It is very difficult to be confident of your abilities and to be sure of the inability of others. Though taught as we always are to be openminded, there are times you have to put the stake in the ground, make an assumption about someone and move forward with that assumption in mind.
With that assumption in place, I feel that some people don’t understand how to mature in conversational skills with time. As you grow in age and in stature, you simply need to act your age in office. It is a complicated web of interactions and adding another variable of your whacko personality does not help in any manner. Part of it is to appreciate ambiguity and take it in your stride.
Ambiguity appears in several ways. I have found it appear when one is instructed to do a certain job. I have also seen it appears when you one is part of a brainstorming session. However, how to deal with it needs to be learnt and those who learn it well really gain a lot of respect. Ambiguity in a task is very common. The incorrect approach to deal with it is by asking for details from the person who has given you the job. The correct way to do it is to make an effort yourself and develop some options. People who dint understand this, or argue against this approach take several tacks – a) Im not experienced enough to think about options b) My boss is a micromanager c) I am lazy. For the first tack, I feel that it is an excuse taken by people who lack confidence. They should read more, understand that we are all generalists and that asking others (other than your boss) is always an option. For the second taxk, I agree that micromanagers exist. However, even the worst of micromanager will not mind having given a few starter options. Of course, in utopia, you would know exactly what your boss is thinking about for you to complete the job without seeking any clarifications whatsoever. And for the final tack; there is no hope.
Brainstorming sessions are also an obvious place for ambiguity to exist. These session can be person-to-person or involving several people as a group. With experience, I have seen that even in these settings, the people who do not insist on nailing down the specifics are the people who gain more respect. I am not saying that specific examples should never be a part of brainstorming session. However, successful people always remember that an example is to explain the broad point and hence getting stuck in an example defeats the session entirely. The worst offenders are the people who want to believe, maybe because ambiguity is an uncomfortable construct, that they can merrily list down all the possible cases, find a solution for each, and solve the problem in black and white. Clearly that can never happen since you can never cover all aspects. So what ends up happening is that meetings run by such individuals end up unsuccessful since they were unable to ‘nail down’ the problem. Successful brainstorming meetings don’t fall into this trap and dive in and step back from examples to emerge with a broad understanding/gameplan.
It makes me sad when I read about the growing scepticism towards the doctoral degree. The economist covered it this week, some of the more intellectual blogs I know have chosen it as their topic of humor recently, and there is of course an entire series (phd comics) dedicated to it.
I am sad because it has been a sham that has run for years now and doesn’t seem to be showing any signs of stopping anytime soon. I have seen such students at close proximity (having tried a shot at a phd myself) and it was obvious to me what is only being discovered now.
The exploitation happens on two levels – internal and external. The internal exploitation is done by the person himself when he chooses to go down this road as an easier path compared to finding a job. In the initial period, the choice seems well made. The company is intellectual, the work place is clean and pretty, the university swarms with life and there are cheap options of entertainment that can be accessed through student discounts. For international students, it is even more of a god-send compared to pathetic yet competitive IT jobs back home. But a phd involves 5 long years. What starts out as intellectual stimulation at the cost of big money slowly becomes a painful struggle to keep hopes and desires in check. And even the intellectual stimulation becomes a stunting experience because you stay so confined in your research that you have a very small world-view and even smaller skill-set to engage and impress others through your personality.
The external exploitation is more obvious. Professors are incentivised to drag PhDs becuase they offer cheap labor for research and helps them earn their currency – research papers. And if a gruelling 5 years phd was not enough, they try to razzle and dazzle the outgoing student with promises of professorship through a post-doctoral route.
The arguments provided in favor of it are quite lame-duck. People argue that a phd student has displayed proof of tenacity and single-mindedness. Really!? I counter by stating that a jailed prisoner serving a 5 year term shows the same amount of tenacity. Further, an employee at a private company will show the same amount of tenacity if he is incentivised properly and given good work – eg Microsoft or google. Alternatively, people argue that PhDs are ideal training grounds for similar research that the candidate will do in the industry. I think this stand is quite stupid as well considering that a phd is 5 years long. Would the industry not prefer the training to last for a couple of years only post which such a trained person can join the industry and start delivering results!
its a great feeling to be amongst a group of drunk young people in a nightclub.
