My 3 Words for 2016

Living in Silicon Valley, to say that change is the only constant is stating the obvious. Yet, as I look back on 2015, that line really does sum up the year for me.

  1. Our 2 sons, Aditya (a.k.a. the Sun) and Aniket (a.k.a. one who makes the whole world his home) went from being babies to young men who surprise us every day with their curiosity, determination and their wisdom. Aditya is constantly offering to “problem solve the situation” and coaching me to take a “deep breath”. Aniket’s constant attempts to push boundaries are both inspiring, and frustrating to the point that it takes every ounce of self-control not to scream.
  2. 4 years ago, my wife, Pooja, co-founded Nipun Capital (an Asia focused asset management firm) along with Dr. Charles Lee, and Ken Hui. In 2015, Nipun came of age! Watching Pooja build out Nipun has been an enriching experience for me: I am so proud of how much she has accomplished in 4 years. I also have so much more empathy for start-up founders, and the personal toll that a start-up entails.
  3. Personally for me, 2015 has been a year of many “firsts.” I went scuba diving (despite not knowing how to swim), learnt to ski (I can now ski most blues at Northstar), started weight lifting, went jet boarding and raced cars. I also re-ignited many passions that I had lost touch with — reading, classical music, and dance. For many years, I used to read a book/day, and getting back to reading every day has been exhilarating. I also set on a journey to get healthier — in 2015, I started weight lifting for the first time and lost 40 lbs.
  4. Professionally, I continue to learn, grow, and hopefully make a difference! Since joining Foundation Capital in 2008, I have led/co-led investments in 12 companies; 2 are now public (TreeHouse, TubeMogul), 3 were acquired (FreeWheel, Aggregate Knowledge, Spotzot), 1 got shut down and the other 6 are going strong. Being a venture capitalist is such a privilege — founders share their dreams with me every day, and every founder/CEO I work with teaches me something. In 2015, I also released my first e-book, the Decade of the CMO, and it’s been fun to see the response and to be out on the road presenting on the future of marketing.

Over the holidays, as I was reflecting on 2015, I came across a blog post that I had written 4 years ago titled “My Three Words for 2012”. The concept is very simple — the three words are themes that “help you in the way that a lighthouse helps a ship in a storm.” They are not intended to be specific goals or objectives; instead they provide a personal “true north” to guide the choices that you make every day.

At first glance, my three words for 2012 (Introspect, Intentional, Re-wire) seemed as relevant today as they did then. I was even tempted to change the title of the blog post to My Three Words for 2016 and call it a day! But the more I thought about it, the more that felt like a cop out. While the differences were subtle, they were substantive.

The words I settled on are very personal and may not mean much to you. Or they may mean very different things. Nevertheless, I hope they inspire you to think about your very own three words.

My 3 Words for 2016: Rejuvenate, Listen, Catalyze

Rejuvenate
The idea of re-inventing oneself (or re-wiring, as I called it in my earlier blog post) has always fascinated me. Traditions have not meant much to me, and until I read Sapiens, I had never read much history. Sapiens had a transformative impact on how I perceive the world around me: the idea that Facebook might be a modern age religion is both disturbing and profound. After reading Sapiens, I have come to think much more about rejuvenation, which for me is all about re-vitalizing oneself while staying true to the essence of who we are. While losing weight is the most obvious manifestation of this word, rejuvenation is also about new experiences and about tying the old and the new together.

Listen
Another book that left a deep mark on my psyche in 2015 is The Alchemist. Its core theme is the notion of “Your Personal Legend.” Your Personal Legend is what you have always wanted to accomplish, and Coelho asserts that “when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” While the idea of the Personal Legend was thought provoking, the lasting message of the book (for me) was how Santiago (the protagonist) listens to his dreams – to a gypsy woman, an old king and so on. The notion of suspending disbelief and really listening (Santiago travels from Spain to Africa based on tale that a gypsy woman tells him) really struck a chord with me. I tend to make snap judgements on people, ideas and situations and sometimes in the process, I do not listen enough to what they are saying. In 2016, I intend to change that, and learn to listen better — to my inner voice, my body and to the people around me.

Catalyze
The best word to sum up my professional life so far is that I am able to catalyze action. I have rarely had the skills to do whatever I was tasked with, but was often able to bring together the right people and create an environment which enabled them to succeed. Over the years, I have been fortunate to become a node in many disparate networks (how often do you find VCs who started their career setting up soap plants in Nepal!), and have become friends with lots of amazing people. I want to bring these 2 things together; I want to be more intentional about creating opportunities to bring people together, and catalyze new ideas, initiatives and even start-ups.

And so, my three words are Rejuvenate, Listen, and Catalyze. I am excited about using them as my “true north” — helping me navigate through the whirlwind that is my life. I already have a long list of ideas to operationalize each of these themes. I suspect that many of these ideas will evolve, but hopefully these themes will stay and I will weave them into my daily life. I look forward to sharing my progress as well as my failures over the course of the year. And if you have suggestions, please share them with me.

Thank you for reading about my three words. I wish you a great 2016, and hopefully it brings you success. If you do end up writing your own 3 words for 2016, do tell me about them.

About Ashu

General Partner with Foundation Capital. Areas of interest range from digital media, mobile and internet infrastructure to all things related to India. Currently on the board of TreeHouse, Aspire, Conviva, Agni and TubeMogul.
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