Tuning In & Tuning Out

“I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.”

Groucho Marx

Everyday many of us come home from work and switch on our television sets; & nearly everyday we listen to the floating heads on TV and their rather binary view of the world. And everyday, we accept the outrage that the floating heads deliver to us via the media, whether it be Television News, Newspapers, Web Portals or any other medium.

Take TV for instance. We have 6 or more floating heads per news channel arguing it out, on prime time; debating (screaming) about something, with one floating head being with the anchor and the other against the anchor.

I find it amusing that the anchor decides in the span of 45 minutes (allowing for commercial breaks) which side is righteous & which side “wins”.

We also feel that the news anchors we choose are fighting for us. They are displaying the indignation we must be displaying to the “careless Government” & the “stupid opposition. After all the News Anchor and his other floating head “panelists” chastise Narendra Modi,Rahul Gandhi, Donald Trump, Mark Zuckerberg, Vijay Mallya,Arundhati Roy, M.S. Dhoni, Hugo Chavez, Bill Gates, Batman, Iron Man, Mickey Mouse, The Greek God Zeus and anyone else the panelists can find.

The entire premise of most Television news is that only if these famous people clean up their lives, we can all live in unlimited utopia. And the Television Anchor and his Floating Head friends are delivering us this utopia, at least for one hour 45 minutes everyday.

I believe that the excitement of watching famous and powerful people getting bashed on live TV is what we crave.

|Television “debates” are the new Gladiator matches.|

If we are tired of the floating heads on “News Channels” we can simply press a few buttons and switch to other floating heads on TV soaps & movies. These floating heads are well dressed ( in a lot of or very little clothing) and lead generally exciting lives.

For instance, Tulsi Viranis husband dies, Ted Mosby is out looking for his soulmate, Alia Bhatt is solving boyfriend problems with a therapist, Sunny Deol is fighting the Pakistanis with a hand pump, James Bond is seducing 3 to 4 very good looking ladies, Jethalal is arguing with Bhide while eating Jalebis, Tom Cruise is saving the world and Robert Downey Jr. is saving the darned universe and all of this is happening every evening.

Compare that to our own lives. Most days of our lives are rather monotonous. We go to work, chit chat with colleagues, come back home and watch these larger than life stories and characters. We feel like we are missing out on something. We ask ourselves, “why is my life not so exciting?”

After all, not all of our days are exciting. Not everyday are we launching a new product or making a breakthrough. Not many of us are working on something that can change the world.

And to avoid the void, we turn to the idiot box with the floating heads.

But here is where it gets interesting, regardless of our profession or role, not everyday is going to be exciting.

I recommend that you decide for yourself what you want in and out of life. Once you do that, I think the floating heads will lose all relevance.

The ONE Lifehack You Need To Win

I wish I could give you a surefire formula for success, but life doesn’t work that way.


Scott Adams in How To Fail At Almost Everything & Still Win Big

We all come across ads like “Do these 5 things that ALL billionaires do.”, “3 life hacks you must know to retire by 40.”,”The ONE thing that you MUST DO to get ripped.” All such ads have a similar message, a quick, easy way that helps us find the one perfect solution to all our problems, the one perfect way to achieve all our goals & the one perfect way to never fail.

The green tea that you need to drink to lose weight, the protein powder that you must drink to get ripped, the bat you must own to bat like Sachin Tendulkar, the MLM scheme you must join to make big money very easily and countless other examples are all variants of the same.

And we are all enchanted, enchanted by the call that this one thing is all we need to make it in life. To use metaphor, we are all enchanted by the grail quest. It is seductive. It offers us a respite from all of our problems. We need only do the things recommended & everything else automagically falls in place.

And a part I find rather amusing is that we do not want people to point out flaws on what is being offered. We’d rather be ignorant about what the flaws in our wonder solution that have someone point them to us and destroy our dreams.

Why is it so?


