jasraj's journal

hi, i'm jas 👋, an author 📖 building a community for writers with ADHD ✍️🧠

A little more than a month ago, I decided to something that would have been unthinkable to a previous version of myself. Well, a couple of things in fact.

I downloaded the tiktok app and committed to posting daily for thirty days.

Honestly, if you had told me a year ago that I’d be doing tiktok dances (i’m kidding… not exactly, or rather, not yet. watch this space. haha) i’d have laughed my head off.

And yet here I am, recording short videos and editing them each day. I started my tiktok adventure on June 22nd 2022 (Summer solstice).

What made me start making videos on tiktok?

The short version is that the timing seemed right:

- I met someone in a local coffee shop who has quickly become a friend. Ironically, we tend to talk about everything under the sun bar tiktok, but the snippets I’ve gleaned are pretty solid – he has run the tiktok profiles for some recognisable names in the personal development world.

- Over the last 5+ years, I’ve gently experienced different forms of content creation – from written-form, audio-form and video-form.

- In other words, I felt confident enough to do it, and I have a reason to be posting (more below)

- I’ve decided to build a community for ADHD writers, so I have a focus to record videos on: ADHD and writing

- For a long time I always thought I would be a writing kind of content guy, and that’s it. But, actually, I really like being on video. It’s different, it lets me express myself in another way, and also for folks to connect with me differently. (I like podcasting too… I feel that these are all different outlets for creation/self-expression)

The approach I’m taking

From my own knowledge of “how growth works” online, and from the wisdom of my aforementioned friend, I had a pretty good sense of what “works” for the tiktok algorithm.

This is where, though, I’m a little different to most.

For me, it’s a balance between being myself and providing value.

And I’ll often tip the scale more towards the “being myself” part, sometimes to my detriment, but I think I’ve learned to find what’s right for me and my goals/values.

For example, I know that doing “3 tips” or “5 tips” etc for every single video is what the algorithm likes, what people save and share, etc etc.

For better or worse, I have a desire to be authentic (whatever that means). And so it’s a delicate balance between showing up as myself, and providing tangible value.

Let’s dig in a little deeper. Here’s how I’ve been doing it:

• Each day record a 90-second video. I started out doing this but in recent days I’ve been exploring slightly longer ones. Mostly because 90secs goes by really fast! I know I want to talk about adhd and/or writing each day, but other than that I come up with an idea on the day and do my thing.

• Each video, I think about sharing a little piece of my story/experience/learnings, and match that with thinking about the end viewer. It can be a lot to think about, but it’s been pretty fun!

• Settings for my video have included my local park, in my car, & outside a co-working space in Czech Republic (just this week actually).

• I tend to record in the mornings if possible, and then edit/post in the afternoons.

• I’ve decided not to use music for my videos, but use subtitles and edit them in my own Jas-like way, to help the points – and my personality – come across. I use 3-5 hashtags, typically 3 or 4, and try to choose a  “broad hashtag” plus a couple of “less broad/smaller” ones.

• I committed to posting for 30 days, and now I’ve committed to posting for another 30 days. All-in, that can be about 30-or-so mins for a post (recording + editing + posting).

• It’s early days, so I’m keeping a little eye on analytics; that’s views + likes + bookmarks.

• I’ve chosen, for now, daily posting whilst I’m gently getting my account going. After 90 days, when hopefully I’ve posted almsot daily, I’m going to re-assess. If I miss a day (like I did this week when I had been travelling all day, was editing a post late at night and just kind of forgot to finish it / feel asleep), I’m not beating myself up. I’m trying to befriend the algorithm, but I will not be a codependent friend; aka I.won’t.be.a.slave.to.the.algorithm. If I skip a day or two over these first 3 months, I’m not going to beat myself up about it. Easy does it.

What’s the outcome?

I’m seeing this as a short-medium term growth channel for The Indie Writer, my community for writers with ADHD.

And as a way for me to have fun sharing what I know, and gently inviting other ADHD writers to consume my content and – if they wish – check out The Indie Writer.

A look ahead

So that’s been it for the first 30+ days on tiktok.

Over the next couple of months, I’m going to continue to:

• have fun! • gently refine my content as A) my customer avatar becomes even clearer (I’m currently honing in on this), and • B) I continue to gather experience with recording in a succint and effective way that I’m happy with.

Here’s to the coming days and weeks on the platform. 📹

Yesterday’s edited + uploaded tiktok video

I am a huge advocate of community and – perhaps more accurately – connection.

Ever since I was part of a career-changers' programme, went to a life-changing conference, I have many times witnessed (in others) and experienced (for myself) many times how transformative and nourishing communities can be.

I'm currently a part of a handful of communities, mostly online but also real-life (IRL) ones. Though similar rules apply to IRL communities, this piece is going to primarily be concerned with the digital world that is online communities.

I’ve shared plenty before (see links above), on the joys and the magic of community. To this day, I consider connection one of my deepest values.

And, to me, connection is found in community.

Or, rather, the most meaningful and delightful communities are those with connection at their core.

There is, however, a flipside to these online and physical groups of people.

Let's take a closer look.

The flipside of community

However, as a people-pleaser-in-recovery I've learned first-hand about the flip-side, and I’m sharing this ‘gentle note of caution’ for folks, and especially who recognise people-pleasing showing up in their lives.

You see, in the past, it's been very easy for me to lose myself in helping out others in the community, to the detriment of my own time, energy and focus.

To be clear, the best communities are a mutual giving and receiving. Or, rather, as mutual as can be. I wouldn’t advocate one necesarily stepping into a community with the expectation of “I’m giving this out, so I deserve this back”, but as a general rule I feel – at least over the course of a few weeks – one should be receiving some form of a mutual exchange in time/energy given out in any community.

It's a useful barometer to check-in with how much *giving* vs *receiving* is going on for you; it's easy to slip into an imbalance.

Here are a few of the things I like to do to engage with, and contribute to, a community in a healthy way:

- ask: is this community serving me?

- generally I prefer lower-touch communities, run on forums rather than Slack. It has been my experience that these places are more conducive to gentle-but-deep connection over time, versus the more fleeting-and-instantaneous nature of Slack or Facebook groups

- I ask if my own needs are being met... how much am I giving vs how much am I receiving? Am I benefiting from being a part of this community?

Whether it's a blogging community, a forum-based community or a slack community, it's important to check-in and notice what's going on for you.

Community “burnout”

Once upon I time, I used to be someone who gave freely and uninhibited, exhausting myself and sometimes even burning myself out in communities. Ironically, helping others became a strange form of codependence (and procrastination). This would often happen very gradually, and wasn't (and isn't) always easy to spot whilst it's happening.

Which is why I recommend checking in with yourself each month, by asking one or more of the questions above. (Answering them out loud or through writing them down).

I also avoid community apps (eg. Slack) on my phone, and am conscious as to how much time I'm spending in online spaces.

Over the coming weeks I am going to continue step into a couple of communities to help support my journey as an independent creator. I feel fortunate to live in a world where I have access to such wonderful communities, though reminded that – as is often the case in the online realm – managing our personal time, energy and boundaries is so important. For all of us, not least those of us who identify with having people-pleasing tendencies, or are “recovering people-pleasers”.

I feel incredibly fortunate to exist in a world with access to some of the fantastic communities I’m mentioned, and many, many more.

However – for my own sake, and actually the sake of others too – checking in with myself regularly will continue to be very important indeed.

I wonder if it could be handy for other people(pleasers), too?

Late last July 2021, I arrived back home from the island of Madeira in Portugal.

I'd spent a glorious two months there in the digital nomad village of Ponta do Sol, staying just a stone's throw from the ocean and surrounded by a friendly community of both digital nomads and locals.

I let myself have a drink or two there, but I'd already started to realise that drinking wasn't so much for me.

