Normalization of Death

Manali Memes are all over the internet. You see hordes of people on the busy streets of Manali.

For the uninitiated, Manali is an famous hill station in North India. Currently it is in news because hordes of people are visiting the place after the lift of second lockdown. These tourists don’t really follow Covid protocols and put their lives at risk. This is a sign that an 3rd Covid wave in India is imminent. The second wave has proven fatal to millions.

Given the above scenario, the rational mind questions such behavior of people . Why are people even risking their lives?

If you reflect, this could be a direct consequence of the normalization of death.

Let me explain.

Death has been normalized in religious scriptures.

Mythology says you live and then you die.

However, acceptance of loss has never been easy.

Death is a rarity, you only die once.

Death is a rarity because in your lifetime you could only closely witness a few deaths.

You mourn and revive. You accept and move on. It is an organic process.

Death in that case is an event. Obviously a sad one.

Now let us have a look at the havoc unleashed by the pandemic.

The pandemic has claimed millions.

During this period, death was seen through the “mechanized lens”.

The sad event was reduced to mere operations.

Haste, quick, mechanized.

Book beds, allocate breathing devices, manage supply chain, optimize beds.

Prioritize the sick, decide who doesn’t need the bed and who does. 

Manage logistics for the deceased. Waiting lists and resource allocation.

Bottle-necks and workstations (pyres)

Does this ring a bell?

The scene was no different from the Auschwitz concentration camp.

If death is normalized then we might not really appreciate the longevity of life but the “shortness” of it.

A trip to Manali in that case is just a bet on life, now that it has lost some of its value.

It is okay to live grand and short life taking all the risks because it is okay to die as well. 🙂

The aftermath of the pandemic has significantly reduced the fear of death?

Do let me know in the comments.

#covid19india#death#life#wayoflife#fears

How do you feel when someone disagrees with you?

How do you feel when someone disagrees with you?

A few days back, I commented on an Instagram post.

The post had thousands of likes. The creator was a woman with more than 50000 followers.

She stated that “fitness” is subjective. It was her belief.

I usually don’t comment on Instagram posts. But that day I felt like doing so.

I said, “Fitness is objective, the world is moving in that direction. If fitness is subjective, no one is really fit.”

It was my worldview and belief.

“100% untrue”, came the reply. 

She went on to explain at length why she believes so. 

Now I had a choice, to leave the debate or push my point further.

I decided to push it a little further. This time with some more logic.

I said “if fitness is subjective, then why fitness tests for jobs, any gym, or sports are so objective? There are series of checkboxes. Hence, fitness is nothing but a checklist, hence objective”

I received no reply after that. 

The next morning, I received a notification. She had again written a long reply. Now she brought logic and scenarios that were confusing or simply beyond my comprehension. 

I decided to yield for two reasons.

The opponent was actually trying too hard to be right and win.

Reason two, it was her turf, with all the zillion followers, it was a hornet’s nest.

Here are few reflections:

The true test of your character will happen when someone disagrees with your beliefs and opinions and how you react after that.

Are you big enough to accommodate a thought, an idea, or a principle that directly counters yours?

Anyway, on LinkedIn such confrontations are rare.

LinkedIn is the world of “I agree”

We all live in harmony here, don’t we? 🙂

The three crucial competencies (pick any two)

These days everyone wishes to retire early. People in their 20s wish to retire in their 30s and people who are in their 30s wish to retire in their 40s.

Here are some of the common approaches that are all over the internet:

1. Generate passive income somehow through a side hustle
2. Invest consciously in risky instruments and keep on doing so till the returns match your expected income
3. Create content and monetize it
4. Create courses and sell them
5. Coach/ develop others
6. Influencing/ endorse products

How this is possible?

1. Internet: it allows you to act as an individual unit and connect with millions 
2. Platforms: LinkedIn, Instagram, WhatsApp, Zoom, YouTube
3. Tech: Mobile, Laptops, Accessories 

How people in their 20s wish to retire in their 30s?

1. Create kickass content that goes viral
2. Invest in Bitcoin (or other risky instruments) and hope that Cryptocurrency rules the world in their 30s
3. Create organizations, processes, and systems that disrupt

How people in their 30s wish to retire in their 40s?

1. Use the skills they developed in their 20s and teach-back/coach
2. Invest in equity/SIP/small case(or relatively less risky instruments)
3. Build businesses that offer sustainable returns in the 40s
4. Invest in disruptive businesses (eg Tesla)

What people in their 20s might lack?

Focus/attention span, the value of perseverance, and patience

What people in their 30s might lack?

Exponential Mindset

Two broad themes emerge here:

1. Create/curate content and distribute it to the masses
2. Channelize your funds towards businesses/technologies that are promising 
(Pick one)

Three competencies that will make you win at this age:

1. Learning agility 
2. Financial Acumen
3. Creativity
(Pick any two)

Leave comments. 🙂

#learning#skills#career#finance#content

The father-child bond

Stages of relationship with my father

He is the world:
This is always the first stage. I would comply with his ideas, opinions, and worldview. Followed his ideologies and ideals. Had similar political/economic views. 

