How can we revive and propagate Hinduism in the current millennium?

I will just give the guiding principles. It will be upto you to reach your own conclusions. In fact as a guide I feel I should help you to find your own bearings so that you are able to find your own goal in an increasingly complex, competitive and conflicting world.
 
I fully agree if you mean the universal religion the eternal dharma the sanatan dharma. I firmly believe that we need to protect the right of believing in Universal truth and eternal freedom of a devotee to choose the form he wishes to see the God . I disagree with those who mean Hinduism which (some people wrongly think) justifies untouchability.

It is also obvious that I cannot agree with anyone who say that there is only one single and sole form of truth. The Rig-Veda declares: "Truth is one; sages call it various names- Ekam Sat Vipra Bahudha Vadanti." Further

यो यो यां यां तनुं भक्तः श्रद्धयार्चितुमिच्छति।
तस्य तस्याचलां श्रद्धां तामेव विदधाम्यहम्।।7.21।। Bh Gita

English translation by Swami Gambhirananda
7.21 Whichever form (of a deity) any devotee wants to worship with faith, that very firm faith of his I strengthen.

Reality never ceases to exist:
नासतो विद्यते भावो नाभावो विद्यते सतः।
उभयोरपि दृष्टोऽन्तस्त्वनयोस्तत्त्वदर्शिभिः।।2.16।। Bh Gita
The unreal can never come into being, the real never ceases to be. The conclusion about these two is seen by the seers of truth.

Any so called religion which takes away the free will of the individual is not true and definitely harmful. Sanatan Dharma lays lot of stress on an individual's free will, reflection (self conviction) and efforts karma. Even after giving the long discourse of Bh Gita on the battlefield Lord had told Arjuna to act according to his will. Unlike lots of false prophets Lord had not even threatened Arjuna to follow his dictated path.  I quote:
इति ते ज्ञानमाख्यातं गुह्याद्गुह्यतरं मया।
विमृश्यैतदशेषेण यथेच्छसि तथा कुरु।।18.63।।

English translation by Swami Adidevananda
18.63 Thus the knowledge, the mystery of mysteries, has been declared to you be Me. Reflecting on it fully, do what you will.

English translation by Swami Sivananda
7.21 Whatsoever form any devotee desires to worship with faith — that (same) faith of his I make firm and unflinching.

English translation by Dr. S Sankaranarayan
7.21. Whatever may be the form of the deity a devotee-whosoever he may be-desires to worship with faith, I assume that form which is firm and is according to his faith.

English translation by Swami Adidevananda
7.21 Whichever devotee seeks to worship with faith whatever form, I make that very faith steadfast.

English translation by Swami Adidevananda (on Sri Ramanuja's Sanskrit Commentary)
7.21 These divinities too constitute My body as taught in the Sruti text like: 'He who, dwelling in the sun, whom the sun does not know, whose body is the sun' (Br. U., 3.7.9). Whichever devotee seeks to worship with faith whatever form of Mine, such as the Indra, although not knowing these divinities to be My forms, I consider his faith as being directed to My bodies or manifestations, and make his faith steadfast, i.e., make it free from obstacles.

English translation by Dr. S Sankaranarayan (on Sri Abhinavagupta's Sanskrit Commentary)
7.21 See Comment under 7.23

English translation by Swami Gambhirananda (on Sri Sankaracharya's Sanskrit Commentary)
7.21 Yam yam, whichever; tanum, form of a deity; yah, any covetous person- among these people with desires; who, being endowed sraddhaya, with faith; and being a bhaktah, devotee; icchati, wants; arcitum, to worship; tam eva, that very; acalam, firm, steady; sraddham, faith; tasya, of his, of that particular covetous person-that very faith with which he desires to worship whatever form of a deity, in which (worship) he was earlier engaged under the impulsion of his own nature-; Ast. takes the portion 'svabhavatah yo yam devata-tanum sraddhaya arcitum icchati' with the next verse.-Tr. vidadhami, I strengthen.

Hindi translation by Swami Ram Sukhdas
(टिप्पणी प0 430) जो-जो भक्त जिस-जिस देवताका श्रद्धापूर्वक पूजन करना चाहता है, उस-उस देवताके प्रति मैं उसकी श्रद्धाको दृढ़ कर देता हूँ ।।7.21।।

Hindi translation by Swami Tejomayananda
जो-जो (सकामी) भक्त जिस-जिस (देवता के) रूप को श्रद्धा से पूजना चाहता है, उस-उस (भक्त) की मैं उस ही देवता के प्रति श्रद्धा को स्थिर करता हूँ। ।।7.21।।

Hindi translation by Sri Harikrishandas Goenka (on Sri Sankaracharya's Sanskrit Commentary)
उन कामी पुरुषोंमेंसे — जो-जो सकाम भक्त जिस-जिस देवताके स्वरूपका श्रद्धा और भक्तियुक्त होकर अर्चनपूजन करना चाहता है, उस-उस भक्तकी देवताविषयक उस श्रद्धाको मैं अचल — स्थिर कर देता हूँ। अभिप्राय यह कि जो पुरुष पहले स्वभावसे ही प्रवृत्त हुआ जिस श्रद्धाद्वारा जिस देवताके स्वरूपका पूजन करना चाहता है (उस पुरुषकी उसी श्रद्धाको मैं स्थिर कर देता हूँ ) ।।7.21।।

Hindi commentary by Swami Chinmayananda
इस अध्याय के प्रारम्भिक भाग में ही आत्मानात्म विवेक (जड़चेतन का विभाजन) करके भगवान् श्रीकृष्ण ने वर्णन किया है कि किस प्रकार उनमें समस्त नामरूप पिरोये हुए हैं। उसके पश्चात् उन्होंने यह भी बताया कि किस प्रकार त्रिगुणात्मिका मायाजनित विकारों से मोहित होकर मनुष्य अपने शुद्ध आत्मस्वरूप को नहीं पहचान पाता। आत्मचैतन्य के बिना शरीर, मन और बुद्धि की जड़ उपाधियाँ स्वयं कार्य नहीं कर सकती हैं।जगत् में देखा जाता है कि सभी भक्तजन एक ही रूप में ईश्वर की आराधना नहीं करते। प्रत्येक भक्त अपने इष्ट देवता की पूजा के द्वारा सत्य तक पहुँचने का प्रयत्न करता है। भगवान् श्रीकृष्ण स्पष्ट घोषणा करते हैं कि कोई भी भक्त, किसी भी स्थान पर – मन्दिर, मस्जिद, गुरुद्वारा या गिरजाघर में, एकान्त में या सार्वजनिक स्थान में – किसी भी रूप में ईश्वर की पूजा श्रद्धा के साथ करता है, उसकी उस श्रद्धा को उसके इष्ट देवता में "मैं स्थिर करता हूँ।" गीता के मर्म को जानने वाला सच्चा विद्यार्थी कदापि कट्टरपंथी, पृथकतावादी या असहिष्णु नहीं हो सकता। ईश्वर के सभी सगुण रूपों का अधिष्ठान एक परम सत्य ही है, जहाँ से भक्त के हृदय में भक्तिरूपी पौधा पल्लवित, पुष्पित और फलित होने के लिए श्रद्धारूपी जल प्राप्त करता है, क्योंकि भगवान् स्वयं कहते हैं "मैं उस श्रद्धा को स्थिर करता हूँ।"आध्यात्मदृष्टि से विचार करने पर इस श्लोक का और अधिक गम्भीर अर्थ भी स्पष्ट हो जाता है।मनुष्य जिस विषय का निरन्तर चिन्तन करता रहता है, उसमें वह दृढ़ता से आसक्त और स्थित हो जाता है। अखण्ड चिन्तन से मन में उस विषय के संस्कार दृढ़ हो जाते हैं और फिर उसके अनुसार ही उस मनुष्य की इच्छायें और कर्म होते हैं। इसी नियम के अनुसार सतत आत्मचिन्तन करने से भी मनुष्य अपने शुद्ध स्वरूप का साक्षात् अनुभव कर सकता है।सारांशत: भगवान् का कथन हैं कि, "जैसा हम विचार करते हैं वैसा ही हम बनते हैं।" अत: यदि कोई व्यक्ति दुर्गुणों का शिकार हो गया हो, अथवा अन्य व्यक्ति दैवी गुणों से संपन्न हो तो यह दोनों के भिन्न-भिन्न विचारों का ही परिणाम समझना चाहिए। विचार प्रकृति का अंग है; विचारों के अनुरूप जगत् होता है, जिसका एक अधिष्ठान है – सर्वव्यापी आत्मतत्त्व।सतत समृद्ध हो रही श्रद्धा के द्वारा मनुष्य किस प्रकार इष्ट फल को प्राप्त करता है ? ।।7.21।।
 
