Category: Publishable Randoms

The Simple Things and Pleasures of Life


Which we missed, and keep missing even now……….

The only simple things and pleasures of life that I have known in my early years of life happened well before I turned 17. In fact, most of those simple things which I relish in my memories even today happened when I was less than 12 years old.

While we can attribute the recognition and enjoyment of “simple” things and pleasures to our innocence, there is no reason why those kinds of simple things could not have continued all through our lives. “Simple” pleasures keep coming up throughout life, as when you hold your first baby in hand and he or she smiles at you. I will touch upon these things in this post, but first let me elaborate on what I mean by “Simple” stuff.

As we take baby steps into our complex life story, there are instances which we would like to keep repeating or we would like to happen every day – for instance, form a small group of close-knit friends in primary school, while all the time fighting with them; play “kabbadi” every day in school, win some games but lose some without any rancour or disappointment, looking forward to settling the scores next day; laugh and run around the class room chasing a friend who has “stolen” a pencil from you; laugh out loud (LOL) when a friend gets the rap from the teacher for none of his mistake; celebrate Deepavali with neighbours’ kids by launching competitive rockets or flower pots; eat a lot of sweets and steal some of them while others are not looking; go to Bata shop with parents to buy shoes for school and push them for what you like; run away from home for playing games when your mom shouts at you for having something to drink or eat; travel in overnight train to a “distant” place on a vacation; drink a “cool” drink (it was mostly Fanta those days) which was really cold and feel really good after the last drop, wanting some more of it; learn to run very fast so that your brother or sister cannot catch you, while you are running with some new gift or stuff that they also want to look at; sing loudly while having a cold bath; and what not…………………so on and so forth.

However, once you finish primary school (those days it was the 5th Grade), you realize you are going into a bigger school which was called the “high” school. You are still wearing half-pants and white shirt, but suddenly a new responsibility comes on you, and your parents start applying more than the normal pressure on your academic performance. They talk about passing out of high school, going to college, achieving their ambitions for you to become a doctor or a lawyer or an engineer. Now, life takes a turn.

You still play games, sports, run around a lot, eat a lot, keep looking for new things, etc., but slowly the speed of everything that has been very active in life drops and settles on your desk with an old lamp throwing light on things you have to do at school tomorrow. Your mind clouds a bit, you are surely a bit confused, your being still wants to do everything you have been doing till date, but attaining the age of 11 and moving into high school changes many things. You are soon rushing into the 8th Grade, then to the 11th Grade, and then passing out as a young guy into college. Of course, we all did naughty things between the ages of 14 and 17, converting our relative innocence about life into something more complex and somewhat mysterious.

Slowly, the “simple pleasures” of life take on a different meaning for us. It is now more self-centred. In my case, it was different because I lost my father when I turned 17, and so the complexity of life took a major toll on how my views of the world, and my views of “simple pleasures” turned out to be – it has happened to many of us, though it is a much younger age in which to face the challenges, the corruption, the ugliness, and the insincerity of life. For the rest of us, however, life had continued normally which I would call a blessing for an uninterrupted enjoyment of the simple pleasures till the next tipping point arrives in life.

What was a bit unusual in my case (don’t know about other classmates of mine – they might have ben faced with similar issues) was that I faced a series of financial and social troubles which continued from the age of 17 till I turned 29. And, I had to tackle each and every issue on my own at a relatively young age, with no support from anyone. That experience made me a tougher person, who formed an opinion on everything at my own will and pleasure. My ability to receive input and feedback from other external constituents dropped significantly. I started to think that I can solve all my problems myself, nobody really helped me till now, and so why bother. A blessing in some disguise, right?

Nothing wrong, as long as the above attitude is combined with hard work and resulting performance, which was the case in my life. I had no time for seeking out religious blessings and spirituality. I was rushing through the act of building the edifice of my life, and ensuring my siblings were all well settled in life. I was rushing through my own marriage. I was rushing through everything in my life at that time anyway.

The result? I missed out on attainment of spirituality. I do not need to be religious or ritual-bound in order to see that there is a greater spirit which guides our lives. It is very critical, in my opinion, to reach the stage of equanimity and spirituality before you turn 30 in the “Sea of Life”, or else you only keep dreaming about it.

