The Maths of Life

When a man marries his girlfriend, he immediately creates a vacancy.

Okay, this is not my quote. It is from James Goldsmith. But it doesn’t matter whose quote is it because the point is – it highlights an unpleasantly interesting truth.

The truth is, you like something when there are no strings attached. When strings get attached, you start disliking the same thing!

We observe it all the time, but we don’t pay attention to this pattern much. Here is a story that affirms this observation.

In 1999, I met with a person called Milan (name changed for privacy).

He had a clerical/administrative job in a school. His work hours were 8:00 am to 1:00 pm and his salary were more than enough to take care of his needs.

But Milan hated his job. His passion was teaching maths to children.

Milan was excellent with academic maths and loved teaching. A lot of students used to come to him to learn maths.

Frustrated with his boring job, he quit his job. Soon he rented a space, ordered some furniture, and open his maths coaching classes.

He got the first batch within just a week of opening the classes.

Within just 3 months, he was running about 4 batches in a day. He was happy with his work and he rented more space, partnered with a couple of other teachers and hired a few more teachers.

They were four people running their coaching classes and gaining a good name amongst young children and their parents because of their quality maths coaching.

More and more students started joining his maths classes. And he was almost compelled to start more batches.

Now, apart from teaching maths, he also had to look after the administrative and operational aspects of running a coaching class business.

It turned out that he just loved teaching maths, not running a coaching class business.

His operational costs were increasing day by day – and the revenues he was generating through fees was not enough to take care of the costs.

His “hobby” shifted from teaching maths to share-market day trading. He started hating maths and started spending more time at a sharebroker’s office.

To make a long story short, after a few months, he shut his classes down because he could not sustain it and got an administrative job again with some organization.

His life went on but certainly, it was not something that Milan and his near ones would have wished for him.

The Math of Life Utpal Vaishnav

Lessons:

  1. Don’t turn your hobby into a business (especially if you are not up for understanding the business aspects of converting your hobby into a business).
  2. Your boring looking job gives you time and money to pursue your hobby, be aware of that and find peace with it.
  3. In business, there are a lot of things that you do which you may not personally like but you still need to do. That’s normal. If you don’t know how to lead yourself on the face of unpleasant yet important activities of your business, you will be out of business soon.
  4. The maths of life is not 1+1 = 2. Its answer could be different in different situations. What people do not get is that both the digits (1) are defined passively – by a lot of external factors. In other words, in business, 1 does not represent a constant, it is a variable!

Your relationship with the hobby will remain healthy if you don’t try to convert it into a job – or a business.

The Tao of Understanding

The Tao of Understanding

When you understand kindness as kindness, mercilessness arises
When you understand love as love, hatred arises

Thus Happiness and Unhappiness produce each other
Right and Wrong bring about each other
Light and Dark reveal each other
Health and Illness reflect each other

The words have limitations
The written things have limitations
The said things have limitations
The understanding has limitations

Therefore the key
is not to “understand” such things

But to “experience” them …

Understanding goes away; experiences do not.

The Tao of Understanding is
not to try to understand the things,
but to experience them.

Concept Inspiration: Lao Tzu

On Unacceptance

A Lion is a Lion, there is no question of him being anything other than a Lion.

And the potato is a potato. Neither does the Lion ever try to become a potato nor does the potato ever try to become a Lion.

unacceptance

Hence, there is no anxiety between Lions and the potatoes. They don’t need an Arbiter to resolve their internal problems if there are any.

A Lion respects the potato and the potato respects the Lion. They respect each other so much that they even do not eat each other.

The whole world seems to have a clear understanding of the distinction between a Lion and the potato except men.

Men have their insistence: “You must be doing this particular thing (because I think it is right)!”

Men want other people to behave in a particular way –  in the name of society, in the name of tradition, in the name of relationship, or in the name of love …

And the struggle begins: you are torn between who you are and what you must be doing according to the other human beings.

The MUSTS don’t enjoy a good relationship with ‘is’ (being).

If you think about the Lion and Potato example, it’ll become obvious that you cannot be anything other than who you are.

Once this is clear, there is no fight. There is no stress. Nothing is to be proved. Nothing more is to be accepted. What remains is pure YOU and your reality, no matter how beautiful or ugly that is.

