This is the biggest skill you can learn as an adult

I remember making my mom cry last to last year.

It was the absolute worst thing I’ve ever done, and like a boil on the floor of my foot, it still hurts me just as much.

“I hate you. I hate it here. I want to go back.”

I screamed at her in frustration after she reminded me to do some small chore that I thought was annoying.

The pandemic had flushed me out, back to my home country India. I’d spent the last five years in Malaysia, first as a student and then as an expat employee.

A photo of me at the T2 Mumbai airport in 2017 shows a cautious chubby Manik, nervous about stepping into an unknown country with no family, no contact to call for help.

Little did he know he would soon bloom into a “proud world citizen,” exposed to a multitude of unique people from all kinds of faiths, cultures, countries, and backgrounds.

I entered Kuala Lumpur as an alien city, but quickly grew attached to it … like it was my puppy, The place gave me a blank slate to draw on – no one to judge, scold, or order me around. It accepted me as I was but challenged me to rethink everything.

Like every puppy parent, I thought it would be part of my life forever – although I was warned it was going to be tough to survive in a country that isn’t visa-friendly.

Even then, with the support of friends, I fought it out, becoming one of the very few international grads to get a job there itself, while others had to cancel their student visas & go back.

Soon after, the first wave hit, and I was locked alone in a 3BHK with no roommate (they left to be with their families). Within a few months, I was physically & mentally on fire, and I knew I had to run away ASAP.

So I quit the job & reluctantly stepped on the first rescue flight back to Mumbai – this was all the middle of the wave’s peak.

After coming back, none of the few employers who were still hiring at that time, showed any interest in my CV. Which was probably because I looked like a foreigner without any local education or experience.

To make it worse, the lockdown weight I had gained came back to bite me (I was a morbid 108kgs), and I suffered a health crisis that forced me to stay back at home for 6 whole months.

All my 5 years of hard work. All my close friends. Everything went to shit. And I took it out on the only person who was still rooting for me, treated mum like a punching bag.

After getting the wake up call, I slowly started working on myself. It took me some time but I recovered enough to step out again.

I accepted a shitty job just to restart my CV. After spending a year in exile, muscled my way into the industry by landing a decent respectable position just last month.

I am THREE YEARS BEHIND EVERYBODY.

My friends have already started their Master’s or MBAs in rich countries like UK, Canada, USA, and Australia/NZ, where they will probably settle.

Many others have moved into management positions, earning salaries double, even triple of what I take home.

And all this caused me to hate myself. I cursed my destiny – asked God “Why show me dreams when you were going to kick me to the floor in the end?”

Then I wandered the city for answers.

Re-adjusting to Mumbai was difficult.

The jam-packed locals. The noise. The pace.

The unforgiving rains that fuck everything up.

The inconveniences & injustices everyone quietly accepts because they’re too caught up trying to just survive the month, paycheck after paycheck.

The office crowd, who’s more into politics and less into doing good work. There are so many things that started stinging only because I’d seen how cooler life is overseas.

But something changed. Some people in my colony approached me to help with taking care of the stray dogs in the neighborhood. A friend had told them that I had a background in the field.

It’s true that I was deeply devoted to this cause. I used to treat, vaccinate, and feed the strays in my locality before I went away. But since Malaysia was a new country, and I didn’t want to get into trouble for breaking any laws or upsetting the locals, I’d lost touch with the service.

So this was a chance to do what I really loved. And I threw myself into it at a moment’s notice. Now my weekends go by in doing whatever I can to help the stray dogs, whether it’s transporting them to the municipality pound for neutering (so that there are no more poor puppies), or tending to their wounds.

I made new friends in the process and now my schedule has been pretty much filled up.

When I’m home & not working, I try to help mum & dad, who are growing older faster than I’m prepared to accept.

This weekend I helped my old guy set up his new tablet – he was so happy, like a toddler getting a toy, to learn about the voice transcribing feature, and promised he’ll use it to scribble the book he’s always dreamed of writing.

I’m reconnecting with my younger brother, a person I lost in the hustle of time, so it’ll need some practice for us to bond again.

Above all, I’m taking myself out.

Eating at the iconic places, but also discovering new hidden spots on my own. Learning to sing bhajans (hymns) with the office-going uncles in the train.

Rediscovering Mumbai is like seeing an ex-friend you broke up with in school days many years ago.

What happened, happened. But there’s a huge chance you both have something new to offer each other.

Both the city & I have changed.

So like an awkward arranged marriage slowly growing fonder over years, we are slowly adjusting to each other.

For those of us who are still in our home countries, watching others fly out, it can feel unfair (remember how people lashed out at the Humans of Bombay girl who asked public support to fund her Harvard degree?)

But I think I’m the right authority to tell you that life overseas isn’t all rosy per se. It’s very much filled with loneliness, unless you’re shifting with family.

There’s rising racism, bias, harsh weather, violence against Hindus, and a constant struggle to keep up with the local competition.

And everything’s SO PRICEY. SO UNAFFORDABLE. Although the salaries are much higher, the cost of living shoots up too. And very often you may find that not many people are available or ready to help.

Mumbai is nothing like that. You’ll get everything if you just step down your house. The people don’t actually give a shit what you wear or do or say. But they will be happy to help out in emergencies, no questions asked.

Life’s cheaper (although the pay is shite too) but like the red chutney in our vada pav, there’s a sweetness absorbed in the spice of our struggles.

And this is the most important skill I’m trying to pick up – appreciating what life has given me. It has taken me two years to come to terms with what happened. But I’m finally making peace.

The art of acceptance.

Accepting where you are in life. Making full use of it. And more importantly finding happiness where you’re standing instead of where you want to reach.

Because many times as an adult, your plans won’t pan out as you envisioned them. Often putting out fires will light two more. Things will always be uncomfortable. But you’ll need to make do, or else you’ll always feel irritated & wronged.

Life has a funny way of putting you in places where it knows you have something to learn. These environments might feel uncomfortable but they’re essential to your growth.

And being back to square one has taught me humility. It has actually given me so many things I didn’t even know I was missing…

Like cherishing time with family. Working for animals – something that defines me. Eating food I love. Getting the time to gym or work out because I don’t have to worry about preparing my own dinner – thanks ma.

Above all, this little detour has taught me to let go. I let go of some friends who no longer vibe with me. Let go of bad habits. Let go of the fear of failing.

And I’m starting fresh. Which is fine, considering the unique story I’ve got to tell.

I don’t know if I’ll get to go back abroad. Or I’ll settle in India. There are upsides & risks of both options but I’m not thinking about it right now at all.

Because one thing that moving places teaches you is that you can make a home wherever you go.

Those doors will open again, I promise, but you must first learn to keep yourself open first.

Your late 20s might be a lonely time. Are you prepared?

Do you remember breaking up with a bestie in school? The first time you had a fight that grew beyond a small quarrel or misunderstanding?

It was probably something silly, wasn’t it?

Growing up, I always dreaded that kind of abrupt ending … until I experienced something much more sobering.

Many times, the start of adult life will randomly fade out bonds that you thought were strong enough to stick together for life.

I say “randomly” because I have pals I connect with twice a year but I never find it difficult to catch up with them. It’s as if we Zoom everyday. The conversation flows effortlessly & one of us has to remind the other to go to sleep.

But a few of my friends have been moving inches away every day, and now they’re just out of range. Funny how they’re technically just a text away but I’m finding it too heavy to start a new chat or reply to their DMs.

Mind you there is no “negative” reason in particular for this. Maybe in the hasty run to make it into the next stage of our careers, we had to choose different paths & adopt different mindsets. Or maybe we just missed a couple birthday wishes so it’s too awkward to care again.

It’s like I’m holding a 120kg barbell without gloves and I can feel the grip slipping as it rolls & heats up under my palms.

Friendships that die slow deaths leave ugly bruises when you’re finally past them.

Because they ruin playlists, singers, songs, and entire genres too. All the special things they introduced you to.

Oh yes, it was the recent Friendship Day celebration that made me think of all this. While I did send & receive grateful wishes, it did hurt not being able to forward those messages to certain someones.

What took that thought forward was the cascade of more than two dozen confessions on Reddit by 25-30 year old boys talking about their loneliness.

The guys said that they’re finding it hard to socialize & find their tribes, have never went out on dates, and envy the colleagues or peers who are supposedly settled into tight circles. They marvel at how so many people are getting married all of a sudden!

So I thought someone should address these stories. I’ve lived them too.

Yes, your 20s is a time when you start earning so the ideal goal is to have people with whom you can plan treks, go out for brunches, and chase those road trips goals you’ve been dreaming of since college.

But see that’s the happy part everyone puts up on their Stories.

There will also come long dry periods after you graduate when the batch mates you promised to meet every year … become stuck in an exhausting cycle of grinding too hard & then being too burnt to lift a finger.

You will go through this too.

I haven’t yet used the word “busy” because one of the realities you’ll learn to accept is that people can be 100% free & available & still not want to dedicate that time to you because God knows that one Saturday evening is the only time they get to breathe & watch a good show at length (Sunday is reserved for errands & classes).

People can be 100% free & available & still not want to dedicate that time to you because God knows that one Saturday evening is the only time they get to breathe.

Again this completely fine & understandable, in my opinion. Because I do it, too.

Understand that people do care but most often they just don’t have the energy or the same priorities to reciprocate your efforts & love with the same intensity you would ideally expect from them. Also people express their love in different ways that might not fit your definition of what it means to care.

Bluntly put, it would hurt less if you tried learning to love & give without hoping for an ROI.

Your friends are just too caught up.

I don’t know how to explain it but now I sorta need everything in my Google Calendar LMAO or I’ll have no energy or interest in the activity.

I had this crazy back-to-back with a friend when we had to keep postponing our mandatory quarterly call for one or the reason. It became so irritating at one point that he sent me an official proposal on email asking for my appointment.

We both cracked up so hard talking about it & agreed how deeply embedded we are into our work lives. Not to mention the hundreds of other unbaked hustles we’re trying to set up on the side.

Adult friendships are complicated & nothing like the ones you may have been a part of in school. Because your timetables & priorities were the same back then. Now? Not do much.

Our generation is chasing difficult goals harder than any before ours. Everyone’s under pressure to start a blog, launch a Reel page, post LinkedIn Motivations, build their startup, create an NGO, and how could I forget – grow a YouTube channel too now. It’s the influencer life or no life.

The problem is that for those of us going at a slower pace or taking detours, this hustle culture can us feel left behind. It can make us question our worth.

As if we’re the only lost wanderer without any concrete game plan or a good team to execute it.

But I’m here to remind you (as I always do) that there is a SHITLOAD of time left for you to gather guests for your party.

It might be in your 30s. Or 40s. But you’ll find them, I promise.

I guarantee you’ll eventually find your zones. One tip to fasten that process would be that rather than randomly seeking out company, join hobby or activity classes. Even a sports or gym class if you can. Go where communities already exist. Because shared interests make it easy to bond.

There you’ll meet quality people who speak to your heart and listen to its beats.

Who understand your rhythm & know how to vibe with it at a cozy distance. A distance that brings you warm soup like feelings of safety but also respects your personal space.

You’ll meet folks you can cook brunch with on a Sunday morning. Folks who you can enjoy silence or simple things with.

Butttt…. And it’s a big but.

Until that happens, you should start getting comfy with the person you’re going to spend the biggest chunk of your life with – yourself.

When you start thinking of it less as loneliness & more as freedom, it’ll almost get addictive.

I go for movies I WANT to watch. Head out to restaurants I WANT to eat at. Travel in the style I WANT with my kind of itinerary (or none). And I do get a lot of stares or looks of pity from all the people who’ve come there in groups or as couples.

I wish I could stand up & express how content I am to dine in alone or sit in theaters all by myself. Soaking in the ambience, one breath at a time.

This is not to prove myself. But so that when they find themselves without a group, they don’t feel sad or awkward about it.

Yes sharing slices is always fun but that’s its own kind of joy, and so is getting to finish an entire pizza a la solo.

Does that mean I don’t crave companions or groups? That I never feel the need for having a girlfriend by my side?

Absolutely I do & I won’t deny it.

But over the years, I’ve learnt to stop letting these be items that I need to cross out ASAP.

I know they’ll happen at the right time & place. Or they won’t and I’ll still have lived a meaningful life.

But until that conclusion unravels, I’m growing fonder of my own company.

Strutting alone through Mumbai’s soaked streets this windy rainy season, I’m moving as per my own breeze in no set direction.

And it has led to sketching out many good plans that were previously dependent on having co-passengers. Plans I’m actually looking forward to. Plans that won’t be cancelled at the last minute because it’ll just be me.

More than enough.

You’re not “empty” waiting to be filled fully. You’re not unlucky. Nor miserable. You have everything you need to discover & enjoy the planet.

You’re not “empty” waiting to be filled fully. You’re not unlucky. Nor miserable. You have everything you need to discover & enjoy the planet.

And like so many others who’ve felt the same, your late 20s might as well feel like a lonely time. But it won’t be that bad once you start befriending yourself first.

What Mumbai Local Trains taught me about Marketing

Here are my first 3 core content marketing insights ft. Mumbai Trains ⬇️

For the past month, I’ve been commuting to town in the dreaded Mumbai locals (second class).

For those outside India, this journey defies all laws of physics.

The rush.

The atomically packed compartments.

The shouting & pushing your way through.

It’s an experience everyone should have once ‘cuz the pace of the city humbles you.

Anyway, like a true marketer, I use my one hour to shamelessly pry on other passengers’ phone screens, making notes of what content they’re stopping to see.

Here are 3 valuable lessons that have come out from all the invasion of privacy (it’s called research lol).

No. 3 will save your life!


1. Use Subs or get Scrubbed

It’s no surprise that most guys are watching videos & only a handful are reading news or long-form blogs.

Interestingly, many don’t use earphones & so they have no or little audio input.

This means that if you have anyone speaking or narrating in your videos, PLEASE include embedded subtitles.

Or they’re gonna scroll right past your content no matter how good it is.

Use Kapwing to generate the subs for free or use IG’s native captions feature while editing your Reels.


2. Hook it or Die

The decision to stop or keep scrolling.

Is now happening in 2 seconds.

Nobody’s waiting for reveals that come a bit later.

So before publishing anything.

Simply re-watch the first 2 secs. of your video.

Or re-read the first 5 words of your written post on a mobile screen (if using LinkedIn).

Ask yourself, “Where is the hook in this intro? Why would people continue watching this video or read my post?”

If you can’t find an answer, rework it. Have something juicy right at 0 seconds.

  • It can be a how-to headline
  • A weird expression
  • Quirky sound
  • Asking a question (Do you know how to… ?)
  • Shocking update

Anything that opens a loop inside the audience’s brain, forcing them to find out more.

Even this post’s headline had a hook with a down arrow which made you click “See More.”

Without a HOOK, you will fail.


3. Cut fast, cut often

Now the real challenge begins.

RETENTION is hard.

You must keep them watching or reading until the end.

BUT retention drops approx. after 10 secs.

So when making videos, make fast cuts that force people to keep up.

Don’t drag the same angle or frame for more than 5 secs.

When writing posts like this one, use linebreaks.

Short sentences.

No bulky fat paragraphs.

Make the post bingeable.

Assume you’re making a tweet thread.

Every 5 secs. or 5 lines, have a checkpoint.

Ask yourself, “Why would people keep going?”

For example, I baited you above saying point 3 will save your life.

Which incentivized you to keep reading.


So what’s next?

For now, I’m making new friends on the trains.

We don’t know each other’s names.

But we smile, share snacks, and laugh together.

This commute is making me a better marketer. A savvier content creator.

And above all, a humbler human being.

Maybe I’ll share more stories soon. Until then…

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A Writeup on Reverse Culture Shock

Yes … reverse culture shock is a very real thing. It’s when you move abroad for studies or work but circumstances make you come back to your base country, and all of a sudden, you feel like a stranger without a home.


If you studied abroad and went back home, you’ll know that it’s possible to feel like a stranger in places you’ve lived all your life.

You’ll understand how confusing it is to spend years building a little world in a hopeless city you entered all alone, only to see everything fit perfectly in 1 carry and 3 big bags, tumbling into the cargo as you say goodbye.

Funny how you can claim to be a nomad who has been travelling the world and seen the most gorgeous sights, but deep inside, you’d prefer to stay back in your dorm room or on campus grounds – because it was the home you built on your own, a world & routine you made for yourself from scratch.

I guess it’s not the leaving that hurts, because you’ve been at more farewells than introductions. And more graduations than orientations. And you’ve learned to make a lifetime worth of memories in just three years – you’ve always known that’s all you’ll have here.

What hurts is the dread of coming back to points in your life you thought you moved on from. And then realizing that those points have moved on from you.

It’s the unease of listening to your “best friend” from school days be excited about things that don’t involve you, and it’s the bitterness that comes from seeing that Mom shifted your old books back to the last drawer to make space for your sibling.

It’s the annoyance that stems from being asked if you remember this part of the city, or the names of people who made it home. And it’s the sudden urge to pretend that you forgot, because you miss being able to start fresh – isn’t that honestly why you chose to move away in the first place?

But still, if you’ve come back and you feel disconnected from people who once understood you, maybe it’s because you’ve changed how you understand relationships, and you’ve changed how you look at people.

You’ve learned to build homes in countries that are at war with yours, and you’ve learned to find families in strangers people told you were our enemies, growing up.

You’ve filled up your calendar with Christmas, Diwali, and Chinese New Year, and you’ve spread the table to celebrate everybody’s happiness as one.

You’ve weaved together passports from every part of this planet, and you can pin a new name to every major city on the map. So you may have lost what you meant to a lot of people, but you’ve gained a bigger meaning that many more would understand.

And maybe that’s just why you feel like a stranger coming back home, because you’ve unknowingly built a new one – with a backyard that’s twelve thousand kilometers wide, but has no roof. Decked with a clear view of the stars … where you truly belong.

P.S: Thank you, Monash Malaysia. You gave me the adventure of a lifetime, and molded me into the human being I’m proud to be today. I’ll miss you & keep visiting when I can. Until next time, love.

To the Friend from Monash Malaysia

Sometimes I like to dream about being back in Monash with you. It’s 9 at night and the campus is dimly lit like a garden of fireflies buzzing half-asleep. There’s a group of friends playing in the basketball court and we can hear them sitting on the cold moist wooden decks in front of the cafeteria.

