free-wheeling, original, philosophical thoughts from koenig ceo, Rohit aggarwal

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Please Hear What I’m Not Saying

Sharing a heart-touching poem from William C. Fynn (1941). The poem says exactly what I would like to say. I am sure this is true for many others. “I fight against the very thing I cry out for”. Enjoy by feeling that it is actually you who is saying it…


Don’t be fooled by me.
Don’t be fooled by the face I wear
for I wear a mask, a thousand masks,
masks that I’m afraid to take off,
and none of them is me.


Pretending is an art that’s second nature with me,
but don’t be fooled,
for God’s sake don’t be fooled.
I give you the impression that I’m secure,
that all is sunny and unruffled with me, within as well as without,
that confidence is my name and coolness my game,
that the water’s calm and I’m in command
and that I need no one,
but don’t believe me.
My surface may seem smooth but my surface is my mask,
ever-varying and ever-concealing.
Beneath lies no complacence.
Beneath lies confusion, and fear, and aloneness.
But I hide this. I don’t want anybody to know it.
I panic at the thought of my weakness exposed.
That’s why I frantically create a mask to hide behind,
a nonchalant sophisticated facade,
to help me pretend,
to shield me from the glance that knows.


But such a glance is precisely my salvation, my only hope,
and I know it.
That is, if it’s followed by acceptance,
if it’s followed by love.
It’s the only thing that can liberate me from myself,
from my own self-built prison walls,
from the barriers I so painstakingly erect.
It’s the only thing that will assure me
of what I can’t assure myself,
that I’m really worth something.
But I don’t tell you this. I don’t dare to, I’m afraid to.
I’m afraid your glance will not be followed by acceptance,
will not be followed by love.
I’m afraid you’ll think less of me,
that you’ll laugh, and your laugh would kill me.
I’m afraid that deep-down I’m nothing
and that you will see this and reject me.


So I play my game, my desperate pretending game,
with a facade of assurance without
and a trembling child within.
So begins the glittering but empty parade of masks,
and my life becomes a front.
I idly chatter to you in the suave tones of surface talk.
I tell you everything that’s really nothing,
and nothing of what’s everything,
of what’s crying within me.
So when I’m going through my routine
do not be fooled by what I’m saying.
Please listen carefully and try to hear what I’m not saying,
what I’d like to be able to say,
what for survival I need to say,
but what I can’t say.


I don’t like hiding.
I don’t like playing superficial phony games.
I want to stop playing them.
I want to be genuine and spontaneous and me
but you’ve got to help me.
You’ve got to hold out your hand
even when that’s the last thing I seem to want.
Only you can wipe away from my eyes
the blank stare of the breathing dead.
Only you can call me into aliveness.
Each time you’re kind, and gentle, and encouraging,
each time you try to understand because you really care,
my heart begins to grow wings–
very small wings,
very feeble wings,
but wings!


With your power to touch me into feeling
you can breathe life into me.
I want you to know that.
I want you to know how important you are to me,
how you can be a creator–an honest-to-God creator–
of the person that is me
if you choose to.
You alone can break down the wall behind which I tremble,
you alone can remove my mask,
you alone can release me from my shadow-world of panic,
from my lonely prison,
if you choose to.
Please choose to.


Do not pass me by.
It will not be easy for you.
A long conviction of worthlessness builds strong walls.
The nearer you approach to me the blinder I may strike back.
It’s irrational, but despite what the books say about man
often I am irrational.
I fight against the very thing I cry out for.
But I am told that love is stronger than strong walls
and in this lies my hope.
Please try to beat down those walls
with firm hands but with gentle hands
for a child is very sensitive.


My Experiments in Management…

Apart from philosophical indulgences, I also run a business.

The first ten years of my entrepreneurial life were mired in losses. Fortunately the subsequent ten have been much better. I am not an MBA, I have learnt management the hard way (much like Jamal in Slumdog Millionaire).

Here are a few things which have made a big difference for me:

1. Have a genuine interest in the well-being of your people. Just as it is the moral and spiritual duty of a parent to help their children achieve their true potential, same is true for a manager.

2. A manager understands the difference between compassion and justice – justice is compassion to maximum people. Being compassionate to one person is sometimes harmful for the whole team / company and thus not true compassion.

3. A manager who does not read is like an under-nourished tree. Reading is nothing but learning from others, it is about avoiding re-inventing the wheel. A good reading portfolio includes:

(i) Current developments in the professional domain
(ii) Scholarly articles related to the domain. They might be dated, but some of the wisdom is eternal.
(iii) Psychology, it is all about people management, no?
(iv) Spirituality, spiritual wisdom leads to emotional strengthening.
(v) Gym for the brain (also called heavy stuff). E.g. read this Incomplete Nature – Book Scan Pages 8 – 11

4. To remain popular, a manager has to take many unpopular decisions. Decisions should be guided by righteousness, not their popularity.

5. The importance of team spirit cannot be over-emphasized. If the team members do not gel together, try as you may, results will not be commensurate with potential. I whole-heartedly agree with Gestalt psychology– The whole has an identity distinct from the parts. The whole has emergent properties which are distinct from properties of the parts.

6. Give due importance to developing a great culture. Great people make a great culture. Great culture makes great people greater. 

7. First define the goal, then build strategy how to achieve it.

What is right and wrong changes with time and situation. These ideas are most likely not going to work after a century (but a special hi to the readers of 2115).

