Wednesday, January 10, 2018

The Monk and The Riddle

I really enjoyed this book which talks about living life and making a living. This is book is part fictional narrative and part memoir. Randy Komisar is a partner at theVC firm KPCB

It talks about his experiences with the companies he was involved in, his experiences of working at a private law firm, at Apple, working with Bill Campbell, his experiences as an entrepreneur and an investor.

  • The Riddle : I have an egg and want to drop the egg three feet without breaking it. How do I do that ? 
    • (Later I googled the answer for the riddle and seems the egg touches the floor and breaks at 4 feet, so 3 dropping it 3 feet won't break it. I interpreted it as knowing the boundaries and breaking points).
    •  The author  concludes it with saying "When he first started the journey he wanted nothing more than to get to the destination but as the journey goes he has the slightest desire for the trip to end." Is he implying he is like the egg and didn't hit the breaking point ?and is enjoying  the journey ?
  • The Pitch : "We are going to put fun back into the funerals".  The tale of how startup founders pitch the VC's in the valley. Told through the fictional narrative.
  • The Rules of the Game : 
    • Not getting a No doesn't mean it's a Yes. VC's might not directly say no.  
    • Until the paper work is done and terms sheets signed it is not a done deal, so don't get carried way based on interest and excitement from VC's. Until you hear an Yes in writing it's not a Yes.
    • What VC's look for 
      • Market Size (TAM): How big is the market ? VC's like companies that have the potential to become the leader in a big market
      • Team : Can the team execute ? If you are a first mover can the team execute rapidly to become the leader in the market ? VC's look for co-founders and teams with track record and can keep going when the going gets tough.
      • USP and Competitive Positioning: What kind of competitive position will the idea/product/company have ? How is it unique ? Can someone easily copy  it ? Are you a leader  with good market share ?What is the competition ?
      • Marketing and Distribution Channels - How will people find you when they need you ?
    • What VC's expect
      • VC's get money from Limited Partners (LP) and they need to give back with great return. This means VC's are in the business of making money and it is in their best interest to pick winners and on an average come with great returns from their portfolio.
      • VC's don't necessarily have the time or bandwidth to be actively involved in their portfolio companies a.k.a the companies they have funded.
      • VC's do bring good connections and contacts
      • Valuation is all about risk and reward, the capital you raise is dependent on the traction and how much dilution the founders are ok with, a.k.a how much money for what equity. More money, more dilution. In the early stages take only the minimum required to execute and stay afloat.
  • The Virtual CEO : How Randy is an angel investor and not your typical VC. VC's come at the later stages of the company growth, angel's come in early stages and can be actively involved in the management of the company. Randy talks about how business isn't just a financial institution, it is a creative institution for him.
  • The Deferred Plan: Doing things you have to do in the hope that you can do things you want to do later. Why work on things we don't love or like in the hopes that we can get to what we want to, later. Paying the Dues is out dated way of thinking. Randy talks about how he chose a job at Apple leaving his private law firm practice
    • He poses the question "What would it take for you to be willing to spend the rest of your life on "the idea/company/product" ?", figure that out and do it.
    • I slightly disagree with this as, in the early days we don't know what excites us and we are in the process of figuring it out, as time progresses and we spend more time on it we might know. So it is hard to figure out what we are willing to spend the rest of our life on when we are young and in the early stages. My take away was do something that excites you which could change later but don't do things because you have to. 
    • Do things because you want to not because you have to.
  • The Romance, not The Finance. It's the romance not the finance that makes business worth pursuing.
    • Drive Vs passion : 
      • Passion pulls you toward something you cannot resist. Passion is a sense of connection you feel when the work you do expresses who you are. helps you express yourself
      • Drive pushes you toward something you feel compelled or obligated to do
      • In the Deferred life plan has two steps. In the first step drive pushes  us to do things hoping it will lead us to the second step, the deferred life itself where we can do things we are passionate about. 
      • What would you do today if it were your last day ? Don't confuse Drive and Passion.
      • Choose something that will inspire you and your team to keep going even in the face of big issues. The promise or hope of money by itself won't be enough to keep going. 
  • The Big Idea :  Stories of how Sculley when he was the CEO of Apple chose Business model over Big Idea and eventually lost the market. Business models can change but it is the big idea that keeps the team and everyone excited and will lead to the long term growth not just short term wins.
    • The Big idea is your compass that can show the path even if there are hurdles. The big idea should help you understand where the business is going and what it's becoming and not just where it is right now.
  • The Bottom line : Take care of people, do the intangible things, not just  quantifiable and tangible bottom line. Business is about the people you serve (market), the team you build (employees) and the partnerships. Define your culture, values and principles by which you will operate and connect with your customers, employees and partners.
  • The Art of Leadership - Leadership is art, inspiring people is art. Management on the other hand is operational and more tactical and goal oriented. For a startup in the early stages it needs a visionary and a Leader in the co-founder to inspire and lead others to do what needs to be done.
  • The gamble - Talking about how investing, starting companies can be a gamble and it involves luck.  To get lucky you need to know the importance of vision, passion and the big idea. VC's are looking for companies that make a big difference, not just small difference. Failures are part of the success story and essential.
    • Business Risks : Venture won't be a huge success or worst has to be shut down.
    • Personal Risks : Risk of working with people you don't respect, risk of working for a company whose values are inconsistent with yours, risk of something you don't care about, risk of doing something that fails to express or even contradicts who you are. The biggest risk of all spending your life not doing what you want on the bet you can buy yourself freedom to do it later.
    • Consider both business and personal risks. Time is the only resource matters. 
      • Do you want to be one of the many richest people or do you want to live life doing what you want to do ?
  • The Whole Life Plan : Doing what you want to do. Doing what satisfies and makes you feel content. 
  • The Road : The Journey is the Reward.
Overall a good read. I love the stories, the fictional narrative which reflects true scenarios even in the present day. The book was written in the early 2000's and even after almost 18 years the content is still relevant and relatable.  While most of the content I have read in self help books it was still refreshing to read about how things were back in the 80's and pre and post .com days. You will get to know the personal story of Randy as an employee, entrepreneur and an investor.

