Nikhil Jois

Experiments, Learnings and Inspiration

Category: Self improvement

Practical tips on new habits, new year resolutions, and behaviours

As someone who was born in January, I have a unique advantage. I get to renegotiate my New Year’s Resolutions with myself in case I fall off the wagon before my birthday (which happens to be the 22nd day of the month). Most people mess up way before that and I did too for a very long time.


Another popular trend is to look down upon people who even have new year’s resolutions. I have no respect for those haters either. Everybody deserves a chance to start afresh and make promises to themselves. Some of us do it on Monday mornings. Some on our birthdays. Some on an arbitrarily chosen day of a badly-designed Calendar. To each their own. My goal here is not to argue with the concept of resolutions but to help you form new, good habits and get rid of old ones.


Aristotle is believed to have said Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.


We are what we repeatedly do. Let that sink in.


How to frame resolutions


First, let’s talk about framing resolutions the right way. A post I read a long time ago by Scott Adams the creator of Dilbert has had a profound impact on how I think about this subject. Scott talks about the superiority of systems over goals.


I don’t want to delve into jargon and confuse you or myself. Let’s take an example both of us understand well. Weight loss.


Here’s how a goal would look – I will lose 9 kgs of fat by December 25th 2018 by eating healthy and going to the gym 5 days a week.


Here’s how a system would look – From this day onwards:


I will eat only when I am hungry

I will stop eating before I feel full

I will eat mostly plant-based food

I will not consume anything with added sugar

I will drink a liter of water every day upon waking up

I will take the stairs when I have the time and option

I will move my body every day at a level that feels comfortable


Which of the two approaches do you think will work? A systems approach is a codified set of rules that you will start following without having to exert your willpower at all. To give you another personal example, I’d bring up a stoic principle that plays the role of a system in my life.


Every occurrence or event can be divided into two categories. Ones that I have control over and ones that I don’t. I only worry about the things I have control over. The stuff I have no control over doesn’t affect me or my sleep schedule.


Self image and identity


The next important part of this equation is self image.


“The part of you that knows is not the part that controls your behaviour. Long term habit change is never the result of a strong willpower. Long term results are always, always equal to your self image. ” – Bob Proctor


Your self image is what you think of yourself as. Do you think of yourself as rich? Do you think of yourself as fit? If you close your eyes, do you see a version of yourself who has flab around the waistline or a version with a flat tummy or maybe even well-defined abs?


Here’s how this bit ties into the equation. If your self-image is a weak one, your mind convinces you to revert to whatever your self image is irrespective of how much progress you make towards your goal image.


Let me simplify this by giving you a personal example. The first time I began to get into the “fitness lifestyle” I was not at my most confident self. My self image was that of a weak, fat, broke-ass individual. Let’s stick to the fitness bit – because I thought of myself as a weak and slightly chubby person in my head, my mind started freaking out when I started leaning down. When I went down from 86 kilograms to 74 kilograms, my mind decided that I was headed in the wrong direction. If I slimmed down further, my self image would not match with reality. So, it started speaking to me via the “voice of reason” – “You’re losing muscle mass as well. Start eating more” “You will look super skinny. Is this what you want? Don’t you want to look fit and healthy? Eat that pizza” “What’s the point of working out if you won’t go out and meet friends? Go have those beers.”


I caved in and went back up to 78 kilos. Flabby and further away from my goal physique. Why? Because my self image did not match my ideal image. This and the fact that I didn’t have a system to fall back on without having to think or exert my willpower led to my failure.


The self image bit about habits can also be simplified by making it a part of your identity. I was raised a vegetarian and always had that tag as part of my identity. Over the course of my life, I’ve been at hundreds of tables and events where meat was served. Did I partake? Nope. Why? Because being vegetarian is part of my identity. I don’t have to think about whether I want to consume meat. I already know that it doesn’t match my identity.


Want to eat healthier? Make ‘fitness enthusiast’ part of your identity and not just your Twitter bio. Once you tell enough people that you’re watching what you eat or that your identity is that of a “gym rat” – things just fall in place and become easier.


Mini habits


Develop mini habits and pair them with the right triggers. One of the biggest mistakes one can make while trying to change habits or lifestyles can be trying to do too much at once. You’ve been a couch potato all your life and now, suddenly you want to start going to the gym 7 days a week starting on January 1st? How long do you think that is going to last?