What if he is wrong? 
Second stage. Fathers are the early role models. In my late teens and early twenties, I started doubting his opinions and ideologies as I was slowly developing my own understanding. Nevertheless, I was still under his influence. Tried to live up to his vision and dreams.

Inflection point:
Inflection point. Started challenging his opinions and way of life. Became more independent. This was the zone of divergence. There was friction, debate, and chaos. But we learned to keep our differences aside. 

Parity:
We both found a zone where we could agree to disagree. 

Throughout my journey, my father supported me in all my endeavors and failures. Fathers are like launch pads. Eventually, you will be nothing like your father. You are not meant to be. It is a paradox. 

Every stage that I mentioned above is crucial to growing in life. 

Imagine what if father influences your decisions for most of your life?

Imagine if you never challenge his views?
Sometimes the objective is not to please (as I did in my formative years) but to follow your own track. I feel the inflection point needs to arrive as early as possible. 

Imagine you both don’t learn to manage the differences?

I have seen many relationships go for a toss because the last stage isn’t managed properly. I think father-child bond is tricky to manage. Because it has more to do with managing expectations. 🙂

A mother-child bond is relatively easier. 

The Wrath of Sunk Cost Bias

On Wednesday’s we usually do a short-distance fast pace run.

We woke up at 5:00 am and it was drizzling. It was cold and dark. 

I told my wife, we better skip running today. 

Madhu said, what’s the point of waking up at 5:00 am?

C’mon, don’t be lazy let us get ready.

I reluctantly started getting ready, watched the drizzle getting a little intense. 

Now we were both falling for the sunk cost bias. We had already invested the time and effort into this. 

We hit the road at 5:25 am.

As I started my watch, I had no GPS signal. Thanks to the big dark clouds right above me.

After a few minutes, I got the signal. We started off. The drizzle was showing some signs of receding.

After 2km or so, it started drizzling again. After 2.5k it was pouring. We stopped under a tree. 

Now we were arguing.

See I told you to skip, you don’t listen to me or my predictions!

After a few minutes, no luck. We headed home. Sat in the verandah and watched the rain. Madhu cursed it. I was frustrated too but I was reflecting on the fact that I was so damn right.

We decided to buy running jackets. The following day we headed to Decathalon. We not only bought the jackets but random paraphernalia which was not even needed. 

The next day it was time for a long run. Madhu was all prepared and anticipated rain so that she could wear the new waterproof jacket. I wasn’t so sure if it was going to rain.

I decided not to wear the jacket. If it doesn’t rain, the humidity will kill me, I thought.

4km, 6km, 8km, no rain.

The sun was up now. I could only imagine what Madhu was thinking and feeling now. 

10km, 11km no rain.

I finished my run at 12k. Saw Madhu walking towards home. She was not wearing the jacket. Obviously, she did not enjoy the run.

We walked home joked and laughed about the whole episode. 

We (especially Madhu) had fallen prey to the sunk cost fallacy. 

Running goal is a trivial matter but sunk cost fallacy has the tendency to do much worse. 

Individuals commit the sunk cost fallacy when they continue a behavior or endeavor as a result of previously invested resources (time, money, or effort)

I bet you must have gone through similar episodes in your life.

Sometimes it is just ok to quit and write off your losses. 🙂

#bias#perspective#decisionmaking#choices#lifeadvice

I wrote an email to Jack Welch

Back in 2014, my boss told me to draft an email to Jack Welch (you read it right). I never dared to ask why we are even doing this. I thought why would Jack Welch or his team even read this email and reply.

But Jack’s team replied:

“With Mr. Welch’s current schedule, a trip quite this far, unfortunately, doesn’t look feasible for this fall. To give you some general information, Mr. Welch has a two date guarantee for international appearances, with each appearance at an honorarium of $150,000 (a total of $300,000) plus private plane expenses, one suite, and one standard room at the hotel of his choice, security, ground transportation and meals for two.”

It was not a surprise or shock. 

Why did we even write to him in the first place?

Were we stupid? Maybe.

In hindsight, was my boss aiming for the stars, in the hope of finding a moon? Who knows?

Back then, “Make in India” had different traction altogether. The attempt was to invite such luminaries to deliver a speech on digital transformation in manufacturing in India. The plan was to give it good media coverage and launch a program for the manufacturing group under that media Buzz.

The underlying belief was that sometimes some people are more accessible than you think they are.

We not only wrote to Jack Welch but also reached out to Seth Godin, Clayton Christensen, and some Harvard professors. Every time we received a very warm reply. Some kindly declined and some quoted obscene amounts. 

