Her Secret

earth

“Why am I not surprised?” I said unperturbed by Andrea’s confession. “Did you and Jean hookup on a web cam?”

“Ha! You’re so funny, Dr. Hon!”

Andrea appeared amused. But I’m sure it was the wine.

“How did the two of you meet? Jean propose…”—”…did he?” I pressed.

“Okay, but tell me about the porn episode.”

“It was around the time I had wrapped my contract with Vanity Fair. I got a call from some ‘Ex’ ‘Vivid’ guys from LA.”

Andrea was up in her seat, waving both arms up in the air, animating her words.

“They wanted a brunette for an episode depicting a broker and buyer.”

“Like a house listing scene?” I asked.

“But I wasn’t interested becoming a…”—”so I declined.”

I knew, all along, Jean had his friend Vinny, an income tax lawyer from Vancouver, make the call. Vinny and Jean work together with clients in Asia.

Andrea was street smart, well spoken and one of the better writers I knew. But not for Jean, a hard-nosed negotiator, who reads people to the bone. She was an easy target and the love of his life.

Hell, no one could beat those odds.

Here’s the catch. You never know what Jean is going to do next. He’s serious about his work. But, this is his way out.

And, as you heard our conversation, he hasn’t told Andrea the truth, yet.

“Look at the time, it’s quarter past midnight.” I say it sounding like her annoyed older brother, “Let’s wrap up for the night.”

“You can either take the guest room upstairs or I can call you an Uber.”

“No! But you haven’t finished your story yet,” Andrea cribbed, “It’s the long weekend.”

Taking Flight

solipsistic

A WestJet flight descends from above and disappears into a concrete jungle. With it, recessing any solipsistic remoteness the city nurtured during day time.

Laying on a pool chair on my patio, washed in the evening hues, I was an audience to the view. Andrea nursed her sixth glass of Cabernet.

“Feeling fucking nostalgic,” I said.

She tilted her head towards me, lowered her chin and nodded. Without trying, she recoiled in one of her typical perched-on-a-Bauhaus-table-seducing-a-leather-bag poses. A handbag worth a year’s rent — a downtown apartment with parking and British neighbours.

Modelling for high-end fashion labels was everything Andrea didn’t want. A realisation she had early on in her short-lived career in fashion. And without ever speaking a word, we had come to an agreement — living out of a bag is impractical. Where’s the pretentious painting you bought at last year’s auction going to hang?

On a flight to Bali, Jean told me how our struggle was similar. A decade ago, we had moved to this city, not known a soul and pieced together our life like a Boeing’s engineer. One wing at a time.

We also learned the meticulous nuances of flight. From take off to roughing it out in turbulence, mastering the nimble art of kissing the tarmac. Landing at our destination was inevitable.

“I think it was a thousand rejection letters,” Andrea reminiscing her days living out of a loft. She shared it with 9 people and two dogs, meant for a family of 4.

Andrea had moved here with her then longtime boyfriend whom she left for an American guy. She was looking to score her first modelling gig. I brought only the essentials. A wireless Harmon Kardon speaker set, my MacBook and one thousand dollars. The path to becoming a writer seemed long and entertaining.

Unfettered by rejection, we kept moving forward. But people in Toronto were looking for very specific things. Doing our share of odd jobs we promised ourselves to not quit no matter the circumstances.

“Andrea is a resilient tank. I admire that about her.” Jean said taking a shot of whisky as he reclined in his first-class seat, all thanks to ‘clients’.

“Did Jean tell you about the time I got an offer for doing porn?” Andrea asked with eyes larger than usual.

The Back Room

progression

“I’m Jean, and you are…” with a tightly held back grin, the man introduced himself to me, while extending his right hand.

It was late, the long speeches were over, crowds of educational professionals and teachers had dispersed. We had made our way through a corridor, to a room, behind the stage — labelled ‘Media & Officials Only’.

In the room, at the time, were top-brass politicians, journalists, professors and lobbyists, like myself, there to discuss policy, business and education.

