Entry to Write India 2

27 August 2017. This is post 2. And rather than a lesson, this is a piece of fiction that I am writing as an entry to Write India 2. The prompt by Ruskin Bond is, "I wish I could turn back the clock and bring the wheels of time to a stop." 

This was triggered by SN. In case you are reading this, where's your entry, young woman? 

Here goes... 

“Life’s funny. You spend your entire life chasing something and when you actually get to it, you don’t want it. You know, you’re like that kid at a carnival who wants sugar candy trapped in the glass jar. The jar looks as intimidating as those tall buildings that you crane your neck to stare at when you are going past by them. The jar has walls as thick as the reading glasses of your school’s headmaster and it has a screw-lid that takes forever to uncork and open. And its stacked so far that you have to perk up on your toes and because you are just a kid, you can barely reach the height of the shelf and all you can do is, stare at it with greedy eyes. And when after all the effort and coercion, the old shopkeeper hands you the candy, you don’t want it! Kids are really funny!” Manas drawled over the sound of ice-cubes clinking against the whiskey glass.

Surbhi instinctively looked at Mira. 

Mira was oblivious to the conversation between Surbhi and Manas. At the other end of the room, she was busy sorting a pack of Cadbury Gems into tiny stacks -- each stack made up of little marbles of same color -- with as much attention a 6-year old could muster. She was born in a different era to know of the glass jars that Manas was talking about. 

Surbhi turned back her gaze towards Manas. She had nothing to add here. She was meeting Manas after almost 10 years and so much had changed, except the glass of whiskey in his hand and the long-drawn narratives. 

When Manas had called her out of the blue, she had initially said no. When he insisted, she reluctantly accepted the invitation for a lunch. After all she had to know what had made Manas walk out on her in the middle of the night without any explanation. And Manas just didn't walk out on their marriage, he left behind a friendship of more than 15 years! 

They've been at it for more than 2 hours now and the conversation did not seem to be going anywhere. She was beginning to question her judgment. And since she had got Mira along, she was worried if the 6-year old should be around the obvious alcoholic - he’d been drinking before they had arrived and not for a minute had left his whiskey glass alone.

Manas did not think enough of Surbhi’s silence. He continued, “You know, they say that more than 80% of Earth’s surface has been transformed by humans? The only places untouched are the mountains. And you know the tallest mountain that we are yet to set our feet on? The Gangkhar!"

Manas was talking about Gangkhar Puensum. Standing at an Elevation of 7570 meters on the Bhutan-China border, it's the highest peak still that is yet to be conquered. As with all mountains, the Gangkhar was shrouded in mystery, partly because the locals held a strong belief that the holy spirits of their Gods reside at the Gangkhar and the spirits wrecked havoc to any attempts to climb the mountain and disturb their sanctity.

This was the first time she was hearing the name of the place. But she could immediately see that the Gangkhar, whatever it was, was bothering Manas. She knew of his lifelong obsession with mountaineering and while in pursuit of his obsession, he’d often ignored other, far more important things, including Surbhi.

She merely said, “Interesting. Want to tell me more?”

Manas got up from his recliner, hobbled to a bookshelf that was overflowing with books and papers and other curios. He winced with pain but reached out to an upper shelf and after moving a couple of books and some papers, he pulled out a thin folder. The red cover had a photograph of a snow-clad mountain and a scroll in Japanese at the bottom. He thrust it towards Surbhi.

He said, “You see this? This is a memoir by one of the Japanese mountaineers who was part of the group that did everything they could to climb the Gangkhar. They tried for almost a decade. He says that even if political sanctions were lifted, Gangkhar would still remain unconquered. Its tougher than anything else. Everest is like a stroll in the park, in comparison. One side of Gangkhar is a sheer fall into a glacier; The other side has knife-edged ridges, a cover of unstable snow and spiky pinnacles. It's the ultimate test of a climber's skill and ambition.”

Even though they’ve been friends since school, lovers since their college and married for three years, she never really had any interest in his passion, except when one fine day he announced that he was going to give Everest a shot.

He continued, “The locals say that the holy spirits of their Gods live on the Gangkhar and since the Gods want to rest in peace, they've forbid any humans to come close. Each expedition has met with unfortunate accidents that cant be explained. And apart from this thin memoir, there are hardly any records or even maps of the place! It remains out of reach. Its the place that everyone has on their bucket list. Its something, Surbhi, that I have to conquer before anyone else does. I want to show to the world what real mountaineering is. Everest is bullshit. This is the real deal!”

He was beginning to get agitated. Surbhi instinctively glanced at Mira and to her relief she was now lying on a rug in front of the television and was watching an episode of Tom and Jerry. The pack of Gems was now missing, most probably she had eaten them all. 

When not around Manas, Surbhi was known for her fierce reporting and uncompromising journalistic ethos. She was the undisputed queen of the investigative, political reportage. She’s has had a couple of really big scoops already and the third was going to press later in the week. With the latest one about rich hiring wombs for progeny, her editor was sure that Surbhi will bring home a Pulitzer for Investigative Journalism - the only major award that had eluded her in a 15-year long career.

Career was something that Manas was not exactly proud of. He had little to show for his age except multiple stabs at various peaks - all of them unsuccessful. And like all others that had seen limited success, he made barely enough to scrape by. Since he lived in the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering campus at Uttarakhand and worked as an instructor for the Search and Rescue module, he could keep the passion going and expenses low.

"Everest is bullshit, Surbhi. Its just a huge selfie opportunity! All those 4000 people that have reached the summit in last 50 years? All of them are fucking tourists with no spine." Manas continued his monologue.

Surbhi was used to these monologues. She knew that since veteran trekkers and mountaineers spent a lot of time by themselves when they out and about, they often have this need to keep talking when they do get company. No wonder they make such good speakers!

