[TechSparks 2020] Here's why decluttering holds the key to success
If the self-help book section is your favourite aisle in a bookstore, then The Victory Project, Six Steps to Peak Potential by Saurabh Mukherjea and Anupam Gupta is the one to pick up.
The Victory Project is essentially the ultimate guide to surviving and thriving in the professional and social domains, which are increasingly becoming tough, competitive, often cutthroat and deeply political.
The book is a culmination of two years of research on the drivers of outsized professional success alongside personal fulfilment in professions as diverse as music, cinema, literature, psychology, manufacturing, investing, and martial arts.
Saurabh is the Founder and Chief Investment Officer of Marcellus Investment Managers and the former CEO of Ambit Capital. A London School of Economics alumnus, he has written three bestselling books: Gurus of Chaos (2014), The Unusual Billionaires (2016), and Coffee Can Investing: The low-risk route to stupendous wealth (2018).
Anupam Gupta is an investment research consultant, author, and podcast host. He also writes columns in Business Standard and Scroll and has worked with large brands on their content.
He hosts his podcast (PaisaVaisa) on personal finance, which has crossed 200 episodes. In 2019, PaisaVaisa won the ‘Best Business Podcast Award’ at the Asia Podcast Summit.
In a conversation around the book at the recently concluded TechSparks, Saurabh and Anupam shared their theories and principles that they believe can help professionals achieve fulfilment in both their professional and personal lives.
Excerpts from the interview:
YourStory [YS]: So two hardcore market analysts writing about investing as a metaphor for life or life as a metaphor for investing?
Saurabh Mukherjea [SM]: It is a little bit of both. Clearly, there are similar sets of things for both like patience, thought, and wisdom. Apart from the mental and physical muscle, an investor and a happy individual are people who go through life taking on challenges. The other way to think of it is life as a metaphor for investing. If you see life as a journey of investing in yourself, in your relationships, your career, your health, and personal happiness then that is also a rich metaphor. If you do not invest in these things you will not fulfil your potential. So it goes both ways. And that is what made the book so interesting to write.
Anupam Gupta [AG]: These seven months of the pandemic have been the biggest risk return in the history of mankind that I can remember. Everything is risk return. Stepping out of the house, you have to access what’s the risk. Investing is not only about looking at annual reports. But there is, of course, a lesson to learn that we put in the book.
YS: Tell us what makes the book so compelling for a reader to pick it up, especially when there are so many self-help books on the bookshelves?
AG: Three things really. First is that we have drawn upon a rich body of work for this book. The pedagogy that is there, the sources we have taken both western and Indian. Also, the lessons from our own personal journeys that we hope can resonate with people. The third is the eight experts from across diverse skill sets we have interviewed in this book.
SM: The reason we wrote the book was for a 25-year-old Saurabh and a 25-year-old Anupam. Something that would have helped us find a route map to success. It is singular because I cannot think of any book that has taken concepts as disparate as spirituality and creativity and wedded them into a cohesive context.
YS: The new graduates entering the workforce today not only face a highly competitive work environment but very uncertain times because of the raging pandemic. How will you explain success to them, to make the most of their talents?
SM: I remember graduating from LSE in 1999 and soon after the dot com bust came and career counselors said that it is curtains for your career. Three months after I came back to India in 2008, the Lehman Brothers went bust and my relatives in the US said, ‘poor you, you migrated to India in the middle of the recession’.
So these things are the facts and features of the free market. And each such crisis opens up a new opportunity. If you take the COVID-19 crisis itself, we’ve seen an unprecedented growth in cloud kitchens, unprecedented growth in OTT content, and digital media, and these are creating jobs. It is easy to see only the doom and gloom that make the headlines. But the reader of The Victory Project uses his creativity to latch on to positivity and build their career out of it.
AG: Like Saurabh said, you will always have ups and downs. The book is actually aimed to make you better prepared for the next crisis.
YS: Tell us a bit about your Simplicity Paradigm?
AG: It is a sequential structure, essentially like a triangle, where we start with the first principles of specialise, simplify, and spiritualise. And then you add the behaviour aspects which are declutter, creativity, and collaboration. Once you apply these then you have the simplicity in business and simplicity in investing.
SM: A lot of people jump straight into books like Great by Choice, How to be an Effective Leader etc. But you will not be leading great teams unless the foundation skills are there. Foundation skills have to be in specialised knowledge in a specific area and the ability to spiritualise the business context in which we operate in. On top of that you then layer the higher level skills, which are collaboration and creativity.
The foundation skills essentially apply to your early career, while the second part of the Simplicity Paradigm (declutter, creativity, and collaboration) is what you build in the middle of your corporate career. Our view is that if you see your career as a sequence of this, you can hit the reset button whether you are 24, 34, or as in my case 44. You know the route map, you hit the reset button and begin a new journey.
YS: It is interesting that you mention declutter. Such a tough ask in today’s hyper connected world. What are your tips to declutter?
SM: Mine are simple.
Keep a basic mobile phone with almost no apps on the phone. Have minimal presence on social media. Make it difficult for people to reach you and thus cut out all unnecessary noise. On a typical day, focus on two or three important things; deprioritise everything else.
AG: I am not as radical as Saurabh, I am in the middle. For me, there are two things really, routine and habit. I am on social media but I have certain slots in the day for that.
YS: How can people lead meaningful lives alongside great professional careers? It’s the holy grail of success, right, achieving both in life?
SM: If you are so immersed in your work where time melts away and you find a great sense of fulfilment, then that is the holy grail of professional success. The challenge is we tend to see success as imitating the world around us. Social media reinforces that and it kills your individuality and chokes off your creativity. Hence making success look difficult.
AG: Unfortunately, the world runs on the concept that the measure of success is money. What we have said in the book and to me, success means being the best at what you do. If you find something that you really love to do, find a mentor, and use that body of knowledge to build something that the market will pay you for. We are living in a free market economy, talent will be recognised. The only thing here is you have to be better than the next guy.
YS: Which books would you recommend to end this year with?
SM: It has been a difficult year for all of us. So read stuff that is useful and motivating. I would recommend: Daily Rituals, How Artists Work by Mason Currey. This is a book on great artists, writers, and architects over the last 200 years. The book packs in the lives of 150 odd creative people. I Too Had a Dream by Verghese Kurien. He took Amul from nothing in 1947 to a company three times the size of Nestle India. My third recommendation is Range by Edward Epstein. It tells us how you can broaden your skill sets, live a richer life, and achieve outsized success.
AG: I am very interested in corporate history. I am lucky that I played a part in helping with Saurabh’s The Unusual Billionaires. So anything that has to do with Indian corporate history is an interesting read.