The daily crossword

Not sure about the virus, but my wife, Kavitha and I have been bitten by the crossword puzzle bug during the pandemic, and it’s got me thinking.

I realized there’s a lot of similarities between solving crosswords and life situations.

Sometimes you go around the puzzle and feel like giving up in 20 seconds- but then all you need is one small break and the words just fall into place. One trick I use is to move on if the word does not immediately strike me …. just move on…. once you solve the other ones, these problem words get solved themselves.

Looking for context is sometimes key – most puzzles have a theme for each puzzle, once you get that, your brain processes words differently. What’s your purpose? What’s your calling?

A quirky add-on these days is using expressions like “aha” or “huh”- whats life without these expressions of wonder to fill up the small 3 letter spaces in our life. Not everything in life should make sense and have meaning … sometimes our situation is just an expression. Learn to smile at your situation.

Getting good at crossword is about being agile and having a curious mind. Learn to have a genuine interest in things beyond your comfort zone or “speciality”. Look around. Experience. Learn.

Contrary to popular belief- Life is not a race you compete with other people. Though most puzzle apps have a clock to track your progress- don’t get too caught up with that. You’ll know it when you’re on a roll and looking at the clock only stresses you out.

Learn to ask for help. I’ve spent sleepless nights thinking of that one word to solve a puzzle. Sometimes in the New York times daily puzzle, many of the associations are with very local stuff- like baseball, or local politicians or geography. When I hit a roadblock and get frustrated- I just finally google it, and I learn something new in the bargain. Sometimes some situations in life are there for your learning- not solving. Don’t stress out- Accept it and learn from every situation.

So… there you have it, these are difficult times and everything looks so complex at first, and anxiety-inducing, don’t give up, try some of the learnings I’ve had and believe me, nothing sets you up in a positive frame of mind than a solving a puzzle. 👍🏽

Dive Deep.

I just heard that you have a higher chance of being attacked by a shark when you are swimming at the surface. Hmm. Remember the poster to “JAWS”, ?

Yes, we live in strange time- short fuses, everyone in masks, trying to be politically right and staying away from one other to ensure we don’t connect with a virus. It’s probably therefore a good time to take a deep breath, say a prayer and dive deeper …. into speaking out and not caring about how other people would react. Dive deeper – when you are unsure if that chocolate cake has too many colories baked in. Dive deeper.

Yet, many of us just think it’s safest when you can see the shoreline and are embracing the familiar.

When we are left with no option but to go “skinny-dipping” in the dark, would you want to be lit up against the afterglow of the harbour lights or slip smoothly into the darkness? For the very beliefs that we sought refuge in under normal conditions are probably the ones that could compromise us during a crisis.

Let go…. leave sight of the shoreline…. and face your deepest fears.

STAY SAFE. DIVE DEEP.

#unsermon

“Stop-loss” and the art of investing in relationships

Life is short and we are all “day traders” looking for bargains on the market- Walking around. Offering our limited time here in exchange for a shot at earning a livelihood, making meaningful relationships and soaking up experiences.

Not surprising then that everyone is out to get the best “return-on-investment”, and the folk who come out winners are the ones who care about “fundamental analysis” of their relationships and don’t look at the market as a big casino where luck and karma play a part.

Okay at the outset, let me put down a disclaimer that I have minimal to no experience dabbling in the stock market, and cannot be termed a “thought leader” in the field by any stretch of imagination, however I’m proud of the strong personal and professional friendships I’ve built over the years and feel I’ve unconsciously used the same principles – and it’s helped.

So without further ado, let’s get familiar with a few trading terms that should get us all on the road to profit booking in our relationships.

Followers of “value investing” believe that a share price should equal the intrinsic value of the target company’s share. This approach can be used to evaluate our investment strategy in relationships too. Many of us (usually the young, who have a long life ahead of them) have a “trader” mindset going into relationships – “Go in. Make a quick “kill”, and exit” ….. others approach relationships with an “investor” mindset and have a longer horizon, spend a lot of time doing “fundamental analysis” to ensure they carry minimum risk and usually are ready to amortize their gains if required over a period of time.

The key to happiness is to have a portfolio of relationships with both a “growth” and “value” horizon balanced out based on your risk appetite.

“Stop-loss”: This refers to an ”Exit” strategy when things don’t seem to be going as planned. All of us have experienced people who follow you when things are going up, but have a low tolerance for tough times and vanish into thin air when they see a faint grey cloud coming around.

