Just Do It!

doit4

Shown above is the famous Nike logo which has a caption, “Just do it”! We have to do many things on day to day basis, and Nike says, just do it! Some say I have to do it! Others say, got to do it! Obviously, you cannot say, “Just do it”! Nike will ask you to buy a license from them to use their patented caption! These small changes in the use of words can make a significant difference in our lives.  

When we say we have to do it, it shows a bit of displeasure, some reluctance and the feel as if you are forced to do something. Everybody has to get up every day, go to the washroom, complete the morning stuff and then go for work and come back home in the evening. There are many things that we do in between.  

How will this small change in English word help? It changes the way we look at things, it changes your approach to any situation. When you say we have to do something, it indicates that you are forced to do something. It is against your will that you are doing something.  

There is a story about a man who uses a wheelchair. When asked if it was difficult being confined to the wheelchair, he responded, “I’m not confined to my wheelchair—I am liberated by it. If it weren’t for my wheelchair, I would be bed-bound and never able to leave my house.” This shift in perspective completely transformed how he lived each day. A few years back when we had taken Alaska cruise, we met two people. One grand old lady was 99 years young, traveling alone, on a wheelchair! Another outstanding personality was around 50 years of age, also on a wheelchair. He needed 100% oxygen support. These two people were moving all over the cruise and on the ground excursions in a very routine manner! Perspective?

I think it’s important to remind yourself that the things you do each day are not burdens, they are opportunities. So often, the things we view as work are actually the reward. 

Embrace your constraints. Fall in love with boredom. Do the work. 

The other day I heard a young child, 5 years old, say “I am bored, I don’t want to go to school”. The first thing that came to mind was how does this child know the word bored? Simple, she has heard someone say it. On prodding, I found out that she was actually sad that her close friend was not going to school that day due to illness. In today’s times, those working can be very busy, and they really don’t have free time. In such a situation, how do they find time to get bored? They get bored because they “have” to do things and not “got” to do things! It is the perception of how one looks at things. The busy people of today can never get bored due to lack of time, but those who have retired may get bored as there is so much time available. But does one really get bored?

Can retired people get bored? Let me share with you how I do not get bored! I semi-retired from work starting first June, 2018. My first 3 months were required in winding down my affairs along with handling some property matters. I started going to a gym; when I don’t go to the gym, I go for my walk! Then there is my blogging. The frequency of my blog writing has gone up. Along with blog writing, I am also trying to improve my writing skills. I have even started reading printed books for which I did not find time while I was working full time. (I am a voracious reader using Kindle) I have been doing coordination of our  alumni group which I continue. These are honestly minor things. What I do in the morning is that I prepare  a to-do list. Those items which need personal involvement like payment etc., are added to my electronic diary. I automatically get reminders. But the most important is I “don’t have to them”! I “got to do them”.  I make my got to do list in mind or write with my left hand sometimes; I am a right-hander. I always try to learn something new! I try to know new people!

The paragraph was not about me, but it is about everybody and anybody. It is about the perception of looking at things. The less you enjoy doing your stuff, the more you are stressed, or suddenly you will find that you have time to get bored. Let me share with you experiences of a few “oldies” like me. I am 69. When asked my age, I say that my age is 69! I sometimes enjoy taking practical advantages of my age.  Like when we went to get our passport renewed, senior citizens could walk in, they didn’t have to take appointment route. Air India for internal travel offers 50% discount  on base ticket amount, I use the facility. Sometimes there are separate check-in counters, I use them. But I am never 69 years old! It’s a state of mind. 

I was curious to see how my friends who are 50-plus defined old — and asked them on Facebook. Among the dozens of responses, two made me smile: “Old is my current age + 4.” And said another “Tomorrow. Always tomorrow. Never today.”  

Given below is what I read in an article.  

As with beauty, the meaning of “old” also depends on the person you ask. Millennials, now in their 20s and 30s, say that old starts at 59, according to a 2017 study by U.S. Trust. Gen Xers, now in their 40s — and no doubt with a new appreciation for just how close they are to entering their 50s — say 65 is the onset of old. Boomers and the Greatest Generation (Like me) pegged 73 as the beginning of old. Clearly, much depends on the perspective of who’s been asking to define “old.” 

But yes, there are some of my friends who need to be coaxed to come for a breakfast or a luncheon meeting. Dinner for many is out of bounds. That is because they are not comfortable to drive at night. When I suggest car pooling with those who are comfortable driving at night, a small number agrees. Others have become mentally old though we all are of the same age. Maybe they also feel that they “have” to do it!

This mind set is found in people who “have” to do things and who don’t get to do things. Oh! I HAVE to go to sleep now!

 

 

 

 

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Shifting Milestones!

