I was having a chat with one of my close personal and family friends yesterday. It was a casual chat, but as always it turned into a deep discussion on several matters which have always been close to my heart, and I am sure, to his heart as well.
While we meandered around issues and challenges of mutual interest, we finally landed on the most important and critical issue that should dominate every discussion that people over 50 years of age are having, and that is, how to make the best out of the rest of our lives.
Yes, it is something that we should not shy away from. Discussing potential death timeline, and how to deal with it in advance, and understanding how others would deal with your death, is something that is direly needed. We do not discuss such matters. Period. Don’t you agree? It is considered inauspicious to even think of such things.
While discussing death could be seriously challenging, what about discussing about how to make things better for others while we are all on the firm and unchangeable path to our respective deaths? In a nutshell, how to make the best out of the rest of our lives? How can the rest of our lives be useful to not only the people closest to us, but also to people in the society we live in?
While my friend and I discussed this matter briefly, it was clear in our minds that this was something that is going to dominate our thoughts and actions in the coming months and years. Again, let us think about our legacy. Who will remember us, year after year, outside of our very close relatives and family friends? Is there someone out in the open world who would recognize your contributions to the society that you had lived in before you passed away – someone not related to you, someone not your friend? You do not have to be famous or a big philanthropist to have that kind of recall.
As we plough through our conscience, our entire life till now, our close family members and friends, it becomes very clear that there are very few people outside our circle who have been impacted by your presence in this world (let us say over 50 years, could go on to a 100 years!).
Did we ask the right questions to figure out who needs our help? Did we consciously feel that we could have been of service to those in need? Did we do public service? Did we mentor people who are not related to us or not friends of us? Did we donate to charity every year? Did we give out time to people who would have benefited? Did we even ask our own close personal and family friends if they need any assistance?
Very few people do these things. Just touch your heart and respond. We want to have a drink and relax, or we want to attend parties and network, or we go for movies. We worry about our financial position all the time. We worry about the condition of our car, yes, we “feel” for our car, or our apartment. We worry about tons of mundane things. But we do not worry about how to make the best use of our time to help others in need.
Money and material things dominate our conversations, even those within our own family network. There is no spirituality in almost everything we do. We should not confuse religious affiliation or temple visits or prayers or rituals with spirituality. This is a common mistake we all make. You attain spiritual well-being when the Super Power (not the U.S.) determines that you are (a) devoid of material desires; and (b) you have rendered help to several poor folks who would vouch for your generosity, kindness, time and assistance. It is not going to be based on how many times a month you visited temples or prayed for your own material success.
I think if you are reading this blog post, you are going to probably ring me. You would want to discuss more. Yes, I think there is a lot more to this topic than what I have written thus far. Let us discuss. I strongly believe our times are limited, and we have to contribute urgently. No one can predict how long we are going to live. Why bother about the lifespan if you can focus on things which help others? Not that it would assure a place in heaven, but that is the best thing that you can do.
Think about it, and let us talk soon!
5th November 2017
I have almost completely forgotten my Electronics & Communication Engineering.
I have forgotten all the equations that were necessary to understand how the theory of electro-magnetism works in practice, and how do electrons and neutrons struggle within an atom. Complex equations, stochastic processes, integration and differentiation, Fourier Transforms, linear differential equations, and what not?
I have not applied a single one of those equations in my engineering/business life, even in companies which depend on some of these theories to make and sell their stuff to customers. Of course, when you look at a boiler, a turbine, a rocket, a power generation plant, a refinery, or any other engineering driven plant or business, there is some recognition in my mind that I “used” to know something about all these at some earlier point in my life.
Did any of these matter to me in my life? The real answer is a clear NO.
Let me now come to my coveted MBA. I enjoyed working through my MBA Program, no doubt. I liked the intense discussions which went on in the class on various topics of importance to corporate life.
Did I enjoy my MBA? Ofcourse, it is a YES.
Did I get to use my MBA learning in my corporate life? Not really. May be a bit of Marketing, a bit of Finance, but I would say that I would have picked it up anyway during the course of my business life.
All these education focus, is it really necessary?
May not be required for the future of our children. Things are changing so rapidly as we navigate an already very complex life, and the skills that we learnt are no longer in use or needed in business life. Did we really keep up with what is transforming the world as at this moment? The answer is also a NO, as we have a wrong and incorrect belief system (in most of us) that persuades us all to take a rather casual approach to the emerging challenges, and that is rooted on our seniority and experiences over several decades.