“You remember my greatest ambition? The lofty goal? To climb the Mount freaking Everest. I wasted 12 years of my life. Saving for it. Preparing for it. And what do I have to show for it? Couple of attempts that failed -- I did not even reach Camp 3. Some broken bones, 2 missing fingers on the toe, and the damn thumb!” Manas nodded at his left hand that was pretty much useless, now that the thumb was gone. He still had a formidable grip on ropes and but that's all that he was left to without the thumb.

Surbhi stared at the ominous looking hand. She did not understand what made people chase mountaineering when it was so fraught with danger. She also realized that with that missing thumb, Manas will probably never get another shot at any mountain, leave alone the Gangkhar or the Everest. 

“And why did I fail? Because I fought with the company that controls the rights to all the ladders and ropes and oxygen that they put on the climbing route at the Everest! They have a climbing route Surbhi. Its like a highway. All you need to do is hold the rope and walk behind the guy in front of you."

Surbhi thought Manas was being that sour whiner that he had become in the last few months of their relationship. In fact it was his constant whining and baseless accusations against the world that had hastened their separation. She was beginning to regret her decision to come meet Manas; Thankfully, Mira was still engrossed in the cartoon.

“I hate that piece of useless rock. That's what it is. A giant useless rock. It's been romanticized for no reason. Ok, it was tough when Edmund and Tenzing went to the top. It was tough for the next few years or so when people found new route, new trails, new paths to the top. But now it's like walking on crowded subway. Messner says, ‘Like in Kindergarten, they go on Everest now.’ Thing is, its been bastardized. Its become a commercial pursuit. The way you can buy a ticket to the top of Eiffel Tower, today you can buy a damn ticket to the top of the Everest and come back with all the bragging rights in the world. Its just another selfie moment. They have no respect for the pursuit. They don't care about the ones who've tried in the past. You know the ones who die trying to climb the Everest? The path to the summit is littered with them. Some are used as milestones and landmarks. There is no respect in ‘doing’ the Everest. It's a sport for the rich. You pay money and you get ropes and ladders and oxygen.”

Manas was now almost yelling. He had all the anger pent-up and no place to let go. The only two people he could call of his own were Surbhi and Mira. He wasn't too fond of Mira -- she was born to Surbhi’s second husband.

“What pride would you get if you are merely adding your name to a long list of people who have done something before you? You are a nameless, faceless statistic. You don't move things forward like that. You have to pave new paths. Create new things. Gangkhar is what they ought to do if mountaineering is their thing,” he scorned. He continued, “Its tough and its remote and its cold. There is no highway to walk on, there are no Sherpas to walk ahead and put the ropes! There are no maps either! That's what a real man would do. That's what I wanted to do. Before… before... ” his voice trailed off and he stared at his hand.

Surbhi now had an inkling what went wrong with them! Unlike the rest of the world, the guy had his priorities clear but he had chosen a track that was going to be as tough as, well, climbing the mountain. The closure that Surbhi had wanted was just around the corner.

“I did not know about it when I started thinking about it. More I read about, more fascinated I got. I am so sorry I ignored you, Surbhi. I shouldn't have left you that night. But if I didn't, I could never have taken that shot at the Gangkhar. It was my life, Surbhi. Not you. Gangkhar."

With that, he started crying. 

For someone like Manas, who had held his head high and resolve higher, this was a rare display of emotion. And Surbhi knew that he was accepting defeat probably for the first time. This was not the Manas that Surbhi had made friends with all those years ago. Rather than seeing a rock-solid man that she had loved once upon a time, she was now looking at a man frail with age and burden of loss on the shoulders. 

In a different time, Surbhi could've been angry about the way Manas left. But now, she had her daughter, her career and the question she needed an answer to, she had it. She was surprised that she had remained calm and all she felt was a bit of pity towards him. 

Surbhi leaned in closer. She said, “Manas, I am not sure what to say. I am really sorry for this. It was important to you. You did it. But now that it has happened, can you do something about it?"

He looked up. “Not really, Surbhi. But wish I could play God and do something about it, Surbhi. I wish I could turn back the clock and bring the wheels of time to a stop.” He paused to empty the contents of his glass. “You know to when? To just before when Edmund and Tenzing decided that they were going to climb the Everest!” and with that, he flung the empty glass at the wall that was decorated with a giant photograph of the Mount Everest shining in its glory. 


The End.

1000WAD_082017. Post 1. Time is limited.

22 August 2017. So I have accepted yet another 1000 words a day challenge. Knowing me, its gonna be tough to keep up with it. Unless I put a theme to it.

One of the themes could be writing a piece inspired by each alphabet. And I can repeat the vowels. So, I will have 30 odd pieces in 30 days (I did this some months back). Or the other option is to write 1000 words towards #book2, where I end up with 30K words. But then I am not sure if I have it in me to be able to do this – considering that the book is still in flux (and while a forced word count has worked well for me in the past, I want to do this one different). Or the third option is, I can write about things that I want to leave behind, should I die after a month. Things that have shaped me and my thinking. 

And after deliberate thinking, I have decided that I will write about the lessons, today being the first one.

So, lesson 1. Your time is limited. Everything else, including money, is unlimited. 
If you lose time, you will NOT get it back. 

Unlike other that is seemingly scarce, is not. What are the things that we think are limited? Money? Business opportunities? Access to loved ones? Number of chips in a bag? Battery on your phone? Parking slots?


Each of those things - EACH - is infinite (from the perspective that we are specs of dust on a blue ball in the vast infinite). You can make as much money as you want to. And if you exhaust the money you've made, you can earn it back. If you are lazy to put in the hardwork to earn money, you can beg, borrow, marry or steal. But you can always get it. And there is more than enough of it to fulfill every whim that you may have.

Loved ones is a probably the biggest myth propagated since the beginning of time. As I get along in life, I realise that love is probably the most overrated of things. More on this some other time. But the point is, you can always find opportunities to spend time with someone, if they matter. You need time for it. Nothing else. Time that is anyway limited.