Further explanations
English translation by Swami Gambhirananda (on Sri Sankaracharya's Sanskrit Commentary)
2.16 Since 'the unreal has no being,' etc., for this reason also it is proper to bear cold, heat, etc. without becoming sorrowful or deluded. Asatah, of the unreal, of cold, heat, etc. together with their causes; na vidyate, there is no; bhavah, being, existence, reality; because heat, cold, etc. together with their causes are not substantially real when tested by means of proof. For they are changeful, and whatever is changeful is inconstant. As configurations like pot etc. are unreal since they are not perceived to be different from earth when tested by the eyes, so also are all changeful things unreal because they are not perceived to be different from their (material) causes, and also because they are not perceived before (their) origination and after destruction.Objection: If it be that Here Ast. has the additional words 'karyasya ghatadeh, the effect, viz pot etc. (and)'.-Tr. such (material) causes as earth etc. as also their causes are unreal since they are not perceived differently from their causes, in that case, may it not be urged that owing to the nonexistence of those (causes) there will arise the contingency of everything becoming unreal An entity cannot be said to be unreal merely because it is non-different from its cause. Were it to be asserted as being unreal, then the cause also should be unreal, because there is no entity which is not subject to the law of cuase and effect.?Vedantin: No, for in all cases there is the experience of two awarenesses, viz the awareness of reality, and the awareness of unreality. In all cases of perception two awarenesses are involved: one is invariable, and the other is variable. Since the variable is imagined on the invariable, therefore it is proved that there is something which is the substratum of all imagination, and which is neither a cause nor an effect. That in relation to which the awareness does not change is real; that in relation to which it changes is unreal. Thus, since the distinction between the real and the unreal is dependent on awareness, therefore in all cases (of empirical experiences) everyone has two kinds of awarenesses with regard to the same substratum: (As for instance, the experiences) 'The pot is real', 'The cloth is real', 'The elephant is real' — (which experiences) are not like (that of) 'A blue lotus'. In the empirical experience, 'A blue lotus', there are two awarenesses concerned with two entities, viz the substance (lotus) and the quality (blueness). In the case of the experience, 'The pot is real', etc. the awarenesses are not concerned with substratum and qualities, but the awareness of pot,of cloth, etc. are superimposed on the awareness of 'reality', like that of 'water' in a mirage. This is how it happens everywhere. The coexistence of 'reality' and 'pot' etc. are valid only empirically — according to the non-dualists; whereas the coexistence of 'blueness' and 'lotus' is real according to the dualists.Of these two awareness, the awareness of pot etc. is inconstant; and thus has it been shown above. But the awareness of reality is not (inconstant). Therefore the object of the awareness of pot etc. is unreal because of inconstancy; but not so the object of the awareness of reality, because of its constancy.Objection: If it be argued that, since the awareness of pot also changes when the pot is destroyed, therefore the awareness of the pot's reality is also changeful?Vedantin: No, because in cloth etc. the awareness of reality is seen to persist. That awareness relates to the odjective (and not to the noun 'pot'). For this reason also it is not destroyed. This last sentence has been cited in the f.n. of A.A.-Tr.Objection: If it be argued that like the awareness of reality, the awareness of a pot also persists in other pots?Vedantin: No, because that (awareness of pot) is not present in (the awareness of) a cloth etc.Objection: May it not be that even the awareness of reality is not present in relation to a pot that has been destroyed?Vedantin: No, because the noun is absent (there). Since the awareness of reality corresponds to the adjective (i.e. it is used adjectivelly), therefore, when the noun is missing there is no possibility of its (that awareness) being an adjective. So, to what should it relate? But, again, the awareness of reality (does not cease) with the absence of an object.. Even when a pot is absent and the awareness of reality does not arise with regare to it, the awareness of reality persists in the region where the pot had existed. Some read nanu in place of na tu ('But, again'). In that case, the first portion (No,…since…adjective. So,…relate?) is a statement of the Vedantin, and the Objection starts from nanu punah sadbuddheh, etc. so, the next Objection will run thus: 'May it not be said that, when nouns like pot etc. are absent, the awareness of existence has no noun to qualify, and therefore it becomes impossible for it (the awareness of existence) to exist in the same substratum?'-Tr.Objection: May it not be said that, when nouns like pot etc. are absent, (the awareness of existence has no noun to qualify and therefore) it becomes impossible for it to exist in the same substratum? The relationship of an adjective and a noun is seen between two real entities. Therefore, if the relationship between 'pot' and 'reality' be the same as between a noun and an adjective, then both of them will be real entities. So, the coexistence of reality with a non-pot does not stand to reason.Vedantin: No, because in such experiences as, 'This water exists', (which arises on seeing a mirage etc.) it is observed that there is a coexistence of two objects though one of them is non-existent.Therefore, asatah, of the unreal, viz body etc. and the dualities (heat, cold, etc.), together with their causes; na vidyate, there is no; bhavah, being. And similarly, satah, of the real, of the Self; na vidyate, there is no; abhavah, nonexistence, because It is constant everywhere. This is what we have said.Tu, but; antah, the nature, the conclusion (regarding the nature of the real and the unreal) that the Real is verily real, and the unreal is verily unreal; ubhayoh api, of both these indeed, of the Self and the non-Self, of the Real and the unreal, as explained above; drstah, has been realized thus; tattva-darsibhih, by the seers of Truth. Tat is a pronoun (Sarvanama, lit. name of all) which can be used with regard to all. And all is Brahman. And Its name is tat. The abstraction of tat is tattva, the true nature of Brahman. Those who are apt to realize this are tattva-darsinah, seers of Truth.Therefore, you too, by adopting the vision of the men of realization and giving up sorrow and delusion, forbear the dualities, heat, cold, etc. — some of which are definite in their nature, and others inconstant –, mentally being convinced that this (phenomenal world) is changeful, verily unreal and appears falsely like water in a mirage. This is the idea.What, again, is that reality which remains verily as the Real and surely for ever? This is being answered in, 'But know That', etc.

Hindi translation by Swami Ram Sukhdas
(टिप्पणी प0 55) असत्का तो भाव (सत्ता) विद्यमान नहीं है और सत्का अभाव विद्यमान नहीं है, तत्त्वदर्शी महापुरुषोंने इन दोनोंका ही अन्त अर्थात् तत्त्व देखा है ।।2.16।।

Hindi translation by Swami Tejomayananda
असत् वस्तु का तो अस्तित्व नहीं है और सत् का कभी अभाव नहीं है। इस प्रकार इन दोनों का ही तत्त्व, तत्त्वदर्शी ज्ञानी पुरुषों के द्वारा देखा गया है। ।।2.16।।

Hindi translation by Sri Harikrishandas Goenka (on Sri Sankaracharya's Sanskrit Commentary)
इसलिये भी शोक और मोह न करके शीतोष्णादिको सहन करना उचित है, जिससे कि — वास्तवमें अविद्यमान शीतोष्णादिका और उनके कारणोंका भाव-होनापन अर्थात् अस्तित्व है ही नहीं, क्योंकि प्रमाणोंद्वारा निरूपण किये जानेपर शीतोष्णादि और उनके कारण कोई पदार्थ ही नहीं ठहरते ! क्योंकि वे शीतोष्णादि सब विकार हैं, और विकार सदा बदलता रहता है। जैसे चक्षुद्वारा निरूपण किया जानेपर घटादिका आकार मिट्टीको छोड़कर और कुछ भी उपलब्ध नहीं होता इसलिये असत् है, वैसे ही सभी विकार कारणके सिवा उपलब्ध न होनेसे असत् हैं। क्योंकि उत्पत्तिसे पूर्व और नाशके पश्चात् उन सबकी उपलब्धि नहीं है। पू0 — मिट्टी आदि कारणकी और उसके भी कारणकी अपने कारणसे पृथक् उपलब्धि नहीं होनेसे उनका अभाव सिद्ध हुआ, फिर इसी तरह उसका भी अभाव सिद्ध होनेसे सबके अभावका प्रसङ्ग आ जाता है। उ0 — यह कहना ठीक नहीं, क्योंकि सर्वत्र सत्-बुद्धि और असत्-बुद्धि ऐसी दो बुद्धियाँ उपलब्ध होती हैं। जिस पदार्थको विषय करनेवाली बुद्धि बदलती नहीं वह पदार्थ सत् है और जिसको विषय करनेवाली बुद्धि बदलती हो वह असत् है। इस प्रकार सत् और असत्का विभाग बुद्धिके अधीन है। सभी जगह समानाधिकरणमें ( एक ही अधिष्ठानमें ) सबको दो बुद्धियाँ उपलब्ध होती हैं। नील कमलके सदृश नहीं, किन्तु घड़ा है, कपड़ा है, हाथी है, इस तरह सब जगह दो-दो बुद्धियाँ उपलब्ध होती हैं। उन दोनों बुद्धियोंसे घटादिको विषय करनेवाली बुद्धि बदलती है, यह पहले दिखलाया जा चुका है परंतु सत्-बुद्धि बदलती नहीं। अतः घटादि बुद्धिका विषय ( घटादि ) असत् है क्योंकि उसमें व्यभिचार ( परिवर्तन ) होता है। परंतु सत्-बुद्धिका विषय ( अस्तित्व ) असत् नहीं है, क्योंकि उसमें व्यभिचार ( परिवर्तन ) नहीं होता। पू0 — घटका नाश हो जानेपर घटविषयक बुद्धिके नष्ट होते ही सत् बुद्धि भी तो नष्ट हो जाती है। उ0 — यह कहना ठीक नहीं; क्योंकि वस्त्रादि अन्य वस्तुओंमें भी सत्-बुद्धि देखी जाती है। वह सत्-बुद्धि केवल विशेषणको ही विषय करनेवाली है। पू0 — सत्-बुद्धिकी तरह घट-बुद्धि भी तो दूसरे घटमें दीखती है। उ0 — यह ठीक नहीं; क्योंकि वस्त्रादिमें नहीं दीखती। पू0 — घटका नाश हो जानेपर उसमें सत्-बुद्धि भी तो नही दीखती। उ0 — यह ठीक नहीं; क्योंकि ( वहाँ ) घटरूप विशेष्यका अभाव है। सत्-बुद्धि विशेषणको विषय करनेवाली है अतः जब घटरूप विशेष्यका अभाव हो गया तब बिना विशेष्यके विशेषणकी अनुपपत्ति होनसे वह ( सत्-बुद्धि ) किसको विषय करे? पर विषयका अभाव होनेसे सत्-बुद्धिका अभाव नहीं होता। पू0 — घटादि विशेष्यका अभाव होनेसे एकाधिकरणता ( दोनों बुद्धियोंका एक अधिष्ठानमें होना ) युक्तियुक्त नहीं होती। उ0 — यह ठीक नहीं, क्योंकि मृगतृष्णिकादिमें अधिष्ठानसे अतिरिक्त अन्य वस्तुका ( जलका ) अभाव है तो भी 'यह जल है' ऐसी बुद्धि होनेसे समानाधिकरणता देखी जाती है। इसलिये असत् जो शरीरादि एवं शीतोष्णादि द्वन्द्व और उनके कारण हैं उनका किसीका भी भाव — अस्तित्व नहीं है। वैसे ही सत् जो आत्मतत्व है उसका अभाव अर्थात् अविद्यमानता नहीं है; क्योंकि वह सर्वत्र अटल है यह पहले कह आये हैं। इस प्रकार सत्-आत्मा और असत्-अनात्मा इन दोनोंका ही यह निर्णय तत्त्वदर्शियोंद्वारा देखा गया है अर्थात् प्रत्यक्ष किया जा चुका है कि सत् सत् ही है और असत् असत् ही है। 'तत्' यह सर्वनाम है और सर्व ब्रह्म ही है। अतः उसका नाम 'तत्' है , उसके भावको अर्थात् ब्रह्मके यथार्थ स्वरूपको तत्त्व कहते हैं, उस तत्त्वको देखना जिनका स्वभाव है वै तत्त्वदर्शी हैं, उनके द्वारा उपर्युक्त निर्णय देखा गया है। तू भी तत्त्वदर्शी पुरुषोंकी बुद्धिका आश्रय लेकर शोक और मोहको छोड़कर तथा नियत और अनियतरूप शीतोष्णादि द्वन्द्वोंको, इस प्रकार मनमें समझकर कि ये सब विकार है, ये वास्तवमें न होते हुए ही मृगतृष्णाके जलकी भाँति मिथ्या प्रतीत हो रहे हैं, ( इनको ) सहन कर। यह अभिप्राय है ।।2.16।।

