Ready player one

I am living through this profound sense of ending - of my identity, my project and partnerships - and now, as a coping strategy, looking to shift my vision to the future. Enough of thinking about and analysing the mistakes that got me here; I am now thinking how to get out and what to do next.

I know there is no easy escape. There are so many interconnected things I can't just walk away from. But at least, I have set things in motion. I have finally emotionally detached myself from a project which I considered to be my mission only a few months ago. I have also started putting my relationships away from personal commitments and friendships, as I was doing until now. The risk with my approach was that the whole edifice could have come down with a single mistake, as it duly did: I lost trust and before I knew it, my project was over. However, I have learnt that trying to pull away, making drastic changes, is too painful, particularly when other people are involved. So I am dismantling my life bit by bit, closing off one window at a time, stepping back and starting in a new direction.

What this new direction will be is what is keeping me busy. I am committed to building the Internet age college in London, for which I worked so hard and for so long. I feel it's close but recent events have told me that it is unattainable within my current work. Besides, the team I have building isn't ready for it in any case. So, I am doing a complete makeover, committing myself to a more academic path, pulling together a set of people who can potentially help set up a university. Where the money will come from I don't know yet, but I have some leads and want to follow these up.

The team aspect of this is harder. It took me time to assemble the current set of people, who are all very capable within their own area of activity. In fact, I got so excited about my current project because it allowed me to pull all these people together in one team. But cultures are hard things to maintain and my mistake was to allow an unmanaged interface between the old culture and the new culture, with relatively inexperienced people at the frontline. In no time, the empire struck back, first by subverting the values, then by destroying the cohesion and trust.

I am going away counting my lessons. This is something I should have known: A team needs careful building for months and months before it can handle the complexity of a legacy operation. In fact, this experience has alerted me to think differently - more local than global I would be this time. My links with India are now getting weaker and I am getting more and more interested to work in the UK-Europe space. Besides, I am somewhat tired of commercial work again, with all its superficiality, dishonesty and inherent speculation. So a more serious and committed not for profit operation I am after. All those pointless assertions that not for profits don't scale are nonsense - I would rather be an entrepreneur with a cause than a start-up founder floating around in the quest of imaginary valuation. In fact, I have had enough of that.

Therefore, in my sight now is an institute to study - and to educate people on - Internet society and culture. This used to be a big issue before the big tech, before the world was polarised into tech enthusiast and anti-tech camps. But, unlike in politics, there seems to be some moderation in this debate now. People on one side have started to see the limitations of tech; others are seeing its benefit. A dialogue is possible when the virtue of the middle way is known. This looks like a worthy cause for me to dedicate my next five to seven years. 


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