I remember when I first started drinking... I'd tasted beer once or twice before going to uni, but really it was aged 18 that I started drinking alcohol – it was the “done thing”, and I quickly realised that my favourite drinks were the ones that tasty more fruity and not-so-alcoholic... go-to's became JD & coke (or Jamieson when I worked in the City and wanted to appear more sophisticated), and I had a penchant for Jaeger-bombs, too. Needless to say, not a lot of sleep happened when I hit the Jaegers. (Stimulation from alcohol, people, music *and* red bull… c’mon Jas. You shoulda known better buddy).

I'd watched TV shows like The Hills in my teens and figured that, once I got to uni, I'd be drinking, get myself a girlfriend amongst all the young women throwing themselves at me, and be loving life.

It didn't quite turn out like that (I dropped out of uni twice, and I was deeply unhappy for large periods of my time there… I am, currently, loving life though); I would drink, feel terribly hungover, and then feel groggy the next day.

After dropping out the second time and in need of some kind of “proper job” to prove to myself (and my parents) that I wasn’t destined to be a failure for the rest of my life, I worked in the city for 5 years, and would often drink after work with clients or colleagues. Again, knackered and hungover.

(The dancing was worth it, though I’m not sure about the Jamiesons and Jaegers…)

I can't help feeling that, all along, I was never really supposed to drink. I enjoyed the fruitier drinks (not beer or wine), and I could always have a great time without drinking. Give me good company + good music and I'm good to go!

What I've noticed is that, for many ADHD and sensitive folks (HSP), we seem to have an interesting relationship with alcohol/substances and addiction.

I can't tell you how many of these souls I've met who have shared with me an addictive behaviour of some kind, whether it be through drugs, alcohol, sex / love addiction, or gambling.

I have had a porn/online addiction myself, which I – gratefully – now have under control, but I still need to keep tabs on things (no pun intended).

For whatever reason – perhaps it's over-sensitivity, or perhaps a desire for stimulation, us ADHD folks need to be a little more careful with alcohol and other vices. 'In moderation' can slowly slip into a habit that forms to our detriment.

Which brings me back to the point of this piece.

Since getting back from Madeira last last July 2021, I've had a grand total of TWO drinks.

One was a pink Gordon's G&T can (classy, I know), and one was a Corona beer in the sun last week. 🍸🍺

📷 Chilling out in Madeira in Summer 2021. Soon after this photo was taken, that glass (with drink inside) was smashed by a rogue flotation device. In the moment, it was quite amusing. Looking back? Perhaps a sign.

Both of these two, measly drinks hit me harder than they would the average person. I felt light-headed after the G&T, and my body felt really warm after the Corona. (To clarify, I consumed these on separate occasions).

It's likely down to the fact that my body has delightfully gotten used to the absence of alcohol, and so any alcohol hits me harder than it did back in my early-twenties but, seriously, I felt them both.

Alcohol can lead me to making not-so-wise choices. One thing can lead to another.

And, honestly, the overall cost just isn't worth it.

I don't even like the taste of “normal” alcohol, for goodness’ sake!!

And so I was proud of myself for just being able to have “the one”.

And – oftentimes – having no alcohol at all, despite being with others who drink, or in locations with others who drink (it’s not unusual for me to work from pubs during these summer months), or with well-meaning but persistent uncles who just need to understand that Jas.doesn’t.want.a.drink.thank.you.very.much.

JOEY DOESN’T SHARE FOOD!!! and Jas doesn’t want a drink, Uncle.

All of that to say, I feel all the better for hardly drinking since last Summer.

And over the coming 365 days, I'm challenging myself to only have 1 drink, or none at all. Let's see how I get on.

ps. Later this month, I'm due to be in Austria and the Czech Republic for a few days. Cheap drinking in the latter, I hear. I'll be alcohol-free as I really want to be able to say I've only had two drinks in the whole of the last year ;)

So it’ll be water, soft drinks, juices & decaf coffees for me.

Oh, and good music, of course!

✌️🕺

After listening to Molly-Mae Hague’s interview on The Diary of a CEO podcast, I was curious to check out her book: “Becoming Molly-Mae”.

I’ve picked it up a couple of times (3 or 4, in fact) from the shelf at the bookstore, and have been gently been poring through its pages whilst sat in one of the store’s seats.

I have to say, I’m hooked.

Like any autobiography I like to read, the book covers aspects from work and life and everything in between, and – perhaps a little surprisingly – there’s so much of what Molly-Mae shares that resonates with me.

From her social life, friendship circle, the joy of ‘creating and editing’… it goes on. When a friend of mine suggested that this book may have been written with the help of a ghostwriter, I wasn’t so fussed either way; this book, after listening to the podcast interview of hers I mentioned, is very much in Molly’s voice. Whether it was ehr that wrote it, or someone else, or a combination, it’s Molly-Mae’s story being shared.

I’ve found that going in with an open and curious mind can sometimes surprise you a little bit. I always tend towards this, though I have to admit even I was a little surprised at just how much I could relate to Molly-Mae’s life and story. She’s a few years younger than me, and there are no doubt differences in our lives. But making judgements only takes us away from the opportunity to connect with someone, and their story.

And so rather than read or listen to hear-say, or cling to others’ opinions and reviews, I’d much rather keep an open mind, be curious, and see how a book lands with me. In this instance, it’s been great.

As a CEO and Creative Director (that’s Molly-Mae), perhaps it’s not awfully surprising that there were lots of things that resonated with me.

I’ll be continuing to pore through this book, and if I don’t buy the hardback I may wait for the paperback (coming in January 2023, in case you’re wondering).

Here’s to continuing to look beneath the surface, and not judging any book before you’ve opened it up and read its words. 📖

On Friday I woke early as I have been recently, making it to the gym for a morning session before doing my usual drive to the park, walking through it, but this time heading to the train station (iced tea from coffee shop in hand).

Little more than an hour later I was in Wimbledon village, I scouted out a coffee shop (quiet area downstairs – tick, plug socket available – tick), and worked through my to-do list for the day. With some focus and determination, I got through the list in ~ 3 hours (included the bonus items; that’s a day’s work in just 3 hours… it’s amazing what you can do when you put your mind to it).

I was determined to do a good day’s work and have the choice to head to the Wimbledon grounds at a reasnable time. And so after some more walking, I found myself in the famous “Wimbledon queue”:

I got chatting to some fellow queuers, and before we knew it – far sooner than I had expected at that time – I was in.

I’ve been to Wimbledon before, but never queued at lunchtime; it was only about an hour later that I had reached the front, bought my £27 ground pass, and was in the grounds.

I headed to the cluster of courts you can wander through, catching some doubles’ action, pausing momentarily, before deciding I was quite peckish and bought a tasty pizza after, again, queuing for a few minutes and chatting to some of the staff there in the queue.

I’d decided the match I was going to watch; in times passed I’d have been scurrying around trying to not to miss anything, and hurriedly deciding where to go next. This time I took it easy, secured a seat on Court 12 (a court my Ground Pass ticket allowed me access to, and one that had plenty of seats available), and that’s where I ended up pitching up for the day.

I caught a portion of a mens’ doubles match, before a womens’ single’s match which was the one I was waiting for. I had thought it might go to 3 sets, but the 23-year-old Czech Bouzkova played a great match. It was nice to catch her embracing her team at the end; on these smaller courts, it’s intimate moments on these which you don’t quite get to experience in the same way on the bigger ones.

As well as enjoying the tennis with plenty of room to relax, I got talking to a couple who had sat down near me and were talking gently about all sorts of things. Before we knew it we were chatting away about all sorts – dating apps, independent film, the sunk cost fallacy – and we even stuck around for a good hour after the match; there were rumours that Jamie Murray & Venus Williams’ doubles match could be played on Court 12. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be, but nothing was lost and I enjoyed a little more time chatting with Richard and Cassandra.

Shortly after, I headed back on foot through the village to the station and made my way back. A (half)day’s work and an afternoon at the tennis. Not a bad way to end a productive week. 🎾

I genuinely haven’t come across a person before like Laurence, or an album like this one.