Hindi commentary by Swami Chinmayananda
वेदान्त शास्त्र में सत् -असत् का विवेक अत्यन्त वैज्ञानिक पद्धति से किया गया है। हमारे दर्शनशास्त्र में इन दोनों की ही परिभाषायें दी हुई हैं। "असत् वस्तु वह है, जिसकी भूतकाल में सत्ता नहीं थी और भविष्य में भी वह नहीं होगी परन्तु वर्तमान में उसका अस्तित्व प्रतीत-सा होता है। माण्डूक्य कारिका की भाषा में, "जिसका अस्तित्व प्रारम्भ और अन्त में नहीं है, वह वर्तमान में भी असत् ही है; हमें दिखाई देने वाली वस्तुयें मिथ्या होने पर भी उन्हें सत् माना जाता है।स्वाभाविक ही, "सत्य वस्तु वह है जो भूत,वर्तमान, भविष्य इन तीनों कालों में भी नित्य अविकारी रूप में रहती है।" सामान्य व्यवहार में यदि कोई व्यक्ति किसी स्तम्भ को भूत समझ लेता है, तो स्तम्भ की दृष्टि से भूत को असत् कहा जायेगा ; क्योंकि भूत अनित्य है और स्तम्भ का ज्ञान होने पर वहाँ रहता नहीं। इसी प्रकार स्वप्न से जागने पर स्वप्न के बच्चों के लिये हमें कोई चिन्ता नहीं होती, क्योंकि जागने पर स्वप्न के मिथ्यात्व का हमें बोध होता है। प्रतीत होने पर भी स्वप्न मिथ्या है। अत: तीनों काल में अबाधित वस्तु ही सत्य कहलाती है।शरीर, मन और बुद्धि इन जड़ उपाधियों के साथ हमारा जीवन परिच्छिन्न है, क्योंकि इनके द्वारा प्राप्त बाह्य विषय, भावना और विचारों के अनुभव क्षणिक होते हैं। इन तीनों में ही नित्य परिवर्तन हो रहा है। एक अवस्था का नाश दूसरी अवस्था की उत्पत्ति है। परिभाषा के अनुसार ये सब 'असत्' हैं।क्या इनके पीछे कोई सत्य वस्तु है ? इसमें कोई संदेह नहीं कि वस्तुओं में होने वाले परिवर्तनों के लिये किसी एक अविकारी अधिष्ठान – आश्रय की आवश्यकता है। शरीर, मन और बुद्धि के स्तर पर होने वाले असंख्य अनुभवों को एक सूत्र में धारण कर एक पूर्ण जीवन का अनुभव कराने के लिये निश्चय ही एक नित्य, अपरिर्तनशील सत् वस्तु का अधिष्ठान आवश्यक है।मणियों को धारण करने वाले एक सूत्र के समान हममें 'कुछ' है जो परिवर्तनों के मध्य रहते हुये विविध अनुभवों को एक साथ बांधकर रखता है। सूक्ष्म विचार करने पर यह ज्ञान होगा कि वह 'कुछ' अपनी स्वयं की चैतन्य स्वरूप आत्मा है। असंख्य अनुभव जो प्रकाशित हुये, उनमें से कोई अनुभव आत्मा नहीं है। जीवन जो कि अनुभवों की एक धारा है, योग है, इस चैतन्य के कारण ही सम्भव है। बाल्यावस्था, युवावस्था और वृद्धावस्था में होने वाले अनुभवों को यह चैतन्य ही प्रकाशित करता है। अनुभव आते हैं और जाते हैं। जिस चैतन्य के कारण मैंने सबको जाना, जिसके बिना मेरा कोई अस्तित्व नहीं है – 'वह' चैतन्य आत्मा जन्म और नाश से रहित, नित्य सत्य वस्तु है।तत्त्वदर्शी पुरुष इन दोनों – सत् और असत्, आत्मा और अनात्मा के तत्त्व को पहचानते हैं। इन दोनों के रहस्यमय संयोग से यह विचित्र जगत् उत्पन्न होता है।फिर वह नित्य सद्वस्तु क्या है? सुनो — ।।2.16।।

English translation by Swami Sivananda
7.21 Whatsoever form any devotee desires to worship with faith — that (same) faith of his I make firm and unflinching.

English translation by Dr. S Sankaranarayan
7.21. Whatever may be the form of the deity a devotee-whosoever he may be-desires to worship with faith, I assume that form which is firm and is according to his faith.

English translation by Swami Adidevananda
7.21 Whichever devotee seeks to worship with faith whatever form, I make that very faith steadfast.

English translation by Swami Adidevananda (on Sri Ramanuja's Sanskrit Commentary)
7.21 These divinities too constitute My body as taught in the Sruti text like: 'He who, dwelling in the sun, whom the sun does not know, whose body is the sun' (Br. U., 3.7.9). Whichever devotee seeks to worship with faith whatever form of Mine, such as the Indra, although not knowing these divinities to be My forms, I consider his faith as being directed to My bodies or manifestations, and make his faith steadfast, i.e., make it free from obstacles.

English translation by Dr. S Sankaranarayan (on Sri Abhinavagupta's Sanskrit Commentary)
7.21 See Comment under 7.23

English translation by Swami Gambhirananda (on Sri Sankaracharya's Sanskrit Commentary)
7.21 Yam yam, whichever; tanum, form of a deity; yah, any covetous person- among these people with desires; who, being endowed sraddhaya, with faith; and being a bhaktah, devotee; icchati, wants; arcitum, to worship; tam eva, that very; acalam, firm, steady; sraddham, faith; tasya, of his, of that particular covetous person-that very faith with which he desires to worship whatever form of a deity, in which (worship) he was earlier engaged under the impulsion of his own nature-; Ast. takes the portion 'svabhavatah yo yam devata-tanum sraddhaya arcitum icchati' with the next verse.-Tr. vidadhami, I strengthen.

Hindi translation by Swami Ram Sukhdas
(टिप्पणी प0 430) जो-जो भक्त जिस-जिस देवताका श्रद्धापूर्वक पूजन करना चाहता है, उस-उस देवताके प्रति मैं उसकी श्रद्धाको दृढ़ कर देता हूँ ।।7.21।।

Hindi translation by Swami Tejomayananda
जो-जो (सकामी) भक्त जिस-जिस (देवता के) रूप को श्रद्धा से पूजना चाहता है, उस-उस (भक्त) की मैं उस ही देवता के प्रति श्रद्धा को स्थिर करता हूँ। ।।7.21।।

Hindi translation by Sri Harikrishandas Goenka (on Sri Sankaracharya's Sanskrit Commentary)
उन कामी पुरुषोंमेंसे — जो-जो सकाम भक्त जिस-जिस देवताके स्वरूपका श्रद्धा और भक्तियुक्त होकर अर्चनपूजन करना चाहता है, उस-उस भक्तकी देवताविषयक उस श्रद्धाको मैं अचल — स्थिर कर देता हूँ। अभिप्राय यह कि जो पुरुष पहले स्वभावसे ही प्रवृत्त हुआ जिस श्रद्धाद्वारा जिस देवताके स्वरूपका पूजन करना चाहता है (उस पुरुषकी उसी श्रद्धाको मैं स्थिर कर देता हूँ ) ।।7.21।।

Hindi commentary by Swami Chinmayananda
इस अध्याय के प्रारम्भिक भाग में ही आत्मानात्म विवेक (जड़चेतन का विभाजन) करके भगवान् श्रीकृष्ण ने वर्णन किया है कि किस प्रकार उनमें समस्त नामरूप पिरोये हुए हैं। उसके पश्चात् उन्होंने यह भी बताया कि किस प्रकार त्रिगुणात्मिका मायाजनित विकारों से मोहित होकर मनुष्य अपने शुद्ध आत्मस्वरूप को नहीं पहचान पाता। आत्मचैतन्य के बिना शरीर, मन और बुद्धि की जड़ उपाधियाँ स्वयं कार्य नहीं कर सकती हैं।जगत् में देखा जाता है कि सभी भक्तजन एक ही रूप में ईश्वर की आराधना नहीं करते। प्रत्येक भक्त अपने इष्ट देवता की पूजा के द्वारा सत्य तक पहुँचने का प्रयत्न करता है। भगवान् श्रीकृष्ण स्पष्ट घोषणा करते हैं कि कोई भी भक्त, किसी भी स्थान पर – मन्दिर, मस्जिद, गुरुद्वारा या गिरजाघर में, एकान्त में या सार्वजनिक स्थान में – किसी भी रूप में ईश्वर की पूजा श्रद्धा के साथ करता है, उसकी उस श्रद्धा को उसके इष्ट देवता में "मैं स्थिर करता हूँ।" गीता के मर्म को जानने वाला सच्चा विद्यार्थी कदापि कट्टरपंथी, पृथकतावादी या असहिष्णु नहीं हो सकता। ईश्वर के सभी सगुण रूपों का अधिष्ठान एक परम सत्य ही है, जहाँ से भक्त के हृदय में भक्तिरूपी पौधा पल्लवित, पुष्पित और फलित होने के लिए श्रद्धारूपी जल प्राप्त करता है, क्योंकि भगवान् स्वयं कहते हैं "मैं उस श्रद्धा को स्थिर करता हूँ।"आध्यात्मदृष्टि से विचार करने पर इस श्लोक का और अधिक गम्भीर अर्थ भी स्पष्ट हो जाता है।मनुष्य जिस विषय का निरन्तर चिन्तन करता रहता है, उसमें वह दृढ़ता से आसक्त और स्थित हो जाता है। अखण्ड चिन्तन से मन में उस विषय के संस्कार दृढ़ हो जाते हैं और फिर उसके अनुसार ही उस मनुष्य की इच्छायें और कर्म होते हैं। इसी नियम के अनुसार सतत आत्मचिन्तन करने से भी मनुष्य अपने शुद्ध स्वरूप का साक्षात् अनुभव कर सकता है।सारांशत: भगवान् का कथन हैं कि, "जैसा हम विचार करते हैं वैसा ही हम बनते हैं।" अत: यदि कोई व्यक्ति दुर्गुणों का शिकार हो गया हो, अथवा अन्य व्यक्ति दैवी गुणों से संपन्न हो तो यह दोनों के भिन्न-भिन्न विचारों का ही परिणाम समझना चाहिए। विचार प्रकृति का अंग है; विचारों के अनुरूप जगत् होता है, जिसका एक अधिष्ठान है – सर्वव्यापी आत्मतत्त्व।सतत समृद्ध हो रही श्रद्धा के द्वारा मनुष्य किस प्रकार इष्ट फल को प्राप्त करता है ? ।।7.21।।

How to get a job at Facebook or Google in 6 months? I need a concise work-plan to build a good enough skill set. Should I join some other start-up or build my own projects/start-up? Should I just focus on practicing data structures and algorithms

Some answers here are already really good, but I think it could be valuable to have the perspective from someone who trained for these interviews very recently and got a job offer as a direct result. So I'm gonna one-up your question and tell you how you can get a job at Google and Facebook in 1 month (1 month's prep, that is.) By the way, brevity isn't my strong suit, so this post might take you a while to get through, but I promise it's worth it, and I'll do my best to answer questions you post in the comments about specifics, because I'm almost definitely going to forget to mention some important things (I prepped for the interviews some 5 months ago so this is based on my memory only.)

