Author Varun Duggirala
Book House

Varun Duggirala’s book is an instruction manual that presents a roadmap to navigate life and work

Varun Duggirala's book is an instruction manual that presents a roadmap to navigate life and work
  • The book “Everything Is Out of Syllabus: An Instruction Manual for Life & Work” by Varun Duggirala is partly funny, mostly reflective, and completely authentic, and full of anecdotal wisdom.

  • Varun Duggirala is the co-founder and content chief of The Glitch, an independent creative agency, and he hosts the podcast ‘Advertising Is Dead’, one of India’s most popular business podcasts. In this book, he tells readers what are the skills one needs to master to live a more fulfilled life that is optimized for happiness.

  • The book is a must read for anyone who is trying to understand life and figure out their own roadmap to navigate it.

  • Read an excerpt from the book below.

Editor’s Note: The following excerpt has been taken from the book’s introduction.


The idea behind this book isn’t to give you instructions or rules to live your life by, neither is it a memoir of an extraordinary life. This book is a collection of incidents, excerpts, insights and moments that have given me some form of clarity as I set out to trace what my life’s instruction manual could be. And in reading it, I hope you get some insights into how you can write your own manual for your life.

Let me start with what I began this book with. Four questions that became the foundation of what eventually became twenty-six seemingly tiny instructions that have had the largest impact in my life so far.

‘Why is there no rule book for ____?’

‘Why did no one tell me how to_____?’

‘Wait, you mean school doesn’t teach you to____?’

‘I wish I knew more about ____ when I was ____!’

So, before you get into what my insights are in the chapters to follow, you should fill in as many things in your life that fit into the blanks in those questions.

It’s a great way to understand what most of us wish we had understood better at specific instances in our lives. It’s also a great way to realize that no school, no university and no teacher can truly prepare you fully for life. Life throws crumbs at you as you move ahead, and it’s those crumbs that hold the lessons that lead us to where we can be, if we pay enough attention and follow them.

I’ve missed many crumbs over my almost forty years of existence on this earth. I have spent as much time rueing the crumbs I missed along the way as I have been grateful for the ones that I managed to spot. And as I sat down to start figuring out how an instruction manual for life would function, I realized a few simple facts. Broadly, there are five things we wish we knew more about before we had to actually face them.

1. How do we start?

2. How do we make choices?

3. How do we learn?

4. How do we connect with those we come across?

5. How do we reflect inwards?

I’ve looked over my life and tried to compile a list of guard rails for you to map your own life while keeping these five questions in mind. But before we get there, let me first set the context. About me. Because it’s important that you know where I’ve been for you to get more value from what’s to come.

A long time ago, in a coastal town with a silent beach called Kakinada, in the year India got colour television, I was beamed down onto this planet. My mom and dad were (and are) way cooler than most parents (a fact that I’m always grateful for but don’t say enough, so I’m putting it down in print to compensate). They were also super young when they had me (twenty and twenty-four respectively). I grew up with a healthy mix of Pink Floyd, Michael Bolton and Chiranjeevi (the only actor whose poster I had on my wall ever) along with tons of books, love and the opportunity to learn things beyond what everyone around me did. I was encouraged to question things, be as weird as I wanted to be and let my imagination lead me wherever it did. Which often led to me telling complete strangers everything that happened in my house, or speaking my mind a little too often, to everyone’s amusement. I also had a knack of performing for a crowd, and so, needless to say, lots of costume changes and drama were a constant feature, often culminating with tongues almost getting cut off or worse. In a nutshell, I grew up around two people who were figuring out life themselves while helping me take baby steps into it, and sharing that journey with them was (and is) something words simply cannot describe.

I was a happy, fun-loving kid living in my own little world with my parents and my truly interesting and smart younger sister (I didn’t realize it then, but she’s way cooler than I’ve ever been or can be). I was sheltered just enough from the world to understand how it worked but not feel its repercussions. This changed many years later when I moved to city life in Bengaluru. I was a small-town kid who thought he understood his place in the world, only to realize that the world can smack you in the face and make you question everything. The city brought with it lots of fun, friends and madness but also tons of insecurities, heartbreak, pain and a deep sense of being lost. I scraped through school, lumbered my way through a torturous engineering degree and proceeded to drift through life while trying not to face or understand what my reality was and what my future could be. I didn’t just ignore my reality and my feelings, but also ended up hurting and not doing right by my mom, dad and sister. I didn’t understand what I was meant to do and didn’t want to make the effort to figure out what I truly wanted to do. I fell in love, partied away, lived on a friend’s couch, lost a friend to substance abuse and used anyone I could as a crutch for my feelings, only to eventually get my heart broken and keep rolling down the slope of dismay. I was trapped in a hamster wheel of my own creation.

That led me to failure after failure, pain after pain. And in many ways, the lowest I’ve ever felt as an individual. I took up random jobs while trying to finish my engineering degree which I couldn’t for the life of me wrap up. I worked as a promoter for a whisky brand, I sold party cards for another liquor brand, I took up a job at a call centre which required me to work from 2 a.m. to 9 a.m. through the week (more on this later). I was lost and weak in mind, body and spirit. Until I got an opportunity to turn things around.

I ended up in media school studying television production, made friends, found purpose, and went on to intern and work for MTV till I eventually left all that to become an entrepreneur (a term I hadn’t fully grasped as a concept when I did). And life found a way to move me more and more towards the light. I continued to have failures, wins and everything else that life threw at me, but I also started to learn from them and grow as a person. I took four steps back but ten steps forward till I found professional success. I failed at relationships and eventually married the love of my life, made new friends, rediscovered family, became a father and felt the purest form of love I have ever felt. But on the way, I even had what I like to call a midlife crisis.

I have had and still have a regular life.

All of us have these journeys in our lives—periods and inflection points both large and small, where, in that moment, we don’t know where to begin or what to do. We struggle to figure out how to deal with the situation at hand, and later, in hindsight, we try to ascertain what we could have or should have done, or even understand why things went the way they did.

It’s like you’ve walked into a maths exam you’ve prepared for, only to realize it’s a history test. That is life every day!

So, what is this book about again?

It is a series of insights into how we can start, make choices, learn, connect with others and reflect on life. Things that have led me from my early days as a small-town kid, to the dark ages in my teens and early twenties, to discovering my purpose, becoming an entrepreneur, finding success and true relationships, love, friendship and so much more. Learnings I’ve had from seemingly innocuous incidents, excerpts and quotes that have given me clarity, mental models and frameworks that I’ve used to make sense of things and moments that seemed random on the surface but in reality made me look at life from a whole new perspective. We will begin by understanding how to start things in life (and overcoming the hurdles along the way). Then we will move to how we can make choices at every juncture, leading into how we can build systems to learn, and then closing with how we can connect with the people around us and reflect inwards to understand ourselves better. This book is me giving you my instruction manual for life, work and everything in between so you can start writing your own.

Varun Duggirala's book is an instruction manual that presents a roadmap to navigate life and work

Excerpted with permission from Everything Is Out of Syllabus, Varun Duggirala, Penguin India. Read more about the book here and buy it here.


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Varun Duggirala's book is an instruction manual that presents a roadmap to navigate life and work