Digital Marketing

Zero

ZERO

Can you guess what is the common link between the following?

  • Zero
  • Hamster on a wheel
  • Groundhog day
  • Edge of tomorrow

Let’s examine these one by one…

Zero has a connotation of being the most uninteresting number, represents void, stillness & emptiness. Between a scale of 0-10, no one would prefer being associated with zero.

Hamster on a wheel keeps running and running but gets nowhere.

In the movie, “Groundhog Day”, James Belushi kept waking up to the same morning everyday, met the same people. He had slight twist of events during the day, the only saving grace and which kept him going.

In the movie “The Edge of tomorrow”, Tom Cruise ended up in the same battlefield after losing his life. Like a video game he kept coming back, seemed to me like an endless ordeal.

Put yourself into any of these situations, what would you be your initial reaction?

I can speak for myself; I would find each of these ordeals as punishment. The very thought of having the same predictable events everyday saps out the energy out of cherishing each day with same vigor. Repetition, monotonous is unfulfilling and for a larger majority, is negative, boring and loathsome. Doing same thing again and again is like going around in circles, with no end. Easier to imagine and acceptable would be a graph, where the line has a starting point and an end point (a destination). Business demand steep lines which point to north.

Mind Finds Circularity Complex

Our mind understands linearity more easily than a circularity. Simple reasoning is that the line has an end point whereas a circle doesn’t. Therefore, our mind is able to visualize a start (point A) and a goal (point B) easily. The start point and the end point communicate more effectively with our minds than a diagram that goes round and round in circles.

What if, the line is a very short-term view of our lives? What if, going around in circle is the undiscovered truth? What if, success lies in the achieving mastery over the mundane and inconsequential, doing same things again and again? What if, we visualize life as a series of end points, where end of one, means the beginning of another.

Theoretically, infinite no of straight lines makes a circle. It is said that a life comes to a full circle; history after being made, repeats itself.

Perhaps a circle and zero may mean more if we train our minds to think differently. In reality, we may be moving round and round in circle without even realizing, the truth that we don’t want to accept. Perhaps, we need to train our minds better and break this complexity.

Lessons from Myth of Sisphus

In my college days, I read “Myth Of Sisphus” by Albert Camus. I’ll be honest, my love for the book was not in the first sight. I failed multiple times to go beyond few pages. In the whole ordeal, I felt just like Sisyphus for no matter how many times that I would read a page, the words won’t make any sense. I went around in circles; I would start the book to leave it & start again. Sometimes, it would be due to my limited intellectual ability. Other times it would be that I won’t find anything interesting in it. But I kept at it I read it again; motivation being the celebrated status of the book. I didn’t want to boast about the achievement with a pretense. To cut the long story short, I kept at it, and I did complete the book.

The revelation of the fact was slow. Sisyphus was condemned by Gods to eternity to repeatedly roll the boulder uphill, only to have it rolled down again, when it reached the top. Again & again. Symbolizing our own quest for meaning.

The struggle is persistent and necessitates effort and only to be started again. According to Camus

The first step towards this effort is to rejoice the absurdity and enjoy the persistence in rolling up the bolder to the hill. He further argues that with joyful acceptance of struggle against defeat, the individual gains meaning and identity. Abandonment is suicide.

Very deep, I thought. I have read again and again that the pleasure is in the journey, not reaching the destination. This is true enjoyment. These realizations are hard to fathom for us.

How long can we imagine ourselves to be a hamster on a wheel, going round and round, without reaching anywhere. How many days would we want to keep doing the same things again and again. How long can we live with mundanity? The truth takes time to decipher. Patience is rare. How glorious is it to think about a person doing a repetitive job with no fatigue setting in.

Truly, superhuman and strongly determined not to give up.

Ikigai: Live Life To The Fullest

Ikigai is a made from two Japanese words: Iki meaning “Life” or “Alive” and Kai meaning “effect”. The Japanese state of Okinawa has the highest average life span, averaging 100 years. Dan Buettner wrote extensively about Okinawa and the Ikigai philosophy. He writes that the Japanese don’t have the desire to retire, they continue to do their favorite job as long as possible as long as their health is good. It is suggested that the reason to get up in the morning is the reason to enjoy life.

