Thanks!

Thanks for trying so hard.

I know it’s not easy for you too.

And you have been trying different ways

to make me feel at ease

to lend your ears even when I keep mum

to say you are there for me, but also

to know when not to speak

to be a friend when it’s most difficult to be

to care beyond your duties

Oh I was so blind to the world

I couldn’t see you trying so hard

to balance my grief with your kindness

I cannot pretend it didn’t work

‘Cause it did!

Today I smile because of people like you!

But I never got to thank you!

So, here you go!

Big fat thank you!

Priyanka, Madhura, Nirav, Siji, Prasanth, Nithya, Pari, Aishu, Nivas and Jayashree. Love you folks!

Featured Image Courtesy: Idealistcareers

 

p.s: here are a few more thank yous for the days to come 😉 I am not going to pretend it’s over yet!

Thanks! Thanks! Thanks!

 

Love,

Apu

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When you decide to read a 100 books…

A lot of things change…

Just a quick background. I have been reading for about 10 years now. It’s been on and off for the first couple of years. But for the last couple of years I have tried to read consistently. My reading habit started with Harry Potter. And Harry Potter started because my brother couldn’t shut up about that book and kept throwing it on my face to read it.  In my mid-teens reading became a hobby. Then it transformed in to a habit. When it did, I wanted to consume more. So found out ways to consume more (read faster). I learnt about speed reading touched about 450wpm (after practising for a week then because of some circumstances, couldn’t read for about 3-4 months and lost my speed (hovering around 300wpm). Tried photo-reading, failed miserably.

And now..

I read a lot of books without knowing how to read. Of course, from time to time, I come across an article about how to read. But it never was “that” important to me. But, things changed this year.

A friend of mine took up this audacious challenge.

And he invited me.

Well, that’s it. I couldn’t say no.

I initially planned to read just 20. Having failed my previous year’s goal. But, I forced myself to accept it.

But 100 books is a lot. A lot.

What do I do with reading so many books. I know, books aren’t bad. But what do you get out of reading 100 books. Is 100 just a number? Or is it a journey? What is the purpose? What do I get from this? Definitely it is a great opportunity to learn about a lot of things including time management, planning, a topic, self-awareness etc.

But reading 100 books is not usual (to my standards at least) or easy and so it requires a different level of preparation and execution. For that, I needed to get to basics – about myself and about reading.

In order to plan the books, I needed to know more about myself – in terms of my goals, the topics I would like to master, my interests, my moods, etc. This will help me to choose book I need to read. But most importantly, it will save me a lot of time by making sure I don’t pick the wrong books.

I need to know more about reading it self. So, I spent a couple of hours browsing through thought leaders I follow and the kind of books they read and how they read. I found that reading essentially has two parts – reading and comprehending.

Reading

There are four types of reading.

  1. Elementary – The basic type. The way we have been taught to read in our school. Usually answers the question – What does this sentence say.
  2. Inspectional – Superficial or skimming. You consume a lot, but you retain very less. You can read about the two styles here. [This is my style till now].
  3. Analytical – Very similar to say your college texts. You have to read the book, understand the point it is trying to make. Outline the major topics, make notes, connect the chapters and identify the significance of the book. This takes a lot of time.
  4. Synoptical  – This the ultimate. Take a topic, read a lot of books under it, connect or contrast the ideas shared in the books and understand the unwritten.

Comprehending.

There is where your reading starts being useful. You start to assimilate information, ideas and principles. There is a famous pen and paper method  called Feynman Technique, named after the Physicst, Richard Feynman.

  1. Choose a topic
  2. Write it in such a way that you are teaching it to a 5 year old (use your own words, not the one in the book that you just read)
  3. If you get stuck, go back to the book
  4. Use a simple language.

The video explains this concept the best:

It’s also a good idea to have a commonplace note book to collect all the passages that you find relevant, make note of ideas and arguments that come up and get back to it after a week just to push the information to the permanent memory.

I just recently discovered another aspect of reading  which I feel is probably the most important aspect of reading. I call it creating.

Creating.

