Feb 19, 2015

Transparent and sincere - Fall like a rose petal

Let me tell you how this book was introduced to me. 'So I decided I am going to buy you a book. But I really did not know what to get you. I was browsing through many when I came across this book. I was thinking. Fall like a rose petal. 'Fall'? Really? On your birthday? But no, the blurb said that the book had no beginning or end and it just flows and focuses only on the present moment. It spoke of living gracefully without money. It shared character similarities with you. I realized that this is the book for you. I know you do not like self-help books. But I truly hope that this book will teach you something that you already didn't know'. Thus I laid my hands on this book on my last birthday, gifted by a dear friend. The above introduction, despite being about the book, also would have introduced a bit about me. I am an entrepreneur chasing my own passions on an alternate path where money is not the top priority. I live a simple peaceful life, neither rich nor poor. I do not like self-help books. A major impetus for me to start the book was the dearness of the friend rather than the subject of the book itself.

However the book appealed to my curiosity once I started reading it. It did teach me a lesson or two I did not know before. It reiterated a few of my life principles. It challenged my perceptions on some aspects. It made me ask a few rhetorical questions - to myself, to the author, to his wife, to his children and also to the society.

AVIS Viswanathan, the author of the book, takes us through his story with the help of a collection of handpicked journals that he had penned down for his son during a testing phase of his life. He is coming out of the phase slowly but surely but the experiences documented by him will definitely be invaluable to his son and to many readers like us. In a nutshell, he was an ambitious entrepreneur who took the big leap after tasting initial success with his venture. Unfortunately, he did not cross the chasm and he fell into a trap of huge debts, self-doubts, embarrassments and tremendous stress. Fortunately he remembered one vital lesson - to fall like a rose petal - and that has made an interesting story to tell.

As a fellow entrepreneur myself, I could put myself in his shoes clearly on many occasions. I felt the bullish enthusiasm of scaling up. I felt the cringing blow of cashlessness. I felt the prickly stigma of the society. I felt the holding hand of faith. I felt the burning moments of decision making. At a point in his dark days, one of his clients offers to acquire his company for a throwaway price and take him onboard as an employee with a high paid role. Ditto. I have been in that position at least twice in my life so far. AVIS rejects the offer and walks back to be his own boss. Ditto. I have done the same. Twice.

I have always known that a wrong move in scaling up could land me in huge debt. I am still cautious about taking that leap. But I have never heard from anyone as transparently as AVIS from the other side. To me, the most enlightening aspect of the book is the depiction of the daily challenges and embarrassments and doubts of the debt-ridden man. Simultaneously, it cautions me further while thinking of debts and gives me hope that no situation is irreversible. Faith and patience play a crucial role in the life of an entrepreneur. In fact, I have already written a post about our mantra of faith in entrepreneurship that I picked from the Harry Potter books. I will do well to remember AVIS's words when I face roadblocks in life in the future.

I could not but admire the supporting role played by AVIS's wife in his comeback. The woman behind his success. AVIS has written about some extremely humbling moments of breaking down with sheer transparency and courage. He has cried. He has lost hope. He has lost his temper. He has got his hands dirty in life and in writing this book and this sincerity and transparency are the best points in this book according to me.

However I could not but question the sense behind some decisions in the story. It seems to me and even to him in hindsight that he could have avoided the debt getting bigger and bigger with some smart decision making. Experience is the best teacher, they say. So I may not take this book to give me business lessons. It seemed perfectly fine when he postponed payments to some of his debtors who were otherwise well-off. They can wait. But there were a few occasions where he was not able to repay some debtors in time when they were also in a critical need of money. Though his rationale of meeting his own life expenses first before paying off debtors makes sense, such scenarios are extremely awkward to escape from a feeling of guilt.

As an entrepreneur, I know very well what impact a delayed payment can have. If I put myself in the debtor's position, I would be extremely uncomfortable and the frustration would be even more than that of AVIS. At times my clients delay payments to me citing reasons that they have not received money from sources where they were expecting. This is a very damaging chain of events in business because for no fault of mine, I am getting denied of a rightful payment. It will put me in a position to delay payments to my vendors and then in turn they delay payments to their vendors. This debt chain ties the hands of so many people in our life very silently today and I would try my best to stay away from entering this chain at any point.

No man who ever dares to take a risk wishes to be a failure. But unfortunately not every attempt will win. A failed attempt does not mean a failed man. Because he has dared to attempt something that more than half the world's population does not have the courage to even touch. The man will bounce back, no matter how deep he has fallen, if he keeps his composure right during the fall. In other words, if he falls like a rose petal. The injuries will be far lesser and even a slight waft of breeze is enough to lift the petal back again on to the sky.

The book does not go the preachy way which many self-help books choose. Though at times, it wavers into that danger zone for me, it comes back quickly to normalcy. It deals mostly with real experiences and real first-person narratives of the life lessons. That transparency and sincerity make this book a worthy read. Thanks for providing that AVIS Sir.


(Rose petal : Image courtesy : Martin Kenny)