Now I am in my late fifties, and I have rarely thought about spirituality except in occasional group talks, while continuing to discharge my duties and responsibilities in life. Do I miss anything? Yes, of course, I miss many important things and one of those key things is “spirituality” and the identification of the spirit which exists within me. I am probably not recognizing the power of the spirit or its healing capacity. I am doing things which my spirit would never approve of. I continue to be “cocky” about my sense of confidence and my ability to navigate the “Sea of Life” without faith on a higher spirit.

This is why it is very crucial to recognize the role of spirit in one’s life while one is relatively young, as any learning during those young days carry on in a sustained manner, undeleted by the passage of time. I also think such a faith would allow one to deal with very difficult health challenges such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s as the spirit should be having a way to guide our soul into “conscience” and make us see the “light” within ourselves.

As I stated before in this post, the “simple pleasures” keep occurring in our lives as we course through life, especially when our children arrive in our lives and inject a new sense of optimism, hope and confidence. Then we see them growing and attaining goals which we thought were very difficult for us! Life goes on and yields a stream of simple pleasures which need to be relished every day.

So, in a nutshell, we need to enjoy every moment of our life, like what we used to do when we were in primary school. If that can be done with the accompaniment of a spiritual guidance, so much more better for us. If not, that’s also fine as long as we are in a equanimous composition in the mental state.

I hope I am able to explain this in a better way. Don’t miss the spirit and its guidance if you can, early in life.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

19th November 2017

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Rating of People Interactions and Behaviour


I have had a long-term habit of generating a rating for every new person that I meet up during the course of my work or on a personal basis, and also an opinion of how people that I know already behave in a particular situation of interest to me. I believe a constant assessment of all people interactions is a necessary basis for judging people, though there are always call-outs by youngsters “don’t judge us” or “don’t pass judgement on people”. But in a world of shifting stances, it is absolutely necessary to define the kind of folks with whom we wish to have a longstanding relationship and that can be done only with some serious assessment and judgement.

While I have mostly managed to keep my ratings and assessments, and consequent judgements private, sometimes when others interact with me, a few judgements do fall out into the open. Recently, I made the point to a couple of people that it is a necessary way to measure potential outcomes – people with high ratings tend to deliver on their commitments, and people who have poor ratings do not deliver as expected, but not necessarily of course. Especially in the corporate context, it is essential to develop a barometer of ratings of people that one comes into contact with on a daily basis, whether these folks are internal to the company or external folks (such as client, partners, analysts, suppliers, service providers, etc.,). You can then determine how to get things done most efficiently for the benefit of your company or yourself!

Such a conditioned measurement rating is developed by careful observations of words, ideas, proactive commitments, timelines, and quality of interactions with others. I developed a system wherein I followed the old, traditional methodology of A+, A, B+, B, C, D and F. There was hardly anyone in the A+ category as to be expected, may be because the other person does not see value in the particular engagement and does not deliver his or her best. Some 5 to 10% of interactions fall into the A category based on quality of interactions, relevance of commitments, follow-through on expeditious basis to deliver, and actual quality of delivery on commitments made. May be around 15 to 20% of the people fall into the B+ category, more than A category, and the rating is based on potential ability to deliver rather than actual delivery (sometimes a perception rather than pure reality). Most people in this category do strive to deliver but sometimes not equipped or capable to deliver on their commitment. Sometimes, the quality of delivery suffers. Sometimes, the behaviour or performance on the way to achieving the desired outcome is not compatible with the level of expectations. Ability to engage on an equitable basis is achieved by the A category folks, but not always by the B+ category.

Most of the folks fall into B or C category (and a few into D, none in F) and while it might be important to maintain the ties for the purpose of future improvements, it is not always necessary to nurture these folks, as the time available is limited to achieve desired outcomes. It is far better to focus on A and B+ categories of people as their productivity far outstrips those of the remaining people in the rest of the categories. Achievement of objectives, delivery of a common goal, accomplishing mutual satisfaction in the relationship and behavioural impact in a strongly positive sense are all critical to success, and these are delivered in ample measure by A category folks and most of the B+ folks as well.