I was chatting with my cousin who is 72, three years older than me. They had taken a ten-day holiday to Vietnam and Cambodia. He said the youngest person in their group was 65! Of course, 65 is young, today! In our life, we have different milestones like births and deaths, education and work, marriage and children and so on. But there has been a tradition to celebrate when people reached certain age milestones like 50 or 60 or 75. Celebrating the hundred-year milestone is a rarity even today.  

When I was in school, celebrating the 50th birthday was a big event, and 60th was a significant. The importance of age milestones in our lives is decided by the average lifespan in society! Average life expectancy till the ’50s in the last century was well below 40, before 80’s it was below 50. It crossed 60’s in the year 2000! Currently, it is 67 and expected to cross 70 in the year 2050! Use this link to get details. 

http://www.me-jaa.com/October2015/LifeTable.pdf 

Now that the boring statistics are done, they were essential to know the meaning of celebration of 50th and 60th birthday while I was in school! Achieving these age milestones was indeed an event worth celebrating. When we talk of average expectancy it means the average age at which the people are expected to die; the people in families who can afford to eat healthier food, get better medical facilities and a cleaner environment, lived longer. It was no surprise to know that in my family, there were five deaths between 1976 and 1980; only my grandfather died at 89, all others were around sixty or below. These figures generally matched of the life expectancy of that period or were slightly above expectancy level. 

This indicates that the life expectancy in the type of families I have mentioned above has definitely gone up to 70 plus now. Better medical facilities of current times, have increased cure rates of cancers and heart attacks, it won’t be a surprise if the expectancy age crosses 80! Wow, this is extraordinarily rapid progress in a short period of 20 years. What could be the reasons other than those already mentioned? One definite and significant reason is the much-maligned social media! The FB’s and WA’s of this world have definitely helped. What the media has done is that one could locate old friends and foes alike! One could identify ex’s easily in the privacy of their own accounts.

In the old age in modern society, the first phase of the post-retirement period passes with fun. You really don’t have to wake up early every day and go to the office. (You can sleep in the afternoon too!) Being away from the grind is fun. At the same time, you may want to do things for which never got enough time. You travel, you meet friends and see places. But as the years pass, there can be some limitations which may come up with some deterioration of health. This is where the problems start coming up. Younger people from the family may not have time for you; maybe they live in different cities or countries. Not everybody can keep themselves happily or productively busy. Then you start feeling cut off! This is where social media has helped, provided it is used correctly.

When people start becoming lonely, they lose interest in their lives, and some even lose the will to continue to live! Social media has helped a great deal in last ten to fifteen years to provide the reason to get keen to meet “friends”, it has increased enthusiasm in people to chat/talk with each other. You always have something to look forward to when you wake up every day! Social media shares with us an enormous variety of music, songs, articles and videos!  

How did social media really help? 

  1. Friends 
    1. It has never been easier to make friends than it was before. Just a few decades ago it was pretty tough to connect with people unless you were the overly outgoing type able to make conversation with anyone at a party. 
    2. The rise of mobile phones helped change this, connecting people in a new way, but then social networks sprang up, and the whole idea of friendship changed again.  
    3. It’s entirely possible to have hundreds of friends on Facebook. They may not be friends you know on a personal level and spend time within the real world on a weekly basis. But they’re friends nonetheless. There are several people I consider friends who I have never met — in fact, I may never meet them — but that doesn’t lessen the connection we have thanks to social networks. 
  2. Empathy 
    1. Each of us spends a little too long talking about ourselves on social networking sites, even if we’re casually surfing. Which is perfectly natural. We’re sharing our lives — the ups and downs, the twists and turns — with people we think will care. 
    2. They generally do care and will tell you so. Friends will listen to what you have to say, and help you deal with any problems you may be facing. Your near  and dear ones do not have time, you interact with newer ones! 
    3. The point is that by all of us sharing our experiences, both good and bad, on social networking sites, we’re able to empathise with each other. A friend may have gone through a similar ordeal that you are currently going through, and they will be able to help you get through it. 
  3. Speedy communication 
    1. I really don’t have to say about this. It is a revolutionary change and is really inexpensive. 
  4. In touch with the world 
    1. You remain in touch with the world through most of the times virtually. Such relations honestly are not very close but between shallow contact and good (virtual) contact with the outside world and latter option is always better. 
  5. Building relationships 
    1. There is no doubting that social networking sites can lead to the breaking up of relations. But there is another side to the story, which is that people are moving onto other, perhaps better, relationships. Social networks can put you (back) in touch with people who you have lots in common with, and that common ground is often the starting point for long-lasting relationships. 
    2. As painful as breakups can be, they can sometimes be the right thing for all concerned. What’s to say that the new relationship, founded on the steps of Facebook, isn’t the one that will last? Even if it doesn’t turn into a spectacular coupling, it could be the friendship that is needed at the time. Which has to be a positive thing. After all even virtual friendship also keeps positivity. 
  6. Finding common ground in an open society 
    1. As previously mentioned, social networking sites can help you find people you share interests with. Facebook, for example, asks you to list who and what you are interested in right from the start. This makes it much easier to find common ground with other users. 
    2. Keeping key personal information private is necessary, but sharing your likes and dislikes, interests and obsessions, and thought and views actually contributes to an open society. 

