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2016 Kicked My Ass – 23 Things I Learned

DISCLAIMER: This post is really fucking explicit, but very fucking real. I’m not apologizing for it, just warning you.

2016.

What a fucking year. The worst of the worst happened. Not only did I get blindsided but I continuously got my ass kicked over and over again. I got my ego smashed, my heart torn (twice), my dreams shattered, and my kindness abused. I was constantly in a state of depression, paranoia and fear all at the same damn time. I lost two best friends (not tragically), almost my company and at times even myself. I didn’t just fall off the horse. I fell off the horse with one foot tied to the saddle while that asshole dragged all the way through the desert until it finally stopped only to take a shit on me. I was on the verge of giving up multiple times, ready to call it quits and re-evaluate my life because I didn’t know if any of this was worth it anymore. There was so much bullshit this year that my soul dealt with that a normal 27 year old doesn’t go through.

And no one had the slightest idea.

Why?

Because I don’t need them to think that even though I’m getting my ass handed to me that I am weak by any means. That just because I keep getting knocked off the horse that it means I’ll stay down. That I need their comfort or pity to help me find a way out. I don’t need any of that shit.

Instead of complaining about my issues when life was continuously slinging shit at my face, I took advantage of each issue as a learning opportunity. I took it as a chance to humble my inflated ego. I took it as a way to realize that I don’t know what I don’t know. I took it as a way to prove myself that I will not be fucking defeated even if there seems to be no way out of the current situation I’m in. THERE IS ALWAYS A WAY. I repeat, THERE IS ALWAYS A FUCKING WAY. Fuck you 2016 for even thinking that you could throw everything but the kitchen sink at me and it will somehow keep me down.

Yeah you wounded me, you broke my bones, you broke my trust, you broke my heart and damaged my ego, but in no way did you keep me down. You only made me stronger. You only made me wiser. You only made my work better. You only made me realize my full potential.

As much as this year sucked ass, this was the single most important year of my life because of the experiences I gained and what I learned. I am fortunate enough to be learning at an accelerated rate that no business school could ever give me. I have grown personally and professionally to a level that I didn’t ask to be at in my late 20’s but am thankful for because I have come out on top as a stronger leader. 2016 was much needed, much appreciated and now much ready to be over with.

I realize, although sometimes forget, that I’m in a unique position being an entrepreneur and an investor. There is so much information that’s coming at me on a daily basis that it’s hard to consume all of it. But there are so many important things I’ve learned that I want to share with you in hopes that you’ll find 1 or 2 things useful as you begin or go through your journey no matter where or what it may be. These lessons are not just lessons about business, but many are lessons about life and the emotional aspect of it.

Here are some things I learned this year. Take them as you want and don’t ask me to clarify. I may be ambiguous at times but that is completely intentional.

 

  1. Starting a company with your best friend or family.

If you’re going to do this, first and foremost you need to be prepared and accept the fact that the probability of you losing your relationship with the other person is very high. And when that happens, the companies’ wellbeing needs to be put before both of the founders. No matter how strong your relationship is and how much “respect” you think there is for one another, this is something that can cripple a company because of the emotional ties that the founders have to each other.

Secondly, I don’t care if it’s your brother that you trust with your wife and kids as your co-founder. You start a company with someone, you better have the right checks and balances on each other. Don’t run the company with blinders on thinking that you trust your partner so much that they’re making all the proper decisions and you don’t need to double check their work. You do. Hold them to their word. Constantly check the financials. Question them with every big decision their making to ensure that it’s in the best interest of the company and it’s future. And make sure that you both share administrator access to every major account that you open from banking account to Google Apps.

No best friends or family members go into business thinking some shit like this will happen. But it does and quite often. Be prepared for it or learn the hard and fucking depressing way like I did.

Shit happens though, you move on.

 

  1. That little voice

Listen to it. It’s usually fucking right even though you try your hardest to ignore it and make excuses for the truth that it keeps telling you. It’s your gut telling you what you already know but don’t want to confront. I’m not just talking about business; I’m also talking about your personal life. I want to go into further detail on this with anecdotal examples, but I shouldn’t. Just fucking listen to that voice.

 

  1. Depression, Sadness, Defeat

Feel it. It’s real. Don’t run away from it. Life isn’t filled with daisies and sunsets on the fucking beach. You want something that has some worth? Then you’ll occasionally go through moments of depression, sadness and defeat. Otherwise what’s the point of getting it if it were so fucking easy that anyone could have it? If someone tells you anything worth something is fucking easy you run away and don’t look back.