Are You Conscious?

For people who believe in the Big Bang and Theory of Evolution (which to my mind co-exist beautifully with the Theory of God and Creationism), there were two truly momentous moments in the history of life…

  1. Hydrogen, Oxygen, Carbon and Nitrogen came together to form the first living cell (3.5 billion years ago).
  2. “Consciousness” was born (100,000 years ago)

When or how the brain evolved in animals was not truly momentous. Even animals have a brain…it is consciousness which sets humans apart.

What is consciousness?  Does the fact that you are reading this and I am writing, automatically classify us as being conscious? I don’t think so.

I don’t think that the acts of reading and writing prove a state of consciousness. We might just be doing it mechanically…like there being nothing better to do than to read or write what comes our way…to me this is a state of being unconscious….

Consciousness is being self aware. Not only aware of our existence, but also of all our choices and an eminent ability to exercise choice.

Being able to observe and direct our own self are critical aspects of being conscious. As an analogy, only the director in a film-making unit is truly conscious…others are just following instructions…the director is analogous to Consciousness.

It helps me to imagine the state of consciousness as the ability to rise 1 kilometer above the surface of earth and observe and direct my-self. From that vantage point I am no longer the actor, but the director, observing rationally and directing in my best long-term interest.  Extending the metaphor, I can also observe the vicinity and take note of any danger lurking in my path.

 

Imagine being in a maze and the ability to rise up just a few meters…the latter makes resolving the maze so much easier…

Now that we have agreed upon the definition of consciousness, let us spend time on its practical use.In retrospect, till recently most of my day was spent in an unconscious state. I was conscious but momentarily.

I discovered that for real progress I must increase time spent in a state of true consciousness. With a lot of effort I have been able to do it, and the results are very promising…

With the right combination of “observing / directing” and “acting”, I have been able to lead a happier life. Decisions taken in a state of consciousness are rational and wise.

Spending time in consciousness requires effort. It is only the saintly who can remain effortlessly in that state. It is as if a force analogously equivalent to gravity tends to bring us back from consciousness…

I discovered that I am closer to God in the state of consciousness…I can talk to Him and it is un-mistakenly Him…when I share my problems, His advice comes streaming in…

While conscious I have moments of connecting with Cosmic Consciousness and it is in these moments that I think many of the ideas attributed to me actually came down to earth.

Increasing time spent in consciousness is not as esoteric as it might sound. If you read this blog three times with full concentration, you will magically experience true consciousness…

Uncertain People, Certain Happiness

Uptil standard 8 in school, I was secure and happy in an orderly and comprehensible world in which atoms consisted of a nucleus with a revolving set of electrons much like the post-Galileo solar system.

Then we were introduced to the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle which said that the only thing which could be said with certainty was that it is impossible to know where the electron precisely is. For all we know, it could well be having a joyride around planet Pluto.

The Heisenberg principle solved many of the conundrums of quantum mechanics but the confusion it creates in a child’s feeble mind has not been fully investigated.

But I did not realize that the topsy-turvy world of electrons will come to my rescue decades later, that the Uncertainty Principle will solve mysteries of the “classical” world as well.

Circa 2014.

Man is a social animal. He cannot exist in isolation. For best results he has to get along with people around him. He has to understand them. For even better results, he should be able to predict their behavior. This is where the challenge comes. At least for me, I have been at loss to predict behavior of people around me.

This has caused heart burns, failures and many other such undesirable outcomes.

One fine day I decided to apply the uncertainty principle to real world people as well. I started assuming that much like an electron, it is impossible to know the current cognitive location of people with any iota of certainty. It has nothing to with how hard we try, it is simply not possible…a Law of Nature.

With this assumption, I naturally allowed people a broad range of expected behavior, even to the point of allowing them to metaphorically take a ride to Pluto. In other words, let them behave in a manner which was totally unexpected (and maybe undesirable).

By unleashing people, I actually unleashed myself. I was no longer at their mercy for heart burns, failures and such. And I was able to sustain relationships despite their occasional solo trip to Pluto (though my trip to Pluto has not always been excused).

The Idea of Uncertainty is actually a very useful tool in my quest for happiness.

Human mind is fickle and people do behave erratically. There are mood swings. What hurts is not that people are different but that they are unpredictable.

By adopting the Uncertainty Principle we stop blaming people. Blaming people creates negative energy, blaming a principle does not.

People behave uncertainly because it’s a Law or Nature…not because of fickleness, mood swings, selfishness, etc. . In fact, if someone was predictable, it would be unnatural (sic).

The applicability of a quantum principle (like Uncertainty) in real life is not as far-fetched as it might seem. Many scientists and philosophers (including insignificant souls like me) are of the opinion that the human mind works using quantum principles… in other words the human mind does not resemble a digital computer in its working but the more advanced quantum computers…thus it is no surprise that some of the quantum phenomena is being experienced in real life as well…

PS : My blog does not in any way suggest that we need not be predictable or trustworthy…however, I have noticed that despite the best intentions, people are not 100% predictable. In trying to find the root cause of this, I came across several research papers which argue that the working of human mind cannot be explained by the classical physical and chemical theories. The architect of the human brain (call it Nature or Creator), used quantum principles to make it as powerful as it is. Consider quantum phenomena such as tunneling (travelling faster than speed of light), entanglement (two particles are instantaneously affected by each other despite absence of physical media or communication), consciousness (remember the double-slit experiment, electrons behave as particle or wave depending upon if there is one slit or two, as if they can see and react)….In real life we experience many situations which are very similar to quantum phenomena (two souls in real love can feel each other’s pain)….I therefore think that the reason why humans are uncertain has something to do with the quantum nature of human brain…

To Be or not to Be, that is NOT the question…(with due apologies to Shakespeare)

If anything, life is a series of choices; a flow chart of decisions, a game of snakes and ladders,  the world’s most devious bhool bhulaiya (maze).