The Richest Man in Babylon

I did like the book. It talked about saving, cutting down expenses, investing through the fables and storytelling. I found it hard to read the Babylon English but I was able to get the essence of the book

In Summary

  • Pay Yourself First : Save at least 10% of your income. Any money you make, keep 10% to yourself.
    • Compounding : Let your money make money.
  • Control Your Expenses : Spend less than you make, live below your means, cut down your expenses, so you can save the money.
  • Invest : In present day it could mean invest in different asset classes
  • Cut down Losses:  Invest in things that you are knowledgeable or know someone who is knowledgeable and successful with investing and making profits.This is also good education and more importantly disciplined habits, 
  • Make Investments Profitable : Talks about investing in a house, but in modern day not sure how relevant the example of investing in house is but taking the essence of it. Explore investments that can become profitable. Needs some good education on how to turn the investments profitable
    • Choosing Investments : Gives the story of the money lender and how he picks he lends or makes his investments. Morale of the story: Better a little caution than great regret. Have criteria for investing and lending. Will the investment have good returns with out the risk of losing it all ? will the money invested/lended return the principal along with interest or growth ?
    • Hedge and Insure Investments : Talks about the Walls of Babylon - Be Fully protected
    • Insure Income for Future: Save and Invest for Retirement, this is also not entirely in our control
    • Increase the Ability to Earn: Talks about Desire and Goal Setting. We need to build some skills, leverage time and for something leverage money. Be consistent and disciplined with goals and making progress towards those goals. This is something easily said than done. I haven't figured this out yet
    • Opportunity and Opportunity Costs : It talks about meeting the Goddess of Good luck, recognizing opportunities and not procrastinating when the opportunity is there. Seize the opportunities. Seems obvious but needs some good education to keep identifying opportunities as it can easily be distracting to think everything is an opportunity. 
    • Focus and Will - Where the Determination is the Way can be Found. Talks about the story of a camel trader who gets into debt, steals, becomes a slave,  escapes from slavery and pay offs the debts
    • Hard Work and Effort Leads to Luck -  Telling a story about the luckiest man in the babylon to a prince of how hard work got him and his grand father out of slavery.

    I really enjoyed reading this book. Although most of the things learned in this book I had read from books like Rich Dad Poor Dad,  Dave Ramsey's Baby Steps, I realized this book was written in 1928 which means these modern books were inspired from the original "The Richest Man in Babylon".

    Except for the language (the Babylonian English) I really enjoyed the stories and tales of Babylon. Timeless advice still very relevant and applicable today after almost 90 years of being written.

    Monday, January 1, 2018

    Year in Review - 2017

    First I can't believe I haven't written a single blog post on this blog in 2017. I did write few drafts on Medium but I am surprised I didn't publish any thing and in a way having mixed feelings. Not sure if I need to look that as I was very focused in accomplishing other things or I didn't take the time to publish. I am going to choose to look at it as "I was very focused in accomplishing things".

    In fact I did accomplish quiet a bit in 2017. 2017 has been a year of focus and getting things done.