I was depressed again this summer. Most of you remember a post I did a few years ago on my depression and how I came out of it. Well it came back with all the pressure and unpredictable events that happened to me this year. I felt hopeless, weak and confused as to how these things were happening to me.

What did I do?

Because I’ve been through this before, I could quickly recognize that I was in this depressed state of mind again. Once I recognized it, I accepted it and began to feel the emotions. I sulked in bed, I listened to “808s and Heartbreak” on repeat along with “A Kid Named Cudi”, watched sad movies/documentaries and took long, hot showers that masked any possible tears I may have had but am way too proud to admit.

Only after I allowed myself to feel these emotions my inflated ego and unwillingness to let anything keep me down finally kicked back in. I again looked in the mirror and reminded myself who I was, how many people believe in me and the goals I have set for myself in life. There is an innate fire I have burning inside me that never lets me forget where I came from, where I am today and how much I still have left to accomplish. This fire is what saves me from being trapped in this state of mind. This fire is also constantly fed by my ego and the confidence I have in myself. However this fire was very, very low while I was in this state of mind.

After I let myself feel those emotions, this fire finally came back like a god damn pheonix and it came back with a fucking vengeance. I stopped feeling sorry for myself, changed my furniture around in my bedroom, got rid of things that were holding me back, accepted the harsh realities of the situation I was in, began finding solutions to all my problems and got back on the horse. And boy am I fucking back on the horse right now. I own this motherfucking horse and  that other one as well. I own two fucking horses. 🐴 🐴

  1. There is always a way

No, this is not the only option. There is always another option. There is always another way to figure out a solution to whatever situation you are facing. Don’t let anyone else or even yourself tell you that there is only one or two options. Don’t be fooled into thinking what others want you to think. I’ve seen the craziest and most creative solutions to problems that I wish I could share. But just trust me on this, THERE IS ALWAYS A WAY.

 

  1. Kindness =/ Weakness

I got abused this year because of the emotional attachment I had that wouldn’t let me see the reality of the situation and how they were emotionally blackmailing me or manipulating me. And even worse, how I was emotionally blackmailing and manipulating myself for them because of my love and respect for them.

Fuck that.

I’m a really nice fucking guy. But don’t you dare ever, ever mistaken my kindness for weakness no matter who you are to me.

 

  1. Kanye West = Rudy Karsan

If you listen to Kanye’s track “Ultralight Beam” there is a line from Chance The Rapper that states:

I met Kanye West, I’m never going to fail.”

My version is very similar, it goes like this:

“I met Rudy Karsan, I’m never going to fail.”

I can’t explain to you the amount of confidence, trust and wisdom this man instills to me on a daily basis. He’s taken me to another level. He’s opened my mind up to infinite possibilities. He’s taken me under his wing and is grooming me to become the leader and person that I know I can become. He’s the father I never had, the mentor that I never deserved and the business partner that I never imagined. He has my back and I have his, no matter what. If you fuck with Rudy, you fuck with me.

I met Rudy Karsan, I’m never going to fail.

Find your Rudy.

 

  1. Ego

Fuck you if you think having an ego is a bad thing. You think I could have survived this year without it? I’m my own best friend, biggest fan and harshest critic. My ego might be my downfall, but it’s also the reason I’m able to block off all you haters and focus on unlocking my true potential no matter how much I’m going through.

Use your ego the right way and it’ll get you through all the bullshit life has in store for you. Believe in yourself, especially early on when no one else believes in you. Confidence in yourself is more important than others confidence in you. Usually they go hand in hand anyway. NEVER let anything anyone else says or thinks about you affect the outcome of your life. Fuck those fakes.

But don’t let your ego blind you. Don’t become arrogant and ignorant. You’ll know if you get to that point and if you do, you’re using your ego the wrong way. Get your head out of your ass. You’re not as smart as you think you conceited little fuck.

 

  1. Intellect

It’s interesting how many people I’ve talked to think that they’re not as smart as me, or that I’m just a smart person because of the early achievements I’ve had.

You have got to be kidding me. I scored 1600-1700 out of 2400 on my SATs. I’m not fucking smart at all. Don’t brush off my achievements as being the byproduct of my intellect. I take offense to that. Not all smart people are successful.

I’m not smart. I just work my ass off and I never give up. I don’t get things right off the bat. I usually have to go over the same piece of information multiple times with different people until I finally understand it well enough to act on it. The difference is that I don’t stop until I understand it.