Number of chips in a bag? Get another one. Battery on your phone? Carry a powerbank. Charge it again. Parking slot? Park a mile up the road. There is always a way out.

But the time that is gone, the seconds you've spent reading this (or on other frivolous things), is not coming back. And thus, you need to be VERY conscious of the way you spend your time. You need to eliminate time sinks from you life. Will talk about time sinks in a bit.

Your time is so limited that you need to spend is more wisely than you spend your money. This is counter intuitive. We are ok taking public transport because we cant afford a taxi or a cab but we "waste" probably 2 times the time in reaching the destination. While we saved 100 bucks, we had to spend that extra hour. Is that the worth of your hour?

I know not everyone has access to money, but once this thought about scarcity of time takes home, you find ways of saving time AND making money, that further allows you to save time. It becomes a feedback loop.

So, what has worked with me, when I think about the time vs money piece is putting a monetary value to each hour. Dont ask me how I came to this number but the cost of my each day is Rs. 20000. And thus, my hourly cost is about 1000 bucks (little less). Now all decisions of time become a simple maths equation.

If I need something done and its going to take me an hour to do so, I try and see if I can outsource it to someone who'd charge less than a 1000 bucks for it. If I can, I outsource. Or else I do it.

I am trying to implement this in all walks of life. And I have become so anal about my time that I have automate most things. My lunch is ordered by a colleague - she orders the same thing from same restaurant everyday at same time. I am not thinking about my lunch at all. If I have a meeting at 11 and I expect traffic on the way, I leave at 8, park myself as a coffee shop. If a certain thing at work can be given to a junior, I will. If I need to hire more people, I will. Of course I dont have infinite money either. But I am trying to do that.

Of course, there are exceptions.

My book for example. I am irrational about it. I know that I wont make money with it and the amount of time I put on it is unreal. If I were to put a value on it, say I need 2 hours everyday to work on it. Thats like 2000 bucks a day. Over the entire life of the book, I will probably put in 700 days. So, the financial value of writing a book (as of today) is Rs. 14,00,000. And no, no author makes that kind of money from the sales of the book. And my hourly "rate" of 1000 bucks will go up as I get busier in life (my time gets limited and thus attracts more premium). But then, somewhere at the back of my head I know that the book is going to have infinite returns if it does well. So the equation works out for me (see how I justify my irrationality about writing).

The other place where I make exceptions is people. I may spend 3 hours to get a 15 minute meeting with someone. I know that the opportunity cost of the meeting is about 10000 bucks. But I am looking at it terms of future returns. Can the lesson I learn from that 15 minute meeting help me make money or save time in the future? Same for business development activities. A meeting can potentially get me work that makes some money for me. Money that I can invest to make more time.

Third place, teaching. This (blog) to me is teaching. I probably took 3 hours to write this post. Am I making money from this? No. Am I getting access to people who can teach me things as I go along? Maybe. Am I getting better as an individual? Hell yes!

Fourth, some people (in my inner circle). Myra, Agony Aunt, sgMS, my folks, vvgg etc. I dont think of time when it comes to them.

I can give more examples. But you get the drift.

Thing is, time on the other hand is limited. Every second you spend, is gone. You are not getting it back. So, make it count! 

Thats about it, I guess. So, may be its time to move your ass and get shit done? There's nothing called the right time. The right time is now. And the place is here. Lets go.


P.S.: I talked about time sinks briefly above. Lemme talk about it briefly.

A time sink, by definition is a place where we waste time without realising. Classic example? Commute (unless you are the kinds to actually get things done while you are in transit). Can you eliminate commute from your life?

Here are more time sinks.

A. Societal constructs. Things like social functions, courtesy, norms and other such things. I think (no way to validate) that all the societal constructs were created when you lived in a time of unpredictability. You were not sure if you’d get hunted if you stepped out of the cave – and thus you travelled in groups. You were not sure if you’d get your dinner if you venture too far out – so you stuck to tribes. You did not know how to make inroads into a colony of strangers – you decided to use introductions and bribes. For each of our behaviour, we can trace if back to our prehistoric behaviour and learning. But, the world we live in, is little more open and smaller (thanks to the Internet) and we dont need to adhere to things that worked while we were in caves. Most times when I meet someone, rather than creating a story, I come to the point. Most people balk at it but I know I can get more things done.

B. Everyday decisions. What to wear, what to eat, where to go to hang out etc. Put them on autopilot. Become a creature of habit. Steve Jobs was famous for wearing the same thing everyday. I am trying to get there. If I have to meet someone, I by default tell them to meet me at a Starbucks. My breakfast and lunch come from the same place, at the same time, even when I am not around. So far I seek help from friends but I am hoping to start using apps like Haptik to get things done (need to get independent - more on this in one of the next posts). If I need to celebrate, I goto the same expensive restaurant (by virture of the price they charge, the dinner becomes celebratory).

All things in the chores category must happen automatically. I am trying to design my life so that it runs on autopilot. I am far from it, but I will reach there.

C. Commute. I mentioned that already.

D. Productivity porn. This is a topic for a blogpost in itself. May be I will write on this tomorrow.

I am sure there are more. This is a great list for the time being.


Thing is, I dont know if these "hacks" will lead me to live a more fulfilled life but in my head, I am calmer and less anxious about things. Rather than worry about what kind of cuisine I want to eat, I can worry about ways in which I will reach my two ultimate goals in life.

I do understand that this is not for everyone. Not everyone is as "mission-oriented" as I am. I dont even know if there is a purpose to this obsession with the mission. But in my head, I cant do the maths of living and NOT doing something that makes the world a better place.

And how do you do it? By creating great work and by leading as an example and inspiring others to do the same.

And no, I still dont have an answer to quip by the lady.

Thats about it. Should you take inspiration, tell me what you did to save time. What are your time sinks? What do you do to save time? Help me become even more efficient. Please.

P.P.S.: I still suck at ending these notes. Look at this one for example! 