My guess is that we are:

  1. Averse to hearing flaws in our own plans.
  2. Afraid to look within for answers.
  3. That we are always given solutions in school & college.

The negative news breaks the spell and we are forced to come back to reality. Our problems still exist. And that is rather psychologically painful. We are afraid to look within because then we need to confront our demons. Our own laziness, our own mistakes, our own lack of judgement. Add to this the fact that we are always given the one perfect solution in classrooms for 20 or so years. Everyday, for around 21 years, an authority figure tells us what we should do. How we should solve a math problem. How we should sit in class, how we should behave. School even defines what a winner is.

Overcoming years of conditioning , added with our own aversion to criticism from outsiders and lack of honesty with ourselves is (in my opinion) what leads to our quest of the perfect solution. After all, the solutions we are applying are most probably the ones taught in school & are no longer working. And if we fail, we are (gasp) losers!

So what is my LIFEHACK?

I believe that there is none. The only “lifehack” I recommend to people is to take complete responsibility for themselves & learn to trust their own judgement. I believe that if I really, really want someone to follow my instructions & ideas, then I need to live them.

Psst… if someone does have a lifehack on how I might improve my writing, I am all ears.

The Word Is Not The Meaning

“We interpret words to mean something that will be convenient or suitable to us, or interpret them according to a certain tradition.”

Jiddu Krishnamurti

Imagine you are thirsty and asked your Mother for some water. Now instead of handing you a glass of water, you get a lecture on what the chemical composition of water is, the different types of water (say mineral or spring) and how it takes various forms like steam or ice for half an hour instead of the drink. Merely understanding the term “water” is not going to satiate your thirst.

To paraphrase Winston Churchill, words are the worst form of communication till we have tried all others. As we explore in “Whose Reality Is It Anyway?”, we all see life from a different perspective and add meaning or draw inference from events differently. A good event for one could be a bad event for another.

Now let us try a thought experiment to understand this better:

What colors are the boxes below?

You’d say that the boxes are orange and pink respectively.

Now imagine that a child is thought that the color on the left is pink and the color on the right is called orange. As he grows up, he remains unaware of this till one fine day, the teacher asks him to name the colors. The child gets it “wrong”. He is regurgitating what is taught to him and it turns out that what is thought to him is “inaccurate”.

Now you can imagine what the child goes through in this situation here. I am guessing bewilderment, and perhaps anger and mistrust at his parents.

The point is that even for some of the most widely used words, each one of us may hold different meanings of the same word. Add to this the complexities in understanding tonality, body language and the evolution of language itself where some words disappear from common use and some words find their way into daily use.

Now imagine someone who thinks in a different language altogether. The ideas may be lost in translation as a complete transfer of meaning is difficult between two languages.

So the next time when you speak or write something, you might want to make it as lucid as possible and define every term as clearly as possible. This may help you and your associates to communicate well.

And when it comes to reading or listening, practise dropping all your preconceptions and you can discover the very essence the writer or speaker is conveying.

Choosing Death & Life

“Fate leads the willing and drags along the reluctant.”

-Seneca

As the clock strikes 12 and another year passes by, we wake up to the potential of new beginnings that we had been putting off! Say hitting the gym, finishing an article, learning a new skill, losing some weight, making more friends and NOT wasting more time doing useless stuff.

The past few months for me have been a journey in self discovery. From recurring situations that I kept finding myself in to a few blunders I would always commit regardless of what I did, a lot of life that was nonsense started making sense.

In 2017 I made a few choices that some might consider questionable or risky, but here I am.

The most radical part of 2017 however was the journey I took inside. Understanding yourself is a hard job, and one that you may perceive to be painful as well. But trust me, it is worth it.