It’s the second one he’s releasing. Discover Laurence’s story, everything that’s gone into this 10-track LP (mind, body and soul), and more during this 30-minute chat, including:

- How Laurence has laid out this album, in song-pairings as his two creative selves – “Cerulean” and “M.C. Beastly”

- R.D. Laing’s book and how it has both inspired – and been woven into The Divided Selfie LP

- Exploring ideas around recovering around porn addiction to re-discover relationships in the real world (something that speaks to Laurence – and myself – *deeply*)

- Laurence’s near-death experience aged just 11, and how he now frames this

- and more

I’ve been honoured to get to know Laurence over the last couple of years, and experience his music before I know many, many more folks will.

I hope you enjoy experiencing the below conversation as much as I did.

ps. There is only ONE place to listen to this record the way it's best heard, with the A & B side (“Beast side”) paired back-to-back for each of the 5 senses.

Listen on Bandcamp and please consider buying the album. I'll be grabbing my copy in-person at one of his live Summer shows.

Get yours with just a couple of clicks:

👉 🎵

pps. happy launch day Laurence Warner 🙌 Keep smashing it bro!

Raving at the end of our recording after Laurence had played a couple of his tracks. I couldn't help myself! 🎵

I've been in and around the IndieHackers community for a while now. I came across the community during my first digital nomad trip to Tenerife in 2019, in the Canary Islands.

More on that in a moment. First, it feels necessary to go back a little further to 2014. It was around this time that I first started to come across the world of indies and makers, even though I didn't know that's what it was at the time.

I would hear the stories of folks doing unconventional things, building businesses around blogs and online communities. Never having fit in, or known what I wanted to do with my life, my interest was well and truly piqued. For the first time in my life, there was a “career path” I stumbled across which… felt right.

I started attending events at this place tucked away a couple of minutes from where I work, called Escape the City, where other disillusioned corporate workers would gather.

And then a year later, after I had quit my job, was studying a Masters and was having a “year off” of sorts, I went to the most incredible conference I've been to in my life.

It was called World Domination Summit, and it was eye-opening. Keynote speakers featured some of these inspiring folks I'd been following, and the smaller workshops and more casual mingling were even more powerful. There were folks there doing unconventional things, all kinds of quirky businesses, showing up as themselves and building businesses where they could do the same. I remember meeting a ‘play coach’, someone who offered ‘cuddle therapy’, and others who were still working 9-to-5s but were drawn to, or had already started, doing their own thing.

I attended a LiveYourLegend meetup, where I met someone I consider a friend today called Elizabeth Miner (I think she was the first nomad I ever met), a wonderful person.

For a few days I was around a group of people like me, at different stages of the journey, but connecting around a common cause. Unconventional living.

I would go on to seek out communities and surround myself with other unconventional, creative types who were building businesses.

I joined Fizzle, run by someone else I bumped into at World Domination Summit called Corbett Barr, and then, towards the end of my month-long stay at a coliving space in Tenerife, I stumbled across another world that was there waiting for me to discover it at just the right time.

It was called IndieHackers.

How it happened was as follows. Somehow I came across Tyler Tringas and his concept of “micro saas”.

Even though I wasn't a developer, something lit inside of me and excited me when I landed on that guide. In the same as when I had come across Scott Dinsmore and Corbett Barr's guides.

As I read the chapters of Tyler's free ebook, I found myself wanting to hear more from him. I looked up podcast interviews, and landed on his interview on the IndieHackers podcast.

And suddenly, I had found this whole community of passionate creatives I resonated with.

At the time I felt a little... different. I wasn't a developer (I’m still not), and yet this place felt like me. It was a supportive community of fellow unconventionals drawn to living life on their own terms, through creating products of different kinds.

In the last 5 years, the creator and maker space has evolved and gained steam.  In the IndieHackers community today there are all sorts of developers and non-techies building online businesses, some subscription-based, some community-based, product-based or service-based.

For a good while, like I do when I join any community, I gently dabbled, trading threads and perhaps starting to comment here and there.

Things changed when an indiehacker posted a thread about connecting over video to discuss something he was building. I liked the sentiment behind the post, so I jumped on a call.

Sasa would become my first 'IRL' indie friend.

I was also fortunate to stumbled across IndieLdn, which has given me the opportunity to meet fellow indies in real life at their casual and coworking events. In fact, I think it was something like a couple of years after I came across IndieLondon that I went to my first event… I sometimes ask myself, why not sooner.

All of these conversations made me feel like I was back at World Domination Summit all over again, that memorable conference where it feels I really found my first indie “tribe”.

And so without a doubt the best thing about indiehackers is the video and IRL conversations, made possible by this platform which has let me continue to find and meet “my people”.

It's so easy to do so, and I've found fellow indies – like me and perhaps like you, wherever you are on this journey – to be warm, open and curious.

If you're currently lurking in indiehackers, I'd invited you to step in and start replying to some threads. If you've had some interactions, I'd invite you to start connecting with folks on Twitter, and reaching out.

“Hey, what you're up to looks really cool, and I've been enjoying our interactions / I’m working on something quite similar. Do you fancy catching up over a call sometime? Let me know if you might be open to that, and we can work something out if so :) Cheers. Jas”

Literally, that’s all it takes.

Of course, there's always a chance there will be a “no”, a non-response, or more likely a polite decline. But the video and IRL chats I've had with fellow indiehackers has been the most rewarding part of being in this community.

If you don’t reach out, if you don’t step in, you’re missing out on something significant.

And so if you're an indiehacker already, I'd invite you to reach out to fellow indies, keep an eye on the meetups going on (online and IRL), let yourself show up and be around fellow side-hustlers and solopreneurs.

Surrounding myself and having conversations with others on this journey has been one of the most significant things that has carried me through – and continues to.

From Escape The City, to World Domination Summit, to IndieHackers, you bet I'll be making more time to reach out, be curious, and have meaningful interactions with fellow indies, over video and in real life.

The best thing about indiehackers is the opportunity to spend time with them.

So go ahead and create those opportunities.  The connections you'll make, the things you'll learn, the energy you'll absorb, is one of those golden, immeasurable, priceless things.

In fact, I’m likely off to London tomorrow for a day of weekend co-working with RamenClub (part of IndieLdn), an IRL community I discovered through the IndieHackers forum.

If you’re an indie hacker/maker/solopreneur reading this, I hope you’ll step into conversations, video calls and meetups, too.

I attended a gathering this week that some have described as a “networking event”.

I’ve been to this particular meetup 3 or 4 times now and, I’ll be honest, it doesn’t feel like networking at all.

That probably says something about the event itself and how it’s run, and those who attend; but, thinking about it a little more, it’s dawned on me that I just don’t do “networking” anymore.

I’ll try my best to explain…

I remember attending events during my years of working in the City, or the so-called “business networking” events I attended when I was dabbled in freelancing.

It all felt very… transactional. Business-y. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of work went into the running of these events, both in putting them together and during the events themselves. I even made some warm connections from these events.

However, there was still an undertone of “business” and “I’m here for myself, and to get clients”, over and above simply connecting for connecting’s sake.

This brings to mind a memory from 7 years ago when, whilst building my first business, I reached out to someone in the States with an invitation. It was someone building a business in the space I was building in, who was further along in the journey. We had exchanged emails here and there over the course of several months, and I thought I’d reach out and propose catching up over a call.

“Hey Jas”, the reply read, “I don’t make it a practice to schedule calls without any purpose.” Or something like that.

Ouch. To be honest, reflecting on it now, I completely understand. If an entrepreneur’s, if anyone’s, day was filled with open-ended, intention-less conversations, I’m not sure many businesses would get built – or many things would get done at all.

If I am being honest, in my heart I did wonder – depending on how such a video conversation might go – if this person might become a mentor of mine. In some ways, he already was.

But, really, this was just someone I’d enjoyed back-n-forthing with over email, and who I was open to connecting with over a call. It speaks to an innate curiosity with, and openness to, other people I’ve had for as long as I can remember.

