The art of creating a life while making a living: Why pitching a different idea than we were expected to was the best thing.

Do you want to sit here and work on what ever the heck you want? Or are you going to build someone else’s dream in another office?

It’s 2pm and we are sitting on three cozy bean bags in a tech incubator. All three of us are looking at each other dreading what is yet to come. This was our first pitch in-front of the real judges and we were pitching something completely opposite of what we wrote in our application.

“Do you take of us as fools? Why are you wasting our times? How do we trust you when you just completely changed what you had proposed to us in the first place?”

That’s just the gist of the questions that were buzzing in our minds. Our heads were sweating and we had no clue how harsh the judges are going to be. I mean; how would you feel if you selected an applicant to be in the top 15 out of 600 and invited them to pitch their idea; yet they showed up and told you a completely different story?

However that sound; that's exactly what we were about to do. Yet we didn’t do this on purpose; like everything we ever did; it had a story. Bear on; it might as well leave you with one to share over your next coffee.

The deferred plan:

Humans beings are procrastinators. Why? Why are humans the size we are, rather than being, say, cat-sized or giraffe-sized? Why do we have emotions?

There is no one, definite answer to this question.

One of the biggest factors contributing to procrastination is something called “temporal discounting,” which sounds scary but is actually really easy to understand.

When it comes to tasks that will net you a definite reward, we have a tendency to prioritize small short term rewards over larger rewards later.

That’s exactly what we did. We had an idea; let’s call it idea A. It had great potential to get monetized; and yield us net returns quite quickly. We were quite confident that it could turn bring us a positive cash-flow in 3 months. Hell; we were sure of it.

But there was something inherently wrong with this thought. This thought did drive us. Drove us to succeed. Drove us to work. But we were mistaking this with passion. Drive pushes us towards a goal; whereas passion pulls us.

A month back; we had applied in another tech conference. We went there and presented idea A to the judges. They pointed out a few issues and like any budding entrepreneur would do; we argued. We talked. We left.

However this had a profound effect on our thinking. We got demotivated and didn’t find it in ourselves to push forward. We found ourselves asking the same question again and again; why? Why aren’t we fighting for it?

Fast forward one month; the same idea gets selected out of 600 to take part in one of the top incubators of Pakistan. We receive a call that we are to pitch it for the final selection to a panel of judges in three days. Yet; We didn’t.

Here i shall recommend you to read the book: “The Monk and the riddle: The art of creating a life while making a living”. This book gave us all the answers to why we didn’t work more on our idea. This book taught us the difference between passion and drive.

Alot of entrepreneurs mistake the two. Yet; like all the beautiful things in life; a sunset; a sunrise; both these words bring together two opposite phenomenons. Drive pushes us. Passion pulls us. Dead simple.

We always thought if we succeed in idea A; we would take the money and put it in idea B. We had worked on idea B for quite a while; as a side hobby; slowly building it up. We did it ; because we loved it.

This plan; making off money using something and putting it later into something you actually love to do is called the deferred plan. We see the things we love bringing us larger rewards but at a later stage. So we let them be.

We fell for the procrastination plan. The plan that makes us do that we should do instead of what we want to do. The plan that results in us being ultimately unhappy and not being inspired by our daily doings.

It was time for that to end.

The Passion Profession Plan:

After reading “The monk and the riddle”; we sat down. We tried to cut out the monkey in our heads and clear out our thoughts. What are the things we love doing? What are the things that if we don’t have in our life; we shall be truly miserable?

Days went by and we kept on thinking. A day before we were meant to pitch our idea; we finally came up with a list of thing that truly mattered to us.
  1. Travelling
  2. Sharing our experiences
  3. Giving back to our country
  4. Software and computers ; a childhood curiosity

We had travelled. In the past two years we had travelled to each end of Pakistan. From Karachi which lies to the bottom; to the base-camp of K2 mountain.

We had seen people of so many cultures. In the day and age of internet; still following their old traditions. Telling us stories of how their ancestors used to live. Helping us. Guiding us. And making us proud of our country, Pakistan.

That’s us travelling on two 70cc bikes through Azad Kashmir

And suddenly when we came back; we had things to share with others. We sat down with them and told them how travelling at 8pm in the night by the river Neelum was the spookiest thing we ever did.

They listened ; they got excited; their eyes lit up. This always resulted in such wonderful conversations and we got addicted. We were addicted to telling stories.