Putting my right hand forward, giving Jean’s hand a firm shake, I responded: “Hon, Dr Gul Hon” never dropping eye contact. Being an introvert I knew Jean wasn’t going to take me seriously had I flinched or showed any signs lacking social calibration.

“I’ve never heard that before. Are you Swedish?” Jean said drily.

“No, my father was Turkish and mother, American.”

Look at me, so eager to please and get validated by a man I hardly knew, I thought to myself. Jean was an Alpha male, with his deep baritone voice, muscular physique and chiselled face, dressed sharply in a bespoke grey suit.

In his deadpan looks, he was Brad Pitt meet Sean Connery and in conversation, spoke slowly, and had the wit of Russell Brand and Craig Ferguson.

“Are you gay for Jean?” Andrea, having finished 3 glasses of wine, commented, in her trademark poker-face. “For Jean, yeah!” sarcastically joining her little joke.

A regal air and dismissive attitude — typically found in billionaires I have met in the past — would fittingly describe Jean’s demeanour. Yet, his magnetism came from his ability to be approachable and humble despite the boldness.

I, heck anyone in the room, could tell you Jean only dated 10s or could have any man be gay for him. And, in a heterosexual variable, I wanted to be in on his radar.

Wanting some of the ‘Don Juan’ to brush off on me — to be cool and to date a 7 or 8 for once — I followed him around the room.

The President of ETF was ready to see a bunch of us and I followed Jean’s lead — walking closely behind, like a trained dog. I could smell cigars and scotch, and beautiful women who couldn’t keep their paws off of him.

“But, isn’t this way before the two of you ever met?” I asked Andrea, pausing the narrative. “Okay, hold that thought while I grab a drink for myself. You want another fill?”

The Zipper Incident

swag

“What’s with the open fly Mr Salmon Pants?” he said while pointing towards my crotch. Like Houdini, this man had everyone’s eyes in the audience transfixed to my open fly, about to reveal his next trick.

“Jean would never miss an opportunity like that,” Andrea chimed in, only pausing briefly to add, “He’s always looking to make people laugh and be the centre of attention!”

It appeared as we had this all planned out from before and that I was in on the act. Like in the movie, The Prestige, starring Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman.

“Have you seen it?” I asked, pausing the story to take a bite out of my donut. Except it was nothing like that because no one was going to jump out, on this set, and yell “CUT!” to my saving grace.

I didn’t even know this man’s name or what he was doing at the convention. Yet, we were standing face to face, surrounded by elementary school teachers, puzzled over an open fly.

In the moment, I felt time slow down as I watched all the faces in the room locked to my crotch hoping for a surprise. I mean, were people expecting a rabbit to miraculously appear from my pants? Or have me pull out endless pieces of ribbon, as they continued to cheer and applaud, to their dismay?

Andrea lets out her first smile of the evening.

As I stood there, laughing awkwardly, embarrassed and confused — whether to restore my zipper’s dignity or to let the peep show continue, I realised something. Had I spent all evening “networking” oblivious to what my zipper’s metaphorical teeth had said?

But before I lost my window, I decided to do something quickly but at the same time shift the focus back to this man. I took a deep breath, and with both hands in place, ready to pull back my zip, I replied, “A teacher’s pet would know!” closing my fly shut.

To which laughter erupted and I had, for the first time, caught the man off guard. Little had I known, the zipper incident would bring us together that night. And Jean would go on to become one of my closest friends.

We Bonded Poolside

Senior Designer, Brand Designer, Experience Designer, Art Director, Creative Director, Branding, Brand Consultant, Brand Strategy, Brand Architecture, Brand Engagement, Brand Experience Design, Graphic Designer, Web Designer, Freelance Designer, Freelance Graphic Designer, Freelance Web Designer, Packaging Designer, Poster Design, Album Cover Design, Branded Environment Design, Environmental Graphics, Signage & Wayfinding, Logo Design, Brandmark, Brand Identity, Brand Driver, Brand Positioning, Naming, Verbal Branding, Visual Driver, Brand Guidelines, Book Cover Design, Editorial Design, Lookbook Design, Communication Design, Copywriter, Blogger, Brand Design Studio, Toronto, Downtown Toronto, New York, New York City, NYC, TDOT, GQ

I pour a glass of wine and go outside; there, on my patio, a beautiful woman lays peacefully reclined in a pool chair. The evening sun has set the mood to Instagram filter “Crema.”