In order to avoid getting lost, we need a North Star, a Guru, an almanac.

But when we do get lost, we need inspiration; divine inspiration.

I was in a similar situation a few weeks back.

My mind was troubled by paradoxes and many of them of my own creation. Should we free our mind of undercover-negative thoughts  or should we invite a scold (I suggest reading both the blogs to understandthe paradox)? How can we keep ourselves motivated when we believe in “Karmanye Vadhikaraste, Ma phaleshou kada chana”, which says that reward is not guaranteed? Without hope for something nice can any mortal really give their best? How can we motivate ourselves to be benevolent  without expecting a return (as is suggested by one of the principles  of the Koenig Ethos)?

The paradoxes were unlimited and I was going crazy thinking about them.

It was in a state of stupor that I entered Starbucks last weekend hoping that a dose of Americano would do the trick; it was a hope against hope, a race against time.

Coffee in hand, eyes piercing through the sky and a surrendered mind, I prayed for an answer.

It did not take long. In a flash it dawned on me that all the paradoxes were like two sides of a coin; inseparable, equally valuable, and equally worthless. They are just the means to a goal. The goal is something else.

Let me go back to the paradoxes enumerated in the fifth paragraph one-by-one.

The goal is to grow: Keeping our minds free of negative thoughts enables 100% positive activity, but at times inviting a scold might be in our best interest  even at the cost of transient negativity (as explained in my last blog). We flip between the two approaches but our goal remains constant.

To explain “Karmanya”, we let our mind focus singularly on karma (deeds). We do not get discouraged if results are not achieved as expected, but by keeping the work tempo, ultimately we are successful.

Being benevolent without expectation, by adopting a benevolent approach, we do maximum good for maximum people, majority of whom pay back which more than compensates for the few who don’t. By following this maxim we maximize returns without experiencing the hurt of the few who don’t pay back. Goal achieved once again.

However, these paradoxes play put in our day-to-day living as well. We may not notice them immediately, but we never have to look too far to find them. For instance, consider your day to day relationships.

When we’re working to maintain a relationship, we have to flip between being sensitive and thick skinned (occasional bullying is the norm in any relationship).

Suddenly, everything seemed to be falling into place.

Imagine you’re driving a vehicle…which is that one thought, which does not leave your mind even for a nano second?

How risky would it be to drive a car being forgetful of the destination? How often do we risk our own life by loosing sight of our goals?

When trapped as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, James Stockdale had a very slim chance of getting out. But he did not lose hope, nor did he not prepare himself for the worst. By practicing what is now called the Stockdale Paradox, he was able to come out. His goal was to finally emerge free,  for which he flipped between optimism and pessimism. In his words “You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”

How do we resolve the paradox of compassion and justice when both seem non-negotiable and mutually exclusive? The goal is the good of the maximum number of people. Compassion is good, but being compassionate to a criminal might encourage crime (quite in-compassionate to the society)…keep flipping…

Coming back to the title of this blog (Shakespear’s Hamlet). IMHO, when Hamlet was contemplating suicide the contemplation should have been whether living or dying will better serve the purpose of his life.

Other Examples:

Keep flipping, but judiciously.

When the goal is clear, deciding the right approach becomes so easy.

Ever since this epiphany I consider myself a transformed man. I discovered how much of what I was doing everyday was actually not aligned with my goals. For example, in a meeting it is important to reach the right conclusions. On many occasions I was only trying to prove my point without hearing others out.

I sincerely believe that clarity of goal is the ultimate North Star….

Munnabhai and Circuit

Those of you who have watched the Munnabhai series of movies will agree with me that he is one of most lovable characters in Hindi cinema and though all of us might not agree with some of his methods (including how he achieved MBBS) there is no doubt that he is a good role model. An example of someone who has a reason to be happy in every situation. I will gladly switch my situation in life with his.

The bonus of being Munnabhai is also the company of the equally lovable Circuit (his side-kick).

Allow me to go tangentially across to discuss circuits.

Despite the immense processing power of human brain, it resorts to certain heuristics (rules-of-thumb) to quicken decision making (a good example of the irrepressible human laziness). I like to think that heuristics are a result of “brain circuits”.

For example, because of a certain inborn brain circuit, criticism heuristically triggers self-defense as well as retaliation.

The wonderful thing is that brain circuits can be modified.In fact, most of my blogs and all of Koenig Ethos are based upon an assumption that it is within human capacity to modify our reactions to situations (i.e. change brain circuits).

Some of the circuits that I have managed to identify and change are:

Chocolate

Time for Yoga

Heartless

A well accepted theory of neuroscience states – “neurons that fire together, wire together”. If we are able to deliberately manage a certain response to a certain situation and repeat it often enough, the relevant neurons will wire together and start firing together if any one of them is stimulated. Human Brain is plastic, not elastic. Once a new circuit has been created it lasts.