Untitled - 16 Aug 2017

Yo! Been some days since I've written here. More than 2 weeks if I am not wrong.

If you care, lifes been ok. There is still no money but theres been some work. And there's been some travel and some meetings and some getting things done. All in all, a mixed bag. The kinds that I think I like. Just that I need to get some more on the money bit.

Coming to an update (I dont even know why I do this -- there's no one reading these. May be I do these for giving my updates to myself? Who knows. Who cares. I love writing. Here it is.)

A
This time for the first time in life, I probably missed the Independence Day. The cynic in me is fucked in the head because of all that is happening around me (read communal tension, ups and downs in the economy, policies of Modi Ji, general confusion about where the country is headed).

If I were the kinds to get radicalised (if I havent been radicalised already), I'd be a prime candidate! I mean look at my character profile (blame the author in me for this). I have very little education, I am confused, I am an under-achiever, I hold strong opinions, I feel helpless (I dont know what to do to fix things; I dont even understand the problem) and I dont see a way out. You know what I am saying?

P.S.: The way out is to get out of the country. While I have always wanted to live in the Silicon Valley, this is the first time I am actually serious about it. A couple of friends are moving to Canada next year and from what they tell me, its not a bad place to be at!

And no, views are not of my employer. My employer will not endorse these. This is me. Personal. Individual.

B
The other thing that is happening soon is that I will be 35. At the age of 35, I was supposed to be a dollar billionaire. I am not even a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of that!

I have realised that I am not as cool as I thought I were - the good ones actually do well for themselves, the mediocre ones like me crib. I mean at my age, Zuckerberg is launching his bid to be the president of the United States and here I am crying about money. At my age Steve Jobs had done the cycle of getting fired from Apple, creating Next and becoming the CEO at Apple all over again. At 35... there is a long long list. For the time being, I know that I am poor. And I dont know where I want to be in life.

C
This piece caught my eye yesterday. See the following video.



The way those 5 people have been thanked for times than God, I want to be thanked as well. The purpose of my life, the reason why I exist, is to enable others to reach the peak of their chosen paths.

I wrote this on LinkedIn. Read if you are interested.

This also beings me to a debate that I had with a classmate from MDI. He said he is not in the race to go down the history. And rather, he wants to live it up here. He wants to experience as many things as he can, while he is here. He wants to enjoy life with his family. He wants to contribute to society and die a content man. Let me call him a Warren Buffett disciple. I on the other hand want to go the Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Elon Musk way. I am not sure if I want to enjoy life per se. Id rather push our collective understanding and enjoy that process, rather than going to national parks or something. While the friend made a very compelling argument in favour of going the WEB, in my head, I am still keen on being the Steve Jobs and Bill Gates and Elon Musk. I want to push the human race forward. Make that dent. Give our species a chance when shit happens. You know what am saying?

D
I am gonna be taking a break for a week in September. I want to go to a place that is cold, has good Internet connectivity on mobile phones (if in India) or cheap access (if abroad). I want a good writing table and a chair. A place where I can go for long walks. Access to clean water (lots of it) and cleaner restrooms. Budget is NOT a problem.

Where can I go? Recommendations anyone?

E
Book 2. So I've told myself that if I cant get the first draft of #book2 out by end of September, I will quit on the project. That means the next couple of months would be super hustle - there is a lot of work, C4E needs attention, other ideas needs attention, health needs attention and of course book2 needs attention. Lets see which bit of attention do I give into.

Thats about it. Do write in. Tell me how are things with you. Till I find time to write again, adios.

The Television Conundrum

Context
I live as a "bachelor" in Mumbai.

If you are from Mumbai, you'd get it. If not, its a (often derogatory) term used to define people who are un-married, live without parents in accommodations that are sparsely furnished (no beds, tables - just the bare minimum furniture). Often these bachelors "engage" in wild parties, keep the place unclean and in general, lower the standard of living at the community you live at.

From personal experience, in large part this is true. And in some parts, as far from truth as things could be.

Of course its not unusual to live as a bachelor. Blame it on urban mobility, concentration of jobs in certain pockets etc. What is unusual is that at my age, very few people live like that. Either they get married (India!) or they step up enough in life to start owning assets and make enough money to actually buy designer furniture, state-of-the-art gadgets and other things vain. None of the above two is true for me.

Story
So I've lived like a bachelor for about 10 years now. In cities like Gurgaon, Chennai and Mumbai. And because I've had a fairly limited access to money, I never had the fancy places. And while I have wanted to buy things that could take me out of the perceived bachelorhood, I havent been able to afford those. Plus whatever little I could buy, I did not because my sense of decor is fairly fucked.

And I've always remained light. I mean when I moved last, I had 2 bags of clothes, 1 guitar, 1 writing table and few cartons of books. Unknowingly I was being Steve Jobs ;P


The point is, I did not have any material possessions. And because I was growing old (not up), I saw all these friends, acquaintances around me growing old and up and getting things that I've dreamt of since I was a kid. And of course I am / was jealous and I long /ed for them.

So, when in the last year I made some money I started to splurge on things. I bought a book shelf. I got a shoe stand (to make space for those numerous pairs of shoes that I buy by the dozen and do not wear). And I got a TV!
The next in queue, after a TV is a car and then, a house. And then, world domination! 

The TV Conundrum
If you ask the brand planner in me about three things that transform a house from a bachelor pad to a home, I'd say it would be a double bed with a proper mattress, a clean and functioning kitchen and a television!

The place that I live at came with a double bed and almost functional kitchen. So all I needed was a TV.  And I have wanted one for a long time. I dont know why. May be to tell myself that I am not too far behind from my peers?

Anyhow, since I got the TV, I have rearranged my entire house to make the TV the focal point. I mean I don't even remember how the hall looked like when we did not have a TV. I mean the houses where they don't have a TV, where do the sofas and other seating structures face? Ask Simpsons ;P



The Reason
So, coming to the REAL reason why I started writing this post. I want to analyze the decision. And then may be bookmark this post, remind me often of the foolishness that I epitomize. Yes, I believe that buying the damned TV was a wrong decision.

