Project Thirty, Hippies and Capitalism

After getting out of Goldman Sachs (phew, now that I’m out, I can “out” myself. Was majorly stifling working for a company that stressed so much on “reputation” and stuff) two months back, I’ve put myself on a fourteen month long scholarship which I’ve titled as “Project Thirty”. As the title suggests, this scholarship will last till the day I turn thirty, which is in a little more than a year. There is no fixed amount of scholarship, but the funds are to be drawn out of the considerable savings I made having been a fat cat banker for a little over two years.

During the period of the scholarship, I’m forbidden to take up full-time employment. I am, however, permitted to pursue other money-making opportunities (as long as they don’t end up in my taking up a full time job). I’m setting myself up as a freelance quant consultant (right now the biggest pain point is it’s tough to explain to people what exactly I can do for them), and if things go well, that should provide some good supplementary income. However, the intention of this break is not to just take a shot at entrepreneurship, or explore non-linear opportunities for making money. It is fundamentally to do all those things that I’ve always wanted to do but never got down to doing during the first ninety percent of my twenties.

The Eureka moment happened some three-four months back, when I was reading some article on the internet about life expectancy. It was around the same time that I read the famous Steve Jobs speech, and I started thinking about what I’ve achieved in life so far. IIT, check. IIM, check. Brand name employers, check. Beautiful and intelligent wife, check. Some sort of local fame, check. I would be lying if I were to complain that I haven’t had a good life. However, several gaps remain. Found my calling in life, no. Stuck around in a steady job for an extended period of time, no. Made lots of money, not really. Traveled the world, not really. Wrote a book, no. Played for a band, no. And so it goes on.

It was around that time that I realized that it is not so bad to have regrets in life when you are twenty nine (which I’ll be next week). Thirty is still not too old, and you are still reasonably fit, and able to do all those things you’ve already wanted to do. What is not okay is to have regrets in life when you are fifty, or sixty. There is only so much of life ahead of you to make amends, and it could already be too late to do some of those things that you’ve always wanted to do but never gotten down to doing.

Project Thirty is the result a culmination of a lot of things. These thoughts. The fact that I’ve never really been happy in any of the high-paying high-pressure jobs I’ve been through. Stress. That though I’ve been married for a year now (today’s my anniversary), we still don’t plan to “start a family” for a while which gives leeway in terms of finances. That I haven’t yet really “found myself” and need to make an effort to do so.

So far, though, two months on, it has had mixed results. On the minus side (let’s quickly put that away) there’s been a lot of NED. I think I end up wasting too much time doing nothing (ok I’m not sure I should call that a “waste” but still I don’t feel good at the end of it). Then, a lot of writing which I want to get published in the mainstream media is lying on the hard disk of my desktop, as I haven’t really mustered the confidence to reach out to editors and send these out. I’ve identified one client for my quant consulting shop, but again haven’t been confident enough to approach them.

On the plus side, though, I have got a lot of writing done. I have started learning to play the violin again, this time in Western Classical style, and so far I’ve been really enjoying it. I’m associated with a public policy think tank and am doing some work for it. I gave (what I think is  ) a rather well-received speech on auto rickshaw economics. For the first time in my life I set a quiz which didn’t receive much flak. Watched cricket and football. Traveled a bit (a week in Turkey). And overall I’ve had a lot of peace of mind.

So what are the hippies and capitalism doing in the title of this post? Essentially given my current situation I don’ get why hippies are anti-capitalist. Because capitalism is precisely the reason I’m able to afford a sort of “hippie life” (using Aadisht’s definition) currently. Had I been living in a communist country, under the “from each according to his abilities” paradigm, I wouldn’t have been allowed to take this time off!