Saturday 20 October 2018

Lakshmi's 50 Over 50

In today’s world, we are enamoured by the young and the rich.  We have lists for 25 under 25, 30 under 30, 40 under 40.  So, I thought that I would lay claim to 50 over 50. 

I decided to write each week about a person who not only had an idea but had the chutzpah to carry it through and had the tenacity to do it for decades.  Here are the three rules I plan to adopt:

1.     I will not write about my immediate family in India because they would definitely fill the first 50. 
2.     I will not write about people I read about or heard about
3.     I will not write about those who have deceased

I will only write about people I met who are alive.  These are the people who spent some personal time with me that gives me an insight into what makes them unique
Hope you enjoy the stories of 50 Over 50 each Friday.

 Why now?

Here are the two main reasons for coming up with this list:

Firstly - Today, more than ever, there is a need for adult supervision, coaching, nurturing for the young ideas that are springing everywhere.  The experienced have to learn from the young and become coaches who gently guide but not dictate and the young have to learn to bring in experience.  A lot of the problems with starts ups, unicorns and young media moguls is that there is no adult supervision.  There is NO ONE who is watching them to warn when they are on a slippery slope, to make the slight course correction that can be the fine line between success and sudden death.

Secondly - There is a selfish reason for doing this as well.
As I got older, my mind has not aged and even level of energy has kept up but what has changed drastically is the way the society looks at me. When my young colleagues go out to a pub, they assume that I would not want to go out with them;  If I have a little grey in my hair, I am immediately written off the list of cutting edge thinkers and in the start up world, Venture Capitalists want to see a young face at the helm.  And I feel only the youth of my mind and not the age of my body.  I see my friends in my age group who could be great coaches not be utilised to their fullest.  So, I decided that it is about time I created my own list of the COOL 50 over 50.

Why me?

I became an entrepreneur in my 40s.  In some ways, I lived my professional life in reverse.  In my 20s and 30s, I worked for a large company, traveled around the world in style, stayed at the best hotels, hung out celebrities and worked on trends and technologies that define who we are today.  From making a purchase on line to playing a game on the computers to listening to streaming music or watching video online to purchasing online – my career at Intel had a small yet strategic part to play in it.  Subsequent turns as a Venture Capitalist and Social entrepreneur had me hang out with the well to do and the well meaning.  It’s in my 40’s that I got the entrepreneurial bug because I realised that I have always been one.  Even in a large company, I ran small, strategic programs and grew them, always walking away at the verge of having to manage operations and large teams; as a VC, I tried to make investments in India way before it was time; as a social entrepreneur, I set up internet labs in under privileged schools when the conventional wisdom was arguing for taking care of basic needs like uniforms and building toilets.  I always shot way ahead of the curve, sometimes missing the mark and many more times making a difference in my own way. 

And this turn as an entrepreneur has been the most exhilarating yet exhausting journey.  From my fancy life in 20s and 30s, I moved to the financially unstable life of an entrepreneur in my 40s.  And there are three essential ingredients that helped me move myself up the learning ladder that keeps the factor of exhilaration tip slightly over the factor of exhaustion.

1.     To surround myself with the truly wealthy that are idea rich and go through life with humility
2.     To measure success in 10 year intervals and having the stomach to hit the bottom.  And be willing to give up something along the way
3.     Having someone with experience guide me, challenge me and often change my path

Over the years, I realised that there is no substitute for spending more time on this earth and experiencing the ups and downs.  There are many young people who might be more knowledgeable and even wise but there is an undeniable grace and beauty that comes when one stands the test of time.

The technologies may change, content may evolve but the basic pursuit of personal excellence, professional integrity, decency, courtesy, grit and a general respect of all things in the universe and the need to sustain life beyond our lifetime remains the same.

So, I wanted to write about 50 people over 50 who I had the privilege to meet and get to know who embody some of the traits I treasure the most.  Hope you enjoy getting to know them. 

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