Anand Giridharadas

Anand Giridharadas

Author of The True American & India Calling. NYTimes columnist & Ted talker.

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON March 17, 2016

Discussion

Anand Giridharadas
Anand Giridharadas@anandwrites · Author and New York Times columnist
Dear Product Hunters, I'm Anand Giridharadas, a name that allowed me to cruise effortlessly through middle school. I am a writer -- or, for those of you in Silicon Valley, a content aggregator of my own content. I write a column for The New York Times, which is a newspaper, which is an entity that sends actual people out to discover actual information and publishes that information in articles, which are like one-item listicles. I have written two books, India Calling and The True American. Books are like tweets, but super-long. The combined TL;DR of my two books: "The American Dream is live and well -- but only in India." I am excited to answer your questions about being a writer, my hair, the cluster-mating American election, and anything else you want.
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Operations @ Product Hunt
How often do you get your hair cut? 😜
Anand Giridharadas
Anand Giridharadas@anandwrites · Author and New York Times columnist
@ems_hodge My hair cutter cuts in Harlem. I live in Brooklyn. She is a busy, world-traveling artist. I catch her when I can. Usually once a month or even two months.
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
What does the rest of the world not know about the Indian startup scene?
Anand Giridharadas
Anand Giridharadas@anandwrites · Author and New York Times columnist
@bentossell I don't know much about it anymore. I wrote this a long time ago. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/3...
Anand Giridharadas
Anand Giridharadas@anandwrites · Author and New York Times columnist
@bentossell I think it's an interesting part of the origin story. All that American tech and global tech that made India its back office inevitably groomed a bunch of kids who, after a time, asked: Why can't I do this for myself? And, far more consequentially, why can't I use what I've learned to solve India's problems? One thing I will say about the startup scenes in the developing world -- which I know only in a cursory way through my travels -- is that they tend to be a little better than the American one at focusing on, you know, actual societal problems that actual people have.
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
@anandwrites do you think its more beneficial than detrimental being outside of the SV ecosystem?
Anand Giridharadas
Anand Giridharadas@anandwrites · Author and New York Times columnist
@bentossell Anytime I personally am in an arena with a lot of people who think what I think, talk in the same lingo as I do and think I'm as great as I think they are, it's time to find a new arena. I think that may be true of the startup scene.
Anand Giridharadas
Anand Giridharadas@anandwrites · Author and New York Times columnist
Anyone else? If not, thank you for doing this. It was fun. I came one step closer to knowing what Product Hunt is. And I thank this Hunt!
Lesley Wu
Lesley Wu@deleted-407305
@anandwrites thank you!
Deirdre Hess
Deirdre Hess@deirdre_hess · Director Knowledge & Influence @HeronFdn
@anandwrites Thank you for doing this, Anand! Very fun.
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Operations @ Product Hunt
@anandwrites Thanks for taking the time out to chat with us Anand! 😘
Anand Giridharadas
Anand Giridharadas@anandwrites · Author and New York Times columnist
Over and out! Many thanks all!
Harry Stebbings
Harry Stebbings@harrystebbings · Podcast Host @ The Twenty Minute VC
@anandwrites thanks so much for joining us today and massive fan of The True American, my question to you is how much of a role has social media played in this US election do you think and to what extent has it helped or hindered the campaign of Mr Trump?!
Anand Giridharadas
Anand Giridharadas@anandwrites · Author and New York Times columnist
@harrystebbings Thanks, Harry! That means a lot. I think social media is an enormous factor, but in a particular way. I think it has created a space for Donald Trump, above all, to go around the people who gatekeep -- and who, by gatekeeping, provide some kind of filter of decency. He doesn't need what so many other candidates have needed: columnists, donors, endorsers, ads to make his case. He tweets and FB-posts. And he dials directly into old media and kind of uses it in a social-media-ish way, as a personal platform.
Anand Giridharadas
Anand Giridharadas@anandwrites · Author and New York Times columnist
@harrystebbings And I think, more than anything, he has exploited certain VALUES of social media and of the Internet age more generally. The value of surprise. Of short, punchy pokes into the culture. And if there's anything benign to learn from him, it may be this. I firmly believe that good people could learn to be surprising, too. But right now, no one else tries. Everyone else is boring, predictable, focus-grouped, dull. And he is exploiting that.
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
What are some of your all-time favourite TED talks? Which is the one that has impacted you the most?
Anand Giridharadas
Anand Giridharadas@anandwrites · Author and New York Times columnist
@bentossell I'm just going to give you one spectacular, and very recent, one: https://www.ted.com/talks/casey_...
Anand Giridharadas
Anand Giridharadas@anandwrites · Author and New York Times columnist