I look above the overgrowth of trees hugging the building square and notice the hazy sky;
then look at you, signaling that it’s going to rain soon.

But the weather has never been a worry in Sunway, is it – thanks to our canopies? You should know how much I love losing myself in you. Losing myself on the long walks we take after getting too tired of waiting for the shuttle. And how much I love finding a little more time to hear about your day, all over again.

You say you’re hungry and I nod, so we march to Rock cafe, cutting across the BRT station.

I pause to pet the chubby dogs outside the garage, and even though you’re not a big fan, you don’t mind waiting because you know how happy hugging them makes me.

You can see herds of students walking in their hoodies and sandals, tired but relieved. Waiting to have dinner and freshen up so they can gather in the Sunway foyer to rush their assignments overnight.

We reach Rock, and I listen more than I eat. Because I’m not worried about getting hungry
later on, anyway; someone will always be there to rescue me at any point in the night, from Hadramis to Jaffars, or the comforting masala dosa at Anwar Maju with their sweet cup of teh tarik.

We track back to Monash, and huddle in on the fourth floor, which is open for exam season. Droves of students have already claimed their spaces, hiding under a wardrobe of hoodies because you know just how cold it can get here.

We find a shy corner at the edge near the business office, plug in our laptops, and spend the next hour making checklists of all the things we should follow through on before dawn.

I can’t see it right now but I like imagining Pyramid’s peak and how it quitely glows in the
distance, like a comforting lighthouse to sailors lost at sea. I always wonder how it would feel to be there right now, inside. With no one around. I have this fantasy of sneaking in, just to waltz through the empty halls and theatres.

Time passes by, dreaming, getting buried in notes, and taking long walks for short breaks in the cool, dark foyers that have their own eerie language of whispers. Before you know it, folks are rushing into the basement for the first class of the day, which most of us will doze through after getting the code.

We part ways and I jog to Rasai Machan with my tiffin box, eager to fill it with hot breakfast that I have this odd love-hate opinion of. All filled up and dizzy, I saunter out and across the gully as the shop shutters are opening up, and I crash on my bed after reaching the dorm room. I set an alarm – 8 alarms, if I’m being honest – for my afternoon classes, but I know I’ll end up snoozing and then rushing to the auditorium, anyway.

Sometimes I wonder how we kept up with this, year after year, not realizing how much we’d grow to love the kind of crazy routine we wanted to run away from when we were back home.

But I guess that’s exactly what made this time different – our time at Monash -we were all escaping from one thing or the other, clutching on to whoever or whatever was new, without history, without strings – desperate to start fresh and have the freedom to be someone new.

What I miss the most, though, is this weird feeling of knowing that everything will be okay – even amidst all the stress from studies and personal struggles. I miss knowing that I have so many people to back me up despite our differences.

And I miss the easy, unscrewing pace of the city – as if it had its own mind, slowing time down to give us the space to keep going in the very worst of our days.

So I guess I wouldn’t mind going through it all over again with you. Including the parts that
hurt us both a little. Because even though there was a time when we couldn’t wait to be in our homes again, now that I’m here, miles away from you, the only thing I really want
to do is to go back to the one we built together, and stay.

It’s the only place I can truly call “mine.”

P.S: I graduated from Monash Malaysia with a Bachelor’s in Mass Media in 2019. It was the best experience of my life, and even though I messed up a lot, I’d do it all over again.

Thank you to the #BaeForArre international students gang, who gave me friendships to cherish for a lifetime.

This little nostalgic writeup is for for one “extra-special” friend from that circle. Love you, kid.

Tiktoker’s Poorly Redesigned Logos go viral, McDonald’s embraces it

Emily Zugay, an entertainment design graduate from UW-Stout uni in Wisconsin, released a TikTok featuring awfully redesigned logos of famous brands like Starbucks and Apple.

Since its upload on 8th September, the video has crossed 15M views for its satirical style, and Zugay has released a string of other equally bad but funny redesigns for McDonald’s, NASA, Adobe, and Tiktok itself.

VolumeOne reports that the Michigan dweller “intended the videos […] to be entertaining – to maybe garner a couple of chuckles. But now the world is captivated by her deadpan humor.”

Most of her victims seem to have taken the joke in the right spirit, with McDonald’s even changing their Twitter handle. to “McdOald’s,” which was Zugay’s idea. Doritos, Tiktok, and Tinder joined in on the banter, too.

In a press release from her uni, she said, “There are people who still believe it is for real. I thought it would be fun to redesign logos terribly. I used words I picked up during critiques at my UW-Stout classes that helped explain why my designs were better. I had to keep my face as serious as possible.”

She said, “We have all been in a situation where there is somebody who thinks they are particularly good at a task, and they just might not be. I tried to become that person.”

The “low-effort” marketing strategy has gained special popularity amongst Gen-Z circles, who are tired of over-the-top advertising that has too much pomp but no substance. In such a situation, purposely doing something bad feels like an underdog “anti-establishment” move, and therefore, gathers eyeballs. quickly.

For another example, check out this post on Fi bank’s “PPT Ads,” in which I dissect their approach for creating video ads using MS Powerpoint with the intention of appearing thrifty and cool.

Signifance of this Case

Brand admins on social media are loosening their grip on strict image guidelines set by the higher-ups, and embracing user-generated content instead, even though it might not match their quality standards every time, like in Zugay’s case.

This change in attitude may have sprung from the realization that they don’t have to always take their audience seriously. In fact, indulging in light humor may actually be beneficial to them in terms of engagement.

Marketers on the internet are divided over this move, though, according to a report by AFaqs. Some say the brands were just riding on the influencer’s success to chase attention and stay relevant, while others don’t mind the temporary adjustments.

Whatever your opinion, you have to agree that all digital marketers are under immense pressure to participate in every conversation online, as companies suffer from “FOMO: Fear of Missing Out.” This sort of rushed “moment marketing” may sometimes come at the cost of quality content.

Harikrishnan Pillai, the co-founder CEO at TheSmallBigIdea, tells Afaqs, “We are in an era where if you are a brand that appeals to Gen Z, then being a maverick and a non-conformist is a brand persona you have to have. And doing things, like changing the logo for a day because a TikToker felt so, is one such move. It brings the brand into the consideration set of Gen Z’s ‘things to post about today, which, in the digital world, is some solid word of mouth.”

Himanshu Arya of Grapes Digital correctly warns small brands against indulging in such stunts. Pointing to McDonald’s change in logo, he says, “These types of things are done occasionally. Every brand can’t afford to do this, as it’s a privilege enjoyed by only big and established ones.”

Arya says, “If a bigger brand experiments with its brand identity, it becomes a trend, whereas smaller brands can’t afford such risk. Playing with the brand logo just for the sake of it is not a good idea. There is a saying which I think perfectly fits in this situation, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.'”


Zomato’s 2020 Profile Pic Change

The logo redesign story may remind you of Zomato’s February 2020 maneuver, when they removed their logo from their profile pictures and replaced it with a portrait of their smiling rider, which had been submitted by one of their fans.

The adorable smile went viral on social media, with Indian brands sharing their own versions and memes to cash in on the trend.


Conclusion: Have fun, responsibly

Ultimately, it’s important to think twice before you enter your brand into a conversation because when it comes to Twitter (or any other social platform) things can go from fun to disastrous in a few characters. Things can backfire for no reason.

Some audiences may find your statement in bad taste, or worse, not even understand the humor, resulting in miscommunication or permanent loss of online reputation/trust. So it’s not worth risking your reputation just for the sake of being present at every hashtag party.

With that in mind, Zugay’s redesigns seem harmless enough because they don’t really offend anyone and are clearly delivered in an intended deadpan and self-deprecating style. So when no specific person is the butt of the joke, your brand may think of playing with the trend (as long as the laughs are directed either at yourself or better, at no one.

“I just want to entertain people and have fun with what I am doing,” Zugay said in the press release. “Trends come and go. I’d love to be here for the long haul and work on my career. I hope it opens up opportunities for me.”

Reading List: Books that’ll Reshape your Mind

This is my personal reading list. I wish I’d discovered these gems early on in my life because I would’ve had much more clarity in my life when I really needed some direction.

While all of the books are non-fiction, their sub-genres vary, from startup financing to interpersonal communication tips.

They changed the way I think and live, and I’m sure they’ll help anyone who reads them.

That’s because I’m extremely picky about the things I read. I hate wasting my time on badly written books that take hundreds of pages to get to the point, and when they do, it’s such an obvious one.

So I’ll spend days doing my due diligence- reading the Goodreads reviews, asking my LinkedIn connections to share their collection of favorites, and listening to the audio summaries on Blinkist to determine whether it’s worth my while.

In the end, I only go for the top-rated, indisputably premium picks.

If you don’t have the budget to buy the official ebook copies on Kindle, you may find the free ebook versions on PDFDrive, Internet Archive, or Free eBooks.

Happy Reading!


How to Win Friends

This one helped me go from being a lonely bear on campus to becoming one of the most actively engaged kids who took a leading part in 5+ large student communities.

It was written by Dale Carnegie in 1936, but the insights it contains are relevant to this day (one would argue they’re timeless).

Read it to uncover the secrets of developing good relationships & influencing people without a pinch of force.

Find it here.


48 Laws of Power

If the previous book was about tapping into the altruistic tendancies of people, this one looks at the other, darker side.

It was written by John Greene in 1998.

Summarized in the 48 laws are the ugly realities of human nature that you can either be a victim of or learn to harness with preparation & tact.

A modern retelling of medieval politics, it’s essential reading for power-hungry leaders & entrepreneurs who are trying to climb their way to the top of the foodchain.

Read it here.


Atomic Habits

Success is purely about consistency. Building a stack of small but good habits eventually adds up & gives you exponential returns in the long run.

But maintaining a solid mindset & lifestyle is easier said than done. Thankfully, we have this amazing guide written by James Clear in 2018.

It’ll teach you how to keep up the good routines and eliminate any unproductive, or unhealthy habits that are hurting you silently.

The entire book flows effortlessly like butter from start to end; I finished it in one sitting during a layover at an airport.

Find it here.


Blue Ocean Strategy

Another must-read for aspiring brand leaders is this eye-opening book. It was the first one to coin the term “blue ocean.”

Almost every market today is a red ocean i.e. it’s noisy, saturated, and filled with disloyal customers who will need some hard convincing to switch from their established brands to your new product.

In such times, leaders must develop the unique ability to find, create, and capitalize on a “blue ocean” i.e. an uncontested market space where you can enjoy the first mover’s advantage.

This book is the go-to resource on how to go about differentiating yourself by using some basic principles of market positioning.

Read it to learn the art of standing out.

It was written in 2004 by Renée Mauborgne & W. Chan Kim.

You can find it here.


Presentation Secrets of Jobs

Knowing how to sell your ideas is a survival skill. And Steve Jobs, Apple Inc.’s late founder, had mastered that technique.

Learn about his professional resentation techniques with rich examples & clear directions that you can apply at work or university.

This highly practical book was written by Carmine Gallo in 2009.

Find it here.


TED Talks

This is another great read on the art of public speaking.

It was written by the head of TED (Technology, Entertainment, and Design) himself, so it’s coming from the most reliable authorities.

In his 2016 debut, Chris Anderson dissects great TED speeches, explaining what goes into making an impactful public presentation.

Read it here.


Conclusion

So that’s the end of my personal reading list. I’ll keep coming back to update it every month as & when I stumble upon good books.

Have you already read any of my suggestions? Did you like them?

Based on my taste (as is evident from the above list), which book do you think would be a great addition to my virtual shelf?

Comment your reviews & suggestions below!

How to get Spotify Premium for Free (PC & Mobile)

Here’s a quick tutorial on how to listen to Spotify Premium for Free on your Windows PC or Mobile Phone (without buying the subscription plan).

Spotify has 209 million active free users who have to bear a flurry of annoying ads every few songs, can’t enjoy their music offline, and don’t have access to several other features included in its Premium Plan. I’ve tried the Premium Family Package for a year, and I’d say it’s worth the money. But recently, I was re-evaluating our monthly budget, and was forced to make a few cuts.

One of the painful decisions was discontinuing with Spotify. It’s priced at ₹179 per month (which is great value for 6 accounts). They also have a student discount priced at ₹60 per month, which is fantastic if you have a university email account. But none of my family members use it as frequently as we should to make the most out of it, so it doesn’t make economic sense for us.

Of course, I started missing the Premium features just hours into my downgraded account, and so I started scourging the dark corners of the internet for hacks & cracks. I’m sharing the two options that worked for me, just for folks who are also feeling the heat and need to make do with free, too.


How to Crack Spotify Premium for PC

I used an external plugin called SpotX to patch my core Spotify file on my Windows 10 PC.

Follow these instructions:

  • First, you need to have Spotify’s Windows app installed on your PC. Log into your free account & close the app.
  • Second, google “SpotX Github,”which will take you to the Github page of this hack tool.
  • Scroll down to find the “Fast Installation/Update” section & download the Batch file. Click the downloaded file & run it.
  • If your Windows PC puts up a malware warning, click “Learn More” & “Run anyway.” If your Spotify isn’t updated, the tool will ask for permission to update it to the latest version as that’s the only way you can enjoy the cracked features.
  • Once updated, let the tool do its thing. It will ask you a couple of questions & you can respond as per your custom requirements (e.g. Do you want to turn off podcasts?)
  • Once the modification is done, it’ll display a success message, after which you can start your Spotify app & enjoy an ads-free listening experience.

How to Crack Spotify Premium for for Mobile

For this, you’ll need an .APK file, which stands for Android Package. It’s like an .EXE file but for your mobile phone. Just like we use .EXE to install software on our PC, we use .APK files to install cracked apps on our Android mobile phones.

  • Download the free version of ProtonVPN on your Windows PC, which will allow you to spoof your location (e.g. browsing from Netherlands), and therfore bypass any bans on torrent-sharing websites in your country.
  • Download & install “µTorrent Classic for Windows PC.” We’ll need this software to download torrents files on the PC.
  • Turn on the VPN, and visit Torlock or Piratebay. These are hubs for getting P2P crack files for any apps, movies, books, etc. Search “spotify” & locate the best torrent with the highest seeders. It should be an Android Application file.
  • Click the Magnet icon, which will open up your µTorrent. Once the torrent is downloaded, click it to locate the folder it has been stored in.
  • Use Web WhatsApp or email/FB Messenger to send yourself the APK modified file.
  • On your mobile phone, download the APK. The system will warn you that installing apps from this source might be dangerous. Find & tap the “Allow WhatsApp to install apps” button.
  • Install the APK file & enjoy a Spotify Premium Experience.
  • The only caveat is that you might not be able to listen offline, which is a fair compromise in my opinion, given that mobile data packages are now cheap in India so you can afford to keep the internet on, and you won’t be bombarded with ads in between your favorite songs.

Conclusion

So that was my quick guide on how to listen to Spotify Premium for Free on your mobile phone or Windows PC Computer. Did you find it useful? Share this with your friends & let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

P.S: This article is for educational purposes only. No copyright infringement intended.

Why every decision you’ve taken after school feels (kinda) wrong

Have you ever tried walking against the waves at a beach? As your feet clutch & push against the receding dunes of sluggish ocean sand, you get this dizzy feeling of being pulled right in. You’re reaching for the shore but the water heartlessly flows on with its own gravity.

Being in your late 20s can feel a lot like that.

As if the entire world knows something you don’t & it’s conspiring to work against you alone at every step. As if all your friends have somehow managed to make just the required amount of right moves at the right time with the right company, placing them on a clear path for the next decade or so.

Somehow life’s smoothening out for every person on this planet … with one awkward exception.

You had a vague but decent idea of where you wanted to be a few years after your graduation. And maybe you’re kinda on that path but you’re beginning to digest the humbling realization of how tough it actually is to “make it” outside the classroom. How much time it’s going to take to achieve those goals.

You also never considered the possibility that you’re going to fail. Fail hard & often. So here you are – unsure of whether you want to really pursue this for the rest of your life, this thing you thought you were damn good at. And then you dismiss the idea of starting fresh as soon as you realize how deep you’re into this game, with responsibilities & expectations piling up faster than the paychecks.

I keep trying to go back in time to pinpoint where exactly it all went tits up. I shouldn’t have left my job abroad out of fear during the pandemic. I shouldn’t have switched to that job in the first place, and instead taken up the offer I had sitting on my lap from my previous company.

Actually, I shouldn’t have tried to run away so early for my Bachelor’s but instead waited for my Master’s like everyone else. I shouldn’t have been afraid to tell Pa that I hate commerce & want to be an artist (which actually led to the whole wanting to run away thing). I shouldn’t have done this, done that.

A friend said reviewing all my decisions like this is one hell of a drug because it looks like I’m being critical but really I’m just trying to hold on to the cozy embrace of the past. And it spurred a discussion, “Would I doubt myself so much so often if I wasn’t bombarded by hundreds of Reels & TikToks & LinkedIn Updates from people hitting perfection at whatever they do?” Our teachers never trained us to handle this imposter syndrome every adult goes through.

But I’m only just beginning to accept how competitive & comparative many of us are. Ironically, that can damage those most who used to always be on top in school. Back then, it worked in our favor. But now, not so much. Because being in the 20s is a lot like sitting in a circle and playing a game of “pass the ball.”

Eventually everyone’s going to get it.

Eventually something somewhere is going to click for every single one of your friends. Most of the times not even because of their talent but out of sheer luck.

Because being in the 20s is a lot like sitting in a circle and playing a game of “pass the ball.” Eventually everyone’s going to get it.

The problem starts when we expect the system to be fair, or when we think the kids who got lucky recently have always had their way. But we don’t know each other’s real paths. The guy who landed a job at Google in the States had to endure 3 years of stagnation & humiliation at shitty jobs. The girl who’s raving about her styling fashion career today actually chose the wrong degree early on & took a lot of hits before finding her groove. The startup founder you envy was bullied throughout his childhood.

These people waited for their turn to shine, and it can be difficult to give away the spotlight or complain about how you’ve never had it yet, but that’s how it works.

I know it’s irritating to always watch those cool content creators, influencers, and even some friends grapple with success so effortlessly on the Gram. But it’s important to remind yourself that people’s feeds are a highly edited, constructed, and handpicked curation of their whole lives. Every single person on the internet (including myself) is here to feel good about themselves and their choices.

