The Wagon Philosophy

I get asked a lot about the story behind the word wagon.

It’s more a philosophy than a story.

Back in the university days. One night in my dorm room, me and my friends were brainstorming a name for a fictional startup that we had to pitch.

After thinking up hundred’s of names, we finally settled at Futurewagon. The logic behind the name was to compare a business to a wagon that can carry all its stakeholders into a happier future. It would create products and services that made the world a better place in someway, and would thereby become a positive change agent, much like a vehicle is. It takes us from a place we are to where we want to be. It’s an enabler.

Fast forward to today, I continued using the name and the company we run today is called Futurewagon. We have an in-house brand that’s called Happywagon. And many more wagon projects in the pipeline. We’ve got used to naming new business ventures and brands with a prefix or suffix carrying the word wagon.

The Core Philosophy:

A 15th Century four wheeled wagon was the most basic and fundamental version of what futuristic vehicles are today. It would have almost sounded magical to the 15th century humans if they were told, their humble invention could someday evolve into supercars and spaceships!

If you think about the invention of a wagon, I’m sure you’d agree that nothing could be more profound for the Inventor. The invention left a legacy behind and evolved into something that has helped multiple generations in extremely significant ways.

With this perspective, the word wagon has the power to turn into a unifying philosophy and a beautiful inspiration. It can inspire all of us to live by some core values –

  • to believe in the power of humility and humble beginnings
  • to believe in fundamentals being right
  • to believe that magic happens in the long term

More realistically, a wagon takes you places. It broadens your horizons. It creates an environment for growth and happiness. It is a powerful change agent that is capable of creating profound experiences.

And that’s what I wish to do with our business ventures – To create lasting impact. To Make people happy and to leave the world a little better than before.

Today, we’re in the business of creating brands and delivering happy experiences. Tomorrow we may be creating something else. But no matter what we do, I’d always wish for us to be true wagoner’s at heart!

Thoughts on Leadership

Some quotes on leadership by renowned author John Maxwell.

A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.

People never care how much you know until they know how much you care. 

A good leader is a person who takes a little more than his share of the blame and a little less than his share of the credit.

Leaders must be close enough to relate to others, but far enough ahead to motivate them.

People buy into the leader before they buy into the vision.

For those who are in leadership positions or for those who intend to be in one someday, here are 5 leadership levels to keep in mind.

1. The “BOSS” – Authority without attitude and character. Throws around weight. Attracts negativity and ridicule.

2. The leader who is a Friend– Understands people. Makes people feel comfortable. Most times, due to the friendly – cause no harm attitude fails to deliver optimal results.

3. The leader who is a friend but also result oriented – Is able to balance being friendly while ensuring the team is able to deliver on results.

4. The leader who is a result oriented friend and focuses on individual growth – Focuses on personal and professional development of team mates, as they deliver results.

5. The leader who creates empowered individuals who go on to create other leaders. – Master at the art of creating leaders.

 

Life changing moves

It’s a simple but powerful word. Move.

Personally, I can attribute a lot of the good things that have happened in my life to just this one action – moving.

Other successful people I know, have made some or all of these moves to get to where they are.

So what can you move?

Here are 10  ideas, that will hopefully help you figure out your own best moves.

1. Move yourself, to a bigger city where all the action happens.

2. Move your standards higher, to the level where you don’t settle for anything less than you deserve.

3. Move your body.

4. Move away from the people and relationships that don’t make you happy.

5. Move towards sources of learning and growth.

6. Move from your current circle of influence to the one that helps you live life better.

7. Move your money to places where it can grow.

8. Move closer to the ones you love.

9. Move your focus to the things that are more meaningful.

10. Move from living life aimlessly to designing your life consciously.

Go ahead. Make a move.

How to succeed as an Artist

I was abroad doing my masters. One evening at the restaurant where I used to wait tables, I overheard a guy say to his daughter, who I assume was trying to make a career in art. “Artists don’t make money. You will barely make ends meet.” There were more such discouraging statements that followed. All driving home the same point.

The first one hit me hard. So hard, that I instantly got lost in a bunch of thoughts. It blurred out all the noise around me. I thought to myself, is that really true? Made me sad for a moment. My inner instincts have always been to rebel against the easy and ordinary, I really wanted to go to the girl and whisper in her ears. “Don’t Listen to your father, go follow your passion”.

I started thinking of ways to write a little note on a tissue and slide it in with her dish. The guy who was serving her table was a friend, so I had it all planned out in my head. Only Until, my abusive boss yelled at me to go take care of a silly customer, who I had apparently ignored while being lost in thoughts.

Reality struck, After all I was a waiter there. With a uniform that had a faded restaurant logo that made me look like I needed help in life.

Anyway, fast forward to today.

As unreal as it sounds, Most of the work I do is with Artists. We see all kinds of them everyday. I have personally interacted with more than 200+ artists who are full time and may be double the number of people who were considering to move into some form of art.

