Annual Letter: Diwali 2019

I wanted to drop by and wish you a very Happy Diwali!

This is an annual email that I write to say thanks to mentors, friends, allies - everyone who has chipped in sculpt a better me.

So that is what I’ll begin with: Thanks a ton for being there for me!

Also, checkout the 2018 edition of the annual email in attachment if you’re curious :)

Moving onto the least comfortable piece, talking about myself:


This has been a year of regression. For instance:

  • My BMI has slipped from 30 to 33 (higher is worse), gained about 7 kgs
  • Have worked out less than 2000 minutes (was 5000 minutes last year)
  • Have made tremendous unmeasured progress in managing my long term asthma, now I can frequently run up 2 floors without noticing that I did


  • I was trying to invest in things other than mutual funds. Well, I’ve lost 25% of whatever I’ve invested in stocks (via smallcase) since then
  • I hired a financial advisor, which was a net loss making deal due to the fees, but helped me form better habits. Financial advisor in that sense are like gym trainers, more than the exercise - their main value addition is in following up
  • I’ve reduced my Fixed Deposit and Recurring Deposit investments to 0% of my savings
  • I’m diversifying my folio to a mix of index and bond funds now - this is still work in progress

Learning and Reading

Last year, I wrote how I was trying to think and dream better. Well, that has been a bust. The intent was to form a mental model, a scaffold of habits and information on which I could add new information and refine the scaffold itself.

This has been slower than I’d have guessed.

Intentionally, I read less books this year. I did read a lot more modern essays (blogs?) ranging from Peter Drucker, Marc Andressen, Naval Ravikant, and surprisingly boring, a former Coal India Chairman. I also re-read a couple of books like Courage to Be Disliked and Effective Engineer.

I also spent an unhealthy time reading beginner content on seemingly irrelevant topics like Policy making and Human Capital. Here is my favourite cross-topic discovery so far: Talent vs Luck: The role of randomness in success and failure.


Since last Diwali, I quit Soroco and moved to - a really small, pre-Product Market Fit, loss-making business. I strongly considered a very enticing data science role at an investment bank. I finally leaned away from it, making a financially very expensive gut call.

The role here is challenging in two very important ways:

  • Autonomy: There is a much higher degree of autonomy on how I prioritize tasks and that has been scarier than I’d thought
  • Leading: I also hired 3 Machine Learning engineers who now work with me

The thing that could unlock 10x value? Technical and Learning-to-Manage Mentorship: Something I could really use a lot of help on, is critically missing.

The other welcome change is in how anxious I am about work: I am not! I am almost always excited to go work.

Work Adjacent

  • Public Speaking: I was invited to speak at PyCon India 2019 - India’s top conference on the Python programming language
  • Open Source: I’ve continued to maintain Awesome-NLP for years now. It now has over 9 thousand stars and 80+ contributors now. It’s officially recommended by Stanford to their Deep Learning students now.

What’s Next?

  1. Writing and Tact

I suspect more knowledge workers in 20s should invest in learning how to communicate via either public speaking or writing. My chosen medium will probably be writing. I intend to write about a select list of topics: technology and how it has shaped our choices.

Owing partly to how I grew up, my default communication style has been confrontational. I’ll incorporate a lot more tact, grace and consideration in the years ahead. Be more Kabira.

  1. Chase external validation

My professional and personal framework so far been focused internally. I did not value traditional credentials like degrees, grades, that exclusive college club and so on very highly. In hindsight, this was a bad career decision.

External validation is what sets apart sustainable, long term careers from short one-trick wonders. This mindset shift will be hard. And will probably be a long 5-15 year journey, and I’ll keep you posted - unless you want me to stop. Just let me know 🙂

Till then, Happy Diwali and a Happy New Year!

Best, Nirant