Most unhappiness can be avoided by creating new brain circuits. For example, the following brain circuit:

Things we cannot change

Injustice

I think we can achieve the state of happiness of Munnabhai only with a supportive and subservient Circuit. What do you all think?

 

Undercover-negative thoughts

By far the most life-transforming principle of Koenig Ethos is eliminating negative thoughts. If I had done an MRI scan of my brain in 2003 and compared it with today, this is how I think it would look:

One of my deepest regrets is that I have not been able to reduce negative thoughts to 0%. The last few percentages are the most difficult to eliminate.

However, I have now discovered another tranche of thoughts which I call “undercover negative” thoughts and which are as deserving of eradication.

I call them “undercover” because they are not usually considered negative but are negative (hurtful) all the same.

They serve no purpose, eat up time and create negative chemicals.

My current list of such thoughts includes:

  • Laziness / inaction / procrastination
    • Craving (wanting something too much)
    • Regret (…faux pas- social blunder…)
    • Fear / worry
    • Despair / despondency
    • Getting a high on accomplishments/ accolades
    • Deluding about our love interest (…s/he loves me, s/he loves me not…)
    • Fuming about our hate interests
    • Hoping for the best (….anticipating the result of a test…)
    • Worrying what people think of us
    • Excessive curiosity
    • Replaying irritating incidents
    • Doubting intentions of others – distrust
    • Judgmentalism

All of them take-up a sizeable amount of time but lead to no tangible benefit.

Frustratingly, eliminating them is not easy.

Allow me to explain a method which has worked for me.

I had discussed the concept of “centrestage” in our brain in an earlier blog and how “compassion” makes negative thoughts make a quick exit.

I discovered that with practice we can “shoo” away any thought.

I think of it like training a watchdog to detect an enemy and shooing it away. The following image explains:

Nature abhors a vacuum. Centrestage cannot be empty (unless we meditate). We therefore must keep ready a set of +ve thoughts to occupy the centrestage (notice the usher playing this role in above). Suggested arsenal (of -ve thoughts) – What can I do achieve my personal goals? My professional goals? Am I moving as fast as possible towards my goals? If not, why not? What are my top 3 action points with max impact on my goals?

Believe me, it works quite well in practice. Just by shooing away the thought of food I have been able to eliminate hunger pangs.

By not thinking about tiredness I have been able to increase by daily exercise routine.

By not thinking about chocolate, I have been able to overcome by chocoholic excesses.

Another class of undercover negative thoughts is doubting our abilities. Thinking that we cannot run 5 kms a day means that we cannot do it. Our belief that we can do it, results in our being able to do it. Saying “no” to ourselves is a undercover-negative thought.

Reading is one good way to increase the percentage of +ve thoughts.

Following is my revised MRI scan predictions :

If it can work for me, it can work for everyone…

A billion dollar question…

Nothing is as powerful as an idea whose time has come….Victor Hugo


If there is an Extra -Terrestrial Intelligence observing Plant Earth, he will observe two evolutions – one of living beings and the other of “ideas”. Though invisible, ideas undergo life-like transformations – birth, development, death.

The ET might wonder why humans do not palp and keep track of the parallel existence of “ideas”. Why they tend to credit every invention, every discovery, every revolution to a human protagonist while remaining oblivious to the birth and development of the idea which led to all the events. They write biographies of many humans but never a biography of an idea.

The ET will sense ideas wading-up much before they are instrumental in making events come to a pass.

At times a protagonist tries unsuccessfully to bring to shore an idea before its time has come (refer to Mangal Pandey / Rani of Jhansi above).

Abolition of slavery, air travel, the theory of relativity, abolition of racial segregation are ideas which came to life when their time had come. The ideas, not the protagonists (with due respect to them), – Abraham Lincoln, Wright Brothers, Einstein, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. – created history.

Would slavery have existed today if not for Abraham Lincoln? Without Mahatma Gandhi would India have not won independence? Or e=mc2 not been discovered but for Einstein, racial segregation continued if it was not Martin Luther King’s dream?

There are many ideas which are now dead. E.g. the idea of starting a new religion is now virtually dead. A Buddha, Jesus, Mohammad, born in today’s time is unlikely to succeed in their mission. That’s why Din-e-llahi (religion propounded by Emperor Akbar in 16th century) did not succeed. And Scientology is still struggling.

My knowledge of world history and politics is patchy. I am sure if a detailed analysis is done, the birth, growth and death of ideas can make a treatise to rival Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species.

I will like to argue that iPad came when the time for the idea for touch-screen portable computers had come (not so when Microsoft launched a Windows XP touch-screen Tablet in 2002). Facebook (pan-world social interaction tool) came at just the right time (Pets and Friendster were a bit too early).

With the advent of professional online networks (LinkedIn), is the idea of online job portals dying?

Notice the sequential evolution of ideas. One idea leads to the next just as one species led to the evolution of the next. The idea of iPAD came only after the “idea” of computers had developed for a few decades.

I think that all of us are surfers on a sea waiting to surf the next big wave. As any surfer will tell you, the most important skill is predicting the next wave and where it will break.

Surfing does require other skills – balancing, paddling strength, positioning on the wave, strong calf muscles, but timing is everything.

Arab spring (popular uprising against inefficient autocracies) is an idea whose time has come. If not for Tunisia, the trigger would have come from some other country. It was an idea which was bursting at the seams.