So we thought; how could we mix the things we love up. How could we do something that helped us achieve nothing but the most important things to us; and funnily enough the answer was always there with us.

We had been doing it for the past six months. As a hobby; we had built a tourism promotion company called “Traverse Pakistan”. We had built a minimum viable website; and were running a Facebook page. We had taken three not-for-profit trips and inspired people to travel more.

This was it. This sudden epiphany cleared our heads out. And we convinced each other that the judges waiting for us tomorrow would want us to do the right thing; to present what we truly love and hence we went there and presented “Traverse Pakistan”.

The idea of “Traverse Pakistan” was conceived when we went on a trek to K2. While travelling there; walking every day on glaciers, stones, and hills; we were always greeted by foreigners. In all of the 17 days; we didn’t see a single Pakistani Group.

Not a single group of the country where the mountain actually lies. What are the chances of that happening in Switzerland or New Zealand.

So we sat down infront of K2. And we came up with the idea that this needs to change. People would only visit amazing places in Pakistan if they knew about it. Promises were made. Passions were developed.

We shook each others hands and made a pact; we are going to promote tourism in Pakistan. We are going to let the world know; how beautiful our country is.

Standing in the throne room of Mountain Gods; Concordia, Pakistan. It has a view of 4 of the top 14 8000'ers in the world. The only place in the world which has that.

We call this the “Passion Profession” plan. The plan where you make your passion the purpose of your life. Where you work on the things you actually want to work on. Where you let “what you should be doing” go.

Standing infront of Broad Peak (8051 meters); the 12th highest mountain in the world.

Okay! Cool; you want to change the face of tourism in Pakistan? And….?

Alot of companies were already doing similar things. They were taking out trips; pomoting the pictures of Pakistan on social media; hell there were NGO’s ( filming and promoting the national parks of Pakistan. Take that!

But we felt everything was broken up. The travel blogs were being shared randomly. Travel forums took place on a car listing website. Photographers were just maintaining their own profiles. Everything was scattered.

Why not bring it all together? Why not provide people with a single platform about all things Pakistan. That would bring ease…no?

Why can’t people just visit one website; and get information about places; find hotels; means to reach their destinations; see professional photographs AND buy them; blog; share experiences?

That exactly is what we made the first iteration of Traverse Pakistan to be. Thats exactly in three lines; what Traverse Pakistan is.

Till that day; we had developed Traverse Pakistan into its own brand. It had screened promotional films from Walkabout in various universities; took three not-for-profit trips; and setup a Facebook following.

The People of Traverse Pakistan; After their first screening
Our first trip to promote Pakistan. The location is Toli Peer, Azad Kashmir, Pakistan.

All that by just bloody working on it as a hobby. It was time to cut the clutter. It was time to stop bull-shitting around for money. This was the moment of one of our most important decisions.

Whether to pitch what we were called for or give them a dose of what true passion really is?

We sat down. We fought. And we decided. We decided to present “Traverse Pakistan”. We worked our ass off for the whole night. Created presentations. Business outlooks.

But above all; we prepared what we had to say. And all the while; we didn’t have to prepare at all.

We didn’t have to come up with shiny words. The passion showed. In whatever we said or uttered; the other person could feel it on our face. We truly believed in promoting our country.

So when it came down to it; this working; for the first time didn’t feel like working. We stayed up all night and put together reasonable material to show.

The next day; we drove 400 kms and arrived at our destination. We heard eminem’s “Loose Yourself” for the last time; looked each other in the eye and knew this was the time.

We were given some instructions on what we were going to be judged on. And were told to wait. After three hours; it was finally time to go in and impress the judges.

We hoped our passion would be enough. It wasn’t.

How the judges perceive things is always the last card; and the most important one:

“Phew” was all we uttered when we came out of the pitch room. We had done it; although everything we had thought of didn’t happen.

We trusted them too much. We had put too much value in what we thought of them to be. We had thought they would prefer our soulchild over our brainchild.

They didn’t wait to hear us all out. They didn’t get excited by looking at us speak. No. They just sat there and questioned; how would you earn money? Are you guys financially positive?

All those questions we had dreaded being asked; all those questions that were trying to put numbers on our passion. All those questions which at that stage; didn’t matter much to us.