A more balanced approach is to look for mini habits that are tied to the right anchors. For example, make it a habit to do 3 body-weight squats immediately after you take a leak. Most individuals pee 7 to 10 times a day. Imagine what 21-30 body-weight squats every day will do to your body. There’s an avalanche effect. You don’t have to keep reminders to do this. Your body has to excrete water and toxins. You’ll start eating healthier just so that these squats become easier.


Pick mini habits that help you get past the fear of starting something new. A good trick is to tie the new habit to an existing habit that you take for granted.


My personal list of habits and systems


I try to follow most of these on a daily basis. How good my day is depends on how many of these I am able to check off the list.


  1. A bottle of water as soon as I brush my teeth in the morning – This one is pretty self-explanatory. I need to flush out a bunch of toxins accumulated overnight. Hydrations helps me think better and stay healthier.
  2. No smartphone allowed while in the loo or at the dining table – Super hard to follow, but the impact is huge. While on the pot, it is very easy to get lost in a rabbit hole. The Internet is filled with temptation and our brains are always hungry for dopamine hits. Be it scrolling down your Twitter or Instagram feed or watching high definition pornography, these are habits that alter the very nature of how your brain works. My attention span is very dear to me and I have no intention of losing it over trivial things. At the dining table, I want to respectful of my family and friends. If I’m talking to you while eating, I want to be able to give you and the the food as much attention as need be.
  3. Mindfulness  – I considered writing ‘meditation’ instead but that wouldn’t be accurate. Meditation is one form of mindfulness training that has helped me and millions of others but that is not the only way. Mindfulness is the practise of being present and being aware. Are you dining? Good. Be aware of what you are putting into your body. Mindfulness is the opposite of being intoxicated. When you’re high or drunk you have no filters. You say what you feel like saying. You do what you feel like doing. You eat whatever is placed in front of you. Practise being the opposite of a drunk person and you’ll become healthier, wealthier, and wiser. I’d highly recommend starting with an app for guided meditation. Anywhere between 5 to 20 minutes a day would be a great start.
  4. Sleep schedule – I attempt to get 8 full hours of sleep a day. Ideally, I’d want to get this at one shot during the night, but I am reading up on the benefits of an afternoon nap and quite frankly, I enjoy them. So I try to incorporate an hour or so when I can. Sleep is never a waste of time if you’re truly getting rest. I keep my phone outside my bedroom or put it in airplane mode while going to bed in case I want to listen to a podcast or meditate.
  5. No social media apps on my phone – This one’s self-explanatory. I must admit that I have an app that helps me publish to multiple social networking sites at once. I do not have any way of accessing my newsfeed/timelines though. No Snapchat, No Instagram, No Twitter, and certainly No Facebook. I also turn off notifications on most apps.
  6. Reward systems and Pomodoro – I know that I have limited willpower and an attention span that is even worse. So I create systems that let me reward myself. I also use a modified Pomodoro technique. A pomodoro system is one where you work for 25 minutes straight and take a 5 minute break. I can’t manage 25 minutes, so I do a 10-3 split. Works beautifully. That’s how I managed to write this super long post.
  7. Predominantly plant-based diet – This is anecdotal in my case but there seems to be a bunch of research as well that shows that a plant-based diet helps with general wellbeing – both mental and physical.
  8. Exercise – I move my body every day. This can be as simple as going for a walk. On the good days, this means lifting heavy weights at the gym. The endorphins and the fitness are rewards by themselves.
  9. What would my future self think of this? – This is a question I’ve learned to ask myself a lot. When you watch or read interviews of successful people, they’re often asked “What advice would you give your 21-year-old self?” or some variant of that question. I like to flip that question around. What would an 80-year-old Nikhil think of or say if he saw what I am about to do? Would he approve of the time I am about to waste by watching cat videos? Would he say “Please go ahead and outrage on Twitter more – it’s helping my health” ? My future self wants me to do things today that will make him healthier, wealthier, and wiser. That’s a true north that helps me adhere to good habits today.
  10. Love and forgive yourself – One of the most important lessons I’ve learned is the importance of self love. The world cannot love you if you do not love yourself. There will be errors and you will make mistakes. Do not stop loving yourself. Forgive yourself. Talk to yourself like you would talk to your best friend. We are all broken in different ways and perfect in so many more ways. Nobody has it all figured out and we’re always learning. Encouragement works better than criticism.