@bentossell It is an amazingly delivered -- but, more importantly, amazingly incisive -- talk. A lot of the winners of our age have come up to Casey and told him they absolutely love his talk. It is a hint of the fact that they may not properly understand it.
priya joseph
priya joseph@ayirpelle · Entrepreneur
@bentossell critical expense for #color ed folks! Shout out to #Bevel
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Operations @ Product Hunt
What are 3 things that every new writer should try and remember, or focus on when they first set out?
Anand Giridharadas
Anand Giridharadas@anandwrites · Author and New York Times columnist
@ems_hodge A few things.
Anand Giridharadas
Anand Giridharadas@anandwrites · Author and New York Times columnist
@ems_hodge No. 1, This is a craft. You can get good at this craft in the absence of other people's approval. Most people I know move too quickly to seeking opportunities for disseminating the craft. There is time. I had a friend who had in a treehouse and typed out Toni Morrison's novels verbatim, just to see what it felt like. This is the pursuit of craft.
Anand Giridharadas
Anand Giridharadas@anandwrites · Author and New York Times columnist
@ems_hodge No. 2. A mantra I share with young writers I mentor is that almost everyone overvalues her own ideas and undervalues her own experiences. People don't want to know your opinions. They want to know the smell of rooms you got to be in that they didn't get to be in, but now can be in for $25.
Jake Crump
Jake Crump@jakecrump · Community Team with Product Hunt
What does a typical work day look like for you?
Anand Giridharadas
Anand Giridharadas@anandwrites · Author and New York Times columnist
@jakecrump It depends if I'm in the on-season of the off-season. By that I mean in the midst of a book or between books. Right now, I'm in the midst of a book. So my workday, most days, is waking up early (which a one-year-old child assists with). I get coffee, and I try to start writing as soon as possible. I work until 2 pm most days. Play with my son for two hours. Then work again, doing more admin-type things, for two hours. And then enjoy the evening -- reading, time with friends. I almost never work during the evenings or weekends.
Jake Crump
Jake Crump@jakecrump · Community Team with Product Hunt
Who are some of your favorite writers?
Anand Giridharadas
Anand Giridharadas@anandwrites · Author and New York Times columnist
@jakecrump Thanks, Jake! V. S. Naipaul. Katherine Boo. Adrian Nicole Leblanc. Isaiah Berlin. Tom Wolfe. Theodore Zeldin. Ralph Ellison. These are but a few.
priya joseph
priya joseph@ayirpelle · Entrepreneur
@anandwrites @jakecrump Go #IsaiahBerlin
Corley
Corley@corleyh · COO @ Product Hunt
Let me start by saying your intro is the best ever! :-) My question for you - I'd love to hear your thoughts on the election and what you predict the outcome to be.
Anand Giridharadas
Anand Giridharadas@anandwrites · Author and New York Times columnist
@corleyh I think it will be Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Neither will reach the nomination without a little more drama, but I would think they will each secure it. And then I think Hillary probably has the edge -- but less of an edge, in my view, than the polls give her. I don't think we've seen, or know how to process, a Donald Trump general-election campaign. He will renounce stuff from the primaries and no one will have any idea how to pin him down. He's going to bring back every bit of mud from the 1990s. Hillary Clinton is a tough and resilient candidate, but we are entering choppy, uncharted, faintly toxic waters.
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Operations @ Product Hunt
During your career to date, what are you a) most proud of, b) has most surprised you, and c) made you reflect the most - or even changed you?
Anand Giridharadas
Anand Giridharadas@anandwrites · Author and New York Times columnist
@ems_hodge A: My books. And finding the voice for them. B. The fact that my industry chose to die right as I was getting started. Thanks, History! C. Traveling. Talking to people constantly. Always trying to take what I'm sure of and scramble it like the egg it is.
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
What would you tell your 25 year old self if he were 25 today?
Anand Giridharadas
Anand Giridharadas@anandwrites · Author and New York Times columnist
@bentossell It's easier to cut carbs preemptively.
Priya Parker
Priya Parker@priyaparker · Founder, Thrive Labs
Why don't you work on evenings and weekends? How do you get everything done? :)
Anand Giridharadas
Anand Giridharadas@anandwrites · Author and New York Times columnist
@priyaparker So I can spend time with you.
Priya Parker
Priya Parker@priyaparker · Founder, Thrive Labs
Mike Coutermarsh
Mike Coutermarsh@mscccc · Code @ GitHub
Hi Anand! I'd love to know. So far in your career, what's the one thing you've done that frightened you the most?
Anand Giridharadas
Anand Giridharadas@anandwrites · Author and New York Times columnist
@mscccc Probably giving this talk: https://medium.com/@AnandWrites/... It was a talk that challenged the winners of our age -- a group in which I included myself -- to stop lying to ourselves about our virtue. I had doubts about the wisdom of coming at something so forthrightly. But the strangest thing happened: my intervention brought forth others from so many people who had been having similar misgivings and felt moved to share. Now I'm writing a book that grew out of that moment.
Deirdre Hess
Deirdre Hess@deirdre_hess · Director Knowledge & Influence @HeronFdn
