in Order to form a more perfect Union ...
- the Preamble to the United States Constitution
Supporting the JOBS Act with a fantastic panel of Americans.
In April 2013, I was given the phenomenal opportunity to share some ideas from my friends about crowd-funding and its future. I am so proud to live in a country that actively seeks and highly regards the opinions of its citizens. To see the full testimony as recorded in the Library of Congress (please ignore the cupcakery reference), click here.
Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death.
- Albert Einstein
Where am I now?
Grad School. Learning as much as possible.
I'm currently a graduate student at Stanford University. It's an incredible place, and you can read more about it below. I'm pursuing a dual degree (MBA | MSc) in business and engineering.
I hope to use this education to help create new consumer products that many people will use and enjoy.
For once you have tasted flight...
Flying is a non-trivial activity in many ways, pushing me to become more aware than ever. To feel the craft, considering all elements of a situation.
Flying has taught me so much already: safety, thoughtful attention, care, and discipline. I earned my license (VFR SEL) in Austin before grad school and am honing my skills in the busy, but beautiful skies of California.
Running | Cycling | Swimming
If you build yourself...
Athletics are a growing interest for me. Having ski-raced one year in college, and trained for two, I am consistently pushing my own limits.
In 2016, I hope to finish my third marathon (Big Sur), and am continuing to become a stronger athlete. My good friends have helped me learn how to push my own boundaries further than I thought possible, and to them, I am grateful - Ross, Lisa, Tintin, Imran, Gihan, Mark, Kelly.
My current endeavor is to become an effective enough swimmer to begin pursuing triathlons.
Context and Contact
I like to chat with people!
If you find this at all interesting, feel free to keep scrolling down. This site is meant as a digital compendium of things that I find interesting.
I answer my emails; feel free to hit me up! email@example.com
Because the history of evolution is that life escapes all barriers. Life breaks free. Life expands to new territories. Painfully, perhaps even dangerously. But life finds a way.
- Jurassic Park (novel)
Men are greedy to publish the success of [their] efforts, but meanly shy as to publishing [their] failures.
- Abraham Lincoln
Speaking at Stanford on flexibility & grit.
In the Spring of 2015, I had the privilege of participating in Stanford's LOWKeyNotes Program, led by J.D. Schramm and Stanford GSB Staff. This was a major step for me, both in vulnerability, and in beginning to deliberately practice public speaking.
Huge thanks to my speaking coach, Chris Lipp, as well as my classmate, Anne Kasitaza, and my Mom for helping to edit and practice this. In addition, to Dr. Angela Duckworth for her interview, Dr. Adam Grant for connecting us, and Marshall Scholar and author of The Rise, Sarah Lewis, for her interview.
Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.
- Benjamin Franklin
The details are not the details. They make the design.
- Charles Eames
ROCK 'N' ROLL
You see, rock and roll isn't a career or hobby - it's a life force. It's something very essential.
- U2's The Edge
I started playing the drums in middle school, but I lacked the practice regimen to become a real player. In high school, I decided to join several bands at once - my church's band, the drum line, my high school's jazz band, and a rock band that I formed sophomore year. I figured that I would actually learn to play or die trying. In the high school jazz band, a turning point was when I decided to regularly volunteer for slow, less popular songs (My Funny Valentine, eg.) That shift allowed me to get better, focusing on timing and rhythm. Over time, this kind of 'un-sexy' practice and flexibility has helped me get better (playing to a metronome before grad school, switching back from electronic drums to real drums recently.)
Music is a conversation and it has allowed me over time to gain an appreciation for collaboration, art, and the idea of flowing improvisation. The drums, specifically, allow me to combine steadiness and flair. My current kit is a 90's Yamaha Al Foster signature HipGig Sr. My snare is a Munetaka Higuchi signature. Cymbals are a mix - Paiste Alpha, K custom // Constantinople, and Paiste 2002, as well as a few very old USA-made Avedis Zildjans.
Music is the universal language of mankind.
- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.
- Nelson Mandela
MBA Class of 2016 | Mechanical Engineering 2017
Entrepreneurship | Consumer Electronics
I started in the fall of 2014, and I can say that this place is changing me for the better. Stanford is taking the experiences I had before and honing them. It is a place to melt down the sword, re-forge, and sharpen it repeatedly. I look forward to learning from amazing peers and taking design classes at the world-renowned d.school.
My hope is to gain a dual degree in Mechatronics and an MBA in entrepreneurship and start a new consumer electronics company that will match the impact and pace of Nest.
BSc Mechanical Engineering | Product Design, Chinese
Class of 2011 | Baker House, Phi Beta Epsilon
MIT was a fascinating experience, with lots of tough p-sets and fond memories.
Trash Can Drumming | Water-jet Marble Clock Workshop
Experiments in Rapid Design Thinking Instruction
I'm fascinated by how basic skills can allow advanced learning rapidly.
Fall 2012: Discussion-based startup workshops with high-school students.
Reading | Interviewing | Mentoring
Business | Design, Social Sciences | Cognitive Psychology
I'm always trying to move the ball up the field, and I do this in a variety of ways. Here are a few of them.