I recall being like this as a kid, mostly observing other kids (and teachers) during the school day. This interest translated into my first “proper job” as an adult, in a customer services team. And in my second “proper job” as an adult, I would spend many client meetings talking about everything under the sun… and often forgetting to directly address the reason we’d agreed to meet up, until a few minutes from the end of the meeting.

I’m not saying this was wise, or that this approach (if you can call it that) is for everyone, but by the time I left that company, I was a top-earner and employee-of-the-year. I can’t help but feel that my way of “networking”, of connecting with people, played some part.

This brings me back to IndieBeers, the meetup I attended this week. In years gone by, I’d have turned up to these sorts of events suited-and-booted, pressuring myself to have as many interactions as possible.

On Wednesday evening, I showed up in what I’d chosen to leave the house in that morning (shorts, t-shirt and a cap, for a warm day), arriving early to a bustling pub that was spilling to the street outdoors given the nice weather.

Now that I’d been to these meetups a couple of times, I already knew some familiar faces, and I enjoyed checking-in with a couple of friends I’d not seen in a while, before just letting myself gently mingle.

No pressure to have a certain number of conversations, or talk about my business, or reach any particular outcomes of a tangible nature.

Just an openness to chat, 1:1 or in a little group, simply showing up as myself and being curious.

a longer version of my story so far (in ~8,000 words)

Gosh, I’ve been tinkering my short bio’s online (e.g. twitter) for what seems like forever now, but it’s been a good while since I penned a lengthier ‘about me’ section.

Come to think of it, I have written a handful of long(er) introductions on the various blogs I’ve run. But it’s been a while since gone all-out with an introduction and given myself permission to share my story at length. And to be honest, lots has changed in the last few years, and even in the last couple of years, so this is probably as good a time as ever.

I was also inspired by other about me stories in the About Me Stories publication, which I’ve recently discovered since recently returning here to the Medium platform.

When I first joined Medium, I shared the below, my first ever blog post:

📝 My story so far (written: July 14th, 2015)

Here’s me checking back in for a more thorough and renewed ‘life update’.

Okay, so here goes…

Little Jas

The very first personal blog I had was my Medium one. That was the first time I introduced myself online, and it was nearly seven years ago now.

I opened that one using my full name, Jasraj. It’s always been shortened to Jas, to make it easier for others to address me, but I’ve recently been trying to try my full name on for size again. Jasraj [“jus-raaj”].

So, hi, I’m Jasraj. And now let me think of little Jas, the guy who lives on in me even if I am thirty-two now. Here he is.

We look kinda similar, don’t we?

So that was me as a kid. Sweet, wide-eyed, playful and naïve. I like to sit under my desk and pretend I was in a rocket-ship, play with my toys, and watch cartoons. I used to wake up especially for the likes of The Smurfs, The Snorks, Tom & Jerry Kids, The Moomins, The Lampies, Aquila, or whatever happened to be showing on BBC2 in that 7–7.30am slot over breakfast before it was time to leave for school.

I also loved to dream up stories for my little brother; one moment I would prepare him for a make-belief battle, and the next I would let him know that his brave efforts had afforded a meeting with the king to praise him. I played the different parts, including the king. I’m not sure he knew exactly what was going on at the time, but I sensed he appreciated that brotherly bonding time as much as I did. I recall we also used to put on little comedy shows to make the other laugh… I still remember the theme music slash intro I made up (“Welcomeeee to the shooow… the show of laughter, the show of joy…”). I’ve always had a rich and vivid imagination.

At school I remember being the same sweet and innocent kid. I loved to learn about things and so I liked my lessons at school. I did struggle a bit when I first started school, though, aged 4. I remember being bulled a little in the playground, and I would dread every PE class; I was terrified by all the gym apparatus — whether it was balancing on the beam a couple of feet above the ground, climbing over things… just generally being away from the ground wasn’t my thing. I generally wasn’t a happy bunny there, and I remember bursting into tears over my homework one evening. Thankfully mum noticed what was going on pretty quickly, and I was fortunate that my parents had the resources to send me to a lovely little school that would become my little home away from home for the next six-and-a-half years.

Oh how I loved that school. The kids there were much gentler, and the school itself was this old Grade-II listed building that felt like a big house. I remember entering through the front door and going up the big, wide spiral staircase to go “upstairs” to my classroom. It was kind of Hogwartsy come to think of it.

It was like we were all one big family there. In fact I remember sweetly-but-embarrassingly calling one of my teachers “Daddy” one time. I wanted to die a little, but Mr. Malam was lovely and he did feel fatherly. I played Chess at school (I played on board #1 eventually, and went on to compete at national inter-school tournaments), and Mr. Malam was the head of chess club so I got to spend time with him and the other chess kids pretty often, both at school and on the weekends for competitions.

So I have very happy memories of that school. Little Jas loved to learn about everything, he thrived in spelling tests (Dad had taught me how to read, something I’d failed to learn at my first, not-so-delightful school that my mum had pulled me out of, and I’d fallen in love with books), and he took great pride in all his homework, taking every piece very seriously, writing very neatly with his fountain pen, and generally getting good grades with smiley faces and gold stars. The teachers and my classmates were lovely, and even my less-favourite lessons like PE/Games were bearable in that warm environment. I have such fluffy memories when it comes to that little school.

“Big school”

I left aged 11 to go to “big school”, otherwise known as ‘secondary school’ here in England (you might know it as ‘high school’), and though it was an adjustment going to a much bigger class size/year group, bigger assemblies and bigger buildings, I slotted in there pretty nicely. I lucked out somewhat when it came to the year group I was assigned to, we were probably the most-well-behaved and nerdy class by overall standards, but it felt like that was exactly where I was supposed to be.

My love of learning continued… like I had at primary school, I pretty much enjoyed alllll the subjects. I had a pretty great time there until the age of sixteen, even with that year being the first “important year” when it came to exams (I’d gone through two rounds of SAT exams by that age, but those felt pretty chilled).

My Gallup Strengths the last time I completed the assessment (as an adult), in no particular order: Input, Intellection, Learner, Empathy, Futuristic

At that point a couple of things happened. Firstly, I had to whittle down my subjects and choose just 4 subjects to take for my first year of A-levels, which would in turn impact and inform what I was intending to study at university. Coming from an immigrant family, and going to a grammar school, and also being perceived as pretty able and “academic” (whatever that means), there really was no other option for me but university.

Up until that point, I had loved to learn for the sake of learning and enjoyed the variety that came from my schooling experience. I’d enjoy creative writing and studying Macbeth in English, or learning about the old language of Latin and accompanying Roman history of that time, about the World Wars in history, about animals and plans in Biology, or electricity and space in Physics, and so on. And so when it came to choose, I honestly didn’t want to choose. But seeing as I had to, I felt I had to choose the “proper” subjects in order to do something prestigious at university. So I picked Maths, Biology, Chemistry and German (dropping German for my second year of A-levels).

The second thing that happened was that we had a bunch of students join from other schools, I became part of a new ‘form group’ and classes were all mixed up according to the subject options you had picked. All of a sudden I had early morning tutorials with a different bunch of people, and I was sharing classes with different folks away from the same group of 30 people I’d spent mornings and all day with in my class. (I literally still remember the order of the register from those 5 years I spent with that class, and I’m also thinking about organising a re-union for us all using the email addresses we all left in our yearbook… this year marks fifteen — FIFTEEN! — years since I left secondary school. Wild.

Those last two years of school were tough for me. Up until that point I had enjoyed just ambling along and learning things for the sheer enjoyment.

I was not prepared to whittle all the subjects down to merely four options, nor was I prepared to decide what I wanted to do with the rest of my life… which is what I felt I was doing in making those choices.

