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Sid Naidu

New Year, Same Me, Different Strategy


New Year, Same Me, Different Strategy

The new year is our gift, a brand new chance to say goodbye to our last year’s bad habits & lost resolutions. It’s an opportunity to become the best versions of ourselves once again, so that we can do the same things much differently than we did 9 months ago.

Oh Yes! it’s that time of year again where we get use hearing...

“It’s a new year & this year, is going to be my year!”

Don’t believe in new year’s resolutions? Great! I’m writing this post just for you as revolutionary statement against redundant resolutions. Believe in making yearly resolutions? Well then this one's for you too.

You can call it whatever you want; personal resolutions, life goals or career aspirations. End of the day we all just want to be in the right mindset to own the the start of a new year.

Now we can all start with the right mindset but the challenge comes in keeping that mindset consistent throughout the year, with all the suffocating noise from the realities around us. Every year can easily become another roller coaster ride of ups & downs.

So I’m writing this post to share 3 new strategies that I’ll be using to get me through another year of our crazy lives.

First of all let’s clear the air on this New Year, New Me, BS.

I’ll be human and admit that it is not easy keep the same mindset for the whole entire year. We’ve all jumped on that starting hype at some point (including me), where everyone embraces the momentum for change in the initial first few months of the year. Then somewhere along those first few months, life hits us in the face again & we are back at where we started the year before.

You give up on your daily workout because you had a longer day at work or you have that cigarette on break because, shit.. life is just stressing the hell out of you right now!

BOOM! Old habits can hit you just like that. Then the next thing you know, you end up waiting for another new year to start back on those broken promises to yourself.

Like anything in our life, if we want to see change, we just need to keep working at it. It’s not easy to keep the right mindset throughout the year but it is easy to accept failure by giving up on what we started.

My strategy here is to have a reset button. Don’t just reset at the start of the year, reset every single time you fail so you can stop failing in long run. It’s only called New Year, New Me BS because we give up on working towards our new self before the year even ends.

Whenever shit hits the fan for us this year, let’s hit the reset button & work at it again no matter how long it takes us!

Urban Dictionary definition of badass: Ultra-cool M*****F****R

Urban Dictionary definition of badass: Ultra-cool M*****F****R

Secondly Let’s talk about the importance of a Vision.

If you want to own the year, then you need to have a badass vision for how you’re going to step our game up from the year before. If you haven’t spent the end of your last year reflecting on your highs & lows, then spend the start of your new year making sense of what you we able to accomplish.

Within the last 6 years, I’ve spent my new year’s eve in 6 different countries, waking up to life in a total different reality every single year.
I had a different set of eyes to look at the world with but & I could also see that the new year’s hangover from each new country pretty much felt the same.

Only by looking back on my previous years could I have had the vision to not drink my way into yet another new year. Yes! bringing in the new year sober can be Badassery indeed!

So this is where you to bust out the pen & paper or the digital note option to look back at your past year. Hell, you can go back even further if you like. Try to summarize that year in a sentence or a catch phrase that makes sense to you. Now ask yourself what will the title of this year be for you, based on those chapters of your previous years?

For example after looking back & reflecting on my past year, I’ve proclaimed that 2016 is the year I make my work
World Class.”

Once you’ve developed your new year proclamation or power phrase, take the first two weeks to really map out & massage in the tangible goals that are attached to you living for our new year stance.

The strategy here is that whenever we get lost in direction somewhere along the year, we can look back at our vision like it’s a guiding compass.

A vision doesn’t mean nothing, if you can’t back it up. So don’t forget to create those goals so we can measure how badass we really are.

Lastly let’s talk about living an extraordinary year.

You know that quote that goes something like “if your dreams don’t scare you, then you’re probably not dreaming big enough.”

Well for us perpetual dreamers, there are times that we’ve dreamed big enough to accomplish what we thought unimaginable and now we are left asking “how on earth am I possibly going to top this?”

Since starting this world tour, I’ve trained Mixed Martial Arts in 4 different countries last year. Now I’m not necessarily training to become an Ultimate Fighting Championship contender but I do really enjoy being able to have a sport or adventure based activity that make my life a memorable one.