I hope these musings have helped you in one way or another. If you have a family member or friend who may benefit from reading this, please be sure to pass the lessons on. Like Derek Sivers says “If more information was the answer, we’d all be billionaires with perfect abs.”


Very often we already know what to do, but we need some motivation to help us get there. I hope this post serves as a nudge towards the right direction. I’m always a ping away if you need any help. If you like the content or my style of writing, you might enjoy ‘Jois of Life’ – my weekly email that contains reading recommendations, podcast suggestions, and commentary on topics such as productivity, leadership, and storytelling. 



A guide to effective networking

As someone who has founded a company with the word ‘event’ in it, I get invited to my share of tech and startup events as well as conferences. Over the years, I’ve learned to reject some of the invitations and accept only a few. That’s a topic for another day though.

In this post, I want to talk about how you can make the most of any gathering. I am not a fan of the verb ‘networking’ and prefer to think of it as ‘connecting’ but feel free to use any term that works for you. Several of us, including myself, think of ‘networking’ as a dirty word thanks to ineffective salespeople and mindless conversationalists.  This guide is not for the average attendee. If you are a leader or aspire to be one some day this is for you. You already know how precious your time and mind space are. I wrote this guide to remind myself of the handful of tips and tricks that have worked for my over the years. 

Since you’ve already clicked on the title and landed on the page, I don’t have to tell you about the benefits of attending meetings, parties, events, and gatherings. However, since I am a kind-hearted person I will do so anyway.

Attending events or conferences  is a great way to broaden your perspective on topics you may deem familiar to you, while learning about topics you’d never imagined to appeal to you. It is also a great way to meet new people and add value to an ecosystem or two. 

Below are seven of the most effective habits and tricks that have helped me make the most of my time at events. I hope this helps you up your game.

  1. Do your homework

    I’m appalled by the number of people I meet at conferences or events who haven’t conducted some basic research about the event. If you’re going to be spending time commuting to an event and meeting people there, please invest at least an hour on some background homework. Find out who the speakers or panelists are.  Learn more about their companies or organisations and their past. Basically, check to see if you have mutual connections or friends. I know that this may seem like common sense to you, but it is surprisingly rare to meet people who have done their homework.

  2. Befriend the organisers

    Your homework and research must not be limited to the speakers and panelists. The real heroes of the event are the organisers themselves.  These folks usually toil hard for several weeks and interact very closely with the speakers, panelists, and guests who make it to the event. I’ve often seen people rush towards the speakers after a panel or event reaches it end while completely ignoring the organiser or moderator who is usually standing right there. A trick that has worked for me is to walk up to a friendly-looking volunteer, introduce myself to her and ask her if there’s anyone from the panel or guest list she thinks I ought to meet. Works like a charm every time. Another key reason to befriend the volunteers – they’ll host an event again some day. Don’t  you want a heads up and an invite?

  3. Volunteer help

    Planning and executing any event is a Herculean task. Even the most veteran event organisers won’t deny that.  The world-famous author and angel investor Tim Ferriss started off his career as a nobody. In his early 20s nobody knew his name and he knew very few people. Tim went on to build his now-limitless network by volunteering at the local TiE  chapter. By volunteering for a non-profit organisation that invited the best investors and founders within his ecosystem, Tim befriended stalwarts he wouldn’t have been able to reach out to on his own.  Similarly, my co-founders and I followed this approach when we started up a few years ago. The organisations of our choice were TiE and NASSCOM. If you’re serious about growing your network, discard any inkling of ego you may have and volunteer your services in exchange for entry and a chance to interact with the guests up, close, and personal. I’ve handled social media for events. We’ve served water and tea to the VIPs at an event.  I’ve also offered to be the emcee/anchor at an event for free several times.

  4. Find yourself a partner

    I like to treat events and conferences like video games.  However, I don’t like to play single-player games. Team up with a friend, co-founder, or new friend and split up or treat each other as wing(wo)men. If you’re shy, moving around in a group makes it easier to approach new people. However, if you aren’t the shy types, you can cover more ground and exchange notes. If you haven’t collected business cards, make sure you have a note-taking app open and make notes about the most interesting people you meet. Your brain is amazing at coming up with ideas.  Unfortunately, it sucks at keeping those ideas there for a long time. Make notes and exchange them with your partner.