Nobody’s posting their failures, fears, and wounds here. The dude who announced his spanky new job on LinkedIn? He didn’t tell you about all the places that rejected him. The girl who’s traveling & posting pics from all around the world? She doesn’t talk about her family problems back home.

No, I’m not saying no one’s actually happy with their lives. The world is not so bad either. People are having fun, and loving what they do. But that’s just a part of their story, that’s all. You only see the good bits so it feels like they’re impossibly ahead of you. I just want us to remember this every time we feel like we’re the only ones falling behind.

I also discovered recently how since we’re all looking at people’s final products, we tend to overlook the time & resources they’ve had to make it work – the biggest one being sheer dumb luck. No, wait, don’t hate on me yet. I’m not discounting or undervaluing anyone’s hard work, nor am I asking you to use this as an excuse to give up & slack.

I’m just saying we’ve underestimated how many things really need to come together at the right time & place for you to beat the odds.

We’re creatures of fairness so it unnerves us to hear someone say that working hard or being passionate isn’t a guaranteed recipe for success. “Destiny” has been made to look like a bad word used by sore losers, and I feel that’s an unhealthy way to tackle something as unfair as life.

The girl who started her business probably had support from her family & a small seed fund. The guy who transformed his body could take time off from work. You have to consider the possibility that people sometimes have access to resources you don’t, which is okay.

In his satire “Animal Farm,” George Orwell hits us with the uncomfortable reality – “All animals are created equal but some are more equal than others.” Being able to chase success without having to worry about the consequences of failing is a privilege, whether you accept it or not.

There’s a matter of classes in play. I’ve worked with big shots who claim to have faced the worst hardships in the pandemic, but really, they had the wealth & protection of their circle to at least stay afloat.

Try telling this to a first-generation single mom entrepreneur who had nothing to rely on except her wits, with two crying babies to feed on the side. She couldn’t sustain it & broke down. This is the unfair reality, and we need to come to terms with it.

Being able to chase success without having to worry about the consequences of failing is a privilege, whether you accept it or not.

This idea feels like taboo because we have idols like Oprah Winfrey & JK Rowling who made it big without any support. Granted, there are exampls of poor, crippled, and damaged people who have bounced back from absolutely nothing. But such stories are truly one in millions, and they provide a narrow definition for studying success.

If you start digging for the truth, however, you’ll see what most of us don’t factor in. Check this – Bill Gates’ mom was on IBM’s board, so he could take the risk to venture on his own. Bezos had $300,000 in seed capital to build Amazon “from scratch.”

Most frequent in the news nowadays, Elon Musk’s Dad owned a goddamn mine in Africa. Warren Buffett was the son of a congressman. Your “self-made” idols had help along the way.

On the flip side, thousands of people have tried their hands at the same ideas & failed. 90% of businesses shut down in the first year. There’s a survivorship bias at play here- we only look at the winners & not everyone else who also tried just as hard.

This doesn’t mean you should resign all effort & make yourself lazy but it helps to prepare yourself for the reality that you’re not going to be rewarded with an A+ just because you studied overnight for the test. Sometimes you’ll still crash after all the checks have been done.

And that’s okay. Social platforms are making our generation feel like we don’t have time to fail a thousand times. They’re pressurizing us to believe we should have at least one shiny achievement to show by the time we turn 30. It has become like a cut-off point, and we’re chasing it at the cost of our health.

Everybody wants to get featured in Forbes, have their own startup, find the ideal partner, buy a house, and settle down – all within this decade itself. There’s an entire industry called “career counseling” dedicated to pushing us down a singular carefully planned path. But we’re never allowed to feel confused & wander.

There’s only one result of all this pace- which is burnout. Something I’ve very intimately experienced. But I’m done feeling sorry for myself.

I had a heart-to-heart with my Dad last week. Without realizing it, he implied he doesn’t know what he wants from life. He’s an engineer who spent 20 years successfully in banking. And now day-trades for a living. My Dad is almost 60. He’s still searching for answers!

So regardless of what the adults tell us, I can assure you, that we do have ample time. And I think it’s the healthier thing to do. I don’t want to be an exhausted unhealthy, sad, exhausted, robot at forty, ailing with a dozen diseases & no satisfaction. I would rather earn less & be lesser-known but still fully alive in my own element, exploring what I love, and loving whatever I explore.

This means I am slowing down. I’m learning to be patient with the process. It’s going to take a lot of practice to believe in it but I’m constantly telling myself I’m on the exact path I need to be on.

I’m on the exact path I need to be on … even if there doesn’t seem to be one right now. I’m neither falling behind. Nor too early. I’m going at the right speed.

I’m on the exact path I need to be on … even if there doesn’t seem to be one right now. I’m neither falling behind. Nor too early. I’m going at the right speed.

I’ve started chasing not goals but good habits that have nothing to do with money, status, or fame but instead center around my physical fitness, inner peace, and above all, my real contribution to those who need it. I want to be the “hope” for those of us who feel alone, who haven’t yet figured it out. I want those peeps to know they’re not alone.

I’m hitting 2 hours at the gym every day. I’m sleeping for 8 hours. Reading a shitload of good value books. Confidently saying NO to junk without temptation. And voicing myself more often. I just wish they taught us to glorify these little things that matter so much. In any case, I’m sending tiny ripples for what I know will merge into waves someday.

I am getting myself out of this sad hole I dug for myself. Self-pity is a dangerous, self-fulfilling prophecy. It will keep you at rock bottom until the day you die if you let it. The only way to fight your self-doubt is to fight it – with hard rabid punches. There’s no strategy to getting your life back on track, except to take it one raw day at a time.

So declutter your socials. Cut down priorities & commitments. Slow the fuck down. Tackle it one thing at a time. You may not get there first, but you’ll get there.

It’s true I’m nowhere near where I wanted to be. In terms of the salaries which my peers have already bagged or the milestones, they’ve long hopped through. But all this time, I’ve been chasing the world’s definitions of what happiness really means, which is probably why everything I’ve done feels wrong.

When I started asking myself, though, the answers were a lot simpler & grounded.

So I’m going to listen a lot more.

And I hope you, do, too.

Ultimate Collection of Stylish Photography Poses for Men

I’ve always been camera-shy for as long as I can remember, mostly because of body image or self-esteem issues. But having dropped tonnes of weight lately (108 to 83 kg), I’m looking forward to getting some classy photoshoots done with my friends over the coming summer.

The peace & confidence that comes with being in shape is real, but I’ll talk about that journey in another blog post. The point is, I’m liking myself a bit more now, and this will be the first time I indulge in such an endeavor.

So I obviously have no clue about what to wear (in addition to that big bright smile), and how to pose.

To solve the first dilemma, I curated a list of great online stores that sell quirky merchandise, so I think I’m all sorted on that front. I’m putting aside a part of my salary for this purpose, and hope to go on a shopping spree in May very soon.

Coming to the second part, I’m sure my photographer frens will guide me with the location and posing, but I still want to be ready to a certain extent.

So I dug online for some great posing ideas (specifically for men, sorry girlfriends!), and here are my favorite picks. I documented it for myself, but if it helps you, too, it’ll give me some karma points, so I thought let’s just publish it on the blog, too.


Sitting down with hands on legs
Leaning forward on a wall with hand on it (placed above the head), and another hand in pocket
Standing in front of a wall, shifting weight to one side, both hands in pocket
Sitting backward on a chair with one hand resting on top, and another touching the neck
Sitting down/on a chair cross-legged with hands in front or in thinking position (below lips)
Sitting on a chair (with some depth in background) & leaning forward with hands closed in front
No-noise background, closeup face shot, with one hand in hair, leaning to the side
Squatting against a cool colourful wall background, with one hand in thinking position below lips, and another resting on legs
Leaning against a wall with both hands in pockets (thumbs out) looking to the left and smiling
Business power pose sitting on a chair and leaning forward, one hand facing front, another on knee, one leg facing straight ahead, and another behind resting on toe (slightly bent)
Leaning at an angle against a railing or platform with both hands closed, depth in the background, and subject on right side in a formal shirt
Subject looking to left with left hand below lips in thinking position, resting on right hand

Conclusion

So those were some of my favorite photography or modeling poses for men. I’m excited to do my photoshoot soon, and will upload it on Insta @careerswithmanik so follow me there to check out the updates.

Which poses from my list are your favorite? Do you know any new cool ones I can add to the list and try out in the field? Let me know in the comments below.

How to Auto-Clean your Gmail’s Spam & Trash Folders

Cleaning our email inboxes is a time-consuming & annoying habit. With all those unwanted emails piling up in our Spam and Trash folders, it becomes impossible to ignore all the garbage, so you just feel like sitting down & getting rid of everything once & for all.

But just a few days later, you find yourself back in the same place because there’s no stopping spam nowadays. Gmail claims to auto-delete your old emails in the Spam and Trash every 30 days but by that time, the folders have accumulated thousands of messages, so waiting for so long is not an option.

I used to find myself doing this manual labor every morning, and over time, I realized those 2 minutes would add up, hurting my productivity.

So I set out to automate the process. Mind you, I’m not a programmer, nor a techie, and definitely not a computer science guy.

I just love to figure out solutions to problems, so I challenged myself to search for workarounds online and felt I should document my learnings for other readers. On that note, the codes you’re about to see were written by some other people (who I’ve duly credited in the end).


The Setup

Upon some digging, I located 2 “scripts” for this purpose online. Scripts are instructions that allow you to make any computer-dependent task run on its own.

Gmail doesn’t allow you to directly “delete” spam as such, because it first transfers it to the trash bin, so we’ll need two connected codes to get the job done.

  • The first script bot trashes all the emails in my SPAM folder every 4 hours. I’ve set this grace period to allow myself some time to view OTP emails or other important legitimate emails that land in the spam folder by mistake.
  • The second script bot then deletes all the emails in my TRASH (junk) folder every 12 hours. The 12h buffer is to give me some time to locate & retrieve any missed emails from colleagues or clients that were mistakenly marked as spam and then transferred to trash by my first script bot.
  • Taken together, these 2 scripts keep my inbox clean every day.

Script 1: Send Spam to Trash

As I mentioned, the first script automatically trashes all the emails that have been sitting in my spam folder for more than one hour. Why not trash them instantly? Because then I’d not get those OTP or confirmation emails when I sign up for new accounts online.

However, I would have to manually run this bot to see the effect. To resolve that, I set a time-based “trigger,” prompting it to run by itself every 4 hours.

You can directly use my script by clicking here. But in case you want to experiment, here are the instructions to set it up yourself.

  • First, log into your Google account, and go to https://script.google.com/
  • On the sidebar, click “New Project.”
  • Then delete the placeholder generic code written there (use Ctrl+A to select all, then Del to delete)
  • Paste this code
function Sent_to_Trash() {
  var threads = GmailApp.search('older_than:1h in:spam');
  for (var i = 0; i < threads.length; i++) { 
    threads[i].moveToTrash(); 
  }
}
  • Click the “Save” icon & give your script a name (e.g. Delete Spam email Script)
  • Click the “Run” icon.
  • It should open a prompt saying you need to provide authorization for the script to access your inbox
  • Click “Ok” & proceed
  • The system will warn you that this script may not be safe and you should go back. Just ignore it and click on “Advanced,” which will give you the option of continuing.
  • Enter your account details and give it all the permissions (Allow)

Then, you can run the script and check if it worked by looking at the execution log below, which will say “Execution Completed.” Go to you Spam folder in the inbox to check if it worked.

Now the next step is to set a time-based trigger so that this script runs on its own every 4 hours (or at any interval of your choice).

  • To do that, just go to the “Clock” icon on the left bar of your code screen, and “Add Trigger.”
  • Under the Event Source, select “Time Driven,” and under the Time-based Trigger option, select the interval you’d like (e.g. every x minutes, hours, or days)
  • Select the frequency (e.g. every 4 hours), and hit “Save.”

I’ve tested it and it works smoothly.


Script 2: Empty my Trash

Sending Spam to trash is not enough as it will just transfer the garbage from one location to another. So we need to set up another automation to empty the trash folder and permanently delete all the emails sitting there.

You can find and replicate my script for this here, or set it up yourself with the instructions below.

  • Log into your Google account, and go to https://script.google.com/
  • Click “New Project”
  • Then delete the placeholder generic code written there (use Ctrl+A to select all, then Del to delete)
  • Paste this code but replace my email ID with yours
function removeMyTest2() {

var mymail = "manikmarketing98@gmail.com";

var mylabel = "trash";

var permanentlyRemoveMyLabel = true;

var pageToken;

do {

    var threadList = Gmail.Users.Threads.list('me', {

    q: 'in:' + mylabel,

    pageToken: pageToken

    });

    if (threadList.threads && threadList.threads.length > 0) {

        threadList.threads.forEach(function(thread) {

        Logger.log('id: %s snippet: %s', thread.id, thread.snippet);

        if (permanentlyRemoveMyLabel) {

            Gmail.Users.Threads.remove(mymail, thread.id);

            Logger.log('id: %s snippet: %s REMOVED', thread.id, thread.snippet);

        }

    });

   }

   pageToken = threadList.nextPageToken;

   } while (pageToken);

}
  • Click the “Save” icon & give your script a name (e.g. Empty Trash folder Script)
  • Now go to Services on the left bar, click “+” and scroll down the list to add the “Gmail API”
  • Then click the “Run” icon on your script
  • It should open a prompt saying you need to provide authorization for the script to access your inbox
  • Click “Ok” & proceed
  • The system will warn you that this script may not be safe and you should go back. Just ignore it and click on “Advanced,” which will give you the option of continuing.
  • Enter your account details and give it all the permissions (Allow)

Then, you can run the script and check if it worked by looking at the execution log below, which will say “Execution Completed.” Go to your Trash folder in your inbox, and if it’s empty, you’ll know it worked.

Now the next step is to set a time-based trigger so that this script runs on its own every 12 hours (or at any interval of your choice). I’ve set 12 hours as my limit because there may be times that important emails somehow land in my Spam by mistake, and get automatically transferred here after 4 hours because of the first script.

If I had set the time for this script to run every 4 hours, too, it would permanently delete that email (now sitting in the Trash), and I wouldn’t have any access to it. So those extra 8 hours are just a fail-safe in case I need to visit the Trash folder to check for an email.

  • To set up your Time trigger, just go to the “Clock” icon on the left bar, and “Add Trigger.”
  • Under the Event Source, select “Time Driven,” and under the Time-based Trigger option, select the interval you’d like (e.g. every x minutes, hours, or days)
  • Select the frequency (e.g. every 12 hours), and hit “Save.”

I’ve tested this script, too, and so far, it’s running exactly as it should in tandem with the first one.

So this is how I resolved a technical problem that was bugging me, despite having no understanding of coding or computer science.

Sometimes it’s just about taking the efforts to Google your question and do a deep intensive search. You’ll almost always find a workaround. Bless the internet!


Credits

I found the first script on Stack overflow. It was a part of the comment by Jonathan, in which he corrects a previous answer that had an error.

I found the second script on Stack Exchange. It was submitted by FadedTrason (edited by Ruben) in response to the same question I had.

What do you think of my process? Are you a programmer who has more elegant solutions for this? Please enlighten me know in the comments below.

Best Online Stores for shopping Quirky Stuff & Gifts in India 2022

Many people are attached to brands & so they only prefer buying labeled clothing. But there are a few of us who like to explore more niche local products that are offbeat in style.

We see our fashion choices as an extension of our unique personalities, so it’s no surprise that our tastes are what the crowd would call “funky” as well.

As a proud rebel (especially when it comes to shopping), I’ve curated this list of some amazing online stores where you can buy “hip & urban” stuff like funny t-shirts, wellness products, utility items, and all other kinds of exclusive merchandise.

There are a couple of advantages to choosing these stores.

  • Firstly, you’ll find hand-picked quality products & reliable customer support as the startups depend on their growing customer base to survive.
  • Secondly, you’ll enjoy rewards & discounts if you shop on their websites directly because it saves the businesses money that they would otherwise have to pay as commission to Amazon.

Explore my list, and go buy something as a treat for yourself on payday. Even better, gift it to someone you care about at work, college, or home.

Let’s go Shopping, babe!

SR.STORE NAMESPECIALTY
01Happy WagonAccessories, cups, calendars, and stationery designed by local artists
02Thela Gaadi Cute party socks from 90s: Tom & Jerry, Shinchan, Looney Tunes
03Pop it OutGraphic phone covers, air tags, air pod cases, and laptop sleeves
04Souled StoreComic t-shirts, hoodies, boxers, gym wear, and modern ethnic shirts
05Toe SmithCustomizable party-wear sneaker shoes
06Living Waters Std.Hand-painted notebooks, cushions, phone covers, and
07Happily UnmarriedGrooming & bath products for women
08UstraaGrooming & bath products for men
09Poster GullyArt wall or table posters with glass frames & lamination
104th DimensionTees & fashion for science nerds
11ChumbakPremier destination for home decor, furniture, and utility items
12Frying PunPunny & fandom fashion: tees, masks, hoodies,
13India CircusKitchen gifts: cup/mug sets, serving trays, plates & dinnerware
14AdimanavRegional language fashion: Marathi, Hindi, Gujarati
15Creative DukaanTees & fashion for creatives, marketing, and advertising professionals

Some honorable mentions are Bewakoof & RedWolf (for cool tees & fandom merch), Ethik (for cruelty-free vegan leather wallets & shoes), and Prime Porter (for shirts).


Conclusion: Keep the list going

Every year, more artists & designers set up shop to share their passion with the world, and we should be supporting these local businesses.

So if you have more suggestions, please tweet them to me @manik_rege. Here’s wishing you a splendid Xmas & New Year shopping spree ahead!

Why I Hate the concept of “Self Love”

You know how people talk about self-love like it’s a switch you can conveniently turn on the moment you realize it’s lacking? They think we can just somehow learn to become happier & stronger individuals who recognize & fight for our own needs. I absolutely hate this expectation.

Because it’s unrealistic. It’s not as if we’re protagonists in a Disney movie, destined to have grand revelations that suddenly restore our confidence in the climax.

For those of us who’ve struggled with anxiety, self-doubt, career confusions, depression, and overall trainwrecks triggered by the pandemic (or more personal events) – we know that the journey of finding our faith again … it’s not nearly as beautiful or romantic as they show on screens.

