Success is a 0 sum game

Success is a 0 sum game. In simple terms, for you to be successful in a certain area someone else has to be less successful. For example, Getting admission at Harvard is a 0 sum game. 

Here is what I mean by that. At any given time, there are only finite opportunities that life can offer you to be successful. And those finite opportunities only lead to a finite number of spots you can hold by the virtue of your talent, dedication and hard work. 

When I say it is a 0 sum game, I obviously consider the objective measures of success. By all means, a self-made millionaire is a successful person. By all means, Usain Bolt is a successful athlete because he is the fastest runner. I know people have a strong preference to measure success in intangible terms but I will come to that later.

Objective success is visible. Objective success has tangible goals and tangible goals lead to tangible efforts in that direction. A wannabe millionaire, with a certain financial goal in mind, will try to work towards that goal. An athlete who benchmarks the success of Bolt will take steps towards that goal. But the sad part remains that objective success is a 0 sum game. There will be only so many millionaires in a given geography. There can be only “one” Bolt on the planet at any given time.

But here is the good part, there is always a defined position and someone fitting will always take it. That gives you hope. Aim for the stars, you fail you might get the moon.

Now coming to measuring success with intangible variables. Here is where success becomes subjective. You find meaning in things that cannot be measured by money or fame. That makes sense because we have finite resources. To live in harmony we have to make peace with what we have and what we achieve. We have a booming industry around this coping mechanism; self-help books, motivational speakers, etc.  Hence, measuring success with intangible variables is nothing but a mechanism to cope with limited opportunities and the fact that success is a 0 sum game.

An ode to Corona

Dear Corona,

I have an understanding that you are really smart despite being so unicellular.

You shaved off 6 trillion dollars of wealth on stock markets

That is the whole GDP of India 3 times over.

As we slowly evolved into multicellular beings, hunted, fought wars, built all that technology to go to the moon and watched cat videos on youtube; you waited for millions of years in obscurity.

You know that we were never ready for this

As individuals, we exhibit infinite intellect, but in a group, we struggle to cross a street

You know that as a race we have the IQ of a dumb pigeon that breaks its neck on a french window

You know the fact that the more connected we are as species, the harder we will fall against you

And we can’t afford to be independent and disconnected in 2020

Had it been 200 AD, you would have dealt with a small tribe in Wuhan region

The other great tribes would have been oblivious to your puny existence or that of the Wuhan tribe

But now thanks to the media, I see that people are burning effigies of you

You know that the fall of world order and the economy will be caused by irrational paranoia.

What a time to attack us!

Anyway, all I can do is watch less news and wash my hands

Ohh Corona, why us!

What could be the objective of Corona Virus?

Maybe it simply intends to have a global presence and it needs a strong host that can act as a safe vehicle.

The virus has chosen us as hosts to grow its presence on every continent. Makes sense!

So far we are doing a good job hosting Corona.

Does that ring a bell?

It took us thousands of years to travel and settle across the globe. Our host? No prizes for guessing. Our super-host happens to be planet Earth! And for thousands of years, we have been burgeoning, mercilessly taking all we can from this planet. And the damage done by us was profound.

Anyway, we have chosen a host that is traveling at breathtaking speeds in the vast expanse of this universe. We are in search of more super- hosts to establish our inter-galactic presence. It is interesting to see how all living beings are programmed in the same manner.

It is interesting to see how we are only a step ahead in this evolutionary journey. The simplest life form on this planet can still challenge our precarious existence.

Maybe, in the long run, lifeforms that can live in harmony with this planet will flourish

Trivia: Ever since the COVID breakout, they say the skies in Shanghai have never been so clear


hashtagCoronavirus hashtagCOVID hashtagstaysafe hashtagworkfromhome

Decision Making and how it fails societies

As individuals, we do micro-decisions every day which impact our lives and that of our close ones. However, to make big decisions that positively impact a huge group of individuals and their surroundings, collective decision making is required at a massive scale.

These big decisions mostly focus on serving the common good for a large community of people. These decisions include but are not limited to deciding to launch an attack on a neighboring nation, build a dam or reduce onion prices. Brexit happens to such kind of decision.

To progress, collective decision making is the most important factor. Faster decision making on a big scale leads to faster progress. For faster decision making, a population needs to build a consensus. To build a consensus, the population needs to organize itself. Faster it organizes itself, faster it reaches a consensus and rapid decisions are made for the common good. This sounds like commonsense but come to think of it, how difficult it is for even a family of four to decide on how they are going to cut costs or even chose a travel destination.

Politics is one of the ways of organizing a population. Political leaders influence people through their ideologies, beliefs, and sometimes money to form a large group of people who can voice out their opinions and support politicians to make decisions on their behalf. In geographies where people fail to organize, dictatorial powers rise where a small but powerful group makes decisions for a very very large group. Mostly these decisions benefit the small and powerful group that controls the majority of the resources.

Societies and cultures that fail to organize, fail to make those decisions quickly. Indecisive societies don’t do any progress.

When politics fails to organize people, it is replaced by war.

War is a continuation of politics by other means, said Carl Von Clausewitz

When softer tactics fail, the brute force of wars was used to organize people. Our history is tainted with brutal wars and holy wars (read crusades). Wars were used to direct large swaths of populations and resources towards a bigger cause. If millions organize and are forced to follow a common doctrine and standards then, by all means, those million people will develop faster than the million people who are divided into different tribes and follow a variety of beliefs.

And when wars failed to organize people, you have situations like the Middle-East (Syria, Afganistan, and Iraq) that is struggling to establish normalcy. Large parts of Africa (Somalia) and other poor nations are going through a similar fate. They are failing or organize themselves.

We can attribute the rapid success of China to the dictatorial set-up that forced people to follow rigid rules. Under one belief and one rule, people came together worked hard to provide the best economies of scale to the western world and China came to be known as the factory of the world.

On the other hand, India failed to do just that. India is a highly heterogeneous nation. India is in itself a continent like Europe, where more than 100 languages are spoken and so many distinct cultures thrive. People with different ideologies have starkly different preferences, priorities, and beliefs. Hence such heterogeneous communities fail to arrive at a consensus that drives common good.

Having said that, India is trying to unite through political means. It will be good to see if it follows a stable political model to grow as a nation like so many western nations have done.

And one-day politics will be redundant too. Wars have already become redundant. If people don’t need politics or wars to build a consensus then what they will resort to?

And a short answer could be technology like blockchain. We develop systems that are sacrosanct from the deviant vagaries of the human mind. These systems automatically provide a democratic set-up to decide the priorities, fill the supply-demand gaps and channelize resources where they are really needed. Read about  WHO, Uber, Crowdfund sourcing organizations. They are all doing that in some way but we as a race have a long way to go.