  5. Stand out

    At most conferences and events, diversity (or lack thereof) is a huge issue. Like it or not, the likelihood of everyone else looking and sounding like you is very high. Learn to stand out via your behaviour and body language.  Be confident, dress sharply, maintain eye contact, and speak clearly. Merely being the best version of yourself can help you stand out because most people tend to live life on a low-energy mode. You must be unapologetic about being excited to be at the event.  Most importantly, be a keen listener. It’s crazy how many of us can get lost in conversations where we keep talking and selling ourselves. Engage in conversations where you are an active listener as well and people will love you for it.

  6. Go prepared 

    Apart from the basic homework and research I mentioned previously, make sure you go prepared for other situations as well. For example, please carry enough business cards if you’re going to be meeting a lot of people. I know that this sounds pointless, but a future point will help you understand why. Also, if you’re planning on live-tweeting or posting pictures or videos on social media, carry a portable battery pack.  Lastly, if the venue is not a hotel, resort, or office, carry enough water and maybe some snacks.

  7. Follow up

    Remember those cards you collected and the notes you made? Time to put them to use. Sit down with the stack and shoot a simple email to the most interesting people you met. A simple and effective email contains three parts – a reminder of who you are and where you met (context), a value-add or offer to help/ request to stay in touch, and a call to action.  Here’s a sample:

Hi, Tejovanth,

I’m so glad I got to meet you at the founders-who-look-like-Greek-Gods meet up last evening. My friend and I thoroughly enjoyed hearing you narrate the story of your event-planning startup.

I’d love to stay in touch and occasionally shoot you an email or two in case I need help with tech-related problems. Feel free to reach out to me in case you want to discuss any marketing or sales-related experiments.


Nikhil Jois

P.S: I write a weekly email to a bunch of friends about habits, productivity, leadership, and more. It also contains links to articles, podcasts, books, and videos I enjoyed learning from. If you’d like to be on this exclusive list, let me know or sign up here.


Bonus tip – Add value

The key to maintaining your friendships is by constantly adding value in any way you can. We live in a pay-it-forward world where you can almost never repay those who help you in a direct manner. However, you can help retain karmic balance in the world by helping others out when they need your time, resources, or expertise.

In my quest to make the world a better place, I try to add value by sharing my weekly learnings with a bunch of friends who aspire to be a better version of themselves. Most of the people who read my weekly emails are those who love to lead from the front and upgrade their skill set every day in order to set a better example to those that surround them. If that sounds like you, sign up here and you’ll receive the next email I send out.


Why I write and 7 benefits that will convince you to too

On most days, the first piece of information I consume upon waking up is via the written word. Now, on some days this is via a text message, some days it is via a newspaper headline, and on the bad days – it is via a Twitter notification. My point is, that we are all large-scale consumers of information on a daily basis.

Yet, so few of us write. Especially in a country like India where most of us are trained stenographers thanks to our schooling system. I, for one, have been writing for a very long time now.  Some of it, publicly and most of it privately.  I know that I am not very good at it, but I continue to write because of the sheer number of benefits it brings along.

I also know that some of the more-sophisticated readers amongst you dislike listicles, but this is the point where I break into that format. It helps simplify the subject and brings structure to the post. Here are the seven biggest benefits to writing (especially in the form of blogs):

Helps you create a better personal brand

Blogging or writing can help you create and maintain a personal brand.  In a world where Garyvee and Tim Ferriss thrive, a personal brand can go a long way. You’d be surprised at the number of old friends I get back in touch with who start conversations with “Long time no see, but I always read what you write and post.” The fact that they read these posts makes them feel and know that they still know and understand who I am. Your personal brand is what people think of when they first hear your name. Writing allows you more control over that narrative than most other things do.

 Helps you become a better communicator

The ability to communicate effectively is one of the most sought-after skills and has been for a while. People who can convey ideas, rally people, tell stories, and connect with others have an edge over the others. Writing helps you become a better storyteller. I once asked a bunch of people on Twitter what a must-have trait was for a leader. The opninions all revolved around communication skills.

 Helps you inculcate discipline

As someone who used to wear the ability to “multitask” as a badge of honour, I know how effective disciplined, uninterrupted, deep work can be. The practice of writing helps me stay away from distractions. This is an act that requires focus and my undivided attention. It also teaches one to think before committing to an opinion.