I feel like I’m a part of somebody’s master plan. Go to school, get a job, get a mortgage. All I’m really doing is dying… (Avicii vs Nicky Romero: I Could Be the One)

When asked “What do you want to do… (at university, as a career, with your life)?” everyone seemed to have an answer. It was like you needed to have an answer. Looking back, I feel like most of us were just making it up and low-key freaking out beneath the surface, and the blasé-delivery of the answer we offered was actually one we were just sort of making up and trying on for size.

I struggled through those two years at school. Those “proper” maths and science subjects I’d chosen and had quite enjoyed up until that point suddenly became not so interesting. They took over my school-life, learning became more rote, to get top grades for university for a course… i.e. a course I wasn’t sure I wanted to do, at a place I didn’t know I wanted to go.

It all felt very overwhelming and disorientating.

My yearbook photo, taken in my last year of secondary (high) school.

University and my first office job

I ended up applying for one course, studying another, and dropping out after a year. I then had a year of working in my first “proper job” in an office for the first time, which was actually pretty novel and fun for me. It was a corporate with a friendly and laid-back culture, and I had my first taste of working in a professional environment in a team, and I had my own group of customers in Northern Ireland who I was process orders for, and deal with any stock-related enquiries as they arose, through a little bit of internal research and gentle haggling with company colleagues in other departments. It was a long journey each way, we’re talking two hours on a couple of trains, which made for long days but I quite liked the train ride. I re-applied for university during that year of working, securing an offer to study a difference course at a different university. So I went back and, again, dropped out after a year.

Especially that first time at university, I’d felt like a fish out of water. It was something to do with being in a new environment, away from home, and having all the freedom in the world (I could… skip lectures with like no questions aske?), but not quite rooted in who I was and what I was doing there.

Up until that point, innocent little Jas had been carried along by the currents, with a structure telling him what he was supposed to be doing (go to school… do these exams… make these choices… and so forth). All of a sudden, I was at university but I was away from home and I felt like I had these choices and decisions I could make for myself but I wasn’t used to having this level of responsibility and I really didn’t know who I was or what I wanted.

Deep down I was scared. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, and committing to something felt scary. Not least because, whether it was my A-level classes during those last couple of years at school, or university lectures, the way things were taught just felt so… mechanical and boring, without any real variety. Like I was being spoon-fed all of this stuff for some apparent meaningful purpose beyond passing these rote exams. And then maybe end up doing something vaguely related to those exams. When, in actuality, I didn’t know what I wanted to do and I couldn’t help but feel that what I’d end up doing would take some sort of discovery process. Hmm. You know, looking back, everything I studied in a formal education environment (school and two stints at university) just felt really dull and meaningless.

I feel like being all alone at university represented one of the unhappiest chapters of my life. I didn’t know who I was, what I was doing there, what my interests and passions were, and who “my people” were. And I was yet to really become aware of my personality and temperament, insofar as being an introverted and sensitive guy. I would just hang out with anyone and everyone, living for these temporary bursts of excitement when I’d go out and party with people I felt no connection with, and then end up hungover and miserable. This would happen both times at university, slowly I became more disconnected and miserable, skipping lectures and literally holing myself up in my room for days, emerging in the middle of the night to get something to eat when no one else was around. During this time a pornography addiction took hold, too, as I looked to numb out from the deep unhappiness I was feeling about everything.

And so after dropping out from university for the second time, something I felt really uncomfortable about when it came to my parents as I figured I would be made to stay and finish my course, despite being so unhappy and having zero clue about what do with my life. And I also felt guilty for letting them down and being a failure and all those things too. I felt pretty isolated and alone and unsettled during this whole period.

Joining — and leaving — “the City”

By this point it was shortly after the economic crisis and I was degree-less in a country — and a world — still trying to recover from the deep recession. At that time, I remember feeling like my life was f*cked and over. It feels ridiculous now, but my reality at that time had been so primed and set for “school — university — prestigious job” that I felt I’d f*cked my life up and I didn’t know what my future would now look like. Moving away from this deeply-held story would be a process.

Looking at the options I felt were available to me, I knew I enjoyed working with and helping people, and at that time I still felt I needed to make lots of money.

Why lots of money? I felt like that’s what I, able and “academic” grammar-school Jas was supposed to do, and I felt like I owed it to my parents for everything they had done for me and how hard they had worked to put me and my brother through great schools. And I quite liked the quality of life I had been given (a nice home, annual holidays, and such) too.

So I ended up in a recruitment job. I’d had some office job experience from my ‘year in between stints at university’, but I wasn’t quite prepared for picking up the phone to random people to headhunt them, or to try and take on clients to help them fill the vacancies they were hiring for. Going through a ‘training programme’ with a cohort of fellow (mostly) twenty-somethings helped, but even so it was a case of trial-by-fire.

The first recruitment company I joined was a big firm, and after the training I ended up in a team with a boss I found tricky. He was a micro-manager and always asking what I was up to or looking over my shoulder. What made it worse was that he sat next to me and so after about a year of being micro-managed, plus the long and exhausting days as an introvert doing sales (I’d often leave my house at 6.30am to commute in, and sometimes not get back until 8 or 9pm, or sometimes even later) I was eventually worn down until I could take it no more. I ended up getting off the train one day, diving into an internet café, and putting together an email to say I’d had enough and wouldn’t be coming back in. The Director who had been in charge of my training programme found out what had happened, invited me for a coffee to find out what had happened, and invited me for a position in a new team that she was taking over. I was kind of grateful and also surprised… she was someone I looked up to and clearly liked me and saw enough potential in me to offer me something in her team, after I’d done this whole maverick thing of firing my old boss via email. So I ended up joining this friendlier team with a way more chilled vibe, but I found myself in a position where I was sharing a speciality with someone else (a guy called Andy), and because I was the new kid on the block Andy was given like 80% of the existing client-base, whilst I was given very few existing clients and tasked with finding new business. I spread myself far too thin and so never really got off the ground. And so long story short it felt my time at this place had come to an end, so I looked for a recruitment gig in financial services somewhere else, and I knew I wanted a smaller firm with friendly folks and a healthier culture.

After interviewing at a few places there was one in particular that I really liked, I interviewed with the CEO and after finding out I had been turned down shortly before a summer vacation with my family came to an end, I remember sending an email to him to ask him to give me a chance and that he wouldn’t regret it. It worked, it turns out CEO Rob liked my pushing back, and it turned out to be a good move for both sides because I enjoyed my time there, as much as I could enjoy recruitment, I really liked the people and I ended up becoming one of the top-performers there. The days weren’t quite as long either, but this was still me doing a sales job in an open plan office which, with my introverted temperament, was tough on my energy levels.

And even during that last full year at that company where it felt like the previous three-and-a-half years had paid off and I was finally seeing the rewards in my success a recruiter, I knew deep down that recruitment just wasn’t “it” for me, and I’d started to read about folks who had changed career. I remember stumbling across the world of blogs, and coming across these folks who were making a full-time income as bloggers. I think I also just really enjoyed connecting with other people’s stories through their blogs.

Towards the end of my time in recruitment, I would attend evening meetups at places like Google Campus (to immerse myself in and learn more about this exciting ‘startup’ world I’d heard about), and Escape the City which was a community for disillusioned worked in the City who wanted to find work that they cared about.

I still remember well the moment when the penny felt like it fully dropped for me… I was at the 2014 Christmas party, I’d just been jointly awarded the Employee of the Year prize with a fellow colleague, and I just felt worn out and empty, whilst everyone else around me was drinking and being merry and having a good time. I skulked off earlier and I knew that my time was up. I’d had a “successful” year in recruitment, I’d proved to myself that I was capable of sticking at something and doing well at it. And I knew that I didn’t want to “rise up the ranks” and manage, nor did I want to do exactly the same… i.e. bust my balls and have another “successful” year as a recruitment consultant.