If anything, it’s the hardest thing many of us will ever do in life, and today, I want to honor it. I want to talk about the uncomfortable & boring parts about mental health, the ones that are skipped by the #inspiration & #motivation posts on Instagram. The darker bits we try not to address even when we’re discussing our struggles because we fear it would drag the conversation too far.

I’ve treated myself horribly in the past. And I’m telling these stories so that if you’ve gone through the same experiences, or are going through them, you’ll know that you’re not alone. Maybe someone will read this 30 years from now, and still be able to connect with me across time & space. Maybe that someone will be the older me, looking for a companion who understands.

Firstly, I’ve accepted salaries & work payments way lower than I know I deserve for the sincerity I bring to the table. My friend who holds an identical role at another company earns 10K more than I do but does half the workload I handle. My relatives have questioned why I never bothered to ask for more. People often react with a look of disappointment & pity after hearing that I settled for so much less.

The truth is that I’ve always known exactly what I’m worth, but I was so afraid of not living up to that benchmark, that I thought it would somehow be better to aim lower, go slow, and then notch it up as time passes by. Honestly, I was recovering from a series of back-to-back failures, and so my only priority was not hitting rock bottom again. The goal was just to help my body & mind slowly warm up because I was afraid that firing it fully would lead to the same burnouts that put me there in the first place.

This happens in relationships and many other parts of our lives. As Sam in Perks of a being a Wallflower says, We accept the love we think we deserve. We often accept abusive & gaslighting partners who treat us badly, bosses who humiliate us, and toxic friends who are constantly putting us down, or making us feel dumb, inferior, or not enough.

It’s easy to think that we should’ve noticed the red flags. That we should’ve stood up & answered back. Or that we should’ve simply left & found better opportunities. But when you’re low on self-worth, you try to clasp to whatever crap is offered. The truth is, you’re actually just buying some time to feel more stable, feel anything.

You’re actually just buying some time to feel more stable, feel anything.

So today, I’m going to forgive myself for not being selfish, because only I know how hard I was trying to keep myself alive, just the head above water. I’m letting myself be comfortable with the cautious actions I took. They may not look logical to the world but are still understandable given in the situation & mind frame I was in.

This brings me to my second point. I’ve also pushed away love & support from people because I felt like I didn’t deserve it anymore. I remember seeing my first-ever Tinder match during the peak of the pandemic when we were all so bored that we reinstalled that app just to kill the time.

I felt butterflies in my stomach when they flirted their way into the DMs. It was a junior from my ex-university, and we had the cutest few long conversations catching up after years. They promised to take me out on a date when the streets reopened after the lockdown. This was my first time being courted by anyone, period. I don’t really even care if they were serious or just casually killing boredom/loneliness like I was.

The point is that it was all going perfect up until the moment my anxiety picked it up and I “Nope’d” out of the conversation for no bloody reason. I ghosted them completely, and when you read it like this without much context, it can sound like the stupidest move in the history of moves.

But then here’s the other side (and I wish they knew this had nothing to do with them) – the match couldn’t have come at a worse time. I was in a terrible place in 2020, hurriedly preparing to leave my well-paying job in Malaysia & come back home to India because of COVID. It was going to mean giving up everything I’d fought for, and leaving behind so many dreams to wither away. At a whopping 108 kilos, I was physically broken inside & also mentally burned out. For a moment there, I felt like the ugliest person on Earth.

For a moment there, I felt like the ugliest person on Earth.

So I wondered how this person would react if they saw the unhealthy me, at my worst, way farther than the prettiest & most perfect snaps I’d put up there, as we all do, on social media. I felt so goddamn sorry for myself – thinking I didn’t deserve to be liked, loved, or touched.

I’m doing way much better now, thanks to rigorous exercise & a better diet. I’ve taken action & feel awesome, back in splendid shape & slowly recovering from the trauma, too. I’ll tell that story some other time. But looking back at that episode of “rock bottom” I went through, I want to tell the younger Manik that it’s alright to feel how he’s feeling.

Sometimes, we all find ourselves looking in the mirror, touching the fat that hangs from our bodies, or the freckles and pimples that distort our skins, or the split-ends of hair that has lost its shine & smoothness. We’re pressurized to quickly “fall in love” with these imperfections but nobody realizes that our relationship with ourselves is just like any other relationship: intertwined with emotions that ebb & flow over time.

We don’t always love our partners madly, do we? Sometimes, we can’t stand their sight. That’s actually the same thing when it comes to body image issues, and it’s okay. If we could all just acknowledge these feelings as real & human for a tiny moment before we begin to work on them productively, that’d be great. I get that it’s important to get healthier & fitter if you want to lead a long life, but I just don’t agree with the immense pressure of having to constantly work on bettering ourselves. We all just need a few seconds doing nothing, just to gather our thoughts.

Everybody feels a degree of hate towards how they’ve been constructed – both physically and mentally. We secretly wish we had more or less of some feature or faster learning abilities. More to the point, we all tend to push away beautiful things because we think we’re not worthy to experience or enjoy that beauty. It’s just like how you don’t feel well-dressed enough to enter a party, you get me?

So today, I want to forgive myself for attaching my worth to how I look, or how productive & successful I am at a particular moment in time. I want to remind myself that there are some friends who’ll adore & hold me even at my worst, and I want to forgive myself for not reaching out to them when I could’ve used their help.

Because it’s cool to want to fight your own battles, either voluntarily for the comfort of it, or because you simply don’t feel like burdening or involving another random person in the mix. It’s cool to feel not ready for someone or something. You don’t have to grab every opportunity life throws your way.

That brings me to my major pet peeve with the internet’s concept of “self-love,” nowadays. It treats all other emotions – like hate, envy, sadness, and fear – as problems to resolve and inconveniences to fix. It doesn’t allow people to take the time to process their moments of doubts, or even accept these so-called “negative” feelings as human experiences. We’re expected to put up brave & happy faces all the time, never for once just allowing ourselves to feel totally confused & lost in life.

The moment we do something unproductive (or take no action) to deal with these situations, it’s labeled as a “self-destructive” tendency, when in fact, it’s probably more of a coping mechanism.

If I look at many of my friends, we’re all more or less in “salvage-mode” as growing adults. Coming to terms with how hard it really is to find stability. Because there can be so much going wrong all at once. Something always needs fixing or paying up. Your phone stopped working, so you repaired it. Then your bank details need updating, so you did that.

And you’re just doing things one after the other with no end in sight, but not really moving ahead. When nothing’s going your way, it can set in paralysis of sorts. So you wish that you could skip a few years to a point where you’re just lying on the bed peacefully – finally able to breathe again.

When nothing’s going your way, it can set in a paralysis of sorts.

That point will come, I promise. But it’ll take some time, which leaves us with no other option but to live with ourselves as we are right now. And that’s the final thought I want to leave you with.

Yes, it’s okay to feel like you’re not good enough at times. Because most of us live in silos. Only if you had someone to point out all the extraordinary progress you’ve made over the last few months, you’d be kinder to yourself. That said, we have to prepare for the scenario that’s no one’s coming anytime soon, so I’ll need you to take up the role & keep reminding yourself that you’re still alive & breathing even after everything that has gone down so far.

A handy idea that has helped me is keeping a “Little Good Things I Felt Today” diary, in which I list simple bullet points of small errands I completed or momentary feelings of happiness, joy, and wonder I felt. There have been instances when I’ve congratulated myself for putting together a sandwich or making my bed after days of doing nothing. Or the time when I saw a puppy on the street & played with it for a whole hour, forgetting everything else about this world.

When I’m down, I return to these moments, not to discredit or forget how I’m feeling, but to appreciate the fact that if I never felt like shit from time to time, I would also never be able to understand how joy & peace feel like.

Come to think of it, my biggest achievements & triumphs, or sparks of brilliance in life have sprung from my darkest, most painful journeys. And that’s not me romanticizing the struggles (because they did harm/scar me) but it’s simply acknowledging their place in the whole cycle.

All said & done … today, I want to show forgiveness & gratefulness for not loving myself enough. If I had been able to do that, I don’t think I would’ve felt beautifully human enough today. I don’t think my friends would’ve loved me as unconditionally as they do, thanks to my obvious flaws & inconsistencies.

I don’t think I would’ve had moments of clarity, had I never plunged into chaos. And I definitely wouldn’t have been understanding or empathetic of others who are in bad places, if I hadn’t traveled through these valleys myself.

So to travelers in the middle of nowhere, I know you’re trying as much as you realistically can (even if you think you’re not doing enough).

I see your fight, I acknowledge you, and I think you’re really amazing. Above all, I’m here, too. I can’t promise everybody that it’s going to get better, but wherever we go from here, we’ll have a story to tell, and your struggle now, will be someone else’s survival guide tomorrow, so hold on.

How Brands should handle Cancel Culture on Social Media

Thanks to social media’s reach, it’s possible for unknown SME brands to go viral overnight. All you need is one happy soul tweeting about your great customer service or an influencer raving about your product.

On the flip side, there’s always the risk of trending for all the wrong reasons and seeing your repute get shredded beyond repair. The worst part is that you may not even be at fault.

Any customer who didn’t like what you served, or agree with what you said, can channel their ire into negative reviews or slanderous tweets. And this may snowball into a sensational media frenzy beyond your control.

That’s not paranoia; it’s modern-day reality. Indian brands know this outrage all too well.

Of late, there has been a rise in offended crowds calling to blanket-ban a product after a controversial ad unwittingly hurt their religious sentiments, or an employee made a genuine human error.

To outsiders, this looks like tone-deaf trolling. And it’s true that the majority of protests consist of jobless people and journalists, all lapping up the opportunity to get triggered by something trivial. The comedians at AIB even did a hilarious sketch on this phenomenon, now referred to as “Cancel Culture.”

For marketing and social science students, however, such incidents remind us how crucial it is to understand and respect the nuances of our regional audience’s sensitivities and current inter-group tensions.

They caution us against casually ignoring or blatantly disrespecting cultural boundaries unless you’re eager to become the next scapegoat on the mob’s chopping block.

So on that note, let’s recap some landmark cases of this ilk.

We’ll then discuss how social media admins should ideally react to such situations. There’s a delicate art to balancing the responsibility to protect your brand’s image and placating the public with necessary clarifications or amends.

Zomato’s CEO Deepinder Goyal might have some pointers on the technique, but we’ll get to it shortly.


Ekatvam by Tanishq (October 2020)

Around the second week (9th Oct), when the pandemic was at its peak, Jewelry brand Tanishq published a 43-sec. Hindi spot on YouTube titled “Confluence,” promoting their new line ‘Ekatvam’ (Hindi word for unity).

The ad features a pregnant Hindu woman in a white sari being escorted by her Muslim mother-in-law (indicated with a salwar suit and dupatta covering the head) to a baby shower ceremony.

The daughter asks, “But this ceremony is not held at your home…”, to which the elder woman replies, “Isn’t it a tradition for every home to keep daughters happy?”

The description reads, “She is married into a family that loves her like their own child. Only for her, they go out of their way to celebrate an occasion that they usually don’t. A beautiful confluence of two different religions, traditions, and cultures.”

The ad was taken down in a matter of hours after a section of Hindu tweeters accused it of normalizing “Love Jihad,” which Times of India defines as “an alleged activity under which young Muslim boys and men are said to reportedly target young girls belonging to non-Muslim communities for conversion to Islam by feigning love.”

The backlash was so intense that some protestors took to LinkedIn to search the creators behind the campaign, and send them threatening messages.

Succumbing to the pressure, the brand retreated, and in its statement, expressed the disappointment of having to withdraw its creative work with their employees’ and actors’ safety.

The people weren’t done with the brand, though.

A month later in November, during Diwali season, Tanishq released another short ad in which it notable young actresses like Sayani Gupta urged viewers to celebrate a “cracker-free Diwali in peace with family, sweets, positivity, and of course, jewelry.”

This time, it was CT Ravi, then BJP’s National General Secretary from Karnataka, who lit the spark. He tweeted, “Why should anyone advise Hindus how to celebrate Our Festivals?”, a sentiment that echoed by many of his followers.


Being vigilant

Without getting distracted by the politics, this entire fiasco acts as a two-pronged warning for marketers to be more socially savvy before launching their campaigns during the festive season:

  • Be aware of the current issues in the cultures you’re showcasing in your content. If the tensions are high, you should avoid joining the discussion, and stay silent.
  • Realize that when you’re taking a “stand for something,” you’re also indirectly standing against something. If that “against something” is an opinion or practice that’s dear to a large social group, it’s just best to stay out.

Checkpoint 1: Is going public necessary?

First, Tanishq should’ve known that tensions between Hindus and Muslims were (and still are) high in the country. At such a point, is it really a logical move to pluck those strings?

When you’re commenting on something as a brand and not an individual, you’re representing a large group of people who work with you, so it’s a bigger responsibility that calls for more research.

There’s no point in chasing the image of being “ahead of your times” when the times themselves are divided and confused.

Before your team puts out any hip & trendy statement online, ask yourself: “Is it really necessary that we take a public stand on this? Or is it something we can just discuss and practice internally?”

For example, during the Black Lives Matters protests (after the police shooting incident), many brands took a “moment of silence” to show solidarity with the victim.

But did they take the time to educate their communities about the history of the protests and issues? Did they themselves know what had led to this moment?

They could’ve just as effectively supported the cause by updating their internal policies to be more inclusive and safe for all races and genders.

Simply saying two lines on your Stories doesn’t make a difference if you’re not adhering to those principles yourself, does it?

That brings us to the second checkpoint.


Checkpoint 2: Is going public safe?

Yes, brands do have a responsibility to stand up against social evils. But not at the cost of their own business. If you’re going to speak up on an issue, consider who your message is being addressed to. If there are chances of your target audience getting irked or hurt, don’t push out the content.

For Tanishq, India’s upper-class Hindus form a major buyer segment, so they should’ve considered that many of these buyers may not be comfortable with the idea of showing a Hindu woman being wedded off into a Muslim household.

Unless you’re prepared to lose some of your business, just stick with neutral comedy or heartwarming family-based content campaigns.

For example, if you’re in Russia or Singapore, countries that have anti-LGBTQIA+ laws, you wouldn’t want to air a spot against homophobia unless you want to go out of business. You may woo the liberal crowd, but the support will be much lesser than the criticism you’ll face from conservative Christians.

In heavily censored China, having discussions with the Government on private channels may pose a risk to your safety as well.

Similarly, in Islamic republics like Malaysia or Dubai, you should think twice before touching upon the dominant religion. Most small brands do not have the luxury of sidestepping these norms or being pardoned for saying something controversial.

For example, when Saudi Arabia lifted the ban on women drivers, Ford released a witty tweet celebrating the chance. But it could afford to do that because of its brand presence and strength in that market. Even if the conservative men canceled the brands from their lists, Ford would still have a huge enough base to depend on for its sales.

On the other hand, if you’re a startup that depends on the Sheikh’s and/or local customers’ goodwill, there’s too much at stake to comment on such divisive matters.

The idea is not to be conservative but rather to pick your battles wisely. Some subjects are notoriously polarizing (like ex-POT, US Donald Trump), so it’s best to swerve away from them, especially when your “opposition” is in the majority.

To make following this principle easier, here’s an unironic checklist of some possible “offense-trigerring” taboo topics you can (but should not) touch in your messages:

  • Sexuality
  • Gender Roles
  • Racial sterotypes
  • Religious traditions & customs
  • Left/Right Political Views (Liberal/Conservative)
  • Misusing children for promotion
  • Animal cruelty
  • Environmental degradation/pollution

Fab India’s Diwali Capsule (October 2021)

Not everyone seems to have gotten the memo. A year later (in or around October 9th), fashion brand Fab India released a new line christened “Jashn-e-Riwaaz.”

Since this was during Diwali time, fans thought it was their seasonal range, and accused the brand of tarnishing the Hindu festival with an Urdu name as well as a Mughlai vibe.

The brand later clarified their POV in an Indian Express article, stating that this capsule was, in fact, a homage to all Indian cultures (which is what the title stands for).

They noted that they had a separate collection slated for Diwali. It was titled “Jhilmil si Diwali,” and was yet to be released at that time.

This time, it’s clear that the brand is to be blamed for the miscommunication. Because a now-deleted tweet shows the brand promoting the “Jash-e- Riwaaz” to welcome the festival of love and light (which is obviously Diwali).

So one could say that they even contradicted their initial message after the backlash.

If you read the tweet, you’ll understand why some customers may have interpreted it as the Diwali collection, and by extension, felt offended by the unnecessary cultural appropriation of their tradition.

Regardless of your personal opinion on the issue, if you consider this from a purely content creation perspective, it doesn’t make sense to sacrifice one audience segment’s sensitivity (in this case, Hindus) to pander to another group (which may be liberals, Muslims, or Urdu speakers).

In other words, Fab India should’ve stuck with Diwali’s sacrosanct traditions and names, which are predominantly rooted in Sanskrit, Marathi, or modern-day Hindi (read: not Urdu), for dictating their campaign names and visuals, at least around the Diwali season.

If they didn’t make a play at mixing cultures and kept it simple (as they did in “Jhilmil si Diwali,” there would’ve been no reason for any side to take offense.

Key Takeaway for Marketers

Fab India should’ve taken some hints from Tanishq’s case, and been more careful in its communications around the festive season when people’s emotions are dialed up to the max.

It could’ve released the “Riwaaz” capsule a few weeks earlier, and simply termed it as a celebration of all the cultures in the country. By not mixing it with their Diwali campaign (for which it had separate visuals anyway), it could’ve easily avoided the entire fiasco.

When you’re creating content for a religiously-tied event or day, it’s best to respect that particular religion, and avoid mixing any inter-faith connotations just for the sake of appearing “forward.”

If you ask me, I would just stay away from showcasing any specific customs or practices.

Instead, I would just label all my sales very plainly like “Diwali Sale” or “Christmas Sale,” accompanied with neutral visuals of diyas and lanterns or Santa Claus and snowfall respectively.

Stay as neutral as possible in your copy and visuals, so that you can jump on the seasonal shopping hype, but avoid getting into any big debate that’ll eat into your time and motivation.


Dabur’s Karwa Chauth

It seems as though I’ll have to update this list every month because just a week after Fab India’s campaign was booted off social media channels, Dabur-owned Fem faced slack for their Karwa Chauth ad.

