Freedom!

This post is not about how to recover from a crashed disk. It’s about how not to let a disk crash affect you in the first place…

A few weeks ago, the hard disk of my home computer crashed. Just like that. It wouldn’t turn back on. I ran some diagnostics using a recovery drive to check if there was any chance of salvaging it (the hardware, not the data), but there wasn’t. So I unplugged it, ordered another one, and went about my business on another device.

When the new drive arrived a few days later, it took me less than 30 minutes to have it up and running with every thing I needed. No data files to transfer. No settings to copy down or migrate. No nothing.

This was the goal when I began moving to a device-independent setup a few years ago. Piece by piece, I had successfully moved every thing I ever do on a computer to the cloud, so that if the day came when my hard disk crashed, I would not be affected.

And, it was satisfying to see that it worked! Today, all the mobile and computing devices I use (at home or at work) are irrelevant when it comes to the data they work with. It’s all online. Synced in real time. No fuss. No muss.

Here’s what works for me…

Laptops/PCs:

  • Google Calendar – To manage multiple calendars online; Synced across devices
  • Google Apps / GMail – For my work/personal emails; Synced across devices
  • Google Drive – For all my work documents; Synced across devices
  • iDrive – Backup & Sync for all my personal documents- I use a complex profile for each computing device (excluding phones)
  • Evernote – For long notes; Synced across devices
  • SimpleNote – For short notes; Synced across devices
  • Google Photos – To backup any photos I shoot to my Google account
  • Pocket (Chrome Extension) – To save any bookmarks I want to read/retrieve later
  • ToDoist (Chrome Extension) – To save any To Do items (with/without reminders)

Mobile Devices:

  • An Android device serves as my primary mobile phone
  • All my Contacts are saved on a Google account – nothing on the phone
  • SMS Backup & Restore – To periodically save any SMS messages (say, when migrating from one phone to another)
  • Google Photos – To auto backup any photos shot on my mobile device
  • Apps for SimpleNote, Evernote, ToDoist, Pocket and Drive, as above

(I also use an Android tablet sometimes, which follows all of the above)

Second Level Backups:

  • All documents & pictures from any computers I use are also backed up – once a year – to two external (portable) hard disks… This goes in a folder with the name YYYY
  • I keep one of the two external disks in a remote location as an offsite backup, just in case

That’s it, really! This simple setup now enables me to work from anywhere, with instant access to all my data, as long as I have an Internet connection. Plus, if one device fails, I can literally switch over to another in minutes, without any loss of data.

 

Startup DNA

What does the DNA of a startup look like? While almost every startup believes that it is building something entirely unique, there are some defining characteristics that dramatically increase the probability of startup success.

Shane Snow – the Chief Creative Officer of Contently – lists some excellent points in his post. Here are a few of my favorites…

  • Rather Than Planning, Doing
  • Looking For 80/20s
  • Split Testing And Iterating

Bias for Action has got to feature among the top of any list you see on this subject, since a startup is essentially about getting started with the idea, and not just making elaborate plans on paper (or on a spreadsheet!).

If you are planning to launch a startup soon, be wary of collaborations with key stakeholders (partners, vendors or even senior staff) that do not exhibit this trait. You will regret it if you don’t, and waste precious time in the bargain.

Pareto’s Principle of 80/20 will definitely apply to your ToDo list, once you start your journey on the road to entrepreneurship.

Yes, the list of things to do will be long, and every item on it will seem important. But, every entrepreneur has limited resources and limited time at his/her disposal. And, in the end, what will matter is that you did the things that mattered most – and ignored the ones that didn’t.

Finally, Testing and Iteration will get you further than most, and also ensure that you get bang for the buck.

Should you advertise on Facebook or Google? Should you use subject line A or B in your introductory email? Should you go with logo option 1 or 2? Very often, we don’t know what will work in a particular context, but can ascertain our course of action based on data, as long as we are willing to learn from the experiment, and iterate as needed.

If budget is a constraint – as it often is – you need to run carefully though-through experiments to see what works better. Discard what doesn’t, and scale up what works by putting more resources behind it. If budgets are generous, run even more experiments!

May the force be with you.

Making Relationships Work

Ever so often, we ask from a relationship, before we give to it. Sometimes, it may be from a family member of friend. At other times, it may be from a work colleague or an acquaintance on LinkedIn.

Ivan Misner’s post on making relationships work makes you re-think…

In my career, a huge number of folks come to me and ask me to promote something for them. The thing is, the majority of those who contact me have never actually met me or had a previous conversation with me. They’ve never invested in the relationship, yet they want a withdrawal from it!

Before you ask for a withdrawal, make sure to make an investment, and build a deep referral relationship.

I couldn’t agree more. It’s not such an impossible ask to make a few deposits before we seek a withdrawal, be it at work or among pals.

Misner also includes a quick guide to questions that you should be able to answer with a “Yes” if you have a strong working relationship.

Useful stuff, don’t you think?

