Sunday, December 27, 2015

Monday Musings 251 - Reinventing resolutions

Monday Musings 251: Reinventing resolutions
Almost every year the last musing is dedicated to take stock of the year gone by and what does the change of the year means to me. I went through my end of year blogs for the last few years so that I stay away from repeating the same things even if I attempt to say it in a different manner.
Surely New Year is a stock taking time, resolution time and reflection time.  Surely we must indulge in the serious business of book keeping and closing accounts of knowing what we caught and what we dropped.  However maybe this method is faulty - for why else every year we drop more than we catch. Why do more resolutions get discontinued and meet a premature and unglamorous end?
Why cannot resolutions be a little more creative and meaningful – stuff that really has the potential of making life altering impact. Here are my top 10 recommendations (not sure how soon will I break them.but nevertheless!)
1.       I will not suffer fools easily. I will tell them to buzz off instead of being polite and hold meaningless conversation when all that I am thinking is how to run for my life.
2.       I will not say yes when I want to say no. Enough of being the nice and sensitive guy.  Saying yes when you want to say no only adds to your burden, increases work and makes you feel extremely miserable.
3.       I will not attend get- together’s and parties because it is good for networking even though we hate almost everyone we meet there and know deeply their charade. The few good ones can always be met one on one. In any case what is the point of meeting the same people with the same stories and the same jokes and then end up feeling there is nothing new in life.
4.       I will not eat out. This overpriced, overhyped fancy cuisine thing is plain stupidity. You end up eating things that is bad, overeat in most cases only for the cheap thrill of showing off that you are such an experimental guy when it comes to the palate.
5.       I will not watch TV – particularly news and those stupid serials and dance/singing contests.  If one has to watch comedy one should watch comedy – not news. In any case it’s cacophonous, negative, depressing and will give you the impression that the world is coming to an end.
6.       I will not advise or try to motivate people. It does not work. Its only purpose is to make you better and give an impression that you know things but it has absolutely no impact on any one’s life. If these pearls of wisdom that you dole on unsuspecting chaps had any worth in them, you would not be where you are. People know what is good for them and they don’t need your advice.
7.       I will not haggle or bargain with the rickshawwallah, vegetable vendor and other people who make a living on the street. When I cannot do it in the fancy stores and malls I don’t think we should take revenge by doing it with these folks. Saving a ten and a twenty there and yet spending thousands in the big stores is being penny wise and pound foolish. I will free myself of such cheapness.
8.       I will stay away from technology – as much as I can. This one is really very difficult. It has made us horribly mean, self centred and inward looking. It has solved fewer problems and created more.
9.       I will not fall for brands. They make a fool of me, enticing me to buy stuff that I don’t need, at the price I cannot afford, for functions that I don’t ever use. There is magic in minimalism.
10.   I will not shop. All that I need I have aplenty. Perhaps more than what I need. I will wage a moratorium on all kinds of shopping for the next 1 year. I assure you we all will be still alive and nothing would have gone amiss.
Let’s see ow long these resolutions last!! Enjoy the build up for the New Year.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Monday Musings 250 – The world just is!

Monday Musings 250 – The world just is!

‘’The world is not good or bad. The world is’’
-          From the ‘Narrow road to the deep north’ – by Richard Flanagan

In a wonderful story that is set at the backdrop of the Prisoners of war during the second world war, the author through the despair of its characters in those horrible camps, come to this conclusion. I find it very uplifting.

All of us have a story. Every life had, has and will have. The play of events change, the characters swap places and the vile tide of time plays out the torment in different ways.  There is nothing original in this – it seems all that has happened all along will only repeat itself – like war, separation, love, death, penury and hurt – only the theatre changes. However what it elicits in each is absolutely original – each one has his/her own cross to carry and it does seems quite heavy – heavier than the crosses that others are carrying.

It is magical albeit rare to find a soul unsullied by his tumult. It is not uncommon to arrive at strong opinions about the inherent nature of things – often as unforgiving and cruel. The nature of existence and the world around us - acquires a shade of grey, depressing and dark, heavy and foreboding. Once that is done then conclusion precedes experience – even before things unravel the sense of injustice, betrayal and disappointment is established. The world is certified as bad. This worldview then becomes the bedrock of all future interactions and experiences. Life no longer is given a chance to prove its innately neutral character. Water only acquires what it is mixed with. It is innately without a taste.

