Planning to startup? Take a year off


Most Indians have never heard of the term ‘gap year. Those who have, courtesy Hollywood, have not dared enough to leap at the idea. Whether you belong to the former set or the latter, here's a quick and easy explanation of what defines a gap year. It's taking a year off after finishing formal education (for most Indians it'll mean 12th or graduation) in order to figure out who you are and what you wish to do in life. It's a time of reflection and self-discovery and has often given the pursuer the bountiful gift of clarity.

A gap year is a psychological breather that allows you to pause before proceeding to your next step. If you are planning to enter the world of startups, whether straight out of college or after a few years of toiling under a boss, it's important for you to take time off to think over your next step. If you are still not convinced, here are five reasons that will lure you to the quietude and madness of a gap year.

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It'll help you organise yourself mentally and emotionally

Humanity, as it stands today, is hurtling through a tunnel of chaos. People get up in the morning, but are they truly waking up? Sure, the wheels of economy seem to be functioning well and everyone seems to be in high spirits, but is our inner constitution at peace? Are we glowing because of inner wisdom or because of Fair and Lovely? Any thoughtful person would know the answer. An emotionally intelligent one would be heartbroken by it. But that's our reality—discontent people waiting to fly.

If you think this situation has affected everyone but you, you are most likely to be in self-denial. The truth is that no matter who you are or what you do, you are yearning for clarity. And gaining clarity is hard work. It's the product of patience and research. It requires you to pull yourself away from all the synthetic cacophony, witless quarrels, and parasitic environment that thrives on our ignorance. Gaining true clarity requires you to find yourself not in the confines of a cubicle but in the freedom of a forest; not in running after material possessions but in pursuing mindful acquisitions. A gap year is, thus, the perfect way for you to run away from everything but yourself. It'll give you the time you desire and a chance to build your character, before building a company.

It'll help you evaluate your strengths and weaknesses

Different gap-year takers take different ways to fill in their year of break. Some travel, some read, others teach. Whatever your modus operandi, rest assured it will be a mirror to your true self. You may discover that you are wary of strangers but need their assistance nonetheless. Or you may figure out that you are good at tackling difficult situations but had never tested yourself before.

A gap year is full of mysteries, memories, and learnings. It'll help you appreciate your own company more than ever. It'll unveil to you your strengths and weaknesses. It'll be humbling, it'll be invigorating. It'll be moving and calming. In short, it'll be anything but boring. And you’ll proceed with unlayering yourself, one day at a time; you will learn what is missing in most people—self-respect.

It'll bring in a new perspective towards life

Is inequality natural? Is money good or evil? What is friendship? Who am I? Why am I here? Am I responsible for what's wrong with the world or what's right in it? What is humanity? These questions have been the monopoly of Johnny Walker conversations and school debates. In real life, questions that seek immediate attention are how to pay the EMI? How to get to work on time? How to make more money?

A renewed perspective on life cannot come when we are grappling with paying EMIs and what to wear for casual Friday. It comes from thinking consciously, from wanting answers not as a way out but as a way in (to yourself).

It'll help you know people as people, not just customers, vendors, or stakeholders

Jim Morrison mused in one of his songs that people are strange, when you are a stranger.

The corporate world does not benefit from friendships, it benefits from alliances. It doesn’t benefit from co-operation but competition. Such an ideology has reduced people to becoming the work they do. A vendor is just a vendor and a stakeholder only a stakeholder. When we begin to view people from the myopic lens of the roles they play, we treat them without real warmth or recognition. However, when you take a year off, the same people will turn into the ones whose help you’ll need from time to time. And when you are on the road and have no one to depend on but yourself and the guidance and love of a stranger, you’ll start seeing human beings in a different light.

A gap year is a year of preparation to becoming human. As you hone your skill to be who you really are, you’ll bring that clarity, honesty, and I daresay, love, to your workplace. You’ll see your employees, partners, investors, and others as real people and will treat them with warmth and respect. But these will remain only whimsical aspirations if you do not actually break yourself off from the monotonous grind and travel to distant places in order to meet yourself.