We continue to operate on generalities and general knowledge which have seen us through till now in our lives.
But, these tools may not be adequate or even recognized by our employers any more.
Our education, experience, expertise, and insight may no longer be required in the new completely digital and Artificial Intelligence-driven life that is fast becoming a reality. Most of us can be replaced by machine learning and AI systems.
We are all lucky we got through most of our corporate lives unscathed (apart from the usual restructuring) till now.
Now, the challenge is not from within ourselves or our corporations. The challenge is from outside, and it may not even be related to your current business.
Think about it for a moment.
We are “used” cars. In a new world, we may easily be replaced by newer models, and faster cars. Our education is now totally irrelevant. I am no longer interacting with my elite MBA institution or its representatives in Singapore.
I am trying to meet folks with “new” and “radical” ideas to transform our business going forward. Most of the people we meet in our corporate life deserve no more than a “B” rating. Few people are a “B+”, and very few are a “A”.
As we course through our life, we see that the “B+” and “A” folks are much younger, sharper, incisive, intellectual, and operate entirely on data, not on qualitative stuff and not on perceptions. Relationships are no longer sacrosanct. The “B”s and “C”s are generally people whose profiles are similar to ours. Of course, there are exceptions.
So, in a nutshell, we need to mingle not just amongst ourselves or with our colleagues in our office or in other offices, but with young people who don’t give a damn about age, seniority, experience or old expertise. We need fresh thinking, and they will provide it all the time. Further, they will take risks which we cannot. So, they will go on to create new value, while we ruminate on “how great it was during our time”.
So, I took some actions –
- Subscribe to few digital courses at MIT Online Courses
- Visit Block 71 in Singapore and meet with young startup founders
- Invest in the stocks of few new companies that you believe in – can be in Technology, Bio-tech, or whatever you are interested in – the good outcome is you understand what is happening
- See CNBC every night – they talk about the markets and the new companies ringing the bell on listing
- Change your mind, your thinking, your interactions, your friends/acquaintances
- Do a business plan for a new company that you would like to start – I did this and it was not just informative, it was completely transformative. I even set up a website and validated the business plan
- List out options on what you would like to do after quitting your current corporate life – this will be tough if you are so used to the routine for a long time
- Offer your services as an unpaid mentor either to startup individuals or to startups themselves – they may or may not accept, but it is worth trying
- Read up on Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, how these technologies which have been there for a long time have now taken on new avatars in combination with Big Data Analytics and Cloud technologies and platforms
I am dropping point #10, not all lists have to have ten points!
Don’t you think the above is interesting? May not work for everyone, or you might have your own approach depending on your area of specialization or the industry you are from.
I am already excited and feeling younger in mood, spirit and attitude. I am trying to drop all my old baggage that I have learnt or am carrying with me. It is time to completely “unlearn” everything we know.
The world is, and will, no longer be the same one that we had known all these years.
Time to learn new things and get going.
22nd October 2017
I met with an old friend of mine yesterday who worked with me in Singapore many years ago. He is from the Philippines and was visiting Singapore on business. He is some 7 years younger to me, but is wiser than me and I should say, more broad-minded. I always try to meet up with him whenever he visits Singapore, and has been the beneficiary of his counsel on many matters of life.
He thinks highly of me as well, and shares his views on business and life with me. We know each others’ families, and I have stayed with him in Manila during one of my trips. My views on the Philippines is largely shaped by his commentary on his country.
Yesterday’s meeting was no different. It was a real pleasure to catch up, and the meeting veered towards substantive life issues. Charlie has been impacted by his father’s recent demise. He also described the cancer plaguing one of our mutual friends in the U.S. He mentioned that life is fragile and we all need to do things which we enjoy right away without any undue delay. No procrastination. Spend more time with your family and friends. Do not have regrets.
He asked me a rhetorical question – “is the world going to miss you tomorrow morning if you are gone today”, and the answer was a firm “No”. The world will move on with its business, and a small group of family members and close friends will probably shed tears and express remorse and grief, and that would be all. Things will get back to normal and even close family and friends will move on in life, except for occasional remembrances.
It is kind of difficult to understand and digest this aspect of life. What can we then do today that would impact folks around us? How can people feel the positive impact of anyone in their lives? We are not talking here about the great historical figures who built nations (like Mahatma Gandhi, or Lee Kuan Yew), or who discovered scientific breakthroughs (like Albert Einstein, or Thomas Edison), or the first astronaut who flew around the earth (Yuri Gagarin), et al. Many of these people have had strong impact in the manner in which nations and lives have developed during the 20th Century, and there are hundred of such figures whose names can easily be recalled. But, how about yours? Will anyone outside your immediate circle recall your positive contributions to society? Will anyone even remember us?