I never said most of the things I said.
- Yogi Berra.
There is no knowledge that is not power.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
Originals, Adam Grant || Unbroken, Lauren Hillenbrand || Give and Take, Adam Grant || The Dip, Seth Godin || Mastery, Robert Greene || Finite and Infinite Games, James Carse || David and Goliath, Malcolm Gladwell || The Last Lecture, Randy Pausch || You Are Here, Thich Nhat Hanh || Winners Never Cheat, John Huntsman, Sr. || The War of Art, Steven Pressfield || Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea, Gary Kinder || Made in Japan, Akio Morita || The True Believer, Eric Hoffer || Team of Rivals, Doris Kearns Goodwin || Oh the Places You'll Go, Dr. Seuss || Obliquity, John Kay || Call of the Wild, Jack London || The Endurance, Alfred Lansing || The Obstacle is the Way, Ryan Holiday || Mindset, Carol Dweck
Good Will Hunting || Batman Begins || Cloud Atlas || Gandhi || Gravity || The Matrix || 50/50 || The Perks of Being A Wallflower || Ocean's 11 || Star Trek || Skyfall || GATTACA || The Prestige || Zoolander || Back to the Future || The Aviator || Rush || The Social Network || Taken || Superbad || Tropic Thunder || Design Thinking || Cast Away
TALKS, ARTICLES, AND VIDEOS
The Risk Not Taken || The Importance of Stupidity in Research || Steve Jobs Responds to Insulting Question Eloquently || Steve Jobs Stanford Commencement || Jeff Bezos 'All I Know' on Zappos Acquisition || Tom Hanks Yale Commencement || Drew Houston MIT Commencement || Sal Khan MIT Commencement || Bono/Ive/Newson (RED) Sotheby's Campaign || Inspirational Video from Our TEDx Dinner (courtesy: Am Media Group NY) || Michael Bloomberg 2014 Harvard Commencement || and just for fun: Jerry McGuire 'You Had Me at Hello' || Bill Clinton 2012 DNC Speech || JFK Rice University 'We Choose to Go to the Moon' Speech || RFK Address upon MLK Jr. Murder || Get Excited: Re-Apprising Performance Anxiety as Excitement || Jobs' E-book Negotiations
Success is going from failure to failure without a loss of enthusiasm.
- Sir Winston Churchill
Stranded with No Plans
I believe that the core of success often lies in the heart of failure. As my Mom said to me growing up, 'Something happens... the way you respond can make things better or worse.' I had no idea how right she was. I am not ashamed of my failures, but rather view them as a hallmark of my commitment to learning. A failure is only truly a failure if it has not been learned from. As author Ryan Holiday says in his book with the same title, The Obstacle is the Way.
Am I glorifying or endorsing failure? No. But I do believe that if you're not falling, you're not skiing hard enough. Failure is inevitable. How we choose to react is what counts.
In 2007, I was deferred from MIT. This means that, after applying early, I was not accepted, but not rejected. Rather, they offered to consider my application in their regular pool. Key was the fact that they allowed me to show them any progress over the following 6 weeks. My friends and I responded by finishing a project on which we'd been hard at work: an arcade machine for Texas Children's Hospital (see the Design section of this site.) I wanted to show the school that we could finish what we started and that I really did mean what I said in my essays. With the incredible support of friends and family, not only did the hospital enjoy the game for over 7 years, but I also got into MIT. I now interview for the school's undergraduate program.
Between Fall 2008 and Fall 2009, I was turned down 5 different times when I tried to get an internship at Apple. The 6th time, I got it. (and just in the nick of time - I was a Junior in college.)
At the beginning of 2009, I got frostbite on every one of my fingertips, putting one of them in serious jeopardy. I did this by doing practically everything wrong. Dehydration: projectile vomiting the day before with a horrendous stomach bug and chugging pepto on the car ride from TX to Colorado. Impaired judgment from sleep deprivation: getting lost en route to Canon City, CO in the dark at 2:00am and waking at 6:30am to go skiing. Further dehydration: not drinking nearly enough water to avoid puking on the slopes. Stupidity: allowing my buddy to egg me on and staying out after losing feeling in my fingers, even after experiencing lots of pain recovering at lunch. More stupidity: after seeing white fingertips (and one with a dark shadow) once off the slopes, I proceeded to immediately thrust my hands under scalding hot water. The following 2 hours are some of the most physically painful I can recall. This left me unable to ski race during January 2009.
I was stranded with no plans. A perfect platform to reassess. Luckily, I regained feeling by that summer.
Also at the beginning of 2009, I was fired from a research position at MIT's world-renowned Media Lab. The cause? I promised to work 20 hours/week, but got too excited about my first startup project and failed to adjust expectations.
All of this thrash allowed me to confront tough decisions and change majors at MIT, enriching my college experience by exposing me to learning opportunities that I truly enjoyed. In addition, I re-assessed my extracurricular involvement and was able to discover and help friends create and launch incredible projects like MIT's live music club and MIT Camp Kesem's Teen Program.