When I had the money to be able to buy one and I decided that I want one, I knew of a few things. Here is a list, categorized into positives, negatives and neutral.

Positives
  • A TV becomes the focal point of the house and the bachelor pad starts looking like a home. I wanted that (as mentioned above). Call it my mid-life crisis. Or call it the rat race. I wanted one. While this looks like a negative, this to me is a positive. 
  • Allows my parents to kill time when they visit me. If they visit me. Thats all they do now that they are retired. Not trying to be derogatory. But thats how it is. And thats ok. Not everyone is on a mission.  

Neutral
  • Its a good to have thing. Like a checkbox in that long form! 

Negatives
  • Money. My budget was 50K. No, its not a small amount by any stretch of imagination. For 50K I could've bought a holiday and dont know what all. 
  • Maintenance. I will have to lug it around when I move houses (I still live at a rented accommodation - and its contingent on whims and fancies of the owner of the house). Plus its an electronic product - it will get damaged and will stop working. It will give me unnecessary heartbreak when that happens. 
  • Time sink. With Netflix and others, a TV is such a time sink that its not funny. No wonder its called an Idiot Box. 

Apart from these three, here are few more notes that I dont know where to categorize...  
  • It was not an impulse purchase. For some weird reason I wanted a TV for a long time. I actually looked online. I went to the stores. And I sat on the decision for at least a month. And then finally one fine day I got it. 
  • Since I've got the TV, after the first few days, I have hardly used it. Key reason being, I dont have cable TV. I rely on Netflix and since I have a bad connection at home, I cant spend time on it. Which is a good thing. 
  • A great influencer on the decision was the 15K worth of reward points that I had on one of my credit cards. It made "sense" to buy a 60K TV for 45K. I could see a bargain. I made the classic mistake of looking at potential savings and not at the money I'd have to spend. A great case where points look good to you, but are bad! 
  • Ideally, in life I want to be at a place where I dont have to think too much about money and these decisions. But till the time I reach that point, these incidents are interesting milestones, to help sharpen the decision-making acumen. 

Conclusion
As I was making the list, I automatically realised that the list of cons outweigh pros already. I dont have to think too much about it. The decision was a fucked one. I shouldn't have bought the TV. But just to make a list, the mental models at play were Loss Aversion (did not want the points to expire), Validation aka Social Proof (from society about not being a bachelor), Constant chase of excitement (I bought it when I was probably not doing so well in personal / work life - though I have no way to validate this), FOMO (obviously), Envy. These are the ones I can think of. And I am sure there are more at play. What could those be? 

That's about it. You are welcome to see the Smart TV I bought :). And here's to making wiser decisions. What do you think waise? 

Saturday breakfast / Powai, Mumbai

Sent the following email on my alumni group. Got a lot of people to write into me. And thus, pushing it here as well, hoping to get more participation.

Hi Guys, 
I introduce myself as Saurabh Garg, PGPM class of 2006, MDI Gurgaon. In my day job, I run C4 Events - we are going to be THE finest events agency in the country in the next 5 years. And when I am not working on C4E, I try and chase "worldly wisdom" - the kinds Prof. Bakshi taught us using finance as a tool. Just that I am teaching myself (hello, Internet) and I don't really go deep - I merely scratch the surface. I mean I could go deep but I love knowing a little about a lot of things (the proverbial "Jack"). Feynman actually advised against the kind of learning that I engage in and with all respect to RF, I enjoy being an edge surfer and thus I choose to ignore him.

Coming to the point, one tenet of trying to be wise is to think on a large number (both quality and quantity) of problems, especially the ones where outcome does not affect me directly. Think of a doctor. More patients that the doctor works on, better he becomes. And larger the variety of medical problems he looks at, better he gets as a GP. No, I don't want to be an expert, Like I said, I love being the Jack.

So, I am / was looking for ways to get access to various problems to think on.

And this is where I thought that if I create a forum where anyone could sit across the table from me and tell me what they're perplexed with. And I could jam with them to come up with actionable insights. Now, I am not an expert but I like to believe that I am good at seeing a problem from various vantage points. And the shift in vantage point is often what it takes to crack things!

So, here's the offer. Lets meet on Saturday morning for coffee. Lets jam on things that you've been wanting to get an opinion on. Lets crack em! A typical set of questions could look like...
  1. Want to write a book. Dont know where to or how to start. Lemme tell you how I worked on my book.
  2. Want to expand your professional network? Well, I dont know that one but we can jam!
  3. Launch plan for your startup? Well...
  4. Want to get more done in a day?
  5. Want to chase a new hobby outside of work?
  6. Etc etc.
I dont have a specific tool or a talisman. I am a mere bouncing board, a fly on the wall (while you talk to yourself about the things in your head) or even a coach for that matter!

Think of me as a one-member board where you as a company goto find a solution to a business problem. I am one of the navratnas (nine wisemen) at your majesty's service. I am the Birbal, oh Akbar. I am the Krishna to the Arjuna in you. I am the Robin, the quintessential sidekick that opens the door while you go chase the Joker! Wait! did the Nolan version have Robin in it? Enough of hyperbole...

I mean ask other MDI alums like REDACTED and so many others. They can vouch for advantages of brainstorming with me. Bhai log, please kuch bolo :D.

In terms of output, I don't promise any tangibles but I do promise the discussion will not be a waste of your time. It WILL help you. And if you think that it was a waste and did not help you, I will buy you a book of your choice (upto Rs. 500)!

So, after this long a sales pitch, I am hoping to host the first session on Saturday, July the 29th, at Starbucks, Powai. To make it useful, I will restrict the meetup to 4 people. As always, first come, first serve. Lemme know if you are in. The coffee is on me.

Oh, one more thing. Each session I will try and get someone super wise to these sessions.

