Posted in My World View, Random thots..

The Non-Fiction Reader


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It is a few months since I have been stuck in this persona of a non-fiction reader.

And this turn of events surprises me because there was a time in my life when I thrived on fiction. I would read almost a book every day – and get consumed by the ebbs and flows of all the action in those pages. In my teens, it was the Nancy Drews and Agatha Christies. The twenties started with the intensity of Ayn Rand – followed by Booker prize nominees and winners – Aravind Adiga, Amitav Ghosh,  Emma Donoghue, you name it. The only non-fiction books that sneaked into my reading list were celebrity publications. One that I distinctly remember is Shashi Tharoor’s ‘The Argumentative Indian’ – that one was like a workout for my vocabulary!

And then later, as screenwriters ran out of creative ammunition and the trend of books screenwritten into movies took over – The Twilight Series, Vampire Diaries,  Game of Game of Thrones, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I had always read the stories cover to cover before anyone had even heard of them on TV or Netflix.  Boy, was I ahead of the game!

But then, one fine day – the rush stopped.

It is hard to pinpoint what caused this, but there was this long phase when I didn’t do much fiction reading and the switch flipped.  I think that with time – you are more aware of your factual ignorance, and a lot of non-fiction reading I began with was to bridge that gap. Some of them – like ‘Homo Sapiens’ helped me understand my own roots.

And slowly my bookshelf filled up with the Ray Dalio, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Tim O’ Reilly and Malcolm Gladwells of the world. In fact – the last book I was hooked on to was  ‘The Society of Mind’ by Marvin Minsky  ( a friend of mine was appalled when I had tugged it along to a coffee shop – Seriously, this seems like a dense reading assignment you’d punish someone with, how can you read it for pleasure?!! )

Well honestly  – it was not an easy read. And even though the language was simple, I had to read it over, again and again, to connect the dots and get the message right.  Still, with my current frame of mind, it was easier for me to absorb than a work of fiction. Nowadays,  I pick up fiction books to read but it’s hard to follow along with the emotional threads and vagaries of a story.  I get exhausted and give up.

Surprising, isn’t it?

My guess is that after a while of practice –  facts and logic get hammered into your brain, and you almost start predicting what a logical argument will look like. There are, after all only a few ways in which you can get the logic right.  And somehow I observed that there is a lesser cognitive load in reading non-fiction- because is almost an extension of what I do in my day job.

Or… Perhaps I am going through a phase – you may say.

Whatever that is,  I would hate to lose that appreciation of fiction, poetry and intense emotions that a string of words can bring.  That’s what attracted me to the lure of reading in the first place!.

Those stories that can take you through a rollercoaster of thrill, happiness, hope, dismay, and laughter have burned timeless memories in my brain.  So many solitary, but memorable moments spent with a book – alone at times perhaps, but never lonely.

Which brings me back to the current state of things.

The long weekend is here –  I am struggling with Zadie Smith’s ‘Swing Time’ .. nursing a cup of coffee.. and fervently hoping that my Fiction reading bug comes back!

 

 

Image credits: Unsplash.com

Posted in My World View, Random thots..

Going with the Flow..


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Everywhere you go, you see people ..and places.. Houses and roads and means of transportation. People going somewhere. Everyone trying to be someplace else, different from where they are now..

And that’s how life is in every part of the world. Everyone trying to do something. Reach someplace where they are not right now..on a constant journey. Which is what makes the wheels turn and our blood flow. Or whatever is the term for making things seem normal and routine..

And the moment you wake up somewhere someday with no place you feel inspired enough to go – life comes to a whirring uncomfortable halt. If you do not have any purpose for yourself – however mundane and insignificant it might be, then there is this evil question which creeps up – Am I doing anything worthwhile at all?

And a gnawing question this is – which follows you around like a hungry puppy and bites you in the hand when you try to feed it with inconsequential answers.

So what can you do to tame this ugly thought?

Go with the flow. Do something that makes sense in that moment. Follow a trail – or create a new one.

Because a river is always more interesting than a pond. New experiences always enrich your life’s perspective and because .. “A bend in the road is not the end of the road…Unless you fail to make the turn.”!

Image Credits: http://ohksocial.com/small-business-growth-go-with-the-flow/

Posted in My World View, Random thots..

And, We’re Back!


And,we're back

It has been a year long hiatus on my blog now.  Which is sad because there was a time when the posts were cascading in a huge rush. And suddenly it all dissolved into silence…

So if you wondered where I have disappeared, it so happens that I was going through a breathtaking and  life changing event. I became a mother.  And a midst diapers and nappies and crazy sleep schedules, my life suddenly transformed into that of a doting, anxious and occasionally paranoid parent.