@anandwrites @mscccc I guess I sortof got my answer before I asked my question (down below)! Can't wait to hear more about the book.
priya joseph
priya joseph@ayirpelle · Entrepreneur
Why not @TheIntercept ? How about more VRs from #TheFrugalGuy and well, there hasn't been a successful replacement for #DavidPogue
Anand Giridharadas
Anand Giridharadas@anandwrites · Author and New York Times columnist
@ayirpelle @theintercept I don't really have the answers to any of these things, which makes me think I need to start trying harder.
Jane Egerton-Idehen
Jane Egerton-Idehen@jane_egerton_idehen · Ericsson
I was at your thought provoking speech last Summer in Aspen ( ASPEN Action Forum). It gave us all real food for thought. What do you enjoy most about being a writer /Content aggregator of your own content.
Anand Giridharadas
Anand Giridharadas@anandwrites · Author and New York Times columnist
@jane_egerton_idehen The freedom. I don't have to rep anything. There are costs involved with being a soloist. Many human endeavors require teams. There are no Eiffel Towers built by a dude with a hammer and an iPhone ruler app. That said, to be on a team creates immediate compromises. You have to represent things you may not always believe in. I think this is still a great choice for other people. But for me, the freedom of the writer, to go where your ideas and discoveries take you, to be your own person not in some vague high-school-graduation-speech sense, but actually, in most hours of your day, your own person -- I think this is a great and beautiful liberty, for which I'm endlessly grateful.
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Operations @ Product Hunt
What is the most important life lesson that you've learned, that you wish others would take note of?
Anand Giridharadas
Anand Giridharadas@anandwrites · Author and New York Times columnist
@ems_hodge Never start working too much on the expectation that you will scale it back. No one ever scales it back. The way you start often determines your patterns. And too many wonderful, creative, energetic people I knew became drones through work and the starvation of every other part of themselves.
Deirdre Hess
Deirdre Hess@deirdre_hess · Director Knowledge & Influence @HeronFdn
Hi Anand! At @HeronFdn we loved your Aspen Fellows speech so much we watched it at a staff meeting (which we only do about once/year). You said in the speech that you didn't think people would react well... did they? (PS we also shared it on our website: http://heron.org/engage/pulse/so...)
Deirdre Hess
Deirdre Hess@deirdre_hess · Director Knowledge & Influence @HeronFdn
Going to add specificity: How did those present in the room react that day or during the conference? Did they awkwardly avoid you? say "YES! You're so right"? Outright challenge you? Walk around the bar looking pensive?
Anand Giridharadas
Anand Giridharadas@anandwrites · Author and New York Times columnist
@deirdre_hess @heronfdn It was mixed. I had enormous support from my fellow fellows. And also from some very wealthy and powerful people, in the room and beyond. I think there is a group of people who consider themselves the protectors of the superrich, and these people have much thinner skins than the superrich themselves. The superrich people I know have talked about these ideas with me, and have agreed with much of what I said. It's the people who consider themselves their protectors, who raise money from them, who live from their largesse, who are their intermediaries, who I think were more offended.
Anand Giridharadas
Anand Giridharadas@anandwrites · Author and New York Times columnist
@deirdre_hess Most of it was very positive. The negativity was present but presumably less visible to me.
Deirdre Hess
Deirdre Hess@deirdre_hess · Director Knowledge & Influence @HeronFdn
@anandwrites Hmmmm, that's counter-intuitive, and yet come to think of it not surprising based on some of what I've seen of the social sector and its funding world.
Daniel Lee
Daniel Lee@dleesta · Product Manager
Your talk at the Aspen Institute, The Thriving World, the Wilting World, and You, was game-changing for me. In it you encourage companies and individuals to "do less bad" in order to "do more good". As someone who wants their business to be a tool for social good, how would you recommend I approach incorporating a social responsibility into by business? Focus on my current business practices and optimize, or build a program externally that services community? Or both?
Anand Giridharadas
Anand Giridharadas@anandwrites · Author and New York Times columnist
@dleesta It's a great question. I'm reluctant to give you practical advice without knowing anything about what you do. But part of what I argued in the Aspen speech was that it doesn't work to seek to cancel out the harm your business does by performing some ex-post-facto good works. It doesn't work because the scale of the harm often dwarfs the scale of the good. But it also doesn't work because the harm period legitimizes harm-doing. And your subsequent penance doesn't undo that legitimizing. So I would say think about how your main gig, not some side project, can be engineered to be a positive contribution to the world.
Deirdre Hess
Deirdre Hess@deirdre_hess · Director Knowledge & Influence @HeronFdn
@anandwrites @dleesta This is so, so true. And there are so many ways to build "social good" into your business. Even just operating with integrity, caring about your employees and community and thinking about the impact on them of business decisions is a step that many skip.
Daniel Lee
Daniel Lee@dleesta · Product Manager
@anandwrites thanks, really appreciate it!