Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

Talent is hard work alright, but train to deflect judgmental disdain

March 21, 2011

Jonah Lehrer talks about Talent

Woody Allen nails it as he says “80% of success is showing up”… It clearly sums up why Talent is not genetic… One certainly can’t bet on a Test Cricket gene or a Twenty-Twenty gene…It’s all about skill developed by intense, deliberate practice. Going by pure statistics, I guess one can safely say Talent = Hard Work. Period.

The basic trait that is required for hard work is often presumed as grit. But I would take a step back and think what leads you to be gritty. You look at a faculty and feel the excitement. You sense blood surging up your veins and your heart beating faster and beads of sweat bubble up on your leather. You want to do it now, not a second later. You make a few frantic phone calls and are not put off by the conditions they put forth. You say Yes, almost without a thought. You dive right in.

In the process, you’re sub-consciously ready to assume the risks that go with it. It could mean ejecting out of your own zones of comfort developed over the years of regular exposure. It may as well expose you to a new set of circumstances and people about whom you have no clue. They may be talking stuff that sounds near Greek to you. You don’t cower, you persist.

Then comes the big question… How long before you hit the right road to success…? It could take months or even years to be on the same page as those others you revered. The interlude could be cruel, your near and dear ones look down upon you as if asking “what made this guy go so very nuts..?”

That is one harrowing question you may find difficult to deal with because it is never asked. It is implied in their deignful stares and demeaning walk aways or even not so subtle whispers. Suddenly lights around you get turned off and you realize you are dithering in darkness of ignobility and contempt. You are looked at like a loser and it hits you hard even before you know you failed. Surviving this ignominy is so hard unless you have a balanced mind. The ethos to accept failure as well as success on an even keel may have been your asset, but you may not be so ready to accept early judgmental admonitions from all around, express or implied. This is one sphere where practice has to focus on, not just the attribute that you go after to master.


Art of keeping it simple…

November 22, 2010

I am a great fan of the fine attributes of tolerance and grace, because I am not so well endowed with those. I see my mother and feel jealous about her as she has those in plenty. But no matter how hard I try, I blow my fuse at the slightest provocation. Bad habit, sooner I get rid off it, the better.

But despite the deficiencies as above, I am simple, straight as an arrow and a happy guy too. Coming to think of it, I keep my life simple like most men I know.

So this post is for my readers with a feminist slant…

How do men keep it simple…? I read a chain mail that got lodged in my inbox with the title “Why men are never depressed”…

Men Are Just Happier People– What do you expect from such simple creatures? Your last name stays put. The garage is all yours. Wedding plans take care of themselves. Chocolate is just another snack. You can be President. You can never be pregnant. You can wear a white T-shirt to a water park. You can wear NO shirt to a water park. Car mechanics tell you the truth. The world is your urinal. You never have to drive to another gas station restroom because this one is just too icky. You don’t have to stop and think of which way to turn a nut on a bolt. Same work, more pay. Wrinkles add character. Wedding dress $5000. Tux rental-$100. People never stare at your chest when you’re talking to them. New shoes don’t cut, blister, or mangle your feet. One mood all the time. Phone conversations are over in 30 seconds flat. You know stuff about tanks. A five-day vacation requires only one suitcase. You can open all your own jars. You get extra credit for the slightest act of thoughtfulness. If someone forgets to invite you, he or she can still be your friend. Your underwear is $8.95 for a three-pack. Three pairs of shoes are more than enough. You almost never have strap problems in public. You are unable to see wrinkles in your clothes. Everything on your face stays its original color. The same hairstyle lasts for years, maybe decades. You only have to shave your face and neck. You can play with toys all your life. One wallet and one pair of shoes — one color for all seasons. You can wear shorts no matter how your legs look. You can ‘do’ your nails with a pocket knife. You have freedom of choice concerning growing a mustache. You can do Christmas shopping for 25 relatives on December24 in 25 minutes. No wonder men are happier.

Why I never felt like the Ferrari…!

