Lessons learnt from my startup journey so far

Swaminathan Gopal
Dec 22, 2018 · 6 min read

Truth be told, it’s humbling, exhilarating, scary & funny the things you notice when you look back to reflect upon your startup life journey. That was true for me for schooling, and now it rings loud like a bell echoing through the air as I turn around and see the path I took to get to where I stand today and an exciting road ahead.

It’s never a straight line, but rather, a winding path. Some of it is smooth and easy to traverse while other parts of it are riddled with pits and dips and holes that you have to learn to avoid, or accidentally step in, pull yourself out of, and set back on your course.

I’m here to share some of my key learnings with you, hopefully it would be of some help.

1. Think Big, But Start Small.

Fundamentally we are not wired or brought up to think big. Do you want to be one more star in the sky or a standout Sun? Do you want to be one more diamond or the unique, Kohinoor? Dreaming big is good. It’s SO good. But you have to pull your focus back from that bigger picture and start with small goals to get there. It’s like looking out your window and seeing a big mountain. You want to climb that mountain right to the top, but you can’t just hop out your window and be at the summit. You have to go through everything to get to that mountain, plus all the steps it will take you to get to the top. Make small goals along the way as you venture toward your goal.

2. Give Wings To Fly, Then Let Go.

When building your organization, as a leader, you shouldn’t rule with absolute authority, but rather empower the others. As a culture, every member should be encouraged to ask questions, challenge the proposed ideas and brainstorm to derive the right solution to implement. Let people make mistakes so they can learn and explore. And when they do make mistakes, as we all do, let it go. The power of letting go is so freeing. It allows you as well as your employees to have more space to grow and to make the kind of profound impact on your organization as well as their personal life, yours too.

3. Be Frugal.

There’s a difference between being cheap and being frugal. When you are up against the wall with few options, your creativity tends to flourish.

Frugality breeds creativity. Necessity is the mother of all invention !

You can do more with less. For every rupee being spent, if you research deep you will figure out lot more cost effective ways to fulfill your requirements. But don’t skimp on the things that are important. Be frugal where it counts to make the right impact and appreciate the drive it took to jump the hurdles in front of you.

4. In Time, On Time.

Being on time and being in time are two different things. Most of us are on time, and hence the next target should be being in time. Being in time speaks volumes of our discipline. It’s one of the best gifts we can give ourselves and the people around us. When you are punctual, you are giving your respect toward others. There can be so many times that we do not reach somewhere on time for reasons beyond our control, however in such a situation, keeping those that are expecting us informed is the proper thing to do. This is one characteristic that made a major difference in my life.

Time is something we can never get more of. We can make more money. We can get more things. But time can never come back to us. And although it is something we can never earn more of, our perceptions of time shift drastically when we consider time and how it relates to us. It’s up to us to take the time we have, good or bad, and make the most of it.

5. Never Stop Learning.

Just because you have earned your degree or reached the upper echelons of the organisation doesn’t mean learning should cease. We should all take the opportunity to learn more in our field with each passing year. We can also learn new things just for the sake of curiosity. Fiercely consume information every day and keep feeding your brain. It does wonders without we knowing about it.

6. Get A Mentor.

Having someone older and wiser to look up to, like our parents, teachers, professors, or managers is the best way to always keep growing with the information you learn. Find someone you can relate to who can help you grow and wants to see you succeed. A mentor is an absolute must for those that strive to be successful.

7. Be Persistent.

It’s impossible to get everything you want in life with little effort. Sometimes, even when you have worked hard and feel you deserve something, you still won’t get it. Don’t let that stop you. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and go for it again and again. Persistence is what has made some of the most successful people in the world today so revered.

8. Live Life Beyond The Office.

Though i’m still trying to improve on this, my final piece of advice to you is this: spend time with friends and family. The people that you love must have a spot in your life no matter how busy you are. As I mentioned with time, it’s something you will never get back. Manage your time wisely to be successful at work while making time for loved ones. In a second, they could be gone and we would regret not having one more moment with them.

On a lighter note, as they say, “All work makes Amitabh a dull boy,” taking breaks from your professional world to rejuvenate yourself actually improves your own productivity. Banging your head against the wall for an idea that won’t come because you are too entrenched in it does no good. Simply stepping back and nurturing yourself with what makes life worthwhile will do wonders for your creativity and your ability to knock things out of the park.

These are “very few & expensive” lessons learnt. If you are wise, you will learn from these, others and avoid making such mistakes. Hope this helps !