Posted in Fiction Experiments, Random thots..

The Cross Walk


It was a bright new day in an unfamiliar country. Fresh off the boat – just a day into the United States, I stepped out with the toddler in tow for a walk around the neighborhood. There was a huge park right in front of our house, surrounded by roads and cars whizzing past. The sights and smells were new – as we were beginning to get accustomed to life in a new country. We didn’t know how long we are going to live here, nor realized what it will take us to blend into life in this habitat. All that we knew was that we are here… and let the adventure begin…

So coming back to the story –  I am taking the girl out for a walk. She is 14 months old and I am using a stroller to move her around. Both of us are soaking in the new world we are in – me being particularly overprotective and motherly about it. At that time I had moved to the country without a job – so both mother and daughter had plenty of time to kill during the day. It was lunchtime, and with the help of Google maps and some fuzzy toddler translation, we zoomed down on a local restaurant to have our lunch in.. The trek began and everything was hunky dory until we reached an obstacle that we have to cross to reach the other end – a road!

Now normally, you wouldn’t consider crossing a road a huge hurdle, right? You will say – Ah, just wait for the light to turn green, and you can cross. Yay!!.  I thought so too.. waited for the light to turn green and some pedestrian sign to show up – but it never did. The light did turn from red to green, but the cars continued to zip past.  I waited and waited.. then we got a bit uncomfortable. At this point, I am getting more and more worried – How on Earth do people cross the road in California ??

As all humans do in situations like this ( to not look foolish )  – we observe around us and try to copy what everyone else up to. And that generally helps you get to the answer to your question.  So I patiently prevail and bide my time…

The light turns green again. I see this lady in high heels hurry up and stand right next to me. The traffic is a bit slow… she furtively glances on both sides of the road and then quickly sprints across it when no car is in sight.   I’m half in a mind to follow her, my muscles tense for a split second..but I stop.  My instincts tell me that something is wrong –  That most certainly doesn’t seem to be the right way to cross the road in a civilized country! So I dig my heels to prevent myself from dashing behind her. The kid is fidgeting in the stroller — and I’m still hanging around.

A minute passes by and this dude comes along – casual jeans and hoodie, half whistling under the breath. He presses a button on the lamp post beside the street and disappears into his phone. I am observing him very carefully ( and pretending not to) – by the looks of it  – he definitely seems to be on to something. And lo and behold.. a blinking white man ( the pedestrian sign ) started flickering on the other side of the street. Today, it is a very familiar sight for me, but at that time it seemed like a sign from the heavens! A blinking pedestrian sign accompanied by an intermittent beep emanating from the lamp post across the street – and I know that we have been saved. Hallelujah… Now we can cross the road!

As I look back to this day – this was not a life-changing moment. It was a run of the mill experience – my first learning out of the innumerable discoveries to follow.

But it taught me a very significant lesson – To listen to and trust my Instincts. 

I mean – it is a marvelous thing – how the brain makes snap decisions – trustworthy/not trustworthy, good/not good, Safe/not safe… The instinct of recognizing dangers and steering yourselves into safety has been bored into our heads so immaculately over millions of years and is certainly something that the human mind can neither explain nor ignore!

 

Image credits: Unsplash.com

 

Posted in My World View, Random thots..

The Non-Fiction Reader


radu-marcusu-498248-unsplash.jpg

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 Random thots..

Idea #8: Bird by Bird


Bird by Bird

So.. What do you do when you get stuck?

 Do you sit back and mourn your lack of action ..Think of inventive ways to over come your situation?. Or Just wait – thinking that this too shall pass!.

 We all have our own solutions to  dealing  with stuck moments. Some would slow down, blow off some steam.. or if you’re like me, you would go off to sleep!.

And then .. What do you do?

You DON’T give up!.

You come back to the table .. Pore over your shitty first drafts.. Move ahead bit by bit..

Because big changes don’t happen in a instant. Corporations are not successful overnight. Trust is not built in a day. It’s a gradual process. The only difference is that you notice it suddenly.. And people start talking about it suddenly..

In this age of instant gratification, it is easy to think that you will get results immediately. And also get frustrated when you don’t.

Like Alice in Wonderland, we cant wait to reap the benefits of our efforts – “No, no! The adventures first, explanations take such a dreadful time.” !!

But in real world, you have to take it step by step.. Bird by bird ..A metaphor used by  Anne Lamott. She narrates this beautiful story in her book:

“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write. It was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.’

Then again. What do you do when you get stuck?

You come back. Pick up all the fragments piece by piece. Slowly build it again – bird by bird!

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!

Posted in My World View, Random thots..

The 10 Week Idea Challenge!


How do you feel when you stumble upon something remarkable that makes you sit back and think?

Do you feel fortunate, thankful.. Inspired? Does it suddenly ignite that “Aha!” moment inside your head when you think – “Geez, That’s what I was subconsciously looking for!”..

Do you wish you had known that earlier, so that it could have grown to help you do what you’ve always wanted?

For a while now, I have been observing these memes.. how they develop like tiny droplets and gradually create ripples that grow into giant waves. Yes, I have been procrastinating too (which is why you haven’t heard from me since a while now), and wallowing in happy unhurried explorations on the Internet…

Sigh!.. Drastic situations call for drastic measures. So to push out of my own contended bubble, I have come up with this personal 10 week challenge which will jazz up and swing me into action.  The rules go like this: Every week from now, I will post about a life changing Idea which has influenced the way I think (and could probably change yours!) 

Why 10 weeks? Well 10 is a nice and even and round number, sort of official looking like the 10 commandments. And I’m hoping that in this infinite universe of awesome ideas floating around, I can dig out 10 unique ones which will make our lives richer..

So, what exactly are these life-changing ideas? My own definition goes like this.

A life changing Idea is:

  • Something that transforms the way you think about life
  • Challenges your regular go-to approach
  • Helps you gain insights you would otherwise have missed.

Frankly, I haven’t thought about all of them yet, but am hoping this quest will make me discover many on the way. And yes, John Steinbeck had better be right when he said – “Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen”!!

So without any delay, let’s begin with Idea #1:  Start your day like a Rock star!