Many of us think that reading is not a creative process like drawing, painting or writing. But, I beg to disagree.  I am sure you will agree that, no two book readings are the same. Even though you read Harry Potter for the 10th time, it is not the same experience. We are constantly creating new neural connections every time we come across new information or old information in a different context. We create new connections and one day it solidifies in to a new idea. And David Quammen rightly puts in in his book about Darwin, The Reluctant Mr. Darwin,

One of Darwin’s great strengths as a scientist was also, in some ways, a disadvantage: his extraordinary breadth of curiosity. From his study at Down House he ranged widely and greedily, in his constant search for data, across distances (by letter) and scientific fields. He read eclectically and kept notes like a pack rat. Over the years he collected an enormous quantity of interconnected facts. He looked for patterns but was intrigued equally by exceptions to the patterns, and exceptions to the exceptions. He tested his ideas against complicated groups of organisms with complicated stories, such as the barnacles, the orchids, the social insects, the primroses, and the hominids.

Found sited in Farnam Street

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Artist: Daniel Lei (Source: All Things Paper)

I think, this will probably the ultimate goal to become an effective thinker, as Shane (Farnamstreet blog) puts it. Wouldn’t you agree?

Now that we have covered the foundation. Let us lay it up with books of course.

I usually pick a couple of books at a time and keep switching between them unless they are of same topic (which usually, isn’t the case). Otherwise, I pick a book and finish in a couple of days. On an average I take about 5-7 days to finish a book.

But, this time, you know it’s quite different, I want to use my reading to

  1. Improve a skill (or knowledge)
  2. Make Idea babies
  3. Simply have fun

In order to achieve these goals, I have segregated books in to four categories.

  1. Fillers – Novels – specifically pulp fiction which I enjoy the most.
  2. Topic – To improve one skill related to my full time job
  3. People – I love reading biographies. They are my constant motivation and something I always get back to.
  4. Business – My love for business is the only reason the reading habit has sustained for so long. It will cover wide range of topics from behaviour to finance to habits
  5. Misc – My passion for science, running, philosophy and cycling explored.
  6. Do – Finally, those motivational books that get me going through not-so-good times.

So, What’s your reading goal this year?  What’s been your experience so far?

Featured Image Source: whytoread

Blank Space

—Added the following on Jan 5th,2016—

I couldn’t help but add the following piece to the post. It was too precious to stay in the comments section. Especially at a time like this when you realize kids are  indeed wiser than us – the “adults”. Here is what some of my cousins have written about Vishnu. Truly Amazing.

Badri Srinivasan, Youngest Cousin

When Darkness take-over and
There is only one little ray of hope
I want to cling on to this ray of hope
which are the sweetest memories I had with you

To my dear Vishnu
V – Vivid
I – Intelligent
S – Super Cutie
H – Hilarious
N – Nice
U – Ultimate

Ananth Srinivasan, his elder brother

As the clock ticks on, I realise
Every precious second I spent with you counts like a life-time,
While I breathe in that fragrance of the past,
It dawns on me that, though as humans we have accomplished a lot
and in many ways, we have done the extreme,
But one thing we haven’t conquered is ‘time’ and I sincerely wish we have done that too

When you were with us we were in cloud nine and
Now while the dark clouds are looming large
I am optimistic that a silver lining will emerge

It has not been that easy to move on by shedding tears
Or by crying my heart out because I know
It’s impossible to bring you back
But I know it’s possible to hope for a better future,
Filled with your joyous memories

They tell us to embrace the positive feelings,
But is it that easy to control your emotions when a Hulk is threatening to break out of its cage?
Unlike the fire that died out in my poem, hope and memories never die out,
I hate sad endings so all that I can say for now is:
Good luck on your new journey!

 

Raghav, Cousin brother

he will be born again
first as a butterfly then as a cow and as a baby…

Thank you guys! It’s been such an honor for me to have such amazing guys like you as brothers! No matter the age, you have shown true wisdom earned my respect!

——

Blank Space – Unedited version: Dedicated to my brother and the lives he touched.