On seeing me walk over, in her typical hungover husky voice, she asks, “Where’s my coffee?”

“Look, I know how much you detest caffeine after 6 pm,” to which she responds with deadpan silence, taking the glass of wine from my hand.

“I can’t believe your husband didn’t come over last night and, instead, sent you over, without ever having to introduce us.” But that’s Jean. He can send his wife accompanied by a letter written by hand and get away with it.

I snap my fingers and pretend to make an announcement, “Hello! Earth to Andrea,” “You’ve spaced out again.” She isn’t showing signs off life except for the occasional hand bringing the glass of wine to her lips.

All he wrote, in the middle, of the white piece of paper with an ink pen, are the words, “Andrea is in one of her moods today. Jean.”

He never fails to humour me. We have a code, and I guess he just trusts me with his favourite person. Jean has talked about Andrea at lengths on most of our flights to Asia. I know his wife like a person I’ve to know for decades because Jean’s storytelling is Noble Prize worthy.

“If I were you I wouldn’t gaze too long into the horizon — not the best time to get reacquainted with overly melodramatic, sad and nostalgic version of Andrea,” poking the alligator.

“How did you know that? Did Jean tell you? He’s such a dick sometimes, you know…” she responds coming out her long silence.

Oh, look at the time. It’s almost midnight.

Where were we? Oh, yeah. I had inched my way into the middle of the group; at arm’s length from this man. Now, stay with me on this because I’m not repeating myself — even if you beg and plead afterwards.

I know about the look, okay. No wine-induced puppy dog sparkle eyes, please.

Meeting Your Husband

Smug

Don’t tell me you never think about it — a cheat day sanctioned by your beloved husband himself. Doesn’t the thought turn you on, the slightest? He wouldn’t flag that behaviour, knowing his past antics, would he?

I remember meeting him for the first time in Toronto at a convention. We were attending a dinner organised by Elementary Teacher’s Federation, a union representing seventy-six thousand elementary school teachers.

Till date, I don’t know how the two of you got involved. You’re what I call a polar paradox — head meet heart. But, your husband is an eccentric character I have learned to admire and respect over time for his efforts pushing education reforms.

And, we both know, you’ve allowed him a free pass and put up with all his “secretaries” over the years. By the way, for a 32-year-old woman, you look astonishingly fit, despite your fetish for sugary treats. Are you still the CrossFit nerd I met a decade ago?

You haven’t said a word all morning. I’m little worried and beginning to think you’re only here because you want to find out what happened that night. Are you not convinced with your husband’s explanation of how the evening unfolded?

Okay, I will tell you my side, and you can decide for yourself.

That evening, Toronto’s teachers were, for the first time, actively lobbying to repeal the controversial Bill 115 and oust Stephen Harper in the coming federal elections on behalf of national labour groups.

Your husband was doing a story on Sam Hammond, President of ETF, who was being cheered and applauded for encouraging unionised workers and voters across the nation to cast ballots removing Harper from office.

I was there representing a lobbying agency looking to make inroads with top brass and senior political leaders — a networking opportunity to get in on an insider office connection for the companies the agency represented.

Bored and looking for a chance to make it past the general public and into the inner-circle where all the action was I eased my way towards security.

The company had arranged for an “all-access” pass, leaving me no room to post-rationalise with my introvert self — volunteering my Saturday evening, in an effort, to get out of the house.

If it weren’t for these affairs, I’d be home, at my desk, writing.

In the crowd, beyond the reporters and top clergy, I could see a man in his mid-thirties with an audience. I could tell he had natural charisma — someone who routinely speaks in front of thousands and gets his way.

