Saturday, September 14, 2013

Learning, creating, nurturing - The need for balance

Jack of all trades

Youth is one phase during which we are constantly experimenting. Experimenting on everything, and with a lot of passion! Music, art, writing, travel, all of these feed our brains with various stimuli. We also experiment at other things – at running events, organizing charities, helping the poor, saving the planet, joining politics, being the change we wish to see!

In all the experimentation, the biggest driver is passion and the fun of doing something new. As time goes on, the mind kicks into action, analyzing again, which of these are important for us to retain in life consistently, and which need to be given up. After all, a person can only do so much. You need to prioritize.

Master of one?

At different stages, different things seem important to us, and we go in that flow. Later we find that the same level of passion is not retained in all things. In others, we find that the passion remains, but it requires long term commitment (which we may or may not be able to give). In yet others, we find that we do not have what it takes to go beyond a certain level of proficiency.

A year after college, I was still confused about what I wanted to do in life. I wanted to do ‘some masters’ - but I found the idea of doing an MBA equally intriguing as doing an MS. In short, I had no clue! I joined for a CAT preparation course, paying the full 12K out of my pocket, only to drop out after four classes! A few months later, when I applied for MS classes, my roommate made fun of me, “Let’s see how long you go for these classes”. I completed my MS successfully and with decent grades.

The need for balance

What may have started a wise advice from elders to show commitment to at least one main stream of work, has often ended as a warning against trying out new things!

“Concentrate on your work”
“You are too old to learn music”
“But what happened to your previous hobby?”
“Stick to one thing, man!”

Over time, I realize that consistency comes from being able to balance three things

  • Learning: These are things that constantly act as fodder for our brain and inspiration for our minds. These often get left out by adults and as a result, they find that they become stale with time. Learning is not just about learning in a career way. Learning is part of every single activity you take up! It includes career, housework, hobbies. Being a jack of all trades is part of this interesting journey!
  • Creating: It is not enough to learn. Our sense of worth comes from creating some value in this world. Something new, something with our signature on it. It could be something at work, it could be an entrepreneurial venture, it could be setting up new family norms, doing anything that you are good at and enjoy taking time out for.
  • Nurture: This is about giving back to society. It maybe your relationships with the people closest to you. It is about getting people to understand you. It is about bringing more people to the level of realization that you have reached.

If you spend all your time just ‘learning’, you very soon get disconnected with the world you are learning about!

If you spend all your time ‘creating’, you might very soon find yourself in an island with no friends, no beneficiaries.

If you spend all your time in ‘nurturing’ - which I would call social-service, you forget to ‘learn’ and ‘create’. This is a selfless act and can win you a lot of love and happiness, but generally, if it is not coupled with learning, very soon the capability of the person to nurture is also lost. The ‘creation’ activity is vital in giving experiential learning inputs too, besides giving the person a strong sense of self-worth.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Murmurs from the other side

Do you not hear the whispers across this side of existence?

Little babies knocking to be in presence

Innocent wisps in peaceful calm,

Then provoked to sudden excitement in agitated alarm

Do you not hear the tremors, of a fleeting human essence?

Frail old men in agony or complacence -

Aging stars of a growing dusk

Wistful thoughts, mellowing words that were once brusque

Do you not hear the silent groans, voices of a surreal presence?

Abandoned souls in the brink of evanescence

Grabbing in urgent appeal

Mind and body stretched, the soul in its mortal struggle

Pleasing art the innocence, and tiring, the constant attendance

Yet gentle blow the songs of appeal to the human conscience

Let us reach out in assistance

To these hovering spirits flitting in an ethereal space

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Faith, trust and hope

Once all villagers decided to pray for rain. On the day of the prayer, all people gathered, and only one boy came with an umbrella.

When you throw up a one year old baby, he laughs in eagerness, because he knows you will catch him.

Every night we go to bed, we have no assurance to wake up alive the next morning, but we still have plans for tomorrow.

Faith, trust and hope. Keep them by your side always, they will give you the strength even when everything else deserts you!

[Oops, the examples are not my own creation :) Credits to whoever wrote them first! ]

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Quality Assurance in politics

With the election results out, discussions are at its high peak on all news channels on what India needs most at this moment. Stability, direction, good governance, are some the keywords making the rounds. Somebody commented on how the transactional costs in our government are too high simply because of way too little trust. You have one person to do the actual job, another to watch over him, a third person to what over that person, and a fourth to watch over the third and so on ..

Perhaps politics needs to borrow something from industry. Every piece of code that we write goes through a rigorous process of Quality Assurance ( QA ). Till now QA has meant a rigorous process of human resources manually trying to break the code in all ways. In eBay, there is roughly one QA person for every two developers. Which means that for every two persons who write code, they need one person to ensure that he's doing a good job. What a waste of resource in verifying the same things over and over again!

Of late, there is a move towards Quality Engineering ( QE ) as against QA. As a developer, we know better what are the functionalities the code provides or does not provide. If we write an automated suite that ensures that the functionality the developer intends is never broken / sends out an alert the moment it is, we ensure that future developers need not worry about unwittingly breaking a piece of code I wrote, by making a change elsewhere. This is especially important in big enterprises. Of course, you automate repetitive tasks, and keep humans to do the more intelligent quality assurance required. That way your QA : dev ratio can reduce to as low as 1:6 or even more.

In politics and government, e-governance should be able to reduce the number of government hierarchies required, and leave them free to do more constructive work. As of today, the press works as the most effective Quality Assurance group, but if the problems could be detected by the government 'before' it 'releases' schemes & fails to follow up on them, we would save a lot of taxpayers money.

We need a thirdparty standards organization that can help the government to proactively minimize "production bugs" as we'd call it.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Can things get simpler ?

Buddhism be classified more as a philosophy than a religion.A very straightforward, simple way of looking at and living life. An attitude and way of life that would solve half of the modern day problems. I particularly liked The Four Solaces put forward by Buddha.

"'Suppose there is a hereafter and there is a fruit, result, of deeds done well or ill. Then it is possible that at the dissolution of the body after death, I shall arise in the heavenly world, which is possessed of the state of bliss.' This is the first solace found by him.

"'Suppose there is no hereafter and there is no fruit, no result, of deeds done well or ill. Yet in this world, here and now, free from hatred, free from malice, safe and sound, and happy, I keep myself.' This is the second solace found by him.

"'Suppose evil (results) befall an evil-doer. I, however, think of doing evil to no one. Then, how can ill (results) affect me who do no evil deed?' This is the third solace found by him.

"'Suppose evil (results) do not befall an evil-doer. Then I see myself purified in any case.' This is the fourth solace found by him.

A person only needs goodness within him, to agree with this philosophy, no matter what his religious orientation is.

" Right view, Right aspiration [ the path to wisdom ]
Right speech, Right action, Right livelihood [ the path to morality ]
Right effort, Right mindfulness, Right concentration [the path to meditation ] "

In today's world even agreeing with the above philosophies sounds to be a hypocrisy :)