Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Don't be good

My friend Kashish Bhatia is the culprit for this post. The title here is the summary of a two-hour rant we shared a few nights back. The man is a quiet person mostly, but was on fire that day. Try not to take it at face value :-)

We are all taught to be good from childhood. The problem is, in our homes, and in our communities, and in our education systems, we are taught only the things that are wrong or completely useless.

No one teaches us how to negotiate, or how to think in such and such situation, or how to do something constructive instead of wasting time on the internet. 

Additionally, our childhood experience revolved around making people happy. Parents, teachers, coaches, elders, the peer group, you name it. Apparently, even saying "Bye" to visitors is an important thing.

Somewhere along the line, we grow up. And we forget the difference between behaving well and doing things that we like. It is one thing to have a good relationship with your team lead, but it is another thing to miss family and work weekends just because you are an important resource for the team, in your TL's words.

What Kashish "ji" taught me that night is that it is really important to not give a fuck. While arguing with a client, it is worth not quoting down just to win a contract. Shitty work for a shitty price is worse than no work and some stress. Ditto for all professional and personal relationships. Our teachers, elders and seniors are right only as long as they are right. A moment of doubt is a moment of chasing our own intuition rather than what someone else, who most likely has never been in our situation tells us.

The best part about this advice is that it is just like capitalism. At least in theory. You do what you want. You get what you want. If not from your current situation, you do something to change the situation. An important inference is to make sure you don't get into All-Eggs-in-a-Single-Basket situations. I am almost in one right now. Not cool.

The ability to walk away from a situation, no matter how important for you, is the most important thing between your current position and success. And by success, I also mean happiness. If nothing else, it gives you a psychological advantage. I have worked at a place where they made you wear formal clothes. And I was stupid enough to want that job that much. It is atleast worth it to negotiate for better, which I did not do at that time.

This brings us to the next thing: red flags. No matter how tempting at the time, don't touch the following things even with a long stick: workplaces that offer you a fast paced environment, people intent on knowing your past romantic experiences, clients wanting you to offer a low price just this once, and of course, 2 pizzas at the price of 1. The last one is just unhealthy! Feel free to make up your own red flags.

What is more important is that with this way of thinking no one takes anyone else for granted. You don't get in the way of your parents'/children's hobbies, and they don't get in the way of yours. This does not mean you can't have any family time, of course.

As Kashish pointed out, it is important to draw a balance somewhere. It is worth missing football today because your grandmother is having a heart bypass, but not because you need to work for 16 hours. Or, 16 hours is fine if you have been able to negotiate a better situation: more money or compensatory leave later :-)

Here goes down the drain my attempt at keeping blog posts short. But who gives a fuck anymore?

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Cultural Obsessions

I read somewhere on travel.stackexchange that one of the things to do to learn about someone's culture is asking them what their mom used to cook for breakfast. I can't find the link right now.

A much better thing to ask is to ask what a person's culture is obsessive about. For example,

  • Easter Islanders obsessed about building big stone bodies.
  • The Yapese obsessed about stone money.
  • The Indo-Aryans were obsessed about cows.
  • Central Asian tribes in the times of Changez Khan were obsessed with raiding India, China and Persia.
  • Present urban folk in any place are obsessed about vacations :-)

These are just examples. Presently, in the post-modern age of specialization, people are too varied to have cultural obsessions. But this is not entirely true. Abscence of evidence is not evidence of abscence.

That said, if you ever ask someone about any obsession of their culture, make sure you do that tactfully.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

You are a psychologist

Have you ever had to talk your parents into buying you something? Did you need to throw a tantrum? Did you negotiate, saying things like all my friends have [it], or no more [things] for me this year?

Who hasn't made an excuse for a leave at the workplace because their best friend from school was in town? Don't you always try to get off work early on the day of some great sports event? Haven't you seen people wait to drink in office parties, just to let someone else do it first?

Do you tell bad news straight away or wait for some time, or for the right moment? Or do you tell bad news straight away only when it suits the situation? Have you ever sat on good news, except to give someone a surprise?

If the answer to any of the above questions is Yes, then yes, you are a psychologist. You may not want to admit it, but you are one. It is kind of implied in the fact that we humans are social animals. Manipulation is like a knife. We can either use it to make great food, or to cut through a jungle, or, we can use it to kill others. We are all psychologists, but it is upto us how to use this 'gift' of ours.

Monday, December 23, 2013

The problem of the world

The problem of the world is that we humans only see the USP of something.

We only see the one thing that lets us make a decision. And we ignore all else.

We get into the wrong job, shift to the wrong place, move in with the wrong person (not me at least, not yet at least).

We choose a religion, a sports club, a social networking website, a programming language, a political ideology etc. based on one or another USP, and then we stick to it no matter what. I bet at least 1 person is reading this line ONLY because they found the title of this post interesting.

Maybe it is not just humans. Many flowers lure insects by their color. Many female insects lure seduce the males, procreate and then eat them up. Biology has its explanations, but I am not that intelligent :-)

I am not saying that there is something wrong with USPs. Sure something good is needed to get us attracted to something. But that should not result in defamation, bullying, hypocrisy etc. You know,

All this means that if we can get past this USP thing, we can be more knowledgeable and insightful. And this can lead to better decisions and actions. Or at least better retrospection.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Indian journalism issues

 There are 2 problems with our journalism, whether print or electronic. 

Firstly, we need a better standard, which is only possible if we as consumers demand it. A rather famous Hindi newspaper here in Punjab is kind of famous for printing just about anything. 

Secondly, we need better a regulatory environment for the media. 
  1. Ownership should be printed on each newspaper. Currently, as per law, only the name and address of the editor/producer is printed. Many news channels are owned by Maruitious based companies. 
  2. Reports, surveys, exit polls, opinion polls etc. should have mandatory disclosure of methodology, sample size, sample demographics etc.
  3. Paid news should be controlled. Maybe a money amount 'cap' can be set up, under which excessive surcharge can be imposed. For example, if the 'cap' is set at Rs. 100 Crore/day, then any company spending more than this amount on a single news channel should be forced to shell out 10% or 20% of amount exceeding the 'cap.'

We need proactive regulators and not reactive or complaint-based ones like now.
Anything you would like to suggest is welcome.