I am sure Tata Nano (a minimal motor car) is an idea whose time has not yet come, and I am not sure if it will ever come. Though Toyota’s Prius (world’s first hybrid) was launched in 1997, it is only the past few years that it has met with great success. The idea of hybrid / electric cars has now come and companies like Tesla have caught onto it at just the right time.

Not to say that people cannot enjoy the sea without worrying about the waves. I am only arguing that to surf to glory we have to find the right wave…

Shakespeare also thought that tides are more important than men….

There is a tide in the affairs of men.
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.

Realizing that we are less powerful than ideas rather than the other way around, can help us surf the next big wave rather than hoping to create a wave which is not within human capability.

Which wave is waiting to be surfed? Now, that is a billion dollar question….$$$

Silence is a Swiss Knife

Even the most skillful of carpenters is helpless without his toolkit. This is true for most professions. The more sophisticated the toolkit, better a professional can perform.

I think this is true even for the journey called life. To make the best of it, a well equipped toolkit is very handy.

For example, I consider the Koenig Ethos principles a vital part of my toolkit. It helps me overcome many a difficult situation.

Even the best equipped toolkit might miss the right tools for specific problems. Therefore I am constantly in search of new tools.

One very potent tool I recently rediscovered was “Silence”.

It is not that I was oblivious to the power of silence. Just that I never paid sufficient attention to it.

A few weeks back I decided to evaluate silence as a new member of my toolkit.

I realized that it would be impossible to practice “maun vrat (vow of silence)” for a full day so I decided to try the next best thing – “maun hour”, “maun 4-hours”, “almost maun-day”. I decided that I will not talk during the prescribed duration unless it was a life threatening situation.

It was not as difficult as I thought it could be. On a day when I had to fly, it only meant that I did not get the desired window seat, had to go without a snack in the flight and that I had to duck many a good morning. In fact, people seemed to be quite happy for the reciprocal relief to their vocal chords.

The benefits far outweighed the inconveniences. For one, my observation power seemed to increase manifold, as if a “third-eye” had opened. Many things I did not know existed at Delhi Terminal 3, I will now never forget (including two majestic elephants in the departure foyer).

In general, I started appreciating silent entities. For example, plants and trees suddenly looked so pretty and worthy of admiration (the fact that you can stare at them without any adverse reaction is a big plus). I established a new relationship with non-communicative entities.

Secondly, I felt as an energy drain had been sealed and the conserved energy was now driving my intellect through previously unexplored alleys and getaways.

Thirdly, I saved precious time. As an act of gratitude, I used this time to reflect on the power of silence. I soon started equating Silence with a Swiss Knife.

I realized that situations which previously seemed to deserve a loud rejoinder, can at times be better tackled by silence.

Silence can actually do the talking better than words.

Silence can earn respect. It can be life saving. It can improve relationships. It is polite. It is a courtesy.

Used indiscriminately, silence can be exactly the opposite. Isn’t silence magical?

Silence can be an act of compassion.

Silence can camouflage ignorance (I am a pro at this already).

Silence can convey the sharpest reprimand.

Loud troublesome people can be effectively silenced by silence.

I also found it to be a useful tool in my workplace – Silence is an effective cure against my tendency to micro-manage.

Apart from practical applications, I found time to examine other aspects of silence.

As per neuroscience, the brain allocates a certain set of neurons for every sensory organ. By not using our vocal chords more than required, we are actually freeing up our mind for more important mental asks.

Silence is a yoga asana. Silence is spiritual. To get ahead in life we need to awaken our latent spiritual power. Earthly power is not sufficient. Silence can provide that spiritual zeal.

Over the past few days I have become conscious of this secret weapon in my armor. I have started using it more often and am very happy about it.

I will love to hear your experiences with Silence. Your silence will be killing…

A Vociferous God

I always thought that God (if He exists) is silent. But over the past few months I am increasingly convinced that not only does He exist but He is also not silent. In fact, if we are attentive enough, He can be quite vociferous.

The realization came slowly.

It started with my nocturnal practice of praying to Him and discussing with Him my problems and dilemmas. If I was focused enough I received great advice. The ideas were not mine because (1) they were beyond what I could think and sounded “E.T.” in retrospect (2) they usually involved sacrifice and self-inflicted pain (3) they had a prescriptive finality about them (take-it-or-leave-it and don’t argue). And if I was courageous enough to follow the advice, it worked, invariably with great results.

With time I realized that it was not easy to engage Him. He only responded after a normative period of “good behavior”. In fact, I don’t even attempt to “talk” to Him if I have not been especially “good”. Sometimes, I don’t realize that I have gone astray until He stops talking to me. His definition of “good behavior” is quite stringent and it is challenge to adhere to it beyond a few days.

It is also my firm belief that He has a different definition of “good behavior” for everyone and this varies according to geography, culture, belief and situation in life. His expectations from a saint are different thank from a rock star. But one thing is common for all – his expectations keep becoming more stringent. Like a physical trainer He makes us continuously stretch a bit more than our comfort zone.

When I re-read some of my writings, I feel perplexed because some of the ideas seem like a revelation to me. I can’t believe that they were written by me.

For example, I keep going back to my  blog on Compassion and find something new and instructive every-time.

It continues to help in purifying my thoughts. I am successfully able to douse every negative thought with a spray of Compassion so much so that I now imagine Compassion as a kind of fire fighting hose to be used at the slightest hint of fire or smoke. I have learnt that Compassion need not be restricted to those in apparent pain or deserving.