I'm going to detail how I prepared for technical interviews in ~1 month, after which I got a job at Facebook. The process of getting an interview all the way up to getting an offer will probably take 1-2 months extra after that. For my own experience during the actual interview process, see Jimmy Saade's answer to What is the software engineering interview process like at Facebook London? Note that this is for the general Software Engineering position (in my case, new grad), and nothing specific like Android/iOS developer, or Infrastructure Engineer, or so on.

The cool and not-so-convenient thing about tech interviews is that you really never know what you're going to get, so you have to be prepared for a huge range of possible topics, some of which are more likely to occur than others. I'll touch on these below and then outline some very important question-types that may arise and that you should be prepared to deal with.

So let's say your interview is in one month. Here's how I would plan said month (assuming a full-time schedule). Note that this is what I would do (and did, actually), so it might not be the optimum approach for you, but I suggest working similarly and switching it up a bit based on how you feel you'd grasp concepts better (e.g. solve and code in parallel, as opposed to what I did which is solve everything then code everything…)


Days -∞ to 0 – Prerequisites

I assume that you have taken an algorithms course and know your way around major data structures including but not limited to: binary trees, binary search trees, hash tables, heaps, stacks, queues, graphs, lists, tries… as well as all algorithms related to them (insert, delete, search, find, find max, find min…) and the time complexity for each of these, at least at a high level. For graphs you need to know searches (BFS and its properties, DFS and its properties including cycle detection and the like) and shortest path algorithms (Dijkstra, Bellman-Ford, and A*) at a bare minimum. If you don't know all these, along with Dynamic Programming, you're going to need longer than a month. Pick up Introduction to Algorithms (CLRS) and start studying them first. (Update: I posted an answer here: Jimmy Saade's answer to What should I know from CLRS 3rd edition book if my aim is to get into Google? in regards to which parts of CLRS are relevant for technical interviews.) This is the easy part, as it's all academic and it's just expected that you know all of it. The part that follows below (Day 1 onwards) is the actually valuable part that I can offer you.

I also assume that you know a programming language like C++ (or Java) and the built-in functions which actually make it useful (i.e. STL or its Java equivalents). (Update 2: I posted info relevant to this here: Jimmy Saade's answer to What are the most important concepts in C and C++ that should be learnt and understood before a programming interview?). If you don't know STL, spend time learning vectors, maps, sets, unordered maps, unordered sets, queues, stacks, and the entire "algorithm" library (seriously, all of it). These are essentially implementations of what you just learned in CLRS, so that if you need to use a heap you won't actually start to code one during an interview (just use a map or priority queue). You also need to know how to implement a linked list, BST, and a trie in 5 minutes flat, which is a lot easier than it sounds (just build a Node class and an insert function and for interview purposes, you're good.)

I do not assume that you know anything about the following topics: parallel programming, computer networks (HTTP/TCP/IP/Ethernet), operating systems/scheduling, threads/processes/parallelism/concurrency, assembly, hardware and hardware-descriptive languages, or whatever else. While these are all valuable concepts to know as a computer scientist (as are machine learning and AI and others), the chances that they come up are close to none unless you state them as skills on your resume, so your time is better spent elsewhere (i.e. working on the topics below). You do need to have some awareness of distributed computing, though, so scroll down to the System Design section for that and make sure you read the MapReduce paper at the very least.

Day 1 – The Book

Buy this book: Elements of Programming Interviews. Phew. That was hard.
In all seriousness, this is the best book on the subject in my opinion, and I'm actually really surprised so little people know about it or use it. (I have no affiliation with this book.) The collection of questions is excellent and to-the-point, it is large (300+ problems, which is the most I've seen in one book), they focus on the right concepts (e.g. several problems are on binary search, which is extremely likely to come up in an interview – more so than any other algorithm), and their answers (and the code provided) are almost all correct and excellent. I say "almost" because there are 1 or 2 problems which have much simpler solutions than the book details, but it's not an issue, especially when you compare it with other programming interview books, which have several answers which are downright incorrect. Plus the online support community is pretty good, with Java code available for all problems (the book has them in C++ only) and an online forum for discussions over at Home – Elements of Programming Interviews. They also forgo all the 'teaching' stuff that other books have where they try to teach you big-O notation and data structures, and focus almost completely on the problems part, which is much, much, much, much more important. The big-O notation and data structures you should learn from CLRS, which is the best resource for them, period. No other book, especially not programming interview books, come close to its quality in teaching that stuff.

I also know (through various sources) that several of these problems are actually asked as-is (or in a disguised form) during interviews, which shows how on-point it is. (I imagine a reason for that may actually be its low popularity compared to other interview books, as companies ban questions that are 'out there' from being asked in interviews, which is why you probably won't see questions from Cracking the Coding Interview.) If this happens to you, however, I suggest you tell your interviewer, as it's very easy for them to tell if you know the problem before or not, and if you just recite the answer it defeats the purpose of the interview. Luckily for me, I wasn't asked any of the problems I'd done from the book.

Days 2-14 – Algorithms Stage

Go through the book chapter by chapter, one chapter per day[1], starting at Chapter 5, ending at Chapter 19. Do every single problem. All of them. (To be completely honest, I might've skipped a few, but this was more by accident than anything else, and I definitely did like 98%+ of them.) Don't code, solve the problems only (i.e. find the algorithm). Give yourself a deadline per problem, depending on how hard the problem is (for example, 10 minutes for non-ninja[2] problems, 20 minutes for gray-ninja problems, 30-40 minutes for black-ninja problems) – if you haven't found the solution by then, look at the answer and understand it. If you don't you won't improve. It's important to think of the problems on your own, because it's the way of thinking that matters, as you can't go and recite the book on interview day. If you found a solution, make sure it's correct, and that you have thought of all corner cases.

Note 1: The new version of the book (which I linked to) has all the ninja problems in a separate chapter (Ch. 22). This, in my opinion, is a terrible idea. The book I had had the problems which are currently in Ch. 22 spread across the book, each in its relevant chapter. I suggest you go through the relevant ninja problems of each chapter while doing said chapter. For example, on Day 2, do Chapter 5, and the Chapter 5-related problems in Chapter 22. On Day 3, do Chapter 6, and the Chapter 6-related problems in Chapter 22, and so on. I believe the problems in Ch. 22 are ordered accordingly (the ninja problems of Ch. 5 come first, then those of Ch. 6, and so on), so this shouldn't be too hard, but I'm not 100% sure as I have the older copy of the book.
Note 2: I sometimes spent hours on a single problem, just because I thought the problem was really interesting and I insisted on cracking it myself. I find these random endeavors useful in the long run, as it develops your critical thinking a lot more than the easier problems, but it also takes time, so you likely can't do this for every problem, if you even want to do it at all.

Days 14-24 – Coding Stage

Repeat the book, this time with coding. You already know the answers, so you should be able to remember the algorithm for each problem pretty quickly (if you don't, look it up. It happens, and it can happen sometimes even if you'd previously figured the problem out by yourself.) This is the coding stage, so don't waste time re-deriving algorithms.

I do not suggest you code all problems, especially if you're experienced with ACM-ICPC, TopCoder, or Codeforces and the like (and really, if you're familiar enough with STL, you probably have a decent skill set). Only write the code for problems you feel have complex algorithms, a new data structure you haven't used before (e.g. unordered map for hashing maybe), problems with tricky corner cases (binary search is at the top of this list as its variants are asked often and can be much trickier than you think) or a programming concept you're not comfortable with (these include, but are not limited to, operator overloading, custom comparators, custom hash functions, custom == functions, and much more…) If a problem proves tricky for you, or you implemented it in a way which you feel isn't optimal, look at the solutions the book provides, which are excellent and clean, and will teach you all of the above-mentioned concepts. I suggest you mimic their style of writing code a bit. Some important-if-obvious notes are: use descriptive variable names (none of that 1-letter-variable-name crap) and indent properly, and don't forget to close parentheses and brackets.

I also suggest you code all problems from the Greedy Algorithms chapter and almost all ninja-marked problems. The Dynamic Programming chapter is also important if you're not familiar with DP, and can be tough to grasp, so make sure you give it its time.

Day 25 – Onto more questions

So now that you've exhausted the best question reserve and are comfortable enough to step into an interview, you… need to prep even more. Go to Google Interview Questions (Career Cup). This is a dangerous place. Some very good problems exist, but there's also a class of problems that my ACM trainer likes to call "Chuck Norris problems": Problems written where the OP has no idea what's going on and suggests the interviewer required linear time for problems that clearly cannot be done in linear time (like this, which is clearly not linear time: http://www.careercup.com/questio…), or similar.

Now that you've finished Elements of Programming Interviews, you should be easily be able to differentiate between good problems and terrible problems. On Day 25, go through "all" (the last 20 pages or so) the Google Questions (even if you're preparing for Facebook) and make a list of the ones you deem 'good', and by 'good' I mean problems you feel might have actually been asked in a Google interview. You know the question style from the book, so you should be able to tell which are legit and which are questionable. I assume you should have a list of something like 80-120 questions in the end, some simple, some not so much.

Also note that very few problems actually have correct answers posted on the site, so mainly you'll have to rely on your know-how to figure them out and make sure they're correct, but given your previous prep you won't find it too difficult to know when you should be sure of your answer and when you shouldn't. This is actually valuable prep for the actual interview, which is a similar experience.

Days 26-30 – Solving Career Cup Questions

Solve all the problems you jotted down on Day 25. Find the algorithm. If you feel it's too difficult, seek help. If you feel it's impossible or the best solution is exponential time, it really might be that the OP was mistaken. Shake it off, move on to another problem. If you still feel like it, code some of the more challenging problems.
Several of the Career Cup questions are similar to ones in the book, so you shouldn't have too much trouble with most problems.