As the sadness fills your heart

You look for that tiny ray of hope to hold on to

to cherish and to celebrate the life that was*

At first sight, all you see is darkness

You almost believe that it’s impossible to recover

You feel as if the whole world is on your head

And you cannot stand on your feet any more

The mind refuses to be tamed

The whole world seems to be one big joke

So lame and  so stupid

Like machines have suddenly invaded the planet

Lifeless and loveless

And it almost feels like the end

The end only because, the dear protagonist** is no more.

You don’t expect it, but then the story goes on

In the midst of the hopelessness, you find a tiny spark

At the first sight, it seems ridiculous

You question the whole existence

The Whys the hows and Why nots

A wave of silence gets past you

Feeling dumbfound, you search for answers within

The-what-could’ve-beens  and the-what-ifs transform

in to what-was

You take the first step  – accept

And you find a tiny bit of relief there

But you are still filled with the grief (mounting by the minute)

As if the Death Star*** just destroyed one whole planet

A huge emptiness to fill

Then you take the next step consciously

To celebrate the life that was

The moments that were priceless

The memories that were created

The unwritten songs sing in your head

The untold stories flash in front of you

As if it were real

And you suddenly feel the warmth binding you to the present

You feel whole, light and bright

The experience flips 180 degrees

You cannot but celebrate

You cannot but rejoice

You cannot but cherish

The moments

The love

The life

And you know and you feel

The story is now yours to write!

Where do you wanna start?

 

*of my brother

** From one of my brother’s quotes

Some of the best pieces of work is created when a writer chooses to kill of their dear protagonists.
Here’s to all the characters who v will never see and the writers who ve had the nerve to kill their creations!!

*** StarWars Reference – the last movie he saw on this planet.

 

Passion and Life

I got a very interesting forward from a friend yesterday. I loved it so much that, I have read it more than 20 times in the last 12 hours. I did a little bit of digging and found one more interesting post by the same person (Justine Musk). Both of which inspired (will continue to inspire) me. I hope it does the same to you!

Will I become a billionaire if I am determined to be one and put in the necessary work required?

No.

One of the many qualities that separate self-made billionaires from the rest of us is their ability to ask the right questions.

This is not the right question.

(Which is not to say it’s a bad question. It just won’t get that deep part of your mind working to help you — mulling things over when you think you’re thinking about something else — sending up flares of insight.)

You’re determined. So what? You haven’t been racing naked through shark-infested waters yet. Will you be just as determined when you wash up on some deserted island, disoriented and bloody and ragged and beaten and staring into the horizon with no sign of rescue?

We live in a culture that celebrates determination and hard work, but understand: these are the qualities that keep you in the game after most everybody else has left, or until somebody bigger and stronger picks you up and hurls you back out to sea. Determination and hard work are necessary, yes, but they are the minimum requirements. As in: the bare minimum.

A lot of people work extremely hard and through no fault of their own — bad luck, the wrong environment, unfortunate circumstances — struggle to survive.

How can you *leverage* your time and your work?

Shift your focus away from what you want (a billion dollars) and get deeply, intensely curious about what the world wants and needs. Ask yourself what you have the potential to offer that is so unique and compelling and helpful that no computer could replace you, no one could outsource you, no one could steal your product and make it better and then club you into oblivion (not literally). Then develop that potential. Choose one thing and become a master of it.  Choose a second thing and become a master of that.  When you become a master of two worlds (say, engineering and business), you can bring them together in a way that will a) introduce hot ideas to each other, so they can have idea sex and make idea babies that no one has seen before and b) create a competitive advantage because you can move between worlds, speak both languages, connect the tribes, mash the elements to spark fresh creative insight until you wake up with the epiphany that changes your life.

The world doesn’t throw a billion dollars at a person because the person wants it or works so hard they feel they deserve it. (The world does not care what you want or deserve.)  The world gives you money in exchange for something it perceives to be of equal or greater value: something that transforms an aspect of the culture, reworks a familiar story or introduces a new one, alters the way people think about the category and make use of it in daily life. There is no roadmap, no blueprint for this; a lot of people will give you a lot of advice, and most of it will be bad, and a lot of it will be good and sound but you’ll have to figure out how it doesn’t apply to you because you’re coming from an unexpected angle. And you’ll be doing it alone, until you develop the charisma and credibility to attract the talent you need to come with you.