To avoid looking like a creep, I walked over and eased my way into the back of the group. I slowly began to chime in on the conversation, noticing others, who were like me, had joined in expanding the circle.

It looked like a hockey team, huddled around their coach, listening to words of inspiration and motivation. Except, the man was, at the time, talking about an ostrich stuck between the hind legs of a hippopotamus.

He had us all glued in on his African adventure.

Well, do you love him? He’s always rambled and professed his love for you after having had a scotch. Six large ones, to be accurate. Oh, look, the coffee has gone cold. Here, let me get you a fresh cup — plus, I need to pee.

Don’t go anywhere. I’ll be right back.

Did You Bring Donuts?

donuts

I had a hunch you’d forget.

Can you recall last night? You left my place in an inebriated state. You were angry. Where did you end up going last night? Hopefully not the Trash Bar down the street.

Who knew expensive hipster hookers, yacht dealers, public school teachers and single parents are crowd pullers? Frankly, I don’t like the music volume, set to deaf, over there.

You can’t talk or hear a thing even if someone was kissing-nibbling-your-ear-close, yelling their sad life away or offering a lap dance in the bathroom.

Wait, that wasn’t a hipster hooker? Was she the English teacher? *Takes a sip of whisky, neat.

Are you’re hungover?

Did you take a bath this morning? Your eyes have an old sea captain’s saggy ball sacks latching on for life. I know you’ve been upset, with life, lately. And you don’t like talking about it.

But I’m glad you made it. That means a lot to me.

There’s freshly brewed coffee and a dozen donuts waiting on the kitchen counter. Double glazed and chocolate dip — your favourite. Grab your sugar and caffeine, and meet me outside.

Sitting, on the patio overlooking the city skyline, under the morning sun will do us both some good. This view never gets tiring — even after a decade, I’m left with a ‘first-time’ feeling every time I step out here.

The caveat of being on top, at this vantage point, is being swallowed by the scale — feeling small, knowing at any time, as a law of the jungle, the concrete landscape preys on the weak but also knowing it offers the world at your feet — to be a lion.

A cliche, my friend.

I know we only met a day ago, but it feels like we’ve known each other for years, even decades. I can’t quite pinpoint what it was that got us chatting and hooked, at my party last night, but it was instant ease and familiarity.

You ended up staying for hours beyond the party. If I remember correctly, it was 2:15 in the morning when I hailed an Uber for you. I had requested and pleaded with the driver, sporting a flannel shirt and long beard, to make no stops on the way and to escort you to your door.

Was he a lumberjack? Oh! That explains the axe resting peacefully in the co-passenger seat.

I only do donuts on Saturdays, my weekly cheat day, followed by pancakes for lunch and a triple meat patty burger for supper. A pint of beer to take it all down gently — swallowing calories like a newborn.

“Cheating on one day of the week” wouldn’t exactly be considered appropriate in any other facet of life. Could you imagine having “cheat days” in all personal and professional relationships? Boy, would that be a crazy idea? I’d leave these writing shenanigans and join a bank.

Okay, maybe not a bank. They are poor. An insurance company maybe? What do you think? You said what? “You don’t care about that and only want to know the subject and topic of what I’m going to write every day?” I mean, would anybody get married? Could monogamy become a thing of the past?

Hmmm…

Why the poker face? Are you serious all the time? Oh look, you haven’t touched your chocolate dip or had a sip of coffee, yet. How about we start there.

Tell your story

seriously

Note: I wrote this first piece in the browser on Medium.

Okay, Medium, that is exactly what I am going to do beginning today — writing every day. The truth is, you had me sold at the page title “Tell you story” set in Sentence case, done bold and treated grey.

Mmm…

Maybe you want this as much as I need it. You’re the canvas and I the brush and paint. But only less poetic. By writing every day, I’m embarking on a new and second journey.

Did I tell you about T — S — F?