Thanks,
@saurabh
P.S.: Apart from the selfish motive of trying to get smart, I have a few questions of my own that I need answers to. More on this when we meet on Saturday:)
So, are you in?

Credits: Thanks to Raunak from Mensa Mumbai for inspiration. 

Untitled - 16 July 2017

So I am at a Starbucks. Here since 720ish. On a Sunday morning. Was looking forward to this time - so that I may focus on things and get things done. I cant seem to get anything done at office. May be I need a closed space to do things?

Digressing. Coming back. 

The point of this post is that I cant seem to focus for some reason. I had a mile long todo list and I am determined to do those. But the brain aint no functioning. Nothing has changed. I managed that 2-3 hour of sleep (blame on my nasal polyp) and I am as fresh as I could be. I took a long cold shower and listened to some great music while I made my way here. And yet once I found a comfortable place to seat, I cant seem to focus! The flow is missing.

I may argue that the todo list would have chores that I want to avoid. I have noticed a pattern with that. I tend to procrastinate on things that I dont want to work on. Things that I think that dont deserve my time, I keep delaying those. Till they become so urgent, so last minute that I swallow the poison and get over with it.

Digressing. Coming back. 

One of the things that I had planned to work on is the next book. I want to work on it. I want it out. I am committed to it. I know the basic plot as well. I have characters mapped clearly in my head. I have a final deadline in my head - if I cant get the book ready by then, I will drop writing altogether - rather focus on other things. And yet for some reason I could not do it. 

Then I tried to while time on twitter and youtube. I could not concentrate on that either. While its binging and there's very low friction to it, I could not. 

Finally I had to resort to this. Blog. Free-writing. Without a context or agenda. Vomit of my thoughts on a public platform. To what end? I dont know. I could rather be working on C4E, AWSl, xT, Book2, onWriting or any of those one thousand ideas that I have floating around! 

If only I could focus :(


Thank you, Anusha

Normally I dont participate in these things but since Anusha asked me, I had to.

1. What would be your name if you kept a name for yourself?
Steve. Partly inspired by Steve Jobs. Partly because Saurabh and Steve start with S :D

The other way to answer this could be to give names to my kids. After all we want our kids to do things that we couldn't. Also, I am not sure if I'd ever "get" my own kids but if I do, I would call em Kabeer, Meera. Why? I love the whole mysticism around them! 

2. Who is your best friend?
The list will be a mile long. But if I have to pick one name, it will be Neo.

3. How will you distinguish need and want?
I dont know how to answer this. May be by saying that things that are wants for most people are need for me. Things like AirCon, expensive laptops, fancy holidays etc etc. 

And then, the want for me would be changing the world, impacting a billion lives, doing things at a global scale. 

No, there is no love, affection that I need or want or crave for. 

Makes sense?

4. What does lust mean to you?
In one word? Chase. 

I lust for things that I crave, things that I dont have. I lust on things that are shiny and I know I cant achieve. To me lust is a such a powerful emotion. It makes me want to do things that I havent dont. It pushes me. Motivates me to do better! 

Of course the classical, biblical definition is "strong sexual desire." And may I expand sexual desire into desire of anything that gives you pleasure? That to me is not negative. If I desire something, I as a free man, a free-willed man must be free to chase the desire. The chase! 

In fact, in my first book, The Nidhi Kapoor Story, I delved on the concept of lust (and other sins) in great detail

5. Which is better to watch: Sunrise or sunset?
Sunset. 

After sunrise, there is the known, the monotony, the day. So while I am watching it and the world is coming to life, I know that I am looking at going back to the monotonous life. 

After sunset, there is dark, the unknown, the chase. The exploration. And when I watch a sunset, I know that the world would probably sleep and I would get to explore and get an unfair advantage!

6. If you received a card and flowers from a stranger, what would be your reaction?I'd say thank you, to start with. 

And then I would brag like hell to the world. Cos I think its a very thoughtful gesture. Not a lot of people get flowers / cards etc. Plus I dont think I have any friends or something that would ever send me these mushy things. So yeah, gratitude and showoff. 

P.S.: I'd also try to pay it forward. Send em to someone else :) 

7. Write a small 4 line story.
The toughest of them all. A, brevity is not my strong suit. B, I have to work hard to be able to write. I think in Hindi, translate in English and then write. And most times when I write, I dont have plots or stories. I have characters and what they want!

So, I am going to skip this one. 

8. Do you think love marriages are better than arranged marriages?
None. The concept of marriage is broken. It was a need for humans to settle in pairs, in groups, in communities. While communities are still important, the 1-v-1 bonding and mating has ceased to serve any purpose. 

If I had to pick one, I'd say love.

9. Have you been in dilemma that you have never been able to come out from?
Tons. Of. Times.

10. Who are you?
I'd like to answer this question by sharing a couplet from one of the songs of my favorite singer - Rabbi Shergill. The song's inspired by the writing of Bulleh Shah

Avval aakhir aap nu jaana, Na koi dooja hor pehchaana
Maethon hor na koi siyaana, Bulla! ooh khadda hai kaun

This translates into, 
I am the first, I am the last, None other, have I ever known
I am the wisest of them all, Bulleh! do I stand alone?
Credits for translation and complete lyrics: Rabbism.

Thats about it. Thank you, Anusha! 

Masters of Scale

Few things.

A.
Each month, I send an email to all contacts at C4E. This month I wanted to send out work from award winners at Cannes (here's the newsletter that I finally sent, featured 3). And rather than sending anything at random, I wanted to curate a list of 5 (or 10) pieces that I have loved from all those that are on showcase. While I was going through the list of winners and seeing their work, I realised that the quality of work, the scale at which things happen and where we I stand in comparison.

B.
I was unwell yesterday the day I started to write this and since I dont take medicines, I was uneasy. And I was irritable. To the point that I was alone. And when I was at my wits ends, I succumbed to the temptation and subscribed to Netflix to kill time. 

