Friday, February 26, 2021

The Currencies Of Time And Attention

The Currencies Of Time And Attention

Nothing vast enters the lives of mortals without a curse – Sophocles      

This time condensed wisdom from a very wise man (not me 😊). Nir Eyal is the bestselling author of Hooked (2014) and Indistractable (2019) and I came across a very good podcast of Nir and Shane Parrish (Farnam Street) discussing Mastering Indistraction. While I have tried my best to summarise the key points, I would encourage you to check out the podcast episode yourself, link at the end of the blog.

The timing was particularly apt as I have been wrestling with the question of screen time and how much of it is good, both for us and our kids. Like most things in life, there is no correct answer and the truth is always nuanced, but the podcast does offer a very balanced view and helps provide a good perspective. 

Many of us cannot choose to be away from our phones. Technology is a great enabler for us to lead better lives, get more done and expand our horizons. However some of the same technologies also lead us to be less productive and hold us from being our best. So how does one deal with this?

Most of the distractions beings from within. It is not dependent on external factors but internal factors. Boredom, fatigue, uncertainity, anxiety. Time management requires pain management. All human behaviour is driven by avoiding discomfort. We can choose to avoid discomfort in a healthy or unhealthy way.

Addiction and distraction are different things. We need to gain back control. Traction is the opposite of distraction. Any distraction can be converted into traction by scheduling time for it so that we can do things as per our agenda.  

We need to make choices. We can choose to spend 1 hour on social media or 2 hours on the play station. That is not distraction. Distraction is what takes us away from what we are doing and what we want to do.

We pay attention. We spend our time. No wonder we have been always told that time is money. No it is not just a saying. This is real. Spend your time wisely on things that are important to you.

If something is really important and needs to be done, it needs to be on your calendar, not on your to do list. Putting time against a task helps to finish it by actually spending time on it. Tip – filling up your calendar with things is not good either.

Blamers – social media is addictive, my boss/spouse/kids. Shamers – I have a short attention span/there must be something wrong with me. Claimer – while we can’t change how we feel, how do we react to an emotional trigger can be changed, with practice. The podcast has some very good tips on dealing with external and internal triggers.  

Indistractible is not about never getting distracted. It is about realising the triggers that lead to distraction and doing things to get the control back. External triggers, internal triggers, lack of planning.

Work is Reflective or Reactive. Reactive time keeps you busy responding to triggers. Reflective work is difficult and is a big competitive edge. It is a good idea to keep time throughout the day to respond to mails and messages. It is not such a great idea to keep looking for the latest mail and message to respond to.

This is in no way a template. Please pick up and implement what works for you. And while I haven’t read the books yet, I plan to correct that very soon 😊

Source –

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Inversion - The Crucial Thinking Skill

Sharing a brilliant article from James Clear, the bestselling author of Atomic Habits.

The ancient Stoic philosophers like Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, and Epictetus regularly conducted an exercise known as a premeditatio malorum, which translates to a “premeditation of evils.”

The goal of this exercise was to envision the negative things that could happen in life. For example, the Stoics would imagine what it would be like to lose their job and become homeless or to suffer an injury and become paralyzed or to have their reputation ruined and lose their status in society.

The Stoics believed that by imagining the worst case scenario ahead of time, they could overcome their fears of negative experiences and make better plans to prevent them. While most people were focused on how they could achieve success, the Stoics also considered how they would manage failure. What would things look like if everything went wrong tomorrow? And what does this tell us about how we should prepare today?

This way of thinking, in which you consider the opposite of what you want, is known as inversion. When I first learned of it, I didn't realize how powerful it could be. As I have studied it more, I have begun to realize that inversion is a rare and crucial skill that nearly all great thinkers use to their advantage.

How Great Thinkers Shatter the Status Quo with Inversion
The German mathematician Carl Jacobi made a number of important contributions to different scientific fields during his career. In particular, he was known for his ability to solve hard problems by following a strategy of man muss immer umkehren or, loosely translated, “invert, always invert.” Jacobi believed that one of the best ways to clarify your thinking was to restate math problems in inverse form. He would write down the opposite of the problem he was trying to solve and found that the solution often came to him more easily.