However the question still remains, how do I take this to the next level?

Well the answer has been quite simple if we are willing to accept the challenge to do more. In my case I look at what’s the next gradual step to what I’m currently doing or I ask myself what’s the next craziest thing I could add to my life that works with my new year vision & goals?

For example leveling up could mean I compete in an exhibition fight, or the next craziest thing I could add on to my life that works with my vision for physical fitness and endurance could possibly be training for the Ironman race perhaps.

The real fun in living legendary comes in finding new things that can make your goals or resolutions even more interesting to take on. So be ambitious in your dreams as there is nothing more beautiful than dreaming about the possibilities of achieving your own greatness.

The takeaway strategy here is for us to do the things that give us life profit by making us realize how every new year is another year to get back to chasing those dreams from where we left off the year before.

Go ahead I dare you to make your year legendary!

Yes it’s a new year, but it’s the same me & I’m just in a different country, coming at you with a different strategy.

Every new year is chance to kickstart that fire inside you again incase it was starting fade out in your past 12 months. Not all years start off the same way, some start off great and some start off rough. We can’t control what life will hand us but we can control how we choose to live regardless of what year it is.

Wishing all you dreamers & hard knock leaders the very best for a badass year ahead!

#1love the kid

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What I have learned on the road to twenty nine

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What I have learned on the road to twenty nine

I grow older with time, but I stay young with the memories that I have made.   A feeling captured perfectly in this shot by a brother, mentor and photographer Jalani Morgan |  |

I grow older with time, but I stay young with the memories that I have made.

A feeling captured perfectly in this shot by a brother, mentor and photographer Jalani Morgan | |

As we get older we often reflect more on the life that we have lived thus far. We think more about the time that has escaped us and moments that have made us. These are a few things that I've learned on my journey to the age of twenty nine.

Be the biggest kid in your crew. The nickname that I've earned growing up may not feel right accompanying me into the latter part of my life but all the memories that I've made as the kid will always be reminisced. No matter how old you are, being young, wild and free is simply a state of mind that will make you feel alive. 

Wake up every morning to accomplish your life dreams & goals. I woke up one day and told myself that everyday not spent towards fulfilling my life dreams is a waste of my life. Chase your dreams sooner by knowing when it is your time to do more and then spend the rest of that lifetime to make it your reality. There is nothing more powerful than a person with actualized purpose. 

Never let money be an obstacle. Cash may rule everything around me but it will not stop me from living my life. I've traveled part of the world to see poverty on different levels. Know that mental poverty can weigh you down as much as physical poverty does. When all we do is chase the paper, we become animalistic. So make money but don't let the money make you.   

Hustle with more heart than hunger. When it comes to my drive, I will spend the rest of my days chasing a vision and fighting for what I believe in.  At the end of my time, my life will only be measured by what I have given back to this world and not by what I have taken for myself. Make a hustle out of giving because it will feed you that much more.

Use the negative energy to create positive. I've used my frustrations and negative energy to launch me forward time and time again. I look for outlets that will let me release the negative and express it positively.  All energy vibrates this world and you control your own beat. If you are not satisfied about where you are in life, know that your the only captain that can change the direction.  

Let movement free your soul. This life of mine would not be what it is today if it was not for the places I have traveled to and the people I have met along the way. For this reason I have committed myself to taking the path less traveled by moving through this world as much as I can. Make time to see the world outside your comforts as pushing yourself to experience more outside the confides of your comfort is what will contribute to your strongest growth.  

Open your heart to love. A lesson I'm still learning as a man who puts a heavy guard around his personal emotions. It is human nature to love but we have often been conditioned to do otherwise and the fear the emotions we cannot control. I've loved and been loved, fallen in out of like, been hurt and hurt others. I've learnt to see that is all part of the journey and being vulnerable is not a weakness. Take more chances to fall in love with life and the people in it. You will see beauty in the everyday when you learn to fall in love with those people over and over again. 