And once I got it, I put on House of Cards. I started with S3E1 and in there, Doug succumbs to alcohol. Thats not the point (the similarity between Doug and I). The point is that in that episode I realised that work could be so important for people that they'd lay their lives for it. I mean Doug gets a sliver of window to meet the President and even though he cant walk and he breaks his arm while showering, he goes through excruciating pain and makes it to the meeting. People and their work means so much to them. And here I am. Rather than doing things that scale, I am blogging about it.

Then I saw an episode of Elementary. I was reminded of my love for the series because of the way Sherlock and Watson go under the skin of people and decode them. I wish I was as brilliant. I wish I could read things. I wish I could solve individual problems that were unsolvable. What I currently do can be done by anyone in the world. Where is my individuality? What makes me unique? Am I making sense? 

. . .

What defines me? What boils my blood? Why am I alive? What is my raison d'etre? This one I know - to entertain and enable others. But thats not the point. Point is, what am I doing about it? Why am I content with being a paper-pusher? I mean my work is great and I know why I do what I do. But where is scale? Or Impact? How many people have I entertained? Impacted? Enabled?

I feel I am stuck at where most other people are. I have an ok career. Ok life. Ok things. Everything is ok about what I do and where I am. Mediocre. Nothing is great. Nothing is extraordinary. I dont make any difference to anyone's life. Maybe I do, once in a while. But where is the perpetual excitement of having moved a ball?

I think, the other thing is lack of impact at scale. Most of what I do remains at the individual level (when I spend time with some great people with whom I work). Or at a few hundreds at best (when I put together an event and that too for the duration of the event). There is no perpetual change. I dont tilt the Earth. I dont make a ding in the universe. Worse, I dont create. The largest thing that I've ever created is the book. And that too has sold less than 2500 copies. That means I have not entertained even 2500 people! 

And you know what sucks the most? I dont have anything in my hand that allows me to do that even in the future. And I dont know how to go about it. And I dont know who to talk to about this. 

P.S.: So, I agree that House of Cards and Elementary are fictional pieces. I agree that no one starts working at scale from day zero. I know that you have to work towards it. I know there is a time and place and all that. The question is, where is mine? When would I do things that would make me exhausted with happiness? 

P.P.S.: Title inspired by RH's podcast - Masters of Scale. You HAVE to listen to this if you want a better life for yourself.

The Lost Story

Last time I wrote about The Lost Story (book, open letter), I was talking about Suds' book. In case you haven't read it, you must! This time, I will talk about myself. In multiple bullet points. And please be warned that's this is yet another in series of long ranty posts that I've been making in recent past where I try to motivate myself. Guess am reading too much Deepak Chopra! 

So, here is a list of things that I think are broken with me (no, not another rant about my career and underachievement but about other more worldly things). As always, in no order.

A. Age
I am growing old. And that means I am not as lithe, as fast moving, as strong as I was. And is evident in the way I work. Most days these days, at around 4, my battery dies. I have to sleep to recharge. No amount of sugar or caffeine or taurine (or whatever they put in RedBull) seems to give me no wings. And since I leave work at 5ish, I sleep in the rickshaws, neck rested on the sidewall and my mouth open, trying to get in some air. (Uber is way too expensive with upfront pricing). I reach home after battling all the traffic and I just crash. I cant control my senses. I have to sleep. And when I do sleep, I snore like a motorcycle. And most days, I just cant get up till the next morning. So, the productivity, which has been low lately, has hit the rockbottom!




B. Snoring brings me to the next thing. The blockage in my nasal cavities do not allow me to breathe at all. That means I am often left gasping for breath. And that's not cool. I cant talk or eat or just be without making those weird sounds. Like someone is choking me to the death. All the time. 24 x 7. And no, its not funny after a while.



I am ok with all the choking to be honest. But the thing is, I cant sleep properly. And since I anyway sleep very little, I really want my sleep to be peaceful and all that.

Also, since I breathe through my mouth, I am sure I am inadvertently taking in lot of foreign objects in my system that I should not. I have tried all sort of inhalers and ointments and nothing seems to be helping. May be an operation is the only way to go.

Thing is, I like to be active. I love being able to jump and walk and play. Except when its too hot (which is the case 11 months our of 12 in India). The inability to breathe fucks up the ability to do all of that in the one month that I get.

There is so much that this inability to breathe does to me that its the single biggest problem that I have. Apart from general ennui.


C. In the last week, I have lost a pair of sunglasses, 2 pens, 2 mouse devices and I don't know what else. Knowing how I think about people who are careless, its such a shame and personal defeat that I am losing things like that. I am supposed to be brainy and all that and its not cool that I am careless. Of course there is financial loss. There is also this irritant factor. For everything you lose, you need to put in time and effort to get a replacement. And that, is not cool.

Finally there is this thing where this carelessness becomes a pattern. And then the pattern is often tough to break. And the pattern extends to things that you absolutely can not fuck up. Its like the butterfly effect. Small things give rise to huge issues.

Plus I abhor people who are not careful with things, people who are sloppy, people who lose control. I am no Saint Jean Paul V but I am sure about a few things that I don't like. And I can NOT become one of those. At all. And thus!



D. Last few days, there isn't a lot happening on the work front. There is work but there is no action per se. There is no excitement. There is no world changing happening. May be it will happen with time?

But for the time being, work is easy and no I am not liking it. I am used to be being busy all the time. I have so much time on work front that I don't know what to do with all the time. There are a 100 projects that I can take up but again, I am the kinds that works on triggers and feels. And there ain't no trigger, no feel, nothing exciting happening!


...

So, now that there are issues, there are two things that I can do from here. I can sit on my ass and whine about it. Or I can take control and take some action. Let me do the later!

What would I do about it?

1. Say no to AC. I know its the baarish season and this is THE best time of the year and when its not raining, it would be humid like a bitch. And I will try and live with it.