Going into January the following year, I’d pretty much made my mind up. And the huge “pipeline” of possible deals I’d accrued proceeded to collapse into nothing. It might’ve been a little test of my nerve to walk away from a wad of commission money, but with each of my interviewing candidates not receiving an offer, I wasn’t faced with any such test. To the contrary, it was as if the Universe was saying to me “Yep Jas, I’ve got your back, your time is up… trust in yourself”. In February I went away on vacation with my family and was doing Headspace every day on the beach, and with the stillness that that afforded me things became real clear.

It was time for me to move on, and… in the last few months, I’d gotten into reading Positive Psychology books, around the “science of happiness”. I was fascinated by this field, and I wanted to know how I could live fully and by happy in my work and in my life, at a time when I was feeling pretty meh and increasingly disillusioned by the work I was doing.

I got myself onto a Masters course at a university in London (yep, it was totally fine that I didn’t have a Bachelors degree… it was a pretty new course which wasn’t heavily applied-for and, more importantly, universities are businesses that will happily take your money), and I handed in my notice the very same day I had written confirmation of my offer. In fact, I remember the day I was waiting on my offer and, after a few weeks of being pretty switched off from my work, I actually resigned before the email had come through (it actually arrived in my inbox whilst I was resigning).

My notice period in recruitment was, as is pretty typical, just a week and I think I was out of there a couple of days after I had resigned, after I’d done a little handover. I feel like they wanted me out of the office before I could tell too many people I was “leaving to figure out who I was and what I was passionate about”.

Studying (again) and the start of figuring things out

Around the same time as leaving, I started writing and posting some of my thoughts on LinkedIn and then on Medium.

And soon after that I started the first of many little blogs, A Happier Introvert.

The next couple of years after leaving my job were this fuzzy, stick, disorientating period of coming back to centre and figuring out what on earth to do with my life.

Truth be told, this process of self-discovery had begun in a more theoretical manner about a year or so before quitting my job, whilst I was reading various career change, psychology and self-help books (from Quiet by Susan Cain, to The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau, to Happier by Tal Ben-Shahar). But the big difference was that at this time I still had the solid ground of being in my corporate job, even if it was increasingly becoming ground I didn’t want to be on, and also the busy day-to-day rush of commuter life had meant I was too busy to let myself truly be still and really sit in the discomfort.

For a long time, I had just been carried along in the currents that whooshed me along through school, university and then into work… I’d lost sight of who Jas even was. Isn’t that crazy? That little guy was still there inside of me though.

Even though the safe ground I mentioned had started to crumble from beneath me as I realised just how much I no longer wanted to be standing there, I wasn’t yet brave enough to leave with no ground beneath me. Doing that Masters for a year was to be my safety blanket whilst I spent that year figuring out what Jas was going to do with his life.

Alongside the Masters, I took part in a 3-month ‘tribe’ with Escape the City, the community I mentioned earlier for disillusioned folks who needed a career change. It started around the same time as my Masters did in the September of 2015, and we’d meet one evening each week. I was one of the few who had actually left my job at that point; most of my tribe-mates would venture to class after working in their day job that they had fallen out of love with.

Early morning sober-raving at MorningGloryVille with some of my Escape Tribe, November 2015

📝 9 things I learnt during the Escape Tribe (written: February 21st, 2016)

Beyond that, my so-called “full-time” year-long Masters had just a couple of days of in-person lectures every three weeks, a couple of hours away on the other side of London.

Which meant I had in-person stuff to attend one evening in the week (Esc the City tribe) and a couple of days of lectures to attend on campus every 3 weeks (at the University of East London). Which meant I had a lot of free-time. Going from the structure of those long days in my full-time job to much emptier days was quite the shock to the system. I had a lot of time to think. At the time, it felt like too much time to think. It felt like I was spending much of my waking hours low-key figuring out (and freaking out) about what I wanted to do with my life, I was desperate to figure out what it was and having the “magic answer”, to have a new purpose and identity. All of that time to feel angsty about my life actually made me unhappy and probably provided the embers that would eventually lead to my depression diagnosis (more on this a little later).

In an attempt to figure out this answers and make use of all this free time I had (I had far too many hours in the day for this supposed full-time Masters, and pretty much everyone else in my cohort was doing employed work of some kind), I started my first business, Thriva Programme, an alternative to university which I worked on and ran a pilot for the summer after I’d left my job, in July 2016.

📝 Higher education: Creating a new story (written: September 5th, 2016)

Something else that happened that Summer was I attended World Domination Summit, hosted by one of the first bloggers I had come across and whose The $100 Startup book was one of the first ‘business’ books that introduced me to this concept of doing my own thing as a “company of one”, embracing slower growth over time, not needing to be a big company that took investment, starting with no overheads, and just generally being able to have a business that fit around me and my lifestyle and that kept me close to doing the work I cared about.

LYL meetup at WDS 2016 — my head is small (I’m at the back) but my smile is wide. (photo: Live Your Legend)

The conference had a bunch of familiar speakers and meetup hosts (like Chelsea Dinsmore and Corbett Barr), and it was attended by folks who wanted to do work they cared about and, more specifically, be doing their “own thing” as a solopreneur (or they were already doing so).

If you like, it was like the Escape the City community but these folks had decided that they wanted to do their own thing, and were at different stages of the journey, and there were a bunch of talks, meetups and social activities (connection 🙌) for a week in Portland, Oregon.

I had an amazing time, but I was to come back after the high of this trip to the miserable reality that I was still some way from where I wanted to be and was also figuring out exactly what sort of solopreneur business I wanted to focus on. I’d had blogs but they’d always quickly fizzled out and making the jump from “fun blog” to “making money from a blog” seemed like a big hurdle I was yet to overcome.

There was a glimmer of hope on the horizon, though.

📝 WDS 2016: The experience of a lifetime (written: August 26th, 2016)

Therapy and travels

Shortly after I ran that pilot programme, the Masters programme officially came to an end with the handing-in of my thesis, and it had become apparent that Thriva wasn’t a sustainable business for me, health-wise, nor — whilst I was passionate about the mission — was it the sort of business I actually wanted to build. All the moving parts were overwhelming, and took me awai from what I was actually passionate about. It was my first experience running a business (if you don’t count the tutoring work I had also done at that point), and I’d learnt a few things but mostly what I didn’t want.

Honestly, I knew deep down pretty early on that Thriva didn’t have the legs. I find that when I start things, pretty quickly my intuition gives me a sense of how realistic or sustainable something is. At the time, I ploughed on with Thriva and — hey — I’m glad I ran that pilot programme, but another reason for why I stuck with it for a few months was because I felt under lots of pressure to make a success of whatever I chose to do after leaving recruitment, I held this weird and irrational belief that my ex-colleagues, friends and family on social media were all keeping an eye on me and were judging me… if Thriva failed, it meant maybe I was a failure and hadn’t I been a silly boy for leaving recruitment… looking back, I know now that this was most certainly irrational, but it felt strangely real at the time.

All of a sudden, there was no business and no Masters. I had no structure again in my life, and I was freaking out even more about what I would now do with my life. I felt lost and overwhelmed and alone. And, looking back, anxious. As we moved into the last quarter of the year, the days were getting shorter and darker. It was only later that I would realise that I seemed to get some sort of Seasonal Affective Disorder, and no doubt with everything going on this wouldn’t have helped.

Before I knew it, I didn’t even want to leave the house, not even to go the gym which had long been a trusty place that would raise my mood. I didn’t want to see any friends (or strangers), and I barely wanted to talk to my closest family I shared a home with, my mum, dad and brother. I didn’t want to burden them with my low mood and I felt like such a failure — as a son and older brother — for putting them through all my sh*t and dropping out of uni twice, quitting my job, going through a wobble during the Masters where I was threatening to quit, Thriva not working out, and then after all of this still having no clue about what I wanted to do with my life.

(Though, deep down, I did have a clue. I knew what I wanted in an ideal world. I just wasn’t brave enough to follow-up on it and didn’t believe that it was possible for little ol’ me).

I’m not sure I’d ever felt that as low and depressed like that before, and thankfully my perceptive mum realised something was up and, after some persuasion, I agreed to see a psychiatrist. So we took a train together into West London to see one who had been recommended to her by someone.