A few things that were shocking as I dwelled inside are:

  1. I do not listen.- I did not listen to people, whether it be family or friends or strangers or anyone. I was in a hurry to impose my point on the other person because I had to be right.
  2. I like doing the opposite because it is the opposite.- I used to be proud of my abilities to spot short sell opportunities in a rising market. I would brag about it, because in my head, I could claim some sort of intellectual superiority. I would actively avoid looking for profitable trades on the long side, because I had to be short and brag about it.
  3. I was comfortable being average.- A common statement on my report card back till the 8th grade was “A lot of potential, could do better”. I perhaps took that to heart and my life till now somewhat reflects that. I could be doing much better, and I did let a few people down, people who had faith in me.

And the above is simply the tip of the iceberg. There were a million such programs running inside me, each with a different agenda, each well meaning in its own right, and yet conflicting amongst each other, landing me in soups.

Such insights require absolute willingness to change with some faith. I looked for answers in despair, but being preemptive could help you turn your life around, before you enter the despair stage. (Highly recommended).

Either way you take, there is one step that you’d take on the path and that is one choice that would seem hard, but it was the best decision I’ve taken. Choose to die.

I do not mean death in a physical manner, but every belief, thought, memory and expectation, let them all go. Whether it be the dream of becoming a market wizard or the fairy tale romance you thought you had. Let it all go.

Does it mean renouncing the world and becoming a saint? If that is what the path leads you to, then that is your path. You’d be guided.

Understand this, you cannot force yourself to change with “I will & I must”. That creates resistance that you will rarely be able to overcome. That is why you stop going to the gym after a month and guitars lie unused.

Answers to all issues come from absolute silence of the mind, whether it be a creative endeavour or a problem that needs solving. Cultivate radical responsibility, that is understand that whether an incident be good or bad, realise that it could not have happened to you without you accepting it on some level.

How do you begin? Well I had something about it previously, but the gist is-take some issue in your life that is recurring, ask yourself, with all genuineness you can muster “Why?”, silence the mind and wait for the answer.

As you overcome these issues, you realise that every moment in itself is fresh, every moment is 11:59 PM on 31 December 20XX and you will be just as enthused. Try it!

The Scariest Thing You’ll Ever Do

“The goal of life is to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe, to match your nature with Nature.”

Joseph Campbell

The irony of life is that the spark of hope comes aflame only in the depths of despair. Life has a funny way of teaching us. The lessons we most avoid end up running & many a times ruining us if we fail to learn them.

For some time, there has been a nagging feeling of being cut off from the world. Like I was an insignificant speck of dust in this giant cosmos. After all, even with an age span of 80, all of us are here for less than a few milliseconds of the planet. A few years from now, you’d be dead, gone and forgotten. I mean how many of us actually care about our Great-Great Grandparents?

Maybe a car crash, a meteorite or even a neighbour going nuclear could end my life in the fraction of a second. Logically, even if the aforementioned 3 events do not happen, I do depart, like we all do. So am I an insignificant little bug in the system to be crushed on the whim of my creator?

Till we do not face our own mortality, we cling to stuff, people, indulge in self-destructive behaviour, be riddled with guilt and confusion, act against our own interests and what-not.

Shakespeare once remarked that we are all actors on a stage, so in the context of life, is my role set? Is there actually free will or am I just a character who has an illusion of free will, whose script is decided? Or am I equal parts writer & actor and I do have a choice?

Earlier, I’d have written the whole thing off, but at 3 AM, when you wake up asking yourself the meaning of it all, you ask. You ask your heart out because nothing makes sense. Life & the whole world seems impractical & pointless.

And then if you are ready, would an answer come, and the answer is so different from what you expect, that the world you do see does turn out to be fake. Reality is quite different. Your own perception is a crazy beast.

Now, I feel like we are all a part of a giant jigsaw puzzle, where each piece is constantly changing and dynamic. The absence of one piece (namely You) can actually affect all the pieces, and throw the very cosmos out of order.

The Advaita Vedanta teaches us that we are all connected, beyond bodies and beyond our differences of age, gender, color and anything else. And that is the “Source” that the Bhagavad Gita talks about.

