Because we have always done it that way…


Tension is what keeps the plot moving forward. The old Hollywood paradigm of ” set-up, conflict & resolution “. Once the characters get a chance to connect, most of the tension disappears.


Our love affair with the status quo is overwhelming. Ever since meetings became part of business| corporate life, the power dynamics and the hierarchy determined where the head ( person with the most power) would sit, The HIPPO’s( Highest Paid Person’s Opinion) voice has remained the loudest with not much opportunity for the lesser franchised to express their opinion and not much leeway for either new information or new way of thinking to seep in. So much water has flown under the bridge but things remain the same to this day.


Things are not much different with political debates, town halls, fireside chats etc. We have microphones, broadcast TV, social media and live streaming now but the organisers are yet to figure out that they can out a cap on the amount of time allotted for each individual ( or switch off the microphone) and the most boisterous, the obnoxious, the loudest still get away without too much heed for real data and ground reality.

High school and university graduations are no different. You can date back 75 years or more and recognise the same old, same old, rinsed and repeated time and time again. Old wine in old bottle. If thought through well and if the shackles of status quo are to be shrugged off, these occasions can become truly memorable and inspiring moments, but alas, it is not to be. The more things are supposed to change, the more they remain the same.


Weddings and funerals are community events that have hung into the coat tails of the status quo fastidiously- yes, the scale, especially that of weddings- would have changed, but not much else.


Considering that email replaced good old snail mail and had the potential to bring in incredible engagement, not much has changed since we started using it first almost four and a half decades earlier.


Why this obsession with running hard to stand at the same place? Is it herd mentality? Is it wisdom of the crowds? Birds of the same feather flock together? The comfort in being in a SOS( Sea of Sameness)? The inability to get new thinking on board and bridge the chasm? The fear of losing out on well entrenched connections? 


Time to introspect on why we are sticking to something- is it because it works or because we have always done it that way? I suspect, with much regret,it is the latter!

Playing Hard to Get: Hard Technology and ” Captcha Code “


The definition going around is that CAPTCHA helps protect you from spam and password decryption by asking you to complete a simple test that proves you are human and not a computer trying to break into a password protected account.


Almost 40 minutes of my time earlier today was on my bank’s online banking site trying to create a new user name and password( because I had forgotten them- vagaries of old age) and at the end of it I was harshly shunted out saying that I exceeded the number of attempts for the day to write the captcha code shown on the screen. How remiss (human) of me!


Methinks that the idea behind the captcha code is to make things so convoluted and difficult, that you will never get it right in the first few attempts. And it gets some sadistic pleasure at you having failed multiple times. I know there is an audio option as well(other than the image captcha) but who wants the person on the next table hear the emotionless cacophony emanating from a robotic voice.


I’m sure that the team who worked on creating a secure platform for whatever(including the transfer of billions of dollars of transactions) was proud of the hard work they did. As to how hard they made things for the user. So much for user experience. It’s incredibly impersonal.


No, I am not suggesting that you change the access process  to typing in ” the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog”, but make things that you look forward to doing. Like type in the 5 words that make you happy- fun, comedy, laughter, jokes, friends- make it memorable and engaging rather than have a graphical juggernaut that is designed to fail and discourage you. I am not even going into situations where 0 reads like O or vice versa or 1 reads like I. I understand it is a binary world and o and 1 have to be put in their place. I mean literally only.


The same system that is testing whether you are human is completely oblivious of the fact that humanity and technical issues can overlap. To everyone’s benefit.


If the busy but blindered tech guys love throwing curve balls at you, imagine the plight of the differently abled who feel all at sea as they get completely shunted aside by someone deciding for them what is important. First suspect, then with great difficulty, contemplate to respect, albeit condescendingly.


A captcha that doesn’t work, machine learning that claims to but never learns and systems that doesn’t help the people who need them. Technology that is unhelpful, is still very much part of our zeitgeist, unfortunately.


Homework: try reading and filling in the label that is stuck in a remote hard to read and access portion at the bottom of your microwave oven to apply for your warranty online…



The business of busyness !


Let’s admit it unabashedly- we have a lousy track record of how well we spend our time. Though we all realise that our time is worth something, we, creatures of habit, spend it without intention or foolishly.



We wouldn’t admit our kid in a school that has a bad reputation or take our aging parents to a medical facility that is suspect nor would we invest our advertising dollars in media that has sub-optimal reach. But somehow we don’t seem to be even remotely prudent about our time and we measure it to a far lower standard.