So, can a Lion learn from the Potato?

Sure, it can if he wants to but it is not a must for the Potato to learn from the Lion. Potato does not become inferior or unimportant if it learns nothing from the Lion.

Same is the case with Lions. Did you get it?

Unfortunately the MUSTS of the past have taught us to ignore the simple things like this distinction and we try to turn others into something they are not.

The result?

Certainly, something that is not natural.

Will such results make you feel accomplished, happy or loved?

No?

Then why practice MUSTS?

Learn to Love Networking

It’s been a few months since I’ve got a new interest: Networking.

I think that understanding Networking at depth will help me be better at what I do.

I had never consciously touched upon the subject of networking but better late than never.

In business, people invest in networking activities willingly or unwillingly.

The problem is, many executives, professionals, and entrepreneurs consider Networking as an inauthentic, and exploitative activity.

There is some truth to it too. People often invest in networking to gain some benefits out of the activity.

I am not done with my research yet and I have a little understanding about the subject but I think networking is a wonderful gift to a professional when done right.

Good networking provides more opportunities, deeper knowledge, and improved capacity to innovate and make things better.

I have started to believe when done right, Networking has a potential to improve one’s personal life as well.

While looking at Networking from business and opportunity perspective, I came across this interesting article from Harvard Business Review: Learn to Love Networking. The article is written by Tiziana Casciaro, Francesca Gino and Maryam Kouchaki.

Some of you might know that for last few months, thanks to my friend Tanmay Vora, I’ve been learning to take notes in the form of Sketch Notes. I did the same while reading this article on Networking. Here is the sketch note:

Learn to Love Networking Harvard Business Review

I think the four take home points from the article: focus on learning, identify common interests, think broadly what you can give and finding a higher purpose have a great potential to make you a better professional and better creator.

What do you think?

The Hacker Acumen – a Digital Zen Story

Consider the story of Leo, a lifelong hacker:

The Hacker Acumen

Leo has been serving one of the oldest technology organizations in the world for past 30 years.

Leo was a self-taught programmer who led his way to a multinational tech organization via acquisition of his own tech security services company.

Leo had used punch cards. Worked with age-old technologies such as Fortran, Cobol, Basic and C/C++, watched email being invented, coded business apps with Xbase languages such as Clipper, saw the PC market being taken over by Microsoft in mid-nineties and also saw Apple being the world’s most valuable company in the past decade surpassing the PC era.

Even in his fifties, Leo lived a geeky life. Several years ago his wife passed away. His children found their way in their own lives and here was Leo, alone yet peaceful and content with what he’s been doing with his life.

One Saturday night, he was spending some time working on a complex algorithm in his home office.

He saw an abnormal activity in one of the backup servers he was monitoring.  A hacker was trying to get into the server and get access to the code but was not able to.

Leo’s home backup server hosted the legacy code of an Operating System he had developed long ago.

Experienced Leo soon caught the hacker, “You’ve been trying so hard to break into my backup server,” he told the hacker, “and you should not return empty-handed. Please take the source code of the operating system I built long ago as a gift.”

The hacker was puzzled. He took the source code and went offline.

hacker-accumen

Leo sat on the floor, reflecting about hacking. “Poor guy,” he mused, “I wish I could give him my ‘Hacker Acumen’ to him, which means to create and learn, not to steal.”

My Takeaways

  1. Hacking does not mean breaching the security of systems; it means being a creator…a lifelong learner.
  2. If you commit to the work of your life then you don’t worry about spending your time at work. Even you’re at home, you create your workplace. You do it for a simple reason: it is no longer just your work, it’s your life!
  3. Source code has no value in the word of a competent hacker.  I remember when I was worried about “protecting” the source code of the Business Apps I was building in early 2000. Fast forward to 15 years and it has never helped me. I mean having a “copy” of the source code just gives mental relief that you have something, but in the real world, if you know what you’re doing, you’ll easily create new source code without any hassle. And if you’re not competent, it doesn’t matter much.
  4. Just trying to crack into someone’s server does not make you a hacker. A hacker has a ‘Hacker Acumen’,  a mindset of continuous exploring, trying, failing and learning.
  5. Get absolutely clear about hacking: Real hackers solve problems and build things, and they believe in freedom and voluntary mutual help; So-called hackers (Crackers) break them. Decide which kind of hacker you want to be.
Real hackers solve problems and build things; crackers break them. Choose to be a #hacker. Click To Tweet

Be a Real Hacker, Be Like Leo

be-a-hacker :: be-like-leo

This is Leo.

