Inverted Passion 2018 in Review

Last year in December, I decided to take two months off for a sabbatical. What I wanted to do in that period was to write a book on my experience and learnings bootstrapping Wingify to a multi-million dollar SaaS company. What I ended up doing is starting this blog and a community around it. A year later, it’s a perfect time to reflect on this thing which was never planned to be.

Inverted Passion in Numbers

  • Members in the Slack community: 446
  • Sessions on  the blog: 190 per day
  • Unique visits to the blog (in one year): 45,000

Best Posts of Inverted Passion

By time spent:

By # of unique pageviews (in the last 12 months):

Most Retweeted Threads

Experiments I did

Along with Roby, I organized an unconference / meetup in Bangalore and Pune. The Bangalore one was interesting because we kept a rule that all attendees had to be speakers as well. Here are my notes on most of the talks that people gave.

I also started a Youtube channel (that I’m not updating as frequently as I thought I would). I am shy when I’m recording my own voice so doing this required pushing myself. Here’s my most popular video by views:

I’ve also been dabbling with deep learning and just last week published my first tutorial on Bayesian Neural Networks which to my surprise was very well received. (I didn’t post it on Inverted Passion because I felt the audience is different).

Personal Victories in 2018

  • Started meditating (almost) every day with a minimum of 20 minutes (unguided, silent meditation). I’m proud of this because a year back I couldn’t sit still for even a single minute – I got bored easily. Now, I’m much more at ease with boredom.
  • I quit eating meat and chicken. People tell me that for a Punjabi, this is a big decision but frankly I’m not missing it.
  • Started doing Yoga 3 times a week. Unlike my experience at the gym previously, I now look forward to my Yoga sessions. Another learning has been that teachers and trainers matter and I’m lucky to have found a trainer who makes Yoga enjoyable. (My gym instructor was indifferent and perhaps that made my hate gym)
  • Tried quitting sugar and was reasonably successful. I’ve stopped craving for sweets and now I have my tea or coffee without sugar.
Inverted Passion wouldn’t happen without the barrage of ideas that Aakanksha happily and expertly gives me her opinion on.
  • Five years of happy marriage with Aakanksha. Each day, I feel lucky to be with Aakanksha. I’ve known her for 12+ years and couldn’t have asked for a better partner. Incidentally, this year Aakanksha also launched her art portfolio online. Go check it out!
  • Finished three courses: Stanford Seed’s “mini-MBA” for entrepreneurs of scaled-up startups, algorithmic information dynamics (here are the lecture videos) and MIT’s calculus 101.
  • Got comfortable with math, programming and machine learning (again). Reimplemented lots of simple neural networks and models (image classification, text generation, adversarial networks, probabilistic programming, etc.)

The hard parts of 2018

The most testing time of 2018 was when Aakanksha was diagnosed with endometriosis (I’m sharing this with her permission). It’s a condition where endometrial tissue in uterus starts growing beyond its usual location and starts surrounding uterus. Then during monthly menstruation cycle, when the endometrial tissue is shed (as blood), it gets collected as big cysts over ovaries. This causes immense pain, so much so that I had to take Aakanksha to the hospital multiple times.

Aakanksha gazing into the abyss, and converting it into wildflowers

Unfortunately, there’s no cure for it. Women have to bear it until their menopause. And even though more than 10 million women suffer this condition worldwide, it’s usually misdiagnosed by gynecologists because menstrual pain is explained away by them as “normal”. I remember that when the doctor confirmed endometriosis through sonography for Aakanksha, it was a big shock to both of us. The event forced us to grow up and see life for what it really is: harsh, naked and contingent.

After much deliberation and tension, Aakanksha had to undergo surgery to get cysts removed and we know that it’ll come back. Watching her bravely convert her anxieties and physical fatigue into her art has given me a lot of confidence that what we make of our brief lives is entirely upto us. Perhaps my mental state then led me to review life as a game that you get thrown into and you have no choice but to play on.

Also, facing such a big, constantly looming threat in our lives has made us appreciate each new day a lot more. I think we’ve started enjoying coffee and beer a lot more now 🙂

How did I get all this time?

I’m lucky to have Sparsh and the rest of Wingify leadership team around me. After my sabbatical, I took on the chairman role at Wingify and Sparsh took over as the CEO. As I explained in my interview here, the decision was obvious to me. My strength is in new ideas and Sparsh is great at scaling. So it made sense to have him do the CEO job because Wingify now is a 200 people, $20mn company and it requires a different skill set than it did in its early days.

Sparsh and I in Goa 🙂

As a chairman, my role is more about helping with company’s long-term strategy and helping Sparsh build an executive team. With day-to-day operations no longer my job, I get a good chunk of time each day to pursue all that I’ve been able to do in 2018.

