Doing more with less

In any organization, one of the common complaints is the lack of resources, whether it be financial, human, time, space, knowledge, skills etc.

However, on many occasions, such statements may be reflections of what some people are thinking about or going through at that moment. If one looks back in a detached manner it would seem that such a complaint was probably unwarranted.

One (perhaps controversial) example of how much was accomplished with a relatively small number of people was the Indian Civil Service during the British Raj in India which had a population of around 400 million by the end of British rule. Between 1858 and 1947, there were seldom more than one thousand covenanted officers, who occupied the highest rungs of the service. Of course, there were thousands of uncovenanted mostly Indian employees who assisted the top rungs of the bureaucracy.

Perhaps the real constraint is not the lack of resources, but the lack of imagination on how to maximally utilize what we are given to work with?

Who’s it for?

Who’s it for?

What’s it for?

These are probably the two most important questions to be asked before launching any venture, be it a business or writing a book.

Identifying your market segment let’s you write something or build something that could have a really good chance of succeeding.

This analysis is for a novel I would like to write one day in the future.

Today, I do not have a story or a target audience in place. So, I am just thinking aloud about the idea of writing a story with a specific target audience in mind.

To take a common example, the Twilight series was written for young adults. Out of a fan-fiction written for Twilight, came the Fifty Shades series, which ended up being targeted towards a romance-reading, adult female audience.

Worldview

Since reading them in high school, I have been influenced by classic works by people like Dostoevsky, Dickens and Dumas. Apart from these, I love reading classic Indian philosophical and religious texts. Taking these and adding ideas from a number of modern non-fiction authors, I would like to combine my limited life experience and come up with a tale.

Who it’s for

It is for people interested in reading an old-fashioned story which turns out to be interesting and gripping.

What it’s for

The goal is to give people a window into the world of imagination and where it can lead us. Books can transport us to different worlds and change the way we look at the world.

Where there is a fit

A story such as this may resonate with who it is targeted towards. I feel like the target audience can be quite small initially. Depending on the feedback, the audience could be expanded.

Where there is a mismatch

The target audience may turn out to be too broad (like “all adults”) or vague or undefined.

P.S.

There are so many themes and tropes to explore. Having plenty of material to pick from can be a bad thing at times because one needs to be careful in selecting the best stuff. One wants the result to feel good long after having written it. It seems that whether it has any effect on the reader and finding the magical utility is a matter of trial and error.

Without a doubt, reading books has changed my worldview several times over. I have been moved by too many authors and their writings to recount everyone.

For example, Brothers Karamazov showed me the different types of human nature and how, on many occasions, we can sink to our lowest. In the midst of such situations, Alexei Karamazov stands out with his peaceful and godly nature. The Count of Monte Cristoshows the Count doing crazy things to seek revenge and regain his own.

Even the popular books of today have an their impact wherein people get to identify their own dreams and desires in these stories. I’d want to inspire people, both young and old, to follow common sense, not do stupid things and respect ancestral wisdom.

Figuring out the “why, how, what” was quite useful.

why> As humans, we somehow have the tendency to want to tell a story employing both our imagination and creativity and to read such stories.
how> Have to commit to write around 1000 words a day, spending an hour and half of spare time. With this, accounting for holidays etc, the target is to complete the book in around 3-4 months.
what> The end result being a quality product.

The why

It is said that we live our lives through narratives or story telling. Throughout our lives, we tell ourselves and each other stories.

So, in any venture, having a good story behind it, one that gives a sense of why one is undertaking it, is a powerful tool for success.

In a business venture, for example, one can hugely benefit from explicitly listing the reason for starting out.

For example, if starting an insurance agency, it would help if one has had the chance to see how beneficial having insurance could be in one’s own life with, say, a family member.

Of course, one really needs to believe and be convinced of the story before going out and trying to convince the world.

Take the case of a salesperson trying to sell a car. Being convinced of the car’s good features himself, he can go out and tell a story to his customers which could help them with their purchase decision.

Feedback

When doing anything, it seems important to get critical feedback from others.

Whatever work one does occurs not in a vacuum, but in the context of a small section of society.

One might have an audience of one or twenty million, but getting good, critical feedback always helps to improve oneself.

Oftentimes, it is a kind of reality check or sanity check which gives new perspective on one’s work.

Especially, when starting a business, for instance, it may be a good idea to get plenty of feedback at the outset before venturing into the marketplace to see if there could actually be a section of the market which is interested.

 

Contrary but true

Here is an interesting quote from Peter Thiel. It is a question which he reputedly asks when hiring new employees:

“Tell me something that’s true but nobody agrees with”

― Peter Thiel

It is interesting because it speaks to a way of thinking which suggests that the way to succeed is to do something which:

  1. no one else is doing and
  2. is useful to others

As human beings, each of us is a unique creation as an individual. No two persons are alike in all aspects. So, it seems natural that each of us has something unique to offer to this world.

“In my walks, every man I meet is my superior in some way, and in that I learn from him.”

    ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Emerson again speaks to the same idea as he suggests that as each of us is unique is some way or the other, one can always learn from each person one meets.

Also, as Seneca suggested nearly two thousand years ago, one always has the opportunity to serve and be kind to another human being in all situations. Applying this kind of thinking could lead one very far when it comes to not only business, but many other aspects of life.

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Learning from Seinfeld

When watching the TV series, Seinfeld, on one of my many rewatches of this timeless series, I sometimes go back to front, i.e., new seasons first, then old seasons. When doing this I was fascinated to see how the storylines and characters were so well thought out quite early on.

It is almost as if the characters’ fate and stories were predetermined. I think especially where George Costanza and Kramer end up in the last few seasons makes total sense when watching the first few seasons. This showed how the series creators had this great vision from the beginning of how the series was going to pan out and finally conclude. Of course, as the seasons went on, minor changes were made. But they did not fundamentally alter the vision of the series.

Famous novelist John Grisham advises fiction writers to know the ending before beginning to write the first chapter. In his foreword to The Lord of the Rings, J.RR. Tolkien mentions that the chapter ‘The Shadow of the Past’ was one of the oldest parts of the tale much before the other chapters. I think this too is quite illuminating.

This idea could easily apply to other areas of life too. For example, when starting a software project, it is good to have an idea of how the end product is going to look like from the start. It may also pay to have a end of life strategy in place from the beginning. The same may apply to business ventures etc.

Another example of this approach is how bitcoin has evolved. The original creator behind Bitcoin undoubtedly had some approximate idea how the currency would eventually turn out, and especially because they made it peer to peer and decentralized, it has become self-sustaining and antifragile. A similar decentralized protocol which has sustained and grown is BitTorrent.

When do people buy?

People who actively think about buying regard it as a necessity when there is a need or a few needs to be filled in their life. The goal of a technology or a software should be to satisfy those needs so that the users see it as worthwhile investment to pay for it.

Observing people

It is interesting to note that when it comes to understanding the needs and pains of people, it can be done by observing them. This participant observation is a feature of anthropology and could give us great ideas about what people do in order to figure out what products or services could satisfy their needs and resolve their pain points.

Sizing up

When selling vegetables that one grew in a new space, one needs to have an idea of the kind of demand there is for the vegetables and the amount of food traffic one gets in the area.

Similarly when thinking of an idea to take to market, it is important to know the size and needs of the marketplace.