Ever since I announced a few days ago that I was letting go my retail business, many people reached out to me with different reactions. This particular venture was set up in 2009 to sell and service musical instruments as part of a portfolio of services related to teaching and producing music.
When I began with a music school in 2008, followed by this venture, and then a recording studio in 2012, I had from the start, ensured that each of them would have a separate identity (branding) and each would co-exist, but at the same time be independent.
Each one was to travel in the same vehicle (in this case, same floor of a building!) for some time together but each of them had different destinations. As a result, each of them had different priorities, timelines and objectives.
Seeing the different reactions from people all around got me to reflect upon on so many decisions I have taken throughout my life - decisions which saw me letting go some seemingly fantastic opportunities. Some people who have known me for a long time have understood my logic and reasoning over time. About the fact that, if you have longer term goals, you will have to sidestep relatively shorter term opportunities. About not getting distracted by all the low hanging fruit. About the fact that stepping stones are what they are, stepping stones only. Not the piece of land for you to settle down upon.
Here are some opportunities which I have sidestepped in my journey so far. I look back at all these decisions with supreme satisfaction and happiness because they helped me stay on course.
Early 90's - I had just begun my career as a software developer. A few extended family members who were in the Middle East felt I had financially lucrative opportunities there and tried their best to allure me with juicy offers. All in good faith. None of the jobs there would have helped me develop my skills as a software developer and I did not want to compromise my long term career.
1995 - When I decided to move out of my 1st job, I applied at a specific company, got the job and accepted the offer though it was with a 7% salary cut due to parity reasons within my new peer group. This was at a time when I was doing exceedingly well in my 1st job. The new environment, I expected, would help me get bigger exposure in terms of new technologies and client domains. It did. Also, my compensation was revised within 3 months of joining without me asking for it.
2000 - Many of my peers were keeping pace with all the new programming languages and technologies which were emerging and growing in demand. These also helped in landing lucrative jobs in Europe and the US. I decided to switch to a career in Testing and Validation. To get exposure to multiple projects in a year rather than getting stuck to one long development project for a year and a half! I looked for a company which specialised only in testing projects, applied and landed the exact job I wanted. Within a year and half, I was managing 25 project teams across multiple countries and client domains. I was getting closer to customer solutions and problems. Closer to understanding the bigger picture.
2001 - With project teams executing in the US, Europe and Japan, my company was very keen to have someone like me move out of India. To settle with family and grow the business. Sounded fantastic and enticing. I chose to look ahead to what I thought was best for my kids and quality of life (this can be different for different people!). I chose to remain in India. My job did continue to take me to different parts of the world.
2002 - While already in a senior management position and still growing in my current organisation (I had a team in excess of 120 with control over the largest revenue generating division), an opportunity from a startup group within a large multi-national kept knocking on my door. I accepted. From a General Manager to becoming a Test Manager with a team size of 2 fulltime employees. The first managerial hire for an R&D group in India. Even my wife was surprised though by that time she was beginning to understand my way of thinking. I felt really bad about leaving an excellent set of teams, management and workplace, but I still accepted because it was going to be an experience which I was not sure of getting in my current organisation. And I felt I was at the right age to get that much needed experience.
Every 18 months after joining this organisation, I was asked to start up a new team from scratch. 3 times in total. Each time I said yes, rather than saying no and settling down to the routine of running what was going well. To keep learning from a new experience.
2008 - I decided to quit a fabulous and lucrative corporate career to become independent and pursue all that I had been working towards. Many colleagues thought I would set up a tech venture. A few were disappointed they could not team up to do so. I had chosen my next 10 years to be with music. Started a school with 2 students. A retail business with 6 guitars and 6 keyboards.
2012 - At the peak of its existence, the music school had close to 400 students across multiple disciplines each year. And my wife and I decided it was time to scale down. For her to be able to spend more time at home and do all that she wanted to do. For me to be able to focus on setting up and getting on with my music production, which was the ultimate goal behind getting into music. Many jobs are the not the kind that you can simply hire and find people to continue running with the same passion as you would. I am a believer that you either do it yourself or you don't. Everything is not about money alone. Self satisfaction plays a big role in life according to me. No compromises.
Right through the next few years, there was a lot of demand to replicate what I had created across other parts of the city. I decided not to do so. Size and span were not the primary objectives for me getting into the music domain.
2019 - In Dec 2018, I hit the 10 year deadline I had set for myself to focus on music full time. To start a new journey around people development. To focus on pre-teens and help them see the bigger picture, to help them find their purpose in life and equip them to go after them. I began reducing the number of guitar students I was handling to give myself the time to focus on this new initiative. To start reducing the time I was spending in the studio to create music (my son took over since that is the journey he wishes to be in for a long time into the future).
2020 - I am in the process of letting go my profitable retail business as I write this piece. A venture which still has plenty of life left in it. A venture which could be the starting point of a new journey for someone else. By now I guess you have begun to understand how I think and pace my life. We have, but one life after all. Would we like to look back in our 80's and 90's and wish we had done things we wanted to, but did not? Or could not, because we were unable to let go?
Many of us struggle with letting go the nice pay packets we are so used to getting at the end of each month. Yes, money is important no doubt, but once you are clear about how much you need, and if you think you are on track to achieve your financial goals, then it is easy to pursue other goals in life. Wealth, if left to the next generation, will only be spent as long as it remains. A good legacy if left behind, will help many generations to not only create wealth of their own, but inspire them to find their own purpose in life.
Without letting go, we cannot ascend.