their averages – this was in the 1970s and early 1980s, when there was no Internet.

I played cricket in my building. I was a “kaccha” (raw, green) player, and always the last to be picked when teams were being formed. In fact, since I was younger than all the others, it took a lot of pleading from my mother to get me to become part of the group. And once I was in, I gave it my best. I learnt how to bat and bowl; I would play in our small flat by throwing the ball on the wall, and then hitting it and scoring. I learnt how to do both top spin and hold the ball back to make it come slower after pitching. I worked on improving my fielding. I kept daily stats on my performance – the days I scored runs or took a wicket or even a catch were my happy moments. Unfortunately, these were few and far between!

In my free time, I played book cricket. When the computer came into my life, one of the first games I wrote was a 1-day match simulator. In a few minutes, I could get a full scorecard of a match. Along with Monopoly, it was one of the great achievements of my early software career.

I saw a Test match once. An uncle had an extra ticket and took me along. I think it was Day 4 of this match – I clearly remember Gavaskar getting caught for 42. It was a wonderful experience – I was about 10 years old then.

As I grew older, life took over and my love for cricket diminished. The Internet brought it back. I launched in 1997 – live cricket coverage and detailed stats with charts, which at that time were even better than Cricinfo. I poured my heart into the site – because I wanted it for myself! I had even collated all Ranji Trophy scores – the first of its kind in the world. One of the sad moments for me was when was sold as part of the IndiaWorld deal; I would think many times of buying it back!

Now, I still like to track the scores on Cricinfo but the deep love is gone. I don’t care much about IPL. But I still have very fond memories of my younger years – cricket was so much a part of me and a shared experience with friends.

My Life System #68: Emotions

I am often asked how I manage to keep my emotions under control – especially when things are not going well. While I don’t know when I became like this, I think it was through my early failures as an entrepreneur. I had to separate the idea that failed from me as an adventurer. I also realised that if I let my emotions control me, I will dwell on the wrongs of the past rather than the problems I could solve in the future. The multiple failures also taught me humility – ups and downs, successes and failures are two sides of the same coin. So, I don’t go to either extreme.

A few years ago, I discovered a word for these beliefs: stoicism. As I wrote in a previous essay: “I had lived life on the principles of Stoicism without understanding that there was a name for it. Since then, I have read up more on Stoicism and have even advocated it to many others. What the Greeks and Romans came up with a couple thousand years ago has modern-day relevance. They also tie in with some of the ideas in Jainism around detachment. These ideas have helped me not just in personal life but also in business as an entrepreneur to live through more than 30 failed ventures and maintain equanimity through the 3 successes I have had in the past three decades… We cannot control the events that happen, but can control our reactions to those events. The writings and wisdom of people like Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus and Seneca can help us lead a happier life and also create a continuously improving version of ourselves. It can mean better relationships with those around us – at home and work. And by doing so, we will have less stress and greater mental calm. Each of us may have our own way to reach that state – meditation, long walks, journaling, and so on. But what I like about Stoicism is that it provides a holistic approach rather than point solutions.”

I am not suggesting a life devoid of emotions – that would not be a life worth living. What I recommend is better control of our emotions, especially when we have no control on the events that occur; how we respond is what matters – for us and those around us. Emotional extremes can create dramatic mood swings and cause us to make decisions and take actions that we could regret later. When things go wrong, instead of panic or anger, I try and reflect for a few moments on what the worst-case scenario is, and then act or speak. Words once spoken cannot be taken back and actions done cannot be reversed – and could cause irrevocable hurt to those around us. Life does not have an “Undo” button.

Here are a few quotes from others on emotions which express some of my views better than I can:

  • “Every day we have plenty of opportunities to get angry, stressed or offended. But what you’re doing when you indulge these negative emotions is giving something outside yourself power over your happiness. You can choose to not let little things upset you.” – Joel Osteen
  • “I get mad. I get sad. I have all those emotions. But I just like to keep them to myself. I don’t think my fans need to be bothered with if I’m mad or sad about something. I should just be concerned that they are keeping up with my music or I’m making them happy with my show.” – Demi Lovato
  • “One of the key qualities a leader must possess is the ability to detach from the chaos, mayhem, and emotions in a situation and make good, clear decisions based on what is actually happening.” – Jocko Willink
  • “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou
  • “Emotion can be the enemy, if you give into your emotion, you lose yourself. You must be at one with your emotions, because the body always follows the mind.” – Bruce Lee
  • “Never react emotionally to criticism. Analyze yourself to determine whether it is justified. If it is, correct yourself. Otherwise, go on about your business.” – Norman Vincent Peale
  • “Never make a permanent decision based on a temporary emotion.” – Anonymous

I ended my Stoicism essay thus: “Living life as a Stoic is not easy; it requires great discipline, self-reflection and awareness. It needs a mindset which is capable of constantly learning. We all are works in progress, and that is what Stoicism recognises. With some effort, we can become better and create a happier life for ourselves and those around us.” Gaining control over our emotions is important for our well-being and for those around us – at home and work. We need an outlet for our emotions – and for me, that has become my diary. It is better to experience negative emotions privately rather than burst out at innocents around. Joys are to be shared, but sorrows are better experienced quietly.