Every day, one dedicated and focused hour, early in the morning. A challenge this is going to be. Oh boy! Shitting. In. Pants. Already. But I’m just, fucking, doing it. I’m not overcomplicating something I love — writing, reading too.

Hand me a dictionary, please.

What are you going to write? Frankly, I don’t know. Come to think of it; I haven’t cherry picked a topic. Experts have me believe one must narrow their focus, tunnel thy vision, grab a subject by the balls, tickle and play with it — drawing an imaginary boundary around a niche.

R-i-g-h-t.

You should be THE guy people think of when they’re thinking about the topic. Become one with an eloquent pursuit — synonymous with a cause you care about, and believe in and can rally behind. I wouldn’t lie, but they could be onto something here.

Who the fuck are they?

Something I can own, champion a cause — they say. Hmmm… Okay. Tell you what; we’ll make this up as we go along. Building-a-parachute-as-I-fall-out-of-a-plane sort of analogy here. Get it?

No, no, no! I don’t care what your plans are Paul. I want my subjects fair and square. I’m here now, and my attention span isn’t giving you chance number two.

Make me an offer I can’t resist. Either tell me now or I am walking out this minute. I’m heading next door. Everything is perfectly sorted and stacked in boxes there. Pigeons are in holes getting watered out of their senses.

Huh!

Geez! You’re pushy! Okay, fine. Here’s my offer. How about you come back tomorrow, and we’ll figure this out, together. Sound like a deal? Oh, yeah, one more thing — get some donuts.

It’s a date. Go on a date.

When Zara Steals Your Work

hole

 

‘I hate being copied by Zara’ — Tom Ford

Zara stole your designs. They did it. They’ve been doing it forever. And there’s nothing you can do about it. Try suing them and you’ll be silenced by their lawyer’s V10 Lamborghini.

A case of kleptomania—calling their inability to refrain from the urge to steal for reasons other than financial would be a naive detail overlooked. Lawyers, however, can prove anything. Harvey Spectre knows what I mean.

Speaking of which. Do I need to refresh your memory to Zara being Inditex Group’s main brand — the world’s largest apparel retailer — having over 2000 stores worldwide earning 12 billion in revenue?

Okay, but first lets see what the racket is and why artists are pissed-off and crying foul. The latest of Zara’s wrong doings is shamelessly copying an LA based artist, Tuesday Bassen’s work.

Spoiler alert: This is not a David and Goliath piece nor a helpless cry meant to drift into the digital black hole. My take on the matter has got to do with culture, vision and belief systems behind Zara’s kleptomaniac behaviour.

.@Zara says my designs are “too simple” and a “common design” but they clearly LOVE MY WORK, so PAY ME. pic.twitter.com/mXJGKD124l

— Tuesday Bassen (@tuesdaybassen) July 19, 2016

.@Zara’s lawyers are literally saying I have no base because I’m an indie artist and they’re a major corporation. pic.twitter.com/vZNAV2l1vN

— Tuesday Bassen (@tuesdaybassen) July 19, 2016

it’s time to hold @ZARA accountable for stealing from independent creatives like @tuesdaybassen, me & so many others pic.twitter.com/4Poe9VgIZr

— Adam J. Kurtz (@adamjk) July 20, 2016

And now what the media has to say.

We’re Really, Really Disappointed In You, Zara

Copy cats: Indie designer claims chain store Zara ‘copied’ her work…and told her they reject her copyright claims because they have more followers than her

Zara Comes Under Fire for Copying Indie Artists Designs

An independent designer says Zara ripped off her designs and then told her she’s small potatoes anyway


Okay, let’s pause here for a second and zoom out.

Why in the world does a billion dollar company—with the talent available to their disposal—feel the need to copy designs?

And, how is this behaviour—in a hyper-connected world—tolerated and where did it begin? A dive into Zara’s past reveal the signs and symptoms.

From the first store featuring lookalike products of luxury clothing fashion brands to the success of Zara we know of today — every day, all these years, leading up to 2000 stores, has been meticulously spent stealing, copying and ripping off designs.