If a person has led a good life, causing no harm to others, always wanting to help others especially the downtrodden, and tries to contribute to society in some positive manner, it is not necessary that he or she should be famous with an easily recallable name. The small positive contribution will be recognised by the society. However, the most important effect is that his or her children carry on the same principles in their respective lives, and inculcate similar philosophies in their immediate circles. A small group of people will surely recall how good a person was during his or her lifetime. And, that should be enough.
Coming back to Charlie, he was gazing beyond me yesterday and thinking seriously about the fragility of human life. I told him that I completely synchronise with him on his line of thinking, and suggested that we should spend more time together discussing these aspects of life. It is critical to decipher when one becomes happy, and most of us do not ask ourselves that question – “what makes us truly happy?”. Think about it for a couple of minutes and you will see that the answer is quite complex. There are many happy things that you can do, there are things that you can do which makes others happy, but what exactly that you do that makes you very happy? Think about it.
May be sailing in the sunset with your life partner will make you very happy, or celebrating the arrival of your first grand-son or grand-daughter will make you very happy. But do you become very happy when you receive a huge sales commission or you sell a share for a big profit?
What are you going to do with that money?
We still live on 3 simple meals a day, and our wants are minimal (at least for most of us). One does not need to have huge amount of money unless one wants to donate to charity and help people of Syria, Rwanda, Angola, and other very poor countries.
So, it is time to ruminate your position in the circus of life and whether you are playing it well, not just for your own benefit but for others’ as well. Are people around you happy about you? What are you doing today to positively contribute to the mood at home, or to society at large?
A lot to think for the weekend, I guess.
Have a good one.
15th July 2017
Today, I had the opportunity to meet and catch up with some old friends from the same old company that we all worked for more than a couple of decades ago. It was wonderful to see kindred spirits with the same old sparkle in their eyes !
We met on a beach on the east coast side of Singapore. I was surprised by the amazing camaraderie that I witnessed, as though we never separated from that grand old IT company that we all worked for. This can happen only if we were all close knit while working together, and if our personal value systems aligned with that of the company. Both were a strong positive in our context, and we thoroughly enjoyed every moment of our get-together.
I was seriously looking for differences in thought processes, differences in the way a person approaches a problem, and differences in the way a person looks like. I did not see any ! And, that was indeed very surprising, though it should not have been surprising at all.
These folks are the regular sincere networkers, who have always been dedicated to the field of IT and to each other. I do not think that any one of them will give up on any one else in that group. Indeed, it was a tight-knit team which could stand up and perform in the same or better way than what they did some 25 years ago. This is simply unbelievable. and shows the quality of the intake at the company we worked for in those days.
Everyone shared their views on the current situation, asked questions of each other, probed each other for their thoughts on matters of relevance, discussed companies in both start-up mode and established ones, highlighted achievements, et al. It was fantastic, though I felt that the time was rather limited. I proposed that we continue our engagements at a higher frequency, say atleast once in two months, which was quickly accepted. We also decided to pursue communications using the same WhatsApp group which was used to invite us all for today’s get-together.
As we get older and supposedly wiser, it becomes critical to seek out folks with whom you have worked in the past, to achieve faster synchronization using familiarity and dependability as very important parameters for the socialization. The group then becomes a sounding board for ideas and innovations, and gets tighter together. Who knows, there might be a way to work together again in some way !
In a nutshell, these are the kinds of meetings and catchups that I do not wish to miss. Very important to stay connected, communicate and share thoughts. I am going to push for more frequent communications amongst the group members.
Have a great evening, and a fantastic week ahead,
24th January 2016
I am not that consumer-centric ! Ha Ha Ha !!
But I thought, sometimes it is crucial to recognize the few readers that I have who keep coming back for more. It is also that time of the year when we recharge our batteries, get together with our families and network with our friends as we herald into yet another exciting year.
I have always felt that this is the ideal time of the year for committing to do something new. Something more impactful in life. Something that will help one to recognize his or her importance and contribution to the lives of others. Something which creates new excitement. Something to look forward to.
It is a very important time for connecting with family and friend. I am planning to do exactly that. As I engage more in social and family conversations, I hope to get away from computers. Let me try !
