No straight road to success: Comedian Zakir Khan bares his soul on redefining the rules of 'being cool'

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At YourStory’s Creators Inc 2022 event, we caught up with comedian-poet-actor-sitarist Zakir Khan, in a heart to heart conversation around his life, his philosophy and what makes him tick.
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It is often said that life’s lowest points help a person build character more than their high points do.

When Zakir Khan, comedian par excellence, moved to Mumbai after a somewhat successful career in the comedy circuit in Delhi, he thought making a name for himself in the ‘mayanagri’ would be cakewalk.

It wasn’t.

Unemployment found him, and life became a constant tussle between paying bills to have a roof over his head, and skipping meals to save money. Days melded into weeks, and it was easy to lose sight of the big picture, but ever the optimist, Zakir says he decided to use the time to introspect, learn from elders, work even harder than he already was, and constantly redefine the very rules of "being cool."

“Gehoon se aata banna hai toh chakki ke neeche toh jaana padega (for wheat berry to turn into wheat flour, it needs to go through the grind),” he tells YourStory Founder and CEO Shradha Sharma at YourStory's Creators Inc Conference, as he references the trials and challenges he faced in his journey before his eventual success.

But not one to accept defeat, Zakir soldiered on, coming up with his own definitions of what matters in the long run, be it in life or in the content he produces.

“I knew early on in life that no one was going to come and save me, so I had to fend for myself, he adds.”

So instead of counting his losses, he mulled his next move, thought more deeply about what he wanted his content to be like, all the while revelling in the fact that this was part and parcel of the life he had chosen for himself. And that introspection paid off in spades because it helped him zone in on what his true priorities were, and what he wanted from his work life.

So now, before taking on any new project today, Zakir asks himself three questions, an 'accountability checklist' of sorts if you will. The answers to these three crucial questions determine the choices he makes with his work:

  • Is this financially worth it?
  • Is it helping me reach new people, a new audience?
  • Am I able to learn something new?
“If the project checks even 2.5 of the 3 boxes, I will take the opportunity,” he says, adding he is thankful today for his checklist because it helps him gauge his own self and makes him accountable to himself.

Catch YourStory's Creators Inc conference here.

For more on other key initiatives as part of the conference, visit our Creators Inc. website here.

Recognising the burgeoning creator ecosystem and the new wave of entrepreneurship that comes with it, YourStory is celebrating the works of both established and emerging influencers in an initiative aimed at identifying, celebrating and accelerating the journey of digital creators who make extraordinary, unique and engaging content. We've partnered with Trell to bring you the Top 100 Creators challenge, which you can apply for here.

Edited by Tenzin Pema and Ramarko Sengupta

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