We have reconciled to a default wherein seeming busy seems the dominant choice. Be it doom scrolling endlessly on social media or binge watching on OTT or paying far too much attention to the inbox. And considering that today you might be heading a team, going solo on your passion idea or leading a project- time is all that you have to spend. And productivity does not equate with time spent or you being busy. The real measure of productivity is in the value you are creating, the impact you are making or the lives you are changing for the better. The simple question to answer is did I spend my day producing enough benefit for all the time invested?

Productivity is leaning into things that you don’t know. Or delegating a task to someone who knows. Productivity is focusing on the high-output, high impact work and walking away from the low-output, low impact ones. Productivity is making the right connections that energise and trigger.


My only grouse with productivity is that it somehow ignores the seemingly mundane which of course it is not- We now have a packed schedule: washing up, cooking, cleaning, being a sounding board, lending a helping hand, community work, countless video conference calls with people you have ever and never met and at the end of it hiding in bed hoping that history can’t hear you breathing. But this does not unfortunately count for productivity. It has to. People are working harder than ever but a lot of the work does not fall under the traditional sense of the term ‘ productive ‘. They just don’t count on the ledger of human worth because the economy refuses to value them in its reckoning of what does, because most of it has been done in private, by women, for ages, for free. Making breakfast, making the beds, making sure your friends and family aren’t losing their absolute minds is work that matters more than ever and will continue to matter in the coming decades as crisis follows crisis. It is not “productive,” in the way that most of us have learned to understand what that word means, but it is work, and it is really really worthwhile.


There has been always something obscene about the cult of the hustlethe treadmill of alienated insecurity that tells you that the moment you stop running for even an instant, you will be flung flat on your face. Productivity, or the lack of it, has become the individual metric of choice for coping with the international econo-pathological clusterfuck of the Corona Crisis. 


Working is Not Productivity. The message once(and even now) was loud and clear. Relentless self-optimisation was a way to cope, but is it really? Humans are NOT search engines !

Your job is not being busy. Busy is not going to get you what you seek. Busy is not the point. The point is creating value. You get today only once. So would your team. What will you do to make it count?

How’s your ‘gratitude index’?


William Arthur Ward once said, “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”


If this seems like a mid-week pick me up, you may not be wrong.


As we moan and groan about the things and material possessions that we don’t have in this Republic of Not Enough, flip the coin the other way to acknowledge what you have to be grateful for. When in doubt, default to gratitude. There is no better safety net nor a more energising trigger than expressing gratitude.


Gratitude begets more gratitude. It plays on loop and affects all involved positively. The ROG (Return on Gratitude) is immense. It could have been a venture capital’s delight considering the IRR it delivers and its ability to scale.Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity.

Gratitude is not something that you get choosy about, being grateful for only all the good things you have. It is to be grateful for all of life. If you permit me a bit of wandering into stoicism- In the Discourses, Epictetus says, “It is easy to praise providence for anything that may happen if you have two qualities: a complete view of what has actually happened in each instance, and a sense of gratitude.” On the surface, much of what we’re upset about or wish hadn’t occurred is so objectionable that gratitude seems impossible. But if we can zoom out for that more complete view, understanding and appreciation can emerge. First off, you’re alive. That’s the silver lining of every shitty situation and should not be forgotten. But second, everything that has happened and is happening is bringing you to where you are. It’s contributing to the person you have become. And that’s a good thing. This understanding, Epictetus said, helps you see the world in full color—in the color of gratitude.


We have so much to celebrate and feel grateful for especially:


-The magical  people in our lives who give us the unstinted support and boundless love we need to make a difference, without bias or judgement and…

– The opportunity to build something bigger and better than ourselves, something worth contributing to. The ability to make connections, to lend a hand, to invent and create. To lead, to show the way, to care.


Thanksgiving happens in November but you don’t have to wait!


A trap called ” I’ll do it later “


We are hardwired for procrastination. In the toss-up between fight or flight, flight, flight is more often the winner. And since the brain is the laziest organ in the body, unless there is active nudging, deferring decisions is a piece of cake. According overt importance to preserving the status quo- irrespective of whether it is actually a state of impasse that you are creating. Happy not to be countering or addressing the friction and inertia that will actually make things better.


