Monday, July 23, 2012

Taking risks..

There is something unsettling about taking risks. I don't claim to be a maverick and say that I don't enjoy the calm and quiet of a risk free environment, but taking risks does have it rewards... at least that is what I keep telling myself. Now that I've spent about three decades on this earth to draw parallels from my own life (we earthlings are much too often too egotistical or too self-deprecating to draw inspirations from others.. heard this phrase: "You can't do it... you are not Steve Jobs").

There were couple of moments in time when my life took a complete turn and became something which I never imagined it would be... every time I shake the equilibrium, the lows are lower, and the highs are higher.. with every jolt I become more jaded, more cynical, more experienced as I watch the child inside of me die.. but have been holding on to it. It is very important to hold on to your inner child. The moment you let him go, you are one of the old dudes, who have settled down, bitch about government/people/society/environment/police without actually doing something about it.

As I grow older, the ghosts of my years past, my mistakes, my accomplishments and my losses become my baggage that I've to carry. I'm not a religious guy to believe in a divine plan, I've seen too much for that.. life is random, life is temporal, the ideas.. they stay forever. So even with this knowledge, the engineer in me tries to plot the trajectory of my personal and professional life and what may be in store for me these coming years. Let me take you to few pivotal moments from my past:

1. 11 years ago: I failed the IIT entrance exam. This was probably the first time that I felt suicidal, not because I didn't clear it, but because of the nagging doubt in my head that I didn't give it my all. If I had, life would be very different for me now. I was as harmonally charged as any other 18 year old would be at that age, and wanted to have another go at it.. but family didn't allow that. It took a long time for me to forgive them.. as I got older, I realized that things were not as financially cozy as they seemed to me. I ended up topping the college that I went to and made the best of the friends, to whom I still turn to for my emotional support.. Had I not failed in that exam, I wouldn't have met the wonderful people who taught me so much about life.. and I probably would have a moderately lower self esteem at IIT ( come on.. most of those guys are way smarter than I can fake to be).

2. 7 years ago: I graduated as a geeky hot head with a B.E. in Computer Sc. The world seemed to offer you a clean slate after you graduate, which I didn't like.. After being molly coddled by academia for about 4 years, I didn't want to be treated the same way as my 100 or so other colleagues who got the job.. I didn't want to join the army of employees in Infosys/TCS or the likes and just be a number on their balance sheets. I wanted to stand out. So even with 7 job offers, I did the most risky thing, I rejected all of them.. I applied for M.S. and got an admission here.. my plan was to be the next Bill Gates, the next Steve Jobs.. still is. Had I not made that decision, I'd have never met so many like minded people, many of whom humbled me with their empathy and lack of pride for their skill. These guys taught me that it was possible to be Howard Roark with a dash of Patch Adams thrown in..

3. 5 years ago: Now one thing you need to know about grad school in USA is that if you want to do it right, you cannot do anything else. I was knee deep in research, doing things that often didn't understand, and things that you cannot google for. After 2 years into masters, I was seriously considering going for a PhD, more than one professor offered to be my mentors.. but I soon realized that I was losing touch with reality, most of what people talked about felt like buzzing.. I was so wrapped up in what I was doing that I didn't like to do anything else, talk to people, even eating and sleeping were activities that needed to be done. I wrote a paper as a part of an independent study and realized that this was not how I wanted to spend the rest of my life, at least see the real world before sticking with known one. So I ventured out into the real world.. I've met so many doctorates, post docs etc who were doing the same thing that I was doing in the workforce, but had overstayed in academia because they were comfortable with it.. there is something very reassuring about judging your success based on grades and have specific metrics to work on. I wished we had those in real world..

4. 3 months from now: I have a sweet life, I've been a single geek in the valley of geeks, working on the stuff I love. In the past few years, I've hiked to my hearts content, ran a marathon, back packed across eastern europe, met few of my idols, worked in a startup, worked on few failed startup ideas.. in other words did what I wanted to do. That is all going to change soon.. I'm going to get married to a girl I adore.. and although I'm excited about the future, I know that my life is going to change.. I'd need to de-prioritize a lot of things that I love doing that I barely get to do now ( it doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that you can't be a photographer, a musician, athlete and an engineer at the same time without being shoddy worker).. I probably would need to be more thrifty.. both with finances and time.. all the more harder in country where being thrifty essentially means being risk averse..  I don't know what the future has in store for me and how I'll react to it, but I do know that I'll gravitate towards risk like a moth is driven towards light.. I might pack my bags and setup shop in India, if that's what it takes to follow my dream of having my ideas out to the world.. although I'm happy to have a companion with me to share my ups and downs.. and dear fiancĂ©, if you are reading this, you have been warned :-) .. rest assured, life will be interesting.

Life is not about fixing bugs, returning phone calls, observing social niceties or doing what others want you to do. Life is about exploration, taking risk, taking the off beaten path.. we are nothing but blips on the cosmic timeline.. but even a butterfly flapping it's wings can cause a hurricane, so there is no use being cocooned in.. let's flap our teensy wings all we can. Even if we don't cause a hurricane, we are sure to fly :)

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