In my  twenties I've learn to treat every new year of life as a new chapter. Whether we make it a chance for change, a time for celebration or a moment for reflection; it is what we have learned along the way that makes the journey so important.  So when the years dawns upon you, be happy with the journey walked, the lessons learned and the life where you simply lived. 

Dedicated to struggles and triumphs that define our story,  the people who have played a part of my life both big or small. Thank you for making this journey one worth living. 

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Year One of Hard Knock Leadership & the 2015 Vision

No matter what the season, we grind daily - @hardknockleader

No matter what the season, we grind daily - @hardknockleader

This month marks one year since the soft launch of the Hard Knock Leadership initiative. What began as a platform for me to share the different types of community based work I have been taking on has shifted to creating a vision to support change makers around the world.

A Year In Review

In review, the past year has been an eventful one since the HKL kickoff in 2013. The brand has carried me through the different aspects of programming I've decided to take on and learn about. I ended last year with a visit to Panama to connect with Alley Cat Fitness Foundation, a non profit MMA camp & gym that has been engaging youth from the barrios and also helped produced one of the first Panamanian UFC fighters who has come from those humbled barrio beginnings. I started 2014 with my first international photography exhibit "Suenos de la Calle" in the Dominican Republic, where I facilitated a workshop with a local youth organization on how photography can be used as a tool to empower. 

This year as I ended my seven year campus community life term with post secondary education, I delivered a a full day community building workshop to close off the Live 2 Lead program which I activated to support racialized students. Amongst the many other talks & workshops I've facilitated this year; the opportunity to sit on Art Reach Toronto's jury as a guest artist for the 2014 youth pitch contest, I've seen myself make a transition into arts education by apprenticing in a photography program and and co-curating an outdoor exhibit of community portraits in my home of Scarborough, where I was raised.  

I look back at the year one of HKL and realize it has been some of the most moving and valuable experience that I have taken on to build dialogue on creating change in the places that need it the most.

The Reason 

We may all live through moments that will define us, make us or break us. They are the raw life experiences that make our story, one of hard knock leadership. 

I grew up in the east end of Scarborough not seeing the type of programming that kept me and the people I came up with off the streets. It's been fifteen years to when I first immigrated into Canada with my family, only to find the acceptance and assimilation of young people in under resourced neighborhoods is task still commonly taken on by gang culture. There was a lack of safe spaces where young people could express themselves without being targeted and my life purpose is driven go build those spaces.

Before I immigrated to the boroughs, I was raised living through the gulf war in the Arabian Gulf. My parents would take me to supermarkets where I remember the store shelves empty and almost cleared out from the tin cans of food that was being rationed. Boxes and bins that would contain reduced price items on sale over here, were filled with gas masks for purchase. I look back at those moments that my parents raised both me and my sister who was born during the war and I realize that I must be here for a reason.

Some times it will take you years before you reflect and actualize what you have lived through. Today Hard Knock Leadership stands as a reminder that the path we take is one that we are suppose to be on. It's a path that is not paved and one that only you will be able to map out for yourself, before being able to show others the way. 

2015 Vision. 

Looking back at the past year of HKL and my own path to community building, I've decided to dedicated my life's work towards creating the needed change in underserved communities and through Hard Knock Leadership I hope to engage the disengaged. 

The next five years will focus on the building of Hard Knock Leadership both as an agency and administrative platform for change makers to create and serve their visions to the world.  

HKL will be focusing on the following change maker platforms to build a stronger collective identity 

1) Storytelling

2) Community Organizing

3) Arts Education

4) Global Advocacy

The building of a collective around storytelling with be one of our major priorities for the upcoming year. While community organizing, arts education & global advocacy projects will continue to be taken on throughout the year; it's the storytellers platform that I will be focusing on creating, to invest in the growth of other hard knock leaders on their personal journey. is transitioning to a new template that will start to curate the work of the collective. As an artist my photography work will be moved to its own portal ( & HKL will serve more to highlight the collaborative projects that connect art to community building. I will still continue to be sharing my experiences and personal journeys on this blog but will also invite others from the collective to share their own thoughts & perspectives as change makers. 

For everyone that's supported me on this journey to more, I thank you as I look forward to building the next generation of leadership. 