The result? We consolidated the findings and reported them to the management. There were discussions around budget and approach. One thing led to another. Eventually, we settled for some IIM Professors. 

Was it a big success? Not really. However, the event started moving things. It gave us the required momentum to progress. We were comfortable inviting people and conducting events. 

Cost of trying and failing in digital world is too small. It is worth taking that moonshot. 

Organizational Culture Doesn’t matter?

Last week, I connected with a close friend after a while.

After the usual gup-shup, the conversation somehow steered towards workplace culture.

He recently changed his job and given the circumstances, joined the company remotely.

I asked, how is the culture of your new company?

He said, it doesn’t matter, I have no clue about the culture. But do you know what is more important? The culture of a team.

He went on to describe his boss and his colleagues, the team dynamics, and routines.

After the conversation, I reflected a bit.

Why we are so obsessed with organizational culture?

Isn’t a team a micro-community within an organization? 

Have you noticed two starkly different teams in the same function? I bet you have.

The team leads/ managers set the tone for the team culture.

It matters how well your colleagues stick to the values and expectations set within a team.

The team lead can espouse organizational values and culture within a team.

Or he/she might completely isolate the team from the good/bad influence of #workplace#culture.

Two teams are like two neighborhoods within a given locality. Each with its own set of characteristics. 

And given the #WFH situation, the significance of #teamculture has become even more profound.

In that case, should we take the Glass Door reviews that describe org culture (both in a positive and negative light) with a generous pinch of salt? 

What do you think?

The value of truth depends on the circumstances

A few years back, I was late for an interview.

I told the truth, I lost my way, had to take a U-turn and there was more traffic than usual.

The discussion went well. 

On my way out the hiring manager wanted to give me friendly advice.

She said, Alok, it is good, to be honest, but next time you are late for an interview tell there was a flat tire or cook-up something, an excuse that is beyond your control. 

*As if the unusual traffic was in my control*

At that point in time, I just shook hands and said thank you.

Obviously, it was my fault. I could have factored in the peak traffic hours.

As I was driving back, I thought, I was only 10 minutes late. 

My mind was telling me, Alok, think of all the times you were on time and the interview was delayed by even 30 minutes.

But at the same time, the hiring manager had a point.

The value of truth depends on the circumstances.

A flat tire is a better excuse than the unusual traffic if you are late for an interview.

It doesn’t matter if you are telling the truth or you are lying about it. The fact is you are late. However, you can still “control” the perception. 🙂

But isn’t simple truth more convenient to tell than a well-fabricated lie?

Why so many complications? 

What do you think?

#interview#hiring#ethics#dilemma

Pick your narrative carefully [Part 2]

Our happiness depends on the way we develop our life stories.

It is the narrative that matters.

Facts don’t change but the narrative keeps on changing.

Recall the story you tell during your interviews. 

A failure in the past becomes a stepping stone to bigger achievements.

As we grow we slowly develop these narratives into a meaningful plot.

We also constantly update them. Revise them.

Facts don’t change. Some facts are discarded and replaced with relevant facts that matter to you.

Failed relationships are forgotten. Misadventures are chucked away. Career dips are deleted.

But all this happens in the minds of people who build positive narratives.

These narratives are called redemptive narratives (search from Dan McAdams’ research in this area.). Redemptive narratives have a progressive growth story.

To make the progressive story even better, you anticipate positive events around you.

Now, look at the flip side.

Stories that still carry the burden of failures and misfortune build a depressing narrative.

Facts don’t change. But the mind only picks facts that are toxic to the self.

Even in this case, the narratives keep on changing.

Depressing narratives pick up events of failure to build a very justifying story. Justification matters because you can’t fool yourself right?

Irrelevant failures are dropped from the plot, failures that contribute to a better story remain. 

To make the depressing story even better, you anticipate depressing events.

We all are storytellers.

And the state of our mind depends on the type of stories that we weave. 

Want to be happy? Build a positive and progressive narrative. 

It only takes a little imagination. 

#mentalhealth#stories#growth

A smart phone is all you need to start a business

Do you want to start a business? All you need is a mobile phone.

Take real estate agents, for instance, they manage their business on WhatsApp.

I have a running coach who manages all his operations through his iPhone 4.

He uses Team Link a free alternative to Zoom to train us.

He accepts payments through G-Pay.

Yesterday I learned about a founder who maxed out his 5 credit cards to manage his working capital.

I am sure you know Jose Covaco (Hoezayy) from MTV fame. In an interview, he mentioned that he uses his mobile phone to shoot and edits his videos on the phone.

Then why people obsess around websites, workstations, fancy equipment, and finance and jargon?

Because people just love doing that. People are more passionate about the “identity” of an entrepreneur than entrepreneurship. 

What do you think?

Note: I was able to identify these examples because I recently finished reading ReWork, highly recommended for those who want to understand #entrepreneurship, especially the #frugal side of it.