Social media when used correctly is a companion, free of cost and with much fewer efforts. In 2018 we have read about security breaches on social media, but checks do evolve over a period. It might be a good idea not share things that matter, e.g. your bank details etc. But there is no harm in publishing your likes for dramas and books, hiking and playing musical instruments. You will make more friends. You get wide publicity to show and share your talent with others, free! Blogging is a classic example of this. 

This is going to definitely increase life expectancy in society. There will be more and more people celebrating the age-related milestones, past 70 and 80. All the time there are going to shifting milestones. I will end up with a small suggestion on my favourite topic.  

Friends, by all means, celebrate 70th / 75th   and 80th birthday. It is a matter of celebration. If you are going to spend Rs.1/ lac on the party, try and prune the budget to say Rs. Ten thousand. Give away remaining Rs.90000/. Ask your friends and dear ones to donate the money they were going to spend on you, to charities! Azim Premji has set an example in his son’s marriage. He gave the amount equivalent to collective gift amount given by friends and dear ones, to charities! Thank you, Premji for setting a great example.     

 

 

 

 

 

Latest Orwell!

You may think that Pramod is thinking like George Orwell! This is where the comparison ends. Orwell was a great British thinker whereas I am just a blogger!  But from what I have been reading and what I observe things, are going to get quite complex. Similar to Orwell’s theory of big brother watching, a group of companies are jointly becoming this New Big Brother (NBB). No, they are not coming together or forming a cartel or a caucus, nothing of that sort is happening. But Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Apple and Facebook jointly have a large amount of information about us, stored on their servers.   

Orwell

The adjective “Orwellian” connotes an attitude and a policy of control by propaganda, surveillance, misinformation, denial of truth and manipulation of the past. In the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, Orwell described a totalitarian government that controlled thought by controlling language, making certain ideas literally unthinkable. Several words and phrases from Nineteen Eighty-Four have entered the popular language. “Newspeak” is a simplified and confusing language designed to make independent thought impossible. “Doublethink” means holding two contradictory beliefs simultaneously. The “Thought Police” are those who suppress all dissenting opinion. “Prolefeed” is homogenised, manufactured superficial literature, film and music used to control and indoctrinate the populace through docility. “Big Brother” is a supreme dictator who watches everyone.   

All the liberals and radicals in India had raised a hue and cry about Aadhar data going to Government. Firstly, we have been sharing a lot of information about us through Income tax department, when we get our PAN card or Election card made. Aadhar additionally took biometric data. Apple, Microsoft has been encouraging biometric recognition using thumbprint and face recognition, we have not even thought for a second whether to share these details with them or not. This is going to create a more secure environment, we were told. We shared this info with no questions asked!  

The New Big Brother (NBB) is very powerful. They not only have our data but also have the wherewithal to use analytical tools and understand everything about us. Let me give a very intimate example, then you will know what I mean. Suppose a lady buys her sanitary requirements for her monthly period on Amazon. Amazon has her age and buying history, so don’t be surprised if she gets a reminder from them, “Hey, you seem to have forgotten to buy your Tampons!” Whether Amazon is using the data for such purpose, I don’t know, yet.   

You have been always taught since childhood not to accept chocolates or biscuits from strangers or never to talk with them. Here you become friends with hundreds of near strangers and share your very intimate details with the whole world. People share their cell number on FB wall! Is it not risky in the cyber world? Fraudsters can cheat you, with your money; some people use this for stalking!  There was a big scandal regarding data sharing and breach by a company called Cambridge Analytica! They were given data of US citizens by Facebook. This data was used to create a campaign against Hillary Clinton in her election campaign against Trump. Later on, it was found out that this company used data about sexual scandals to help a group of politicians in Sri Lanka! It seems the cyber tentacles have spread in all directions!   

How can the NBB be stopped from taking policy decisions which can be against the right to secrecy? The option is for workers, many having entered tech company with idealistic rather than financial motives, to help regulate and restrict their own employers. Many have already begun to express regret over the effectiveness of their innovations, a phenomenon perhaps best exemplified by the Center for Humane Technology, led by the former Google design ethicist Tristan Harris. But the problem in this method is that the employees who are protesting or are whistleblowers are ultimately products of the same system that created the issue in the first place.  