Inverted Passion Community Recommendations

For this review, I asked members of the community to send their recommendations on a few topics. Here’s what the community recommends. Thanks @ImMrVinayak, @nootanist, @volume88, @aviral280996, @MukeshThawani, @madhur25, @DavidAmal for your recommendations and answers.

Best books that you’ve read in 2018 and why you like them?
  • The Lean Startup. Loved the core principles of the book which focus on looking at a startup as a scientific experiment. It has a relentless focus on experimentation, validating your assumptions and learning about your customer as the north star metric. The most actionable advice I have received.
  • The Dilbert Principle, the book is really funny, the pinnacle of office humour
  • “Made to Stick” by Chip and Dan Heath. It gives a much needed structure to improve the things you tell others and want them to remember it for longer. The structure applies to internal team communication and external customer/prospect communication. I feel focusing on such a structure can help improve their messaging over the time.
  • Thinking in Bets by Annie Duke. I liked it because I got introduced to a couple of amazing new concepts. She talks about ‘resulting’ where we create a tight connection between outcomes and decisions. She says: “We link results with decisions even though it is easy to point out indisputable examples where the relationship between decisions and results isn’t so perfectly correlated.”
  • The Intelligent Investor – primarily because I was very naive when it came to managing and understanding money.
  • Thinking Fast and Slow – Entirely changed my perceptions to avoid biases when making decisions
  • Factfulness – Gave more insights about how much progress humanity has made in the past centuries
What new skills have you learned in 2018?
  • Facebook Ads, Facebook Messenger Chatbots, SaaS and Marketplace business models, foodtech industry.
  • Submitting an iOS app, Psychology
  • Hiring, still learning though
  • Data Engineering | Large Scale Data
  • Image processing in iOS, public speaking, NLP basics, running(completed a half marathon)
  • Machine learning, Understanding financial markets, investing.
  • Offline Community building and Networking, a bit of blockchain and ML
Songs that you couldn’t get off your mind in 2018.

I made a playlist of all  the songs that were recommended:

Explanatory video, lecture or documentary that you watched in 2018 and highly recommend

I made another playlist of all lecture recommendations by the IP community:

What are you looking forward to learning and getting better at in 2019?
  • Delving deep into product management and game psychology.
  • Data Analytics, Interaction Design
  • Meditation
  • Communication: explaining my work to a five year old
  • Want to work on some NLP projects that I am planning and running a full marathon.
  • Deep learning
  • Understanding how to make humans better learners and neuromorphic computing
How has been your experience with Inverted Passion community in 2018? How can we make it better in 2019?
  • To be honest, I joined late but still find the threads useful. To make it better – We should come up with ways to facilitate more interactions between people on the group. This could happen through having a separate channel focused on meetups where people just mention a little about themselves, with their social links and list out the kind of people they are looking to meet or talk with. Or we could ask people to fill out a Google form with all the relevant questions and a Google sheet could then have all the information about people on the group.
  • Amazing driven people, loved to be a part of it. Have a regular feature, once a month.
  • I am very new to the community so can’t say much about past. I think if we think about having more focused conversation by including things like pushing for more 1-on-1 conversations, as group conversations get very complicated. Sharing links in a more limited fashion, as reading is more time consuming and difficult to read mid conversation etc..
  • More engg discussion, more on improving execution.
  • It’s one of the best communities I have joined in the last couple of years. The best part is sharing articles from so many different fields and, talking about them. Also, getting introduced to people from a wide variety of fields. 3-4 local meet-ups in a year would be great.
  • Good. Community should be more engaging. We should convert channels to private groups. Assign those private groups moderators with accountability to generate interest and engagement (with some incentives for them). The entry to group should come with mandatory participation requirements.
  • Experience is literally awesome. IP has been my go-to place for learning about radical ideas or simply stuff that matters. It acts as a sift in this information explosive world. Right now, I don’t have any suggestions 🙂

If you’d like to join the Slack community, here are the details on how to contact me about it.

That’s all folks!

This is the last post of 2018. Even though my frequency of posting on this blog has come down, my level of excitement about new ideas hasn’t. My excuse for not posting often is that I have expressed my views on a lot of “low-hanging” ideas and now my bar for what to write in a post has gone up. Also, I’m actively trying new formats of exploring ideas: writing code, making videos, organizing meetups.

Inverted Passion is an experiment and I’d like to keep it that way.

PS: If you are thinking about your 2019 new year resolutions, here’s a nifty guide I wrote last year on psychological tricks to help you achieve those goals.

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