Worry less about conventional wisdom, and follow your heart. I left the traditional path to pursue my passions only at 44. I wish I hadn’t taken so long.

 

Chetan Mahajan is the founder of the Himalayan Writing Retreat. Under this brand, he hosts a series of learning events related to writing and storytelling in the Indian Himalayas. Chetan is a closet writer and loved to write and teach. In 2012, Chetan was arrested and imprisoned as the fall guy for his then employer. He used the opportunity to write his first book. Penguin published his book “The Bad Boys of Bokaro Jail” to critical acclaim in 2014.

Chetan holds an MBA from Kellogg School of Management. After completing his degree Chetan moved back to India where he co-founded two start-ups and ran businesses in the education and training space for many years.

Three years ago Chetan left the city and the corporate rut to live his dream of becoming a full-time writer and teacher. A former CEO, he has switched careers completely and now lives his dream writing and teaching. He has also created a small getaway purpose-built for those seeking quiet inspiration. www.Quietplace.in is his place where he hosts the Himalayan Writing Retreat.
He has also co-founded a social enterprise making artisan cheese along with his partner, Nitin Dayalu. You can learn more at www.cheeseinfo.org .

Where did the idea for The Himalayan Writing Retreat come from?

The Himalayan Writing Retreat (THWR) was really an outcome of passion. I had just left the city and my job and moved to the Himalayas. I was looking to build a new life doing something I loved. And what I loved included writing, teaching, entrepreneurship and the Himalayas. Thus THWR was born.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

My day starts at 4.30 with 2-3 hours for writing first drafts. That is my most creative time, and I keep that blocked for my writing to flow. The rest of the day then goes into managing the retreat, online marketing and interacting with prospects, and also editing my writing from the morning.
Of course, when a retreat or workshop is on there is a completely different schedule with lots more action and a lot less writing & editing.

How do you bring ideas to life?

By imagining new realities. Ideas remain exactly that if they don’t have a shape and form. Even the idea of a writing retreat was an obscure one, But then I imagined a group of writers working together in a Himalayan retreat, working together. Suddenly it was a concrete goal to shoot for.

What’s one trend that excites you?

The world is becoming a smaller place everyday. I like to think that people are more accepting and open, and have fewer qualms in travel and experimenting. I certainly see this amongst our retreat participants – we’ve had attendees from five countries. This trend means a world which is overall more human and open.
I also like the trend of the hobby vacation. I think people want to grow as individuals. Instead of just taking time off to sunbathe, people are choosing to spend their leisure time to pursue a passion.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Taking Feedback. Everytime I do anything I open it out to people who will be able to critically examine the work. I take feedback from all retreat participants. I take feedback from designers on our own website or a poster we’ve designed. I take feedback from authors on my writing. I take feedback from guests on how we’ve setup the rooms at the retreat. It always helps me to get a second opinion.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Worry less about conventional wisdom, and follow your heart. I left the traditional path to pursue my passions only at 44. I wish I hadn’t taken so long.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

A job is a trap. The habit of the paycheck at the end of every month is a bad habit – one that we get accustomed to. But it also kills a part of us, and invariably leads to compromise.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Always keep learning. I am 47 now but am constantly learning new stuff to keep my business moving forward. I started the Himalayan Writing Retreat, and realized that the only way to market this was online, so I have been learning that over the past one year. Fortunately for me, a lot of online marketing involves writing.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Creating barter partnerships. To drum up initial demand without spending any money, I sought out other people in the same field whose work was complimentary, but not competitive. For example, I identified people in the trade – young publishing companies, book marketing firms, blogging communities – who were all about writing but not running retreats, and I then reached out to them with barter offers. That worked out great and The Himalayan Writing Retreat got decent early participation.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

I was running an education business, but we were having a hard time getting our graduates jobs. This was a product promise we made our students, and we couldn’t meet it. Employers just wouldn’t hire our graduates.
I realized that while the students were good with the technical knowledge and otherwise competent, their Language skills were the problem. So we launched an intense English Language training module, and that made a big difference to their ability to find jobs.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

We need a good editing app. Grammarly and MS word offer grammar and spellcheck – basic rule-based stuff. But an editing app which is sophisticated and rich n features is a definite gap in the market. The only tool out there now is Hemingway which is rather amaeteurish and very rough at the edges.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

I was looking for someone to do web-design work when I came across Thrive Themes. I decided to do the site in-house and the team has come up with a pretty decent website.
We are still adding features and functionalities, but that tool has certainly helped us take control of THWR’s web presence very directly and in a hands-on way. It has also saved us a lot of money.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?

I love convertkit for what it does with email Marketing. It is intuitive, friendly and easy to use.
Before we had redesigned the THWR website I would not be capturing any information from people who visited my website. Now I am able to manage that and also market to people quite easily. Again, it has given me control instead of my having to hire people who will charge a lot more for the same service.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Deep Work” by Cal Newport. It is a great way to think about how you spend your time prioritizing your work, and helps put the social media in perspective.

What is your favorite quote?

When I let go of what I am, I become who I might be.” Lao Tzu.

Key learnings:

  • Pursue your passion. Go for it early. Sometimes we wait for that elusive, perfect moment. It is okay to take the plunge with some uncertainty. You maynot succeed but you will still learn lots.
  • Imagine new realities. It can be difficult to aim for something fuzzy. Put a concrete shape and form to the new reality – to your definition of success. That will help you in your journey.
  • Take tons of feedback and work on it. Always be humble and accepting of other people’s feedback. Open up. Listen to everybody. After that, you can always be picky about what you act on and what you choose to ignore.
  • Never stop learning. You cannot assume you know enough. Not just in work, but in life we need to constantly grow. I fear the time when I think I know everything, or decide I don’t need to learn more.

Connect:

www.Himalayanwritingretreat.com
www.Quietplace.in
Chetan Mahajan on Linkedin : https://www.linkedin.com/in/chetanmahajan/
Himalayan Writing Retreat on Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/himalayanwritingretreat/
Chetan Mahajan on Twitter : @chetanauthor
Himalayan Writing Retreat on instagram : himalayanwriting