Have courage. (You will need it.)

And good luck.  (You’ll need that too.)

What should I do to find my passion?

The problem is that we’ve lost any real sense of what ‘passion’ means.

It’s not what gives you bliss or makes you happy 24/7, but what you’re willing to suffer for — what you genuinely believe to be worth the sacrifice.

The next time you feel energized and strong and like the best version of yourself — the you that you wish you could be all the time — pay attention to what you’re doing *in that moment*.  Write it down. Do this for as long as it takes until you see a pattern emerging. It won’t necessarily be the activities themselves — but they will have something in common. Look into them and behind them until you find what dramatists call a throughline: the essence of what you’re good at and what drives you.

I spent most of my lifetime thinking that my passion is for writing, and for fiction in particular. But when I stepped back a bit and considered the other activities that light me up and make me feel a sense of wholeness (including my love of social media!), I realized that my passion is for emotional resonance, be it with a friend or spouse or audience or even the culture in general. I like moving into that sweetspot where something in my inner life overlaps with another consciousness, including a kind of group consciousness. That might sound like I should be lighting sticks of incense and showing off my dreamcatcher collection, but it is the *best* feeling. Writing is my main expression of that, but when I find ways to bring it into other areas of my life, I am a happy (happier) woman.

We confuse the activity with the value behind the activity. It’s the value that compels us — and which we can transfer to paid-income work in a way that changes lives (and the industry itself).

What Steve Jobs was passionate about was not computers per se, any more than it was calligraphy or Japanese gardening. It was simplicity*. He made it his obsession and his art. He introduced it to an industry that, as far as it was concerned, was doing just fine without it.

Simplicity drove the Apple identity: the strategy, the products and marketing and branding, the PowerPoint presentations. Simplicity enabled a computer company to connect with mass culture on a deep, emotional level, when Jobs himself was not exactly Oprah (even if he also made people teary-eyed).

Jobs brought it home just as fiercely: the complications of a couch, for example. His living room didn’t require one.

Passion matters — given that you’re likely to spend more time being deeply, truly involved with work that energizes you instead of depletes you — or makes you want to stab your eyes out with your boss’s mont blanc pen.

When you can put in real, focused, quality time, you’re a lot more efficient and can maybe also have a life. Imagine that. 🙂

 

The replies to the questions (#1 & #2) only suggest the amount of clarity the person has on microscopic aspects of human mind and spirit. It surely comes with a lot of experience with failure (& success) and borrowing ideas and ideologies from the greats (books and interactions) ! I can’t wait to suffer (be passionate about something). If I could get a wee bit closer to the kind of wisdom Justine Musk has shown in just a couple of paragraphs, I would deem any effort worth it! 🙂 The ultimate goal, which I was thinking till now would be defined by numbers (income) has already begun its transformation in to something much much more better!  Thanks for inspiring Elon Musk &  Justine Musk and thanks Mallik for sharing it! 

 

Featured Image Source: Bloomberg

2014 A Year In Review

This Post was supposed to be written on Dec 31,2014. As the deadline approached, my need for celebrating the “moment” took over the need to look back at some of the great things that happened to me! So, I thought I will write it on Jan 1st. But, as you might have guessed already, I was too tired of the “madness” on the 31st to even think about writing a blog post. And I chose to write it yesterday despite having too many deadlines today!

The reason I just blurted out so very much is that, I have finally come in terms with my priorities (for now) and blogging is not the last! 🙂 Without any delay.. here are some of the best things that happened to me in 2014:

1. Cycle (Duh!)

2. Books – I wouldn’t have thought I would read 56 books in a year. Though it is not a magnificent number, I am proud to have become the person who picks up books every single week. In fact, just in first couple of months I started allocating time to read books! My love for non-fiction esp. business books just increased by this much (this is where you visualize me stretching my arms right out trying to hug the two poles).

3. Business School – Joining one has been great experience so far. Though I am yet to transform in to a butterfly, but I can crawl. That is, I am making a progress – moving forward. For that I am grateful!