Inversion is a powerful thinking tool because it puts a spotlight on errors and roadblocks that are not obvious at first glance. What if the opposite was true? What if I focused on a different side of this situation? Instead of asking how to do something, ask how to not do it. Great thinkers, icons, and innovators think forward and backward. Occasionally, they drive their brain in reverse. They consider the opposite side of things. Occasionally, they drive their brain in reverse. This way of thinking can reveal compelling opportunities for innovation.

Inversion is often at the core of great art. At any given time there is a status quo in society and the artists and innovators who stand out are often the ones who overturn the standard in a compelling way. Great art breaks the previous rules. It is an inversion of what came before. In a way, the secret to unconventional thinking is just inverting the status quo.

This strategy works equally well for other creative pursuits like writing. Many great headlines and titles use the power of inversion to up-end common assumptions. As a personal example, two of my more popular articles, “Forget About Setting Goals” and “Motivation is Overvalued”, take common notions and turn them on their head.

Success is Overvalued. Avoiding Failure Matters More.
This type of inverse logic can be extended to many areas of life. For example, ambitious young people are often focused on how to achieve success. But billionaire investor Charlie Munger encourages them to consider the inverse of success instead.

“What do you want to avoid?” he asks. “Such an easy answer: sloth and unreliability. If you’re unreliable it doesn’t matter what your virtues are. You’re going to crater immediately. Doing what you have faithfully engaged to do should be an automatic part of your conduct. You want to avoid sloth and unreliability.”

Avoiding mistakes is an under-appreciated way to improve. In most jobs, you can enjoy some degree of success simply by being proactive and reliable—even if you are not particularly smart, fast, or talented in a given area. Sometimes it is more important to consider why people fail in life than why they succeed.

The Benefits of Thinking Forward and Backward
Inversion can be particularly useful in the workplace. Leaders can ask themselves, “What would someone do each day if they were a terrible manager?” Good leaders would likely avoid those things.
Similarly, if innovation is a core piece of your business model you can ask, “How could we make this company less innovative?” Eliminating those barriers and obstacles might help creative ideas arise more quickly. And every marketing department wants to attract new business, but it might be useful to ask, “What would alienate our core customer?” A different point of view can reveal surprising insights.

You can learn just as much from identifying what doesn't work as you can from spotting what does. What are the mistakes, errors, and flubs that you want to avoid? Inversion is not about finding good advice, but rather about finding anti-advice. It teaches you what to avoid.

Here are some more ways to utilize inversion in work and life:

Project Management
One of my favorite applications of inversion is known as a Failure Premortem. It is like a Premeditation of Evils for the modern day company.
It works like this: Imagine the most important goal or project you are working on right now. Now fast forward six months and assume the project or goal has failed.
Tell the story of how it happened. What went wrong? What mistakes did you make? How did it fail? In other words, think of your main goal and ask yourself, “What could cause this to go horribly wrong?”
This strategy is sometimes called the “kill the company” exercise in organizations because the goal is to spell out the exact ways the company could fail. Just like a Premeditation of Evils, the idea is to identify challenges and points of failure so you can develop a plan to prevent them ahead of time.

Most people want to get more done in less time. Applying inversion to productivity you could ask, “What if I wanted to decrease my focus? How do I end up distracted?” The answer to that question may help you discover interruptions you can eliminate to free up more time and energy each day.
This strategy is not only effective, but often safer than chasing success. For example, some people take drugs or mental stimulants in an effort to increase their productivity. These methods might work, but you also run the risk of possible side effects.
Meanwhile, there is very little danger in leaving your phone in another room, blocking social media websites, or unplugging your television. Both strategies deal with the same problem, but inversion allows you to attack it from a different angle and with less risk. This insight reveals a more general principle: Blindly chasing success can have severe consequences, but preventing failure usually carries very little risk.

Marie Kondo, author of the blockbuster best-seller The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, uses inversion to help people declutter their homes. Her famous line is, “We should be choosing what we want to keep, not what we want to get rid of.”
In other words, the default should be to give anything away that does not “spark joy” in your life. This shift in mindset inverts decluttering by focusing on what you want to keep rather than what you want to discard.

What behaviors might ruin a marriage? Lack of trust. Not respecting the other person. Not letting each person have time to be an individual. Spending all of your time on your kids and not investing in your relationship together. Not having open communication about money and spending habits. Inverting a good marriage can show you how to avoid a bad one.