It is a journey to a differetnt universe. We try so hard to find alternate sources of life in the universe when we don’t realize that it is right here on the same planet that we live in. Just tweak those nuerons and you will have a set of people unlike any rationality that you have ever come across in your sane life.
It’s beautiful, its dangerous, its transcendental. It is a dangerous plane, I don’t deny it. But alcohol has been so omnipresent and non controversial that a lot of people have enjoyed their little surf on this mild wave.
As some one who works in the healthcare sector, I find the periodic eye-grabbing news pieces on health issues particularly revolting. The ordinary reader reads the section on health in the same spirit as the section on sports or politics. But he doesn’t realize that their is a fundamental difference in news pieces on health than from the news pieces on other topics.
The uninitiated, underpaid, and mentally underdeveloped idiots who do journalism are only good enough to read research papers and medical journals and then translate the technical jargon into normal lucid prose. That is where their competence ends. They don’t take the effort (or maybe they are that dumb that they don’t know it themselves) that publishing a finding in a research paper is only 15% (say) of the truth. A research paper is a declaration by a scientist to other scientists to repeat his research and confirm whether his findings are indeed reproducible or not. This takes time. But does the ass of a reporter take time to check whether the idiotic eye-grabbing news that he published stood the test of scientific review by other scientists? Of course not! The newspapers of today will line the dustbins of tomorrow. So why bother.
These idiot journalists however, do cause hysteria in the common people from their irresponsible reporting.
So the next time you choose to accept your wife’s well-meaning advice on a health issue, be aware that she may have read it in yesterday’s newspaper.
It is great to visit ruins and read about history. It fills me with awe to imagine that real people would have walked the dilapidated ruins that I walk in today. However, I think tourists like me overdo it. Olden times were current times in their day and age. To believe that humans as a being were different is a mistake. They dressed differently maybe. They talked differently maybe. They probably ate differently too. However whether they had shades like modern day humans – self-motivation, cunning, philanthropy, selflessness – is a non-question. Of course they did!
The trap that I fall in, which many fellow tourists fall into as well, is that we love to romanticise. And history provides ample fodder for it. Its not that contemporary life does not offer such opportunities. I romanticise village life for instance mainly because I have never experienced it. I think of the lush mustard fields, the glass of lassi and the baths below the handpump. I choose to selectively filter out the fact the mustard field is where I have to head to for my morning dump, the glass of lassi is loaded with fat and cholesterol and the handpump delivers chilled underground water unsuitable for a pleasant bath.
In a similar vein, we get fascinated by olden temples, the oracle of delphi, the hill-top temples of athens (I made a recent trip to Greece) and the other ruins that we see. We choose to selectively filter out the fact that the temples were built at the expense of poor citizens (probably) who could have been given better housing. Similarly, we filter out the fact the oracle was sitting atop a earth fissure spilling out intoxicating fumes and blabbering, not prophecising. And further, the temples on hilltops were just as exploitative of the fear of the unknown of the common man as they are in the present day and age.
I have no advice or recommendation for us to be different. I read books to induce the same tingling feeling so why not enjoy it when you get it walking through a ruin. However, I need to remember that what I feel is more fiction than fact.
See I do truly believe that one should focus on what he really likes to do. And if he hasn’t been able to find it, but is trying to spend time trying to find what it is; that works too. I also agree to the fact that life gets in the way. Existing is such a big distraction that you really can’t get down to the real stuff as soon as you want to. maybe that’s why drugs and dope are so famous. They let you zone out and say f*** off to the world for a little while. That little while of isolation, for the gifted or the driven, makes magic. Of course, for the uninitiated, it just means a spiral downwards.
