21 Life Lessons at 21

2017 was a blast. Most eventful, most memorable and most intense. Starting with my Cycling journey, followed by my first solo trip, first time anchoring, first Brevet, first internship and ending the first 6 months with a 2nd place at a public speaking competition. The second half of the year was slightly less eventful but nevertheless the same impact on my learning curve. First Half Marathon, first guest speaker appearances, first felicitations. And then, ended the year by completing a series of 200, 300 and 400 km Brevets.

I’m really grateful for an amazing year I had and there were a lot of lessons I learned along the way. A lot of learning and a lot many takeaways. I would like to share some of my learnings with you on this New Year’s eve. And before that, wish you all a very Happy New Year 🙂

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1. Life is Ebb and Flow

This might be the most important life lesson. At the start of this blog post, I mentioned all the good parts, the shiny ones. The sunny days.

But everyday is not gonna be like that. There were and there will be sad, bad and worse days. Maybe that’s what life is all about. You shouldn’t get too attached to your happy moments or get too sullen when you are at your trough.

If you think a bit deeper, you wouldn’t have appreciated life if it was all good. Quoting the passengers Let Her Go :

Cause you only need the light when it’s burning low
Only miss the sun when it starts to snow
Only know you’ve been high when you’re feeling low
Only hate the road when you’re missing home


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[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KZmincS6xTs&w=560&h=315]


2. Have a Goal and Use it to your Advantage


At Fun and Furore 2017- an annual Toastmaster conference I had the chance of speaking to the keynote speaker Mr. Aditya Maheswaran, who was the runner up at the World Championship of Public Speaking. One particular takeaway was(and in his words) ” Having the goal of becoming World Champion of Public Speaking, had an exponential growth effect on me. All the years of Toastmasters experience was eclipsed by the learnings in that year of the competition alone.”

Looking back, it indeed was true.

  • I was a very timid and shy speaker but then the goal of being the Master Orator Champion had me practice number of times, improve my body language, learning speech structuring and a lot more.
  • I was a leisure cyclist, cycling mostly on only Sunday. But then I put myself a goal of becoming a Super Randonneur (one who completes a series of 200,300,400 & 600 kms on cycle) by 2018. This forced me to watch what I eat, regular exercising, doing the 7 minute workout daily. I might be in my best physical shape now 😛


And for my Computer Science friends, if you are still hesitant about jumping into the programming world, why not challenge yourself with this. Make this your goal and put your efforts to it.

Setting a goal is the easy part. Working on it is the hard part. And how do you work on it? By respecting the slight edge


3. Respect the Slight Edge


No good things comes fast. The only way you can achieve something is to put your efforts day in and day out.

One of the most influential books I read was The Slight Edge. This might be the only self help book you need to read. The whole book can be summarized in one single picture.

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4. Have An Accountability Buddy

So now you have set yourself a goal and you try to maintain the slight edge. One day or the other you would feel like giving up. If left to yourself, there’s a high chance that you might give up. But what if someone else is gonna push you? Think of a gym. The pumping of the trainer push you to do more reps than what you would have done alone.

But I am not in the gym and I don’t have a trainer, I’m focused on other things, you might say.

Being accountable to someone can be done in many other ways. Let us take my example:

  1. I made a goal of either running or cycling daily. To be accountable for this I started uploading my daily progress in the popular app Strava. Some days the workout just happened and other days I had to drag myself just an hour before the day ends only because I had to honor my word put out in the open.
  2. I usually didn’t wake up early and even if I did, I wouldn’t be consistent for long. So I requested my close buddy to call me up at 5 and I would send a selfie after washing my face and tagged with a quote.

Try it out. Figure out areas where you wanna improve and have someone to be accountable to.



5. Discipline is what makes(/breaks) you

We’ve seen the Slight Edge and we swear by it. But there will be days when you feel like not doing things. That’s when you need to be disciplined.

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As mentioned earlier, I made a resolution 25 days back that I would at least do a 2 km a day. There were days when I didn’t wake up early and the didn’t find time (just an excuse) and it was already 11 pm. I could either give up and do it the next day or I could respect my decision made days ago. I went for the walk.

At Fun and Furore 2016, Mr. Rajdeep- the keynote speaker expressed the same thing. ” Your life is a painting. Every commitment you honor is a stroke and every commitment you dishonor is a scratch.”