My blog about white light and white lies“” also does not seem to be solely my creation. It has helped me overcome many a dilemma – what does not seem to be the right thing to do in a narrow perspective, seems to be the only right thing to do in a broader one.

If you want Him to talk to you, you have to convince Him about your sincerity.

It takes a bit of practice to attune to His frequency. Apart from the three attributes mentioned in the third para, if you ask a question and the answer streams in before you have completed the question it indicates that it is coming from a higher power.

In a moment of weakness I reasoned “Sir, this advice is very difficult to follow and I don’t think it will work.” Prompt came His reply “Son, you asked a question, I suggested a solution, I do not insist that you follow it”…. and if you do not stop irreverent questions I might switch my attention to those who are more “kayal” (convinced)…. I could read between the lines…

I still remember the day when while walking I said to Him conversationally “Sir, you are so helpful to me, I feel so special”, He immediately grounded me “have no illusion that I am helpful only to you”…and if I notice even an iota of arrogance in you, it will be the end of my conversations with you….

Of all the people I know in this world, the most vociferous is God. But despite His being vociferous and being God, I don’t listen to him 100%…hopefully one day…

A rare tete-e-tete…

[My blog was hijacked by Money and Electricity, just as Oxygen did a few months back] 

Money – Hey there Electricity, welcome but please maintain safe distance. I wanted to have a chat with you for so long. You are so like me it is amazing. But for the records I still reign supreme.

Electricity – Yeah bro, but you have taken 3,000 years to achieve what I have done in 300. Without me, the world will come to a grinding halt within seconds.

Money – That may well be, but I am present in people’s mind all the time, even while they are sleeping…

Electricity – That is true for me as well. Human brain cannot function without me.

M – Enough of that crap. I own you. I can buy you, use you or waste you.

E – E – You burn every-time I am used.You burn even if I am idle because there is no zero-loss method to store me.

M – Hey, that’s so true for me as well. I also lose value when idle because of goddamn inflation. Bro we should be friends, we both have the same Godfather…

E- The same Godfather? Humans only discovered us but they cannot produce us. I can only be produced by sacrificing an energy bro. What about you?

M – Likewise. Though for me a nobler sacrifice is required. Like hard-work, fame, artistic excellence…

E – That’s a lie. You are also produced by deceit, coercion, and the worst possible human endeavors.And you are the source of so many wars and crimes.

M – Ok, I am bad, but you kill anyone who touches you…

E – You are also lethal, just that everyone doesn’t realize…people are learning to maintain a safe distance from you…

M – C’mon, let’s be friends. Do you realize we are also used by the crappy human law book…me to punish lesser felonies, you for the rarest of rare crimes…

E – Ok, but I know how we are different – I have two forms – DC and AC….

M – Darling, I also have two forms, cash and credit…and like you the latter is now more popular though former was the original one…

M – I have an edge over you. I have temples and Gods named after me…I almost pulled off a civil catastrophe in England in 1720 and in USA in 1929. Now having fun in Greece, Spain…

E – Yeah the Fukushima disaster curtailed my production but affected your supply…

E – I can be dangerous at high differentials, voltage, and I express my anger in a dazzle…

M –I also flash revolutions at high income differentials, Governments try to keep the Gini coefficient below the flash point…

E – I have so many laws named for me – Maxwell’s LawFaraday’s LawGaus Law…

M – I can outdo you on that – Bowley’s LawEngels’ LawCampbells’s Law…Don’t Mess With Me Law……Oh, ok, I share that with you….

E – The similarities never end. We both erode on transmission, there is a shortage of both of us, we can be used, misused or wasted…we are both useless unless we are in motion… we are so important that the governments tightly regulate us, But, but, but….Only I run inside mother earth…

M – Baby, I also reside in so many undiscovered subterranean mines…love it or hate it, we are twins…versatility is our mutual USP, we are both magnetic…we’ll lose our charm were it not for our magnetic / magical fields…

E _ Hey we have to leave now…The owner of this blog seems to have finally found some work to do…

M – A “vella (jobless)” and a creep…he writes so much bull-shit about me….

E – Oh really? So disgusting…let me teach him a lesson……short circuiting his brain now…

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main kaun hun…main yahan kya kar raha hun…. 

(who am I, what am I doing here)….

Delusions of an Oxygen Atom

Lip-sealed since eternity pardon me if my speech is incoherent and disjoint at times. I am grateful to an idle mind which allowed me to hijack his communication machinery for a day.

I first want to break the myth that Humans have a monopoly on consciousness. Just cause we do not have the machinery to communicate our thoughts (in human-compatible language) does not mean that we cannot think. And just cause our thinking is not like human thinking does not mean that it is not thinking.

My point is, the world is much more than what humans can perceive or imagine. Limitation of perception, limits imagination and vice versa. I suggest that you let your imagination run wild, your ability to perceive will increase manifold. If you cannot imagine something, you might not be able to feel it even if it is very much there.

I remember so fondly how in ancient times the elements were given their due importance. After Sun I was pretty sure of elevation to Godly status considering how important I am for Human survival. I was not recognized just because I could not be seen. What has visibility got to do with godliness? It is like ghar ki murgi daal barabar.

