Paper Planes

23 May
2016

 

I got up yesterday at 7am

Went to the gym and had a good workout

Came back. Read the newspaper.

Made breakfast for Ruchi and me

Worked for 3 hours

Lunch

Watched 5 TED videos

Went to watch a play by Rajat Kapoor

Shopped for a few things at the mall

Went for dinner with family

Had meetha paan

Reached home. Worked some more

Slept at 12midnight

Perfect day, isn’t it! 

Except it wasn’t entirely

 

We stay on the 15th floor. And every Sunday Vidur and I make paper planes from the newspaper pamphlets we receive. And then fly them from our balcony – watching them land.

We couldn’t do that yesterday. He was at his grandparent’s place.

 

It is really easy to fill time with activities. Activities that give you happiness. Activities defined by the world. Activities that make you learn. That make you emote.

But there is this one thing you do, that is none of the above. It doesn’t have a goal. Neither is it a process. Surely not significant enough to define happiness. Yet there is something about it that’s honest and pious. And each time you indulge in that activity, with no intention, no outcome and no expectation – you learn something new about your own self.

 

Flying paper planes with Vidur has taught me how hard is it to translate what you know, to someone who doesnt see the world the way you do. 

Folding papers in perfect creases and shapes, isnt something that a 5-year old understands naturally.

It’s obvious to us. Not to them.

And everyday, I make the same mistake. I assume whats obvious to me, is obvious to everyone.

But it isn’t always.

 

When do you fly your paper planes? 

And what have you learnt from it? 

It’s easy for the world to brand you as a success or failure – depending on their mood and the inflation rate (insert any other irrelevant metric here) 

It is equally easy for you to fall in that trap. 

“I did it” or “I fucked up” – is it truly your measure or what the world told you? Is it your declaration or what the world made you believe? 

Believe in yourself 

Not what you have or haven’t achieved through it. 

There was furor recently on a TechCrunch article that not everyone needs to know how to code. 

And then (thankfully) there was a response – everyone should 

I agree

Just as the past century has been about managing people and how to get work done from them, the next century will be about managing machines. 

And those who think they do not need to know how to manage machines, are the same shitty managers that do not know how to manage people today. 

Today they can hide behind politics, hierarchy, ass licking and organizational bulge. They worry about tomorrow – when none of this will matter. Perhaps not even exist. 

There is a storm coming. 

And every shitty manager will soon realize how little they knew. And how little they cared to change that. 

All the best! 

I take a course at a business school. And there is no final exam for that course. Just one question instead 

“List at least 3 things you learnt during the course”

All those who list 3 things fail the exam. 

“List at least 3 things you learnt during the course”

We are all fucked up in our heads to believe that success is determined by the world. 

The 3 things define my success

The task my manager has given to me defines my success

The call my spouse has asked me to make everyday defines my success

The career my parents have asked me to pursue defines my success

This much money defines my success

And yet, one simple glance at all those who we define as successful, will prove conclusively that none of them took the world’s definition of success as theirs. 

Successful people are scared to define what success is. 

They are scared they might reach it one day and wouldn’t know what to do thereafter. 

Do yourself a favor

Don’t let the world define success for you. Don’t even define it yourself.

No one says this about Facebook. Or Amazon. Or Craigslist.

People hated the new logo of Uber – but no one is complaining now.

Unfortunately – we have been hard wired to believe that looks matter. Because we have seen people get away with that, for a large part of our lives.

And we equate products with people.

Pretty products – need to be useful – to be loved. Else they are just that – pretty.

And being pretty doesnt suffice. Not for the user.

The next time you have the urge to “design” a pretty product – think of the verb that the customer would use to define the product, when they see it for the first time.

If they use the word pretty – you have done a shoddy job

Go back to work!

 

A stranger writes in to you

“Hey, i just read your blog. I don’t agree with it. You came across as full of yourself!”

For most people their first reaction in their head will be “fuck off. He doesn’t even know me to say what he said. Ignore” 

Some might respond – explaining. 

Some might confront. Some might abuse. 

Picture another scenario 

A stranger writes in to you 

“Hey – I just read your blog. It’s awesome. I am so inspired” 

Most of us will pat ourselves on our back. Feel great. Self worth will increase. 

Some will reply with a generous thank you. Some will go awwww

Now enact the same thing with a really close friend of yours 

Your friends honest critical view of yourself will hurt you more than a stranger’s would 

And his authentic praised for you will most likely be dismissed. Heard but not valued. 