Paint the best version of yourself!

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6. Keep it Simple Silly

Meditating. This was something I always tried to do but never could. 20 minutes was what I set forth and it was too much for me. That’s when I came across this.

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Be it meditation or fitness, all you need to do is one single push up or one single mindfull breath. The essence here is to keep the consistency reiterating what we saw in Lesson 3.


7. Have a Tunnel Vision

Inch wide, Mile deep.

What does this mean?

I am in my last semester now and I had the thought of either joining a kickboxing class to build my personality or a dance class so as to perform on my college’s annual day. I gave these both serious thoughts but then upon further contemplation realized that these both were just distractions from my actual goals.

I won’t say any further here. Take a read at what Derek Sivers has got to say.

And to end it, Gary Vee says it the best at 0:40

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2fx2aKP7UGQ&w=560&h=315]


8. Choices & Trade-Offs


Life is all about trade offs. All about choices.

Choosing to stay with your family or move abroad for a higher pay and a better lifestyle? 

Eating that yummy chicken zinger for pleasure or watching your diet and feeling good about your body for the real happiness?

Staying in your comfort zone or Stepping out of it and embracing the randomness?

Every choice will have a consequence. And you should be okay with it once it’s been chosen.


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9. Take Your Time

There’s usually a recurring character in all our lives whom we compare our self against. They might be the supremely confident ___ or the drop dead gorgeous and muscular ___ or be it the everything planned and perfected ___. We usually stalk them to see what they are up to go into an endless loop of self loathing. Or at least I do.

But one thing to keep in mind is that, you are not taking into factor their circumstances or their resources ( and also your laziness).

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I was shy. I was timid. I couldn’t answer if somebody asked me “What are your hobbies and interest? “. but then it has been a good turnaround this last year.
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Nevertheless you might still feel a tad bit of jealousy and envy. That’s when you should…


10. Practice Gratitude


So what is Gratitude?

It has two key components. First, an affirmation of goodness. We affirm that there are good things in the world, gifts and benefits we’ve received. Second, we recognize that the sources of this goodness are outside of ourselves…We acknowledge that other people…gave us many gifts, big and small, to help us achieve the goodness in our lives.

A couple of weeks back, Agresh and I were having yummy dosas and he told he that he was offered three internships so far and he’s gonna start earning 20,000/- a month in his last semester.
First thought, why didn’t I get that oppurtunity?
Second thought, all my fault. I didn’t work hard enough.
A couple of thoughts later, It’s okay. He deserves it. I’m grateful for the other things blessed upon me.

Jealousy and Envy are natural emotions. But what you do after you encounter them is the crux for either beautiful or sour relationships.

Gratitude is a daily practice. A good start would be the morning journal by Tim Ferris.


11. Don’t Focus too much on Yourself

After Master Orator Championship, the Guntoor Toastmasters club invited me to be a guest speaker/Toastmaster of the Day. That was very unexpected and I was elated to say the least. I drafted a speech but I made one huge mistake…I focused too much on myself.
Let’s look it from a macro and micro perspective.

The macro was that the Guntoor Toastmasters was a pretty young club and it had to draw audience(mostly students) and also demonstrate how a good Toastmaster meeting would be conducted.
And what did I do? I focused on the micro. I structured the meet around me, focusing way too much on my speech, my delivery and all my. 

Lesson learnt. Whenever required, try looking at it from a larger scheme of things to have the right perspective. It isn’t all about you but the role you have to play. Focus on playing your role perfectly and also sync it with the other roles.

Before we move on, a question for you. Do you hate your internship or your entry level job or a particular role in your club or community. Maybe you are focusing too much on yourself. To avoid that, be a canvas and embrace the canvas strategy.


12. The Canvas Strategy

I was going through a rough phase in my first internship and that did have a mental effect on me and then, I came across the Canvas Strategy in Tools of Titans.
Not much talk here, I insist on you reading the full article here. It hits you like a ton of bricks.

Lesson 11 and 12 go together. Bhavana was the one who invited me for the meet at Guntoor and when we met recently, she reiterated both of these. When you see fame and reputation as your driving force, you won’t hold onto your purpose for long enough. I respect the Guntoor Toastmasters for being a living proof of this.