On the surface, it looks like a cute harmless script featuring a same-sex lesbian couple wishing for each other’s wellbeing during the festival.

But netizens were once again annoyed with the selective piggybacking on Hindu traditions & festivals for showing “woke” concepts such as LGTBQIA+ friendly campaigns. In no time, #BoycottDabur was trending.

Many also pointed out that Karwa Chauth has already been under fire for being a misogynistic custom that’s unfair towards women, and Fem is objectifying them further by putting pressure to be fair/light-skinned, so according to the protestors, in no way was this campaign a progressive one.

Dabur took down the ad from its official channels very soon after the #BoycottDabur hashtag started gaining traction.

The outrage once again brings us to the root allegation. To sum it up:

  • There are very few ads by Indian brands that target Abrahamic religions, notably Islam, since the creators are afraid that the followers of those faiths will take penal action against such initiatives.
  • But since Hinduism has been (allegedly) a secular religion at large, we have to tolerate liberal-pandering stunts by brands that casually distort, misrepresent, and misuse Hindu festivals.

Key Takeaway for Creators

Once again, we see the perils of not clearly understanding what a certain tradition or custom is supposed to signify. Fem’s team thought that if they used an LGBT-friendly script, they would melt hearts, but they never considered which context they’re using it in.

They tried to leverage a festival like Karwa Chauth that many people – especially feminists (who are thought to be LGBT allies) – criticize & despise for being disrespectful towards women. So this was a recipe for disaster from the beginning. It almost seems as though Fem never really ran the idea through many lesbian couples themselves.

As opposed to this piece, I remember seeing a better execution of the LGBT-friendly theme in Myntra’s 2015 “Anouk” ad, which follows an Indian lesbian couple getting prepared to talk to their parents about their relationship (and potential marriage).

The script is sweet yet careful, taking care not to misuse any specific Indian/Hindu traditions, and instead focusing on the couple’s brave decision to stand against social stigma, while at the same time addressing their fears & struggles.

By showing empathy to the emotional human aspect of these social issues, it manages to effectively convey the tagline “bold is beautiful” without appearing patronizing to any religion.

This would be well-received by most young Indian audiences, with the exception of a few ardent conservatives.

Perhaps Fem never bothered to study any previous case studies of the genre, and the lack of homework shows in its poor execution.

So dear content creators, please take some effort to research the festivals or traditions you guys are using in their pieces to ensure that they don’t toy with controversial beliefs of customs.


Zomato Boy’s Slap Case (March 2021)

Let us turn our attention to how brands should respond to online backlashes. In both the cases we saw above, the management apologized and pulled down the campaigns, out of fear for their workforce’s safety.

That’s a fair reaction. But if we always follow suit, we marketers risk creating an environment where we are at the mercy of whatever the consumers say and demand us to do.

There is great tact in ensuring that as you manage the audience’s expectations, you also stand by your brand. For our next two cases, we’ll consider Zomato CEO’s response to two controversies that hit his brand unexpectedly.

Granted, these attacks were not because of any ad or content the brand put out, but rather due to their employees’ actions or conduct in the field.

Even then, the response in both cases was still a “#Ban_Zomato” trend, so it ties back to our discussion on how brands should respond to Cancel Culture on social platforms, most prominently, Twitter.

On 9th March 2021, a Bengaluru-based Instagram model and makeup artist, Hitesha Chandranee, posted a video accusing a Zomato delivery rider, Kamaraj, of assaulting her after he allegedly made late food delivery. In it, she points to the injuries on her nose and complains about the ill-treatment.

The next day, local police arrested the accused initially. But the story got twisted after he himself filed a counter-FIR against Hitesha and revealed his side of the story. In his statement, he accused Hitesha of wrongful restraint, assault, intentional insult, and criminal intimidation.

Netizen’s flocked to Kamaraj’s support, pointing inconsistencies in Hitesha’s statement and video, as well as urging Zomato to probe the matter neutrally. The plight of delivery riders during the pandemic lockdown was already in the public eye, so the matter heated up quite quickly.

Celebrities like Parineeti Chopra pitched in with their sympathies for Kamaraj.

Eventually, as of March 2021, News18 reported that the police probe was possibly going to be stopped as Hitesha had come under public pressure and fled the city, refusing to cooperate with the authorities.

More to the focus of our discussion, Zomato’s public statement under pressure is noteworthy.

Goyal starts neutrally by assuring his fans that they are helping both their employee (Kamaraj) and the customer (Hitesha) with the required support and also co-operating with the police authorities.

This is a smart move because it incubates the brand in case Hitesha’s accusations don’t hold water, which is exactly what happened. If the brand would’ve shown outrage at the employee, it would’ve backfired.

However, the brand did suspend Kamaraj temporarily to cover the possibility that he did, in fact, assault the customer. But Goyal immediately neutralizes the impact of this action by assuring that they are personally covering Kamaraj’s income to ensure that his family does not suffer.

He strongly comes in support only in the concluding paragraphs, pointing that Kamaraj has a good track record, and it’s highly improbably (although possible) that he does something like this.

What I like about the statement is that it’s refreshingly clear and neutral. Goyal doesn’t include a single personal opinion, although his caption does say this is “his take.”

All the statements mentioned are factual, and highlight that Zomato will let the official police authorities take the decision on who to punish and how rather than bowing to any pleas from the public.

Most brands would’ve immediately succumbed to the pressure, distanced Kamaraj from their team, and demonized his actions without taking the time to assess both sides of the story.

So when you’re crafting your public response, ensure that you’re ticking off these points:

1. Calm Down

Take a few hours to understand the situation rather than rushing into a statement that you may have to contradict later

2. Use real Faces

In this case, Deepinder himself came forward, which conveyed that the leadership is aware of this situation, and is proactively working to resolve it. This makes a huge difference for your credibility.

So tell your brand’s founders/management to go LIVE and address queries themselves on social media. Or involve direct human employees in the conversation.

Above all, don’t act like a heartless robot churning out PR releases that nobody is actually going to follow up on in the future.

3. State the Facts

Write a brief synopsis of what has happened until now (all facts listed succinctly in bullets), so that those who are new to the matter get all the facts correct before forming an opinion.

4. List Concrete Steps

Deepinder tells us exactly what Zomato is doing for both parties, which is very reassuring. So let the fans know that you’re cooperating with any external investigations/probing into the matter internally.

List the specific actions you’ll be taking ahead so that people don’t feel like you’re just making empty promises but instead have a clear roadmap that you’re going to follow to prevent such incidents.

This way, they can hold you accountable, and you can prove that you’ve delivered on what you promised or decided earlier.

5. Allow people to do their jobs

Deepinder isn’t keen on taking sides, although he does seem to lean towards Kamaraj. Still, he makes sure that Zomato itself doesn’t get involved in legal proceedings on an official, and instead, lets the authorities decide the proper punishment (with a promise to cooperate with them).

When you’re embroidered in a legal scenario, it’s best to just co-operate and not indulge in anything that could be interpreted as “slander.”

During the investigation, ensure the physical safety and fair treatment of all parties, including those who are possibly in the wrong, because you never know what truth will come out.

All that said, this is not the first time Goyal has come to rescue his brand in the middle of a public backlash.

Our second study is even more interesting…


#Reject_Zomato Language Issue (Oct 21)

On 18th October 2021, Monday, a Zomato customer from Tamil Nadu, Vikash, posted screenshots of his in-app chat conversation with a service agent. According to him, he was denied a refund on his order for not knowing Hindi.

He had raised the request for a missing item, and the agent tried to confirm the situation with the restaurant, but complained that he could not get the message across because of the “language barrier.”

Vikash said that Zomato should be hiring local execs to speak the language of the states they’re operating in, to which the agent responded by claiming that Hindi is the national language, and everyone should know a bit of it.

Soon enough, as politicians like DMK MP Senthilkumar S, expressed their disappointment over the agent’s behavior, #Ban_Zomato was trending in Tamil Nadu and other Southern states.

Zomato released an extremely effective statement with four of the five essential points of any good press release:

  • Acknowledgement: They were sorry for the incident + the agent’s behavior was not in line with their ethos
  • Immediate Action: They have terminated the agent for the negligence
  • Prevention Measure: They’re working to build a Tamil version of the app + signed local influencers + building local Tamil call centers in Coimbatore
  • Assurance: They respect their customers’ local culture, and take it very seriously

The only negative aspect of this was the brash and cold reaction towards the agent. It was a small human error, and from the screenshots, it’s clear that the agent didn’t mean to particularly offend anyone.

Anyone would agree that they just passed a wrong comment, which didn’t deserve such an extreme punishment.

Thankfully, Goyal swooped in to rectify this a few hours later. In a series of tweets, asked people to calm down and not blow things out of proportion for a trivial misunderstanding that can easily be resolved by properly training and educating the person at fault.

He announced that they would be reinstating the agent, which speaks volumes about the culture of support and safety the leadership (or at least Goyal) tries to inculcate in their workforce.

This move of showing genuine empathy will go a long way in assuring Zomato’s employees and agents that they have the liberty to make mistakes as long as they learn from them, and drawing this circle of safety is a move every entrepreneur should practice.

I hope you’re taking notes here, startup leaders.

On this point, I highly recommend streaming Simon Sinek’s TED talk on the need to create safe spaces at work Titled “Why good leaders make you feel safe,” it’s one of the most eye-opening things you’ll ever watch.

Goyal’s Communication Style

Referring to both responses, what I love about Goyal is that he is unafraid to take a stance when required. He defends his employees, albeit it was done mildly in the Kamaraj case since it was still unfolding as he spoke.

But even then, his tone is extremely resolute and clear. After reading his tweets, you can almost visualize him standing on a podium, and saying the words out loud in a confident voice that charges the entire room.

This is how a spokesperson for any brand should act. You may not be the CEO, but even if you’re the PR rep, you should be communicating with 100% confidence and clarity in your words.

You must be able to take a direct stance and side and defend it aggressively, not allowing anyone to influence your core opinion.

If you show that you’re intimidated by the situation, or don’t know what you really think or want, the press and the public will hound you like a Sunday feast.

Even if you’re shaking in your boots, you must walk like you’re in command of the conversation. Fake it till you make it.


The Contents of a Good PR Release

Drawing from Goyal’s and Zomato’s responses, here’s a rundown on what you should include in your official social media press release if you’re responding to a negative event or any other kind of public backlash/criticism.

  • Acknowledgement: We are fully aware of this specific issue
  • Factual Outline: These are the facts we know about for sure
  • Immediate action: We’re doing everything we can to bring justice to all sides
  • Co-operation: We’re working with the correct authorities to investigate this
  • Assurance: Our company doesn’t tolerate any such unethical activites or comments
  • Re-iterating Values: We have always believed in a fair & equal culture for all
  • Strategic Improvements: We’ll be setting up systems to ensure this doesn’t repeat
  • Contact details: If you have any concerns or queries, we’re all ears.

Conclusion on Cancel Culture

Social media’s word-of-mouth is a two-sided weapon. This force can help your marketing & PR immensely, allowing you to sit back & let your loyal brand ambassadors do all the selling.

Or it can cause you the worst headaches ever, waking you up in the middle of the night to respond to a disgruntled customer.

So what all of our case studies point to is that the content and service you put out on these platforms should be passed through social/cultural filters to ensure that you’re practicing enough empathy for all parties involved.

Perhaps the best way to put it would be, “If you want to avoid triggered customers, think like one. If your offense alarms (instincts) are buzzing before you send that tweet, err on the side of caution, and don’t hit the send button.”

Stay neutral, and in case you need to have a CSR element in your brand/ad campaigns, select social causes with the least resistance (eg. free education, helping underprivileged children, empowering women, etc.) Such evergreen topics are received well in most cases because there’s not a lot to debate on whether poor hungry kids should be fed.

In any case, always be prepared for the butthurt brigade to comment on your creative work, and craft your response tactfully and quickly using the points outlined in the table above.

Do not allow people to take the issue away from you to a point that nobody will be ready to hear your side of the story, or appreciate the rectifications you’re making.

So basically, these things just require brand managers to be proactive in their communications, that’s all. Watch your brand mentions, pay attention to industry trends, and follow the news vicariously.

The only way to manage this conversation is to dominate it from the get-go. When we follow that aggressive approach, we’ll be able to win broken hearts back, and maintain our credibility in the long term.

Let’s cancel “Cancel Culture” for good!

[Case Study] How Bank on Fi’s PPT ads say more with less

Fi is a neobank startup i.e. it operates without physical branches. The mission is to help young Indian millennials & Gen-Zs save money through automated savings every time they shop online.

In a bid to show their no-bullshit young personality, they created a string of video ads with a funny “low-effort” Powerpoint theme. It mocked the software’s blatant use in the wake of work-from-home culture since the COVID-19 lockdowns in India.

This played well with their brand’s persona of being prudent with your money. Because the series doesn’t go for any expensive photoshoots or celebrity endorsements. Instead, it completely relies on memes, common internet lingo, and an honest anti-jargon script, delivered by a friendly young voice.

The execution looks entirely done on MS Powerpoint Slides to the layman. But looking at the cute animations, this was probably executed in After Effects/Premiere Pro.

The ads were reportedly run as paid performance campaigns on social media and OTT platforms like Hotstar during the IPL season.

Fi even seemed to have reached out to the country’s most popular ad/social media branded content aggregator, Mad Over Marketing, for a paid promotion of their efforts (referring to the “Collab” transparency tag on the post) – a maneuver that more and more brands are using to get eyeballs on their marketing efforts.

It received a generally positive response from the target audience and made rounds in social circles, giving Fi a well-deserved moment of virality.


Original or Inspired?

The idea of using old applications to create modern ads is far from original. In 2018 Starbucks launched a print ad campaign titled “Your Office Outside your Office.

The agency Proximity Columbia had used MS Office apps to create the iconic green-dotted coffee cups (inside Excel Sheets, Word Doc, and Powerpoint).

In 2020, Gary Vaynerchuk’s VaynerMedia launched a similar campaign for the Subway brand across South East Asia. It claimed that Subway spent all their marketing budget on stacking their subs with more & more meat slices for meat lovers.

So in the end, there was no money left to do cool photoshoots for the new products. As such, the “Meat Stack” ads had to be created using PowerPoint, MS Word, and other low-effort software. I personally didn’t enjoy that ad as much because it does use some good animations, defeating the whole purpose of keeping things low-key.

As Shaina Teope of Marketing APAC notes on the Subway campaign, “Much like the long-running joke of ‘honest movie titles,’ and ‘honest advertisements,’ the campaign pokes at the elephant in the room in the business of marketing, where some brands prefer to build on glamorous branding rather than improve the product itself.”


Conclusion

To add to Teope’s observation, the “anti-creative” technique used in all these cases debunks the notion that you need flashy, over-the-top designs or huge budgets to create a meaningful impact for your viewers.

The truth is that sometimes creativity is all about being “minimalist” but clever. That can be comforting or distressing to know, depending on how much you like simplistic thinking.

Gen-Z for one seems to love the no-bullshit approach. It stands out amongst a crowd of ads that say too much and therefore too little. So the key takeaway for marketers here is as clear as it gets. Keep it simple, silly.

How to manage your Social Media Clients from Start to End

Working in an ad agency makes you realize that creative jobs are only 50% about creativity. The other half of your energy as a digital marketer is spent convincing your boss or clients that your ideas are worth pursuing and publishing.

Whether it’s getting a blog draft approved or pitching a short Reel script, you need to have a process in place for communicating your work seamlessly.

When clients see that you’re executing their operations in a structured manner, they become more comfortable because they know what to expect and when assuming you provide deadlines for each stage.

Conversely, if you’re just going with the flow without any strategy, your clients may not be able to appreciate the significance and reasoning behind the content.

Case in point here’s the A-Z breakdown of how I’ve been onboarding and managing clients for my social media marketing gigs, first as a freelancer and then as part of a boutique agency.

It goes without saying that this isn’t the only right way to get things done. You may have better ideas on how to make the process efficient, so feel free to tweak things as per your needs.

In any case, my goal is to provide you with a basic direction or model that is easily scalable, so I’m open to making any iterations you have more efficient ways of managing the creative workload.

Tell me how you do it at your agency or freelance setup – let’s chat in the comments!


Managing your Projects

If you’re handling multiple projects and/or working with more than 2 people, you should use a free project management suite. I use Monday.com to sync up with other professionals.

I usually set up 2 views for my team. The first is the broad view, which shows all ongoing projects:

  • What’s the current status? (Ideation > Design > Feedback > Finalized)
  • Who’s leading this?
  • What’s the next deadline for this stage?
  • What’s the ongoing issue/sub-task? (pending workload)

The second view is personalized to each account we manage. It provides a clear timeline of when each stage will start and end. It also notes the current statuses, assignees (PIC), and pending workloads.

I like to break down every monthly cycle in these stages:

  • Strategy Call
  • Conceptualization (Strategy/Ideation/Calendar Planning)
  • Concepts Feedback & Approval
  • Design Execution for Time-sensitive Posts
  • Design Execution for Normal Posts
  • Design Feedback & Approval
  • Finalized Deck Submission

Of course, there are always loads of ad-hoc tasks, and because of time constraints, we often share our content pieces in separate parts rather than in bulk. So in real life, you may notice that these stages are happening in tandem, all at once.

Even then, a basal timeline helps you get a clear view of what needs to be accomplished in the short term. This becomes the foundation for keeping all your tribe members on the same page. It also speeds up productivity since you no longer have to chase each other for updates, as long as you’re all updating your part on Monday.com every day.

In fact, I’ve set up a daily Google Calendar event to trigger a reminder for updating my Monday before logging out at 6 PM. I shared the link to this event with my team members so that they could add the reminder to their personal calendars, too, in case they like setting good habits like me.

To keep all the files organized, I also create a dedicated Client Folder containing sub-folders for:

  • Contract/legal documents (housekeeping)
  • Client Assets (discussed ahead)
  • Each month’s concept & design decks (also discussed ahead)
  • Final Export files

Stage 1: Monthly Strategy Meeting

After you’ve sealed the contract, it’s time for the first official catchup. For new clients, both parties will have a lot of questions on how they should be proceeding, so the call usually lasts for 2-3 hrs. You can schedule it on Google Calendar/Meet so that you can use functions like live screen sharing and doodling.

I usually set up my strategy calls on a Friday so that I get the weekend to mull over everything unofficially before kickstarting the work on Monday.