If you are anyone like me, there are a list of things that you wish you had done but did not. Be it a new job that you did not apply for, the book you did not write or the business idea that you did not pitch to anyone. You always had the ” I”ll do it later ” refrain coming in the way and giving up on the opportunity to make your dent in the universe, your chance to discover the greatness resident within you. As a result, we pass up opportunities to level up.


“I’ll do it later.” We’ve all said it, especially when faced with a new challenge or opportunity.Maybe for you, it was a promotion, a chance to lead a project, or a call to step up and make a difference. In the moment, it feels safe and convenient to put it off.


But as time passes, that feeling of unease grows. You realize that “later” is a form of hiding, keeping you stuck in The Gap between where you are and where you want to be.


What sets universe-denters apart from the rest is their willingness to take action, while everyone else is waiting for “later.”


If you want to write but don’t, it keeps you from insisting that people read your mind, understand your gestures and generally guess what you want. The person who most benefits from your writing might be you. And that when it is done NOW, NOT LATER!


You may delay, but time will not.” – Benjamin Franklin


You might put things off but sooner or later everyone sits down to a banquet of consequences. The present is a present. It’s worth extracting from Eckhart Toile‘s seminal classic ” The Power of Now ” where he echoes that only the present moment is real and only the present moment matters, and both an individual’s past and future are created by their thoughts.


See you later?

The discomforting cost of ‘comfort’?


Oftentimes we are reminded, nudged, coerced, reprimanded into going beyond our ‘ comfort zone ‘. A territory where not much is needed to be done and most energy and focus is spent(?) on maintaining the status quo( read being in a state of impasse). Pretending to run to stand at the same place.


While we do that, there are some others who are sticking their neck out, showing up, shipping out and producing work or art or craft that is bringing meaning , joy and comfort in people’s lives. When you see that happen, you feel the cringe of envy, regret and a little part of you feels, “That’s what I could have, would have, and should have done!” Yes, they did it, while you dragged your feet. They fought the inertia, you fell prey to distraction. They made it their calling, their priority, while you procrastinated and told yourself, some day in the near future.


Our response can have two approaches. It has happened, so no need to ruminate over what could have been. You take the easy route of throwing in the towel, of giving up. That chapter of possibility is closed forever.

The other approach can be to galvanise the jealous pain that has found domicile in your mind and heart, separate the wheat from the chaff, say goodbye to distractions, kill your darlings and get down to doing what needs to be done.


Mind you none of that is going to be easy. It takes a lot of time to get things done. And you have to beg, borrow or steal that time from comfort. Which will definitely be uncomfortable and nothing like what you were used to. And there is nothing called instant gratification, a trap that our culture has set us up for. You will begin to question whether it is|was worth it but as you plough along relentlessly, while going through the pain inside, you attain the milestone of finishing and the deep satisfaction that tags along with it.

Ideas are aplenty but ideas without action are regrets.



The world of 2G!


In a world talking about 5G and beyond, I would be sounding hopelessly obsolete with the 2G in the caption.


While the G definitely stands for ‘ generation ‘, I am not referring to any current generation of cell phone network technology. Far from it. The 2Gs that I am referring to are generosity and gratitude.

Generosity creates possibility, connection and energy. Keeps the door open for moving forward, starting and leading conversations. In the process setting up room for exploration, discovery, resolution, innovation, progress.


And 2G is best exemplified as a two way street. When it is met at the receiving end with gratitude. Setting up an environment that is conducive for both the giver and the receiver. Sparking energy, unshackling bottlenecks, bringing the power of reciprocity into the equation. The loop gets more meaningful, rugged, relevant and long lasting.


Status quo and impasse may seem safe domiciles but that is just a myth brought about by fear, reluctance to see | want change and remaining blind to new possibility.


It takes two to tango: generosity and gratitude. They go hand in hand. As William Arthur Ward once said, “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” There is such to be grateful for, we don’t need to wait till Thanksgiving to practice it.



Time to eulogise ‘slack’ ? Doing Nothing is Something to Think About!


If some or many of you consider that I am going off my rocker given the caption above, I don’t blame you. After all, in a culture that literally worships the hustle, equates busy with productivity and the associated chaos around it, who on earth will be actually according ‘ slack ‘ a pride of place?


A study called “Slack Time and Innovation” shows that even companies like Google, 3M and Wella encourage their workers to be innovative besides their strongly innovation-oriented work environments, by providing slack timeAs Paul GrahamY-Combinator founder, wrote: “Microsoft and Facebook both got started in January. At Harvard that is (or was) Reading Period, when students have no classes to attend because they’re supposed to be studying for finals.”