Day 30.5 – Skip Lists (Google-only)

I've heard that Google has recently gotten into the habit of asking about Skip Lists (not sure why). Watch this video:

and understand it and know the analysis of the expected run times. After that, implement and test your very own Skip List. I did this just to practice and because Skip Lists are interesting anyway.

To be honest, Google can be pretty unpredictable with their questions sometimes, in my experience. They might ask general questions about object-oriented programming or computer networking, Linux commands like grep, theoretical things like the proof of the sorting lower bound, coding questions that rely on some math concept you may have forgotten to be solved, or in-depth programming language questions (e.g. functors/operator overloading in C++). I guess it depends on your resume and what you claim to be proficient in, so my advice is not to put anything on there that you’re not at least somewhat proficient in. It helps to have a degree in Computer Science or Electrical and Computer Engineering, really, just based on the huge variety in the possible questions. I suggest a read-through of Get that job at Google (Steve Yegge) and Five Essential Phone Screen Questions (Steve Yegge). You should probably know most of the topics covered here (I wouldn’t put my money on things like threads/processes/parallelism coming up unless you explicitly state it on your resume, though.) Most of the coding questions in the second link are too easy to come up in an interview, I think, so don’t get too excited by them, and I’d skip the “Special Fast Track Version” section. It’s humorous but I thought it’s way too cynical and off-point. Your choice of text editor, knowledge of OS, or knowledge of one vs. multiple languages will not, in and of themselves, make you fail an interview.

On a small note, though I believe Google may ask a lot of non-algorithmic questions as above, the bulk of the interview will still be data structures/algorithms/coding, so all the other things mentioned in Yegge’s blog you should know, but they’re not the main focus.

Day 31 – The Non-Technical Stuff

Okay, so I'm cheating a bit by adding Day 31, but you should also take a day or so to prepare for the non-technical part of the interviews, especially if you're interviewing at Facebook, where there's a non-technical interview. First, prepare questions you want to ask your interviewers about Facebook and about their job and what they do all day. See my Facebook London post for more examples on this. Second, think over your experiences in college/work/whatever – projects you've worked on, teams you've worked with or managed, conflicts you've addressed, hard bugs you've had to deal with, etc. Google-search "behavioral questions" and you'll find thousands of possible questions.

Prepare a non-generic answer for "Why Facebook" (hint: the fast pace and culture, the great talent in the company, the mission to connect the world…) and "Why Google" (hint: the diversity of the endeavors, the awesomeness of search and Android, the mission to do awesome things, the company culture…). I wasn't asked these questions in either company (to my disappointment since I was really passionate about both and couldn't wait to show it), but I squeezed in my interest while asking my questions to the interviewer, so use that opportunity if you really want to impart something that you didn't get the chance to.

Tips for the Interviews

Numbers 3,4,7,8,9 are the most important points.

  1. You might be nervous before an interview, but it'll pass. I was nervous before every single interview. Once the interviewer stepped in and we started talking, I generally had a blast because I really loved talking with them and solving these kinds of problems. Try your best not to be too nervous: do mock interviews and the like. I also recommend scheduling interviews in an increasing-priority order, so that you get used to it and find out your shortcomings by the time you reach your most-wanted company.
  2. Practice coding without a compiler/on a whiteboard/paper. I did neither, but I have the C++ syntax memorized and I'm used to coding on a paper in ACM competitions, so you might not need to do this if you're already comfortable enough with your favorite language (you only need to know one language well, by the way, as long as it's reasonably well-known, like C++/Java/Python. They let you use whatever language you like during the interview.)
  3. Corner cases can kill you. You really have to practice on finding and dealing with corner cases, and/or recognizing what I call "corner-case-prone problems". Some problems are dead simple algorithmically but can be very tricky to code, and I got 2 of these problems, once in my Google phone interviews, and once in my Facebook phone interviews.
  4. After finding the algorithm, stop, pause, and think about how to code it, before you actually do. This is especially true for the harder problems, and I would've failed one of my interviews had I not done this, and as a result, would never have gotten a job at FB. I also might've passed an interview at Google which I failed, if I'd taken my advice in this step at the time.
  5. Think out loud about algorithms/ideas as you come up with them. It's fine to pause and think quietly for a bit, but don't stand there for 3 minutes without a word. Always at least give the simple solution, which very well might not have a great run-time, but it won't hurt. I did it in all my interviews no matter how simple the answer was, but I said them directly and noted that there's probably a better solution, then proceeded to think of that. (e.g: Okay, to search a sorted array, we can scan it linearly, but this is an O(n) solution and there's likely something faster). Also, don't be cocky about it (question yourself out loud until you're sure of your method and have a rough proof that your method works). Don't argue with your interviewer. 99.99% of the time, they're right, and you're wrong. One possible exception to this is if they’re challenging your code: they’re either really pointing out a bug to you, or trying to make it seem that way to see how confident you are in your code and if you’ll agree blindly or protest that your code is actually correct (if this happens, don’t panic, just think well about your answer before you give it.)
  6. Don't talk through your code line by line as you write it. Interviewers know how to read your code and what if-statements and for-loops are. Only speak about the general structure of the code (which you should've mentioned before anyway, as per Tip #4) while coding. Do, however, mention what you're doing in intricate lines of code (for example, if you want to test if 'x' is a power of 2 via "if(x & (x-1))==0", you might want to mention that.)
  7. Questions are so often underspecified, and this is a huge weakness of Elements of Programming Interviews: all problems are specified completely, so you have next to no training on this. Always think of questions you might ask or conditions that might make your algorithm fail if not true. Some examples are: Are all numbers positive? Are they distinct? What is the type of the input (integer/double…)? Can you revisit a grid cell? The book has questions where these properties are specified explicitly in the question: think about what would happen if these conditions weren't there: the solution often breaks down.
  8. Don't give up if you don't think of the answer directly. In my last Facebook interview, I got the most challenging problem yet, and it took me about 5 minutes to get to the answer, and I ended up hired. That was actually possibly *the* interview that got me hired, and it was also the one I most enjoyed.
  9. Two really important concepts to know well are binary search (and its variants) and searching the state-space using Breadth-First-Search to find some shortest sequence of 'moves' (like this problem: ACM-ICPC Live Archive – Kermit the Frog). Both come up very often.
  10. Luck matters. The interview process isn't perfect, and you might not pass it even if you're really good, as it depends on your interviewers and what questions you get (and what type of questions you're strong in, etc.) You can mitigate this factor a lot by prepping a huge amount, but it's always there, and it's important to know. I suggest you read Get that job at Google (Steve Yegge's blog) if you want some more detail about this factor.
  11. Ignore Ch. 20 and 21 in the book. They're not great. (Maybe read through Ch. 21 a bit to get an idea but that's it.) Scroll down to the System Design section if you also have to prepare for a system design interview.
  12. Undersell yourself on your CV (or at least, don't oversell yourself), especially if applying through a referral. If you write 'expert in C++', they're going to call up their senior-most C++ engineer to get you to crash and burn. I've never met anyone who got anything related to multithreading and parallelism in an interview for SWE, except one person who listed it as a skill. And lo and behold, he was asked about it, and it didn’t go so well.
  13. Oftentimes, you'll get a problem which is a variant of a problem you've seen before in the book or on Career Cup, or is the same problem but in a "disguised form" (i.e. it's worded differently but it has the same or a mostly similar solution.) Be careful about these subtle differences; you might figure out (or think that you've figured out) the solution for the problem because you found it very similar to one you've seen before, but a small difference in the problem statement actually means its solution is really really different. As an example, check out question 17.5Search for a sequence in a 2D array – in Elements of Programming Interviews. It includes the statement "It is acceptable to visit an entry in A more than once." With it, the solution is DP. If that statement is not included (i.e. it's not acceptable to visit an entry more than once), the solution is branch-and-bound, and there's no DP involved at all. If you wrongly answer DP instead of branch-and-bound or vice versa, the interviewer will know you've seen the other problem before and think you've just memorized the solution, so that's probably enough by itself to give you a "no-hire" recommendation from that interviewer. (I'd also venture a guess that that statement wouldn't be stated by the interviewer at all first, exactly for this reason, and you'd have to ask whether or not you can visit an entry more than once, as per tip #7. The goal is to see whether or not you'll figure out that there's a huge difference in solutions depending on the interviewer's answer to this question.)

Again, I probably forgot a whole lot of stuff, so if there's anything specific you want to know, leave a comment. I'll also do my best to keep this post updated with whatever other important things I remember later.

System Design

Even though I didn't have one myself, I did prepare for the System Design interviews. I prepared by visiting this site: Hired In Tech, which is decent (not great) and by reading several papers on this site, straight from Google: Distributed Systems and Parallel Computing, mainly the first MapReduce paper (near the very end of the page) and the Chubby paper. MapReduce is very important and I really suggest you read it and understand how it works. After those steps, look up databases, specifically SQL and NoSQL, get acquainted with the CAP theorem, scalability topics, and maybe read up on Hadoop and some problems you can solve with it (Hadoop In Practice is a decent book for these purposes). Try some questions like the "Design a URL shortener" question on Hired In Tech, or something larger scale like "Design a web search engine" or "Design Google Maps", all questions which may be asked (also check Ch. 21 of the book for possible questions and a small idea of how to answer them – though the book's answers aren't great.) But in general, for the system design interview, practicing on questions is less meaningful than fundamentally understanding the above concepts and knowing how to discuss them, as the entire interview is something like a quick conversation between you and the interviewer, where he/she will change the question specifications on the fly to see how you deal with different scenarios.

Final Advice

So, if you really want that job, it’s going to take some time and dedication, but hopefully it’s the enjoyable kind. I personally really enjoyed preparing these kinds of questions and found that, job aside, I really learned a lot and got a good deal of knowledge out of the preparation, and you probably will too.

My final piece of advice is to just go into the interview and not be stressed out (this is obviously easier said than done). The engineers want you to be good and they want to hire you – hiring is a pretty expensive process. Some may be easygoing, and some may be less forgiving, but in all cases, the interview is very similar to a conversation between two engineers, and that’s exactly what these companies strive for the interview to be, so just treat it that way, and if you’ve prepared well, it’ll show.

[1] – One chapter per day is actually a bit slow since you're not coding, so for shorter chapters such as Chapters 5, 7, 8, 9, I suggest you do 2 per day, which is feasible.
[2] – In Elements of Programming Interviews, non-ninja problems are standard problems, gray-ninja problems are somewhat difficult, and black-ninja problems are difficult.