Less clear to most people, however, is the extent to which the companies that make the technology, apps, and browsers that we use are not just tracking but shaping our behaviour. Thanks to the border-breaking nature of these technologies, and particularly the smartphone, the success of the NBB companies has put an unfathomable amount of wealth, power, and direct influence on the consumer in the hands of just a few individuals – individuals who can affect billions of lives with a tweak in the code of their products.  

Self-driving and electric vehicles are expected to come in a big way. These vehicles will use a lot of onboard computers. Any issue reported in the vehicle will be instantaneously captured on servers. Experts will analyze and create a software solution. The correction software patch will be released simultaneously to hundreds of thousands of vehicles. Great, no more visits to the workshop; next time you start the car the patch will be auto-downloaded. Does this bother you? No. But it bothers me. In the same way, the patch is released, a malicious person can send a malicious program and release it in the computers of thousands of cars. You just put imagination glasses on and wonder how damaging this can be!   

NBB may be shaping our behaviour! This is where the fundamental democracy deficit comes from: you have this incredibly concentrated private power with zero transparency or accountability, and then they have this unprecedented wealth of data about their users to work with. We have allowed these private companies to take over a lot of functions that we have historically thought of as public functions or social goods, like letting Google be the world’s library. Microsoft runs our life by controlling the operating systems on computers. Android and IOS control our cell phone operating systems. Android has a remarkable share of 80% plus. Democracy and the very concept of social goods – that tradition is so eroded globally that people are ready to let these private companies assume control.   

Democratic governments can be changed through elections but how can you change ways NBB works, with lack of transparency? But at the same time for NBB, everything is not a walk in the park. They are multinationals, incidentally all having headquarters in the USA. But they are answerable to all governments in the world.  Zuckerberg faced the music in the US after Cambridge Analytica fiasco. He was called by the British Government but somehow managed to skip the “invite”! Sundar Pichai is being grilled by US Government about suppressing conservative views on Google search engine. European Union has been really pushing Google about their search engine monopoly. In China Google had to withdraw in 2010 because of censorship and other issues, thereby losing big business. The Indian government is pressurizing Microsoft/Amazon that cloud servers for Government data must be on Indian soil! They will have to relent, looking at the size of business that India operations can generate. Indian Government has been after WhatsApp and Apple about certain issues.  

NBB is forced to use freedom available to multinationals with care and responsibility because they are being forced to become transparent in their dealings by combined efforts of whistleblowers and governments. These checks and balances will fall in place over a period of time.   

Orwell’s theory of Totalitarianism gets challenged, every time we see somebody trying to control freedom. Indira Gandhi was forced to cancel emergency, Russian communism collapsed in the late 80’s/ early ’90s of the last century. Berlin Wall fell in 1989. How China and NBB fight with each other is a test case for the world. Both are trying to keep each other’s monopoly in check. Its early days of this battle but as computers become more and more powerful, as software becomes all compassing there can be spectacular battles. But as an optimist, I am sure the good will win in the end! By the way, I don’t believe in Orwellian thoughts!

GoodALwaysWins

  

  

  

  

  

   

The world with No Boundaries!

This is a beautiful song from Hindi movie Refugee (Year 2000) beautifully sung by Sonu Nigam and Alka Yagnik.   

youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6nvTzT5hhD0&w=521&h=391

The lyrics are just superb. Birds, rivers and the breeze can never be stopped by any borders between the two nations. Borders are for us, humans! But my friend, give a thought, what you and me have achieved by being humans!  

Similarly, our life has gone under a major change; it has happened discretely over the last 10 to 15 years. Our world has become Cyberabad! Now “the world is a village” term fits aptly to our universe. In the late ’90s of the last century, the internet came into the public domain. Before this, it was being used by the scientific community since the early ’70s.  

But in the initial period, it was a special space, independent of our normal life. In those days, we went to our computers and entered the world of mystery. But the real revolution started with the advent of Smart Phones. A smartphone is a device which makes phones, sends a text message; but it is a computer. The first PC that I bought at home, in 1989 had 20 MB hard disc (Yes, MB!) and 640 kb RAM. My current smartphone has 128 GB storage and 6 GB RAM.   

With the smartphone, our life started changing and cyberspace started becoming our appendage! People must have their device with them all the time; they may go to the washroom, they may be taking a bath, they may be in bed with the wife but the phone will be there like a सवत or co-wife! It is applicable to both sexes!  

Consider an example of a piece of paper and a pen, which helps us remember things, a duty otherwise performed by the brain. The shopping list becomes part of our memory, this list helps us in not taxing our brain.  

