For the sake of it

Hi folks,

I’ve been wanting to post here for a long time but procrastination took over. Sorry about that.

Over the last two weeks, I’ve been to 4 wedding receptions. Three of them colleagues and one, an acquaintance-turned-friend.

Those of you that know me well would’ve guessed what I would’ve worn to the receptions. For those of you that don’t know me well, I almost always wear only a jeans-and-tee.

But the vast majority of the crowd one would chance upon at such wedding receptions happens to dress up elaborately. By that, I mean grand clothes, posh accessories, heavy make-up etc. I don’t just mean the women. I mean people across genders, age groups etc.

I’m a lazy guy, generally. So, I never dress up elaborately. The most elaborate clothing I remember wearing happens to be a FabIndia kurta.

But let’s also look at it another way. It’s just the way I am. Why do I have to dress up so much? Must I be the cynosure of all eyes? Must I assert my social status? What gratification does one obtain by doing so?

I simply can’t understand. Can someone please try and explain?

Yours Confusedly,
uleadin

A culture of wannabe

Hi folks,

I’ve really been wanting to write about a culture that’s rapidly spreading amongst the school, undergrad and postgrad community today. It’s not healthy and doesn’t bode well for the future.

Each week on LinkedIn, I get friend requests from a few school/college students claiming to be CEOs, Chief Strategy Officers, Chief Dreamers, Chief Gardeners, Chief this, Chief that and so on. I don’t accept most of these requests. But I don’t reject them either. It disturbs me to see such a trend. The next generation of minds are so attracted to the concept of being someone, and not doing something.

A lot of forums at the school and college levels provide students with so-called ‘exposure’ to ‘real world dynamics’. Kids create fancy business cards whilst still in school. I’m not entirely against that. But I find it disturbing to see a competition of the wrong nature. It always tends to be about who you are rather than what you have done or should do.

Personally, I’ve seen this trend skyrocket after two broad initiatives hit the town. One is NEN. It’s a forum with a very noble vision. But, like several others, it lacks good execution. What was created to inspire the next generation to start new enterprises has roughly become a college-level cultural initiative with little or no real impact.

Enthusiastic (and mostly bright) college kids now call themselves the CEOs of their respective entrepreneurship cells. Not that it makes any difference to anyone other than themselves. They claim to be change agents, leaders, visionaries etc when they have only read about business and corporate life. It’s a lifestyle based on derived inferences and not really experiences. It’s bad for the country in the long run.

The other initiative is something I helped start in India. The TEDx. Back in 2008-09, when Nambi first told me about bringing TED to India, I laughed. I was skeptical. But it so happened that he actually brought a bunch of us together to create the first ever TEDx registered in India. We were happy to work on it. There was no money in it for most of us, nor any other ulterior motive. We didn’t use it to add fancy designations to our profiles. We knew that it was an event we had licensed, to showcase some people who truly did remarkable work in India.

From that humble beginning, it has gone a long long way. In fact, most of my friends from that first team will agree in privy that, today, it has really gone to the dogs. It’s just an ego boost for a bunch of people now. Or a way for a college to add the TED logo to its brochure. Or a way for a consultant to get more business. Or one of several other ulterior motives. And, with it has come another set of Chief Co-ordinators, Chief Curators, Chief Mentors and a few other Cheap Chief folks.

In my opinion, this is a trend whose growth has to be arrested immediately. Otherwise, the next generation is in for a rude shock very soon. I’m not smart enough to devise a solution for this.

But one initiative I see a lot of promise in is The Startup Centre. I think they’re doing some good work and deserve to be commended. If you think you know how to change this scenario for the better, do comment below.

Let’s hope this culture of wannabe-s ends once and for all, soon.

Yours Truly,
uleadin

Understanding Happiness

Hi folks,

This isn’t a humor post. So, if that’s what you’re looking for, you might want to check back later. This is the post where I try to explain that’s something beyond my expression.