Disclaimer: This is my own opinion/advice, and is not endorsed by anyone else in any way.

What can rest of the world learn from India?

In 1947, Almost 60% of the population was below the poverty line. The life expectancy was 32 years. We had one of the highest infant mortality rate in the world- 50 deaths for every 1000 births and a literacy rate of mere 12%.

Comparing this with the present situation, we have definitely come a long way. Our poverty rate is around 20%. The literacy rate is over 74% and is expected to cross 80 by 2020. We also stand third in the world in terms of GDP [PPP], after China and the USA.

And this is a commendable achievement for a country which such a big population and we have achieved this not by looting other countries or by selling oil. And moreover we are a great example of democracy.

Look at the following graph

[ TO BE NOTED: While first unit on X-axis represents 1000 years, the second represents 500 years and the last few represent only 1 year.]

As you can see, India and China comprised of 50-60% of the world GDP for the first three-quarters of this millennium.

Between 1800- 1950, India was colonised and we suffered badly. We were looted, our economic, social, cultural and political conditions were at a very pitiable condition by 1947.

Let me quote some statistics.

India share of the world economy when Britain arrived on its shares was 23 per cent, by the time the British left it was down to below 4 per cent.

In World War I, One-sixth of all the British forces that fought in the war were Indian – 54 000 Indians actually lost their lives in that war, 65 000 were wounded and another 4000 remained missing or in prison.

Indian taxpayers had to cough up a 100 million pounds in that time’s money. India supplied 17 million rounds of ammunition, 6,00,000 rifles and machine guns, 42 million garments were stitched and sent out of India and 1.3 million Indian personnel served in this war. I know all this because the commemoration of the centenary has just taken place. But not just that, India had to supply 173,000 animals 370 million tonnes of supplies and in the end the total value of everything that was taken out of India and India by the way was suffering from recession at that time and poverty and hunger, was in today’s money 8 billion pounds

World War II, it was even worse – 2.5 million Indians in uniform. I won’t believe it to the point but Britain’s total war debt of 3 billion pounds in 1945 money, 1.25 billion was owed to India and never actually paid.

The railways and roads were really built to serve British interests and not those of the local people and many countries have built railways and roads without having had to be colonised in order to do so.

They were designed to carry raw materials from the hinterland into the ports to be shipped to Britain. And in fact, one mile of Indian railway costing twice what it cost to build the same mile in Canada or Australia because there was so much money being paid in extravagant returns.

Not only economically were we impoverished but also our country got divided in the name of religions and castes. Many were stuck with the feeling of inferiority. These effects are felt till today in our country.

When you search for life in India, you see this-

But let the world know that we also live here-

(Mumbai is all set to feature in the top 5 skylines of the world in a few years.)

||Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinaha||

May everyone be happy.

Source for the quoted text:

Read: Shashi Tharoor's full speech asking UK to pay India for 200 years of its colonial rule

Originally written in:

landofsevenrivers

Edit: For those of you comparing with China-

India is a democracy while China is not. This is very important-

  • Decisions like introducing bullet trains had a lot more debating and opposition in India. Every policy is opposed and debated and this is a sign of healthy democracy. This opposition will be good in the long run.
  • Policies like one-child policy cannot be easily enforced in India. We will have people on the streets the next day. A democracy keeps in mind, the personal interests of the citizens too.
  • People cannot run free in China if they say something like “Kitne Afzal Guru maroge, har ghar me paida hoga ek Afzal Kashmir ki azadi tak jung chalegi, Bharat ki barbadi tak jung chalegi” <I think this freedom of speech must be regulated in India as well
  • And finally, only the economic conditions of India and China were same in 1950. Do remember that India was shattered socially too. This has an effect on economy too. The partition led to civil war and thousands of refugees. The foundation of casteism and communalism were laid by the British government in India.
  • And yes, China opened its economy in 1970s while we did it only in 1990s

But yes one could say that India adopted Democracy too early.

Do ghosts really exist?

So far no credible evidence can support the existence of ghosts. There numerous stories and many people believe in ghosts. For many people that is enough. We can think of ghosts just like any other phenomenon. That phenomenon may be gravity or ghost.

Science is the study of the world. We need to look at two basic questions.

  • Is the phenomenon accepted by scientific establishment?
  • Is the methodology used to test the phenomenon valid?

Examining phenomenon based on these criteria yield four possibilities:

  1. The gold standard is a phenomenon is accepted by the scientific establishment and methodology is valid. The phenomenon exists such as gravity.
  2. The phenomenon to be accepted by the scientific establishment, but the methodology is invalid. (e.g. data is incorrect or faked, the procedure was flawed). The phenomenon does not exist, but is wrongly accepted by science. The planet Vulcan was once thought to be real.
  3. The phenomenon is not accepted by the scientific establishment, but the methodologies testing the phenomenon are valid. The phenomena on exists, but is not yet considered sound science. At one point continental drift fell into this category.
  4. The phenomenon is not accepted by the scientific establishment and the methodologies to test the phenomenon is not valid. The phenomenondoes not exist. Mermaids fall into this category.

A phenomenon may move around the different categories depending on changes in the evidence, methods, or even death of older scientists.

So WTF does that have to do with ghosts?

Since ghosts are not accepted by the scientific establishment, we can eliminate the first two possibilities. At this point, even though ghosts are not accepted by the scientific community, they may still be real. We have to look at the methodologies that support the existence of ghosts.

There are many stories of ghosts. A ghost story is a testimonial. One testimonial is just as good as 10,000 testimonials. I love to listen to a good ghost story. A ghost story is not strong enough evidence to support the existence of ghosts. It is simply a good starting point.

So far the evidence presented by ghost hunters and such is just not believable. I am not going to try to debunk all the ghost claims. There are plenty of people who do this duty. If someone has some specific evidence, I would like to know. I do not know if I am qualified to evaluate it, but I may find someone who can. The most respected and only full time salaried ghost investigator is Joe Nickell. Here is some of his articles: Articles by Joe Nickell .

At this moment in time, I must conclude ghosts fall into category #4. The phenomenon of ghosts does not exist. If credible evidence presents itself, I will update my beliefs.

EDIT: clerical spelling

Why do I hate myself and how do I stop? I have near constant obsessive, self loathing thoughts, sometimes coupled with suicidal ideation. These thoughts come and go and sometimes I have days without them.

Ok, You posed a number of questions here. There also are a number of ways to help this situation. Find one that works for you. I'll run through one model.

  • You are running a mental tape of someone who criticized you when young. If you close your eyes and listen to the voice as well as feel what it used to be like, most of the time you can detect who programmed it.
  • The obsessive component means it has been going on awhile. There is a high likelihood that you are depressed. Medication is something you should talk to your physician or other appropriate health care person about. It is used to stabilize your system and stop your downward spiral. If your biology is out of whack, you won't be able to get your emotional, rational, and spiritual selves in sync and work together.
  • There is a likelihood, when your resources are low, is when you get an alarm that you are detecting as suicide. In submarines, it is when you are running out of air and need to surface. If you feel you have lost too much energy to help yourself, there are people who are very skilled at this and would love to help you get back to the surface.
  • Once you are stable, then it is time to find how to not have that particular process start up again, even when you are stressed. If you have put this off too long, they will probably recommend dry dock for awhile to patch you up, continuing with a nautical metaphor. That is, in a supportive environment while they get the ship/body stable, so you can go back out to sea in it.
  • To repair the original programs, you will need to find someone who is skilled at changing the old command tapes from your authority figures. Then you can have your on-board-computer now work for you, instead of them.
  • Sometimes I ask patients, If they bought a new car with that voice module and it started saying, "Hey ASS H**L, I see you didn't put your seatbelt on." Or , "You dumb S**T, you let the gas get low." Or, "Hey stupid, you haven't checked the oil lately have you." What would you be doing? Reaching under that dash to find and pull out that module. Why? Because it's insulting to you as a human. That racket in your head is doing the same thing. That is why a lot of people use drugs, to chemically poison that voice module.
  • Now here is the tricky aspect. The part that is being critical, thinks it is doing its job properly. Why?because long ago, that is how somebody motivated you and programmed it into your brain. That part is like a eprom. Erasable Programmable Read Only Memory. You have to get into your source code, to reprogram it.

1st problem,
It is guarded. You cannot attack it logically because it was not programmed originally with logic. It was your experience. That is why affirmation books help, but don't really work. So to get into the correct room, you have to come in the back door with imagination. That is; use images and throw them up on your mental screen, so the emotional side will record them as an experience. You are probably putting up negative ones now. Here is a cool thing. Your body can't tell the difference between a real and a made up experience. 

2nd
Get the correct file. All of them leave foot prints and you can follow them to their source. If you can replicate the emotion, you are opening the file. When the file is triggered, you have to have someone help plug in the kind of experience that will help you be nice or kind to yourself. That should be ready to go if it comes from the heart and is your truth. Who I really am, not what I adapted to. Almost all my hypnotism is to deprogram people from their original care givers, so they can quit performing and get back to being who they really are.

3rd
Change the voice module. Sometimes by having it sound like a sultry woman, it dramatically alters the impact. Sometimes I have it sound like Donald Duck and immediately they are free from it's verbal grip. It is your equipment now and your tapes, so set them up to enhance your life rather than just slamming you.

4th
Set up some rituals that are healthy and life affirming, whether it is a support group, going for a morning run, getting a cup of coffee and reading something inspirational, meditating, doing yoga or Tai Chi. But something to help stabalize you and center yourself every day.

Asking yourself; "What is the point of what I am doing?"

I know this note is simplistic, but start. Life is precious, so don't squander what is rightfully yours. Joseph Campbell said we must follow our bliss, to be whole.

5th
Go for it. Get some help with the basics and clean up your program, so you can be who you are supposed to. That typically is a journey on the inside to dis-cover who we are. Stop the harangue in your head and the static clears up. 

Blessings

Edit:
I found this poem the other day by John O'Donohue which touched me. I hope it finds a place in your heart too.

A Blessing for One Who is Exhausted

When the rhythm of the heart becomes hectic,
Time takes on the strain until it breaks;
Then all the unattended stress falls in
On the mind like an endless, increasing weight,

The light in the mind becomes dim.
Things you could take in your stride before
Now become laborsome events of will.

Weariness invades your spirit.
Gravity begins falling inside you,
Dragging down every bone.

The tide you never valued has gone out.
And you are marooned on unsure ground.
Something within you has closed down;
And you cannot push yourself back to life.

You have been forced to enter empty time.
The desire that drove you has relinquished.
There is nothing else to do now but rest
And patiently learn to receive the self
You have forsaken for the race of days.

