My guiding principles
I am far from having figured everything out, but I use the following framework to guide myself on the journey of life:
1) Do not fail because of a lack of hard work
Enough has been said about how innate talent and smart-work trump hard work, and I agree with that notion. Therefore, I don’t beat myself up when I fail due to lack of experience, better competition, or bad luck. However, when these three factors are not at play, I work hard enough to ensure that a lack of hard work doesn’t become the primary reason for my failure.
2) Balance the five F-balls
a. Faith (not necessarily religious)
e. Finances (your job)
We are constantly juggling these five balls as we lead our lives. #a-d are glass balls we cannot afford to drop. However, #e is a rubber ball that we should be willing to drop to maintain #a-d in the air. The rubber ball will always bounce back as long as we take care of the glass balls. I always knew that #a-e are critical to our well-being, but it was Will Carpenter, my professor of ‘Investment Theory and Practice’ at business school, who introduced me to this brilliant analogy. Of course, this discussion took place outside the regular classroom since this concept had nothing to do with investment theory.
3) Take breaks from screens and active thinking
In a world where ‘productivity’ YouTubers and authors are forcing me to milk every second of my waking hours, I can be too harsh on myself. I am a corporate athlete and knowledge work is my skill. Just like any other athlete, I make the time to rest. Minimizing the use of social media and exposing the body to sun and fresh air helps me reduce the cognitive load even further.
4) Pick your battles carefully, take calculated risks, and preserve optionality
This one probably deserves an essay of its own!
5) Try hard to not judge people
I am self-aware of my bias to my personal history. Until my early 20s, my stupidity and ignorance led me to believe that just because I woke up early and didn’t consume alcohol (I was a teetotaler until the age of 26 by choice), anyone doing otherwise was doing something wrong. Through progressive personal and professional experiences, I have learned that everyone is fighting his/her own battle, and I should stop judging people. Morgan Housel has summarized this principle beautifully in this post- “Your personal experiences make up maybe 0.00000001% of what’s happened in the world, but maybe 80% of how you think the world works.”
6) Embrace humility and express gratitude
My family wasn’t rich by any means, so while my brother and I were growing up, my parents sacrificed a lot of their comforts and saved every penny to make sure we get the best primary education they could afford. I fully acknowledge that I was lucky to be randomly born in the Vaish family! Human beings attribute all of their success to their hard work (and talent) and grossly underestimate the role of good luck. Fortunes can turn around quickly, so recognize your good luck and do not take it for granted.
7) Actively seek opportunities to empower those who aren’t as lucky as you are
I have also been very lucky to find some great mentors in both professional and personal life, and I make intentional efforts to give it back by carving out time for anyone who reaches out to me for advice or help.