The 7-year itch

The seven-year itch is a popular belief that happiness in a long-term relationship declines after around seven years. Today, it is exactly seven years since we quit our respective corporate jobs in the US/India and began our startup journey called GadflyZone. It is time for us to reflect a bit about whether the seven-year itch applies to this long-term relationship as well. In a previous blog, right before the pandemic, we had pondered on “How it all began”. Now we will just see how it “is”.

Seeing things “as is” has been a key recent theme in our lives. More on this towards the end of this post.

Seven years in startup can teach one the lessons of a lifetime. By the way, are we still a startup after seven years in existence? Who defines these anyway?

If we truly think about each day as day-1 (hat tip to Mr Bezos), each customer as our first and only, each project as our validation MVP, each employee as our first partner, can we be forever young? Have we found the true elixir of business and organizations? Is it about learning rather than arriving?

One thing that the seven years have taught us is that the external world does not stop and wait for us.

It throws various obstacles on our path - recessions, pandemics, health issues, change cycles at customers, competitors nipping at our heels, team composition - the list is best left unenumerated.

It is clear that we have seen, weathered and thrived during the vagaries - ups & downs - of typical business cycles. Does that mean that we have arrived? Far from it. We are just enjoying the learning even more. While the learning is diverse, the original compass provided by Daniel Pink on Autonomy, Mastery & Purpose remains etched in our core values and daily behaviors.

Interestingly, in a startup, when circumstances change, when challenges and obstacles stare at us head on, learning is not an option. It is a Learn or Die scenario. And, learning about each other as partners has been a solid core on which we have stood, climbed and launched. It started several years before GadflyZone - back at our undergrad hostel/dorms. Graduating as engineers from IIT Madras put us in very esteemed company as seen in the above pic from 1995. Extra points for finding us in the pic - Hint: we somehow ended up next to each other :-)

When we met in the USA around 2000, it was all mostly fun and games, first exposure to Krispy Kreme donuts, highway driving among other repackaged silliness.

But, we also passionately exchanged details about our work (GE Plastics/i2). And then, when we compared notes, it was clear that technology would be firmly in the driver seat for everything in the future. And it was optimization via data and tech that would take charge of enabling businesses become increasingly efficient over the next few decades.

Reconnecting in Singapore, in 2014 laid the seeds for GadflyZone. One of our stated goals when we started up was to “elevate each other in health, wealth, wellness and spirituality”.

When we had put together that goal, it seemed cheesy and dramatic. But boy, has that held true more than any other metric! We are truly grateful to have each other, true to the spirit and letter of the goal.

Learning in various other forms has also been steady and illuminating - from our teams, our customers, our travels, our experiences, our crises - the list goes on.

Going back to “seeing things as is”, our reading and exposure to some amazing minds - such as Gary Taubes, Richard Dawkins, Yuval Noah Harari, Steve Hagen, Douglas Kenrick, Vladas Griskevicius, Robert Sapolsky, Robert Wright and, saving the best for last, S N Goenka Ji - has really opened our eyes to the intricate interconnections between evolutionary psychology, stress, health, happiness, Buddhistic thought & mindfulness. While our eyes have opened, which is a prerequisite, we need to train ourselves to truly “see” things as they are. That is a simplistic, yet far from simple, goal for the next seven years!

After all, as William James wrote in his 1890 book The Principles of Psychology Vol.1, "My experience is what I agree to attend to."

The seven-year itch is a popular belief that happiness in a long-term relationship declines after around seven years.