Photographer, Community Organizer & Founder of HKL - Siddhartha (Sid) Naidu 






Art is Power: The We Are Lawrence Project

Shot of the #WeAreLawrence program captured by one of our youth participants Sarah Zeweldi 

Shot of the #WeAreLawrence program captured by one of our youth participants Sarah Zeweldi 

Know that art is power is power no matter what the medium is that you use.

Five month ago I landed back in Toronto from my transition out of a higher education career and some down time traveling on the road. I was looking to pursue a freelance schedule to chase some of my long term goals to in community organizing and international development. While stressing finding a stronger focus in my own long term game plan, I decided to give photography one last chance. 

While on the road I saw a call out for a We Are Lawrence cultural hotspot project instigated by long time friend Che Kothari; a photographer & civic leader who has under taken massive work in Toronto to build the arts community through initiatives such as the Manifesto organization. First crossing paths in 2006 when I was organizing as a student for the hip hop community, I always will remember that moment as someone who was just beginning my journey as an aspiring photographer. What felt impossible for me to chase my own path in arts was no longer the case when seeing another photographer with similar heritage that shared the same passion for urban arts & culture. 

Surrounding yourself with that energy is uplifting, so I thought why not connect back to like minded change makers. The We Are Lawrence project was looking for participants from the Scarborough community who were interested in being a part of a photography program that would document the Lawrence Ave East community in order to showcase those stories in an outdoor exhibit that would transform the look and feel of the community. 

I applied knowing that I wanted to contribute to the storytelling of a place that has built my own identity as a leader and I ended up catching a red eye flight back to Toronto to just in time to make the interview for the program. I was jet lagged from both my travels and working on the road but walked into the interview at McGregor Park Community Centre to simply share my story and passion for photography and the art of storytelling.  

Shot of the #WeAreLawrence program captured by one of our youth participants Petrose Tesfai 

Shot of the #WeAreLawrence program captured by one of our youth participants Petrose Tesfai 

I come from a part of Toronto that is often misunderstood by outsiders. It's a place whose complex stories are ones that even the insiders are trying to understand. It is more than a place that just raised me. It's more than a place I'm proud to call home. It's a world of many beginnings with verses that are still unheard and pages that are still waiting to be written

Scarborough for me has always been that misunderstood community. An arrival city for many new immigrants on the margins making neighbourhoods in the east end underserved & under-resourced. I grew up seeing the boroughs as under served because young talent who grow up to taken on leadership roles are more drawn to the energy of the city core where a faster pace life takes place. I experienced how these homes are under resourced because there are not always enough opportunities and safe spaces for young people to grow into to their full potential. 

Yet so much life takes place here that is not being noted in the media, the stories of generations that have grown up in Scarborough and have helped built the communities often get left behind in the process of everyday survival. The we are lawrence project was a chance to change those gears. It represented the change that I wish to see in neighbourhoods that exist within the margins by providing platforms for youth to flourish and create themselves 

Shot captured by Ann Brokleman mentor to the #WeAreLawrence Family. 

Shot captured by Ann Brokleman mentor to the #WeAreLawrence Family. 

I walked into that interview that day not knowing exactly what I was going to get out of the program. What I did know is that I was ready to learn again in order to impact a community that was my home. With past experience in photography and community organizing I was blessed to be taken into the program by mentors Che Kothari & Jalani Morgan as an apprentice to assist with the outdoor exhibit on Lawrence Ave.  

So for the last five months I've been working with a number of talented youth participants to learn, build, grow and share their stories of this community. For me It has felt like an overdue home coming where I've been able to return to the east end to start exploring my own identity. It feels like my own journey has come full circle through assisting as co-curator for the outdoor photography exhibit with two like minded Toronto photographers that have advocated for the community arts and culture scene.  

Preparation for the We Are Lawrence Avenue Reception. Photo by Ann Brokleman

Preparation for the We Are Lawrence Avenue Reception. Photo by Ann Brokleman

This month will share the stories of what was once an undocumented community falling within the margins and the young people from that community who have decided to use art as a tool to empower others.