Jiro, the three Michelin star chef regarded as the greatest sushi artist alive, is 93 and doesn’t want to go on a holiday. He tastes his sushi every morning to ensure that it has the same taste and texture as it was yesterday. Jiro’s restaurant’s an apprentice has to work hard if they have to graduate to the next level. Time is not allocated as a benchmark. So, someone who marinates tuna fish for sushi. A relatively simpler of the efforts, the person does it for at least 5 years before he/she does the next level. This is altogether a different mindset, in an age where the attention span is short, delivery is instant, and time is very limited.

This is true not just for Jiro, but also for athletes, researchers, artists and musicians, who keep going on and on. For them, in life there is no full stop. They love what they do and do what they love. For them it is a circle of constant improvement. How are they able to do so?

Here are my three big revelations…

No.1 The Big WHY: Find The Purpose

What is the secret sauce? What keep such people going on and on, round in circles? What gives such individuals superhuman determination to go through the ordeal again and again, without giving up?

Though there may be other motivations, however the single most important factor is the purpose. One single sole reason, the big WHY. The reason to get off the bed the same way James Belushi does, do the same set of things, and yet find meaning & purpose in these regular mundane jobs. This is not about the future or the past, it is about the very moment the act is happening, where we find our journey, pleasure & happiness. So, the formula is an easy one, the purpose, but to define it, is the complex task. Easier said, The big WHY is never an easy answer. It is not the destination; it is the journey.

One simple thumb rule is that the purpose goes beyond you. The driver of this purpose may be your family, your community, the nation or the world. If this purpose remains to you, you will soon find a full stop. Egoistic purpose is short lived. Dedication to a larger cause is a much bigger driver.

No.2 The Power of Rituals

By definition, rituals are repetitive. When I look back at childhood days that I spent with my grandmother, I could find a pattern that she still would follow. The morning would start with a bath, followed by prayers. The she would get into daily chores starting by getting into the kitchen to start preparation for the meals. Her free time would be spent in reading and writing. The sundown was the time for the evening prayers, followed by the preparation for the evening meals. Her day ended by telling us the stories. I distinctly remember, we would hear the same stories again and again, holiday after holiday. She would repeat in the same tone and sequence. It is hard to imagine me living a life this predictable.

In our modern times, we don’t want to be bound by rituals, we want to go with the flow and with our instincts. Or mind shudders at the thought of being bound by rituals or any such constraints. We have been forced out of this pattern that may have bought some predictability in our lives. But in an unusual way, our lives are bound by rituals. Whether it is the ritual of the weekend, dropping the kids to school, or getting the groceries, we do have rituals which we unknowingly follow. If we are able to use them consciously and internalize as a means to signal our minds for preparation, my experience has been that it becomes a truly miraculous tool. The most important ones being how one is able to start the day. Robin Sharma’s famous 5 AM club establishes the first few hours as a ritual to set the day in motion. How you begin your day will determine the outcome. The other being how you end the day. While you start the day with inspiration, you would like to end the day with lots of gratitude. Because the thoughts that you sleep with are the thoughts that you wake up with. What goes around, comes around.

Life is a circle.

No.3 Flow  

What purpose and rituals help you do, is to find your flow. The state of life, where you are not getting bothered by the outcomes and you are enjoying each step of the process. It is a supreme state of life when you think everything is possible. When you are in the state of flow, you don’t fear anything, you are the most giving self. We do find ourselves there in points in time, the trick is to find to out how to be in an eternal state of the flow. Because then there would be meaning in the mundanity, there would be pleasure in the repetition and you won’t find any friction.

It is easy to find flow in activity that you are passionate about, or activities that you have done very often. Though a new activity also has the potential to get one absorbed in the state of flow, because you are learning, one could easily give it up when one comes to the roadblock. This is where a purpose and ritual may come to help and give the resilience in an individual to go beyond. This is an envious state to be in, because such state has no competition, it is in a supreme space of its own. It is hard to decipher, whether it is the passion or the purpose which pushes an individual towards this, but definitely it is a blend of both. At a point in the person’s ordeal, both attributes fuse together to make an unparalleled winning combination.

Perseverance is not an easy attribute to imbibe.

Putting it all together

Our fairy tales end with the lines “And they lived happily ever after…”. From the very start we are conditioned to think life in a straight line. That there is one silver bullet, that would help us lie back and relax for the rest of our lives. That we need one lottery, that is going to solve all the problems. That life is a straight line and needs to have a full stop. We need to prepare ourselves for a much longer roller coaster ride. Like in a video game, from one stage to next and to the next. It is difficult to imagine ourselves doing so, but if we have defined the Big Why, and have found our flow, life assumes a different meaning. The power of ritual and dedication of the purpose to a higher cause, which usually involves a community, will help us go beyond ourselves. It would arm us with enough determination to go through the hurdle, where we cherish each moment, enjoy the obstacles and live life king size.