According to award-winning author and innovator Phil McKinneyslack time allows the brain to roam freely, decreases stress, provides an opportunity to refresh, and, ultimately, creates  a better work environment, making people happier and more productive.


Even our rest times are ‘ active rest ‘ at best. You stop work and your idea of rest is listening to a podcast or reading a book or playing the music of your choice, or watching a movie- all of which needs the mind to use its processing power. These are all fun diversions, a way to switch the mind’s tracks without completely stopping its journey. We are never at complete rest- it is almost as if complete rest makes us restless.


Taking time to escape isn’t just a luxury – it’s essential. No need to fill in the blank. Use that time(blank) to think, plan, dream. The Republic of Not Enough that we all are willing | unwilling citizens of, will never let you slack. Because we are deeply buried most of the time in our ledger of lack. It’s ironical to know that our best creations and inventions come during periods of slack not when the mind is furiously occupied(or pre occupied). So is it almost an aberration that there is a productivity tool used by many organisations around the world called Slack?  Probably not. Brilliantly counter intuitive branding.


Listen to the old bray of your heart. Not to the piercing shrill of your mind. “Sometimes sitting and doing nothing is the best thing you can do,” reminds Karen Salmansohn, best selling author of THINK HAPPY.
Only by taking time to think, dream, and plan are we able to discern the essential few from the trivial many in our lives.  


As I conclude I am reminded of a brilliant campaign line of the chocolate brand 5 Star– ” Eat 5 Star, Do Nothing “. Don’t dismiss it as a Sweet Nothing!


How about looking up from our ledger of lack and maintaining a  ledger of slack  ?

Addressing the imbalance


The historic John F Kennedy quote from his inspiring inaugural address goes like this ” Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country”-


There is a cue in it for a lot of us defaulted in the thinking which goes something like this ” what does the world owe us? ” – this question not only is a trap that often goes unheard but comes from a place of unearned entitlement and fans the scarcity fuel.


Probably a better a question to ask would be ” what do I owe to the world ? “, which leads to opening the doors of possibility, exploration, adventure, connections, contribution and onward momentum. Waiting for the world to show us the way, fetch things onto our lap is an endless and futile wait. On the other hand, getting to doing things that leads to contribution is energizing and intrinsically motivating.


This extract from a Marianne Williamson quote sums it up nicely- “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others”.


Yes, we owe it to the world! And that is the way we address the imbalance.

Why are we afraid of a ‘gap year’?


The very term gap year brings with it the potential for instant ostracising. Because, sadly that is how our culture is hardwired- wherein we are trading conformity, compliance, adherence to gaining some kind of stability in return.


Somehow we have all done a terrible job of marketing and branding the gap year. Hence it has an awful name.  It is almost a taboo that you are considering one.


It is that time of the year when millions of students are at the crossroads as they consider getting into universities and colleges. A lot of them take up anything that comes from their way far removed from what they needed or expected. Because they are afraid of breaking the norm, being labelled a quitter, of going against established, accepted practice. And end up spending significant amount of money and time pursuing something sub-optimal.


Why not look at the gap year with a new lens? As an opportunity? To level up, address your curiosity, explore, living(which we are not, as we are merely complying), figuring out where to contribute, how to make things better- in fact all the things that we don’t do when we are just conforming or adhering. In fact, on the contrary, our compliance years are the gap.


And this is applicable not just to college students but as much to other adults. Wherein we are committing our time and resources with intention. If you can afford it, this is a powerful moment to invest in the next chapter of who you are and what you will and can become.


Understandably it is a tough call especially for adults to move away from their freelance dance or from the security of their ‘job’ and tread the path less trodden to become the leader or the creator that you always wanted to become. But for a student, it is actually a great opportunity to disembark from the carousel of conformity and lockstep obedience and actually commit to a path of your own choosing– leverage the freedom of being an amateur. Save up on that sizable tuition money and make it work for you, far, far better.

The duration can be a semester or two or an entire year- wherein you have created the chance to become the best version of yourself, make your dent in the universe and adopt a posture that will remain a permanent asset you have at your disposal rather than fall prey to the diktat of the zeitgeist, the herd mentality.


People like us do things like this. The acute discomfort that you feel is exactly the reason why you should consider a gap year in the first place and spend more time invested in it.