Off late, I can feel myself slowly slipping through the filters of hardcore rationality into something far more spectacular. So spectacular that it’s left me wondering how I didn’t dream of this at all. So spectacular that I can sometimes see the strong black line between warm imagination and cold reality fade away into oblivion.

Life’s become a basket of moments so diverse in their nature, yet so similar in their impact, that if I sit down to recoup the entire day that just slipped by, it is no longer a discrete set of events that come before my eyes. Instead, I am consumed by an overwhelming sea of extremely tiny moments. From hostile stares exchanged with random guards to generously verbal conversations with a close friend, my typical day has come to be filled with brilliant instances of raw life that it doesn’t seem so typical at all.

Every single day brings with it a new spectacle. It’s almost like I’m experiencing the most vibrant side of randomness in every possible sense of the word. I’m pretty sure that the best of my ability to communicate such an experience is more or less defeated by the experience itself. The exuberance far exceeds my capacity to explain it in finite terms.

I have begun to find it very strange when a lot of people tell me they live a routine life. In hindsight, I don’t know if I would ever be able to look at my life and say it follows a routine. For, in every ‘routine’, however repetitive or recursive it might be, there is a certain degree of randomness. Such randomness is not often visible to the naked mind, as I would like to call it. But, don’t we already know that ‘invisible’ doesn’t ever equate to ‘non-existent’?🙂

Beauty is not in the larger picture. In fact, the larger picture simply addresses one’s own deepest insecurities. It is very ironic how we pretend to be focused and spend time on keeping every day aligned with the larger picture. I’ve realized that the tiniest part of my life, quite convincingly, adds up to the larger picture. These are perfect, daily opportunities to simply let go of one’s life and see the eventual pattern emerge by itself. The small moments, once gone, are irrevocable and how we behave in them decides how happy we can ever be.

Let go of your life. If you are meant to be in control, you will be. If you are not, you shall be humbled. I’m sub-consciously into this way of life already. Come, let’s live life the way it’s truly meant to be.

Yours Happily,
uleadin

Are your stakeholders really your stakeholders?

Hi,

If you’ve worked in pretty much any team at the corporate level, you would’ve heard the word ‘stakeholders’ being thrown around arbitrarily. Some people use it for diplomacy sake and to seemingly introduce democracy into inevitable chaos. Some people use it to make things sound corporate, when they don’t. But, mostly, people use it without knowing what it even really means!

My definition of a stakeholder, I’m guessing, would differ from the traditional definition. I think a stakeholder is not someone who has a say about something in a team. In fact, I think a stakeholder is someone who deserves a say about something. There’s a seemingly subtle difference. But it’s actually a pretty obvious difference.

A stakeholder is someone who comes forward and takes ownership of the final product, the end result. I believe that it is impossible for someone, who doesn’t take ownership of the end result, to have a say in any of the decisions along the way! They are, by nature, associative. What you did yesterday, what you do today and what you end up doing tomorrow, all have an impact on the end result. It is impossible for someone to participate today and not be accountable in any way for the end result.

Teams that do incredible things are filled with people who step up and own the end product! The guy that kneads the dough definitely impacts the quality of the bread. The guy that inflates your tires definitely has an impact on your safety and that of others around you!

Now comes the difficult part. Do you think that all those people you call stakeholders in your product/company really worth being called stakeholders? Are they obsessed with the end result? Do they see their impact on it? Do they put in that extra effort to see more change in the end product? Do they inspire others in the team to deliver the best? Do they see a reward in creating an amazing end result? Are they willing to bet on the end result? Do they buy into the same vision?

The next time you describe the stakeholders in your team/product/company, stop and think about whether they’re all there for THE reason and not A reason. More often than not, winning teams consist of ordinary individuals with extraordinary passion towards what they’re doing.

Do you agree? Do you disagree? Let me know.

Yours Randomly,
uleadin

What is a dream?