The world is. It is not good or bad. It just is! It is perhaps a much evolved way of looking at the world, and one might argue almost a spiritual world-view, but definitely something worthy of being flirted with. I find cognitively at least, the premise very liberating. It offers me the hope of empowerment, freeing me from the vice like grip others, circumstances and events have over my ability to be happy. In the act of recognising the world as just something to be dealt with clinically, without the encumbrance of emotion and expectation, I free myself from the yoke of disappointment – that cancer that eats away life slowly and surely unseen to naked eye. The world has no more any duties towards me – of being fair and nice, of being good and kind, of doing to me what I want and giving me what I desire. The world just is! The world no longer owes me anything in return of my efforts, loyalties and emotions – it does not have to take care of me or get flustered by any quid pro quo. The world just is!

The possibilities of this thought are immense. They are worth exploring.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Monday Musings 249 – Gods can have feet of clay

Monday Musings 249 – Gods can have feet of clay

A few comments with friends cutting across states and the country on the subject of Narendra Modi went to the following effect - “ He is our only hope and India has a future only with him today and the best thing would be to give him charge for the next 20 years and then see what India does’.  Well this is not about Modi as everything unfortunately turns out to be these days but about a question that such hero worship almost to the level of cult raises – and I ask this question not necessarily in the political context but equally organisational or social context – what are the perils of such a phenomena?

Here is my point – the moment a large group of people put all their hopes on one person and start to believe, if not fantasise, that he is the messiah who will pull them out of their current rot and if not for this person we are doomed because no one else has either the vision or the ability or the charisma to lead us through the current malaise – these people either as a voting mass in a polity or a employees in organisation are creating conditions for either disappointment or failure or both.

The same question in an organisation or institution can be framed as – the belief that ONE person, worse still ONE specific person will miraculously change things for the better – be able to provide direction to the lost, provide vision to the blind, energise the sleepy, spark up the mediocre and wave the magic band – and voila the company will start growing, increase market share and become a shining beacon of excellence – then I suspect as argued above we are creating conditions for either disappointment or failure both.  

Such hero worship, romantic as the idea may sound is flawed in multiple ways and often ends in grief. Here are some of my reasons. You can add yours.

One – such obsessive cult often distorts vision. The idea of a messiah or a miracle man is fiction. It sounds great in myths and stories but real people have real abilities. They come with their expertise but also with their handicaps. Such expectations make the journey of improvement led by only one person either too simplistic or worse delusional. This phenomenon takes eyes away from the nuts and bolts of reality and puts disproportionate focus on the personality. It takes away attention from dirty daily work required to be accomplished by many more and focuses on the meaningless ritual of hero worship.

Second – while it is great for the leader who is at the receiving end of such adulation and dependence (who would not like people fawning and drooling over them!), it is damaging to the masses – the very people who are waiting for this messiah. In the act of depending way too much on one person, the masses relinquish their free will, often without being aware of it. They abdicate their own role in the process of progress, almost saying ‘’since I cannot do, let me be unquestionably loyal to someone who in THINK can’’. Loyalty is not a substitute for the spirit of ownership. This leads to a voluntary but corrosive disempowerment.

Third – this creates fertile ground for such messiah becoming a tyrant. One only needs to study history to know that every single dictator began his journey as the ‘ONLY hope to his people/institution during his times’. Not his fault actually – he was given it on a platter by those who believed a messiah is what their system needed. Benevolent dictator is either a myth or a precursor to an absolute dictator.  Megalomaniacs and overblown egos draw their sustenance from flattering masses and adulating employees. The system is handing over the power of collective and concentrating it in one individual in the name of hope and support.

Fourth – Any leader in any context when burdened with unrealistic expectations of creating magic ( eg – only he will solve all problems, under only him there will be prosperity/growth, only he will arrest depleting profitability and bring back glory etc etc) is quite likely to disappoint. It is not a question of the person’s ability, but the odds get stacked against him with such huge burden of expectations. The absoluteness of the hope that gets attached to him makes even a slip look like a fall. He is up against multiple factors - law of averages, bad timing, or it could be an issue of underestimating the changed context (war prime ministers of countries are often a failure in peace time, growth CEOs often struggle during consolidation, or it could be the proverbial Peter’s principle etc etc). Uneasy rests the soul that carries the weight of such expectations.

So whenever in polity or workplace I hear the mention of such a messiah, I become a healthy sceptic. The whole idea that one saviour is on whom my future depends is so bloody demeaning to my idea of individual self respect and free will. So I suggest we question such gods, keep them on their toes, scrutinise their thought process, decision making at all times. Make them feel challenged at all times. It will be healthy for them and good for us.

In any case about gods and messiahs I have come to realise, they often have feet of clay.