Play life like Vinod Khosla. Not like Chess.

How Vinod Khosla changed my life in one click.

From the age of nine it was a tradition in my family to play chess, and if you won, it was automatically assumed you would be successful in life. From online games to every family gathering, my parents always viewed chess as a competitive game which taught important lessons about patience, perseverance, critical thinking — crucial skills needed for life.

As a young Pakistani girl growing up a minority in Canada, I constantly felt the pressures of being successful. I continued playing chess and letting it take over me, but in the back of my mind, I never understood how it was helping me as my parents did. But before I knew it I started viewing my life as a chess game:

I looked at life as a chess tournament. Every problem and situation which came up in my life, was one out of countless matches I’d play. I thought that if I got good and found the secret to winning every match, I would have “solved life”. It was like move your knight here; you’ll trap his bishop. Every correct move led me closer to a checkmate and every false step brought me closer to defeat.

But guess what? After living 15 years in this world, I’ve realized that life is not a chess game that I can easily crack the code too. I spent a lot of time trying to find the formula to win life. Truth is that there is no formula to life because at the end of the day all formulas have been created by people, forming humanity; nothing will guarantee success or failure unless you create your own formula to success.

I remember the exact day I understood this concept. It changed my life and it was all because of this exact video of Vinod Khosla I was sent:

My eyes were left open and my entire life had changed ever since. Vinod Khosla just made sense. I knew at this moment that he would change my life because when it took me almost 15 years to believe that chess was helping me; it took me only 30 mins to strongly believe all the things Vinod said. And this all happened in the click of one video…

After watching this video, I fell in love with Vinod Khosla and the way he seemed to validate my existence and talk about his important beliefs. I started watching more of his videos, pretty much stalking his tweets, and podcasts/talks.

Because of this, I was able to learn about myself, and what I want my optimal life to be like.

I feel a lot happier than I did a few months ago, and I’ve started to make quick changes in my mindset and life that have helped me start to form my own formula for life.

I reminisce about my life, the challenges I have faced so far and the ones I am still likely to face. I wish I threw out my ‘chess thinking’ a while back and started learning from smart people like Vinod Khosla. It all started with one video but there is so much to learn from him. And so I’ve put it into this article:

Vinod Khosla is someone who grew up in a different environment far from business or even technology. This was one of the reasons, I was able to relate with him right away because I didn’t either. But regardless, Vinod Khosla dared to dream and achieve big. He is the true definition of a unicorn person (just like a unicorn company but a person). At present, he is a billionaire who manages Khosla Ventures; which is a firm that invests in startups from sectors like computing, biotechnology, healthcare, and clean technology.

One of the earliest tech-billionaire entrepreneurs, Vinod has a boss personality as he’s never afraid to voice his own opinions, mental models, and beliefs. His entrepreneurship belief system includes taking risks, being innovative, brutal honesty, and having a desire to really make a difference.

Every day now, I outline risks I want to take, share them with other people to let them keep me accountable. Like the other day I reached out to the CEO of a huge company; something id usually be hesitant to do. I’ve started to feel so free, and grow my confidence by doing small tasks like these. I stopped thinking short term, and minuscule and started looking at the bigger picture and how I can maximize my potential NOW to solve BIG important issues in our world. Age IS just a number and isn’t something I’m going to let stop me.

Solving a chess game is not the goal now, it’s to solve world poverty.

As one of the most influential figures in not just Silicon Valley, but also the world, Vinod Khosla has been very vocal about entrepreneurship, and important lessons he has learnt in his life. As I start to change my life, I hope you can too by internalizing some of these life-changing points he’s made.

This is something we talk about a lot at The Knowledge Society (TKS), and it is the importance of doing something that actually matters and will impact billions to solve a huge issue. My goal in life is to have my own unicorn company that is working to solve important issues in our world. And I’m starting now.

Of course, Vinod is a perfect example of this especially after achieving multi-billion-dollar success from his ventures and investment profiles through Khosla Ventures. Vinod is really outspoken about this and what he says is “Only when you tackle big problems can you get big results”.

And the more and more I read that, I realize how this also directly ties into a meaningful life. If you aren’t doing something meaningful then you can’t expect yourself to have a happy life where you feel as though you are important.

Here is a tweet that Vinod retweeted about this:

This tweet portrays a pretty simple idea but what stood out to me was the idea that:

“we all need to remedial kindergarten”.

This reminded me of points in my life when I felt neglected because of the way I thought, or the ‘crazy’ ideas I had. Especially as a teenager, I feel an extra need to say ‘this might be weird so don’t judge me …’ before saying something. But scratch that.

Vinod changed this for me. Every time I say anything now, I say it with confidence. I voice my crazy ideas, opinions and beliefs.

Often times, a lot of us are afraid of failing simply because of the judgement we might get from other people. Something I learnt best from Vinod is that no one will actually remember your failure as much as they will your successes. In the long run, all your failures are in the past, and only your success is what is reflected upon. This is something he learnt from experience when his first venture Data Dump, just died out. But I bet if you knew anything about him before, it was probably not this.

Still, it’s important to not completely ignore failures but to focus on learning from failure, rather than allowing it to be a permanent fixture on your mind. A simple but effective mental model, I’ve been trying to implement in my life too. It’s not hard to divert your mind from the negative. All you need is something meaningful to keep yourself busy in life.

“I like to say my willingness to fail gives me the ability to succeed. And too many people are just not willing to fail and so they don’t try anything new. You should try and fail, but not fail to try.”

Vinod talks about how Failure does not matter, and only success does in this interview:

Vinod vouches for “brutal honesty than hypocritical politeness”. He feels that often times people are creating a product more to please people rather than having any faith in their own beliefs. To actually be happy with your product, and be successful it is just as important to believe in yourself than building something people want.

His retweets also outline how important he feels thinking about your own core values, and beliefs are. Same can be applied to life where it’s important to spend time understanding yourself; why you react a certain way, or how you feel you’re most productive. It’s important to understand yourself so that you can optimize yourself and your own life.

View his retweet here:

Vinod’s advice to people looking to replicate his success is to focus on listening and talking to the right people, those who have demonstrated success through their startups or in life. He is a strong believing of being honest with advice and feedback. When your brutally honest you are actually serving a purpose because as the receiver you can do something about it if it’s constructive criticism.

This simple idea has completely changed my life. I used to be afraid of giving people feedback so I would never be honest about it. I realized that no feedback is better than fluff. I feel a lot happier when I give and receive honest feedback.

After doing a lot of reflection on my life, I’ve realized that in order for me to be successful in the entrepreneurship world and just in my life I have to be open to change the mindset I’ve had as a child. Thanks to Vinod’s advice I’ve been able to learn and implement things in my life that have literally made me happier.

  • Life is not a straight path that can be finished with a formula. But life in itself is the best teacher of lessons.
  • As our world is changing, we need more people who are reinventing and coming up with BIG solutions that can help solve important issues in our world.
  • Failure is not that big of a deal. In your eyes, it may seem like you will never overcome it but people will eventually forget and only your success will matter. Try but don’t focus on the negative side of your failure. Focus on learning from it to ultimately help your chances of succeeding each time you do try.
  • Always be honest with others and yourself. Spend time understanding yourself so that you can optimize your life.

If you want to learn some more about Vinod, feel free to watch this video:

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I’m a developer & innovator who enjoys building products and researching ways we can use AI, Blockchain & robotics to solve problems in healthcare and energy!