4. Death – Still the best reminder of life. A couple of my friends lost their dear ones. Just a blink of an eye, the one who was once yours to love is no more. I could never come in terms with death. But, it just reminds me that every single moment I breath, I must do something to make a difference – a small smile, a thank you, a please..! It’s that small things that change the (your) world!

5. It’s Ok – Just means, It’s ok. For me, a lesson larger than life!

There are so many new people who came in to my life and influenced the way I think, the way I behave (in a good way). I would like to take a moment to thank every one for being there!

Said that, Past is not always about good things, but what you learn from the not-so-good things

1. Quality > Quantity – Reading one book per week wasn’t tough. Tough thing was remembering them. I read so many good books, but thanks to my visual memory, I barely remember a few lines or sentences about them. This year, I am planning to focus on quality. So, reduced my goals to just 40 and a wider variety – not just fiction and business books but travel books and poetry as well.

2. Systems – Building systems not just goals. Like exercising every day (or 3 days a week) to have better health. Fast once in 15 days. etc etc. Which I have slowly incorporated last year itself. 🙂 But looking forward to more and better ones this year.

3. Focus on energy (breath)

2015…. My only resolution.. 🙂

To publish a post every week (that means, a lot of crap coming your way)!

Have a wonnnnnderfullll New Year! 😀

Leaving you with a dialogue from my favorite book and movie – The Hobbit.

I Am Going on a Adventure!
I am going on a Adventureeee! –  Bilbo Baggins

Dimensions of femininity

… The title was meant to scare the narcissists and nothing more!

Most of the times in B-schools the lessons are learnt outside the class. But for a change, not often, professors surprise us with a different experience.

The other day in a session on “Organizational Behavior” we were asked to list down the names of leaders we admired. We were 60 in the class and we could hear a lot of names – “Tata” “Murthy” “Premji” “Mandela”, “Steve Jobs”, “Bill Gates”… And it went on for 5 minutes before the prof asked us to stop. Sadly, Mark Zuckerberg didn’t make it to the list. While we were calling out the names, he wrote them on the board. But the surprising part was – when we were done – he point out an observation. That startled me more than anybody else.

There was not a single woman’s name.

Sure, now that he pointed out. I could name a few. But that it still wasn’t an instinctive response! Being slight tilted towards “Feminism”, I started to question my belief. But being a human, I liked to blame others. So, I questioned the society itself.

In one other occasion, we were asked to list down swear words. This time our class was pretty vocal. Given that, nobody will get a chance to show their prowess, people stretched their imagination and came up with “quite a lot” of swear words and phrases. Again after 5 minutes of so called “brain-storming” our professor stopped and asked us to take a look at the list. And asked the question.

How many of these were intended towards women?

More than 75% were. Again. I was stumped.

I questioned the society. Again. It’s they who imposed these words on us. It’s the society who didn’t do enough “branding” on feminism. In fact, they did the reverse and made the word “feminist” a taboo. “I am not to be blamed. I am not.” said the voice in my head.

As I retracted my defense shields, I realized the mistake was mine as much as it was the society’s.

I recently read a book called “Lean in” by Shreyl Sandberg. I couldn’t stop talking about it to my female friends. Yet, I haven’t told a single male friend about it.

I don’t send my female friends in an auto without the company of a male friend.

I tell my male friends that I can’t come to the party because I am sick but in reality I have menstrual cramps.

I still use the phrase “man up”.

I still wait for the guy to take me out. When I could call the shots myself!

I still would like to call “Steve Jobs” my idol even though I secretly worship Sara Blakely!

I watch ATP world tour more than WTA world tour.

….

….

The list goes on.

So, here I ask myself the question. Am I a feminist? Or is it just a label?

There are so many things that goes unnoticed that forms our behavior in the most subtlest forms. Though I am knowledgeable enough to tell the difference between right and wrong, the behavior is so instinctive that I didn’t have to tell the difference.

Yet this makes all the difference.

A feminist is anyone who recognizes the equality and full humanity of women and men
She couldn’t be more right.

What am I calling out for? I don’t know. But I know, whatever that is right now is not right.