On the same lines idea that our self is expanding through our phones is plausible, and that’s because our phones, and our digital devices generally – our smartwatches, our iPads – all these things have become a really intimate part of how we go about our daily lives. Intimate in the sense in which they’re not only on our body, but we sleep with them, we wake up with them, and the air we breathe is filled, in both a literal and figurative sense, with the trails of ones and zeros that these devices leave behind.”  

One of the essential differences between a smartphone and a piece of paper is that our relationship with our phones is reciprocal; we not only put information into the device, we also receive information from it, and, in that sense, it shapes our lives far more actively than would a shopping list. The shopping list isn’t suggesting to us, based on algorithmic responses to our past and current shopping behaviour, what we should buy; the phone can suggest.  

Everything has two sides good and bad! Our life has changed very much due to the internet. There is no point in comparing current life with pre-internet days. Life Before Internet (LBI) and Life After Internet (LAI) are two different species. Many of the day to day activities, like banking, purchasing, communication, photos have changed completely. Some things which were almost impossible during LBI are now possible after LAI! Camera has become democratic as it is available to almost everyone. Locating old friends, communicating with people living in different places, countries is just a click away. With the internet being available on flights, that dark connection less tunnel is slowly becoming history. You are now connected 24/7/365!   

But LAI has its downside too! We forget that we are supposed to rest, we are supposed to sleep soundly every night. If you get up to go to the washroom at night, you go with your cell phone. During that window of wakefulness, you see the WhatsApp messages, Email and Instagram! Whatever notification you have received from any App, you access it! As if not seeing these will cause a tsunami in your life! This many time results in insufficient sleep!  

Since childhood, we have been taught basic rules. LAI is full of breaking rules, making foul in the language of my granddaughter. She is being taught the importance of remaining away from “screens” as much as possible. When eating food, no screen, got nothing to do, no screen; screen time is limited, and  has to be earned. But do we adults follow the same rules? If we manage to come to the dining table together, everybody is looking at his/her screen. We make these fouls without fail. We have hundreds of “friends” but we don’t know most of the people in our condo, including our neighbours!

PDA (Public Display of Affection) is a new phenomenon. It has become fashionable to display how much you love your spouse! This includes photos kissing each other! Honestly who else cares about your affections? Why these things are shared publicly when that person is next to you, probably with you in the bed!   

You have been always taught since childhood not to accept chocolates or biscuits from strangers or never to talk with them. Here you become friends with hundreds of them whom you may have just met, and share your very intimate details with the whole world. People share their cell number on FB wall! Is it not risky in the cyber world? Fraudsters can cheat you, with your money; some people use this information for stalking! We raised a hue and cry when the government collected our data in the form of the Aadhar card. Most of the same data is shared by us easily with big fives of this world, including biometrics. Of course, I am talking of Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon. They not only have our data but also have the wherewithal to use analytical tools and understand everything about us.

I am techno-savvy and have used social media regularly for years. I have reached a conclusion that I need to do social media detox, in fact, everybody needs to do that. Social Media has some fantastic usages, by all means, use them. I use it these days mainly to make my blogs available to as many people as possible. Some people are surprised that I am on the detox but SMS is also equally good if you want to exchange messages, using WA is too addictive!   

Going back the song mentioned above, it’s great to have borderless life but to me, there are more pitfalls than advantages. The life after LAI is as addictive as cocaine or maybe worse. To get drugs, you need an unlimited supply of money but for cyber addiction you only need the latest drug that has come on Indian cyberspace called “Jio” and let me assure you it is inexpensive. To detox is like joining AA (Alcoholic Anonymous), discipline yourself along with your child and but is tough. To not share very personal intimate personal thing is as tough as giving up smoking. Use this borderless space like birds take the flights at random (भरारी), rivers simply don’t bother about borders and meander, like the breeze which cannot be prevented by a thousand feet tall wall to cross the border! But don’t forget that birds can get caught in the crossfire generated by cyber wars and cyber thieves!   

  

  

  

  

  

 

Busy, busy busy!

I was having a cup of coffee with a friend of mine. He was the CMD of an organization. One of the GM’s came to meet him about some crisis that had cropped up. They discussed it quickly and my friend told him, “You give this assignment to so and so!”. The GM said that the suggested person was very busy so he will give it to another person. But the boss told him to give such assignments to the busiest person. Busy persons are very organized and efficient hence will finish  the assignment in a jiffy! Half an hour later the GM informed him that the issue was resolved. He said, “This fellow came up with a unique solution and everything is back to normal!”  

Busy2

It is always said that the busiest person has the maximum time with him. We should not take literal meaning of the statement. What it means is that the person who is busy is generally well organized. That person knows the importance of work-life balance. My classmate Hemant Nerurkar was MD of Tata Steel and was a very busy person. He and I used to keep in touch on phone a few times in a year. He handled it this way. Generally, I would call; he would pick the phone if possible but if he were busy, which was by default, whenever he got some free time, he would text a message to me, “Pramod, I will call you on Thursday, 7.30 pm if it is ok with you”. He would call 100% of the times on the day and time given. It was simple, he probably just put it in his calendar and be done with it! He had to be well organized with so much work to do; at the same time, he also understood the importance of “me time”.   