Thats the thing wrong with these incubators. Maybe thats the difference between the best buisness schools of Pakistan and the best buisness schools of a G8 economy.

Maybe all the difference is passion. The value of passion. The audacity to see beyond the next six months. The audacity of a dream.

We haven’t yet received their final answer. Maybe they would incubate us; maybe they won’t. They asked us to wait till the coming Tuesday.

But you know what; right now; at this moment; we don’t care much.

Because whatever and however the people there were; applying to this place made us realize what we truly wanted to do. What we truly wanted to achieve.

It gave us the courage to work harder; smarter and work only towards our dream.

But; above all; it gave us the courage to do something totally out of the normal. It gave us the confidence to succeed. And succeed we shall.

So stop living by the deferred plan. Stop doing the things you are supposed to do. Stop living for others. Its time to do what you want. Its time to live for yourself.

Only there shall you; like us; find true happiness.

But hey; Before you leave:

I want you to just shut everything out. I want you to leave this blog with a whiff of fresh mindset about my country. I want you to leave with the reality that right now; is present only in my mind.

I want you to leave with a little bit of Pakistan. A little bit of what our country is to us (Links to follow are at the bottom;if you ever reach there :P)

Chitta Khatta Lake; Azad Kashmir; Pakistan.
No; That isn’t one of the great lakes in Canada; Its the “Chitta Khatta Lake” in Azad Kashmir; Pakistan.
Saral Lake; Kaghan Valley; Khyber Pakhtun Khwa; Pakistan.
Yep; thats a lake (Saral Lake) in Azad Jammu Kashmir; Pakistan. Yes. You heard it right.
Karombar Lake; at the border of KPK and Gilgit; Pakistan
That isn’t a landscape from Iceland; Its Karombar Lake; Near the border of the province of Khyber Pakhtun Khwa (KPK); Pakistan. Yes; PAKISTAN!
A view of Islamabad, From The Loh-Dhandi Trek.
And that, there; isn’t where the next Lord of the Rings Trialogy would be filmed; Its not New Zealand; It’s not Romania; its the capital city Islamabad of our Beloved Pakistan.
Brown Himalyan Bears, Deosai Plains, Pakistan
Yes; we are also home to the most precious species of bears; the Himalayan Brown Bear. That photo is from the second highest plains in the world; the Deosai Plains, Pakistan.

And lastly; i would like you to see this video we just created. Its taken us three days of traveling to film this place; but i can’t put into words how amazing the experience was. This is nature and people in its raw form. The amazing Neelum Valley, Azad Kashmir, Pakistan.

Hope you live and work for what you are passionate about. Adios Amigos!

P.S We shall let you know if we were chosen or not. I know; like you care!

The Verdict:

I had finished this blog and was just getting it reviewed when the news came in. Moment of truth. Did they go for our dream? or all they saw were a few adults They finally did tell us their verdict.

We just got selected to be incubated at the best buisness school in Pakistan. I will be the first one to admit here that i was wrong about our judges.

I was wrong in thinking that for them passion isn’t enough. Actually; all this turned out to be for the best. Atleast we realized that what these incubators are actually looking for is raw passion.

The love for what you do. And that won’t come if you are in it for the money. This might be the time of my life when i finally see the truth in what every successful entrepeneur has always claimed.

Money is just a fringe benefit. A mist. Like all the good things in life; it comes when you aren’t looking for it. When you expect it the least.

And most of you won’t understand that. Most of you would even claim that we are passionate but we can’t get it out for others too see.

You know; passion has a personality and a face of its own. Like everyone can notice your face; they can notice your passion too. If they can’t; well you need to do the soul searching we did. Because you are on a wrong path.

If it’s there; people would see it. And you won’t have to think about how to put it into words. Your words would by themself exuberate your heart.

But; lets take a learning out of this. And what shall that be i wonder:

All the difference is passion. The value of passion. The audacity to see beyond the next six months. The audacity of a dream. We dreamt. We went. We conquered.

They did value passion. They did value our dream. Maybe the reason they minutely asked those revenue questions was; that they actually wanted us to sustain?

To succeed? And not flickr away like the last moments of a burning candle?

That’s a question to answer for another day. Right now; its time to CELEBRATE!

If you liked the article; and would like to know more about me or Traverse Pakistan; you can follow the links given below.


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Credits for most photos goes to Sher Ali Photography.

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