It is sometimes difficult to synchronize the internal ratings system and the actual physical engagement with the concerned individual. The rating assigned to the individual remains in our head and tries to influence our behaviour towards that particular individual. I try not to get caught in this cycle of influenced behaviour and continue in the most nonchalant manner to get on with the task on hand. After all, there was a need for that meeting with that individual and it is important to progress that meeting towards what could be a positive conclusion, without getting unduly impacted by the rating I had given to that individual and his interactions with me in the past.

Such a self training improves our way of looking at people around us and the world, which is not a super-duper A+ world, but on an average, not a bad world either. Most folks around us are average, and fall between B and C on the Bell Curve. This does not mean things do not get accomplished in the world, or the quality of interactions is consistently poor. Things do progress, things do happen, people do work with each other. If the world is comprised only of A+ and A people, then it could become a threatening place driving super productivity in a mechanical manner. If we have people manager responsibility, it is critical to help our reportees move from a C to a B or B+ performance level just to stay in the competitive race, and they do understand this need.

With all that said, it is still essential to measure people around us with whom we come into contact with for meeting some goal – corporate or personal. Such a careful assessment helps not only our thinking, but might eventually help the others in measuring up. When I measure others, I am not judging from an A+ or A pedestal. I position myself in the midpoint, say a B+, that is what would give a considered judgement of other peoples’ potential, their abilities, and their behavioural tendencies. If I position myself as an A+, almost everyone else in the interaction is going to be pushed down in the ratings, and one should consciously avoid this trap. Measure yourself on the same scale and rate yourself first.

Interesting, right? It is a very interesting exercise. Just apply to yourself and the people around you. Measure others as they would measure you, in terms of all the parameters above. You will be surprised to learn that people who you have ignored in the past do get better ratings if measured in an objective manner!

And so on, and so forth.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

6th August 2017

 

The more we think……..


People like to talk with others, whether they know these others or not. If I run into a challenge in a large place which is unknown to me previously, my natural tendency would be to seek out someone from the milling crowd around me who I think has the propensity to respond to my query. I choose the right kind of person, and voila, I get my answer. Sometimes, I choose the clueless guy, who either says he does not know the answer, or points me in the wrong direction. I then need to make a judgement call whether to follow his advice, or ask someone else, provided I develop a suspicion on his response.

We of course, like to talk with people that we do know. There is much less resistance, or reluctance, in starting a conversation with these folks. The assumption here is that they do tolerate you, they know the pitfalls of having the conversation with you, they know that it could lead to a debate, or even to a new problem. It depends on their acceptance of you as an individual with a history of interactions with them, and their current level of tolerance to discuss a topic which could create an issue or a problem. Of course, initiation of a conversation also depends on your comfort level to discuss difficult topics, as your assumption is that there might be a good quality of discussion and a potential outcome which will then help you.

But, what about thoughts? Thinking through any problem, or challenge, or a topic of interest, is one of the most difficult endeavours one could undertake. Your ability to think through the genesis of the problem statement, identify a solution approach, mentally argue on the pros and cons of your proposed approach, and predicting how others would approach the problem given all the evidence in front of you, are all intriguing puzzle pieces. I spend a lot of time thinking about several things on any one day – for example, today I thought about the endurance of distance runners while I was walking early in the morning in the MacRitchie reservoir park, trying to understand how the bio-mechanics of a runner contrasts with mine (I do not run or jog) by observing the guys who were running in front of me. While I was walking back home (after a walk which took me two hours and 13,000 steps), I thought about the perennial fight between the Palestinians and Israelis, and how that problem could be resolved to the satisfaction of both parties – I thought through the options and determined that there is indeed a “bloodless” way which could guarantee Israel’s security and safety, while providing for the establishment of the State of Palestine. I compared that huge challenge with the India – Pakistan fight over Kashmir (which is unlikely to be resolved during our lifetime), and identified issues which are different between the two struggles. Then I thought about the interesting discussion I had with some close friends on Richard Dawkins and Bruce Lipton. On that matter, my view was that it is absolutely essential to understand the position and logic of all parties who could contest a central hypothesis. I have to be able to put myself into someone’s shoes and argue the case for that someone, which helps me to refine my case, logic and rationale against that someone’s position.

