A perfectly normal life – Part I

What’s missing in her life, mused Sheila. By all accounts her life was as normal as it could possibly be. She had a decently paying marketing job that a lot of her friends envied. Her projects were moderately challenging, work hours reasonable and she even had a cab assigned from office that dropped her back to home daily. As an external observer, you couldn’t spot anything dissatisfying about such a life. Yet, right now, staring blankly at her empty inbox and sipping a mildly fragrant coffee in a cheap, plastic cup, Sheila felt uneasy and out of place.

coffee

After being in a relationship for five years, she had recently married Ajay, a software engineer with Microsoft. It was an elaborate Punjabi ceremony and many relatives and friends attended the wedding; some had come from as far away as Singapore and Dubai. Wedding was a monumental event in her life and she has fresh, sweet memories of it.… Read the rest

That thing we call happiness

What’s the goal of life? Every one of us is an expert at answering this innocuous question. Some say life is all about compassion for other beings; some say it is about achieving greatness; some say it is about being a good father/mother/brother/sister, and yet some (like me) say there’s no goal in life and it is inherently meaningless. Who’s right, who’s wrong? We can do an endless debate about it, yet people’s opinion about what life is about seldom change. Opinions on life are not formed on an intellectual level, rather they arise from within and then we search for its justification.

smile

No matter how much we disagree about meaning (or lack of it) in life, there’s one obvious fundamental fact that everyone will agree with. It’s almost a tautology, but while we’re alive, we exist, and this existence should rather be pleasant than be disgusting. So, every one of us in our respective ways, seek to be happy.… Read the rest

On (not) having heros in life

Having heros is a dangerous habit. If you have a hero, expect to be disappointed and disillusioned when you discover they don’t approve of your interpretation of them. Your world will shatter when the hero that you respected so highly shrugs you and your ways off. You will then be forced to think: “how could my hero reject me, a person who is obviously shaped by the very same hero’s ideas and ways?“.

Suppose I respect Steve Jobs. Suppose he’s my hero; an ideal that I want to be. Obviously, I will try to emulate him and his ways. I will try developing my own point of view based on his thoughts. He likes simplicity, so I like simplicity. He likes good design, so I like good design. He can be ruthless and direct with other people, so I too should do the same. I’m in awe, and he is perfect.… Read the rest

It’s OK to disagree in a face-to-face conversation

We have casual face-to-face (and telephonic) conversations everyday. We chat with our friends, discuss latest gossip with colleagues and sometimes also strike up conversations with strangers while waiting for a bus or something. I have observed that in such casual conversations most people (impulsively) tend to agree with each other, no matter what is being discussed. For example, imagine this conversation: I meet my cousin at a family function and I bring up my love for Goa as a vacation spot. Irrespective of his own opinions, my cousin is likely to respond in this manner: “Yes, it is really a fun destination”. For all I know, he may have hated his experience in Goa last time, but because of unsaid conventions, most conversations enter into mutual appreciation mode. I agree to what you say, and you agree to what I say.

Why do people have affirmative casual conversations?

Because agreeing is much less riskier than disagreeing.… Read the rest

Why do people fall in love with nostalgic past?

We all know that feeling when the past seems beautiful and there is an uncontrollable longing to belong to a time that has already passed. Most of us romance our carefree childhood and want to relive those special moments every now and then. Artists amongst us want to live in the ages when Picasso and Dali were creating their masterpieces. Present day scientists wish to witness the years when Einstein, Darwin or Newton were just about to change the Zeitgeist forever. And, don’t writers today pine for the times when George Orwell or Shakespeare produced one great work after the other? We entrepreneurs in computer/technology space, how much we fancy times when PC industry was coming to an age with Bill Gates’s BASIC and Steve Jobs’ Apple II.

Albert Einstein is probably bored (or ill)

When we witness a past age through a historical movie or a biography, it all comes vividly alive in our imagination and then we fantasize about what it must have been to live in those times.… Read the rest

Defying parents is mark of a thinking man

Remember your childhood? Those were the times when on a cool, breezy, slightly-sunny morning, you blissfully played on freshly dewed grass. You threw your sandals away, and while your eyes darted everywhere around, you ran barefoot, feeling small yet sweet pangs of cold seeping into your body. You were so lost in your joy that you didn’t realize that all you were doing is running purposelessly in circles. You felt blessed.

What else could I be doing?

As a child, infectious enthusiasm was all you had and that produced an honest reality of your own that you believed in with full conviction. You invented that reality daily, but truly lived and breathed in it, never doubting its authenticity. When you saw or heard a ghost story, you actually believed in it and felt a beautiful joy of encountering it. Myths and fantasies of distant lands (mostly from absurd TV shows for children) were real. These fables were as real as your naive belief that one lucky evening you will get stuck in a candy or chocolate shop all alone.… Read the rest

My Mixergy interview! Hear the story of Visual Website Optimizer

I was fortunate to have been interviewed by Andrew on his awesome website Mixergy.com. The interview was about how we bootstrapped Visual Website Optimizer to over 1000 paying customers. The video is long (75+ minutes) but I hope if you watch it, you enjoy it! (If you rather prefer reading transcript, it is also available on Mixergy).… Read the rest

Pick experiences over relationships

In a previous post, I wrote about what matters in life and what doesn’t. What I proposed was that these things don’t matter at all:

  • Ego
  • Material possessions

What matters instead is:

  • New experiences
  • Relationships

What if you have to choose between an experience or a relationship?

Such situations are always extremely hard. Imagine you need to go travel the world for a year but that means giving up (not fully investing) in a relationship (with friends, colleagues, spouse or parents). What would you do? Of course, there are many variables there but if you are really stuck at a decision, my recommendation is to pick a new experience over a relationship.

This may sound controversial to many but my reason for choosing a new experience over relationship is that experience is something which is entirely under your control. With relationship, there’s a second person involved whose behavior is something you cannot (and shouldn’t) predict and control.… Read the rest

Professional success and personal success: two independent dimensions

All of us chase after success. For majority of us, success means achieving more in life. A better car, a bigger house, a promotion at job or a fancy watch. This particular definition of success pertains to what I call as professional success. Most of the stars, sports people, top shot CEOs and other celebrities that you know are at pinnacle of their professional success. They probably worked very hard to achieve what they have today and are also probably very proud of it. So far, so good.

But, there is another aspect of success. I call it personal success. If you compare two people: one movie star and another middle class office goer, do you really think movie star is more happy than the office goer? Deep inside they both have same happiness scale. In fact, for all the possessions and fame that a movie star has got, he may be actually not as happy as the regular office goer who gets to see his family every day and spend quality time with them.… Read the rest

What matters in life (and what doesn’t)

I’m probably too young to be writing on this topic but observing countless souls distressed by daily life made me think hard on what is that really matters in life. Undoubtedly, there are happy and sad phases and that’s part-and-parcel of life. But what I’m really bothered about is general, daily bitching about how miserable one’s life has become. You find people complaining about work, commute, relationships, other people’s attitudes & personalities, neighbor’s barking dog, lack of parking space, and, heck, some people also feel stressed about how they are unable to install latest iPhone update. Yes, I’m concerned about those people. Are these things really worth stressing about? Allow me to analyze.

What doesn’t matter in life

Let’s start off by observing what doesn’t matter in life and why. Life would be much better and satisfying if everyone could do away with (or at least de-prioritizes following) two aspects:

rush

  • Material possessions: countless sages have professed it and I completely with them that material possessions are source of most of the stress we face in our daily lives.
Read the rest