Having said that, it’s important to have an “Exit Strategy” for all our investments and not having one will put you in a situation where you jump into a relationship as a “trader”, crank up losses quickly, pump in more good money behind the bad money to bail out (aka:”fallacy of sunken costs”), get stuck, and decide to become an “investor” and hold on to the stock. Look around you- are you stuck with these types of relationship investments?

“Resistance-Support” levels: Look at the data stupid. Its important to evaluate the universal “high-low” bands that is at the core of any investment. What is an acceptable price to pay for getting into that relationship. Are you paying more than you bargained for? It’s okay if you do, just be sure your risk-to-reward ratio makes sense and you are are cautious when there a high probability that you’re going to lose BIG? Step back, take a good look at the data, but trust your instinct. Also be ready to walk away.

Portfolio: Looking at out relationships like stocks and evaluating them periodically is critical to ensure you are successful as a trader and/ or investor. Remember though that investing in relationships should only be part of your “happiness strategy” and make sure you focus equally on your Career, Health, Wealth. Spirituality.

Happy investing!

The ride.

Quarantine learning #14

I’m riding back from the supermarket, decide to take off my helmet, put it on my tank and ride past my home for no particular reason. It turns out to be a 10 kilometre detour straddling the lake close by.

I ride along ….. smiling. nervously. Would I get my knees hurt? Would I be forced to do exercises I haven’t done since school? Would I need to carry a placard showcasing a sentence that hasn’t been spell-checked and created in “Times New Roman”(Bold)- gawd how I hate that font.

The delivery guy rides past- a cloud of mask, orange and broken dreams …. stick figures with kind faces walk past too.

The wind is cool and warm at once…. stray dogs peep out of a dumpster – a pair of human eyes too. “Levelling the curve” means different things to different people.

The smell of fresh sambar from a quarantined home as I ride past makes me nostalgic for chennai – the borders are closed I remember.

Kids on tricycles – make little dust circles on their verandahs like it were vacation. Old folk peep nervously through half closed windows, only to bang it shut when the sound of a distant cough catches their ear through the din of the TV playing inside.

A distant drum beat…. the flickering hope of Diyaas lit on balconies… a chant dispelling the virus …. a bunch of migrant construction workers sitting cross-legged on the steps of their “company-provided” container shed they now call home- staring into the vacant abyss.

I reluctantly take a turn and head back.

The setting sun makes polite conversation with the moon and an evening star, like factory workers changing shifts.

The water in the lake seems blue- but isn’t…. the trees seem green- but are they ?

The eagle is out, doing an extra lap too …. two crows chase a “kuil”, a forked tail tickles their overgrown eye lashes. Damn, these beauty parlours better be classified as “essential services “ and open fast. A sparrow darts past too (hello friend. it’s been a while! ) while a 1000 fireflies pepper my face as I ride past ….

I realize the padding on the seat of my bike could be a tad more forgiving. My pants do a small “wiggle” and all’s fine. Life’s all about making those little adjustments.

If there’s one thing that I could take away for this period of quarantine – it’s to be more “aware” and conscious of the little, simple things around me that makes life what it is… things till now I’ve probably taken for granted… things we are too busy to notice ….

I hum an old tune – “ Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans” …. the eagle sits majestically – pool side on the terrace of our apartment.

I am home!

Life-hacks from a dog named max.

It’s been 3 years to the day since we lost Max, a special member of our family for 10 years. When the little guy first entered our lives as a gift for our son Nischinths 10th birthday, little did we know that he would transform our lives so much. While we taught him small things like sit, stay, fetch, etc…. he taught us virtues like patience, authenticity, contentment, enthusiasm, joyfullness, etc. MAX GAVE EVERYONE A CHANCE unlike many of us he didn’t differentiate between the milk man, maid or our friends circle. Everyone got his attention and was made to feel special. MAX GAVE EVERYTHING A TRY ONCE – If he liked it; yes he’d go with it, else he’ll just move on. MAX LIVED IN THE MOMENT – He enjoyed a ride in the autorickshaws. We mostly took him in one when we went for his checkups to the best vet I’ve know #theark. He knew there could be some stress at the end of the ride, which sometime ended with an injection or having a thermometer shoved up his ass- but that didn’t deter him from enjoying the ride to the vet. He was a guy who if you told him there was a pot if gold at the end of the rainbow, would have said “f#€# the pot of gold, I’m going to sit here and enjoy watching the rainbow.”. MAX MOVED ON HAPPILY from people who didn’t warm up to him. He gave people time, and space and had no hard feelings if they weren’t “dog people”. He also enthusiastically accepted people back when they felt comfortable and came back. Max may have left us, but we’re happy that he came into out lives and changed us forever. Travel well my friend. Travel far. RIP. … and Shine on you crazy diamond.