13. Be a Financial Literate

Ever been to a subway or kfc and the bill was close to the ten’s (478/539 etc) and the cashier doesn’t return the change? Did you hold yourself back from asking the change because you would look ‘cheap’?
Happened with me.

Lot of mental slaps later it hit me that I wasn’t respecting money. My parents’ hard earned money. Another concern was that I didn’t keep a tab on my expenses. I didn’t know how much I spent where.

Start by having a financial etiquette. Account for all your expenses. Learn the basics of accounting. Learn how stock markets work.

Having a chartered accountant friend helps 😛


14. Never put yourself Low

This was one of the biggest lessons/advice I got this year. I was practicing my script to introduce the guest speaker for our college’s annual day celebrations. This was going on in a room filled with many students practicing for their part – guitar, singing, etc and I was unassertive when talking out my script. That’s when Mehul, my friend told me to “Never put yourself low”. That had a pretty enormous effect on me. That had an immediate effect in my voice and also my demeanor.

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15. Have A Standard

It all boils down to what things you are willing to accept of yourself.

Do your dress your best and are groomed every single day or do you slack often?

Do you have a standard for your work ethic?

“If you don’t set a baseline standard for what you’ll accept in life, you’ll find it’s easy to slip into behaviours and attitudes or a quality of life that’s far below what you deserve.” – Tony Robbins

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16. Increase your Proximity

Other than having a goal, you know what might give you an accelerated learning experience? Surrounding yourself with the right people.

You must have read this somewhere : You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.

Think about it. Whom are you spending the most time with and how are they affecting you.

If your goal is to improve your public speaking skills, you need to increase your proximity to that environment. Maybe join a toastmaster club.

If your goal is to improve your confidence, increase your proximity to the confident people you already know. You automatically pick up their personality.

If your goal is to improve your coding skills, increase your proximity to the coders you already know. Have discussions with them, ask questions and learn from them.

This really is from a personal experience.


17. Prime Yourself

Did you ever realize that the morning is the only part of the day that you can absolutely control. Rest of the day is just reactions to outside events and people. So start your day by priming yourself. And why is that?

When you win your morning, you win your day.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cgnu9mapQiQ&w=560&h=315]


18. Double/Triple Threat

Best expressed by Scott Adams here :

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Just reiterating his words, you need to realize that apart from your technical knowledge you also need to have the necessary communication skills. The world belongs to story tellers.


19. First Movers Advantage

2016 and 2017 was the year of Influencers. I’ll take Instagram as an example. Won’t be taking any names and some might have already striked you. They were able to exploit the platform because they were posting content right from the start. They invested time when not many were into this. This is similar to what happened to the Blogging and Youtube scenario back in the 2000’s. Now it’s got harder with more people entering the field and the competition getting bloodier with diminishing returns.


So risk doing or adopting something novel. Risk going into uncharted territories. And it’ll make all the difference.

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20. Build a Brand

Your online presence matters. 

Be it the Instagram and Facebook posts or the whatsapp stories, every online posts creates an impression of you.

What impression do your online friends and acquaintances have about you?

Are you just a person who keeps sharing online memes and videos?

Or are you a person who provides a value. Just a consumer or a creator too?

Try building an audience on Youtube/Wordpress/Medium/Quora. Resumes are a thing of the past. What is your online presence?

And do have a brand name.


21. Risk Being Seen in all Your Glory


Right when I thought about posting this blog post, a thought flashed across my mind.

What would people think? 

Would people who are more accomplished than me look down upon me or my content?

A few names struck me too, who might probably laugh it off.

So what do I do now? Do I let it be to be more ‘acceptable‘?

I recollected my favorite quote by Jim Carrey and as a result you are reading this now.

Next time you are nervous in a group discussion or a Jam, timid to voice your thoughts and opinions, just remind yourself this. And you won’t be the same.

Your need for acceptance can make you invisible in this world. Don’t let anything stand in the way of the light that shines through this form. Risk being seen in all of your glory.


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Class completed. So which one was the lesson that resonated the most with you. Leave it in the comment box and once again a happy new year!!!!









TakeAways from Raja The Great


Lessons from a Super Randonneur


  1. What a write up Gowtham. I feel I should have read this conpletely before starting the 600 brm, I could have been a bit more stronger. Do keep writing.

  2. everyone has their own success and failure stories, most people share their stories with their family so they can succeed in their life. only some people will share them like this, thanks for sharing bro.

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