We’ve learnt a bunch of things in the process that we think is valuable to anyone considering or trying to make a career in Art.

MARKET

  • If there was any time in history to be an artist and pursue your passion, it is now. There are more tools, courses, companies and entire industry ecosystems that exist today than they did ever before.

 

  • Consumer’s are more aware than they have ever been about the finer things in life. It may be music, comedy, design, food – almost anything that can be classified as art.

INDIVIDUAL

  •  Ambition: We’ve met very few artists who are really driven and motivated. May be this is because they are made to believe their drive will not get them anywhere. This needs to change. I think there should be no difference in motivation, drive and ambition between considering art, joining the army or starting a business. Everything requires hard work and the right mindset. Everything has the potential to turn out supremely rewarding.

 

  • Consistency: All the successful artists we’ve worked with, have put in efforts consistently over long periods of time. They look like overnight successes but usually overnight = 3 – 5 years of constantly refining ones craft. Here is a good article that will help you be more consistent.

 

  • Trust: What separates a successful artist from the struggling one is that the ones who are successful have the ability to surround themselves with people who are trustworthy and encouraging. They are very clear about where their weaknesses lie. They don’t mind admitting it and work with artist management companies, personal managers or other such organisations who protect their interests and ensure growth is delivered. I always believe, trust begets loyalty. Trust people. It’s not such a bad world after all. And don’t try to do everything on your own.

 

  • Create Value: This is fundamental. Your success as an artist will depend on the kind of value you are able to create for your clients. In most cases it is value creation and in some it is solving a problem. A musician or an actor satisfies the need for people to be entertained. They make people feel a certain way. So that’s a problem solved. While it is important to stay true to your art, it is also important to keep clients interests and needs in mind. Many artists aren’t able to comprehend this and ending up with unhappy outcomes and eventually a career devoid of possibilities.

 

  • Be so good, they can’t ignore you: Read this career and life changing book. Some book notes here.

7 things every Startup employee should know

Like some of you may know, I have been deeply involved in running a fast growing startup in the influencer merchandising space for close to 3 years now. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with a bunch of people. Many came. Some stayed, some left.

There are a few things I’ve learnt along the way after interacting with 100’s of Startup candidates and a handful of people who either worked with me or at I met at some other startup. And I think some of these learnings  are worth sharing and applying.

Here you go!

1. Equity matters:  The possibility of owning equity is the single biggest differentiator between an ordinary job and a startup job. I have met very few people who actually understand the difference and the impact it can have on your career. One successful exit,  and you’ve shaved years otherwise spent in a cubicle at some corporate job. So, it is a waste of your time and the opportunity at hand if you aren’t working towards owning equity at the startup you work for.

2. Learn to Earn: A startup by definition is a place where job roles expand or change at lightening speed. Sometimes fast enough for most people to easily become irrelevant and replaceable. Primary reason being, there is no effort put into learning and growing skills.  The more you seek out learning while at a startup, the more are your chances of earning.

3. Discipline: Across startups, due to the very nature of it – discipline is extremely rare and hard to find. But the good news is that rare is always valuable. Find a way to be disciplined about everything you possibly can and you will set yourself apart.

4. Be a problem solver not a problem Identifier: When a startup is formed and is growing, most times there is no absolute sense of direction. Along with a bunch of other things, It is ever changing.  Situations of high growth usually come along with lack of clarity, new people and broken communication systems resulting in a lot of problems. Most of which are solvable by a proactive approach. I have come across a lot of complainers who always have a never ending list of things that need solving. And most times, this rant is being shared with the ones who have invented these problems in the first place. ( Founders or very early employees.) They know what’s wrong. Go fix something if you can, or just don’t complain and earn the badge of a problem identifier. It’s so easy to find fault, especially at a startup and there is no value in doing so.

5. Seek Criticism: I don’t know of many startups that have formal performance management systems in place right from the outset. It’s a great practice to be persistent and regular in seeking feedback on the work you do. The ability of seeking out criticism in order to grow is again rare, and will make you a very  valuable startup employee.

6. Demonstrate Hunger: Most people think, startups are about what we read  in the news. Glamour, fund raises and lots of money. (99% of what we read is paid PR, more on that later.) There are very few who talk about the harsh realities and what goes on behind the curtains. To make a startup work, 100% of the time, there are a few people sacrificing a whole lot, just to keep things from falling apart. If your personality and work style doesn’t contain the much needed dose of positive aggression and hunger for growth, chances of you thriving in a startup environment are almost nil. As startups become popular, the quality of workforce that is joining is only improving. This puts most of the non-hungry employees at the risk of being replaced, which is never a good place to be.

7. Control your own destiny:  At least, to a far greater degree than you could at a regular job, you have the ability to control how your career shapes up while working at a startup. Make sure you utilise the freedom and access to people, different departments and roles to ensure you find all the best places within the company where you can add the most value. If your value addition isn’t moving a company forward, it is  quite definitely moving it backward, thereby impacting your destiny along with everyone else’s at the startup.

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