November 19, 2010

When people ask me “Have you ever longed to have a better life, a better past and a better present…?” my instant answer is “No”. And they don’t believe it.
They think I am either lying or am giving a very guarded response and concealing frustration. I tried telling them it is my nature never to regret anything in life and accept life as it unfolds, but they would have none of it. And they are not alone in feeling so.
I go back and search my soul a bit. Why did I give such an answer…? Did I lie…? Should I be longing for what was never mine…? Should I load up my mind with “if I had that then, I could’ve been this now” kind of fallacies…?
I am convinced I was honest. I had always been mentored by experience, never by another human or a guru. The reason being I had always trusted my instinct, my capacity to observe and learn and always felt a self-taught internal lesson lingers longer and works far better than an admonished external one. I use this pet metaphor often. What if a Ferrari that could race at a speed of 350 mph, had been driven at just 100 mph? How would it feel if it had an experiential mind of its own…? Either the driver was not enthusiastic or he was just way too risk averse. Perhaps the roads were not up. Perhaps he didn’t trust the machine. But the machine was sure it could do a 350 mph but it could do nothing to spur the driver to step on the gas. So what will it do except to despair over its helplessness…?
If I were the machine, I would have felt helpless. But I am not. I am a human endowed with heuristics. I can think of ways and means to be the driver and the machine. This realization had gotten lodged in mind way back early in my life and had taught me never to despair, but to take a different route to hit the goal. And in 90% of the cases, I had succeeded sooner than later, and in much larger proportions than I had ever imagined. And as regards the 10% reminder, I had recognized that life never is about what you want, but what you need. Perhaps I never needed the 10% at all. The 1:9 sacrifice ratio has just been fair and nothing to be grieved over. What have I got to regret…?

That said, if I had a choice then and had not exercised it, I have room to regret. Or if I had multiple choices and had exercised the wrong one, I could feel remorse. But most occasions throw up just one choice and that having been acted upon led us to a later misery, we should learn to cope than brood over it. Again the wisdom dawns only in hindsight and not at the moment we choose to do or not do something. So never live to regret anything in life over which you had little or no control over.

I was convinced I’d given the honest answer. Worrying would have gotten me nothing. Regrets lead to disappointments and later frustration. I must thank my super set of genes that made me look inside more for answers than to look outside and seek them out from externalities that I knew I could never have controlled anyway.
So I never felt (desperate) like the Ferrari.

Destiny – a key to success (Speech for my daughter series)

November 11, 2010

Destiny (or Fate) refers briefly to an event or a course of events that will inevitably happen in future.
Many believers buy the theory that no matter how systematically we plan our affairs, the end result is determined by the randomness of destiny. Be it in topping the class test or winning a Formula One car race, fate plays a major role. You could be a hard-working student with straight A’s in class tests, yet your answer sheets could be misplaced. The car tyres of a well trained and experienced Formula One motorist with an all-win track record could as well burst, costing him the race !!!
Success – when seen as an outcome is closely linked to destiny. But does that really mean we should thump down our creative instincts and surrender to destiny completely…? Should the student stop working hard at his subjects…? Can that Formula One motorist pull out of his training regimen and bank on his luck to win the next race…? That could be disastrous.
The difference lies in our perception of the sequence of events that is in our control and those that are not. Destiny, by its very nature is not entirely within our control to manipulate. We shouldn’t waste time figuring out how destiny will shape our future. As we all know, besides destiny, there is always an element of predictability, a cause and effect relationship in all things we do that are directly influenced by our efforts. If you buy the right ticket, reach the airport early and board the plane headed for New York, you don’t land in Khandahar unless you are hijacked. In effect, it means destiny to a significant extent is controllable. It could be a seen as a “demanding friend” and not always an arrogant big brother.
Why did I call destiny a demanding friend…?
If everything is pre-determined, living beings need not be endowed with the fine powers of creative thinking. Just as the course of a natural event like a sun-rise and sun-set, we need only wake up each morning, leave things to destiny and go back to bed at night – a clear no-brainer. Had that been the intent, why have we been gifted with a brain that is wired to think, plan and execute…? If we know to swim we control our destiny by not drowning even if the boat we are in springs a leak. I can say with conviction that destiny is not some omnipotent external engine, it is just a cog in our wheel. It resides within us and depends on us to do our part of the job so that it can take over and play its role to perfection. It is demanding to the point that we use our brains and do what is within our control so that like a true friend, it can influence the outcome by taking care of what is beyond us.

And success, like someone said is not a destination, it’s a journey. We should keep striving hard, the destiny will play its role and we could end up as victors in all that we set out to do.