This conversation flows in four stages, which I explain to the client beforehand to set the tone for the meeting.

Part 1: Brief about the company (for new clients)

The first stage belongs to the client, where they brief you about the company’s background, products, target audience, overall marketing initiatives, and budget, as well as upcoming events, campaigns, or milestones that you should keep in mind.

The goal is to understand the brand, its market, and main competitors so that you can design your content to fit their overall goals and themes.

  • When did you start?
  • Who are the key stakeholders?
  • What is your business model? 
  • What’s your vision & mission?
  • What’s your product/service catalog?
  • Any PDF brochures, web pages, videos, or resources we can explore?
  • Target regions & user demographics?
  • Data about current users, sales, and trends?  
  • Marketing initiatives other than social media
  • Upcoming events, milestones, updates, campaigns, initiatives

Part 2: Social media expectations (for this month)

Next, the second stage zooms in on the social media aspect since that is the service I offer. You should know what kind of channels and goals they’re targeting so that you can mold your content accordingly.

If they’re only looking for ad creatives, your posts will be sales-oriented, but if engagement is the goal, you may have to play with comment-to-win contest-based pieces or relatable stuff that can go viral.

  • What are your expectations from your social media?
  • How should the posts exactly feel? (e.g. minimalistic like Apple)
  • How have you managed social media in the past? 
  • Type, style, and focus of posts that you want?
  • Key Metrics/Goals (e.g. sales, engagement, reach)
  • Any accounts we should check out for inspiration? 
  • Any kind of posts or updates/promos on priority?
  • Special requests to keep in mind

Ask for reference accounts or posts that you can check out to understand exactly how they want their content to look.

These can be their direct competitors’ handles or belong to a different industry altogether. Either way, the idea is to get clarity on what kind of tone, style, and treatment they’re looking for.

This way, when they tell you that your output isn’t matching their expectations, you can go back to the reference accounts to defend your work based on the brief that THEY set at the beginning itself.

Thirdly, the final stage is when you can take over and explain the next steps, giving clear deadlines for each. If you think you’ll need 4 days to come up with the content ideas/strategy, give yourself some buffer time and ask for the entire working week.

This is because you have to juggle with multiple clients so in case an ad-hoc task from another client comes in, you can easily give some time there and it won’t spiral down into multi-tasking madness.

Part 3: Getting access & assets

The team I used to work with wasn’t large enough to take on account management i.e. we only used to deliver content and our clients used to schedule/publish it at their own will.

But in most cases, especially freelancing, you’ll be in charge of that stage as well. So you’ll need the usernames and passwords for all their handles. For FB, they may need to add you as an admin in the Business Manager Suite.

I recommend compiling them in one Airtable database or Google Sheet so that you have a one-shot view of all the important pages or accounts, and their respective access information.

For the execution part, you’ll also need certain design assets, so note them down in a list and ask the Client to upload everything in a special sub-folder inside your Main Client Folder assigned for this specific purpose.

  • Logo
  • Design Guidelines/Brand book (official colors/fonts)
  • Photographs & media clips (e.g. products, events, team members)
  • Archived design or video files
  • PDF Brochures containing company info
  • Any previous designs/open creative files

Part 4: Explaining the next steps

In the last stage of the meeting, you may put the client at ease by jotting down deadlines for presenting your ideas, design drafts, and finalized links for posting. Your procedure can be unique to the work that you do, but as a reference point, here’s my work cycle:

[ninja_tables id=”544″]

Remember that you should be having this call with your client every month (or fortnightly, too). This is to ensure that you’re always on top of any changing aspects of the business/market.

That said, these subsequent calls may last for no more than 15-20 mins. You probably understand their base priorities and expectations by now, and so you’ll just need the latest crucial updates.

The agenda may include:

  • Feedback from this month
  • Special requests for next month
  • Any business updates/milestones/upcoming campaigns?
  • Any product feature we need to focus on/highlight?
  • Any concerns/issues to tackle?

Stage 2: Concept Deck & Calendar

Assuming you’ve done your research, you can begin to assemble your initial post ideas in a Concept Deck. The goal of this deck is to get a soft approval for moving ahead with your ideas so that you don’t waste time executing them only to have the end result rejected at the last minute.

So you need to be very clear regarding what you’re going to talk about in the post and how the information or message may be presented in a frame-by-frame story format.

I personally love a modern interface like Pitch.PPT or Figma for this purpose. But since many of my clients are old/traditional, I dumb it down to your usual Google Slides, which they find less intimidating.

Also, Slides also allow the clients to add their comments for feedback/editing, either separately beside each slide (share comment-only access) or in the speaker notes (share edit access). So that’s a useful feature!

Here’s a template of my Concept Deck:

The deck begins by outlining what was discussed in the strategy call (priorities, highlights, and special remarks). You can include a tabular calendar view if any of your content pieces have a topical/seasonal element to them, which would require the posting to be done on a certain date itself (e.g. Independence Day, Xmas).

You may create this dated calendar in a Google Sheet or Airtable database separately and then preview it here with the link, or create a simple table in Slides itself. I’ve written another blog post detailing what goes into a comprehensive content calendar, so you can check that out afterward.

This is followed by separate sections for each media format (video, carousels, single page statics, Stories, etc.). For every post, I’ll include a brief pitch, suggested timing of publishing (if applicable), duration (for video), and purpose (engagement, sales, product promotion, etc.).

Then I’ll proceed with a creative brief, explaining in words what the visual may look like and how it can be animated. To make the designers’ job easier, you should include a lot of references regarding each animation or design aspect that you’re suggesting.

In fact, I also create a rough mockup in Canva (an easy graphic tool for the layman) so that the client and my graphic designers can clearly visualize how I’m thinking, and work in that direction with their professional tools.

You may also be proactive by adding captions and tags so that the client gets a full picture of what your post may look like in real life.


Stage 3: Visual Preview Deck & Feedback

After getting approvals for your concepts, you can begin executing the posts and assemble the drafts in a Preview Deck. This deck contains the captions, hashtags, and the creative/video embedded on each slide.

Here’s a template of my Preview Deck:

In fact, going a step further, you may also set up a ghost (fake) account on Instagram, publish your design drafts there, and then share links with your clients in the Preview Deck so that they can have a full user experience of how the post would look when published.

This is called “working from the back/last step,” in which you directly go ahead and execute a concept roughly and publish your draft on an undiscoverable account as if performing a test run.

This bit of extra effort will actually save you a ton of time wasted on minor back-and-forth changes towards the end of every cycle.

Here’s a testing account that I’ve set up for my personal projects (please don’t spam me there).

After you’ve added all the posts, share the deck link with the client/superior and request them to add any comments on required edits or enhancements. If the changes are minor, you can directly make them, or if they need major overhauls, request another G-Meet call to go over each post slide by slide.


Stage 4: Final Assets Deck Submission

After making the changes, you can submit the finalized deck containing links to all HD downloadable creative assets, captions, hashtags, and special remarks (if you need the client to keep anything in mind while posting).

Here’s a template of my Final Deck:

I recommend holding access to this deck until the payment for your invoice has been processed. Once you share the link, you’re basically giving the client 100% control to do what they want with the content without any liability for paying you first.

So guard your work carefully.


Stage 5: Scheduling & Monitoring

If you’re freelancing or offering live account management, you may have to do the publishing yourself. Barring ad-hoc topical posts, you can schedule any piece of content that has been approved in advance. This will save you both time and effort spent logging into your brands’ accounts every day.

Use these free scheduling tools to automate the posting as per your calendar:

Lastly, you may also be responsible for monitoring all user activity on the page/site, responding to comments, and fielding inquiries via live chat, email, or Messenger, WhatsApp, and/or IG Direct Messages.

I recommend setting up an FAQ section and having pre-saved replies (with shortcut buttons) on IG to save time on answering common doubts.

To ensure that you’re performing your ORM (Online Reputation Management) & CRM (Customer Relationship Management) duties diligently, here’s a quick 3-step checklist that you can aim to tick off before logging off:

  • Responded to all messages
  • Checked new comments on 5 most recent posts
  • Replied to all reviews on social or e-commerce/rating channels

Conclusion

All that might seem like a lot of work. And just when you thought you’re done with this cycle, the next one kicks in, so there’s hardly any time to rest. But this is exactly why knowing project management and having a foolproof process is so important.

Digital marketing is a messy field. Since our work is intuitively out of the box, the more organized we become in presenting it, the better outsiders will be able to understand our ideas and respond to them favorably.

In the end, if you ever feel like this is all a waste of time and you’d rather just go with the flow, remember what our teachers taught us in school: “Failing to plan is planning to fail!”

So do you have an A-Z process when it comes to managing your social media clients? What does your work ethic look like and why do you think it works so well for your personality or field?

Share your experiences in the comments below!

I never thought I’d write about “love” again but here I am

Have you ever been with someone you can never “be with?” A friendship that you know has much more to offer but also too much to lose?

Crap, it’s that cheesy rom-com cliché from Christmas 2008. My Jai has fallen for an Aditi. And I’m mulling about whether we should have that “talk” when we get on a Zoom call tonight.

Maybe they’ll explain that they don’t see me that way and this would complicate things. Heck, maybe they’ll point out how we’re from different backgrounds, countries, jobs, and religions – and I’ll clarify that it’s these differences I love the most. It’s starting to feel like a Toastmaster’s debate.

If I must be both realistic and happy, I’m hoping they’ll smile, appreciate me for sharing my feelings, and promise to help me get over it eventually. Such mature discussion. Much wow.

Scenarios. Scenarios. Scenarios. As I’m slinging through the multiverse created by my anxiety-ridden, 23-year-old brain, I have to say there’s something different about this person that’s keeping me awake. There has to be.

Because I thought I left behind this topic in my emo teen phase. With poems that I took the effort to rhyme lmaoooo. But it’s almost after an entire decade that I’m finding myself chirping down this path again. Spring in my step and all. So the writer in me is definitely curious.


See, first of all, there wasn’t a love-at-first-sight moment. It wasn’t full of butterflies and crazy adventures. In fact, I can’t pinpoint a specific day when I understood that I wanted more. There weren’t any explosive fireworks. The hunch grew more like five sips of chai. Normal, comforting, simple. Like how you move into a new house and then it eventually becomes your home for no good reason. And you get into a cozy routine.

I have spent so much time in their company doing jackshit. One day we camped in our university’s library. On our own laptops doing our own assignments. When the guards told us it was time to leave, we walked out talking about how well-spent the day was and that we should definitely do it again.

It’s not like we haven’t had fun together. We’ve hung out, and flown to new cities. We’ve eaten with forks at fancy brunches and also ravaged through banana leaf buffets like Savannah lions.

We’ve also had the craziest of talks. From junk gossip to deep philosophical musings at 3AM. They once looked down at the dimly lit highway and told me how every passing car must have people with complex lives and stories that we’ll never hear. Trippy? Well, you should see our chats, you’d think we’re in the stratosphere.

But floating in between all that noise are many blank pages that weigh just as much. Silences I never felt obligated to fill. Sometimes, we just lie around and chill.

Which tells me that this new kind of love I’m discovering … this love isn’t all shiny and glamorous. After all that excitement fades away, there’s a cozy blanket of silence that takes over. You don’t have to go on extravagant holidays to relax. You don’t have to buy each other costly gifts to feel special. You don’t have to upload Stories of everything you do together. There’s nothing to prove to the world, nothing to show off.

Love is breathing. It’s in simple gestures. They’re both noticed and reciprocated. The person’s company is more than enough. And you no longer have to do only wild things to feel like you had a good time.

If you can feel happy cutting a cupcake in the dark and call it a party, when its not even your birthday, that’s when you realize they’re the one.


Mind you, even if there’s comfort, there’s also discomfort. I like that we call each other out on our bullshit. They don’t just pretend to agree with all my decisions or opinions because I’m their best friend. In fact, there are so many things we do openly disagree on and also furiously debate about.

We also hold each other accountable for our mistakes. I have a loud mouth and when I leak something in a public conversation that I shouldn’t have, they will remind me that I can do better.

This could’ve been a toxic or abusive thing where we’re constantly pushing each other’s buttons. But its not the case because toxic relationships rely on fear. The fear of causing damage. When we discuss our issues, we’re not afraid of permanently ruining or breaking things.

We understand that we cannot really always like each other. Sometimes, I will hate them. And I’ll say it. They’ll say they hate me even more. Sometimes I’ll be so pissed off at something silly they did. But I won’t feel bad or guilty about it. We respect these negative emotions and agree that we can be imperfect and kinda off on some days. These fleeting currents and tiny problems don’t threaten our bond. I speak for both of us when I say we have this unbreakable faith that we’ll always be able to ‘work it out together.’

When you call someone your ‘loved one,’ it means they’re signing up for the whole package. Which occasionally includes confusion, misunderstandings, disappointment, and hurt. Love is communication. Communication of all those emotions.

If you can openly talk about all your thoughts and problems without having to worry about losing them, that’s when you realize they’re the one.


But all that said, I think the most special thing about this special person is how they make me want to be better without ever having to push me ahead.

What I mean is that they’re a forever fan. At gatherings, they’ll take me around like I’m Barack Obama and introduce me to all their friends, raving about the ‘cool projects’ I’m working on this year. They’re my biggest cheerleader, hyper-supporter, and meme-liker to the point of cringe. When I’m down and sobbing about how I suck, they’ll tell me to shut up and refuse to believe that I’m anything less than the best.

I feel immensely relaxed knowing that I’ll always be good enough for them, even when I’m not good enough for myself. See, it’s not a conditional contract. There’s this underlying assurance that they’ll be cheering me for me even when I’m behind, even when I finish last. I don’t have to constantly worry about proving myself to them or living up to their ‘expectations.’

A relationship of any kind and degree shouldn’t feel constantly challenging, uncomfortable, and stressful. That kind of bullshit is often sold under the guise of tough love or training. But you shouldn’t feel like you’re dragging yourself to please or impress the person.

Because love is safety. It’s like a soft sandpit in which we can become kids again and build whatever the fuck we want to. And when we have no power left, it’s a force that burns through every fiber of our soul and gives us that last bit of fire to hold on to. “Hold on,” it says, “We’re almost there.”

This safe zone my special person has created without even realizing it … it just makes me want to push myself every day. Their fierce belief in me makes me want to fight, even when I don’t want to do it for myself. In fact, it was this person who once told me that we can’t always love ourselves and that’s why we need friends who can remind us of how worthy we are.

If they make you feel empowered to chase your dreams fearlessly, you know they’re the one.

Now that I’ve said these things out loud, I guess I know that they’re really the one.

But I don’t feel prepared to tell them yet so I’m going to wait for some more time. I’m not rushing into things. It’s perfectly acceptable. And anyway, I’m not worried about being too late. I won’t regret telling them right away.

You know how I’m so sure? Because love is, above all, friendship. And I have it right here, right now.

For ‘gifted’ kids who feel like a disappointment

You ever wanted to become an astronaut? I think we all did. At some point in our childhood. Back then, the stars and moon felt so close. Power Ranger transformations looked realistic. And getting an A+ was just a matter of focusing on your studies one week before the exam.

But above all, life was fair. You work hard, you get rewards. I remember teachers telling me how I was going to be so happy and successful after my 10th board exams. Of course, they postponed that promise until after my 12th, then my graduation, then my MBA … and now they joke about how marriage is the true final test.

Part of me wants to believe in their simple idea. But it’s starting to crack. Because I know for sure that I gave my 100% at the job. I was still fired. I know for sure that I wrote those blogs and manuscripts with all my heart. They were still rejected. I’m confident that I gave that relationship all the time and love I could’ve given. It still ended.

All of a sudden, I don’t feel like I’m the gifted kid they told me I was. I’m no longer a topper, a front runner, a prodigy with all the potential, or an obvious winner on my way to conquer the world.

It’s not like I’m a complete mess or failure, mind you. It’s just this uneasy and sobering discovery that I’m actually average in many areas, and even terrible at some things that come easily to my friends. It’s the discomfort of realizing that lagging behind somewhere is inevitable.

It hit me when an aunty asked me about what I’m up to nowadays, and I felt afraid to tell her that I’m taking a break to figure out my next steps. I guess I didn’t want to show that I’ve burned out, lost my way, or worse, extinguished my ‘spark.’ I guess I didn’t want to look like a disappointment.

But I really do. I feel like I was slowly climbing to the top of this roller coaster and now that I’m here, all I can see is a plain straight line for a few miles ahead. No ups and downs. No crazy loops. No thrilling adventures. Instead, a patch where I’m supposed to stumble and fumble. A middle that just doesn’t seem to end. Between being a carefree, city-roaming, movie-going, third-year student … and a responsible, settled, balanced adult. Just between these phases, you get it?

It gets complicated when I look around. Just yesterday, we were all skipping class to catch ‘Endgame.’ And now everyone’s on their own trajectory, spread across the world, chasing different dreams and goals. I see friends getting excited to announce their milestones on LinkedIn. Getting hired by big fish. Securing scholarships in Ivy leagues. Launching their own startups. I mean, how the hell is everyone getting featured in Forbes’ 30 under 30?

Look, I really want to be happy for all of them. But at some point, we all start to compare a little, don’t we? Especially those of us who’ve always been a little competitive.

When I was reflecting on these feelings last night, I thought about how the problem started in statistics class. When Radhika ma’am drew a straight line pointing upward and forward from 0 to 100 on the graph. And we were told: “This is how success looks like.” A steady consistent burn towards status, security, fame, and money. And until recently I didn’t realize how much that model was hurting me (well, I’ve always thought that math is shit anyway).

Because if I look back at myself and people I’m proud of, our growth has been anything but linear. Sometimes you take a step back, sometimes you go in circles for years, sometimes you say “screw it” and abandon the axes to run away into some other dimension. Growth is not always beautiful. In fact, it can be very messy. It hides in pain, dances behind self-doubt, smiles in suffering, and celebrates obstacles. Which is why we don’t always recognize it as it’s happening.

Growth is also seldom tagged on Instagram or vlogged about on YouTube, only its end products are. We don’t see the hardships, the mistakes, the pressures, the embarrassments, the anxiety, the stress, and the crushing disappointments that come hand in hand with shining ‘talent.’ Tweets and Stories are too short to fit all this heavy baggage that’s part of everyone’s journey, my dear.

