Return to site

Write Letter to Your Future Self

· Focus on what matter,Leadership,Motivation

Dream Big and Visualize Your Future - Keep writing letters to your future self

A personal goal, clear vision and strategy to achieve it, can keep us focused on what matters. Of course, a good mentor or coach, will be of help along the way. After all, you are who you surround yourself with or "you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with" as quoted by Jim Rohn.


You might have heard of Jim Carrey visualizing his acting career, writing himself a US$10 million check in 1985, for "acting services rendered," and keeping it in his wallet. At last, he earned US$10 million before Thanksgiving Day in 1995 in the movie “Dumb and Dumber”.

Yes, dreaming high works and does rub off on us.

My mother had a crystal-clear vision for me, when I was schooling in early 70s. She wanted me to be an Engineer (parents wanted their children to be an Engineer, Doctor, or a Chartered Accountant those days in India). Had never heard of shipping career until my mother saw it in the newspaper in 1975 and told me to sit for its entrance examination too - she wouldn't leave any stone unturned, and I sat for all entrance examinations.


I had the privilege of getting called for interview for selection in the Merchant Navy as an officer cadet in T.S.Rajendra. My father and I landed up in Bombay in 1975 at Directorate General of Shipping and the interview board was eager to know about my shipping knowledge and asked whether I could distinguish between the fore and aft end of the ship. Honesty is the best virtue, and it was very easy to answer that question. Had never been on a ship but seen one far away at Cochin port and I couldn't clearly identify the fore end and aft end.

However, upon completion of the training on T.S.Rajendra in 1976 and joining sea as a deck cadet, doing maintenance all day long and keeping lookout at sea with a navigating officer, it became abundantly clear that I must become a Captain and command ships.

As soon as the first certificate of competency (2nd Mate) was obtained in 1979, it became clear to me that I must join a foreign shipping company. Joined Egon Oldendoff, Lübeck in 1980 as 2nd Mate, and was in command of Egon Oldendorff ships from 1990, achieving the 1st career goal.

From there on, the goal posts kept shifting and centered around shore job (rather than sailing all my life) to raise a family and see kids grow- sit for Extra Master Mariner and teach in college, join Cochin Port Trust as a pilot and become Harbor Master, join another shipping company with opportunities for transfer from Bridge to Board Room.....- until we settled with a shore job in 1996 in Hong Kong with Jardine Quality Services, a division of Jardine Ship Management.

The career took off in Hong Kong with the perseverance and attitude, despite the failures and its excitements. I was fortunate to lead the ship management and new building teams of Pacific Basin Shipping from 2010~2020 making its people and fleet one of the most capable teams and admired fleet in the entire dry bulk shipping industry.

In 2018, the concept of writing letter to your future self was introduced to me, during the BPSE (Breakthrough Program for Senior Executives) course at IMD Business school at Lausanne. We were given a sample, 30 minutes prior to the assignment to write the letter, take a walk in the scenic campus and reflect on it.

Writing letter to your future self is a good way of pondering and reflecting about your future and it's an excellent tool to begin with the end in mind. Once its written, it can be used as a reference to measure the progress on the goals we set for ourselves.

I liked this idea and felt that youngsters should get exposed to this concept early in their career. Hence, I wish to share the letter I wrote to my future self in 2018.

Dear Jay

I am proud of the life journey and accomplishments in your personal and professional life. You have left a legacy to your family, friends and the people who worked with you in shipping industry and charity events with your perseverance and passion for what you do.

You have put your purpose - leaving people and places better than you found them by inspiring people to do their best every day with focus on what matters, leading by example and walking the talk to multiply leadership and making other people successful.

You focused on your health and inner balance of your mind and made progress towards your spiritual journey despite your busy professional life. Appreciate your determination to indulge in your hobbies, hiking, delivering leadership talks, exploring leadership books, contributing as Vice Chairman of INTERCARGO to shipping industry, writing your book on your 12 Oxfam trailwalkers (yet to accomplish the book) and how you turned every failures in your life into a stepping stone for success.

Good on you to break free from your bad habits of pondering only on work and freeing your mind besides work and spending more time with Beena, who has enabled you all along to spend your energy on what you are passionate of, with her love, patience and independent personality and raised a wonderful family, whom you have visited at least twice a year.

Thank you, Jay, for helping people in need of professional and personal inspiration with your life story from Bridge to Board Room. You have motivated 20 (still recruiting and need 8 more) people to walk the 100 km Oxfam Trail Walker on MacLehose trail in Hong Kong and stretch their imagination on what they can do.

You have done very well in expanding the Company, sustaining the success and industry leadership. Your efforts are commendable in mentoring and developing people as leaders not only on shore, but also at sea and making people choose to stay in the company by their own choice and adding value to the company and their own self. You collaborated and influenced other business heads in Company on how we can generate more revenues by exploring new ways to gain competitive advantage in difficult trades and regimes with owned ships and crew globally.

Your relentless focus on people development and operational efficiencies with innovation and exploration mindset has helped

  • the Company, to be the preferred choice of investors and other stakeholders
  • the people stand out among the crowd

You are leaving behind a team of people inspired to operate high standard ships which can trade to any stringent regime upholding the company brand, with values and integrity always and to do the right things. Nothing was impossible for the technical team under your able leadership with compassion and empowerment of people.

Thank you, Jay, for standing back and letting people do their job and making them ponder on their own to find solutions to the issues and gain confidence in leading in tough times, while you focused on the company’s growth and big picture.

We expanded from 111 ships to 150 (hit 120) ships over the last 3-4 years with Technical solutions for 2020 Sulphur cap by the Technical team for owned fleet with ease with your Can Do and hit the ground running mentality. You have made a winning team and your efforts in people development have enabled you to be succeeded by your mentees who will take the company to higher levels.

Well done and I am proud of your courage and perseverance to come out with smart strategies for success and to make complacency history by developing people.

You have been a reliable lighthouse and have consistently guided people to do what matters.

You would have heard from motivational gurus to announce our hard goals and time frame to our friends and ask them to make queries on our progress. This is effective and our well-wishers could steer us back on course if we lag or get de-railed.