With this gigantic change in perspective and lifestyle, my ideas and beliefs underwent a tectonic shift too!. As it is with any huge change, it took me a while to figure out how to navigate this new territory. So I’m finally back in form and figure (?) on my blog, and ready to share the things I believe in.

 I will try to start over where I last left off. So here I am, with my take on Idea# 6, opportunely named “Pause, but don’t stop! “

Posted in My World View, Random thots.., Technology Talk

Idea #5: Fail Early, Fail Fast


A few weeks ago, Apple released its Maps App with the new iOS 6 upgrade. Within hours, the internet was awash with scathing criticism of Apple Maps. It was branded a dismal failure, the L’Enfant terrible of iOS 6 upgrade portfolio. FB news feeds flooded with lamentations about awful maps after upgrading to iOS 6.

Tech bloggers lashed out at Apple, calling it a company which had become arrogant in its greatness. Doomsday predictors began asking – is this the end of Apple’s commitment to perfection and its meteoric rise?

All this brouhaha really irked me. For all those going berserk over the Map App fiasco, wouldn’t it be nicer if we could cut Apple some slack and appreciate the benefits of failing early??

I am not an Apple fanboy, but personally I felt the new Maps app was awesome. It brought in radical features like vector-based maps and breathtaking flyover 3D views (my first reaction on seeing the App was “Wow!”). Yeah, the awesome 3D feature resulted in the most terrible goof ups too. But then, online Maps are complex and you cannot perfect it unless you have millions of people sharing it and reporting back to you. Does anyone remember Google Maps when it was first launched?

The point is, with technology cycles moving so quickly, could Apple have afforded to keep the critical Map app under the hood till the next iPhone release? Absolutely not.

The fact is – if anything can go wrong, it will. And the sooner that happens, the better it is for you and your product. And the most valuable company of our times has sent the message – the future is about failing early, failing fast. And if you do make mistakes, admit them quickly and move on.

Well.. Google does it all the time! (remember Google Buzz, Froogle and Google Answers?)

Getting a minimum viable product out into the world is the best way to kick start your idea, whether it is a new book, a business venture, or a project at work. It helps you overcome the fear of failure, test your assumptions and identify constraints in your solution. So go ahead with your new creation. Get it read, experienced and used.

Because usage is like oxygen for ideas. “You can never fully anticipate how an audience is going to react to something you’ve created until it’s out there. That means every moment you’re working on something without it being in the public it’s actually dying, deprived of the oxygen of the real world.”

So fail early. Learn fast!.

And if you are an unflappable cool dude who hates to admit your mistakes or let the world know about your failures – Just fail early..   And then destroy all evidence that you tried!.. 🙂

Posted in My World View, Random thots..

Idea #4: Procrastination is good for you!


Fine. I’ll admit it.

Since the last two days, I was struggling with the Idea for this week. There were a few possibilities knocking in my head, but they somehow didn’t fit in. Desperate in need for a bright shiny idea, I made fanciful preparations to lure and ensnare it.

You know the regular routine… Turn off the TV. Adjust the lighting. Fix the cushions. Fill the coffee cup. Buckle down to write.

But pushing hard seemed to have the opposite effect. Nothing worked!.

So realizing the futility of it all, I let it go. Picked up a book from my to-read shelf and began reading… It’s surprising that in these moments, Idea #4 struck me.  And ironic as it may sound, it said – Procrastination is good for you!

Well… how many times have you hated yourself for procrastinating? Fussed over details and feared that the sky will fall off if you don’t act soon enough. Lamented on a time atrophied in utter lack of effort.

But then, have you noticed how you get sudden bursts of fertile inspiration after long fallow stretches of inactivity? Or have discovered surprising answers to questions that had simmered in your subconscious, in periods of idleness and solitude.

We consider procrastination to be something evil. The thief of time. The killer of productivity. The scourge of creativity.

But is it really so awful?

Maybe not. It could be a time spent thinking over, sharpening the axe, strategizing! A time getting prepared for all the wonderful things that have been locked in some precious corner of your brain, and required some catalyst to bubble out. A time to witness epiphanies, and assimilate the Eureka moments. A time to realize who you really are, apart from the needy pushy ambitious self that you keep pumping up eternally. A time to wallow in the sweetness of solitude, and the shy answers it brings to your overbearing questions.

If you think of it the other way round, “Procrastination is not the problem. It is the solution. It is the universe’s way of saying stop, slow down, you move too fast”. It is nature’s way of revealing things that you would never have unearthed yourself.

“It is in our idleness, in our dreams, that the submerged truth sometimes comes to the top”!

So the next time you procrastinate, don’t kill yourself with guilt. Look out for those subtle clues that might have evaded your conscious mind.

Did it ignite a spark in you, the seed of the idea which had eluded you all this while? Or a key element in a new path which had always dodged you and deemed impossible. Or did it suddenly dawn that the thing you were pursuing relentlessly all this while wasn’t worth it at all??