So what is the scariest thing you will actually do? (And I recommend you do it everyday.)

In your heart, tell yourself with all sincerity that “I do not know what my purpose is. I have no idea what the world is for. I’d like to know.

Wait for an answer, you’d be drawn to it. And then whether you go seek a Guru, pick up the Bhagvad Gita or the Upanishads or start Yoga, I do not know, but let the Big Guy take over.

Why do I urge you to do this? Simply because you’d avoid the despair! And you will change, for the better.

Good Luck!

The Difference Between Work & “Work”

Say you have a regular 9 to 5 job. You punch in, punch out and you get paid for days you were in the office, even though the work you do may be variable based on the season and time of the year. Many accountants & auditors get busy during the tax season but have a smooth sailing for a few months after. Similarly many (especially Indian) IT companies have employees on the “bench” . Say you are paid Rs.1,00,000 a month but the work you do perform varies.

And let us plot the same on a chart:

Here you exchange time for money, even though the amount of time you work may vary on a month to month basis. You can spend a month doing absolutely nothing and spend another month doing 3 months worth of work in a month.

Now we take a look at someone who has to work a lot during the initial stages without a fixed pay for the potential of a greater reward, say an author writing a book or a movie maker who would take 6 months to put the movie out there.

Take the case of the movie maker, he/she works with a great outflow in the first 6 months but based on his own calculation, expects a hefty payout. Again let us put in some numbers and plot them to make it simpler.

And here is the chart:

So even of things do not pan out, the movie maker knows what he loses, whereas the potential gain is theoretically all the money in the world.

When we put the two scenarios in context, in the former case, the payout is fixed, whereas the workload is variable. In case of the latter, the payout is uncertain, whereas the maximum loss the movie maker would bear is Rs.8,65,000.

So while working 9 to 5 is easy and somewhat guarantees a regular paycheque, “working”, while not guaranteeing a paycheque, does have a great payoff.

|Choose wisely!|

P.S: Interesting to note is that most employers believe that employees are underworked whereas most employees believe that they are overworked. That I believe depends on which version of reality is seen & by whom.

 

Whose Reality Is It Anyway?

“Let’s get real” or “Face reality as it is” or “The truth is bitter” are common dialogues we hear. But what is reality?

Is reality relative? Is reality different from person to person? Let us take the example of financial markets. We assume that both the buyer and seller of a security are rational and aware of the facts. Yet why does one person sell and another buy? Afterall one person has to be wrong. Both buyer and seller cannot be winners.

Now, let us shift to something a lot more prevalent. Take football (or any other sport) fans. We have fanatics arguing over which team is the best. And we have the numbers and facts, yet we have fans arguing that the team they support is the best.

So can I say that your reality is different from my reality and that we see the world through our own tinted glasses which distort “reality”?

I believe that our own programming & environment is largely responsible for our own version of “reality”. Say you were told that eating a lot of chocolates can lead to cavities. So when you see someone with cavities, you’d think that the person eats a lot of chocolates. Is that the “truth” however? It may not be the case!

In areas like financial markets, teaching or arts like movies and painting, understanding this concept of reality is of prime importance.

Even a polymath like Da Vinci is not spared from “our” version of reality. I myself do not find the Mona Lisa to be as fascinating as it is supposed to be, yet it is one of the most viewed paintings on the planet. Similarly, we see movies coming day in and day out and question why someone would even finance or make a film as crappy as that, yet it could be a super hit. (I do not understand most Oscar winning movies myself :-P).

So how do we “see reality?

A suggestion I have is something I have mentioned earlier- Be Childlike!

Let go of every concept that you’ve held, “you” are not a Boy or Girl, “you” are not (Insert Your Name Here).

Only once you’ve broken the shackles of of your own tinted glasses, can you see reality. And once you do, you’d get much better at making decisions!