School, The Future
You have a life…you know what you need to do. How’s life at UofT?
People tend to look down on U of T and say it’s really hard. To a certain extent, this is true, because there are hard profs who expect a lot. But the reason he loves it is that at U of T, he has found a program that works for him and can accommodate his crazy travel schedule.
Something worth noting is that what he is currently studying has very little to do with his passion for business and entrepreneurship. Manu is currently in a program examining peace and conflict studies, majors that are far far away from entrepreneurship and business.
But what that means for him is that the majority of his coursework and the load is actually just writing papers! There are no in-class exams, he can travel and do what he needs to do.
The other benefit for him is that what he is learning can actually really help him if he chooses to enter the field of politics.
One of the most important insights that Keshav and I learned from this chat, was the Manu does not see university as something that is going to get him a job, which is a mindset that a lot of people have. Whether that’s right or wrong, this viewpoint is his own and is what works for him.
He actually takes pride in that. The exact quote “My life is unconventional, I like it that way. I am going to continue that way.”
So what are some of the items that we can take away from Manu when it comes to planning for university and your future? Look for a program that fits you and your needs. Do what is right and comfortable for you. Keep in mind that university isn’t just some factory that’s going to prepare you for a job. It’s an experience and a place to learn valuable skills.
Many of the people listening are going through the process of choosing universities. What was your uni application process like? What do you think people should look for?
In Manu’s words, his “process was the same as everyone else” where he “wrote an essay, applications, got nervous, got cocky” and everything in between.
The big difference for Manu was that he had a set of expectations and items that he wanted to check off when he was looking for a university.
- Find a university in a beautiful city
- Find a place with a lot of opportunities
- Find a great community that he could benefit from based on his entrepreneurial dream
All of those factors together are what ultimately pushed Many to choose the University of Toronto.
So what should you look for when choosing a university?
If you are really looking for a job, the reputation of your university doesn’t matter anymore. What matters the most when choosing your university is that every action you take should map to something, where “something” is your end destination.
What matters the most at university is truly the people you meet, and how you are using the opportunities around you to accelerate your grades, extra-curriculars, non-profits, or business.
There are too many people that gravitate towards that reputation and believe that once they have that reputation, it’s all they need. But it’s not… That’s a logic and belief that may have been true around our parents’ time. Sadly, there are going to be a ton of U of T grads, that are going to be unemployed, while there will be tons of Ryerson grads who are taking the spot that they want.
What really matters the most is your passion. How you take advantage of your opportunities. How you make the most of what you have. More than anything, connections > reputation.
Something that pops out is that you are studying a political science major. Has that always been your thing? Why are you studying it if your passion is entrepreneurship and business?
Manu has actually been a competitive debater for 7 years, he was known as a competitive debater before all the Top 20 under 20 stuff came up. He enjoys talking about issues and analyzing them deeply, and it has always been a huge part of his life. One of the things that he ended up doing was a policy internship in DC, an experience that was a dream come true and changed his life.
If anything his choice of study is indicative of his passion, not something that is immediate, but a potential area he wants to explore later. [I get a feeling we’re talking to a future prime minister here] Politics wasn’t something that came out of nowhere like “volcanic studies”. He still gave a lot of thought to his choice of major and evaluating his passions, but when picking his school, the most important factor for him was all about his school-life balance, and what he actually wanted to accomplish outside of school.
What’s next for you?
He hopes he has no idea what he is going to be doing in the next 2 or 3 years. Keeps life exciting. [that’s something I find so admirable, going with the flow?]
In the short term, Manu is planning to move to New York in May, while taking online courses from U of T so he can complete his degree.
In summary, he’s trying to be trying to do things that are “super practical and aligned with his goals”, which appear to lie in the realm of entrepreneurship, marketing, and the general umbrella of business. He’s going through some of the final rounds of interviews with google in their digital marketing department, and he might even be fielding an offer from Gary Vaynerchuk to work on his personal team.
For sure, the next few months are going to be consumed with his work on Technotronics, his wearable tech startup. On top of that, he’s working part time at a venture capital firm in business development, since it pays wells, gives him access to valuable connections, and a path to a sustainable career.
“But hey, ask this question in 8 months and I hope I will give you a different answer”
With so many projects, when you finish them, how do you decide where to go next?
In Manu’s eyes, an entrepreneur is someone who can’t stay in the same place after the growth stage of a business. So he is constantly assessing whether he can add value to his current project or whether there are other potential things that he could be working on.
That’s why he starts so many projects. It’s not because he wants to add to his resume, but it’s because that for his current project, it begins to feel like he can’t add anymore value and he starts to feel really bored.
So how decide where to go next? He picks out 4 to 5 areas that he wants to work in. Dead simple. Right now, the NBA, Bollywood, entertainment, and music are some of his current areas of interest. Of course, he’s never going to be an NBA player, but he’s always looking for a way to see if he can add value and influence some of these areas.
In life and entrepreneurship, there are always a lot of “pivots” or changes in direction. Let’s say you pivot and move from where you originally intended. How do you embrace that? Once you pivot, do you naturally assume that things are going to work out in the pivot direction?
What is a pivot? It’s when you have a change in direction or strategy of your business. To many, a pivot is figuring out something that will interest you even more than what you are currently working on right now.
For example, his company Rafiki media was originally supposed to be a social media agency, but he decided to pivot it into a brand management agency. Not because there was more money to be made, but because the conditions in his own life changed.
On Instagram, he was reached out to by an NBA player by the name of Trevor Booker. There seemed to be a lot of Bollywood actors who needed his help. Manu saw the potential to help them build and manage their brand, and opportunity that he thought was larger than social media.