Lastly, growth is also very unfair. It doesn’t always lead to meaningful or positive results. Sometimes its only job is to make us hurt. You don’t always become stronger or better. You don’t always come out smiling. You cannot have full control. You can do everything you possibly could’ve done and still lose. You can try, try, and fail in spite of all your attempts. Shit will just happen for no reason, serving no purpose. Not all dots will connect.

And that’s one reality I’m learning to make peace with. I’m learning to normalize:

  • Not having a plan for everything
  • Messing up even when I was prepared
  • Needing help or guidance from others
  • Taking a gap year for my mental health
  • Not only depending on my ‘strengths’
  • Being just another guy in the crowd
  • Letting others take center-stage
  • Helping others without feeling threatened

So here I am. Excited to announce something, too. Excited to announce that I’m currently not doing, winning, or being great at anything. Because there’s nothing wrong with sitting out a match every now and then. A hunch tells me that I’m going to hit the ball out of the park when I get back.

Hold on, Manik. Hold on.

I reached out to the kid I bullied in school … It hurt like a b*tch

Moving places makes you realize how badly humans need closure. How hard we strive for the chapters of our lives to open & end neatly, one by one. And how much we hate cliffhangers, incomplete pages, or vague endings off the screen.

I tried to seek my closure yesterday. Because I’m moving away from the neighborhood I grew up in. Don’t worry, it’s nothing I’m going to miss. School sucked for me, as it did for most ‘studious’ kids.

Fat, nerdy, weird, and a bit on the ‘girlish’ side, it was like this boy entered the class wearing a cap that said, “Your new favorite target.” Of course, the cool kids ganged up & left me broken. I felt all alone like a wet puppy abandoned in the rain.

So like a dog, I learned survival, the ugly way. I bit back, chewed on smaller prey. And before I knew it, became the very thing I hated the most. A bully.

Roy, let’s call him that, had the same awkwardness that had made me a target. His only disadvantage was that he didn’t want to fight back. This allowed me to slowly strangle him, one taunt at a time.

It started out as lame jokes that you’d expect from any teenager. Calling him “gay,” laughing at his curves, making him feel unwanted. This graduated into mild jabs & punches. And then finally, one day, the five of us spent 2 straight hours ‘roasting’ him, stepping on every last piece of his self-confidence that we could find on the floor.

Turns out, he’d had enough & his father was at my door with an audio recording of what we thought was sublime standup comedy. I felt ashamed but cried victim, pushing the blame back onto him. Tit for tat.

We stopped playing with him after that day. He had become a traitor. I don’t know if he found that liberating. And if he did, I can’t imagine how fucked up that would be … feeling happy to finally have no one you can make memories with.

I went abroad for a few years and forgot about Roy. Until yesterday when we were packing up to leave the house I grew up in, and I saw this ghost from my past pass by. He didn’t recognize me. But I did. Something snapped. Like an ice cube being run down my neck.

As someone who has been through so many changes in the last few years, I felt an urgent need to prove to myself that I’m no longer the person I was years in 2014. I wanted to leave this shithole behind for good.

So I messaged the guy on Facebook.

Hey. I won’t ask if you remember me because I know you do. I just wanted to say I’m really sorry for how I treated you. There’s no explanation. No my side of the story. No excuse. And they weren’t just harmless jokes.

I bullied you badly and caused you a lot of pain. Practically ruined your childhood. And I don’t know if you’re doing better. I hope you are.

You didn’t deserve any of the shit I gave you. I did it because I felt powerless myself and needed something to fill that hollow space in my days.

We moved out yesterday & I wanted you to know that I’m aware of my mistakes and although I can’t change the past, I am working to heal, both myself and others. I’m part of some NGOs that help poor kids in Majiwada. I do regular activities to put a smile on their faces.

Again, I know this isn’t enough or even related but I hope someday you can forgive me. Even if you can’t, I understand. And I really wish that you find love, happiness, and peace wherever you go – yes you do deserve those things. I was wrong.

Please let me know if I can do anything for you. Thanks.

He responded with that “blue thumbs up” icon. That’s all. I didn’t push it, either. We didn’t have a heart-to-heart conversation to go over everything. I’ll probably never see him again or know how he turned out to be. It just is.

So did I get my closure? As I unpack in my new room, I’m not sure if it matters anymore. Because I think human relationships are much messier than we let on. You cannot just file them into chapters.

Sometimes they’ll end abruptly. Sometimes they’ll reappear again and again, unexpectedly. And sometimes you’ll find new meanings every time you go back to old pages.

More importantly, you cannot just erase the damage you do to people. You cannot say sorry hoping everything will be forgotten and forgiven. The harsh truth about scars is that they never really heal.

But someday someone will look at those scars you caused on people, and madly fall in love with them. Someone will find that pain beautiful. Someone will turn it into a source of strength and love. And you can take the first step towards making that happen – by just saying one word.

  • GET TO THE POINT – If you think you hurt someone, you’re right 9/10 times because we’re hardwired for empathy & kindness so the moment we give in to hate, our mind sends us a small hunch. So just say you’re sorry. Not “sorry if I hurt you.” Not “sorry but it wasn’t my intention.” Just. Fucking. Sorry. Own what you did. It means everything.

  • DON’T FORGET IT – Yes, it’s best if you repent asap but even if it’s 10 years later, admitting to your fuckups is the right thing to do.

  • DON’T EXPECT AN OK – Your sorry is about you choosing to become better. For the person in front of you, it represents lots of trauma, heavy baggage, and painful memories that they’ve probably suppressed or internalized. So they may not forgive you or even respond. Please respect their privacy & feelings this time. And move on.

Trust me, this was one of the hardest things I’ve done as an adult. That said, I think we all did stupid things when we were kids. I think we were all MADE TO DO stupid things by a select few who understood intuitively how war works. I think most of us were a form of entertainment. Puppets. Dogs in a fighting ring. Dogs trying to fit in, or be liked, or just be left alone.

Realizing how insanely toxic this entire game was … is probably the most obvious sign that you’re growing up. I know I am. I’m actively working to be truer to the kid I was before they took him away from me. And I know it’s not going to be some beautiful transformative journey away from my past like they show in the movies.

It’ll be ugly, too painful to bear sometimes. Because I’ll meet parts of me that I hate. Parts you’d hate if you knew them. Parts that I’d rather not be remembered for. But you know what?

Sometimes, the first step in conquering your demons is accepting that they exist.

That they make you but don’t define you. That you have a choice to be kinder, sweeter, warmer. And the only thing that matters is whether you have the courage to make that choice even when the whole world is giving you a billion reasons not to.

Be that one reason everyone needs to heal.

How to learn and become better with Social Media

Gen-Z’s often get slack from adults for all the time they spend on social media, mindlessly browsing through feeds that are designed to rot their minds and distract them from doing anything meaningful.

Yes, we’ve all sat through ‘the talk.’ About how our digital lifestyle triggers depression, unhealthy habits, loss of productivity, low self-esteem, and above all, an imposter’s syndrome from watching all our friends and influencers lead a more exciting life, or at least create that illusion.

But is social media doomed to only affect us negatively?

I disagree. I want to prove that platforms like Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and LinkedIn CAN all have a very positive impact on your life. And I think it’s all about the accounts we follow, which is something that we still have control over.

As a result, I’ve curated a list of must-follow social accounts that will educate, inspire, and fuel your creativity.

These include topics such as:

  • News & current events (simplified)
  • Tech, online & PC hacks
  • Health, fitness & wellbeing
  • Positive & mindful living
  • Life skills (cooking, job hunting)
  • Personal finance & business
  • Language & communication
  • Knowledge from books & pop culture
  • Creativity tutorials
  • Travel hacks

PRO TIP: I recommend creating a separate private account and then following all these handles at once. That way, it won’t clash with your personal feed, which you can reserve for your friends, crushes, and role models/celebrities.

If you follow via your personal account, you’ll risk mixing up your learning and leisure times. Also, following too many handles at once might clog up your feed, and you may miss out on quality content that gets lost in the algorithm.

So the next time your parents tell you to switch off the phone and get back to real learning, show them your custom ‘educational feed!” I guarantee that they’ll request you to help create an account for them as well, so that they can get a burst of value, too!

Access the G-Sheet here or preview it below.


If you have more accounts to suggest, please let me know in the comments below so that I can check & add them to our list. Happy learning!

Why We Need To Rethink Career Planning After COVID-19

Reading Time: 7 mins.


Do you remember taking that aptitude test in school? I did mine just before passing out. After having me answer 150 MCQs about my interests, personality traits, and ambitions, they called in my parents for a “career counseling” session to discuss which pathways suited me best.

Mrs. Medha said that based on her team’s analysis, I’d do wonders as a lawyer, a filmmaker, or a therapist (psychology). Ultimately, I ended up becoming neither. But in hindsight, I think my current role as a social media manager combines certain aspects of all 3 options:

  1. The advocacy skills of a lawyer, which I use to sell brands
  2. The creativity of filmmaking, which I apply in ad design
  3. And a therapist’s empathy, which is crucial in customer relations

So it’s debatable how accurate or vague my aptitude test was. But the point remains that I was given “either-or” advice, which is the traditional mindset we use whenever we think about our careers. We’re told we should pick one “niche” and then spend our life excelling at it.

This usually involves pursuing Master’s, PhDs, specialized courses, corporate training, and online certifications… along with any other avenue that further secures our place as an expert in the field.

Conversely, being a “jack of all trades” – a novice at several things – is frowned upon; it’s usually interpreted as a classic case of “I’ve not yet figured it out!”

Now there is nothing particularly wrong with suggesting that a singer should focus on becoming a better singer; or that a computer engineer should try to learn as many programming languages as possible. Constant self-development has become as important to one’s survival as water is, no thanks to the ever-rising competition.

If you don’t take efforts in keeping up with the times- and maintaining your position as the best person for the job- there are 25 other candidates waiting to replace you at a lower salary. It’s a dog-eat-dog world.

However, the “go-niche-or-go-home” mindset is dangerous. It assumes that the market will need singers and computer engineers every single day. It assumes that experts will never go out of demand. And it feeds the fantasy that if you’re a pro at something, someone will always be willing to hire you, come heaven or hell.

Try telling that to my uncle, who has flown 500+ flights for Malaysia’s biggest airline. Or my best friend, who has served delicious meals as a sous chef in several restaurants across Europe. Or my ex-professor, who has delivered countless lectures her lifetime.

All of them are home right now, dealing with the shock of losing their livelihood in one snap because of the COVID-19 crisis. And they’re just 3 cases among millions of workers and entrepreneurs alike, who have been asked to leave, or pull down the shutters, either because their entire industry is locked, or their companies can’t afford to pay them anymore.


WINTER HAS COME

LinkedIn is a mess nowadays. I’m seeing folks offering to work for free in the hopes of a cheque 2 months down the line. Migrant workers are trapped abroad, miles away from their families, with no support to survive in a foreign land. Confused youngsters who have had their graduate job offers canceled. And seasoned experts with no emergency savings to feed their families. People are panicking, crying, and breaking down. It’s literally the apocalypse.

Even for the few lucky of us who still have our jobs, there is a shroud of uncertainty lingering over our heads. Rumors of layoffs, sharp salary cuts, stretched work-from-home routines, and intense pressure from the top to get impossible results… these are just some of the catalysts fueling a global wave of anxiety.


We don’t know when things will get better. But we do know that they will never be the same again. So consider it a reality check. If this pandemic has taught us one important lesson, it’s that our current way of career planning simply won’t do anymore. Our approach to professional life is outdated.

I mean, what good are our solid degrees, expertise, and portfolios if nobody’s hiring? What good is a strategy if there’s no place to apply it? Just accept it, “SINGLE-PATHWAY CAREER PLANNING IS DEAD.” Because there is no one correct plan for surviving something so unexpected like COVID-19.

So it’s time to re-evaluate how we choose and develop our livelihoods. And while it can feel like one impossible change to make- I’ll lay out a new perspective that might nudge us in the right direction.


The new alternative is “Career Hacking,” a multi-pathway approach that takes into account the uncertainties that have become a certain part of modern life. It encourages us to have multiple options & build various skillsets rather than blindly pursuing expertise in one single field for all our life.

More on that later but note that this approach won’t magically make our troubles go away. It may not have immediate positive effects. However, if we follow it consistently for a decade, I guarantee that we’ll be ready to fight when a recession hits us again, and mind you, it will- maybe because of another virus or something worse.


BECOMING A T-SHAPED WORKER

Probably the easiest way to survive a recession would be to become a doctor, a writer, a footballer, a lawyer, and an engineer. So that whenever one job goes out of demand, you can just switch to another profession.

While there are real-life legends of multi-talents who have actually done this- holding 6 different jobs- this sort of ambition is out of reach for the average Joe. It’s hardly a practical solution because not all of us have the energy or money to pursue double degrees, continue with lifelong education, or juggle between half a dozen professions.

But we can still borrow the essence of this wacky idea, and tone it down to give us the same kind of skill breadth without driving ourselves mad. Let me share my own story to explain how.

5 years ago, when I started my first job as a blogger, that is all I wanted to do in life. I wanted to become the most awesome blog writer in the world.

But when I published my first blog post for the company I was working with, I realized that I needed a nice featured image to promote it on social media. Since I didn’t have any design skills, I had to request our in-house graphic designer to make one for me. She wasn’t exactly happy to help.

Then, my boss asked me to ‘boost’ this post i.e. pay to promote it on Facebook. But I knew nothing about boosting or paid digital advertising. So I had to secretly request a classmate, who was a performance marketer, to do it for me.

This made me realize that if I want to become a good blogger, I can’t only be a blogger. I must leave my comfort zone, my area of expertise, and focus on gaining what are called “complementary skills,” i.e. skills that are directly or indirectly related to your main job. For a blogger, complementary skills would include:

  • Graphic design (to create catchy cover images for social)
  • PPC strategy (Pay-per-click: to get paid traffic)
  • SEO (Search Engine Optimization: to show up on Google)

Armed with this insight, I changed my career goal to become a “T-Shaped” marketer. A T-Shaped career is basically like any generic university degree, where you pursue one major and a lot of minor subjects. You excel at one skill but also pick up a dozen or so supporting skills that strengthen your alpha pillar.

Call it being an expert all-rounder. The goal is to combine the “depth” of one skill with the “breadth” of many side-skills. In my case, here’s what a “T-Shaped” marketer’s CV looks like. One of the 5 domains shown below can be your area of expertise (in-depth expertise), while the other four domains can act as your supporting secondary skills (basic understanding & skill):

This concept is not restricted to marketing. It’s applicable in any profession. For example, a techie can be an expert back-end programmer, but also have some rookie knowledge of UI/UX design, Business Analytics, and CMS (Content Management Systems like WordPress).

A T-shaped skillset has two advantages. First, it supercharges your area of expertise because you can top-up value-added services to your main offering.

For example, you can offer a complete package of social media management instead of just offering to write copy. Any sane client will choose the former option if they’re getting it with a small premium. So you can do more, charge a little more, and earn more.

Secondly, T-Shaping gives you the flexibility to switch your profession effortlessly if you feel like switching, or if you’re forced to. If tomorrow I decide I hate writing and want to instead be reborn as a graphic designer, I can follow my instinct because I have good enough basic skills to start the journey, instead of being a complete rookie to the field.

I might charge less for design projects at the beginning, yes, but then I can go on increasing my rate with each new client. In fact, I may choose to “phase out” my job as a writer gradually- say, over 3-4 months, so that I don’t suffer from a sudden job loss. In either case, I’ll find it much easier to transition into a new career line if I’m a jack of all trades and a master of one.

This technique is also crucial in cases when it’s not your choice. It reduces your risk of becoming irrelevant in recessions, although, to be fair, it doesn’t completely eliminate it.

Suppose my company tells me that they can no longer pay me to write blogs for them, I can request for an internal transfer to the design team. I can tell them to hire me as an intern because of my basic skillset, which is still way better than getting fired.

In summary, you should immediately identify 5 independent professions that complement your current job description. And you should devote the next 5 years to becoming a mid-level expert in all these fields.

To help you start off, check out these lists of websites where you can enroll in free courses, or read free e-books to develop your chosen complementary skills.


CONCLUSION

I wrote this article after waking up from a very bad dream, as my urgent tone might’ve already conveyed. I want us to accept that our current approach to careers is vulnerable to “horror years” like 2020.

With increasing political tensions (RE: Donald Trump), exponential competition, and worsening economies, it’s now more important than ever to redesign our lives in new formats that can help us sail through the lows but also make the most out of the highs.

This means reducing our dependence on one type of job or skill. Being multi-skilled, or as we discussed, “T-Shaped,” enables us to stay relevant in an extremely unpredictable & unstable market.

With a broad skill set, we might not become physically immune to pandemics like COVID-19, but we can certainly become immune to the dangers they pose to our livelihoods.

Ultimately, it’s up to us whether to complain about what’s happening; or to use it as an opportunity for self-introspection, healing, and growth. As Professor Dumbledore once said, “Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”

50 Mind-bending Movies: Top Psychological Thrillers

Watching psychological thrillers & mysteries is my favorite pastime as a writer. That’s because these movies give my brain a break from work … but they also massage my creative muscles, inspiring new ideas for my next projects.

If you, too, are a cinematic puzzle-solver who prefers to figure out the story on your own, here’s the ultimate list of 50 brain-wrecking movies that’ll leave you scratching your head until the very end.

So nuke those popcorn, ease into your pajamas, and get ready to have your “mind = exploded!”

80S Mind Blown GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Scroll down for spoiler-free synopses (taken from IMDb) and official trailers. This list was last updated in 2022 with new additions.