How To Quit Your Job

This post was also featured on YourStory

On countless occassions, I have heard folks lament about their jobs and how they wish they could simply quit and do something else… perhaps start a business of their own. If you are considering that option, this post should be of some help.

When To Quit (And, When Not To)

Yes, we’ve all been on the wrong side of cruel bosses, inept organizational structures and long commutes that sap the life energy out of us. If you’re waking up every day dreading the thought of going to work, there is a strong case to make big changes in your professional life. But that does not always have to mean quitting your job.

Take some time to analyze your present situation (take a friend’s help if you’re not good at the ‘analysis’ part). I would not recommend picking up your briefcase and walking out of your cubicle at the first sign of trouble.

If you’re bored with your current role, it will help to understand that you can multiply your learning (and hence, excitement) by changing one or more of the following variables: Industry, Company, Function and Role. In fact, you can aim to change more than one of these simultaneously, if you’re so inclined.

If an unpleasant boss / manager / colleague is the source of your unhappiness, it may help to know that no one lasts forever. Besides, there is no guarantee of your new employment not having a worse personality to contend with, and almost any person can be managed if you have the right skills or approach.

If you live under the assumption that starting your own business = being your own boss, please know that it is nothing but a myth. Yes, you get more flexibility when you are at the top of the food chain in your own setup, but businesses ultimately serve customers. So, in a sense, the customer is always going to call the shots.

Are You Ready?

Of course, every case is different, and no writeup can cover all the possible scenarios. If you’ve come to the conclusion that beginning a new venture is the only way out for you, it will help to keep the following in mind:

  • Monthly Buffer – The first significant impact of leaving behind the comfort of a monthly salary is the opportunity cost involved. Every one has monthly expenses – make sure you have a good handle on your’s, including factoring in rent/mortgage payments, insurance, travel and other one-time or annual expenses you incur in a typical year. Then, aim to have 6-12 months worth of monthly expenses covered by way of savings, so that you have a decent buffer while you go about establishing your business footprint.

    Tip: If you have the foresight to plan years ahead of time, aim to get debt-free as soon as possible. It will make a considerable dent in the monthly buffer needed.

  • Business Costs – Depending on your business model, you will also need to factor in the costs that will need to be incurred before you start clocking any revenues from your new venture. A lot depends on whether your plans involve manufacturing (as in, a whole lot of capital costs) or services (which are more likely to involve ideas, technology and people). If you plan to seek a loan to fund your business, learn about your credit history and line up some contenders with whom you can vet your business proposition, well in advance. If you intend to seek venture capital, understand how the VC industry works and don’t get too optimistic about your chances of securing funding too soon.

    Tip: In today’s age, crowdsourcing of funds is another idea that may work in your case. But your chances of success will greatly improve if the amount of capital required to get your new venture off the ground is not prohibitive.

  • Planning vs Action – There is no substitute for planning before you take the plunge, but sometimes too much planning can also result in ‘analysis-paralysis’. Regardless of the business idea, remember to do your research and understand the market in which you intend to operate. But, also remember that a plan is only as good as its assumptions. Try and validate your assumptions with potential customers, if you can talk to some. You can reach other, more experienced folks in industry, if finding your target segment is not possible.

    Tip: Make “shipping date” your priority. Don’t worry about building the perfect mousetrap in your first attempt. (Remember the first version of Facebook?) It’s better to have something out there that your customers can respond to, than months of working on ideas and having nothing to show for it.

Oh, and if you have decided to take the plunge, understand that your financial freedom will now solely depend on the success of your new venture. If you have dependents, it is a good idea to make sure you are adequately insured.

One last thing: Anyone can start a business, but not many can sustain one or make it scale. When things get tough, as they inevitably will, you will need all the passion in the world to get past it and come out shining at the other end.

If you think that quitting your job and starting a new business is a get-rich-quick proposition, I wish you luck. You will need a lot of it. But, take care of the essentials, and hopefully, your new endeavour can mark the beginning of an exciting new chapter in your Life.

Also Read: Corporate Life vs Entrepreneurship

 

Ignoring Great Advice

Jeff Haden writes a cogent piece on Inc. entitled ‘Why You So Often Ignore Great Advice‘. Here are some excerpts…

… people focus a lot less on the quality of advice, information, etc. than on the “quality” of the person who provides it. If Warren Buffett gives you a stock tip, you’ll listen; if the same advice comes from the guy who runs your local deli… probably not so much.

Most of the people you meet are not recognized as thought leaders and nor are they wildly successful. So you won’t automatically hang on their every word.

But you should always listen.

So strip away the framing you apply to the source. Strip away the setting or environment. Consider the advice, the information, or the opinion based solely on its merits. Sure, the quality of the source matters, but ultimately the quality of the information–and its relevance to your unique situation–matters a lot more.

It’s easy for most of us to get swayed by the opinions of those who are much more “experienced” than us, otherwise we run the risk of discounting their “learnings”. The fact remains we need to be objective and informed, and develop the ability to take all the available inputs, viewing them through the lens of relevance.

Thank you for the reminder, Jeff.