Education for transformation and destruction

Anything that has the power to transform our lives can also, cause destruction to our lives. For instance, electricity has transformed our lives yet it can cause destruction. Similarly, education can either transform or bring destruction depending on what we are being educated on. Global warming is a stark example of this.

If you think about it, are educated people or uneducated people ruining the planet? I am sure we have a unanimous answer here.


Perceived cost vs. actual cost

Seth Godin, in his interviews, always talks about his 40 billion dollar worth of t-shirt that reminds him of not being able to see the potential of the internet to build a company like Yahoo. If only he had seen what the founders of Yahoo had seen years ago, he would have been a billionaire by now. The t-shirt simply reminds him of the cost of not seeing the world as it is.

While we are good at calculating benefits, not many of us are good at calculating the (hidden) costs/price of things we enroll in our life. More often than not, we consider costs as simply the compromises we think we are making and not the compromises we are actually making.

Creation and Consumption are inversely related

When an economy progresses, its a sign of greater consumption. Thanks to the high degree of specialization of labor, we have become experts in consuming what other people have created.

But, it’s good to realize that while we may be getting richer in terms of accumulating material wealth and comforts, we aren’t getting any smarter. The renaissance man is something that we must aspire to become even though the market doesn’t reward it.

If you think you are spending way too much money on entertainment, eating out, and taking vacations, it’s a sign that you are consuming way more than what’s needed and creating way less than what’s needed. If we focus our efforts on creating things, we wouldn’t have time or energy to consume much.

Success is inevitable only in hindsight

In my research methods class, I learned that sometimes even when the model/formula is fit it still may not be good at predicting and making inferences about the larger population. Success is also, like that.

If we had a formula for success, we could predict the outcomes of a person’s actions over time. Unfortunately, here the variables keep changing over time and hence, it’s hard to develop a success formula or model. If we had a universal formula for success assuming the dependent factors are going to be constant over time, all of us could have simply followed the formula and become successful in whatever we aim.

When people talk about their success stories, they are simply stories that can be cooked up in hindsight. Success can be as random as it can get.

Competence triumphs passion

While we have been taught to dream, aspire, have ambitions, be passionate, and set goals since childhood, not many of us have been taught to focus more on cultivating our competence and skillset.

Our education system is to be blamed for this as it churns out “educated” people to serve a larger economic engine by making us all cogs in the machine.  The system is too much goal-oriented and it enhances our ego and desires but, never encourages us to keep learning to improve our competence and aptitude. As a result, we feel stressed out in the competition. A competent person will never feel stressed out amidst the competition.

Passion and desires without the necessary aptitude and competence will burn us down eventually. It will make us feel envious towards other successful people and is not helpful to us in any way.

It’s always a better strategy to work on constantly outsmarting ourselves instead of simply being passionate. It follows that working right is always better than finding the right work.


There’s no work-life balance, there’s only life

As I am about to have a child in my life, I have been hearing a lot of unsolicited “advice” on how to manage my life at this phase from people who haven’t yet figured out how to manage theirs. I am also, keeping away from reading many parenting books out there as many of them lack context and only have content.

All these recent events triggered in me this thought of work-life balance, one of the most discussed yet unresolved topics in today’s world. The more I thought about this topic, the more I develop this hunch that there’s no work-life balance, there’s only life. The balance must be within us.

We often tend to think more is better and hence, end up enrolling in several aspects of life only to realize later that we haven’t equipped ourselves with the necessary skills to perform all these activities. Unfortunately, parenting is one of these activities. Instead of enhancing the activities we do, a better strategy would be to enhance ourselves as human beings in terms of cultivating the required mindset, skills, and joyfulness. A consequence of this would be our life energies will be conserved for only those aspects of life necessary for us at that moment. And this is what brings balance to our lives.


The lie of diversification: What woodpeckers and chai wallah’s know

Just like how we must choose to work right instead of finding the right work, we must choose to commit to one journey rather than diversifying our options frequently.

To make a journey, we must not keep changing directions often.

This is something that we can learn from woodpeckers and the chai wallahs of India – the art of unwavering focus.

A woodpecker can tap 20 times on 1000 trees and get nowhere but stay busy or he can tap 20,000 times on one tree and get dinner.
When faced with a dip, many individuals and organizations diversify. If you can’t get to the next level, the thinking goes, invest your energy and learning to do something else. This leads to record labels with 1000s of artists instead of focused promotion on just a few. It leads to job seekers who can demonstrate competency at a dozen tasks instead of mastery of just one. Hard-working, motivated people find diversification a natural outlet for their energy and drive. Diversification feels like the right thing to do.
Yet, the real success goes to those who obsess. The focus that leads you through the dip to the other side is rewarded by a market place in search of the best in the world.
If you make adversity your ally, you would insulate yourself from the competition.
A wallah is one who performs a specific task.  A rickshaw wallah drives the rickshaw, a dhobi wallah washes clothes and the chai wallah, you guessed it, makes chai.  Chai wallahs are everywhere in India.
Diversification is hence, a lie.
Diversification is a lie because self-determination (pursuit of happiness) is only possible with individual control and diversification inherently diminishes one’s ability to control its diverse elements. For every degree that diversification increases, one’s ability to control those elements decreases.  This decrease in your ability to control inherently undermines your ability to choose how that ownership satisfies your will defeating the purpose of having ownership.  Inability to control also inherently diminishes your ability to specialize and achieve excellence in whatever it is you do.  From economics 101, we learned that it is this specialization that provides a competitive advantage.
Then, why do we choose to diversify? It could be the monotony of crossing the dip and sometimes, even the fear of missing out (FOMO).
It’s tempting to diversify, particularly when it comes to what you offer the world.

Focus works. A sharp edge cuts through the clutter.
One more alternative, one more flavor, one more variation.
Something for everyone.
We get pushed to smooth out the work, make it softer, more widely applicable.
More breadth, though, doesn’t cause change, and it won’t get you noticed.
It’s so tempting to do a little bit of everything. All the tools are there, a click away. Or you can be a wallah. Someone who does only that one thing.
It’s a reminder that his success lives and dies on the performance of just one task.
When you go all in, it focuses your attention and effort, doesn’t it?

Hard work must be incisive – precise, and calibrated – to reap rewards. In order to make our efforts targeted, we must choose a journey that’s worth committing to no matter what.

In a world where the dip dominates, diversification is a lie. Quit lots, until you find a dip you can beat for the right reasons.
Quitting requires you to acknowledge that you’re never going to be #1 in the world – at least not at this.
So it’s easier just to put it off, not admit it.
Be a lot choosier about which journeys you start.
Know before you start whether or not you have the resources and the will to get to the end.
If you can’t make it through the dip, don’t start.
If you’re going to quit, quit before you start.
Don’t play the game if you realize you can’t be the best in the world.
Reject the system.
To be a superstar, find a field with a steep barrier between those who try and those who succeed.
In a state of joy and clarity within yourself, you must choose what you wish to do, then do only that. The mind and emotions are capable of leading you in circles and changing direction every day. If you change directions too often, you are obviously not interested in getting anywhere.