Whatever remnant of hope I had was smashed in the Scientific Era heralded by Galileo bro in the 17th century. It has been pretty tough not just for me but also Rain God, Fire God, Sea God etc. Except War God which is still having quite a run.

The 21st century has been really heartless to me and my brethren. The Large Hadron Collider (ostensibly to discover Higgs Boson and other Goddamn particles) has been heartlessly swinging us round and round till our heads spin and then smashes us head-on to decipher our smithereens. Cruelty against atoms must be stopped immediately.

Though I am a free soul and can travel most places, the worst thing I fear is being drawn into a sooty lung and caught by a lecherous haemoglobin. If I do get trapped it is just a few hours before I get used (for noble and ignoble tasks) and thrown out. Then I have to wait for ages for moksha – usually by a Plant God. If I am not so successful because of their dwindling numbers, I take a chance to dissolve into sea water and swim to the nearest algae and dodge the many fish for liberation from the eternal cycle of life and death.

Unlike humans I have always adhered to the laws – Principles of Diffusion, Archimedes, Bernoulli, you name it. Why do we not get our share of credit though we have within our collective power to sink every ship ever built and every plane that will ever fly. Why do humans not abide by the Great Books and save their own nayya (boat) from doobna (sinking)?

Despite all the ill-treatment, we do not revenge, get angry, are always forgiving, compassionate and dependable (usable). Just the reasons why humans think we are lifeless. If I possessed even one of these negative traits, I would immediately come to life. Is negativity a precondition for living? Can’t you feel me alive and kicking in this blog post?

I am so much like humans, it is uncanny. Like humans I can get along with some elements but not with everyone. I am indifferent to a few but presence of some (catalysts) instigates me to react with those I would usually ignore.

I am really enjoying talking to you. I hope it is the same with you.

Hey, what, oh my God, why….why….why are you yawning, please, pleeeease, pleeeeease, oh my God… Arrggh! Aaaarrrggghhh!!!

Please scold me…

Of the many twists and turns which shape our destiny, we often don’t realize the role played by the many reprimands received in the course of our life. A reprimand is unpleasant but it usually does us a lot of good.

I have always considered well-intentioned criticism (feedback) as an act of compassion. So is a well-intentioned scold.

But why is a scold so curative?

I think it has got something to do with how brain circuits are formed.

I discussed in an earlier blog how creating new brain circuits can help us lead a happier life.

I think the unpleasantness caused by a scold creates a kind of “emotional furnace” which moulds new circuits.

The indirect cost of avoiding unpleasantness is chronic unpleasantness.

Though it might be foolhardy to add a dose of scold in our daily routine, we can still make use of this phenomenon by “inviting” a scold when nothing else is working.

In short, the best way to develop a coveted new habit is to get a really unpleasant scold.

When I say scold, I mean anything which causes unpleasantness. It need not be verbal. A glance, facial expression, silence, failure can be as effective.

Bad Habit + Scold = Good Habit

That’s why failures are so effective teachers. The more painful a defeat the more likely that it will be life transforming.

Consider the movie Slumdog Millionaire – Jamal knew all the 10 answers because he had learnt each one of them the hard way.

It is for a reason they say that the best way to remember your wife’s birthday is to forget it once.

How many times do we try to brush away our oversights / failures under the carpet? What if we make a big deal about them? What if we tell the world about them? Won’t the shame cure us of that habit?

How often do we tell our boss about our mistakes. Won’t telling them our mistakes make us better professionals?

Surkh rooh hota hai insaan, thokren khaane ke baad,
Rang laati hai henna, paththar pe pis jaane ke baad…

If my blogs are getting any better it is because of the scoldings I have received (mostly by way of silence)…if they are not, it means I have not been scolded enough…

The 10,000 Hour Rule

One of my favorite authors, Malcolm Gladwell, in his bestseller “Outliers – The Story of Success”, postulated that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert in any profession and then success follows. He analyzed many success stories, including Bill Gates and Beatles, to prove his point.

It sounded very logical to me. Persistence seemed to me the sole and sufficient condition for success.

In the past one year I have been watching and analyzing with increasing incredulity the effortless manner in which people perform some seemingly difficult tasks.

For invisible reasons they are able to accomplish tricky assignments with an ease which verges on the magical.

Why is it that everyone is very good at something but not good at everything? Is it a kind of Natural “division of labor”? An “undiscovered ecosystem” to ensure that the world has sufficient number of people to perform the varied tasks required for progress of humanity. Thus Nature has endowed some people with outstanding capability to discover new laws of nature (e.g. Einstein), to keep us entertained (Amitabh Bachhan anybody?), to stimulate our intellect (Malcolm Gladwell) as also people who can win us freedom (Mahatma Gandhi).

Is everyone performing the job which he / she is best at? Has everyone discovered their forte? How many Einsteins, Amitabh Bachhans, Gandhis, remain un-discovered?

I have seen many a brilliant executive fumble as a manager and a not so brilliant executive shine as a manager. An HR executive might perform better as a salesperson and vice versa.

A coup leader might not be the best person to lead a country to prosperity. Success at the ballots requires a different aptitude than managing finances of a country.

Truth resides where science and spirituality overlap.

As per science, every “system” has a “natural frequency” at which it resonates. This phenomenon is used extensively in musical instruments (acoustic resonance), lasers (optic resonance), TVs and radios (electrical resonance).

In spiritual terms, everyone has a God-ordained profession / task to complete which is called their “calling”.