2. Start stepping out. I often prefer comfort over activity. Today on, I'd make it reverse. Let me choose action over comfort. That means I will do things that I inherently hate (dressing up, humidity, small talk).

3. Do the daily tiny workouts that make me healthy and better. These include (not limited to) steaming the fuck out of my nose, walking for 45 minutes, meditating etc. I will probably get that Neti pot and flush the muck outta my nose.

A lot to do but I have one life and I am yet to make it big. And I have to do these if I am serious about leaving that damned impact. You know this list? I have to be on it! I

4. Start planning life and day better. I am already super serious about how I spend my time. I need to step up the game and become even more strict. If there is no work, I will not go to office. I will not create work to merely showoff. I will do what makes meaning.

5. Fitness will become number 1 priority. If something comes in the way of fitness, I will abstain from that. If I have to brisk 45 minutes each day, I will do so - irrespective of the looming deadlines that I impose on myself.

That's about it. Lets see how it goes. I will probably revisit this post in a couple of months and see where I've reached!

P.S.: Now I put a reminder on my calendar about these posts. Like I've put for this one. The next update on this post shall happen on Aug 25, 2017.

The Turbulence Overreaction

I am at the Mumbai airport, waiting for a flight. I’ve just realized that I have lost yet another pair of sunglasses. Typically, I am not this careless but fact remains that I’ve lost a pair. I need to work on my brain and ensure that the muscle doesn’t atrophy. Need to pick a new hobby or something. May be get back to making a memory palace?

Apart from this, the other thing that’s fresh on my head this super crazy turbulence yesterday. The plane was in free fall for a few nano-seconds and it was scary like a bitch. In all the flights that I have taken, this was probably the scariest of them all (there was one where masks had dropped from the ceiling but I dont recall those). Thing is, I was not really afraid (I knew at the back of my head that this shall pass) but I was worried that all the things that I've wanted to do (primarily #book2, a billion dollars and an attempt at the Everest), what happens to those?

Of course I came out unharmed -- statistically air travel is the safest mode of transportation -- and I can go back to working on things that I've wanted to work on. But the flight was scary to the extent that since the flight, I’ve read a lot of articles about turbulence and air pockets.

Apart from rant about my balls that shrunk like raisins, the flight did make me realize something. That life’s unpredictable. You better live each moment up to the fullest potential. And that means while you plan for the future and all that, you better ensure that each moment that you are alive is worth the opportunity. Ought to stop doing things you don’t want to do.

Which brings me to the existential question. Why do I exist? While I love the concept of doing my own thing, truth be told, I am still a slave to a comfortable salary, thanks to largesse of this dude. If not for him, I would probably be scrambling to make ends meet. And I am amongst the luckiest people to have the unconditional patronage of someone with means. And I ought to make the most of it. And not get lazy or complacent. Like this turbulent flight, each incident reinforces the belief that I need to do more with life. Much more than what I am doing right now.

Come to think of it, if I could change a few things, what would those be?

For starters, I need to get more work out. I ned to ship more. In whatever shape or design or format. Could be a blogpost, a book, a project, a startup, a brand. Something that comes out fast. Something that inspires others. More importantly, something that inspires me! Must create things that inspire me. And what could those be? I have no clue!

I have done this exercise a million times, if not more times. Each time I come back with two answers. A, I don’t know what I want in / from life. B, if I go by signs, what I am doing right now, is what I ought to be doing!

So, all I need to do is, bid my time and wait for the right opportunity to come my way. It’s a matter of time when things fall in place and I will have a life of abundance. Abundant time, money and energy to do all the million things I want to do.


The other way to do this is that I go all-in with whatever little I have. That means I gather all my money (sell all the stock I have, liquidate the tiny FD that I have and take back the money I have invested in C4E) and chase a large dream. I will either end up super rich and would have made an impact and die a satisfied old man. Or I will be a pauper with no money to my name and will die a man who’d have to work hard to make ends meet. In either case, when I die, I hopefully wont have any regrets. 

Thing is, I am 34. Will be 35 in less than a quarter of the year. And at the age of 35, while people like Zuck are working towards becoming the presidents and all that, here I am, talking about my existential dread. Now, I can take solace in the fact that Col Sanders was 143 years old when he started KFC and Sam Walton was 832 years old when he did Walmart. But I know that I have lost the damned rat race. Instead of making a difference to the world, lives of people, I am ranting about things that no one even cares about!

I mean, why go far to Facebook and Zuckerberg and all that. I am at the airport and there is this Spa, O2. Right outside, I see a blind man, dressed up in uniform of O2, talking to himself and being happy for no reason. Compared to him, I am a loser at so many levels. Everyone else is a winner! O2, for giving employment to people with alternate skills. The blind man, for accepting that he’s been dealt a raw hand and being happy about things. The friends around the man who are humoring him. And above all, the fact that despite so many people who need opportunities, fate brought him in touch with O2. Can I not do something similar? Where I help people have lost on the Ovarian Lottery and make some money in the process?

And why is money important? It enables you to buy happiness. Case in point? Last weekend along with 15 other people that I care for (yes 15), I went on this holiday where we stayed at a super expensive hotel and had everything taken care of! All of it was enabled by the fact that we had access to money that we were ok spending. Agreed that people find happiness in small things and can live without going to fancy hotels or clean beaches or serviced rooms or great food. I have been on that side myself. But now that I have little extra cash to be able to afford a better lifestyle, I can safely say that the happiness derived from the ability to buy the best the world has to offer, is unparalleled.

Of course to be able to travel, you often have to take a flight.

Aur, udaan hai to turbulence hai.
Turbulence hai to fategi.
Fategi to yaad aaega, ki life main karna kya hai.
Yaad aaega to kuch karoge.
Lekin kya?

The Nidhi Kapoor Story

Did you like this post? May be you want to read my first book - The Nidhi Kapoor Story.

Check it out on Amazon or Flipkart?