For Zara copying means business—How Fast Fashion Retailers Built Billion-Dollar Businesses by Stealing Designs—with clothing being an uncopyrightable utilitarian item.

They are running around scot-free on a technicality.

They are what Bill Burr refers to Arnold Schwarzenegger case of screwing his maid as being in the zone—knowing he’s untouchable.

Like your average drug addict, Zara has been sniffing the next line. It’s the gateway theory on legalising marijuana.

Could this be where is Zara is coming from? A world where copyrighting designs is practically impossible. Was it only a matter of time when they tried to push the boundaries of where that sort of thinking could be applied.

Were the Zara execs pondering, “How much can we get away with today?” while shortlisting Tom Ford’s latest collection. Sorry Tom.

Maybe the folks at Zara have taken Picasso’s words ‘Good artists copy; great artists steal’ to their literal meaning in practice.

If the fine line between stealing and copying is appropriation, Zara is putting a whole new twist on it’s next collection. Be sure to rub off your name before walking out the door.

Why Designers Are Good Pickup Artists

nochance

The number one trait that makes designers and pick up artists siblings from different mothers is their ability to instigate, favourable behaviour, emotions in the end user (which can be a girl they just met or the end customer they want in their sales funnel). Wait, what? That’s possible? But Paul, not all designers are extroverted or have the necessary social calibration to approach girls on the street.

Designers do it through their work- an arresting poster, a book jacket cover, interactions embedded into an app on your phone, provocative evening dress made for the gala, a piece of furniture or architecture and so on. Pick up artists do it through sub communications, while opening and engaging with the opposite sex.

“Hey! You’re hot! But looks are commodity! I’m hoping there’s something more to you and you’re not boring?”

Translate to branding or the design industry at large, echoes of “lipstick on the gorilla” or “lipstick on a pig” reverberate when design has only cosmetic impact. The ensuing argument suggest that design be meaningful and built on true insights- which comes from research, fact-finding, discovery, interviews, user tests and so on.


While designers use typography, colours, images, materials and visuals to make even the most mundane subject exciting, pick up artists use voice modulation, body language and vibe to spike a conversation.


The next thing which good pickup artists and designers have in common is their ability to convey intent. Clarity in communication is key to a successful design work and pick up. Why you need this product or service? What do I want from you?

Guiding users through a complex task on a website with seamless interactions is good user experience design. Leading the conversation, passing shit tests and moving the girl one step closer towards a date or phone number close is good game.

Lastly, good pickup artists and design leaders are equipped with emotional intelligence. They are not only able to guide thinking by listening and being aware of their surroundings and constantly reading/catching a user/girl/customer’s true emotions but being self-aware and congruent in approach.

In conclusion, designers and pick up artists are designing and driving the human experience.


Written for Threadless

Five Life Lessons My Coach Taught Me

ALI

Last month I crossed 500 days of training milestone, while raising my one rep deadlift max to an all-new 300lb. To set the record straight and avoid the ire of fitness elite, I do Crossfit on alternate days of the week.

(Spoiler: Completing x-days has never been and never was the objective. It happens to be a point of reflection.)

Only on retrospection, I realised the life-changing impact my coach (personal trainer) had made, which got me typing up this essay in an effort to share my journey of messy to sassy.

By any stretch of imagination — if — in the process, this 1000 word circuit motivates one more person, triggering a domino effect, I would brandish it a victory.

With that said, I believe you can’t convince someone into habitual training and fitness. Motivation for choosing a healthier path has to come from a voice within. For others, like myself, who can’t take a hint, having one’s body punch them in the face is reason enough.

Black-eye later.

The calling card came early 2015 disguised in shoulder and neck pain. A consequence of long hours at my desk doing client work I no longer enjoyed and the lack of inertia-destabilising physical activity.

Sagar (My Coach/PT)

Knowing I had let the problem drift beyond my steering capacity, it was time to seek help.

The world conspired and I found myself standing face-to-face with Sagar (my Coach/PT).