Leo is a hacker.

Leo spends a lot of time building things. Leo is crazy. Leo does not hack to break any system’s security. Leo hacks to help.

Leo has a real hacker acumen.

Be like Leo!

The Present of Humiliating Words – A Zen Story

There once lived a passionate painter. His name was Leo. Leo had been painting for 30 years and he was well respected for his unique creations and perspectives.

utpal "uv" vaishnav

Picture Courtesy: Parish Joshi

Leo’s reputation extended far and wide throughout the land and many students gathered to study under him.

“It is your point of view that makes you unique, not just the physical piece of art that you create,” Leo used to say to his students.

One day a young artist namely Lisa arrived in the city.

Lisa was an ordinary artist but she was on her way to conquering the world of art through techniques and so-called smartness (read: manipulative actions).

She would visit different cities, invite the most popular artist of the city to participate in a competition and would defeat the artist.

She wanted to prove that she is the smartest artist in the country.

Manipulation or smartness, fueled with good intent and married with right actions, can be a blessing. But when used wickedly, it is the beginning of an actor’s misery.

Lisa’s art…her paintings; were okay at their best but she used to trick her opponents by effectively using humiliating words and playing with the emotions of the artists. As soon as the competition begins, she’d use humiliating words by criticizing the artist’s style and habits and made the artist feel down and embarrassed.

Artists are sensitive beings so when they hear such disgracing words in front of public, they feel upset and their emotional disturbance would be reflected in the piece of art they create at that time.

Since the artist would not able to concentrate, Lisa’s ordinary art would stand out as a better one in the comparison.

Lisa had traveled to over 50 cities and won all the competitions using humiliation as a chief tool!

Enter Leo

Much against the advice of his concerned students, Leo gladly accepted the challenge.

As the competition began, Lisa started insulting Leo with her humiliation technique.

For hours, she verbally assaulted Leo with every curse and insult known to mankind. Leo merely stood there motionless and calm. Leo knew that Calmness is the cradle of power.

“Calmness is the cradle of power.” ~ Josiah Gillbert Holland

Finally, Lisa felt exhausted. Calmly, Leo started painting and invited Lisa also to do the same. As Leo started painting, he forgot that there was anyone other than him and his creation in that moment.

Lisa also started drawing but she could not concentrate. After looking at the art she created within first 10 minutes, she felt ashamed and left.

The students gathered around Leo and questioned him, “How could you endure such an indignity? How could you stay calm when she was using so many humiliating words about your capabilities?”

“If someone gives you a present and you do not accept it,” Leo said, “to whom does the present belong?”

Is that so – a modern Zen Story

Alex, an intelligent, detailed oriented and calm Computer Programmer was praised by his colleagues for his ability to solve complex problems without getting stressed.

He was working with a Software Development Company and he was so respected that many clients used to put a clause in the contract that the company would get the contract only if Alex is part of the development team.

One day a young and attractive software developer, Lisa joined the company. She was to be the point of contact for the company’s biggest client account. What’s more, she was hired based on a strong recommendation from the same client.

Few months passed and the client discovered that the software version they received had a business-critical bug. It made the client upset and they asked Lisa about who was responsible for causing the bug. She would not confess initially but after much questioning, at last, she named Alex.

With great anger, the client went to Alex. “Is that so?” was all Alex would say.

 

Is that so?

“Now you will need to work on the day and night and fix the critical bug within next 24 hours or your company will lose the contract and also the legal battle.” The client demanded.

“Is that so?” Alex said calmly as he accepted to fix the critical bug.

Few months later when Lisa could not stand it longer, she told the client the truth: the real bug was caused by her and not Alex.

The customer went to Alex and asked for his forgiveness, to apologize at length and offer them praise and bonus and express their gratitude.

This time also, Alex was calm and peaceful. All he said was: “Is that so?”

Lesson: Whatever the problem, keep calm and always focus on the solution.

Whatever the problem, keep calm and always focus on the solution. #hackyou Click To Tweet