The moral quicksand

October 13, 2010

Worst moments of life sometimes are not so personal. Journalists documenting a war, rebellion or such crisis may hate to see suffering, but that’s precisely what makes a good copy. Here’s Paul Reyes of NYT on the constant conflict of personal values with career imperatives that quietly consumes and sucks you into the quicksand of minding business other than one’s own. He covered the mortgage crisis since it blew up in 2007 and had to enter several houses deserted by vanquished owners, looking up letters and images that conveyed deep sentiments and personal anguish, not without riding a guilt-trip of gut wrenching invasion of privacy that was never intended.

Documenting a foreclosure requires invasion of privacy—an embarrassment shared by the sheriff’s deputy, a trash-out crew, a journalist or photographer. Having spent the last couple of years writing about this crisis myself, I can say that the embarrassment never fades. The sentiment in letters and photographs long abandoned never evaporates completely, no matter how moldered. This sense of invasion, oddly paired with an uncomfortable intimacy, is part of the voyeuristic tension of documenting the homes that people leave behind—sometimes in a rush that scatters toys and trophies and love letters, sometimes with the kind of order and neatness that speaks to a stubborn pride.

If I am not taking a decision, leave me alone

February 25, 2010

More often than not, I take quick decisions. Even I risk being impulsive. But there are some areas where I consider many parameters and conjure up arguments for and against and weigh each of them carefully. At times, I don’t decide at all. But I’ve noticed that my mental process is active in the background, adding in more and more arguments that strengthen some theories while rejecting others. I have a question now – does this structural mindset make me a good or bad decision maker? Should I change? If so, should I freeze up or ease up?

That’s what I call my comatose zone and while I am in one, I prefer solitude much to the chagrin of others that are impacted by that decision, even remotely. Some get vexed but retain calm not wanting to bother me. Others slightly adventurous dare to quiz what’s going on in my mind. What a commentary on civilization, when being alone is being suspect; when one has to apologize for it, make excuses, hide the fact that one practices it – like a secret vice.

I do it all the time. I practice solitude. It opens up doors and windows of my mind, gives me new perceptions and clarity of thought. Fills me up with renewed energy and my imagination takes wings. Deep burrows in my mind are opened and treasures revealed. I think the great omission in human life is solitude; not loneliness, for this is an alienation that thrives most in the midst of crowds, but that zone of time and space, free from the outside pressures, which is the incubator of the spirit. It’s a nice feeling when the room is filled with air saturated with a bouquet of silence. Solitude helps me escape not from others, but from myself for I see in others a reflection of self. And heck, it never hurts to rest my body and mind for a while if that means revival of spirit and my creativity.

Inside the bore zone

July 22, 2009

For quite some time now, I haven’t had much to post on. There was nothing worth its while to contemplate, to have deep thoughts on. It was just the mundane stuff coming back up, week after week. It’s not the first time I’d hit this morose zone, a hiatus, pretty much a forced pause. There had been times in the past when deals dry up and my creativity sagged. Not a thing that I could do to get over it than to quietly let it pass.

May be it’s got to do with the global gloomy sentiment. The weather isn’t helping much either. We’ve had some showers in Mumbai and it’s all wet all around. The laziness is, like a gift of the monsoon – at least for me. I walk and sleep a lot more and read and write a lot less. Stock Markets – that has lately been my mainstay in the absence of meaningful resource raising deal flow that is otherwise my true calling, have been quite range-bound after a brisk run over the last three months.

I knew I had to do something to get rid of this boredom. Boredom is a serious enough problem, since at least half the sins of mankind are caused by the fear of it. The fun was that I wasn’t even feeling insecure. So, is this listlessness a symptom of security? I had to deal with this internal commotion. The war between being and nothingness is the underlying illness of the post-crisis times. Coming to reckon that, boredom slays more of existence than war. Some take to mad shopping, others gamble and most others drink. But I knew I had to stimulate myself somehow and I’d rather do something else. And that’s going to be the only way to get out of this unsavory morass.

But I’ve noticed something. I am regular to pick up my daughter from her coaching classes now more than ever. Guess punctuality is the virtue of the bored! And there is one other reason. I like to drive down early and get a great parking spot, then sit in my car and count how many people ask me if I’m leaving.

To them, I’d rather ask – Could they teach me how to sit still in one room ?

The famous Japanese enterprise

February 5, 2009


In Japan, the Railway rules. Every working day a vast ganglia of 45 bullet, main and suburban-overground lines, with another 13 underground, channels 4.1m swipe card-carrying commuters into Tokyo’s central wards alone, with clean and exceptional precision. Shinjuku station alone disgorges 900,000 passengers each morning, sucking them in again in the evening, some of the men (and they are mostly men) by now inebriated, before dumping them in their distant bedroom towns.