And so on, and so forth……….

The more we think, the less we talk nonsense. The more we think, the more logical we become. The more we think, the better we become tolerant and accepting. The more we think, the less isolated we become – though this might sound surprising. Once we think a lot about any particular topic, our mind chases us to validate our position or conclusion, either via secondary research, or by talking to people we know. It is a bit risky talking to people we do not know on weighty topics which could lead to trouble, unless we are a renowned professor who can give a lecture on the matter without inflaming passions!

I strongly believe that the more we think and exercise our grey matter without looking at a book or the internet, the stronger we become in cogent thought formulation, analysis, identification of problems, probable approach to resolution, and determination of potential outcomes. The process positions us on a strong base from which we can argue our case, and persuade people as to the logic of our position. Our life experiences shape us and shape our thinking, and this cannot be denied.

It is not at all necessary to conform to others’ thoughts if you are not convinced. People mistakenly think that they need to conform or agree on the resolution approach propagated by someone else, before you can get into the inner circle of friends and influencers. This is a wrong way of looking at things. People appreciate if one has a view that one explains with passion and then sticks to that view while taking feedback and inputs from others. It is very critical to have an opinion, a view or an analysis of a subject matter of interest to you. Or else, you just read about it in the media, see it on the TV getting debated by erudite people, or hear another view from someone you know, and then you don’t have a view or opinion of your own!

Opinions and views are rarely popular. I have two kinds of approaches when it comes to thinking and then amplifying my views to others who would have the patience to listen. One is original thought process which I come up with (quite often) based on my random readings and very random inner voices, and the other is taking up a contrarian view to what I think people around me are expected to coalesce upon. This second approach has produced some rather interesting results, as I have to develop my thinking to a higher level which could then facilitate a vocal defence of my contrarian view.

In a nutshell, we are given the power and the faculties to think. We should use this power to the fullest. This power would make us a complete human being, with the potential ability and thinking to change the world.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

2nd April 2017

Some Positive Things


There has been some observations from concerned friends and blog-readers that my posts tend to be negative, atleast in a mild fashion, and often criticize whole countries or cultures, rather than suggesting ways to change oneself.

While I believe that as an author of my blog I am entitled to my views (unspoilt by any external or personal influences), and am really open for critical reviews by readers, I think it is also my responsibility to deliberately identify and point out positive things I see around me. I have done that before in my blog itself, but my attempts in the past may not have been that visible or impactful. In my opinion, authors tend to be analytical and shaped by their own experiences, or by things that they witness in their lives. Authors rarely get shaped by one-sided views of their friends or colleagues and instead tend to exercise academic neutrality on issues of critical importance, not getting easily swayed.

In this post, I thought I will write some positive things about India, my country of birth. I have plenty to gripe about India, and have expressed my opinion in multiple blog posts over the years. Unfortunately, I have not been in a position to change anything in India itself, which I regret. The only positive thing that I have done is to stay connected with an orphanage over the years.

One very positive thing about India that the whole world has noticed is the composition of its demographics. India has the world’s youngest population for a very large country of its size – over 35% of its population is under 35 years old, and over 50% of its population is under 25 years old. This is hugely significant – we are talking about over 400M people and 600M people respectively. India can indeed be the factory for the world. No wonder Lockheed Martin kind of companies wish to move their entire F-16 production line to India (just one example, there are other valid reasons for that proposed move). For the next 3 decades or so, India will become the mainstay supplier of young people to the rest of the world. This is a hugely positive thing for India and for the world.

The other great thing about India that I like very much is its resilience as a nation which is a primary result of its people diversity. India snaps back to normalcy after every calamity, or natural disaster, or terror strike, with determination to continue leading normal lives and bitterly swallowing the feelings about its fallen heroes. Such a strong determination makes India a place in which it has never been a problem to attract young men to the army or police. The resilience of its people makes India a great nation which will bare its teeth and fight any challenge with or without modern equipment. One has to just take stock of the series of natural calamities which have hit India time and again, and witness the army’s role in saving civilians, and peoples’ role in saving others irrespective of religion, caste or creed.