Being busy is a state of mind. People do get busy and many times they get overloaded. Many people have a lot of work. The situation becomes complex in the case of modern families. Along with ladies, some men have also started taking home responsibilities. Office work, home chores, socializing, holidays can be a handful for everybody. But then that is modern life. We should learn to handle modern life and its pressures, things do get busy. But there are pitfalls in this situation.   How can we avoid them?

Stop showing off  

Some of us have the habit of showing how busy we are. But probably there are more people who are equally busy or busier. Showing off does not really help because only a few others are really concerned about you. Nobody is really bothered about your being busy. In your profession, you may be very good but there are equally competent people around. If you become famous for not being available, people simply stop coming to you. I know of a professional who used to go to foreign countries for a couple of months at a time for some assignments. Over a period, he reduced such assignments but his reputation had spread that he is not available most of the times. He took a few years to establish that he is readily available for consultations.

Prioritize the work but don’t procrastinate  

Above two messages show the importance of not being too busy!

Everybody has a list of “To Do” things. Everybody makes his or her list as per their method. But we should remember what must be done and what may be done on that day. Everything cannot be in the must do list. In office situation there can be routine replies to communications; all are not must do! There are some things which can be done the next day but at the same time do not procrastinate and push things forward. In this list, there are some occasional events which are a must. We need to budget for these. For example, birthdays of colleagues. In some offices, birthdays are celebrated with a small get together. One must budget for these events. Never skip such events as these are absolute must-do events. At home, you have decided to do spring cleaning. But somehow on that day many other things have popped up and you cannot do it; your child may fall sick so going to the doctor is a must. Some guests arrive uninformed, they need to be attended to! Its ok do spring cleaning some other day. Don’t fret over not being able to do the spring cleaning. But mind you, cleaning has to be done at some stage. Don’t procrastinate!  

Declog your schedules  

Sometimes we make our schedules so complex that we are not able to give justice to any assignment or a chore. Our mind is clogged and this reduces our ability to think properly and we tend to make errors. Errors put more pressure on your time and our schedules are further clogged. There is, of course, a side effect, a lecture from the boss or the wife! Make sure that you keep sufficient time between events (sometimes it is not in our hands) so that you get a break from the hectic schedule as well as time to prepare for the next event.   

Don’t give too much importance to being busy  

Keep your life simple. Do your work seriously but do not take yourself seriously. Everybody has a lot of things to do at the office as well as at home. But never check your emails while having food. Look at the food while eating. This will create good gastric juices and your digestion will be good. Always keep a bit of free time for your coffee break and enjoy banter with colleagues. Keep free time at home for family members including spouse, kids and parents. TV, FB and WA can always wait. Make the rule of no work in the bedroom. Social media is the main killer of your free time and reducing social media usage will increase your free time. This free time can be used for declogging your schedules and enjoy the banter!   

I will share one more story of how busy people find the time. One of our family friends was a personal friend of Narayan Murthy. The friend had called Murthy’s PA to find when Murthy could be available. Luckily both were in the same city. The PA called and said, ” Mr Murthy can meet you around 6.30 pm at xyz location. Then he can have half an hour of gupshup time with you in the car, as he is going to the airport. The car will drop you back to your hotel.”

Let me say Sayonara with a lovely message.  

Busy4

I will attempt to translate this Marathi message. 

I would have so much loved to write  

But you don’t have time to read 

We could have chatted for hours together 

But you have no time to listen 

We could have walked into the horizon 

But you have no time to walk 

My ears are very eager to listen to you 

But you have no time to talk 

        

 

Irrational Thinking!

My nephew is a senior Air Force pilot. Years back when we were discussing something, he said, “Pramod Kaka, this has to be true. It was there in yesterday’s newspapers.” I told him that I would put an advertisement is a newspaper, saying that he is an idiot. Will that be true? He realized the folly of his argument. All of us make similar errors in our lives when we are taking a decision. We always try to go by existing norms or “truths”. It is very easy to compare the current situation with the existing norms. We don’t want to deviate from these norms. Many times the decision based on this thinking could be wrong but the status quo in thinking is what we opt for. 

Humans always take pride in saying that they are always very rational and take decisions based on logical well considered thought. But there are many times when we make emotional, irrational, and confusing choices. But there are some very obvious errors we make while taking decisions like my nephew did!  