Ironic, isn’t it? 

We dismiss genuine appreciation from a known quarter. And genuine feedback from a stranger. 

It fits into our worldview that this truth isn’t as valuable. 

When that’s precisely the truth that one should listen to and reflect upon. 

Criticism from strangers and appreciation from loved ones is the only mirror ever produced. 

Predict your day?

3 May
2016

You get up in the morning 

You have the check boxes ready – your schedule, your tasks, people, email, coffee. 

Or you don’t – it’s a day you will figure as you go along, but then that too is part of the plan. No plan is your plan. 

Almost makes it sound predictable. Not the outcome, but the way you wish to live the day. 

There is a certain desire to predict the day. 

How about you let go of that feeling? 

Do something you have never done before. Outside of your comfort zone. Outside of the predictability. 

Don’t let your need for predictability take away the surprise out of today. Surprise yourself. Today. 

Intelligent people find it hard to say no, when asked for a solution to a problem 

Intelligent people think that if something takes “just a little time” it should be done right away 

Intelligent people think handling urgency is helpful 

Intelligent people are addicted to instant gratification (and acknowledgement) 

Intelligent people are always flexible with their plans. I am accommodating, they say. 

Intelligent people are cursed. 

By their own intelligence. 

Those who are not, are called smart 

Smart people recognize that the work they are doing right now is for a reason. 

It may not have an output in 2 days, but if their postpone it to pick something else, they will delay the future. 

Smart people know the difference between urgent and important 

Smart people are not flexible with their plans. Only with their thoughts. 

And that’s why you find intelligence in abundance

And smartness rarely

Stuck in a jam

18 Apr
2016

My road to office is a pretty smooth one. Takes me around 35 mins to reach and it’s a fairly uninterrupted ride.

Occasionally, we get stuck. Maybe a truck broke down, or someone hit someone else.

At that point, when we are in a jam, it doesn’t matter whether you car can do 0-60 in 3 seconds, it doesn’t matter how much fuel you have, it doesn’t matter how expensive your car is and it doesn’t matter when you left and how far you have to go.

Instead, other strange things seem to take over

– the music you are listening to

– the company you have

– the patience you have

– what you tell yourself

When stuck in life, the things that brought you to that point might not be the things that get you out of the jam. 

I am colorblind

14 Apr
2016

I have red-green color blindness. Which means, when you see the image below you see a number. And I don’t see anything 

No pattern at all. Just dots 

  
But hey, that’s the world I was born in. It’s my world. 

And it’s perfect. 

Except

It’s not! 

My world is not perfect. It’s incomplete. It’s perhaps even inadequate. How would I even know. 

Yes, I can make do with what I have and still rule the world. But the fact doesn’t change of what my world really is. 

And the sooner I realize this fact and accept it, the better I will be at dealing with it. 

Imperfections are like humans. They need recognition. And acknowledgment. 

Boundaries

13 Apr
2016

Mathematicians and physicists are trained to always identify the boundaries and operating constraints, while solving a problem. 

And yet, the best ones perhaps didn’t pay any heed to those boundaries. 

They started from first principles. 

The minute you start your problem with identifying the boundary, you have closed some doors. Closed some perspective. Perhaps closed your mind too. 

“We only have this much money” 

“We don’t have more than these people”

“This technology doesn’t exist”

“No one has done this before”

“We have never done this before”

The best solutions never defined the starting boundaries. 

They didn’t even acknowledge their existence. 

Probability 

11 Apr
2016

You toss a coin. There is a 50% chance it will land as tails. But it doesn’t. Heads it is. 

You toss again. Heads again

And heads again

And heads again

And heads again

With 5 heads in a row, when you toss the coin the 6th time, guess what’s the likelihood of tails landing up? 

Again 50% 

Doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different result is insanity (Einstein) 

It’s also probability (Warikoo) 

And probability only changes when you change something material. 

The next time you are working really hard, hoping that the work itself will influence probability, ask yourself – what did you change from what you used to do? 

If nothing – go back and change the probability. 

Believe 

8 Apr
2016

One always wonders – what makes people successful. 

Ambition

Determination

Hard work

Intelligence

Passion

Several other powerful words

To me, it’s a lot simpler. 

Those who are successful BELIEVE that they are worthy of that success. 

  

ISB taught me a lot. But I don’t remember much of the classes. 

Michigan State changed my life. And I aced the exams too. Wouldn’t be able to reproduce anything from the classes today, if I had to. 