But how do you manage life then? How do you ensure that it gets in the way as little as possible. Most of us are born with baggages. Only animals leave for good and dont look back to worry about their previous generation. We are humans, and we behave differently. The generation above us will progressively grow older and there is no option of running away from the eventuality. However, we can be cognizant of the other baggages that we self impose. As a lame protagonist in a lame movie once said – ‘how heavy is your backpack’? Keep it light! Of course, don’t choose to let go of everything. But choose what to hold on to.
But that is all high level strategic stuff. What about the low level transactional items? Focus on understanding what is important to you on a day to day basis. What makes you tick? What can you not live without? For me, coffee is a necessity. I never bit the filter of a cigarette, but maybe you did and it’s something that is your necessity. I need my Internet. I need to know what is going on in the world. I need my space. And I need peace of mind. And I have realized that a little tipple helps the creative juices to flow implying that a dry state is not a happy place for me (sorry Gujarat). Of course I need the whole world to fall at my feet and call me king as well! But the last one is a want, not an existential need. And knowing my needs from my wants makes my bag pack lighter.
… Stay lighter, stay happier and enjoy life when you can….
I think you can never go wrong by complimenting a woman for her individuality. The most conservative of women, who have accepted the one-sided nature of society, will still feel pride and happiness in an individual achievement. Such is the nature of any individual, regardless of gender. It is only upto one to identify the trait(s) that she feels makes her stand apart.
It’s not about the manipulation of a weakness in an individual but to understand that you can try as hard as you can to weave a collective spirit in someone, but the thread of individuality always exists; and if you find it, a slight tug induces a lot of happiness.
There used to be a time when I genuinely worried about how our race is wrecking the natural balance of the world around us. I used to be affected by the melting polar ice-caps, the amount of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases in the sky and the polluted rivers through metropolitan cities.
However, over the years, all the articles I have read about it has had a very numbing effect on me. Indeed, the big picture is quite worrying. But I have started to look at the small picture that affects me day to day with greater attention.
Most aspects of the big-picture surprisingly dont affect my small picture. Will the changing environmental landscape make my day to day life change? I guess not. My food and drinks might become more expensive gradually as the supply chain gets affected due to the environment. But it will be quite gradual and the big businesses are bound to buffer it with some efforts of their own. The water will become more polluted. Again, it might raise the price of water gradually. But it’s water after all. How expensive can it become!? Weather patterns will change and my city might become unconventionally colder or warmer. Even that doesnt seem like something that will disrupt my day to day life by a lot.
The only macro-variable that will potentially affect my smaller picture in the near future is the quality of air. A case in point is Beijing with astounding levels of air pollution and a very directly correlated level of patients suffering due to it. And air is everywhere! It will seep into my house, my car and my office. I will not be able to wear a mask all the time. The only way I will be able to escape it is to move to another city where the standards are better. But that is not an easy change. And it most certainly affects my commonplace and humdrum life.
So I still worry.
People don’t understand when I tell him that I want to hit 30 soon.
I live in a country of young people. We are the second most populated country in the world and the peak demographic spikes at 25. To live in a world where there are hundreds and thousands of people like you, all around, is not a happy place to be in.
So, the desire to accelerate and leave the honking bikes and cars and the confusion behind is really high on my priority list. I want to get to a point where I can look at the commotion from a hilltop, pass a judgemental comment or two, appreciate one or two participants in the scene, and then sit back and relax. I do not want to be a part of it.
And as I grow older and know I have years beneath my belt, I feel that happening gradually. I am more pleasant and understanding of the stupid, commonplace and wit-less conversations amongst the 25 year olds that I see around me. A few years back, these conversations brought shame to me since I belonged to the same demographic. But I now have moved past it. And I know that the road ahead belongs to clear headed, low emission cars.
What I love about reading about current affairs that there is an endless supply of novelty, different somewhat from that which came about the day before. Every day is a fresh wave of satire, wit, fresh music and fresh information on what is around me. Books are different. Though each new book is, well, new. Still, you read two books of the same author and you know what to expect. In matters of churn and unexpectedness, fiction does not frankly compare by miles to current affairs.