At first, Sagar ignored my offer reading my laid-back disposition for lack of motivation.

Only after constant begging, pleading and requests did Sagar give me a chance, taking the helm of my wavering ship.

And you’ll see why this detail is relevant in lesson four.

What happened next can only be put in the realm of stratosphere shattering.

Except we’re talking about getting my ass handed to me and there’s no sign of stratosphere or an inspiring visual of SpaceX rocket levitating into space, only balls and their shattering.


</shatteredballs.jpg image url missing>


→1. Embrace Shortcomings Not Shortcuts

On day one, instead of lifting weights or having me crank into a Jean-Claud Van Damme epic splits (Watch clip), Sagar put me through his “try-out” routine.

By undergoing a series of tests aimed at understanding my physical limitations, strength, stamina, mobility, and pain points, Sagar, like a patient physics professor, calibrated to my state.

The trial reacquainted me with what being “normal” should feel like.

Post initial assessment, we talked fitness goals, objectives, and the bigger picture. Did I want to be a powerlifter, bodybuilder, athlete or just stay in shape?

With being fit and healthy on priority, in the absence of aesthetics, Sagar drew a roadmap for the year ahead geared towards my fitness goals. This programme entailed rebuilding from the ground up.

Little had I known what Sagar had in mind.

We spent the first six months in the studio without ever touching a machine, working only on technique, form, breathing, posture and strengthening the core. Correct walking and running movements using the body’s natural elastic were introduced. Who knew?

Throughout, there was focus on process and wellness as a way of life. And over time, conversations shifted from rehabilitation to how can this became a way of life?

We did it by reframing the role and place fitness should have in one’s life, banishing an afterthought approach.

I learned to look my weaknesses square in the eye and turn them into strengths. Pull-ups anyone?


→2. Show Up No Matter What

Each class would begin by Sagar conversing and gauging my mental state. Knowing my lack of discipline and inherit lazy nature, Sagar got inventive and reframed my goals.

“Just show up to the gym and leave the rest to me,” or being the reassuring voice over my shoulder, “do your-today’s-best”.

Not realising, at the time, Sagar had disciplined me by breaking down a fitness mountain into a habit-inducing five-pound dumbbell.

“80 percent of success is showing up”―Woody Allen

I wouldn’t be lying if I told you the first few months were tough and sometimes boring simply because I was performing repetitive movements, training muscle memory.

I learned, the hard way, fitness isn’t just lifting weights and sweating it out running aimlessly.

By putting in the work and showing up day by day I had not only inched my way physically but become mentally stronger and habitual to the newfangled practice.

In your face fight-or-flight response.


→3. Aim Higher But Celebrate Small Wins

Without sounding like a squat rack, six months in, biomechanics, kinesthetics, mobility, nutrition, hydration, cross-functional, mobility and grunts became familiar sounds. As a rule of thumb, I refrain from speaking in mind-numbing fitness code.

How would “Joey” say this?

Underpinned by wellness as the cause and effect we had gone from doing basic movements, correct warm up and cool down, single exercises to completing a circuit. Cardiovascular and overall muscular strength and stamina had seen tremendous progress. Insert Zen-master proportions of epic patience here.

Finishing a workout for the first time was a big deal.

On these rare occasions Sagar would pull out his notes and walk me through progress made, reaffirming my belief system by celebrating different stages on the progress bar.

“It’s the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once the belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen”―Muhammed Ali


→4. Respect People’s Time And Your Own

“I don’t get/have time to workout” or “Next week is when I start” or “I’m busy with work all day” or “I’m asexual” or “(insert reason for not taking action here)” and so on with the time excuse parade.

“Action expresses priorities.”―Mahatma Gandhi

If you don’t respect your own time no-one else will. Flake one too many times and find yourself chopped from Sagar’s training calendar. He’d do it without flinching irrespective of your bank balance, popularity or place in government.


Let’s take a moment and address the “busy” right now.