Ostrich1

Follow the leader tendency 

On the internet we see articles with titles like “8 Things Successful People Do Every day” or “The Best Advice Richard Branson Ever Received” or “How Tendulkar followed an exercise regime since childhood”. These articles give pointers to you to understand the path used by successful people. 

Follow the leader tendency is to focus on the winners in a particular area and try to learn from them while completely forgetting about hundreds of losers who are employing the same strategy. 

A similar example is “Richard Branson, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg all dropped out of school and became billionaires! You don’t need school to succeed. Entrepreneurs just need to stop wasting time in class and get started.” It’s possible that Richard Branson succeeded in spite of his path and not because of it. For every Branson, Gates, and Zuckerberg, there are thousands of other entrepreneurs with failed projects, debt-heavy bank accounts, and half-finished degrees. Follow the leader tendency isn’t merely saying that a strategy may not work well for you, it’s also saying that we don’t really know if the strategy works well at all. 

When the winners are remembered and the losers are forgotten it becomes very difficult to say if a particular strategy leads to success.  Ten thousand to one may be the ratio of forgotten and remembered people. For hundreds of thousand failed cricketers, we think about a Tendulkar. It’s good to aim to be a Tendulkar. We only know a general path Tendulkar took to succeed but we don’t know ALL the details of what he did! Tendulkar also never went to college, so not going to college to become a successful cricketer is not the path for everybody. Tendulkar did not go to college because he was already an international player when he reached college age and never got time to go to college! 

Loss Aversion 

We have been taught from childhood be a topper, be a winner all the time in whatever we do! But life is never that simple. In an exam, you must come first, in races you should win, in singing you should be the best. But to be a winner in every aspect of life is simply not possible. But then how do you learn to lose? Nobody teaches you how to lose. One avenue where you win some and lose some is the sports arena! Every individual or every team in any sports activity they play wins and loses! The winning and losing games is a great education. This teaches us that life is the same as any game. You win some and lose some!

When we become overly competitive, every aspect of life becomes a competition! On a toll booth, if other lines move fast, we get upset. Consider two transactions, in one we gain Rs.100/ and in the other we lose Rs.100/. In one case we are elated and in the other, we feel a loss. But the intensity of elation and loss for the same amount is different. Humans don’t like to lose. I bought a pair of shoes a few days back but I did not feel like disposing of my old shoes. That is human nature. In today’s startup scenario it is considered that you do not have sufficient experience if your CV does not show a couple of failed ventures in your name. Failures are the path to success.  

Decisions based on limited knowledge 

To believe in things that are easily available and visible is a common mistake that our brains make, by assuming that the examples which come to mind easily are the most important or prevalent things.  

We are living in the most peaceful time in history, and also the best reported time in history. Information on any disaster or crime is more widely available than ever before. A quick search on the Internet will pull up more information about the most recent terrorist attack than any newspaper could have ever delivered 100 years ago. The recent killing of the Police Officer in UP is a classic case. A lot of information is coming up everywhere in the form of visuals, videos, sound bites; views of different leaders, social scientists are heard and read continuously. This creates an atmosphere as if the world as we know is going down the drain. Yes, what happened was extremely bad but the things are in reasonable control. Social media is equally responsible for creating such a tense atmosphere.  

The overall percentage of dangerous events is decreasing, but the likelihood that you hear about one of them (or many of them) is increasing. And because these events are readily available in our mind, our brains assume that they happen with greater frequency than they actually do. We overvalue and overestimate the impact of things that we can remember and we undervalue and underestimate the prevalence of the events we hear nothing about.  

The end result of all this euphoria is while taking decisions about things we only go by what is currently discussed and what is discussed boldly but is not necessarily correct. Sometimes I feel that social media was designed by Goebbels.

Bias 

We go by what we believe in and what we want to believe in. If we believe that demonetization was good for the economy, we will look at every statement and article and speech against it, as some stupidity or we will call it paid news. If we believe in climate changes, anything against your view, you  will tend to ignore. Similarly, while taking decisions, we go by what we believe is right and nothing else.  

Friends, I have discussed something which is the issue with all of us. So, we will think that we need to change and be more rational. But it is easier said than done. Changing our way of thinking is one of the toughest things in this world. Sometimes this is also called Ego! But to be on the practical side, we should try to realize that we should be more rational while thinking on any subject. We may have grown up in a family, where paying taxes was considered irrational. But when we think rationally….

We are all self-centred. We always think in our own cocoons or silos! The best example is the famous sentence, “What my nation has done for me?”; but we never think of the counter question, “What have I done for my nation?” Be rational, don’t be self-centred. Let us not be an Ostrich and bury our head in the sand! 

Ostrich2

Declog your Mind!