Hi,

Like most of you, I’ve also had these conversations with people about my various dreams and ‘nightmares’. Come to think of it, I don’t even understand why the two are considered to be polar opposites! It’s not like a dream is positive/optimistic and a nightmare is negative/pessimistic side. It’s like the case where a lot of people tend to use ‘luck’ for favourable circumstances and ‘bad luck’ for unfavourable circumstances. I just thought I’ll write about my own stance w.r.t dreams.

A dream is like a reality. Only, it’s experienced by you and you alone. So, what if two people have the same dream? It’s two instances of a perceived reality inside two different people, occurring parallely.

In a lot of cases, what I dream might realize in the exact same manner. For example, if I’m desperately waiting for a new gadget to come home and my dreams are all about it, hard reality might prevail for the time being but my dream will eventually realize at some level. Here, I believe that I dream of things that are within my finite reach but not in my immediate reach. For example, the gadget. I know I’m going to get it in some time but I don’t have it right now. So, I tend to think about it, obsess and let my imagination run loose. I do this for the emotional gratification it gives me when I’m asleep (or maybe even when I’m awake).

In some cases, what I dream might realize, but not in the exact manner I had dreamt of. I can dream about applying for a job at Google, the interview process and about everything going fine in the end. I might get the job but the rest of the dream need not materialize as dreamt. This is because my mind frames the premise of the dream based on a single idea, in this case my getting a job at Google. But the finer details are not known to me at the time. So, my imagination kicks in and builds on the basic premise. This is the beauty of a dream. It’s the place where my subconscious self and my creative self work hand-in-hand.

In some cases, what I dream might not realize at all. That’s the simple part. I tend to think that these are based on very far-fetched pieces of information drawn randomly from my memory. I would have thought about buying a hotel or about jumping off a high-rise or about making a film or anything else. These are random pieces of thought or aspiration that come up in my mind and vanish subsequently through the course of daily life. Now, they vanish from the topmost priority of my memory. But they don’t vanish once and for all.

They are all still persistent somewhere inside my mind. I don’t know where they are. But, when I’m asleep, my mind can randomly pick up memories/thoughts like these and construct a dream out of them. It can build an entire storyboard complete with people. A lot like the movie, Inception. All the characters that appear in these dreams will be people known well to me and people I interact with on a regular basis.

Now, how do I dream?

I don’t sleep everyday with the intention of dreaming about something. I know I don’t do that. But, more often than not, I wake up from a dream. Sometimes, I can remember every single aspect of the dream and sometimes I can’t remember much at all. If my mind can pick up random thoughts from memory and create dreams out of them, it must also be able to store dreams in my memory in some form. That is something I fail to understand. I’d love it if someone can explain that to me.

Next, can I decide what to dream about? Is that within my control?

I tried a small experiment, back in 2010, where I had decided what I wanted to dream about when I went to sleep at night. I had made a list of things for 10 days and tried according to the list. I remember only about 3 or 4 of them actually clicked. The rest, although I wouldn’t deem as complete failure, were a little ambiguous. A significant number (about 4 or 5) of times I couldn’t remember what I had even dreamt about. My mind was blank when I woke up. The remaining were cases where I remember the core idea of the dream but nothing much about the finer details. How could it be that even when I had decided what to dream about and tried to partially engineer my own dream, my mind went in its own way. Does this mean that I can’t dream about what I want to all the time?

Finally, an interesting result of that experiment was that my mind was blank in quite a few cases. Could it be possible that I hadn’t dreamt of anything at all? And, my mind didn’t pick a random memory/thought and construct a dream at all? Or, was it that the dream simply didn’t make it to my memory?

Has anyone thought on these lines?

Yours Questionably,
uleadin

Occupy Anna Library!

Hi folks,

A lot of us would know the Anna Centenary Library that was built and made operational by the previous governing regime.