At first your thinking will darken
And sadness take over like listless weather.
The flow of unwept tears will frighten you.

You have traveled too fast over false ground;
Now your soul has come to take you back.

Take refuge in your senses, open up
To all the small miracles you rushed through.

Become inclined to watch the way of rain
When it falls slow and free.

Imitate the habit of twilight,
Taking time to open the well of color
That fostered the brightness of day.

Draw alongside the silence of stone
Until its calmness can claim you.
Be excessively gentle with yourself.

Stay clear of those vexed in spirit.
Learn to linger around someone of ease
Who feels they have all the time in the world.

Gradually, you will return to yourself,
Having learned a new respect for your heart
And the joy that dwells far within slow time.

— from To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings, by John O'Donohue

What is the difference between being 'sentenced to death' and a 'lifetime imprisonment '?

Both Sentenced to Death and Life imprisonment connotes different meaning and purpose as per Indian Penal Code lets me try to explain each of them. 

Life Imprisonment

Life imprisonment is any sentence of imprisonment for a serious crime under which the convicted person is to remain in prison for the rest of his life. Crimes for which a person could receive this sentence include murder, attempted murder, severe child abuse, rape, espionage, drug dealing, vandalism, human trafficking, severe cases of fraud, robbery.

Note: Below is stats around the world about life imprisonment.
Image Source:Wiki

Note:Life sentence in India has a duration of minimum 25 years till death. The only authorities that can pardon a sentence in India is The President or The Government after review which is decided on a case-by-case basis.

Sentenced to Death

Sentenced to death or death penalty is  Capital punishment whereby a person is put to death by the Court as a punishment for a crime.

Crimes that can result in a death penalty are known as capital crimes or capital offenses.  Following are the crimes under Indian Penal Code, 1860 which warrants capital punishment.

Note: Official government records claim that only 52 people had been executed since independence under various provisions of IPC til date.

More Information on this:
1. Life imprisonment
2. Indian Penal Code
3. life imprisonment means life :Lakkhi And Etc. vs State Of Rajasthan And Anr. on 14 August, 1995

Why are you a Christian? What made you believe? Are there any personal reasons or experiences that specifically solidified your faith?

In a way, I am a Christian because I am gay.

I was raised in an ultraconservative family. My parents were members of the John Birch Society and sent me each year to a summer camp run by the John Birch Society. I was raised to believe all their crazy conspiracy theories. When I was a teenager my mother decided that Vatican II and Mass in English were also the results of a vast conspiracy to destroy the Church, and she insisted I go each Sunday to a schismatic chapel where they offered only the old Latin Mass.

This is the sort of offensive nonsense the John Birch Society put out.

While I was still pretty conservative, the whole idea of a massive conspiracy to destroy the Church by praying in English ultimately seemed far-fetched to me. I fought having to go to my mother's chapel filled with those wild-eyed conspiracy theorists. She pled with me to be "conditionally reconfirmed" by Archbishop Lefebvre, (who had been excommunicated because he was too conservative for Pope John Paul II!) because apparently the Holy Spirit does not reply to a summons in English. She tried to bribe me, but I refused. Not so much out of idealism, I have to admit, but just because it all seemed kind of creepy.

About this time, I began to admit to myself that I was gay. In those pre-Internet days, the only way to find out about anything was to go to your local library and see if you could find a book about it. Unless you wanted to ask the librarian (which I most certainly did NOT), it would take a while to find the right books.

What I learned from the books at my local library was that gay people were child molesters, hung out in public restrooms waiting to prey on unsuspecting victims, wanted to be women and were voraciously attracted to every male within reach.

Wait, you mean all gay men are NOT like this?

But none of this applied to me. I wasn't attracted to children. I had no desire to hang out in a restroom. I didn't want to be a woman or dress like one. I was not wildly attracted to every man I saw. And more importantly, I knew I did not choose my orientation as many insisted.

And yet this is what we were told that gay people were by Church and society. Clearly, I had been deceived. Conventional wisdom was entirely wrong about gay people, and I knew this to a fact first-hand.This was crazy! How could the world be so wrong?

What other things I had been taught were also wrong?

To me, the understanding of myself as a gay man, contrasted with what society and Church said about gay men, meant that I had to do a thorough inventory of everything I had been told was true to this point. If I had been lied to about this, then anything I was taught could be false. Even my religion.

Although I had rejected the extremism of the John Birch Society, I considered myself a moderate Republican, a fiscal conservative. But I grew increasingly frustrated with Ronald Reagan's refusal to acknowledge the AIDS epidemic raging around me. There were lots of photos of his wife Nancy hobnobbing with her gay friends in Studio One, and the idea she would abandon her friends to a shameful and lonely death to support her husband's political agenda was a real wake-up call to me.

AB101 protests in California, October 1991

But the realization of what the Republican party was becoming was made very clear in 1991 when Pete Wilson, Republican governor of California, vetoed AB101, a bill outlawing job discrimination against gays and lesbians, a bill he had promised to sign during his campaign.  I marched every night for weeks with massive crowds throughout the streets of Los Angeles, enraged at the deception of the governor and his sellout to religious extremists (http://articles.latimes.com/1991…). (The governor was dogged by crowds of angry protesters at every public appearance he made throughout the state, starting the first night at LACMA and continuing for months.) The GOP war was formally announced in 1992 when Pat Buchanan gave the famous "culture war" speech, declaring war on gays and lesbians on behalf of the Republican Party (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cul…).

Finally I could no longer be a Republican; could I remain Catholic? Was it just Catholicism that was the enemy, or was it Christianity itself? I had stopped practicing my faith in the mid-'80s. but why did I occasionally get up on a Sunday and feel the need to go to Mass? Was it just conditioning? I had to find out.

This photo should give you some idea of why Dorothy Day is awesome.

And so I began to read. I read John McNeill's seminal work The Church and the Homosexual, and learned things were not exactly the way some in the Church present them. I read about gay history and educated myself in theology and comparative religion. But I also began to read spiritual writers like Thomas Merton. I read the autobiography of Dorothy Day, The Long Loneliness. And I started to go back to Mass more frequently, slipping into the back pew. I learned for the first time about the Christian responsibility to the poor and the outcast. Somehow, I had never learned this. It was like a revelation, because I was raised to think the Faith was all about being right when everyone else was wrong.

There was a lot of crap in the closet. Not just denial about one's orientation, but also implicit acceptance of all sorts of toxicity, and all sorts of assumptions left unexamined. But Christianity was not one of those things. It was true. I came to feel that in my heart. Because I learned it was not about the Church; it was about being a disciple of Jesus Christ — and not because of the Church, but sometimes in spite of the Church. But I came to understand the necessity of the Church to the continuation of the gospel, and I came to see my Catholicism not as a way of "being right" or some sort of tribal affiliation, but as a witness to the longed-for unity of all Christians. It's not easy to live in unity, often with people you disagree with, but it's worth trying.

Washing of the Feet by John August Swanson

And so it was one Holy Thursday that I slipped into a church in West Hollywood for the ancient Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper, where the highlight is the re-enactment of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples as the ultimate model of humility and service. I was learning that Christianity was not about rules and theology, but about this simple act. I hungered for this wisdom and way of life.

And that's the day I reclaimed my faith.

Had I not been gay, today I may well have been an ultraconservative Catholic, unmoved by plight of the the poor and the oppressed, focused only on correct belief, petulant about liturgical minutiae and always trying to score a point "for my team" and conflating my identity as a Christian with my Republican party membership. But all that went out with the other crap in that damned closet.

How should Jennifer Lawrence react to recent events? Will she just ignore it? Will it affect her career? How will she handle this situation?

I think it will have no material impact on her career.  It may very well be causing her enormous personal and emotional distress, though, and I think that's important.

The reason I think it will have no material impact on her career is that she is beloved both as an extremely talented actress but also as someone who comes across as a very normal, real, and funny person.  The most common reaction to the leak is outrage at the leaker and sympathy for her plight.

So, how should she react to it?  First, through a dignified and firm statement released through her publicist.  That's been done.  Second, of course she's going to be asked about it in an interview context – so she should be ready with one of her classic funny lines.

She has nothing to be ashamed of here.

What is the remainder when 1! +2*2! +3*3! +4*4! +… +12*12! Is divided by 13?

ANS: [math]12[/math].

Let [math]S=1!+2\times2!+3\times3!…+12\times12![/math].
It can be seen that [math]T_{n}=n\times n!=(n+1-1)\times n![/math].
or [math]T_{n}=(n+1)n!-n!=(n+1)!-n![/math]
Substitute [math]n=1,2,3…12[/math], we get
[math]S=(2!-1!)+(3!-2!)…+(13!-12!)[/math][math]=13!-1!=13!-1[/math]
So,
[math]rem(\frac{S}{13})[/math][math]=rem(\frac{13!-1}{13})=rem(\frac{13!}{13})[/math][math]-rem(\frac{1}{13})=0-1=-1[/math]
or rem=[math]-1+13=12[/math].

What is a list of business ideas for people with small capital?

[EDIT #2: Feb 1, 2016]: If you'd prefer to read this post in web format, you can do so here: www.founderorigins.com/university-business

I've already posted this in a few other threads, but I'll post it again because it's applicable to this question.

Are you in university? If so, have you thought about placemat advertising? (still applicable if you're not in university)

Probably not, but it's a totally viable business.

For example, there's Glenn Buchan who created a placemat advertising business called Adspad while he was in his first year of uni! He was able to do this despite having:

  • No existing connections
  • No coding/programming skills
  • No previous entrepreneurial experience

What was Glenn’s super simple business?

Glenn made it easy for local businesses to advertise to university students. To do this, he supplied environmentally friendly paper placemats for food trays in the university cafeterias, and would sell the advertising space on the placemats.

The university would allow him to do this because in return, they would get free space to communicate to their students.

Glenn’s story is a perfect example of what a first time entrepreneur should be doing. Instead of trying to create the next big mobile app or website, he went for a simpler and proven business.

The best thing?

The monetization strategy was straight-forward.

Unlike many startups these days where you build a huge audience and THEN figure out how to make money, Glenn’s monetization strategy was much simpler.

Glenn had a partnership with two universities.

For each university, Glenn’s placemats would have a total of 10 advertising spaces which he would sell for $150 each. That’s total monthly revenues of $1500 per university.

His total monthly costs were $600 per university in order to print and design the 10,000 A3 paper placemats.

The result? Monthly profits of $1800/month

Let’s just forget about the financial rewards for a second. Personally, I think the transferable skills Glenn gained from this experience was more valuable than the money.