I encourage you to discover your “natural profession” / “calling”. You will achieve material and spiritual bliss.

The 10,000 hour Rule, IMHO, is not true. In fact, it is the other way around. If we work on something for a few thousand hours and are not very successful, it indicates that we should be doing something else.

As a not so successful entrepreneur, I am trying my luck with blogging. I will definitely not wait for 10,000 hours before calling it quits (from blogging)…

A Philosopher’s Stone

Since time immemorial it has been a human endeavor to find the philosopher’s stone – an alchemical substance which can convert any base metal to gold. It is also believed to be an “elixir of life” (Harry Potter readers will have more information on this subject).

Base metals are much like base thoughts – abundant, ugly, worthless.

How wonderful would life be if there existed a philosopher’s stone to turn basic (negative) thoughts into golden (positive) ones?

A few months back, I read Beyond Religion, an excellent book by HH Dalai Lama, which re-introduced me to a rather forgotten concept of “compassion”.

For some strange reason, Compassion kept coming centre-stage (in my mind) many times during the day. It was co-stage with almost all other types of emotions which shuttle back-and-forth during an arduous day.

I noticed something strange – almost every negative thought shriveled and exited in the presence of Compassion.

I caught onto this and experimented some more. If I had a reason to hate someone [sic], thinking compassionately about the same person (which did require a lot of effort and faith) made the hatred vanish in a puff. And with it vanished the burning, acidic, corrosiveness.

I discovered that none of the negative thoughts could withstand compassion – they all retreated without resistance. Compassion not only did an excellent job of extinguishing the self-consuming flames of negative thoughts but also left a very soothing after-effect. Be it anger, jealousy, arrogance, conceit,… hey Compassion has already worked its magic and shortened the list…

Though by definition, Compassion is about others, the first beneficiary is the giver (or so I realized). Compassion can win friends, and mellow down enemies.

And most good thoughts have compassion at their core. Consider Courtesy.

Compassion is now a very important part of my daily survival toolkit. It ensures for me a pleasant day despite the possibility of encountering people and situations which might not conform to my personal set of values and propriety.

Is Compassion really a philosopher’s stone? I appeal to your compassion for enlightening me…

Quotes

Winning without a fight is no Win, losing after a fight is no Loss...

The Free Will Paradox - we can do what we want to do but we can’t want what we want to want...

A game with flexible rules is not worth playing. A life with flexible rules is not worth living...

A great teacher can teach any student. A great student can learn from any teacher...

Winning and winning arguments are two different things though we tend to spend more time on latter...

The source of all stress is when you know you can’t change the world but hope that you will...

Eloquence is often a shroud on talent...

By proving that the grapes are sour, we also prove that we are a fox...

The most important “scope” is self-o-scope. Microscope, telescope, stethoscope notwithstanding...

The feeling of arrival is not a good omen - it usually coincides with departure...

One fine way to reduce sufferance is to relate it to your own misdeeds...

To avoid being displaced by computers,we must allow ourselves to be displaced by computers

Today is day 1. we are born today.we have to learn and reach greater heights...

Ignorance is bliss. The ability to ignore is no less...

Wisdom is knowing when it is a mishap and when it is divine intervention...

You gain full control over your life only by relinquishing it over everyone else’s...

The illogical is but a composite of opaque but perfectly valid logics...

Criticism is like the tooth brush which prevents naturally occurring plaque (from appreciation) hardening into tartar (complacency)...

The way to eliminate your biggest worry is to imagine a bigger problem...

Forgiveness provides the escape velocity from the gravitational pull of torment...

An optimist dies everytime his optimism succeeds. A pessimist dies only when his pessimism fails...

The sun is not only a painter but also a sculpter . He not only illuminates but also shapes our lives...

Smile does not indicate that all is ok. It indicates that I am focussing on what is ok...

The size of our victory depends upon our choice of opponents...

Every time you feel irritated by someone else's irrational behavior, use that energy to correct one of your own...

Absence of problems is usually not a reason for complacency but of worry (cause we might not looking hard enough)...

True Humility is the panacea for most problems...

A thinking man can't be happy with the status quo...

You can either find fault in others or in yourself. Later is a more rewarding exercise...

Most chronic problems are because of untreated problems...

At the right distance, every relationship is sustainable...

Our success is proportional to our ability to self-critique...

Those who don't govern themselves are condemned to find masters to govern them...

If you are afraid that you can be replaced by a computer, you probably will be…

Hatred is a poison that we drink and hope that someone else will die. Advice is an elixir that we give others and hope for our redemption...

If no one hates you it means that you are not principled enough...

The ability to keep a secret is a true test of character...

Every sacrifice is an investment in your own future…

Successful & happy people are on the right side of the 60:40 rule.they give 60 and expect 40

If pick-pockting is a sin, wasting someone else's time is no less

Wisdom is knowing when to work for money,and when to make money work for you..

True wisdom is knowing when might is right and when right is might...

To remain popular, a leader has to make many unpopular decisions.

If you are truthful enough,your words prove to be true

Some deprivation is essential for sustained happiness. We are equally blessed for what we have as for what has been with-held...

Under-confidence is because of over-rating ourself, over-confidence is because of under-rating...

Adulation is like Opium, gives an initial high but results in lasting brain damage...

As per oxford English dictionary the english word with maximum interpretation (430) is set.The honour should go to the word love (interpretations=number of humans ever lived)...