The North Star
some reflections, a few months into my sabbatical (pt. 1)
Back in April, I left my full-time job at WhatsApp. I didn’t know what was next for me and only had vague notions of what I wanted to do. Since then, I’ve woken up at 7 every day to “work” on interesting projects and live life with vitality and examination.
It’s now August and I still don’t have it all figured out, but that’s okay.
The thing is, there’s no roadmap for this kind of decision. Conventional advice tells us to stay on a path until you’ve built up enough “career capital” and the next step is in-your-face obvious. But what if the path you’re on has you climbing up the wrong hill?
In truth, I haven’t found the clarity that I was hoping to find after these months of unstructured exploration, and my life’s purpose hasn’t yet unfolded in front of me in some brilliant spark of insight.
I have, however, found some nuggets of wisdom during this time. In fact, I think this period has been the most accelerated period of personal growth in my entire life — and I don’t think this a coincidence.
So let’s reflect on the journey so far, shall we?
The North Star
One of the most jarring things about this whole process has been losing a steadfast source of direction and purpose. An understated benefit of full-time employment is that your main purpose is to just work. It’s simple.
When you’re on your own, it’s more complicated. It is freeing to be able to choose your purpose and be in control of your own destiny. The problem is that there are
a lot of too many things to choose from.
A habit that I picked up over the years is finding something interesting, deciding that I didn’t have the time to pursue it, and committing myself to revisit it when I had “more” time.
Well now that I do have “more” time, which of these things should I do? Is it time to start making music, write a book, found a company, become a polyglot, do a surf camp in Morocco, build a farm, or reach enlightenment? You can’t pursue all of these goals at one, so you need to pick one to focus on at any given time.
You’ll never know what the “right” thing to pick is (hint, there isn’t one). It’s always a gamble but that’s okay. Trust the process and let your intuition guide you — it’ll let you know when you’re headed the wrong way. Once you acknowledge your missteps, just start moving in a different direction.
These past few months, I’ve found myself doing things like building partnerships within DAOs, architecting social graphs, exploring digital nomadism. None of these stuck, but each experience taught me about my preferences & talents, and showed me how malleable the world is. Who would’ve thought that I’d hate building social apps?
For now, I’ve oriented myself towards starting a startup. This has come after months of self reflection and conversations with brilliant people in San Francisco, the most entrepreneurial city in the world.
My assumptions might be wrong, and my motivations might change but that’s okay. I have a direction to head towards and am working every day on refining exactly what this vision for my life will look like.
Find your north star. It will guide you.
“A comfortable, certain, and tracked-out existence is necessarily one of little vitality and low growth. This is a key reason to quit especially “good” jobs where you have become comfortable.”
— Wolf Tivy in Quit Your Job
There’s something deeply human in the desire to shake things up in the hope of finding something better. To start climbing a new hill, you need to get off of your current hill by moving to a new city, quitting your job, or leaving a draining relationship. It’s as if the evolutionary process of natural selection permeates our very being and plants within us the seeds of change.
At its worst, this tendency can lead to a psychological prison of permanent dissatisfaction. At its best, it can lead to courageous strides into the unknown that move humanity forward.
“Life is not a straight line that goes from A to B. Life is a canvas of circles and waves, ups and downs, highs and lows. It’s a journey of self-discovery and creation. We paint it with a set of colors and then re-stroke it with another. It’s transformative. Ever-changing.”
I’ll be the first to admit it. I have no idea what I’m doing. I have no idea if I made a mistake by stepping off of the career path I was previously on. I have no idea if my current entrepreneurial endeavors will pan out. I have no idea if I’ll find myself at another job in 6-8 months.
One of my core ideals is to never make a decision (or not make one) out of fear. I’m certain that I have no regrets about leaving my job. No matter what comes of this chapter, I know that 90-year-old Nikhil will look back at 25-year-old Nikhil with pride. He’ll be proud that I had the courage to leap into the abyss without knowing the outcome, and proud that I didn’t let fear or comfort stop me from becoming who I have the potential to become.
Through my meanderings, I’ve discovered some gems that I’ve kept close and drawn strength from when times get tough.
That’s all for today, folks. Over the next few entries in this new publication, I’m going to unpack some more of the things I’ve unearthed during this chapter of my life. Stay tuned 👋🏽
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