Same for Delhi university. 

The best learning has come from what’s happened outside of the class. While I was living life. 

The best learning has come when no one was teaching.

Instead when I was listening. Observing. Not with the intent to reply. Rather with the intent to learn. 

It’s not what they teach you that matters. 

It’s what you learn instead. 

Energy

6 Apr
2016

At the gym, You don’t burn out mentally. Because you always burn out physically. 

It’s opposite at work. 

Ironically, the side that’s still not burnt out, is the one that can get the other side out of its state. 

At the gym – it’s your mental state that can get you of the physical burn out. 

At work – it’s your physical state that does the same for your mental burn out. 

Don’t sit – stand and walk. 

Don’t take the elevator – climb up. 

Don’t type. Write

Don’t eat shit. 

Don’t whine. 

Smile. Jump. Play. Focus!

Energy grows where focus flows. 

I took a solo trip this weekend. The first planned one in my life. 

Intent was to be around things that I wanted to do but couldn’t find the opportunity to. And to gather my thoughts around them. 

I watched TED videos, saw Ship of Theseus again, read a whole bunch, wrote even more. 

And in one such conversation with myself, I started speaking out what is it that I truly want to achieve in life. Why do I get up every morning. What drives me. 

And as I thought about it and spoke about it, I realized I was crying. Involuntarily. 

And I didn’t stop. Crying. Or talking. Or thinking. 

And all three continued. 

And then I remembered this video

And I was suddenly at peace. Knowing that my emotions were my strength. Not my weakness. 

It’s been 10 years since I graduated from ISB. and there are days I still miss it. It was such a happy phase. 

I miss my DU days too. Getting to know Ruchi and getting to know my own self. It was such a happy phase. 

Consulting was so much fun. Smart people. Great work. It was such a happy phase. 

The trip we just took was so awesome. Reading. Talking. Walking. It was such a happy phase. 

Every time we remember the past and call it happy, we somewhere tell ourselves it can’t come back. 

What can’t come back is the situation. 

The feeling always can. 

Happiness isn’t a phase. It’s a feeling. 

I am always taking decisions. That’s what I love to do. Take decisions. 

And that takes brain space. 

And I would like to believe that it’s not unlimited. It has great potential, but it has a limit. 

And if it does – my job then becomes to free my brain space of as many useless decisions. 

There is a reason Mark Zuckerberg wears the same tee everyday. 

And it’s the same reason why habits help us. It becomes natural, freeing up brain space. Think driving. It’s natural now. Wasn’t when I started – when I used to see everything around me. 

The other trick and a harder one – stick to the truth. 

Truth stays, so you just have to fetch it. 

Truth doesn’t require a decision to be made. Lies do! 

I am a founder. Also the CEO

A multi tasker by nature. A problem solver

Am always in a hurry. Am paranoid about losing. 

If there is something important, then it better start now and finish today. Perhaps tomorrow. 

Because of this I throw myself into virtually all problems out there that need a fix. With an impatience. 

And that’s fucked up. 

I become part of the problem. 

When I take on the onus to solve it, I cannot objectively assess it. Or hold someone accountable for its success. I take that on myself. And see myself defending it – “at least I picked it up. It was lying there for days with no one bothered.”

Doesn’t work

As a founder, especially of a 100+ people startup, you have got to dissociate yourself from the task. And focus on the outcome. 

Don’t become part of the problem

What do I wish for? 

29 Mar
2016

Guess the biggest reason why managers do not have a regular 1:1 session with their direct reports? 

They do not like uncomfortable conversations. 

Everything else is an excuse. Disguised as something else. But pointing to the same reason above eventually. 

Here is a trick that has helped me navigate through this

Before such conversations, ask yourself this question and respond honestly

“Do I want this person to win? Or lose?”

If you genuinely want the person to win, you will have a very different conversation. Right from its content to its tone to its impact. 

And if you want the person to lose, don’t fuck around. Any conversation you have will force to always find faults. They can try as hard as they might. 

“Why do I have to tell him to be there when there is a release. He should know it for himself. He should care”

Do you want him to win or lose? 

“I need this in the next 2 hours and I don’t care how you do it”

Do you want him to win or lose? 

“You are not hitting your numbers. And if this continues I will have to fire you” 

Do you want him to win or lose? 

“How could you not think of this? It’s so obvious”

Do you want him to win or lose? 

Good managers are always looking for ways to make their team members win. 

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