    So what did I accomplish in 2017 ?


    • Had a PR in Kaiser with 1:31:26. (was shooting for sub 1:30 and didn't make it
    • Had a PR at the Tokyo Marathon with 3:12:25 although I cramped badly as I was shooting for sub 3:10
    • Had a PR at the Bay to Breakers with 50:04 (was shooting for sub-50 and didn't make it)
    • Bonked terribly at the Mountains 2 Beach Marathon as I got greedy and was shooting for sub-3:05, started with the 3:07 group and mostly gave up the race by the half way point. Ended up running the marathon in 3:23 something.
    • Had a PR at the second half of the San Francisco Half marathon with 1:30:18 (was shooting for sub 1:30 and didn't make it)
    • Had a PR at the Berlin Marathon with 3:05:32 although I cramped badly as I was shooting for sub-3 
    • Ran a marathon under 3 hours at the California International Marathon with 2:58:44. This got me qualified for Boston and of course was my PR. This was my biggest accomplishment of all and it didn't come easy. 
    • I also noticed I ran almost 2000+ miles for the year.

    Overall a great year for my running with some good accomplishments. I ran a marathon under 3 hours, qualified for Boston, had a PR in 5 of the 6 races I did this year.  Ran the half under 1:30 during my sub-3 marathon (1:29:35, 1:29:09). Did sub-19 5K's during training. A good year for my running. It wasn't easy but it was worth all the effort that went into it.  

    I remember naively writing down in 2011 about qualifying for Boston by 2012. After feeling guilty and sick of myself of "thinking and dreaming" about Boston but not doing much about it, I wrote down my goal of BQ in an attempt to get disciplined and determined about achieving the goal. It  took me almost 6 years more to actually achieve that goal.

    In hindsight it makes sense, I was more interested and excited about running the marathon in all the 50 states and 7 continents that I didn't focus on qualifying for Boston. I do vividly remember going through the dilemma of "Should I focus on BQ or running the states and continents ?".  I chose the 50 states and 7 continents over BQ. While BQ is what got me started to run, traveling the 50 states and 7 continents is what excited me. Running became an excuse for traveling.  After completing the 50 states and 7 continents last year I couldn't give that excuse of "50 states and 7 continents" anymore.

    Wow, qualifying for Boston and running a marathon is not easy. It took a lot of focus and discipline and I am very happy and glad I did it. It was worth all the pain and suffering. I am glad I did it. 


    • Tokyo - Japan Trip
    • Berlin - Germany Trip
    • Hyderabad - India Trip (twice in the year)
    • Ventura Trip
    • Sacramento Trip

    • Yosemite Trip
    • Redwoods Trip

    Public Speaking
    • Finished the Storytelling Manual (5 speeches) at  Toastmasters 

    • Did decently well but plan to change the direction and get lot more focused.

    • Got 7hrs of sleep on an average through out the year (FitBit showed that I didn't get much sleep in the first 8 months and I caught up on the sleep in the last 4 months). 


    • Read at least 25 books this year.
    • I read a book a week on average in the last 4 months of the year. (Need to be consistently reading instead of reading just towards the end of the year

    • Wrote for 270 days of the year, writing at least 1000 - 2000 words per day.
    • Wrote consistently everyday starting from April.
    • Made some good progress on writing the memoir book, coming up with the manuscript. Yet to finish the editing and finalize the manuscript.

    Simple Living 
    • Donated most of my medals (almost 50+ medals) to a Kids Cancer hospital
    • Donated many of my clothes to St. Anthony's Diner
    While I like living simply and minimally, I also wanted to remind myself "I didn't run it for the medals". I wanted the medals to find a home where they will be cherished and be of much more value than lying in one corner of my apartment. I didn't want my accomplishments to get to my head and also wanted to remind myself "we come with nothing and we go with nothing but it is what we leave that matters". I am glad I donated all my medals to the children's hospital.


    Missed ...
    • on Summit goals, writing goals, few more adventure/fun trips,  relationship goals and creating additional value 

    Overall a focused year of getting things done. Had some really good accomplishments with running, decent accomplishments with traveling, reading, writing, public speaking, getting good sleep and eating decently well.  More importantly I was happy I didn't spend much time on the Internet, especially the Social Media and the messaging apps. I am happy for cutting down the distractions and getting focused.

    Looking forward to making 2018 much more focused with working on the goals daily, instead of just few weeks or months of the year. I am excited about the daily schedule and looking forward to see how diligently I can follow the schedule of living life and making a living.

    To 2018 - a year of focus and doing.