The Anna Centenary Library, Koturpuram, Chennai. (Image Courtesy: The Hindu Business Line)

I don’t know if you have visited the place till now. I’ve heard from quite a few friends that it’s a little intimidating! I haven’t really attempted to visit the place at all, so I didn’t really care. But, when the current ruling regime decided to make a maternity & children’s hospital out of the place, I was shocked and kinda pissed off. I respect the idea of building a large, world-class hospital. But, at the same time, a society needs a fair balance between education/knowledge and healthcare infrastructure.

The state government basically mentioned in open court that the decision was because of inadequate number of people using the library. The only true civic solution to this is, therefore, obvious. We just have to use it. Benny took the initiative to get a ‘movement‘ together. It’s not much but it’s a start. This week, Joe, Prashanti and I decided to check the place out and make a start.

Inside the 4th floor

The place is huge, slightly intimidating for first-timers and wonderfully laid out. If you love reading, there’s pretty much nothing more you can ask for. 8 floors of books and an amazing ambiance. There’s a French Loaf outlet inside, if you’re hungry and want a quick snack. There’s an absolutely-out-of-the-world amphitheater on the 3rd floor (I think) but it’s off limits to people unless some event is happening. You can’t carry anything inside the library except maybe a bottle of water and a notepad. But that really should be enough.

The Amphitheater

If you’ve ever visited a public library before, this one will be a much better experience. Come, join us every Saturday. It’s a fantastic way to spend time on a weekend!

Yours Socially,
uleadin

P.S. I happened to read this book called ‘103 things not to do before you die’. A separate post on that coming very soon!

Work, life, balance and a few other things

Hi folks,

I was just walking from my office towards the main gate at DLF one fine evening, last week, when this little one-liner came up inside my head. Yes, I do get cheesy one-liners randomly inside my head every now and then. But this is different.

We all seem to do our day jobs and come home for the other side of life. Through the course of the day, we seem to be accountable to so many people and responsible for so many kinds of things. We seem to have our own comfort zones and we feel extremely comfortable within them! We have friends, enemies, relatives, strangers and whatever and what not. We think a lot about all of this and some people even have to _plan_ their _moves_ carefully!

The truth, as far as I’ve realized, is that none of those things holds good in life. None of that is true. I’ll try to explain how, as much as I can.

There is no personal life and professional life. There’s just life. We simply group our daily activities together and label them under Personal/Professional. Haven’t you paid your bills from office? Or, don’t you attend to a little bit of office work while at home? The truth is that we live in parallel mode, not sequential mode.

Where is this realization likely to help you? It’ll help you when you choose which company to work for. Choose a company that respects you as a person and acknowledges its imperfections as much as yours. Both my previous employer and my current one are exactly like that. They understand that you have a life to live and trust you to be responsible enough to get work done. Certainly not every company is like that. In fact, most companies aren’t like that at all. Likewise, not everyone is like me. Most people prefer to work within a specific working-hour-period and leave home to have nothing to do with the employer. I’ve had a couple of very brief stints in such a scenario and I didn’t like it. So, I guess ‘what suits you, suits you’.

work life balance

Next, we are really not accountable to anyone. Never. It’s a little funny if you think of it. When someone asks you to do something and you agree, you make a promise there. The only person you are accountable to would be your own self. You are the only one living your life, not the other guy. So, at the worst, you can stop caring about the other guy and let him go to hell. But will you be able to live peacefully with a feeling of guilt? I leave it to you to answer that.

Where is this realization likely to help you? It’ll indicate to you never to do something when you don’t believe in it. I’ve done stuff that I didn’t believe in, simply because people with more _experience_ asked me to do so. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t. But, I’ve never been comfortable about that. I’m sure a lot of us go through this in daily life. I’m now trying to avoid doing things I don’t believe in. But, yes, it’s difficult. Sometimes, I think, results matter more than the means adopted to achieve them.

Also, don’t let anyone hold you accountable for anything. Hold yourself accountable by default. It’s a much better way to live life. Try it, and you’ll see the difference.

lolcat busted guilt accountability

Accountability? Really?😀

I’ll talk about the rest in another post.

Yours Realistically,

uleadin