It was April 2009 in Malibu, California, at my graduation from the MBA program at Pepperdine University. I was sweating through my cap and gown on a day that felt more like a funeral than my graduation. The majority of our class had no jobs waiting for us upon graduation. And Mark Burnett, the creator of the TV show Survivor was our commencement speaker, a fitting choice given what we had waiting for us in the real world. I had no idea just how much not having a job lined up after graduation would change my life. Looking back, what seemed in the moment like the worst day of my life turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me.
Before eventually launching a successful podcast The Unmistakable Creative, I tried a whole bunch of online projects that never saw the light of day.
- I started a website called MYMBAinternship.com because very few companies recruited at Pepperdine.
- When I was a summer intern at Intuit, I started a blog. In retrospect, I was much more interested in the blog than the job.
- While I was living in Brazil, I tried to start a blog called Sao Paulo Living. It turns out it’s not easy to document your life in the 3rd largest city in the world when you can barely figure out how to get where you’re going.
- I started another blog called Bizskoolblog, which I had no interest in keeping up as soon as I finished business school.
- And then there was a project called “100 Reasons You Should Hire Me,” inspired by Jamie Varon’s successful job search campaign. By copying her format and not following my own ideas, I failed.
If you look at the careers of nearly all successful people what you’ll see are patterns of not fitting in, a pathological inability to accept the status quo, and a resume of failures that you’ve never heard about. The path to get to where they are is never linear. By the time you know about someone’s work, years of failure and setbacks are erased by their current success. But, the years in the trenches of getting their ass handed to them in the arena are formative and essential. At least they have been in for me in getting to this day.
The Endless Summer
Since I didn’t have a job lined up, I had quite a bit of time to kill.
I started a website called The Skool of Life. It grew to a few thousand subscribers over 3–4 years, but never quite achieved liftoff. But like many side projects it was the catalyst for something else, a weekly interview series called Interviews with up and Coming Bloggers. One thing I’ll never forget from those early days was this.
Peter Bregman told me “the worst thing you can do when you’re unemployed is spend all your time looking for a job. While classmates of mine were literally applying to every single job on the internet (a true story), I took Peter’s advice to heart. I limited my job search to no more than an hour a day. The rest of my time was taken up by two things that would create an infinite value beyond measure: writing and surfing.
Given that I’m Indian, I’m not genetically predisposed for athletic stardom. And surfing requires a fair amount of athleticism. But some reason surfing stuck.
- I learned to read the surf report.
- I got up earlier each day when I realized that it wouldn’t be windy in the morning.
- I scheduled my phone interviews so that they wouldn’t interfere with surfing time, and I even took an occasional call from the beach.
With each day in the sun, I got darker, gradually destroying my mother’s hopes for any shot at an arranged marriage. Anytime I saw another Indian person the first thing they’d say to me was “wow you’ve gotten so dark.” I resisted the temptation to say “wow you’ve gained a lot of weight.” By about the middle of the summer I came to a profound realization:
Surfing is a perfect hobby for an unemployed person because it takes up a shitload of time and it doesn’t cost you any money.
What had started out as going to the beach for a morning surf session had turned into back to back days of being in the water for 6 hours at a time. It was no longer just a way to pass the time. I actually had a friend once tell me that someone told him, they thought surfing was ruining my life.
The Irony: My upcoming book with a traditional publisher is organized using surf metaphors. So you might say it saved my life and my career (more on this later).
After about 7 months of writing at The Skool of Life, I emailed a guy I had interviewed named Sid Savara about contributing to a multi-author blog that I was attempting to start. He convinced me to abandon that project because he didn’t think much of my writing, and said I should take this interview series I was working on and launch it as a separate site called BlogcastFM.
For the next 4 years (2010–2013), I interviewed hundreds of bloggers, authors, and just about anybody I could find who was up to something I thought was interesting. Curiosity was and always has been the driving force of how I went about my work. I spent those years hearing everyone else’s stories about their book deals, their popular blogs, and their profitable businesses. In these two posts, you’ll find a lot of what I learned during that time.
- What We’ve Learned from Building a Podcast That Has over 450 5-Star Reviews in iTunes
- The Art of the Interview: Insights and Observations from 500 conversations.
Sometime in 2011, I was let go from my last corporate job leading social media for an online travel company, and at the same time, our podcast landed its first sponsor.
But the growth was slow.
I applied for jobs and went to interviews unable to feign enthusiasm for things I just didn’t give a shit about.
I did freelance work attempting to apply the knowledge of the people I’d interviewed to various endeavors.
- I managed social media for professional surfer.
- I worked on a book launch for an author.
- I attempted to build a website for someone.
Throughout it all, I never stopped writing. I wrote on my blog, I wrote guest post, and at this point, I’ve written over a million words.
If you ask me why I persisted through it all, it’s because I felt like I didn’t really have a choice. My resume of failures didn’t exactly make me a viable candidate for any of that job that had MBA in the job description.
And suddenly, things started to change….Stay tuned tomorrow for Part 2