A fantastic thing about India is the respect people have for their parents and teachers. The Indian culture insists that we continue to do this throughout our lives. And, we do it all the time. Even if one gets angry with one’s parents, the interaction is going to be usually based on a respectful conversation; no sign of disrespect to one’s parents is displayed as parents and teachers (the good ones at least!) are almost treated as gods. Parents earn for their kids throughout their lives and devote all their efforts to the upbringing of their children, and the children know that as well. It is very rare even today that an adolescent child leaves home on his/her own looking for a separate house to settle down, unless there is a business imperative or unless there is a need to operate out of another town.

There are many positive things about India, and it is not feasible to list all of these things here in my simple blog post. Sometimes, I think that India’s positives might eventually overtake the negatives, but I do not wish to give the slack to India on the negatives which it has to seriously address before it can become a first-world nation. India cannot be beholden to all its not so positive legacies, and must instead focus on building a modern nation based on a gender-neutral, religion-neutral, caste-neutral, race-neutral, colour-neutral society. Government intervention is needed to correct the wrongs and make India a successful first-world country which stands proudly amongst the top 10 countries of the world. However, as it stands today, there are several positive stories that can be recounted about India, and it has been my view that such positive aspects have not been widely discussed or shared.

Wishing a Happy Diwali to all my readers, whether you are from India or not, and whether you are Indian or not!!!

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

30th October 2016

 

 

 

From Second World to First World


Singapore is now clearly ensconced as one of the top ten wealthiest nations on planet earth.

This has not been achieved easily.

Lots of sweat and thinking has gone on into making a marshy land one of the world’s top financial centres today. Earlier, it was one of the top electronics manufacturing centres as well, which it has ceded to Malaysia and some other countries. Singapore still has the world’s busiest container seaport, the best airport, and a crime-free city which is still to be rivalled anywhere in the world. There are many other firsts for this tiny “red-dot” of a city state, but the purpose of this post is not to list all of them.

The challenge facing the country today is cost competitiveness.

While larger developed countries have the sustainability due to their larger population and long-standing core country competencies which have been in-built into their economies, Singapore has always been a small city state with core trading skills. As countries around develop their systems and people, Singapore needs to find its feet, while competing on costs.

Which is not entirely possible, with a population aspiring for the best things in life.

Costs have been on the rise over the past four years in Singapore, despite multiple measures taken by the Government to check the rise. Real estate and car prices have risen at breakneck speeds, and are still rising. This has frustrated the local people, who often tend to blame the foreigners for the price rise.

While that may be partially true, there is no substantive rationale for the real estate prices more than doubling in less than four years. Lack of land space is not the reason, as there are probably more than 30,000 apartments lying vacant even now.

I can understand the rise in car prices, but these have again become just untenable. Cars are not really needed to go around the city, but then people have aspirations which cannot be controlled purely by policy-making.

There are other price rises in retail – while food seems to be still OK, clothing and other stuff have become pricier. One of my European friends mentioned to me that he now gets his clothing and suits from Germany (!), which is some 30% cheaper than the same quality commands in Singapore – and he still felt that even the European materials when purchased in Germany are of better quality.

Goes to show that profit-making seems to be the motive rather than catering to a wider population in retail business. While that is fine, Singaporeans also travel all over the world, and so are not immune from learning of prices elsewhere. A high-quality suit can be ordered in Bangkok for USD 500 or in Hong Kong for USD 800, while that would cost not less than USD 1,200 in Singapore. How do you explain that – we are talking of same textile material here, and one cannot explain it saying that the Hong Kong tailors are more efficient with less turnaround time, or that the Bangkok tailors use fake material.

Many examples can be given. In my opinion, Singapore is at least some 25 to 30% more expensive than the neighbouring countries, and some 10 to 15% more expensive than the developed countries.

A strategy to contain inflationary trends in retail does not work due to the variability of the market, but it does work for major elements such as real estate and automotives, etc. It only takes longer – some six to nine months, to take full effect.