Digital Marketing, Life

Doubt #Day 27

The serrated landscape of Dubai become an array of visual splendor at night. Bright yellow dots neatly arranged in rhythmical lines, appear as a mammoth inescapable labyrinth when the flight descends to one of the busiest airports in the world. What is find so fascinating about Dubai is the strangeness of life. It delivers surprise in every inch. Paranoia about the infrastructure and architectural perfection is evident in every tower built in the middle of this spectacular desert city. These buildings are massive, sometime gazing many hundreds of feet above your head, looking down upon your minuscule existence. As a runner, I have seen yet a different Dubai. When a runner cuts through the streets and covers the serpentine alleys, Dubai reveals a new face, a discovery akin to diver hunting for treasure at sea. Unexplored spacial scenarios appear, while you try to cope with the exasperated existence in a hot and humid environment. I met Vijay during one of these runs while preparing for Dubai Marathon in 2016.

Vijay is from Hyderabad and has been living in Dubai since 2005; 13 years of stay in Dubai will make him a veteran. He is also one of the most unassuming person that I have met and my reasoning would concur with most of others. Always ready to offer help in every possible way. When we were away with my father-in-law and my niece alone for few days, I had given them Vijay’s number in case of any help needed. Vijay used to be very fat, he shows me a few old unrecognizable pictures in support and also used to smoke profusely. He is now a reformed man, a runner and a very fine one. When I met Vijay for the first time, he was to run his first marathon in Dubai in 2016. A day before the marathon, he had fever and still ran the full distance (42.2 kms), medicines keeping his temperature in control. Since then, he has never looked back and has excelled in each new marathon and bettered his timing. What differentiates Vijay is his will and determination. He is doubt-less. His soft interior hides this side of him.

It was one of the usual Friday mornings, during one of our runs that I got an invaluable gift. We were on our way to the Club runs and we were late. The banters of the weekend Thursdays in Dubai had got better of us. I was driving, and had recently got my driving license. As a new driver in a foreign land, I built a rule that I couldn’t compromise with. When the green traffic light blinks, I had to stop. To the wrath of many around me, I follow this rule religiously. In Dubai, you should pray that I’m not ahead of you because even in the most urgent of situations, I would not go further, while you go on honking behind me. I’m shamelessly proud of my callous honest adherence. However this specific morning, my rule was to be put to a test. Vijay & I were late for our Dubai Creek Striders Club run. In the wee hours of the morning, if we didn’t reach the meeting point on time and we would be left to wonder where did the pack go. Thankfully, Vijay and I kept ourselves busy debating the choice of final destination and therefore the thoughts didn’t reach unwarranted conclusions. We were 3 minutes away from the start, and therefore I increase the speed of my Ford Explorer, the vehicle grunts and picks up the throttle and at the same time I can see the approaching green light. We are at a confusing distance; my mental calculation says that because it has been green for sometime now, it would start blinking any minute. As I come closer to the traffic signal, it does happen. The green light starts blinking, though I’m still away, I don’t stop. But this time, the ghost of the green light doesn’t bother me, I keep going on, crossing it in the nick of time.

In normal day and sane circumstance, I would have stopped. That was truly my first reaction. But I jammed on the accelerator. This was first exception of my holy rule to stop. Why? Vijay told something to me that made a lot of sense. Not just in this one instance, but I would refer to it in many more such scenarios. The words became like a flash card which I would use again and again.

When the lights were blinking and Vijay saw my confusion, he said, “If you doubt, you are done.”

Precisely, in the moment of crucial importance, the doubt impedes judgement, reasoning and could be greatest folly that you can commit. It doesn’t let you act and negates movement. Doubt is an ill that ails the will and determination. In most defining moments, I would reflect these words and the instance. Never to be at the cross roads on indecision and doubt. Else you are doomed to be in the limbo perpetually. Truth disguised as plain sight and beckons you unannounced.

We did try hard, but the pack had left the moment we arrived. Fortunately, we could catch them and the efforts didn’t go in vain. As the delicate atmospheric effect of sunlight permeated the early hours of the day, Dubai reveled in yet another glorious day. Wisdom illuminated like the bright sunlight for me, while my exhausted self was screaming inside to stop. Vijay went on and on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Digital Marketing

Choices #Day 25

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I had a very eventful childhood, the vivid memories of places far and wide that I have lived in have not yet banished from my mind.