You’re smarter than I am, but I’ll be damned if you work harder than I do.

“If you think your IQ is 160 but it’s 150, you’re a disaster. It’s much better to have a 130 IQ and think it’s 120.” – Charlie Munger

 

  1. Celebrate

Celebrating your success is important, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise or make you feel conceited for doing so. You worked your ass off to achieve something and you’re too shy to post about it on FB/LinkedIN/Twitter/etc because people might think you’re gloating? Fuck those people. They aren’t the type that you need to surround yourself with anyway so defriend them. Fuck those fakes.

Celebrate that shit. You’d be surprised how many people you know and don’t know want to hear about your progress and want to help you in your journey. But if you don’t share your successes with them, how will they know? How will they help you?

Share it with the world and congratulate yourself. But make it short lived because you already have that bigger goal in place that you’re working towards which will be even better story.

 

  1. Color outside the lines

Those who break outside of the norm are usually the ones that leave a lasting impact in the world. Don’t confine yourself to a box, to coloring inside the lines. Break out and see the world from different viewpoints. Question everything, even the answers themselves that seem to be correct.

Most importantly, ask yourself and others a simple question.

“Why not?”

 

  1. People

Surround yourself with all-stars. I really mean that. Don’t surround yourself with bench players even if you are one. Chill with the starters and learn everything you can from them about their craft. The people I’ve surrounded myself around in the last few years are the reason I am where I am today. They’re way wiser than I am and everyday they teach me something new and push me to the next level.

This is a big shout out to my family, friends, Karlani team, BTM team and those who are more so acquaintances but happen to bring positivity, wisdom and motivation every time we interact.

Thank you for making me who I am and constantly supporting me. I am nothing without you.

P.S. People are also fake as fuck and leeches. Learn to recognize who’s who.

P.P.S. Just because I’m nice to you and smile at the shit you say to me or the compliments you give me doesn’t mean I don’t see right through your fake ass. 

 

  1. Just do it

You know that event that’s happening tonight but you’re too tired to go to because it’s far and you’ve had a long day and all you want to do is lay in bed and watch Narcos?

Well get the fuck up and go you lazy fuck.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve almost flaked on something that I instead went to and met someone or learned something that changed my life in one way or another.

 

  1. Silence is powerful

Next time you’re negotiating or just speaking to someone, try remaining silent or giving long pauses as you think. Many times they start to answer their own questions or negotiate against themselves after prolonged silence because it makes them very uncomfortable. The power silence possess is often forgotten.

 

  1. Haircuts

Get one every week or two if you’re a dude. It makes a huge difference.

 

  1. Story telling

This is so fucking important. We all have 2 types of friends. The first one that tells an amazing story in a very monotone voice that you can’t pay attention to, thus turning it into a boring story. And then we have that second one that can take a shitty story but still manages to make it very entertaining and keep us engaged, thus turning it into an amazing story. Which friend are you?

Story telling translates into both personal and professional uses. The ability for someone to captivate the imagination of their audience and have them hanging on to their every word is very, very powerful. That’s how you get people you know and don’t know to rally behind you, invest in you and support you.

Stand in the mirror and practice story telling. Use your hands and facial expressions to enhance the story. And a small tip, it’s sometimes okay to exaggerate if it adds true value to the story and helps capture the audience even more.

 

  1. Money makes money

The saying “money makes money” is very, very true. I’ve learned, especially this year, how much easier it is to make money when you have a few 100k-1mm+ laying around that you don’t mind losing. It’s quite depressing yet intriguing how little work needs to be done to make more money when you’re at that level. I see people working their ass off for $10 an hour yet have seen real life examples of people who have gotten 10% or more return on their money in less than a few months by not lifting a finger. Do the math, it’s mind blowing.

I’m not sitting here with a smile on my face as I type this one btw.

 

  1. Reputation

Your reputation is everything to those that matter. Protect it at all cost.

 

  1. Power

You now have the money and you now have the reputation. Know what that gets you?

Power.

And with power you get the things that you’d never imagine like the type of shit you see on those TV shows like House of Cards. You get access to things 99% of the population doesn’t get access to. You ever wonder why you were never able to invest in Uber when it was first raising it’s seed money or why you haven’t ever heard of or been to that remote island that all the rich people schmooze at?

It’s because you don’t have the money, reputation and power. I hate to admit this but it’s true and I’m not sure if it’ll ever change.