Every year 2,000-plus train Chikan, or perverts, are arrested for groping women and schoolgirls—the vast majority during the morning rush hour, causing minor delays. For years, females just put up with the indignity of groping, either out of embarrassment or out of fear that their claim would not be taken seriously. But habits are now changing, and women will hold up the offender’s hand and shout “Chikan!”. Several lines also have women-only carriages for peak hours. A few men’s lives have been broken because of false accusations.

The only thing that can be said with confidence is that Japan has found original ways to make money out of people’s sexual predilections. Little more than a stone’s throw from the huge Shibuya station is the “Shibuya Pink Girl’s Club”, which on its varied menu offers a Chikan densha, or pervert train.

The “groper’s course” starts at ¥12,000 ($130), where the connoisseur picks out from the menu the girl of his choice, dressed either as a schoolgirl or office receptionist. This girl then beckons him through the window of a mock-up train carriage, which not only broadcasts station announcements, but even shakes and rattles. For the next 45 minutes the connoisseur is under no risk of arrest as he gropes to gay abandon—before joining the slumberers on one of the last real trains home.

This is it. The Japanese creativity never misses an opportunity 🙂


Fears are but fears

January 30, 2009

Mistakes are how we learn to do something new — because if you succeed at something, it’s probably something you already knew how to do. You haven’t really grown much from that success — at most it’s the last step on your journey, not the whole journey. Most of the journey was made up of mistakes, if it’s a good journey.


So if you value learning, if you value growing and improving, then you should value mistakes. They are amazing things that make a world of brilliance possible.


Celebrate your mistakes. Cherish them. Smile.


When I endorse that, I don’t exactly mean go sing “Oh…la…la…la…  I’ve made a mistake”.  It’s enough if we don’t sulk over it excessively or feel suicidal.  It’s ok to lose some sleep over it so long as it is therapeutic, a form of longish meditation that helps you go over what went wrong and vow to get back at it in reparatory mode.  I can personally vouch for this since I had left my day job long back and set out on my own, making a few mistakes before deciding which road to take for my own enterprise (that center around securing private and public investing for other enterprises besides making some on my own) and feeling entirely happy and relaxed in the end because I never had to spend another second amidst crushing mediocrity that consistently drained my spirit to excel, leaving me to rot years on end. No more ruinous bosses, no more bitching peers, no more clumsy subordinates – it’s a complete sense of liberation giving me total control over myself and what I do with my time.  Envy me. How many of you have that luxury?


To that moral I might as well add – Conquer your fears.  It’s worth it because – fears after all, are just that

Anywhere it’s paradise…

January 13, 2009


Wistfully looking up the BW happiness ranking.   Usual suspects steal the show starting with Denmark, Switzerland and Austria filling up the top three slots.  I wound down to no.8 and froze.  There it read, Bhutan, wow – the only asian country to figure in there.  U.S ranked 23rd, China 82 and India way back at 125.  African countries like Zimbabwe and Tanzania bring up the rear.


Why am I doing this?  Why does it really matter?  What has always made a hell on earth has been that man has tried to make it his heaven.  Francis Bacon said “Prosperity is not without many fears and distastes, and adversity is not without comforts and hopes”.   Fate often puts all the material for happiness and prosperity into a man’s hands just to see how miserable he can make himself with them.  It helps build a world of contended bodies and discontented minds.  If prosperity guarantees progress, then it also imposes new possibilities together with new restrictions. 


Consoled?  Like hell.  That’s all bunkum.  It means a lot to be rich. Obscenely wealthy. There is nothing wrong in being rich. No sense of guilt attached to being wealthy.  Just that when prosperity comes, do not use all of it.  Not all wear their pearls around the neck with stones upon the heart.  That is propagated by those who wear stones around their necks while dreaming of pearls replacing them some day.  Luxury, if it corrupts the rich by possession, it distorts the poor by covetousness.


My advise to the world. Covet prosperity by all means.  To get there, you can start by staying positive. A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort. Happiness is an attitude.  We either make ourselves miserable, or happy and strong.  The amount of work is the same.  Just because you’re miserable doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy life. We may all be in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.


Anywhere is paradise.  It’s up to you 🙂