I was born in Dhanbad, earlier a part of Bihar, but now in Jharkhand. The closest reference to the city were the coals mines depicted in movies Kala Patthar & Gangs of Wasseypur. When I look back, I feel blessed because my life was predictable and simple; I didn’t have to go to a fortuneteller.

Starting with education, I had two choices of schools- missionary or convent school and Kendriya Vidyalaya (KV). Since my father changed city every three years, Kendriya Vidyalaya was a convenient option. The CBSE board was standard across the country and had elaborate syllabus. However, during my early years, I went to convent schools such as St. Joseph’s in Allahabad, Bishop Conrad in Bareilly & Good Shepherd School in Siliguri. In those days, there was an emphasis on learning and conversing in English and convent schools were visibly better at making students more proficient in the colonial language. Such grounding helped me in making the transition to Kendriya Vidyalaya. I had best of both worlds during my school days. Selecting a school was never a problem, making new friends every 3 years was. Unlike my wife, I don’t have friends that I have grown up with.

My summer breaks were in Patna, where both of my grandparents lived. My brother and I generously shared the two month holidays with our cousins, many of whom didn’t have the pleasure of moving across the cities. As far as I remember, the city remained largely the same, only at times road became better or the traffic became worse. We had the same set of shops to buy articles from, same store to pick up books, same place we would visit to eat at least once once during our 2 month holiday. However our experiences differed in every visit. As we grew up, tried different activities. I have fond memory of listening  to Pink Floyd on the ghat of Ganga river near the university and having Golden Ice Cream Orange bar after our visit to Patna Zoo.

The only option available for us was to travel by train. We had to change two trains, when we were in Siliguri, a halt of almost 8 hours. My father would roll out a type of luggage called Holdall, which had a soft mattress and a pillow. It was offered only to my mother. In those days we would use the station floor to roll out Holdall to take rest, while my father watched out for the train. The train tickets was to be purchased in advance, since many people traveled through trains. Going to Patna was filled with excitement, while coming back was sad. I loved meeting my grandparents and enjoyed time with the cousins. In fact for a very long time, I didn’t know the definition of cousins, I always thought we belonged a one big large family of brothers and sisters.

Though I didn’t realise how much we relished food, however the flavor is still fresh in my mind. Both my grandparents had very distinct flavors. My Dadaji, paternal grandparents were larger family, 3 sons and 3 daughters. The food preparation had to reflect the tastes of each and during holidays, the grandsons and grand daughters. The gathering on the table were in shifts, first for our parents and then for the rest of us. Lunch was mostly dal, rice, vegetables and cut onions. We eagerly awaited the day mutton was made, which was mostly Sunday, because it took a long time to cook. My grand mother used garam masala and ghee very liberally. Night was roti and vegetables. The big gathering on the table was filled with discussions, while we played in the courtyard outside.

My Nanaji, maternal side grandparents had smaller family and therefore were more experimental with food. The lunch had an elaborate spread of chutney, mashed potatoes, papad, tilori (made of urad dal), vegetable, fries, and dal. We ate rotis first followed by rice. Saturdays were special, because my Nani (grandmother) made Khichadi, a preparation where rice and dal with spices is cooked together. Evening snacks was another delight. We were offered a range of snacks such as fried potatoes, chops, chana etc. Here too we ate mostly at home. Our Nanaji always insisted to eat with his grand children.

We did all this religiously every day of our holiday, until we visited one of our cousins, where the food taste would change, but the offering would remain same.

My father was in a transferable job, which was rare in those days. Government job was preferable to private, since stability, perks and retirement benefits compared to private was better. The epitome of success was getting through an engineering examination or Indian civil services exam (read as IAS). A large number of my cousins were rank holders in civil services exam and now advise the government on how to better run the country. Fortunately liberalization opened new avenues and I never took any government service exam.

If I reflect on my lives today, I have plenty of choice. With the advent of technology and internet, I have the information that I need to find out solution for my need. Sometimes the most difficult decision is make is to which restaurant to go to. Or which hotel to take while on a holiday, which earlier was provided by a travel agent, which my father knew of. Technology and internet have given us scale and right to information, but have they made our lives more easy?

Do choices restrict us or liberate us? Are we more happier with choices or without it?

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