Cats, “Karma” and sailboats

This week, I celebrated successfully spinning round the sun another time. Yes just sitting on a rock hurtling through space at 460 meters per second…. or roughly 1000 miles an hour for over 50 years now- enough time to unravel such stuff as Cat motivations and Karma.

Okay now that we’ve got that one out of the way, let’s look at debugging the purpose of life. Surprise! Surprise- life has as much meaning to it as a cat chasing after laser dots. We seem to catch it on some luck day- only to stare blankly at our palms, shake our heads and go – “nope, no meaning here!”

And so along with the realization that none of us are going to leave this rock alive, why get worked up, frustrated, depressed … at people … at the innumerable “what if’s” and “if only’s” from the past that cloud our thoughts in an endless loop.

Lets agree in the new decade that’s rolled in that “happiness” is just a consequence of accepting the choices we made and not feeling nostalgic for the life that never unfolded … and while we’re at it- let’s agree also that “karma” is just as real as a gentle wind that moves our sail boats. We could acknowledge it’s presence, but don’t need to accept the course of its machinations anymore- ‘Cause who goes on sail boats these days anyways? A word of caution though- karma will get you if you sit on your ass and don’t take ownership for your own destiny.

Mankind has proved time and again that we could, by the magic of our imagination and resourcefulness build ships that can drive our lives against these winds of karmas and help us gain full control of our own destiny …. and while we’re at it, may I suggest we stop mocking cats for their stubbornness!

“The Solomon Paradox”

My son just hauled a nice Taylor guitar 13k kilometres on a flight for me and I’ve made a vow to play everyday this year.

I’ve realized a simple hack to ensure you or your kids play more everyday, is to keep the instrument open in the living area of your homes, so you’re passing it a 100 times everyday and since it’s out of its case, tuned and easily accessible – you’ll instinctively pick it up and play a bit. I’ve also realized that if you have the instrument in a case under your bed – chances are you’ll not play it as often.

With the year still new and shining, I think it would be worthwhile to assess the toxic people and negative emotions we’ve allowed to slowly garner prime real estate in the space just around us – our “inner circle” as it were – Because the things we keep most accessible are the things that finally influences and defines who we truly become.

I’ve realized also that Facebook is a great tool to get social, but with artificial intelligence now inbuilt- it’s a “Trojan horse” that has the capability to creep into our little personal spaces and rearrange the furniture – bring into focus or take to the background ideas, thoughts, people and emotions seamlessly, which influences our emotions and values system dramatically. The trick to beat Facebook AI though is “karma”- yes, as we start posting positive stuff, Facebook machine learning gets tricked to sending us the good stuff …. and we continue to use whatsapp to wash the dirty linen. 👋😂

As for me I’m going to address the “Solomon paradox” within me- talk to myself in the third person and Try and use the advise I give others myself. 🤔🤨🙄

Breaking Wind

So then, when you decide to do the 12 hour drive from Trivandrum on the west coast of India to chennai on the southern coast Like I did yesterday – the most common route is to drive further south around the western ghats, touch the coastal town of nagerkoil at the southern tip of india, take a sharp U turn and go up the southern coast of india.

It’s difficult not to get totally immersed in the beauty of this little patch, however this point is probably what some may call the right place for a dangerous “perfect storm” – seas on 3 sides and a mountain range (western ghats) cutting through. But then you pass the town of “Muppandal”, in Tamilnadu, which was till recently just another impoverished, but beautiful, little southern coastal town, and you pass giant wind turbines now and realize someone had a brilliant brainwave and flipped the context – These are the perfect conditions to harness the seasonal monsoon winds blowing from the Arabian Sea and gushing through the mountain passes, and set up what is today the second largest onshore wind farm In the world. This stroke of genius has brought in jobs and turned the fortunes of all the people in “muppandal”.

In life we sometimes find ourselves in a “Muppandal-like” situation- when

everything seems to be going down and the winds seem perennial, so

much so that some even call it “being cornered between the devil and the deep blue sea”. But we have an option- either accept our “fate”, wallow in self-pity and go down the path of personal ruin…. or with a little rejigging of the context of our situation, we can build ourselves a wind turbine and harness the innate advantages of the unfortunate circumstances we find ourselves in- that nervous energy, that freedom to take risks because you have nothing else to lose, that anger, that realization that theres nowhere else to go- but up, and turn your life around.

Remember what they taught you about the “eye of the storm”… well let me tell

you- they got it wrong – it’s the “i” in the storm. Infact most storms start with the “i”- Address the ego (I) that probably started it all in the first place, and is now also stopping you from turning your situation around and living a better life and get to work.