Long story short, I filled out some forms, was given a generalised depression and anxiety diagnosis, and was prescribed a low dose of an SSRI called sertraline, as well as a course of group therapy and individual therapy. The group therapy ended up being several days’ worth over a number of weeks at a private therapy centre… thank goodness we had private medical insurance as a family (again, thanks mum and dad) as this would have been very expensive to have paid for out-of-pocket. I was an out-patient, but there were also in-patients at this clinic. I got to meet folks from different walks of life who had been diagnosed with different ‘mental health’ conditions, and it was interesting to spend time folks who were on the one hand different to me, but on the other hand strangely similar… it was interesting to connect some dots when it came to our temperaments, experiences and patterns.

So I took a few months off for therapy which, as well as being a useful place to explore inner stuff, gave me some much-needed routine, stability and community. All things I realise I need as constants in my life, wherever I am in the world or whatever my life circumstances happen to be. After starting to feel better, and with the days of spring joyfully returning (this always make my soul happy after the period of dark winter months), I did some travelling.

I stayed with a friend of mine and her family in Luxembourg, she was someone I had met during the Masters course along with Mat. Her name is Angie, and Mat, Angie and I have fond memories of the three of us meeting up for breakfast before our day’s lectures. In fact, I ended up dedicating my debut book, The Indie Author, to Mat and Angie for their friendship, love and support during this period in my life when I needed it the most. I will forever be grateful to the both of them.

My debut book, published in November 2021 under my own imprint: Indie Writer Press

I hopped on a train to Luxembourg from Paris, where I had spent a couple of weeks watching the tennis at Roland Garros (known as the French Open if you’re into your tennis). And later that Summer I went to Las Vegas of all places for the ‘fight week’ that was Floyd Mayweather vs Conor McGregor. Watching tennis started out as just being this fun thing (I still love watching tennis to this day), but somewhere along the line I thought I could be some kind of sports coach. When I happened to bump into the CEO of the US Tennis Association during one of the matches I thought the universe was trying to tell me something… and when I later met the CEO of Mayweather Promotions at a weigh-in event in London, I went up to him and asked him for a job. A story for another time, but the whole sports coach thing didn’t materialise.

Another example of, even on fun travels, how much I was still trying to solve the whole what do I do with my life? thing. I didn’t manage to find the solution that summer, but I had a fun time being away and travelling on my own for the first time. (Note: being away in Las Vegas alone is… interesting. And I can confirm it’s possible to be in that crazy desert city without doing an ounce of gambling. The boxing helped… and I was having fun posting to a sports blog — I thought I might be able to become a sports journalist slash coach or something — and, for the first time, a little youtube channel).

📝 I’m in Vegas. And I’m excited. (written: August 21st, 2017)

Mat’s company

When I got back home in England, and summer was drawing to a close, I again needed a healthy dose of structure in my life. My good friend Mat who I met through the Masters, and really helped me when I had my I’m-not-I-want-to-complete-this-thing wobble, then helped me even more when he offered me a job at his financial services startup. So I had about a year of working remotely, with monthly-ish train rides to Manchester, where I’d stay in a budget hotel overnight (handily in the same little complex as a Nuffield Health gym, where I had — and still have — a membership that lets me use most Nuffield Health centres in the UK). I’ll always be grateful to Mat as a dear friend and mentor who saved my bacon in giving me that job (and persuading me to finish the Masters) — just what I needed at the time to provide me that solid ground and community I’ve talked about.

During this time I got the experience of working a) remotely and b) for a startup with a decent culture, and run by a good friend of mine. I felt pretty fortunate, and it was nice to be a part of a startup in a suburb in (south) Manchester, as opposed to one of the several I applied to in the friendly beast that is “the city” aka London.

I found myself doing sales, though, rather than more content and marketing stuff away from the sales I’d done for five years in recruitment and ideally wanted to step away from. So, ultimately, I got bored. By now I’d started and stopped various blogs (aside from the A Happier Introvert one I mentioned earlier, there was always Quarter Life Introvert and Awkward Brown Guy), and around the summer of 2018 I started this blog called Introvert Jedi* whilst I was working at my friend’s startup.

*are you noticing a theme here?

A guide I created for my IntrovertJedi blog subscribers, and the first ebook I ever wrote.

I ended up leaving the startup at the beginning of 2019, and by now I was beginning to realise that maybe the employed world, even one with the freedom of remote and a decent culture, just wasn’t for me. I took a couple of weeks off in Slovenia where I brainstormed my next business idea.

It was around this time that I really began to look into how I could do this whole writing thing as a career.

So my next step was to try being a freelancer and I started HonestContent, to help write guides for financial services clients I’d gotten to know during my time working in sales for the startup. I properly started working on this business after getting back from Slovenia and taking a month’s trip to the Canary Islands for what was to be my first official stint as a “digital nomad”. Smartly, knowing my need for structure and community, I stayed at a co-living space and had a great time.

So I want to write things. Now what?

I didn’t really know exactly what I wanted to “do” for my clients… I was trying to find the right way to pitch to clients but, truth be told, I didn’t want to write for anyone else. I realised that even doing writing gigs on more fun things I was into like travel or psychology just wasn’t for me. I didn’t want to have to write under rules or guidelines, or be at the mercy of writing for just a specific topic or theme…

I feel like I had to go through this process of “ticking things off and realising they weren’t for me”, to ultimately realise what I had known deep down all along, ever since I had come across those bloggers making a living prior to leaving my corporate job a couple of years previously…

Honestly, what I’d really wanted to do all along was write things freely and make money as a writer, it was just a case of:

a) exhausting all other options (and bringing this dream of mine into focus)

b) finding the confidence to pursue this dream (and proactively work towards making it happen)

After trying the freelance writing thing, sending lots of pitching emails and attending lots of networking events and securing literally zero clients (again, less of an indicator of my abilities and more of a sign from the Universe to say — “nope, Jas, this isn’t it”), I also tried working as an intern in a publishing house for a couple of weeks. This was after attending London Book Fair and attending various meetups and sending out a bunch of emails to folks who were working in publishing.

I had also thought about being a journalist (see my summer of 2017 travels and foray into the world of tennis and boxing, above) in, say, sports or something like working for online publications focused on things I cared about.

But, ultimately, I discovered that I did not want to “play the game” and “work my way up” in the world of traditional publishing (especially as I didn’t even want to do this in the first place — I wanted to write!), and that any sort of freelance/journalist gig would mean me having to write about particular things, under certain guidelines and to particular deadlines and constraints… in an organisation which — even if it was a friendly one with a great culture — would involve some level of office politics and “playing the game” and (at that time before the pandemic happened and remote/hybrid working become more of a thing) a commute and going into an office.

📝 How I came to work as a writer. (written: January 25th, 2022)

By now, I was starting to realise that I wanted:

1) to write

2) for myself

3) with freedom

In other words this blogging thing I had been doing for fun in the background, and trying to ‘figure out’ how to make money from, was what I wanted to do.

I re-joined a community started by Corbett Barr (another of the first bloggers online I had come across) called Fizzle, and started Introvert Jedi in the Summer of 2018, before this became INF Club a few months later in 2019, and for the next couple of years I got more serious — and consistent — about my blogging. I focused on this blog alongside a tutoring business (tutoring was something I had been doing on-and-off now for years), which worked well because my tutoring was local (through leafleting I picked up a handful of clients who lived near me), and then when the pandemic happened tutoring went online which was even more convenient for managing my time and energy.

That blog was moved to Substack, where I started a paid newsletter, and then I co-hosted an online summit with Lauren Sapala, someone who I’d connected with over twitter, we’d read each other’s blogs, jumped on a couple of video calls, and then decided to host this Summit together. Lauren has since become a dear friend and mentor of mine. And in fact, as I write this, we’re just finishing up putting our second online summit together.