I will be back to writing my blog from 2nd January 2016, which is the first Saturday of the New year. See you then. In the meanwhile, here’s Wishing You All a Merry Christmas and a Fantastic New Year ahead in 2016 !
19th December 2015
I met my secondary school classmate yesterday in Singapore. He lives in Germany.
Apart from the sheer pleasure of seeing someone from yesteryears, especially one from your school years, there is also the comfort feeling of being in a position to discuss any topic under the sun without any inhibitions. This is not possible in a friends’ gathering where most people may be just acquaintances. It is not even possible with close friends whose friendship has been acquired during the business or social life, as possibility exists of misunderstanding one’s thoughts.
Yesterday I felt like talking to my old classmate about certain topics like how I am turning into a socialist (from a capitalist) and how I feel guilty of not having contributed enough to society. I do feel a little odd when I am having an expensive lunch/dinner or even having a good coffee sometimes, because occasionally my thoughts stray towards the refugees and orphans who are streaming from the Middle East to Europe without even the possibility of having a good meal. I am not sure if my smallish contribution to an orphanage in India is reflective of what I could have done better over the years.
I shared with my classmate friend about the annual guilt removal feature that exists in many of us who make a small donation and get away from all the poor, inadequate, sick and orphaned children. Money can never replace time. We should be contributing our own time for free (I mean those of us who are decently well off), rather than just throw some money and in the process attempt to address our guilt.
I believe this was a good discussion as I was able to articulate what my restless mind seems to be telling me in an incessant manner. I was comfortable sharing my thoughts and feelings with my friend in a mutually friendly manner. I think this provided a lot of comfort to me and my soul.
As I was returning home, my mind was contemplating the quiet support that my friend appeared to be extending to my views, notwithstanding any difference of opinion that might have existed. I believe it is a critical facet of friendship and understanding. In fact, my friend and I are almost at the opposite ends on another topic – religions and godmen. I explained my position given that my friend is of a different viewpoint, and there was mutual quiet acknowledgement of our respective positions without any attempt to thrashing out such positions. I did tell him that I had attempted such things in the past with relatives and friends’ groups and eventually reconciled myself that sometimes it is better to keep things to oneself. In other words, achieve peace without acrimony of any sort !
Well, it was a great meeting, and I look forward to more such interactions wherein my comfort level allows me to share more of myself with my old friends. I relish the opportunity to do so !
Bon Voyage my friend.
21st November 2015
I met with one of my secondary school classmates after a gap of almost 40 years (39 years to be exact). He is a successful Criminal Lawyer in Chennai, and is well known in the legal arena. His name is Chander.
I instantly recognized him standing in front of Hussaini’s house (Hussaini being my other famous classmate) near the beach in the Southern part of Chennai, as I approached the house. I walked out of the car and embraced him, and he was very warm towards me, and said that he has missed seeing me all these years.
Such is friendship. While I was a studious kid, not indulging in any extracurricular activities, and was known as a quiet person, many of my classmates were extroverts with multiple talents and even business skills those days. Coming to think of it, we even had an entrepreneur (Ravi) in our class, and several businessmen (like Malik, Ashraf,…..) and sportsmen (like Nanda). And, we had a hugely talented Hussaini, who is now a multi-faceted personality – there is none like him. We also have a judge (Sudhakar) and lawyer (Chander).
We spent a evening amongst ourselves, talking about those old school days, our teachers, our other class mates, and the latest developments in our lives. I realized that Chander, Hussaini and a few others have accomplished a lot in life. I don’t wish to compare, but in my case I have only been in corporate jobs, I did not choose a profession. A profession such as lawyer, doctor, artist, sportsman, etc., gives a choice to excel in creativity and professional achievement like no other job. I am not demeaning other jobs, I am just pointing out the difference in accomplishing something in life which impacts other lives.
So, it was a great evening with some good food and drinks, but more than anything else, it was a reunion of minds. It was the sheer acceleration of old thoughts rushing into the head, recollection of incidents, the review of class actions, and the rapid clicking in the mind of the impact of those early days in life. Though I was meeting Hussaini for the second time in just 4 months, and have been in touch with Nanda over many years, it still was a great occasion, accentuated by the presence of Chander. We also had Ravi Shankar from our senior batch and I struck a new friendship with him.
It was clear to all of us that we need to have more such bonding sessions, and all of us promised to ourselves to facilitate the same in future.
01 August 2015