Power is very addicting.

 

  1. Press

Press is very important, be kind to reporters. Press gets your name out to people that didn’t know of you and your dreams as well as tremendously helps your reputation if it’s good press (see #17). Some of those people that it gets your name out to will be important in helping you achieve the goals you’ve set for yourself (see #11). The best press is the type of press that finds you instead of you finding it. How do you get that type of press? See #9.

The 3 articles below from this year did wonders for me:

Dallas Morning News Sunday Paper – Shahzil (Shaz) Amin

 

Wall Street Journal

 

YEC Magazine

 

  1. EQ

Work on your EQ levels. Your ability to connect with another person and feel what they’re going through is an important trait as a leader. You need to be able to see their point of view and understand why they feel the way they do even if you don’t agree with it. It’s how you gain their trust, support and confidence.

But be careful. Sometimes having too high of an EQ can lead you to get taken advantage of, which sadly has happened a few times this year both professionally and personally (see #5). To combat that I have asshole confidants around me that I seek advice that candidly tell me I’m being abused, which along with my natural ability to learn from each time I was taken advantage of helps tremendously.

 

  1. Legal

Documents wise, know exactly what the fuck you’re signing. I’m amazed at how many times this year myself or the person on the other side has zero idea about a clause in their paperwork from years ago that they confidently signed which is now coming back to bite them in the ass.

Lawyers wise, they’re human and they make mistakes. Double check their work otherwise you’re fucked. They also don’t admit their at fault. And if you catch them fucking up more than once, get a new one.

 

  1. 3 sides

There are 3 sides to every story.

Your side.

My side.

And the truth.

 

  1. Deals

At Karlani we’ve come up with some really creative structures with some of the companies we’ve invested in. When two parties really want to work with each other it takes creativity and thinking outside the box from both sides to close the deal (see #10).

A great deal is when neither side feels they “won,” however they both feel that it’s fair. And remember, THERE IS ALWAYS A WAY (see #4).

 

—-

With all this being said, 2016 has been a very amazing year. BTM grew 3x in revenue this year, 5x in headcount since 2014 and has some game changing technology launching in 2017. Plugged has restructured and is ready to swing for the fences in 2017 with some awesome wireless products with first of it’s kind sound technology. Karlani continues to perform very well for our portfolio companies after we realized what our bread and butter is when it comes to investing.

Anyway, that should make up for my lack of writing this year. There’s a lot more that I’ve learned this year, but these are the highlights. I hope they help in some way, but if they don’t I mean IDGAF. This blog is more for me than you anyway.

Special note to the year 2017.

Dear 2017,

COME AT ME BRUH. I’ve been through way too much in 2016 for you to think you have any chance of fucking with me. I will own you. 🐴 🐴

Love,

Shaz

Shahzil Amin: Inspiring Entrepreneurs one Venture at a Time – India.com

usually don’t post about articles, but was very satisfied by how this one turned out: http://us.india.com/lifestyle/shahzil-amin-inspiring-entrepreneurs-one-venture-at-a-time-200204/ Shahzil Amin: Inspiring Entrepreneurs one Venture at a Time By Priya Kaur @pripri619 | November 22, 2014 6:09 AM | comment Tags: Business, entrepreneurs, Indian American entrepreneurs, media, tech Shahzil Amin, a 25-year-old inspirational, young South Asian entrepreneur, started […]

Shahzil Amin – Graduating From The School of Hard Knocks (Video)

On May 2014 I was very honored and humbled to be given the opportunity to speak to a group of amazing teenagers about my story in Atlanta, Georgia. The event was called RE:Ignite 2014 and the topic was about diversity. After struggling to figure out how I could tie my story to this topic, I finally decided to speak about all the diverse experiences I faced early on in my life that have defined me and my journey. I can honestly say that this event was one of the highlights of my year and I had an incredible time taking multiple “selfies” with my all of my new friends.

Below is the YouTube link for the video and the SlideShare link for the slideshow that was in the background. The first 1:32 of the video is blurred out of respect for the privacy of the students. Feedback is highly appreciated so I can continue improving my public speaking skills. I am my biggest critic and have already broken down all my mistakes and miscues; however I’d love to hear from a different point of view. Thank you.

(Click Settings icon and choose 1080p for HD video)

SlideShare: http://www.slideshare.net/ShahzilShazAmin/shahzil-shaz-amin-graduating-from-the-school-of-hard-knocks

p.s. Special thanks to Imran Virani for video editing assistance.