It is critical for Singapore not to make it to the list of the top 10 most expensive destinations in the world. Or, to the top 10 most expensive real estate locations in the world. That ranking is not needed to be successful.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan
15th February 2014

From Second World to First World


Singapore is now clearly ensconced as one of the top ten wealthiest nations on planet earth.

This has not been achieved easily.

Lots of sweat and thinking has gone on into making a marshy land one of the world’s top financial centres today. Earlier, it was one of the top electronics manufacturing centres as well, which it has ceded to Malaysia and some other countries. Singapore still has the world’s busiest container seaport, the best airport, and a crime-free city which is still to be rivalled anywhere in the world. There are many other firsts for this tiny “red-dot” of a city state, but the purpose of this post is not to list all of them.

The challenge facing the country today is cost competitiveness.

While larger developed countries have the sustainability due to their larger population and long-standing core country competencies which have been in-built into their economies, Singapore has always been a small city state with core trading skills. As countries around develop their systems and people, Singapore needs to find its feet, while competing on costs.

Which is not entirely possible, with a population aspiring for the best things in life.

Costs have been on the rise over the past four years in Singapore, despite multiple measures taken by the Government to check the rise. Real estate and car prices have risen at breakneck speeds, and are still rising. This has frustrated the local people, who often tend to blame the foreigners for the price rise.

While that may be partially true, there is no substantive rationale for the real estate prices more than doubling in less than four years. Lack of land space is not the reason, as there are probably more than 30,000 apartments lying vacant even now.

I can understand the rise in car prices, but these have again become just untenable. Cars are not really needed to go around the city, but then people have aspirations which cannot be controlled purely by policy-making.

There are other price rises in retail – while food seems to be still OK, clothing and other stuff have become pricier. One of my European friends mentioned to me that he now gets his clothing and suits from Germany (!), which is some 30% cheaper than the same quality commands in Singapore – and he still felt that even the European materials when purchased in Germany are of better quality.

Goes to show that profit-making seems to be the motive rather than catering to a wider population in retail business. While that is fine, Singaporeans also travel all over the world, and so are not immune from learning of prices elsewhere. A high-quality suit can be ordered in Bangkok for USD 500 or in Hong Kong for USD 800, while that would cost not less than USD 1,200 in Singapore. How do you explain that – we are talking of same textile material here, and one cannot explain it saying that the Hong Kong tailors are more efficient with less turnaround time, or that the Bangkok tailors use fake material.

Many examples can be given. In my opinion, Singapore is at least some 25 to 30% more expensive than the neighbouring countries, and some 10 to 15% more expensive than the developed countries.

A strategy to contain inflationary trends in retail does not work due to the variability of the market, but it does work for major elements such as real estate and automotives, etc. It only takes longer – some six to nine months, to take full effect.

It is critical for Singapore not to make it to the list of the top 10 most expensive destinations in the world. Or, to the top 10 most expensive real estate locations in the world. That ranking is not needed to be successful.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan
22nd Sept 2013

Dead Horse Theory


Courtesy: From a person personally known to me

“When you discover that you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount and get a different horse.”

However, in government, education and corporate life, more advanced strategies are often employed, such as:

1. Buying a stronger whip.

2. Changing riders.

3. Appointing a committee to study the horse.

4. Arranging to visit other countries to see how other cultures ride dead horses.

5. Lowering the standards so that the dead horse can be included.

6. Reclassifying the dead horse as ‘living impaired’.

7. Hiring outside contractors to ride the dead horse.

8. Harnessing several dead horses together to increase speed.

9. Providing additional funding and / or training to increase dead horse’s performance.

10. Doing a productivity study to see if lighter riders would improve the dead horse’s performance.

11. Declaring that as the dead horse does not have to be fed, it is less costly, carries lower overheads and therefore contributes substantially more to the bottom line of the economy than do some other horses.

12. Rewriting the expected performance requirements for all horses.

And, of course,

13. Promoting the dead horse to a supervisory position!

Alarmingly True, right ?

Courtesy: From a person personally known to me

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan
29th April 2012
Mumbai