Even if his business failed, the experience alone would have been worth it. Because of Adspad, he’s picked up skills like: negotiating, marketing, sales, and much more.

You can’t learn these skills inside a classroom or at some regular part-time job…

…just imagine having this on your resume when you’re only 19 years old!

So how can you do the same thing?

As with every guide I share, I never want to give you just some fluff with no real-life examples. Instead, I’ll try to lay out a detailed action-plan that you can follow.

Phase 1) Finding and Meeting the Decision Makers at the University

Step 1: Make a List of Potential Decision Makers via Linkedin

Make a list of the departments that would be affected by the business. In this case, Adspad was providing free advertisements (marketing group) for the university through the cafeteria trays (contracts group).

He would then use Advanced Search in LinkedIn to identify potential decision makers, and people directly reporting to the decision maker.

For example…

The main lead would be the “Head of Marketing”.

Once you have their name, most universities will have a staff directory which you can use to get their contact information.

Step 2: Confirm the Decision Maker

For confirmation, it’s highly effective and low risk to reach out to people you know who aren’t the decision makers. In this case, it would be the “Marketing Officers”, and the purpose would be to ask them who the decision makers are.

For example, you can call them and say…

“Hi X – My name is Wilson, I’m a student at Y University and I was hoping you might be able to help me out with a university project. I’m trying to connect with someone who is in charge with approving the university’s marketing efforts. Do you know who that person might be? [Respond to any of their questions…] Great, that’s all I needed. Thanks for your help.”

Step 3: Get an Introduction with the Decision Makers

Once you know who to talk to, the goal is to get a meeting with the decision maker.

Getting an introduction/referral increases your credibility and helps bridge that initial trust gap, plus, the decision maker will get back to you much quicker.

To set up this introduction, who do you think would have the highest motivation to help out a random student? A professor.

Just imagine you’re a business professor and you’re approached by a student with entrepreneurial ambitions. The student is fully prepared with pitch decks, proposal documents, and a clear path forward on what needs to be done. On top of that, the student knows exactly who they want to talk to, but needs you to introduce them.

What would you do? You’d help the student out!

To make it even easier… you should provide the professor with everything they need to send the introduction email:

  • Brief information about you and your company
  • Why meeting makes sense for both parties

Once the intro is sent, follow up right away to thank the professor for the introduction (you should probably BCC him out of the email chain now too). You can then ask to set up a meeting with the decision maker at their convenience.

NOTE 1: Most universities contract large corporations to operate the cafeterias (e.g. Sodexo). Based on Glenn’s experience, you want to deal with the University, and not these contract companies. Also, in Glenn’s experience, the decision makers will most likely be either the marketing or contracts group.

NOTE 2: Glenn’s approach to getting an introduction from the student union/association would work too. However, I personally would prefer approaching a business professor purely for additional faculty networking, mentorship, and as a future reference for job applications.

Phase 2) Communicating the Benefits to the University

When starting a new business with no reputation, all the credibility is on you, the founder.

Glenn was just a random student with an idea to make money. So how did Glenn go from a regular 19 year old student to a trustworthy partner for an academic institution?

Instead of relying on just a presentation and a pitch, he showed them. Let the prospect see what the general design of the placemats and advertising space will actually look like.

Here’s how Glenn did it.

He borrowed (stole) a cafeteria tray and created a mockup of the first placemat. In the meeting, these two items served as a visual aid, and allowed Glenn to present around the tray/placemat combo.

Here’s the design of the mockup he used for the meeting…

See how simple the mockup is?

It might not be visually appealing, but that doesn’t matter. The purpose of the mockup is for the decision maker to visualize the general concept/design of the business.

Glenn understood the importance of a Minimum Viable Product. He did the entire design himself on photoshop, and created “fake” ads to act as placeholders before he even secured any customers.

And it worked.

Anyone with photoshop can figure out how to create a mockup just like the one Glenn made.

Tip: If you can’t get your hands on photoshop, check out Canva. Or you can pay someone for cheap to do it for you on Fiverr (warning: you’ll get what you pay for).

Once Glenn was able to SHOW them his vision and the general concept of the business, that’s when he followed it up with the benefits.

For example, here’s the framework of the pitch Glenn used…

“The XYZ University has fantastic catering facilities and we are delighted to have seen it improve so much over the time we have studied at XYZ.

One of the main things that we still think could be improved is the way the University communicates its catering developments and improvement to students. Adspad has many advantages and we feel that we can offer a lot to XYZ.

These include:

– Fantastic way of communicating new canteen initiatives to students and staff- Adspad is completely free for the university and costs are covered by our advertising- University saves printing costs by cutting down on posters and leaflets- Improvement of hygiene for staff and students with clean paper- Good way of increasing feedback through promotion of the ‘text service’- Updated monthly so staff and students are always up to date- Included Sudoku gives students and staff entertainment when eating- Keep customers coming back with high brand image on placemats and good student offers-Eye catching design to improve image of canteens”

The result? He received permission and the support from the university after just one meeting.

Phase 3) Finding Clients to Pay for the Advertisements

Now your job is to get your first paying customers. Getting the first clients is always the hardest because no one wants to be the first customer.

But once you do get the early adopters on board, it gets much easier because you’ll have both recurring customers, and testimonials/social proof to rely on.

To get his first clients, Glenn initially had a success rate of 1 in 50 (FIFTY!!!). To get these first clients, Glenn had to go door-to-door, cold call, and send cold emails.

Once Glenn had a track record and a portfolio of previous placemat designs, he created a flyer which he would distribute to potential clients. Using this flyer, his success rate improved to 1 in 10 businesses.

In addition, once Glenn obtained his first 10 customers, he had a monthly retention rate of 60%. In other words, he would only need to get four new customers per month.

To get these first customers, Glenn’s used a shot-gun sales method by approaching as many businesses as he could, and it worked for him.

However, just to give you another perspective, here’s another possible approach.

Step 1: Identify the Early Adopters

When you have no experience or past clients, you want to customize your sales pitch.

This is a time consuming process which is why you need to prioritize the businesses that have the highest likelihood of being your early adopters. You want to create a list of potential early adopters by looking at the businesses that already advertise with your competitors.

Who are your competitors? The university newspapers, student magazines, and campus ad boards. These are the businesses that are already paying to advertise to students.

Once you have the list ready, follow the same steps previously mentioned in Phase 1 to find out who the decision makers are. Use twitter, facebook, or their website too.

Tip: Based on Glenn’s experience, businesses such as restaurants, nightclubs, and bars are not ideal clients. They tend to be unreliable and don’t pay on time or at all. The best clients to work with were local charities, national health services, and public organizations because these are the people with larger marketing budgets. That being said, that was just based on Glenn’s experience and could have been unique to just his circumstances.

Step 2: Create a Customized Sales Pitch

You need to stand out from all the other sales pitches small businesses are usually bombarded with.

To do this, make sure you highlight the end results for the prospect if they were to become your customer, for example:

  • # of students who eat in the cafeteria daily (reach)
  • How often an individual student will eat in the cafeteria (frequency/retargeting)
  • Average time a student takes to eat their meal (exposure time)
  • Ads are placed along the border/edge of the placemats so it’s not covered by the food
  • You’ve secured a partnership with the university and already have their support/approval

Are you starting to see the unique benefits your placemats have over traditional ads in a newspaper or magazine?

For example… a magazine reader will be exposed to an ad for a few seconds while flipping the pages. Whereas on a placemat, they’re going to be eating and have nothing better to do but to read the placemats.

Now the next step is to customize your sales pitch to each individual prospect.

For example, check out this video sales pitch.

Now… that video sales pitch is for an online business, however, the same can be applied for local businesses. You could quickly go over their existing ads on newspaper/magazines and highlight how your placemats would be more effective based on the points mentioned previously.

Just by doing this you’ve already differentiated yourself from most of the other “consultants” and “salespersons” by customizing your pitch.

Now I know this is A LOT of work just to get the initial set of customers. As Paul Graham says, you want to“Do Things That Don’t Scale” when you’re first starting out. Once you have your initial set of customers, it will get much easier.

Step 3: 100% Money Back Satisfaction Guarantee

Generally, you should stay away from providing discounts because when you’re starting out, you want to validate if customers will actually pay you at your desired price point.

Instead, provide early adopters with a 100% money back satisfaction guarantee. Since you’ll most likely be receiving payments at the end of the month, if your prospect isn’t happy, you don’t have to worry about any of the logistics of giving them the money back. Just make sure you find out why they weren’t satisfied with your service.

Step 4: Be Persistent

This sounds cheesy but I’m serious. Do not be discouraged when you get rejected because you’re going to be turned down so many times. It’s to be expected.

Remember at the beginning of this guide, when I mentioned Glenn’s experience far outweighs the financial rewards?

This is the type of experience aspiring entrepreneurs should actively seek out. Always think of the long term benefits, getting rejected this often is great experience and it’ll improve your communication/sales skills. Plus, you’ll now have experience on how to methodically implement a sales cycle.

Phase 4) Logistics of the Placemats (placing/printing)

I won’t go into too much detail here because this section is pretty straightforward.

The main thing to note here is that part of the agreement with the university was that the canteen staff would manually put the placemats on top of the trays everyday.

However, Glenn would often go to check on the trays and would notice that sometimes the placemats weren’t being put on the trays. It took Glenn a lot of face time and visits to the canteen management before the placemats were put on trays properly and consistently. Glenn made sure he was super friendly, and would provide treats every time he visits the staff (e.g. chocolate during easter eggs).

Also, when you’re shopping around for printing suppliers, just remember that you have buyers power. There are so many printing stores that you can shop around and negotiate lower printing costs once you know your monthly volume.

Conclusion

That’s it!

That’s how Glenn went from being a normal 19 year old student to a successful entrepreneur.

His business wasn’t the next big mobile app or website. Instead, it was a simpler business with a proven revenue model. From there, it took lots of hard work, a solid execution strategy, and persistence.

That's the end of the post, if you don't want to read my self-promotion, stop right here!


Otherwise, if you want to read what I just wrote, it's on my blog, founderorigins.com/university-business If you sign up via the blog, there's some bonuses you can get (sales pitch, pitch deck, more mockups of his placemat ads).

Plus if you sign up, you'll receive a bunch of other guides I've written just like this one! I write step-by-step guides for beginner entrepreneurs. Each guide I write is based off a successful entrepreneur and I try to include as many examples as possible.

If you have questions, reply here or email me at wilson@founderorigins.com

If I cant answer it, I'll include Glenn into the email chain!