In 2012, I was voted out of a company I started with my friends. That was one of the biggest changes and challenges early in my career. Needless to say, I found it enormously difficult. In the process, I learned the value of being what Adam Grant calls an other-ish, or smart giver. I finally came to understand the difference in identity between me and the projects I start. I also gained a very personal sense of how to avoid what Stanford researcher Carol Dweck calls a 'fixed mindset' (ie. I'm just not good at X or I'm a rock star at Y). I learned about business ethics by reading Winners Never Cheat (Even in Difficult Times) and James Carse's Finite and Infinite Games, which I learned of from author and speaker, Seth Godin. Ultimately, I left the company on good terms and remain close colleagues and friends with my business partner. Ministry of Supply was an amazing vehicle to validate the idea of a viral consumer product. The project taught me not only that startups can work, but that my friends and I were capable of creating them. Wow. That was huge. And addictive.
In 2013, after helping break a record on Kickstarter, I submitted a video that wasn't good enough. How? 2 ways. 1) The video and audio weren't well-synced. And 2) the story was stilted - I couldn't put my finger on it, but I knew something was wrong. But I turned it in anyway. The result? I was rejected from Kickstarter. In response, I was able to explore independent crowd funding through Crowdtilt Open.
So, why am I being open about these failures? Because, as we live in an increasingly transparent society, I think it's important for us not to fear failure because of what it might mean, but rather, to embrace it for what it truly is: an opportunity to learn and return more ready to do it better next time. Life is an iterative process. And I believe that only by iterating on inevitable failures can we grow. As long as we stay open to life, it will stay open to us.
I'm not perfect, and neither are you. But I believe that together, we can create a more perfect world.
Faith, in the sense in which I am here using the word, is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods.
- C.S. Lewis
What I Believe
I am writing this essay to address a topic on which I place much importance and which I find a sore need in our country and our world at this time.
I am writing about faith.
One of the things that I pride myself on is anonymity: the ability to blend into a group and empathize with them. It's not something that I am perfect at in any way, but something I strive to do.
As such, it is without surprise that I find that people sometimes do not know that I am someone of faith. My faith is in God and my fellow man. My faith is in tomorrow. I identify as a Christian, but I do not in any way share many of the incredibly damaging and perhaps deserved stereotypes that the likes of the 'Tea Party' have promulgated throughout what seems to be an ever-more polarizing society.
I believe that what unites us is our differences, and I have faith that we will not let other forces that seek to divide us, do so for their aims.
I was asked recently by a scholarship application to make a statement of what I believe - my faith. And I realized that I had never really done this. I had never committed to paper what I believe.
So here it is.
On this Earth, I believe in the power of the human spirit. I believe that, while we can be terrible forces of disturbing power, we all hold the power and capability to be immeasurable forces for good. And I believe it is each of our right to make a choice as to which we seek. To better our fellow man, or to leave him as we find him.
I believe in God. I believe that Jesus Christ has redeemed us. I believe that I cannot ever truly know or prove this. Are the beliefs of others important? Yes.
Do I judge others, as the likes of Ann Coulter seem to on popular television? No. I don't believe that judgment is in the spirit of my faith.
Am I anti-gay, anti-abortion, anti-every-other-controversial issue? No. I am anti-tobacco. I really do think those companies are a scourge that must be demolished if the free market doesn't get there first.
Am I a 'hater' or a 'faker'? I hope not.
What I am, is an imperfect, but interested party. I am interested in other people. How are they doing? What can I do, if anything?
I don't understand how the concept of faith garnered such a bad rap. It seems like somebody took a wonderful gift and wrapped it in the worst detritus.
To me, faith simply means believing in something that isn't currently provable or perhaps logical. As an aspiring and aspirating entrepreneur, faith comes with my job. But not blind faith. No.
Informed faith. A faith that is informed by the beautiful world that I see around me, and yes, the hard things too.
A faith that hopes and yearns for something better, knowing that there is nothing I can do to change the hardships in my past or the past hurts of others. But rather, a faith that knows and believes that tomorrow, we can do it better.
And if tomorrow, doesn't work, we'll try the day after.
My faith is not exclusive. My faith is inclusive.
My faith is not hateful. My faith is not harsh. My faith is not explicitly friendly while implicitly mean.
My faith accepts people and rejects ill-intended behavior. But my faith is not and will never be part of a vitriolic and caustic you vs. me culture designed by a cunning few to sell toxic ideas to a hungry many. My faith can never be that. How can anyone really believe in that process?
My faith believes in a higher power, and in other people. My faith knows that life isn't perfect, but moves for that, anyway. My faith says that, you're a smart person and you have a perspective. It's not my job to change that. But, if you're having a hard time, my faith says that I might remind you, as I have been reminded, my friend, that today is not all there is. There is more.
And I think it's important that people know that about me.
- Kevin Rustagi, November, 14, 2014.
(c) 2016, Kevin Rustagi.
Cover Photo: Kevin Rustagi, Credit: Quinnton Harris, Stanford University, Memorial Day 2016.
Big thanks to David, Teng, and Dafeng for sticking with Striking.ly and doing an incredible job with both the business and the vision of bringing great design to everyone on the web. I'm such a fan.