Sr.TITLERELEASE
1Primer2004
2Predestination2014
3Oldboy2003
4The Handmaiden2016
5The Others2001
6Goodnight Mommy2014
7Searching2018
8Orphan2009
9Arrival2016
10Mulholland Drive2001
11Us2019
12The Shining1980
13The Sixth Sense1999
14Memento2000
15Ex Machina2004
16American Psycho2000
17The Usual Suspects1995
18Fight Club1999
19Drishyam2015
20The Machinist2004
2110 Cloverfield Lane2016
22Ugly2013
23Jacob’s Ladder1990
24Edge of Tomorrow2014
25Gone Girl2000
26Looper2012
27Psycho1960
28Oblivion2013
29Coherence 2013
30Anomalisa2015
31Donnie Darko2001
32Moon2000
33The Orphanage2007
3419222017
35Taxi Driver1976
36Audition 1999
37Black Swan2010
38Misery1990
39Parasite2019
40Se7en1995
41A Tale of 2 Sisters2003
42Gerald’s Game2017
43Talaash 2012
44Enemy 2013
45The Stanford Prison Experiment2015
46The Invisible Man2020
47Tenet2020
48Tumbbad2018
49Get Out2017
50The Babadook2014

New Additions

Sr.TITLERELEASE
51The Man from Earth2007
52Crimes of the Future2022
53Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind2004
54Dark (Netflix German Series)2017

1. Primer

In this highly convoluted time travel saga, we go on a journey with two young scientists who must deal with the repercussions of toying with their latest invention.


2. Predestination

For his final assignment, a top temporal agent must pursue the one criminal that has eluded him throughout time. The chase turns into a unique, surprising and mind-bending exploration of love, fate, identity and time travel taboos.


3. Oldboy

After being kidnapped and imprisoned for fifteen years, Oh Dae-Su is released, only to find that he must find his captor in five days.


4. The Handmaiden

A woman is hired as a handmaiden to a Japanese heiress, but secretly she is involved in a plot to defraud her.


5. The Others

A woman who lives in her darkened old family house with her two photosensitive children becomes convinced that the home is haunted.


6. Goodnight Mommy

Twin boys move to a new home with their mother after she has face changing cosmetic surgery, but under her bandages is someone the children don’t recognize.


7. Searching

After his 16-year-old daughter goes missing, a desperate father breaks into her laptop to look for clues to find her.


8. Orphan

A husband and wife who recently lost their baby adopt a 9 year-old girl who is not nearly as innocent as she claims to be.


9. Arrival

A linguist works with the military to communicate with alien lifeforms after twelve mysterious spacecraft appear around the world.


10. Mulholland Drive

After a car wreck on the winding Mulholland Drive renders a woman amnesiac, she and a perky Hollywood-hopeful search for clues and answers across Los Angeles in a twisting venture beyond dreams and reality.


11. Us

A family’s serene beach vacation turns to chaos when their doppelgängers appear and begin to terrorize them.


12. The Shining

A family heads to an isolated hotel for the winter where a sinister presence influences the father into violence, while his psychic son sees horrific forebodings from both past and future.


13. The Sixth Sense

A boy who communicates with spirits seeks the help of a disheartened child psychologist.


14. Memento

A man with short-term memory loss attempts to track down his wife’s murderer.


15. Ex Machina

A young programmer is selected to participate in a ground-breaking experiment in synthetic intelligence by evaluating the human qualities of a highly advanced humanoid A.I.


16. American Psycho

A wealthy New York City investment banking executive, Patrick Bateman, hides his alternate psychopathic ego from his co-workers and friends as he delves deeper into his violent, hedonistic fantasies.


17. The Usual Suspects

A sole survivor tells of the twisty events leading up to a horrific gun battle on a boat, which began when five criminals met at a seemingly random police lineup.


18. Fight Club

An insomniac office worker and a devil-may-care soapmaker form an underground fight club that evolves into something much, much more.


19. Drishyam

Desperate measures are taken by a man who tries to save his family from the dark side of the law, after they commit an unexpected crime.


20. The Machinist

An industrial worker who hasn’t slept in a year begins to doubt his own sanity.


21. 10 Cloverfield Lane

After getting in a car accident, a woman is held in a shelter with two men, who claim the outside world is affected by a widespread chemical attack.


22. Ugly

The case of a missing girl takes us through a journey of human greed and brushes upon the egos and repressed emotions of the characters.


23. Jacob’s Ladder

Mourning his dead child, a haunted Vietnam War veteran attempts to uncover his past while suffering from a severe case of dissociation. To do so, he must decipher reality and life from his own dreams, delusions, and perceptions of death.


24. Edge of Tomorrow

A soldier fighting aliens gets to relive the same day over and over again, the day restarting every time he dies.


25. Gone Girl

With his wife’s disappearance having become the focus of an intense media circus, a man sees the spotlight turned on him when it’s suspected that he may not be innocent.


26. Looper

In 2074, when the mob wants to get rid of someone, the target is sent into the past, where a hired gun awaits – someone like Joe – who one day learns the mob wants to ‘close the loop’ by sending back Joe’s future self for assassination.


27. Psycho

A Phoenix secretary embezzles $40,000 from her employer’s client, goes on the run, and checks into a remote motel run by a young man under the domination of his mother.


28. Oblivion

A veteran assigned to extract Earth’s remaining resources begins to question what he knows about his mission and himself.


29. Coherence

Strange things begin to happen when a group of friends gather for a dinner party on an evening when a comet is passing overhead.


30. Anomalisa

A man crippled by the mundanity of his life experiences something out of the ordinary.


31. Donnie Darko

After narrowly escaping a bizarre accident, a troubled teenager is plagued by visions of a man in a large rabbit suit who manipulates him to commit a series of crimes.


32. Moon

Astronaut Sam Bell has a quintessentially personal encounter toward the end of his three-year stint on the Moon, where he, working alongside his computer, GERTY, sends back to Earth parcels of a resource that has helped diminish our planet’s power problems.


33. The Orphanage

A woman brings her family back to her childhood home, which used to be an orphanage for handicapped children. Before long, her son starts to communicate with an invisible new friend.


34. 1922

A simple yet proud farmer in the year 1922 conspires to murder his wife for financial gain, convincing his teenage son to assist. But their actions have unintended consequences.


35. Taxi Driver

A mentally unstable veteran works as a nighttime taxi driver in New York City, where the perceived decadence and sleaze fuels his urge for violent action by attempting to liberate a presidential campaign worker and an underage prostitute.


36. Audition

A widower takes an offer to screen girls at a special audition, arranged for him by a friend to find him a new wife. The one he fancies is not who she appears to be after all.


37. Black Swan

A committed dancer struggles to maintain her sanity after winning the lead role in a production of Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake.”


38. Misery

After a famous author is rescued from a car crash by a fan of his novels, he comes to realize that the care he is receiving is only the beginning of a nightmare of captivity and abuse.


39. Parasite

Greed and class discrimination threaten the newly formed symbiotic relationship between the wealthy Park family and the destitute Kim clan.


40. Se7en

Two detectives, a rookie and a veteran, hunt a serial killer who uses the seven deadly sins as his motives.


41. A Tale of 2 Sisters

A family is haunted by the tragedies of deaths within the family.


42. Gerald’s Game

A couple tries to spice up their marriage in a remote lake house. After the husband dies unexpectedly, the wife is left handcuffed to their bed frame and must fight to survive and break free.


43. Talaash

Inspector Surjan Shekhawat, who is dealing with a depressing past, has to investigate a high profile murder case, deal with his crumbling marriage and use the help and solace of a prostitute by the name of Rosie.


44. Enemy

A man seeks out his exact look-alike after spotting him in a movie.


45. The Stanford Prison Experiment

In 1971, twenty-four male students are selected to take on randomly assigned roles of prisoners and guards in a mock prison situated in the basement of the Stanford psychology building.


46. The Invisible Man

When Cecilia’s abusive ex takes his own life and leaves her his fortune, she suspects his death was a hoax. As a series of coincidences turn lethal, Cecilia works to prove that she is being hunted by someone nobody can see.


47. Tenet

Armed with only one word, Tenet, and fighting for the survival of the entire world, a Protagonist journeys through a twilight world of international espionage on a mission that will unfold in something beyond real time.


48. Tumbbad

A mythological story about a goddess who created the entire universe. The plot revolves around the consequences when humans build a temple for her first-born.


49. Get Out

A young African-American visits his white girlfriend’s parents for the weekend, where his simmering uneasiness about their reception of him eventually reaches a boiling point.


50. The Babadook

A single mother and her child fall into a deep well of paranoia when an eerie children’s book titled “Mister Babadook” manifests in their home.


51. The Man from Earth

An impromptu goodbye party for Professor John Oldman becomes a mysterious interrogation after the retiring scholar reveals to his colleagues he has a longer and stranger past than they can imagine.

The entire film is shot in just one room, and is the most cerebral, intellectually challenging masterpiece of the decade.


52. Crimes of the Future

This is an extremely weird & uncomfortable watch.

It’s not so much on the “jump scare” side as it is on visceral & bodily horror imagery. If you like stories with gore & offbeat plots, it’s a lovely thriller, provided you can handle all the blood & surgery.

As the human species adapts to a synthetic environment in the future, many bodies are undergoing new transformations & mutations.

Accompanied by his partner, celebrity performance artist Saul Tenser showcases the metamorphosis of his organs in a series of theater-like performance surgeries.

Meanwhile, a mysterious group tries to use Saul’s notoriety to shed light on the next phase of human evolution.


53. Eternal Sunshine

This isn’t a thriller, but its certainly riveting & sci-fi enough to be classified as a film that’s both psychologically & philosophically challenging.

Joel and Clementine begin a relationship after a train journey together. However, having had their memories clinically erased, they do not remember their tumultuous past.


54. Dark (3 Seasons)

I know we’re only talking movies, but this Netflix thriller series is good enough to break the rules. It’s a mind-bending spiral that only some people will get in their first viewing.

The story, spread across three inter-connected timelines, makes use of time travel like no other work of fiction ever has. It’s an unbeatable masterpiece that’ll leave you gasping until the very end.


That’s all, Folks!

That brings us to the end of our list. Which titles did you enjoy the most? Did I miss any quality ones? Let me know in the comments below!

Happy binging!

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Top Hot Job Board Websites You Can Use To Get Hired in 2022

Reading Time: 2 mins.


The COVID-19 pandemic has ruptured the global market, forcing many of us to head out on unanticipated, unplanned job hunts in a bid to survive. So I’ve compiled a clickable country-wise list of the best 50 job portals from around the world.

I hope it helps you discover more opportunities & speeds up your search in these desperate times. If you do find value here, share it ahead to help your family & friends.

Click here for the PDF or preview the Google Sheet below. All the very best!

How To Create a Brief For Your Social Media Projects

Reading Time: 3 mins.


Ask any social media manager what’s the most difficult part of their job, and they’ll probably say it’s understanding what’s in the client’s (or their boss’) head.

As someone who has worked in the field for 5 years, I know for a fact that creating good content is only half the battle. You also need to be able to manage the expectations and needs of those who approve the post.

This can seem impossible, given the countless revisions our supervisors or business partners ask for. It often feels like they don’t even know what they want.

But the confusion can be reduced largely by demanding a brief, which the requester of your post/content must fill before assigning the project to you.

Having a brief in your docket is great because:

  • It can help you identify exactly what the client/requester wants in one go rather than chasing them for weeks
  • It serves as proof of the request (in case they claim they never wanted it like this – this happens a lot in agencies!)
  • It makes our job as content creators a lot easier by organizing all the necessary information & resources in one place
  • It serves as a good reference for future projects

Agree with me? Well then, here’s a template to get you started on your next project. Download the G-Sheet here, or preview it below.

I’ve also included examples & reasoning to help you understand why asking that particular question is important.

Did I miss any crucial points? Have you always been using this type of documents? Let me know about your opinions & experiences in the comments! I’m excited to hear your take on this!

Thank you & all the best.

Are You Making These 7 Career-Killing LinkedIn Mistakes?

Reading Time: 11 mins.


COVID-19 has made ‘working from home’ the new normal. So we’re naturally spending more time on social media to satisfy the need for human connection. We might read the news, watch tutorials to skill up, or just purr along with cat videos … here’s a cool one! 👇

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Add to this the global wave of lay-offs, which has left many of us scrambling for new jobs, and it’s no wonder that LinkedIn is reporting record-high traffic during the lockdown. This platform has become a “pandemic sweet spot” to hang out on because it acts both as a professional interaction forum as well as a job-hunting portal.

That is why having a good online presence here is crucial for all of us. So here are seven rookie mistakes to avoid on LinkedIn – if you’re serious about getting noticed and hired in the industry!

The 7 LinkedIn Sins

  1. No custom URL
  2. The tagline isn’t keyworded
  3. A boring “About”
  4. No engagement with others
  5. No recommendations
  6. Generic DP & cover
  7. No documents

1. No Custom URL

LinkedIn will assign you generic URL, which will probably look messy: linkedin/in/manikrege-49541323.

But a custom URL looks neater and more professional. It’s also easier to remember or share. So keep it as simple as you would your username on any other site. Here’s how to claim yours on LinkedIn:

  • Go to the right sidebar on your profile
  • Click on “Edit public profile & URL”
  • Change the URL to this format: “name-surname”

The result should look something like: linkedin.com/in/manik-rege.


2. Tagline isn’t Keyworded

When recruiters search for new hires, LinkedIn sorts profiles according to your tagline/title (which appears below your name). So if you want to appear in more searches, you need to fill up this block with keywords that people look for.

Here are some taglines to avoid:

Sr. TaglineWhy avoid?
1Unemployed I Seeking Opportunity ImmediatelyThis is desperate & makes you vulnerable to low offers.
2Fresh Media Graduate from Random UniversityNobody wants freshies, unless you’re from Harvard or MIT.
3Motivated Hustler I Go Chase Your Dreams! Live life large!This is a tagline, not a TED Talk. Kindly preach elsewhere.

Instead, here are some keyword-friendly formats:

Sr. TaglineWhy use it?
1Social Media Strategist (Digital Marketing)Choose job titles that an HR person is likely to search. Clarify your niche.
2Design Specialist I Creative Intern, Amazon I Ex-GooglerShow off brand names to catch the viewer’s attention.

3. Boring “About”

Your summary is the first section any recruiter will read. If it’s not attractive and unique enough, they might not even bother to see all the great experiences or degrees you’ve collected.

Unfortunately, many of the “About” sections I see are riddled with cliche and vague descriptions like:

❌ Motivated & results-oriented hustler who wants to learn new things

❌ People-friendly person with demonstrated exp. in managing people.

❌ I am a programmer. But in my free time I love to read Stephen King.

Such descriptions are “me-oriented,” and carry no relevance or value for a stranger. Instead, your summary should answer these crucial questions to grab the recruiter’s attention and make them consider you as a strong candidate.

Divide it into 4 paragraphs:

Sr. FocusExample
1What’s your core expertise?
What makes you attractive?
A content-focused digital
marketer with experience
managing social media for
international fintech startups.
2What did you achieve at work
or university? Use numbers,
stats & cold facts only.
For XYZ.com, increased sales
by 22% via FB in 3
months. Graduated from ABC Uni
with a 3.58/4 GPA.
3What exciting & valuable skills
can you offer a company?
Offers a multi-faceted skillset
in design, copywriting & social
performance.
4What are you looking for,
if anything, when & where?
How to get in touch?
Open for full-time Jr. exec
positions in Singapore from Aug.
Mail me: xyz@gmail.com.

Remember, your job application is not simply about what you can do, it’s about what you can do that a company really needs. So you should focus on selling yourself as the solution to common problems. Ask yourself, “What difference can I make here?


4. No engagement

Recruiters check your previous activity so make sure you are having productive and positive conversations with other users. A profile with little to no activity might come off as dead or fishy.

When you’re commenting on posts, or sharing links/thoughts, try to avoid:

❌ Bitching about your company, boss, or colleagues

❌ Being rude, offensive, or controversial

❌ Sharing personal updates which might not be appropriate here

❌ Plagiarizing someone else’s work (always give credits)

Instead, try to follow these community guidelines:

✔ Show appreciation for others’ achievements

✔ Provide actionable & constructive feedback

✔ Support local artists & entrepreneurs by sharing their posts

✔ Acknowledge those who supported you in a project / milestone


5. No recommends

Would you go see a movie which nobody has seen or reviewed? The chances are very low. Just as we prefer to check for public approval before buying the ticket, recruiters like to see testimonials from colleagues who can back you up.

So get 3 folks to root for you by endorsing skills and writing a quick recommendation. They can be your seniors, clients, or even classmates.

Remember, there’s no need to feel shy or ashamed when you’re asking for well-deserved appreciation. That being said, it’s helpful to give your referees a guideline on what to write.

Here’s a standard format of 4 paragraphs:

Sr.FocusExample
1Details of relationshipI managed Rohan when he
joined XYZ as a social media
intern in Dec 2018 for 3 mos.
2Core strengths & qualitiesRight from the beginning,
he showed a very organized
& systematic approach to
creating content for our brand.
3Specific achievements & projectsBecause of him, we developed
a monthly content calendar
that has made the process easy
& fast for all teams involved.
4Statement of confidenceI’m sure that he’ll be a valuable
strategic thinker & asset to
any company he joins. Thus,
I recommend him strongly.


6. Generic DP & Cover

Since LinkedIn is a professional platform, your display picture must have an appropriate vibe. Headshots in formal attire are best but if you don’t have one on file, just ensure your face is clearly visible without unnecessary distractions.

Conversely, try to stay away from:

❌ Travel photos with glares and hats

❌ Poorly scanned passport copies

❌ Group pictures (avoid this on Tinder also because I don’t want to guess)

❌ Selfies

Another image most rookies overlook is the cover banner. The generic blue one shows lack of effort and detail.

So get an HD banner that suits your industry and theme. Here are some cool websites to source a ready-made photo:

Or if you’re into icon-based graphics, you could just make a custom “1584 x 396 px” banner in Canva.


7. No Files

Having your official documents next to the relevant section makes the recruiter’s task much easier because they no longer have to chase you around. This will ultimately speed up your chances of getting called in for the interview.

So try to upload these files wherever possible:

Sr.FilesWhere?
1CV
Portfolio
Featured (below summary)
2Recommendation Letter
Work samples
Below the relevant experience
3MarksheetBelow the relevant education
4CertificateDrive it & share link in certs section


In summary, here are some pointers for making sure your personal brand on LinkedIn is in top shape:

  1. Have a custom URL
  2. Fill your tagline with keywords
  3. Make your “About” relevant to recruiters
  4. Engage in productive & positive conversations
  5. Get 3-5 endorsements & recommendations
  6. Have a professional DP & a unique cover image
  7. Upload relevant files to make the recruiter’s job easier

That ends today’s walk-through on polishing up LinkedIn profiles. Is there anything I missed? If you have more cool tips that might help others grow their digital presence, do share your thoughts in the comments! 👇

Thank you so much for reading, and I wish you all the best!

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