Through the building of We Are Lawrence, I've come to realize how extremely powerful art can be .

I would like to drive this home with two points

1) Art has the ability to change the way we see reality

In places where survival has become the everyday, art helps displace that thought process. Imagine someone who is commuting to work, consumed by the daily grind and then sees a portrait of someone in a bus shelter. For a moment that person will move away from his own reality to be reflect on that person. That moment can lead to curiosity and wonder to want to know more about someone else's story, which brings me to my second point

2) Art brings us closer together as a community 

Through art we are able to reach down to the deepest fabric of storytelling that connects us to one another. It brings us closer together as a community by allowing us to understand the stories of who we are as humanity. Imagine young people who are empower to share their own stories and in return capture the stories of a community for the world to see. 

For me personally the #WeAreLawrence is represents the beginning of a new generation of possible change for the Scarborough community. A change where we young people can be proud to call this their home because they have been a part of building the Scarborough identity. A change that very well could be the start of what I see as the Scarborough Renaissance

I would like to invite you to visit Scarborough this month (November 2014) to see the outdoor exhibit and if your are not based within the GTA or Toronto to visit then please check out to learn about the photographers and stories being shared from this beautiful community in the south side of Scarborough. 

The project is a collaboration between City of Toronto Arts & Culture Services and Toronto-based artist, instigator and photographer, Che Kothari – with mentoring support by local artist Jalani Morgan.
Interested in creating similar projects within your community 
Connect with Hard Knock Leadership on more ways to build through arts education 
contact for inquiries



Hard Knock Awakenings: The Urban Nomad

Sid Naidu Photography 2014 (c) A tale of two cities 

Sid Naidu Photography 2014 (c) A tale of two cities 

I woke up from a dream.. a dream of living a life between two cities. 

It was a restless life contemplation on a train, imagining a connection that could be created by being part of two uniquely different concrete jungles, yet not forgetting the third space of a life in transit that would become inevitable. One of the many "what if" thoughts that crossed my mind as I crossed between provinces.  

What is the difference between someone who wishes to settle versus the other who is always on the run?

To me it's nothing more than than the life they choose to live. One finds peace in comfort & certainty, while the other thrives on trying to organize the chaos that they find in constant risk and challenge. Every new journey to a city can bring possible opportunities & my direction has always been guided solely by the love for being on the road. A love which entails, seeing as much as I can see and learning about the realities of the world we live in.

I've visited a number of cities knowing that there is always a possibility to return to that same road some day. My experience as a traveler has always been a collection of stories that inspire me to do more. Every connection and every person met can be a valuable interaction. I've also been blessed to have people who are supportive of my crazy ambition and for this reason I cannot do less. I travel with a purpose to simply be present and build if needed. Someone who I met along the road recently told me "there is a difference between a tourist and a traveler." & that's where the story began.  

Now I'm back in T dot city for two weeks to freelance for a bit before I pack my bags again and YES I've decided to leave what I have know best for a good part of my life to try and learn something new, very possibly in a place where I would have to start from scratch all over again. I've been in a couple of games to know that when making certain transitions we can't be scared to start back at the bottom again, as it only sets the foundation for stronger long term growth.

I spent a week in a MTL to contemplate what the next challenge for me would be and returned still not having all the answers for what's best. However what I do and always have known is that by taking the path less traveled, I can bring a tougher but much richer experience for myself.

I've never known much about the settled life because my life has dictated otherwise, I've always felt like it was meant to be on the run. It's the kind of life where knowing what to pack becomes second nature as part of the travellers identity. Yet for every traveler packing is still an art to be mastered, because every journey requires a different types of bag for every path where new lessons are brought back in it.    

As I looked out the train I realized I was coming home, I recognized passing the boroughs that I grew up around. I remember once contemplating  what life would be like to settle down in those boroughs.

I closed my eyes and returned back to sleep as the urban nomad.

"Hard Knock Awakenings" was created as a form of reflective based storytelling, dedicated to realizations of purpose, struggle & passion in paths of life we have taken. 

Do you have a Hard Knock Awakening to share? connect with @hardknockleader on twitter

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This is leadership for the everyday hustle