Clogging and declogging are the terms used by Cardiac Experts and Plumbers. The blocks formed in arteries reduce the flow of blood and depending on severity can cause the heart attack. Similarly, when we don’t take care of the home or city plumbing system, the pipelines clog and cause problems. At some stage both need to be attended to or there can be catastrophic results.

But we forget that same logic applies to our mind. When our mind is clogged, we don’t think properly. Different thoughts keep on coming in our mind in a cyclic manner and we are not able to attend to the problem that needs urgent attention. We are simply not able to concentrate.

 

You know the terms thinking, worrying, stressing, freaking out — call it whatever you want. I call it preoccupied mind. And with what? I feel that 99% of our thoughts are useless. Many people think that they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices in their mind. Many moons back a friend had a breakup. We were both young. We had full night sessions on what to do next. On the third night when we met, I asked my friend what he really wants to do. We thought that we had discussed a lot but had never come up with any plan or conclusion about what to do next. Most of the time the friend was ranting how he was cheated, and he will do this and that! I asked him a blunt question, “Is there any chance of reconciliation? Has the lady really cheated you?” He then did not speak for a few minutes. Then he said, “I am a damn fool; the situation is neither her fault nor mine! Why am I thinking in such a harsh way?” Then again, he became quiet for ten minutes. Really concentrated and said, “The subject matter is over! I will let go! She will remain close to my heart all my life; what a fool I was to think about her the way I did”! Friends, this was the effect of declogging of mind!

Clogged mind creates a lot of stress. The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another. Pragmatism believes that a mind is a tool. Your mind should work for you, not against you. People who don’t master their mind, don’t believe it’s possible to do so. They will always keep saying, “I can’t help but think of these things.”

Well, you can stop thinking on a subject but with enough practice. It’s a skill. You have the ability to decide what you think. Or, you can choose NOT to think.

What is the downside of thinking too much? I will tell you my example. When I am writing, some thoughts are very clear in my mind. I am able to complete my basic blog writing in a couple of hours, then I spend an hour on proofreading, refining, fine-tuning, changing a few things. I generally do the latter part, early morning. When I get up in the morning after my quota of sleep, there are not many thoughts in mind other than completing the blog. My mind is fresh. Since I get up early, I feel a little hungry. But I plan what I am going to eat on the previous night. I don’t like to overload my mind to decide what to eat! Sometimes, I do do the basic writing also, early in the morning. (See my mind wavered a bit and wrote “do” twice) For me, this time is quite productive.

When I was working full-fledged, my early mornings were used to writing important emails or creating documents. Sometimes, I used this time to read important things received on the previous day. I will share with you a very important experience. During a business telephone meeting with a customer, years back, one of the officers, from the customer side, who was close to us, took a very awkward stance. This would cause us a financial hit for no fault of ours. At the end of the meeting, he also told me that he was being transferred to another country. I was upset and wrote a very nasty mail. I read it a couple of times and saved it as a draft, instead of sending it. I slept over the meeting. When I read the draft mail again early morning with a de-clogged mind, I realized that the mail would not serve any purpose, looking at the long-term relationship. I created an internal mail on how to avoid such situations in future. I deleted the draft and sent our friend a two-liner mail. In the mail, I thanked him and also registered our mild protest against the decision.

खयालोंमें is an appropriate word in Hindi, which fits our state of mind when our mind is clogged. We really don’t know what we are thinking about. Our mind whirs like a motor and jumps from one thought to another and to another! But we need to be pragmatic on how to handle this!

While writing this particular paragraph my mind was खयालोंमें, and I was thinking of our groups’ lunch next month, the work to be done in the bank today and about a probable business meeting tomorrow. When we are in खयालोंमें state, we need to pinch ourselves and ask “Are you back to reality? Do you feel your eyes are reading the letters on your screen? Do you feel your phone in your hand? Are you thinking about how to complete the blog?”

When should we think at all is a question that comes to mind these days. With waterfall type information flow that each individual gets and new entities like WA groups, FB groups and so on have formed. To me, these are mainly for entertainment or even worse, time-pass. What happens should be treated at the same value; if one is an admin he should try and keep a semblance of control. Do your work seriously, don’t take yourself seriously!  Don’t think too much about it! Unless you are personally involved in correcting status of the world, leave it a that. Use your mind for better things and pursuits.

You use your mind, and don’t let it be the other way around. Now, keep using that brain of yours. It is the best tool we have, make use of it! As my friend Vijay said the other day, your brain gets sharpened by more use; use it in the right place and time! I hope you don’t MIND this bit of advice from me!

My friend Dhananjay shared the link of this Marathi Poem मन वढाळ वढाळ …….  by Bahinabai Choaudhary, which is very appropriate for this blog! Thanks Dhananjay!

https://www.aathavanitli-gani.com/Song/Man_Vadhay_Vadhay