We’re often caught up doing things we don’t like, dropping a yes when it should be a steer-clear no or “busy” exercising people-pleasing. Of the finite time we all have on earth, every second, minute and hour spent doing shit you don’t want is a slice of what you could have been doing instead.

“Don’t let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.”―John Wooden

Kissing that cute girl from yoga class at the party is what your night would have entailed had you not signed up for “How to Pet Your Lonely Cat” the previous evening to help save your friend’s depleting relationship with the cat lady. You don’t even have a cat.


→5. Magic Happens Past Your Comfort Zone

Christoph Niemann has the perfect analogy. You’re trainer is interpreting an effortless workout for lack of trying. That being said, as humans, we seek out paths of least resistance.

Watching obscure Eastern European television depicting cats in dresses on failing to fetch the remote at arm’s length ring a bell? Thinking too far ahead being the nagging cousin.

The world of Product Design thrives on lazy. Designers dumb down the steps taken by a user to get the job done. Effortlessly push a Facebook or Twitter button on signup (*seen next on SQUAD) or buy something using Apple Pay or a Paypal checkout on Pornhub.

Coming back now.

“It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried…” ―Theodore Roosevelt

Pushing past your comfort zone has to be the most important lesson to come out of training. The regret of not doing anything, for years, knowing my body craved the attention will always be motivation to keep pushing.

Dentsu’s Chairman on “The Big Game Mentality”

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Some time ago, I had the opportunity to sit across the table, at a conference, with a man who turned around a 3 million company (Rediff DY&R) into a 100 million powerhouse, almost overnight.

Sporting a ponytail, and alive with experience, Mr. Sandeep Goyal, Chairman, Dentsu Advertising (the biggest agency in the world — holds the official account for Toyota, Honda, all major sporting events of the world, including the Olympics and much much more…), is a veteran of the advertising world. He’s gone from the A-list to jobless, and back, in one roller-coster ride.

What made this encounter interesting and heuristic was the fact that Mr. Goyal’s journey began from Chandigarh (I went to college and started a company here) — a small town boy who’s dream was to reach the moon. And, the fact that he shared, with us, his theory of ‘The Big Game Mentality,’ which separates small businesses from larger ones.

Simply put, it’s about how a batsman can go into a stadium, packed with thousands of fans, remain focused on the ball and hit a sixer.

He also talked about how most individuals overlook the very basics. These would include business cards (which is for immediate representation), being punctual, putting in that extra bit, rewarding your team visibly and building an online presence (simply because people want to Google you).


This brings me to an argument of: 1. Why branding yourself is important, 2. How developing an online presence can help one generate more business and come across as a company of today and, 3. Why staying focused and planning for the long term can keep you sailing higher.


Branding is one of the most underrated industry today (didn’t add too much context there but on especially holds true for Digital Product space). Usually, business plans revolve around infrastructure, people and annual projections etc. — leaving the idea of creating a professional looking identity far behind. And, in most cases, businesses hire unprofessional folks to design their logo (in a hurry, and with peanut budgets), and later tend to stagnate, simply because they lack in presentation.

Because your brand identity is not just visual designs but answering the strategic why we exist (and not the what and how), impact intended and defining True North (Read products with an opinion). Branding is going to leave an impression on your customer/user, I suggest you give it the due importance it deserves — involving a brand strategist in the initial conversation can make all the difference.

In today’s date, we’re littered with technology i.e. handhelds that access your mail, broadband internet and — primarily because of these — the advent of social media, we’re expected to be Google ready. People are constantly accessing this new media for all sorts of information. Lets not leave behind the large corporates that access the Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter accounts of prospective and existing employees. By building an online profile, you get the benefits of being available to the whole world and also access networks of like-minded people.

And lastly, staying focused on a long term goal is one of the most difficult as well as essential requirements of growth (think thirsty crow, one pebble at a time). With a clear strategy in mind, all the activities undertaken lead and build towards one single point — increasing the chances of hitting the target. Therefore, in conclusion, grow your brand like a seed — with its roots deep-seated in the ground, and with a single-minded proposition.

Also published: Medium & H Degree