That first summit involved us inviting a handful of folks to chat with us about their experiences being introverts — the Summit was called the INF Summit, and most of those we interviewed identified as being INFP and INFJ personality types, and everyone identified as being somewhat introverted and/or sensitive or creative. It was great fun, and it was actually after having so much fun recording those interviews that I started the INF Club podcast, which I went on to run for nearly 2 years and more than 60 episodes.

In the next year or so INF Club had a membership community, a Mastermind programme I ran, a couple of workshops I ran, and 1:1 coaching. There was something special about earning those first few dollars before the Summit, and then my first $100, and then $1000. Those early milestones are so big and special, when you see someone somewhere else in the world offer you money for something you’ve created. It really is special. And so I experimented with offering different types of services and ended up making more than $6000 from INF Club.

I was some way off this making a full-time, sustainable income but making some money from INF Club was enough to psychologically shift me into another gear and realise that this whole ‘solopreneur blogger’ thing was possible for me.

As the Summer of 2021 came around I was working pretty much full-time on INF Club with a couple of hours of tutoring a week. After a long year of pandemic and several months of winter and then a really cloudy-and-not-so-sunny spring, I was in need of some adventure and a boost in Vitamin D levels #SADproblems.

I was looking to spend another stint as a digital nomad somewhere, having had a good time at the co-live in the Canary Islands a couple of years prior. I was looking for someplace in Europe where I could work, roam, and be surrounded by community. I was aware of a digital nomad podcast run by a previous member of Fizzle, and I came across this digital nomad village initiative in Madeira which was amazing and exactly what I needed. I love islands (the size, the beach, the climate) and this place was being set up as a place to foster a digital nomad community in a way that integrated with and supported the local community.

After some interactions in the group on Slack, and a quick video call, I committed to staying for a month in a spacious house with five fellow housemates. I lucked out — the house was beautiful and spacious, and nearly all of us were thoughtful introverts and ambiverts. We had a happy month together with a shared car, we had “family” movie nights and weekday trip and hikes, as well as integrating with the wider community via the co-working space and the various activities going on in the village on the beach, and at the nearby beautiful hotel where some nomads stayed, but had its facilities open for us all to use and enjoy (like the weekly Friday sunset party, or the various meetups that would take place on the grass there… one that stands out was the wonderful music jam session).

That time in Madeira was just what I needed. Time away from regular day-to-day patterns tends to give me clarity, and this trip helped me realise that INF Club had been an amazing phase of personal growth, self-belief, and meeting many warm introvert friends as well as actually committing to a blogging practice (I published a post nearly every week for two years), and also made my first $5000 from blogging.

My book, The Indie Author, was soon to be ready for eBook release and my intuition was telling me it was time for a new chapter.

So I started a new site, The Indie Writer, and closed off my INF Club blog and podcast.

This chapter still feels pretty new, and one I’m gently navigating.

Some final words

Thank you for reading all the way to the end.

I had no idea I’d write as much as I just did, but it’s been a really interesting and reflective experience to process and simmer over everything that’s happened for me so far, right from the beginning to the most recent couple of years where, looking back, more has happened than I’d expected or realised.

I feel like I’ll need to write some kind of annual summary every year, as I’ve now realised just how much has happened for me and it’s nice to process and (re)connect with it all properly through writing about it.

Apparently, lots has happened in the last 7 years since I walked home from that Christmas party and knew that something had to change.

I suppose I shouldn’t be that surprised, as more than two thousand days have passed since then.

Here’s to the days, the weeks, and the months ahead…

See you around ✌️

Jas

Taking a rest during a hike in Madeira, Summer 2021. (📷 by a friend + fellow hiker I met on my travels, Zdenek)

Thanks for reading my story.💛

I’m Jasraj, a writer who likes coffee shops, mini-adventures and autobiographies.

Growth, connection and freedom are things that are important to me.

The rest is still unwritten… but I’ll be sharing it as I go :)

I had a brief-but-memorable interaction in the gym locker room recently.

I was in a good mood after a workout/spa session, and I noticed this guy wearing a Chiacgo Bulls shirt.

We talked about NBA and The Last Dance, and it turns out that he was a business owner. His dad before him was, too.

I have a good friend of mine, whose dad has sadly now passed, who is also an entrepreneur. His dad was, too.

We aren't completely the product of our experiences, but I believe they play a part. My own dad is very passionate about what he does, and he is very skilled at it, but I know he wouldn't be offended if I said he doesn't have much of an interest when it comes to business.

I remember as a kid growing up, I wanted to make my dad proud.

I remember trying really hard at math (what we call maths here in England). I understood it, I was okay at it, but I never had the same logically-inclined brain my Dad and my brother have. I was good enough at it... I remember my dad would sometimes get frustrated when I didn't grasp mathematical concepts too well. Looking back, I think he just wanted what was best for me and was perhaps a little surprised as to why I didn't grasp these black-n-white concepts.

I don't think either of us knew then that I wasn't naturally wired to be a black-n-white guy.

I remember getting into Chess, even getting to Board 1 at primary school, and eventually going to a Saturday chess club where the standard got higher, it felt more competitive, and I lost the joy of just doing chess for fun.

I look back and I think I see that a part of my dad was wanting to be to have – and grasp – the opportunities that he didn't have. Though he got into a good grammar school for secondary, he wasn't afforded the privilege of a private primary school like I was.

I think if my dad had gotten into chess when he was a kid, he would be really fricking good at it. And I think a part of him wanted me to lean into that, his first-born who looked so much like him, and be really fricking good at chess.

He's very skilled at logical and motor functioning pursuits. Whether it's intricate clinical work, or playing tennis or golf, my dad has a natural knack for it. My dad would play with a wooden racket and make me and my brother look like novices with our graphite rackets. This was well into our teens, and into early adulthood when – apparently – a man is in his sporting prime. It was quite embarrassing, really. Whereas I had tennis lessons for a time, my dad's youth practice would involve hitting a ball against a wall out in the street where he lived. Self-taught.

For a time I felt like I was letting my dad down a little, but looking back I realise he was just a father wanting to see his son fulfil his potential and make the most of the opportunities I had which he didn't. Each being complex human beings, it just turned out that our brain wiring was a little different.

--

I think, as boys, we look up to our fathers whether we realise it or not. Naturally, our experience – and perhaps even what we aim for – is shaped by our fathers. I feel like I got my smarts and my academia from my dad.

As I've stepped into my creative, entrepreneurial side in the last few years, I hadn't realised that there was a natural entrepreneur there with me all along.

My mum's father arrived as an immigrant from India in the 60s, and walked for miles to the nearest factory to sign up for a job. He didn't speak a word of English when he arrived and shared a room with a bunch of people. He ended up working in a shop, before going on to buy his own shop.

My mum, his first-born child, would come home from primary school and help out with household chores that included bathing her siblings. She would also help out in the shop, observe everything that was going on, and perform reconnaissance on competitors' shops and their prices. She learned negotiation not from self-help books or YouTube channels, but simply by observing, learning, and doing.

Shortly after she and my dad got married, they managed to knock together the money to buy a space for my dad's practice. They've worked together for more than 30 years, both crucial pieces of the family business; my dad being a skilled and caring surgeon, and my mother responsible for all things business-related.

In bringing me up and sending me to the schools I went to, my parents wanted me to have all the things they never had. Having an education was extremely important, and it was very important to have something to fall back on.

I don't think I even knew what entrepreneurship was when I left secondary school. There was this thing for sixth formers (year 12 and 13s) called Young Enterprise, but it sure as heck wasn't for Jas. Jas was brainy, academic, destined for university and a job in science, so he thought.

It would take a little while longer for the creative and the entrepreneur in me to emerge.

It was there with me all along, both inside of me (in my being), and outside of me in my lived environment... as my mum would diligently go about her day's activities, effortlessly switching between family life and business life.

Over more than three decades, my mum and my dad have made a phenomenal team. I'm not sure each of them would ever have found a more worthy co-pilot.

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