Your choice!

Vegetable soup for the biker soul.

“So what’s your purpose?”

It was the end of a long offsite and the boss asked this of each of the leadership staff round the table a couple of months back.

Hmmm, It’s a tough one actually and most folk at the first instance mix up “passion” with “purpose”, however knowing the subtle difference between the two is key to making critical life and career decisions, and so I’ll try and deconstruct it here.

Let’s start with a confession- most of us parents at some point encouraged our kids to “follow your passion beta”, so they wouldn’t have to “work” a single day. Great advise right? Hmmm. Not actually…. Infact it’s probably a shitty career advise to give a pimply teenager- unless you’re setting your kids up for short- term happiness, and not for long-term success exactly.

Firstly, not everyone is an enlightened being who knows his/ her “true” passion- which unfortunately ebbs and flows for us mere mortals at different points in life, and so probably not a valid parameter to make a career decision on … also it doesn’t always guarantee a vocation or decent livelihood. I’ve seen a lot of brilliant musicians, artists who pursued a passion they loved doing and deeply enjoyed, only to end up leading a life of compromise, and heartache trying to make a decent living.

Okay let me explain with some biking analogies.

There are two key elements in creating energy in a bike or any motor vehicle for that matter – “ignition” and “combustion”. When the spark that ignites you comes from within you and motivates you to drop everything and pursue this dream selfishly- it’s “passion”. If however that spark comes from an external source, like a persona, or a life changing event, etc, it’s called “inspiration”

One thing we all can agree on- Life is dull without passions and it is an emotion that lights you up like a Christmas tree, gives you goosebumps, and makes you feel alive when you find it. It could be anything – music, sport, art, etc. Passion however is focussed inward on the individual, and like a spark – is temporary, directionless, selfish, full of emotion and if left unattended can actually be ‘effing dangerous.

If you are a biker – you’ll get the subtle difference – “Passion” is ignited at the spark plug, and “Purpose” happens at the carburetor.

Hold that thought for a moment …

So then, when your “little munchkin” says “I loooooove playing cricket” while stuffing his face with another slice of cheese pizza- it doesn’t actually qualify as “passion”.

Remember that the little spark that ignited at the spark plug on the engine side needs to be powerful enough to take that “leap of faith” across the firing ends and make contact with the air and fuel mixture, to really matter. If it doesn’t- it’s just “infatuation”., and the role of parents and teachers is to provide the kid enough space to explore his interests and gauge which one of those is powerful enough to do that “leap of faith”….

Don’t get me wrong- Passion is important and ignites big things in life…. but to make things happen continuously over a prolonged period, a “controlled combustion” is critical, and THATs where “Purpose” comes in.

(TA-DA) ….. The carburetor …The role of a carburetor on a vehicle is simple- control the air and the fuel mixture to ensure a “controlled combustion” and this is all done within the confines of what’s called a carburetor and in this context – Purpose.

When you ensure you have the right motivations, talent and skill and put in the effort required- with a little patience, the magic happens and the engine purrs to life.

Exactly how much fuel and air an engine needs varies from moment to moment, depending on how long it’s been running, how fast you’re going, and a variety of other factors.

So what is “Purpose” and how do we know what our purpose in life is?

A layman’s guide to understanding his/ her “purpose” in life is finding a convincing answer to the simple question – what would I rather be doing to change the world in a small way and bring meaning to my life, if I had no need to earn a living? Mere Mortals often chase after “passions”, super heroes however are motivated by a larger than life “purpose”.

So then, understanding the underlying “why” we want to do the things we want to do is probably a great starting point to analyze the inner motivations, unconscious needs and purpose we aim to fulfil in pursuit of happiness.

Sure your kid is passionate about cricket and wants to drop out of school (atta-boy) and join a cricket academy after watching the latest edition of the cricket league. However before you sell off your home and pull “beta” out of school, try asking the important questions. Does this cheetos-eating, coke-drinking, CSK- tee-shirt-wearing, chubby guy REALLY have the skills and staying power to compete at the highest level – Or are his motivations only driven by the desire to sport “bling” and be entertained by fan girls ? I’d suggest you seriously consider a plan B if you’re blinking at this point ….

… and finally, life is all about balance – and following your passion within the context of your purpose is probably the right direction to take to ensure fulfilment of your true potential, becoming a success in any career you choose to pursue and living a fulfilled life.

Now …. don’t quote me in on any of the above, Its not like I’ve attained nirvana- I’m just another traveller on the open road

Ride hard. Ride safe!