Yes, that’s what creators call epiphany… the eureka moment which will creep up shyly to you when you are alone. When you sit down and let it go. When you filter all the noisy channels and focus.

I can hear you asking – Focus on what?

And my answer is – Nothing.

Posted in My World View, Random thots..

Idea #3: Execution is everything!


When you think of Creativity, what are the thoughts that hit you first?

Well, you might consider it as the ability to come up with shiny, jaw dropping, awe inspiring ideas.

But in my experience, the hard part about Creativity is not about coming up with new ideas at all.

And that is the thought of this week . On their own, ideas are nothing. Execution is everything!

Really !??

Well, we get ideas all the time. In the shower.. while shaving, or brushing our teeth. But it’s the guy who walks out of the shower, dries off and buckles down to work is the one who makes the difference. Writes the bestseller.  Outshines in the workplace. Makes millions.

Okay, I agree that ideas are sexy.. fascinating.. alluring – they inspire confidence in us. But they are also a bunch of dangerous, reckless, wild things. They make us overestimate our ability to execute. And that can hit you very hard – as it happened to the 3 guys here.

In early 2003, a bunch of Harvard seniors stumbled on the idea of creating a dating site for the university. They engaged a freshman to program their site. Well, it turns out that the kid they hired was smarter than they had bargained for. He improved on their idea, built a cool website and launched it himself. The new site created a storm on the Internet, and that kid went on to become one of the world’s youngest billionaires.

You guessed it right. This is the story of Facebook.

The point is, can anyone deny Mark Zuckerberg the credit for Facebook’s success?.  He might not have owned the idea, but then, ideas are tied to reality only by execution. In the movie “The Social network”, Zuckerberg famously says – “ If you guys were the inventors of Facebook, you’d have invented Facebook.”.  Touché!

Friends. Fellows. Countrymen!

The path to success winds through mountains of pain, heartbreaks, heartburns and learning.. And there are so other many factors like vision, talent, analytical insights, passion and most importantly, luck.. An idea is just the beginning!..

That brings us to the next question. Why is understanding this life changing?

Because, if you have a brilliant idea, be sure that this not enough. Brace yourself; you have a long way to go.

And don’t be too upset if someone else stumbled on the same idea as yours.. Execution is everything.. baby!! 🙂

Posted in My World View, Random thots..

Idea #2: Everything is a Remix!


How many hours have you spent agonizing to capture that elusive original Idea for your Research project?

Or struggled to create a novel character for your book..

Have you counted the restless nights you spent pondering to figure out the pioneering Business Model which will catapult your yet-to-be-born Startup to stardom?

Yeah, I’ve been there too!

All of us dream of creating the next big thing..  

And everyone (including me) is obsessed with the myth that remarkable creations always begin with an original never-before-conceptualized idea. That makes our lives hell, filling it up with painful things like disappointment, self-doubt and procrastination. 

So, Ladies and Gentlemen..we have an inspired Idea #2, coming to rescue all of mankind. 🙂

Yes.. Everything is a remix!

“Original” stories are found, not born. “Invention, it must be humbly admitted, does not consist in creating out of the void, but out of chaos”.

Many times we get lost in search for the perfect original thing. And end up with nothing. And that is because there is no perfect original idea in this world. Ideas are like DNA; they combine and create greater stronger Ideas.. And the most successful ones are those which are tried and tested improved versions of previous successful ones.

Great stories are mash ups of awesome stories told before. High quality code is one built successfully on old code. Don’t believe me? Here is the reason:

“Old code has been used. It has been tested. Lots of bugs have been found, and they’ve been fixed. There’s nothing wrong with it. It doesn’t acquire bugs just by sitting around on your hard drive!”

Still not convinced?

All of us will agree that Apple as one of the most innovative companies of our times. And we also know that the Mac of the 1970s was inspired by the primitive GUI developed by Xerox Corporation.  In an interview, Steve Jobs himself confessed how the idea of the Mac germinated in his head after a visit to the Xerox facility. On the same note, he even quoted – “We have always been shameless about stealing great ideas.”!  

The point is, he just saw what no-one else did. Everyone else saw a UI based computer. What Jobs saw was the awesome customer experience that it could create – a.k.a the jaw dropping, cult creating Macintosh PC.

And that’s the secret to breathtaking creations.

View ideas with different lenses. Have a different perspective –the same object inspires us in different ways.

Tinker. Remix. Restructure. Renovate.

And if you understand this truth, you will never fall short of ideas to create something – books, rain, thunder, clouds, conversations, dreams, the route to office, newspaper headlines, office gossip, chatter on the radio..

Anything can inspire you to create something great. You just have to tune in and find your Inspiration!