Helps you become more interesting

I still remember high school. Slam books were part of the farewell ritual at every stage of school. There was always a question about one’s hobbies there if I remember correctly. The answers to that question would embarrass most of us if we read them today. Writing is a great hobby.  Once you run out of things to write about, you have to learn some more and that very process keeps you on your toes. I’m yet to meet an individual who can write well but isn’t interesting. Then again, I try to avoid meeting boring people.

Helps you achieve catharsis

A lot of writers compare writing to therapy. The beauty of sitting down and pouring your emotions onto paper or… you know, a keyboard can only be appreciated by those who’ve done it.  If you’ve come across advice that revolves around maintaining a diary or journal, this is exactly why. Writing is a way to escape from reality. A way to trap your inner demons on paper. A way to yell into a pillow without waking up the neighbours.

Opens new doors

It is fascinating how many good things can happen via writing. Some of the most meaningful relationships and friendships I’ve enjoyed and continue to enjoy began thanks to writing. My best mentors agreed to teach me only because I wrote to them. I’ve been invited to dinners, sports matches, and vacations thanks to writing. I’ve gotten chances to speak at organisations I’d only dreamt of entering thanks to the fact that I wrote. One time, I even got to travel to an island nation in Africa with a bunch of models thanks to my writing. True story. Writing leads to opportunities and opens doors.

Helps you be useful at scale

This is probably the most important reason behind why I write. I treat this blog as my personal FAQ section. As a student of life, I attempt to become a better version of myself on a daily basis. One of the approaches that helps me do this requires that I find mentors, peers, as well as students. By writing and keeping a copy of writing accessible via a book or blog, I find it easy to redirect people to my writing instead of risking repeating myself and sounding boring. If someone asks me what my thoughts are on the benefits of writing, I’ll redirect them to this blog post

The best part? It is never too late to start writing. We live in a world where it is so easy to get started. The number of tools and platforms we have at our disposal would have made some of our idols swoon. I’m sure Ernest Hemingway would have gone bonkers had he known that such a time would come to exist. We live in a world where one doesn’t have to pay to get started. You just have to decide to start.

I also write a weekly email on Saturdays. The email usually contains a small list of things I learnt that week and the sources. It can range from book recommendations to podcast recommendations. I also include quotes I find interesting and a story or two. Does that sound like something you’d enjoy? Sign up below:

The ‘plus, minus and equal’ of learning

All of us are always trying to become better versions of ourselves. If you clicked a link and landed on this post, you did so hoping that you learn something new.

The concept I am about to introduce you to certainly isn’t something I came up with. A legendary MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) fighter and coach – Frank Shamrock – coined this particular way of naming the framework.

As is evident by now, there are three parts to this equation.

  1. The Plus – ‘The plus’ is someone who is better than you at whatever you’re trying to get good at right now.
  2. The Minus – ‘The minus’ is someone who you’re currently better than at whatever you’re trying to get good at.
  3. The Equal – No prizes for guessing. ‘The equal’ is someone who is currently as good as you are at whatever you’re trying to get good at.

The Plus

You need ‘The plus’ because you need inspiration. The role of mentors can never be understated. Learning from someone who has been on the journey can certainly be helpful. Mentors can teach us what to do and how to do those things, but more importantly they can teach us what not to do. A personal hero of mine, Bob Proctor, defines mentors thus “A mentor is someone who sees more talent and ability within you, than you see in yourself, and helps bring it out of you.

The Minus

You need ‘The minus’ because we live in a world that pays it forward. As the great Peter Drucker put it succinctly “No one learns as much about a subject as one who is forced to teach it.” The best teachers end up learning as much or more from the process and their students.  As someone who has dabbled with teaching as well as learning, I can vouch for this. Some of my best sources of inspiration have been my students.

The Equal

You need ‘The equal’ because our peers often bring out the best in us. If you’re competitive, you already know this very well. If you’re not competitive, become competitive. That’s how you start winning. However, being competitive is not the only reason to look for a peer. A peer can help you set benchmarks and measure your growth. So, think of a peer as a person who accompanies you to the gym or a sparring partner and not necessarily the neighbourhood bully who wants to beat you up.  Whatever works best for you.


By the way, I’m planning a weekly newsletter. The frequency is tentative and may change depending on feedback.  For now, It’ll have content related to my writing, podcast links , quotes, relevant book recommendations and maybe a YouTube video or two that caught my eye. Interested?  Sign up below.




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