My Life System #67: Books and Bookstores – 2

I was delighted to read a column by Ezra Klein about the transformation at Barnes & Noble (B&N) in the US: ““How is it that bookstores do justify themselves in the age of Amazon?” James Daunt, the chief executive of Barnes & Noble, asked during the Book Industry Study Group’s 2020 Keynote. “They do so by being places in which you discover books with an enjoyment, with a pleasure, with a serendipity that is simply impossible to replicate online. And to do that, you have to have a good bookstore.” Daunt’s diagnosis of the industry is refreshingly simple: Good bookstores thrive, bad bookstores die. He waves away the belief that online shopping and e-readers have been unstoppable harbingers of demise. “My view was that the reason bookstores had failed to defend themselves against Amazon is simply they weren’t good enough,” he told me, “and the only reason they would fail to defend themselves against Kindle is they wouldn’t be good enough.”…Barnes & Noble’s resurgence is a reminder that there is nothing inevitable about its (or any bookstore’s) demise. Great bookstores and libraries still provide something the digital world cannot: a place not just to buy or borrow books, but to be among them.”

Ted Gioia wrote about B&N: “Daunt started giving more power to the stores. But publishers complained bitterly. They now had to make more sales calls, and convince local bookbuyers—and that’s hard work. Even worse, when a new book doesn’t live up to expectations, the local workers see this immediately. Books are expected to appeal to readers—and just convincing a head buyer at headquarters was no longer enough. Daunt also refused to dumb-down the store offerings. The key challenge, he claimed was to “create an environment that’s intellectually satisfying—and not in a snobbish way, but in the sense of feeding your mind.””

Financial Times had this to say about Kitab Khana in Mumbai: “When the motorcycles, shouting hawkers and stalls sizzling with frying snacks get too much, Kitab Khana – a spacious, wood-panelled bookshop in a colonial-era building in Mumbai’s southern Fort neighbourhood – makes for welcome respite from the heat and bustle. The store, named after the palace libraries kept for Mughal emperors (it means “a home for books”), stocks an intriguing variety of Indian and international authors, including collections in languages such as Hindi and Marathi, with staff on hand to provide guidance and cosy nooks in which to read. A programme of regular talks and readings and an in-house café round out the offering.”

The world – and we adults and kids – needs more bookstores and libraries. We need to surround ourselves with good books; in times of need, they can be our friend, philosopher and guide. Even as screens chip away our free moments, we need to pull ourselves away into the world of books and bookstores – to imagine worlds we could never have dreamt of otherwise, to discover voices different from our own, and to probe ideas which challenge our thinking. The next time you want to do something different, go and spend time in a bookstore. And while there, put your mobile on ‘Airplane’ mode, pick up a book, find a comfortable spot, and read.

My Life System #66: Books and Bookstores – 1

When people come to meet me in my office, many are overwhelmed by the wall-to-wall collection of books.

As I wrote in my earlier post on “Reading”: “I buy a lot of books. I think of myself as a book collector. I cannot and do not read every book I buy. I like to have them around knowing that some day the wisdom in that book will be useful and transformational. Books have served me well through the years: which other product gives you a person’s lifetime of knowledge for a few hundred rupees? It is we who have to make an investment many times greater – with our time – to absorb and learn. And in today’s world of instant-everything and tweet-sized content, a book is a true joy to behold. Ploughing through the daily social media feeds may seem exciting but most are empty – like junk food. They can provide that instant gratification but they do not provide the depth needed to enhance our learning. That is something only good books do.”

As a teenager, I used to get books from a nearby library. The school, college, and universities I attended had very good libraries. They became my favourite haunts – I was never much into sports and other activities. Spending a few hours reading was the best “timepass” for me. As I look back, books and BBC’s World Service on radio were my windows to the world.

I have been buying books for as long as I can remember. During my student days in the US, I joined a couple of book clubs that offered books at a discount. New York’s Strand Book Store became a regular haunt – and I searched for bargains. When I returned to India from the US, books filled up many boxes in the possessions I shipped back. And I have kept buying – Strand Book Stall in Mumbai and then Kitab Khana. Bookstores are where I love to spend time when I visit different cities; the serendipitous discovery of titles is a joyful experience.

With Abhishek, I make it a point to visit Kitab Khana once every two or three weeks. I have been taking him to bookstores ever since he was a kid. When we travel, we will spend many hours in a local bookstore. Each store is like entering a new world – the curation is different, the layout varies, and hence the experience is unique.

While my preference is for physical books, I also buy books to read on the Kindle app on my iPad – not every new book is available in physical form in India soon after release. Every inflection point in my life has a book behind it. When I am struggling through a difficult decision, it is a book which ends up providing me guidance on the way ahead. I like being surrounded by books, and every so often, I will pick up a book and browse through it – for the brief period that I am immersed in it, I am lost to the world and come out refreshed and brimming with ideas. I keep my notebook with me so I can capture the connections that reading helps me make.