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!  

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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! 

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Abode- Musings about first phase of my life!

Dictionary meaning of Abode is a place of residence; a house or home. The meaning is given in a few words but how much hidden meaning is there in this word. The life that we live is fully covered by this word. Attached to this word there are many hidden gems linked from everyones life. The abode can be a very small tenement to a big palace. One may be a pauper or a king in his life but in ones own abode you are always the king. There are joys and sorrows, love and hate, births, deaths, birthdays, weddings, preparations studying for exams and what have you. I could probably write about my each abode, one big episode but I thought writing about distinct memories and events from each phase would be more appropriate.

My first abode that I remember was in Andheri, a western suburb in Mumbai in early 50’s. It was a set of buildings and I don’t know what these clusters of buildings was called in those days. It was my first abode. That is where I made my first friend, Pradeep Gavankar. Pradeep and I are in touch with each other even today though infrequently. Pradeep has settled down at Houston in USA. Thirty years later I visited Sharad in Andheri; I went to see these buildings which naturally had become dilapidated structure but I could see myself playing cricket (by playing I mean hanging out as I was too small to play) or playing hide and seek. I also remember going to school walking in the direction of the railway station.

As I am writing about my different abodes  many thoughts simply rumble through my mind, so many memories, new experiences and new people. We humans are hoarders of experience, friends and memories. They are all hidden in our gray cells somewhere; you only need a little input or a tinkle in some format to get it to display in your kaleidoscope.

My father was a Police Officer with transferable job. From Andheri, we went to  then small town called Ahmednagar about 250 kms from Mumbai. We had a small bungalow quarters. A couple of things I remember distinctly are that I had won some kind of running race in my age group and people were clapping when I received the medal, I was probably the youngest in the group! Then surprise of surprise! Some dacoits decided to make a house break and steal things from our home; diwali had just ended so dacoits must have thought there will be some stuff worth stealing at our home. When dacoits came in at night, I was in bed with my mother and I still distinctly remember hearing a hissing sound as if something was being pulled out. I told my mother that I heard something but luckily she thought I was dreaming and put me back to sleep. The dacoits, when they were caught, were obviously shocked to know that they had broken open a Police Officers home; they said that they had planned to kill any person who woke up during the event. Luckily my grandfather also did not wake up though he was a very light sleeper.

Then we moved to Pune for a couple of years. Pune is half way between Ahmednagar and Mumbai both distance wise and culture wise. We stayed in a rented home this time; I was in 3rd/4th grade and made some good friends whom I remembered later in life when I shifted back to Pune again 10 years later. I used to go to school walking through small lanes with friends. You will be surprised to know that almost all the lanes have hardly changed except some homes which have been rebuilt. Once we heard that some army tanks were going on the main road (those were really different days!) . ¾ of us were running along with tanks on the footpath. After sometimes, we were so engrossed, we did not know that we had crossed our school. We had never done that before! In those days it was almost end of town. For benefit of those from Pune/Mumbai we were running on Jangli Maharaj road and had crossed Modern High School. Today this road is one of the busiest road and right in the center of the city and not end of city! Then there was one big fire about ten Km from where we stayed. We could see plumes of smoke from fire in the timber market. Those days buildings were so small we could easily see the smoke at that distance! Later I came to know my father as a Police Officer had to get involved in handling many things with that fire. Two more incidents I distinctly remember from this abode. We had a remote room to ourselves on the first floor. While playing there with a friend, I had inserted a screw driver in an electrical socket and boom….. I don’t know what I did but our fuse had blown off, luckily no injuries for both me and my friend. In another incident, near our home there was a motorcycle accident. Motorcycles were not so common in those days. There was a small crowd to see this and luckily the injured person was moved to the hospital but I can still visualize the mangled vehicle, my first!

We changed a few homes during my life time and but I always moved on when the change happened. I know of people who keep on having a great affinity to their native place and the home there, even after 30/40 years. I think people are made differently. When I lived in a particular home, I of course had a great affinity for the place but I could handle the change effortlessly and always moved on.

From Pune again we moved to Mumbai again and for about ten years lived in Dhobi Talao area just behind Metro Cinema. What days we had in that abode! In this abode I completed my school education and joined college too! Those were my formative year in my life and what fantastic facilities and set up we were lucky to have. It started with my re meeting my friend Pradeep as we went to same school (we did not know that) and met in the bus as he had moved from Andheri to Colaba. I went through my adolescence pangs in this abode. The typical awkwardness in dealing with female species, rebellion for and against everything parents would say, craze to do everything possible and playing sports all the time, exams were just a nuisance. Near our home there were three sports grounds, Cross, Azad and Oval but for some reason our favorite was Cross Maidan. We had Brabourne stadium, where I watched a few cricket test matches, close to our home and Marine Drive promenade was also close by. We had facility to play Badminton and Table Tennis in Police Sports club. This facility allowed me to be a part of my school team which won the tournament when we were in 11th grade! During holidays we were in the Police club all day. All these Maidans were used by us to play cricket and during monsoons we used play football. Monsoon was also a golden opportunity to hang around the Marine Drive with huge waves breaking on the retaining walls. ( We used walk on retaining walls!) On the Maidans there used to be Ramlila program during Dassara festival, we were allowed to go and see those religious dramas. But our main aim used to discretely watch the couples, who used the Maidan to meet for a bit of privacy! Our building was bang opposite Metro cinema on back side. We used to get excited if we were allowed a movie there. What style it had! The ushers used to wear Gray Jacket, Light brown trousers and bow tie as uniform! We used to be suitably impressed. The theatre was air conditioned and used carpets all through! Later on we became friendly with an usher Sawant. He was multitasking at Metro. Ushers had to work for a short duration during the show. In remaining time he was an artist, he used to paint the posters that were displayed at the theater. Our friendship helped us once in a while, as Sawant would allow us to watch movies on the sly via back door if there were empty seats! Eating out was considered sin in those days especially with road side vendors. Near our building, there used to be a Ragda Pattice walla but we were never allowed to eat with him. Even today I love to eat Ragda Pattice!

I know I can keep going on and on! There are so many things I can share with you but I may end up writing a book! I realized that our life is a combination of experiences that we gain. Our abode is the base that nurtures all our thoughts, helps inculcating different values, nurtures bonding which sometimes last all through our lives. You meet so many different people when you change abodes, this helps you to take the best from different people. I have become Cosmopolitan as I lived in Mumbai during the formative years. This has helped me largely in my future life. I think that will have to wait till next one!  Cheers till I talk of Elphinstone College, COEP and so on…