Personal Finance
Everyone wants to make more money. But what if you inverted the problem? How could you destroy your financial health?
Spending more than you earn is a proven path to financial failure. It doesn’t matter how much money you have, the math will never work out for you over time. Similarly, accumulating debt is a hair-on-fire emergency to be resolved as quickly as possible. And gradually creeping into unchecked shopping and spending habits can lead to self-inflicted financial stress.
Before you worry too much about how to make more money make sure you have figured out how to not lose money. If you can manage to avoid these problems, you'll be far ahead of many folks and save yourself a lot of pain and anguish along the way.

Consider the Opposite
Inversion is counterintuitive. It is not obvious to spend time thinking about the opposite of what you want.
And yet inversion is a key tool of many great thinkers. Stoic practitioners visualize negative outcomes. Groundbreaking artists invert the status quo. Effective leaders avoid the mistakes that prevent success just as much as they chase the skills that accelerate it.

Inversion can be particularly useful for challenging your own beliefs. It forces you to treat your decisions like a court of law. In court, the jury has to listen to both sides of the argument before making up their mind. Inversion helps you do something similar. What if the evidence disconfirmed what you believe? What if you tried to destroy the views that you cherish? Inversion prevents you from making up your mind after your first conclusion. It is a way to counteract the gravitational pull of confirmation bias.

Inversion is an essential skill for leading a logical and rational life. It allows you to step outside your normal patterns of thought and see situations from a different angle. Whatever problem you are facing, always consider the opposite side of things.

Source –

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Happy or Satisfied

Sharing a good article that I recently came across.

What makes an individual happy? What makes a person feel satisfied? Can someone be satisfied even if they’re not happy, or will they find happiness even when they’re not completely satisfied? Knowing the difference between happy and satisfied can be tricky.


Throughout life, we strive for happiness while also having wants that need to be satisfied. But, how are they different and is it possible to be both happy and satisfied?


What Is Happiness?

Happiness is defined as both an emotion and state. It’s a subjective term used to describe a wide-range of positive emotions, such as joy, pride, contentment, and gratitude. Sonja Lyubomirsky, author of The How of Happiness, further describes happiness as “the experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile.” A person can be happy, even though they’re not satisfied.


What Is Satisfaction?

Satisfaction, on the other hand, is a state of contentment where all of your desires have been met. You typically find it in possessions and the enjoyment of things that bring you desire.

Meeting the desires of your heart, as well as the demands of your needs, doesn’t mean that you’ll necessarily be happy – despite the fact that you will never want for anything when you are satisfied.

Take for example purchasing a home. You’re initially happy with the purchase, but that level of satisfaction will diminish over time. Even though you’re happy, you may no longer be satisfied with your home.

Additionally, people can be happy when even their most basic needs haven’t been met. For example. if you see poverty as a blessing, as opposed to a curse, you are content with what you do have.

In this case then your chances of being happy are actually greater. Someone other person who views material possessions as a necessity in life won’t be quite as happy..


The Differences Between Happiness and Satisfaction

The easiest way to compare happiness and satisfaction is by quickly looking at the characteristics of each.

1. State: Happiness is a state of bliss, while satisfaction is a state of contentment.

2. Loss: Happiness is often lost after an individual fails to achieve something, but satisfaction only decreases when the individual cannot achieve something.

3. Enjoyment: Happiness is shared and enjoyed with others, while satisfaction is enjoyed within.

4. Measurability: Happiness can be measured, but satisfaction cannot.


How Can You Become Both Happy and Satisfied?

Despite the differences between happiness and satisfied, and being able to have without the other, it is possible to cultivate both by:

1. Keeping life as simple as possible.

A lot of us over-analyze everything and make things more complicated than they have to be. Sometimes it’s alright to keep things simple like saying ‘no,’ reducing the amount of clutter in our lives, or just going through a walk in the park.

2. Being thankful for everything you have now and show gratitude.

Reflect on the things that you’re thankful, such as having a roof over your head, food to eat, a job, or spouse, and jot these thoughts down in a gratitude journal. Also thank the people in your life who have made it better.

3. Living in the moment.

Don’t dwell in the past or obsess about the future. Enjoy right now.

4. Becoming self-satisfied.

Stop wanting more so that you can enjoy what life has already given you.

5. Nurturing and enjoying your relationships.

Stay connected with your nearest and dearest, invest in quality time with them, offer sincere compliments, and only hang-out with others who are happy.

6. Loving yourself for who you are.

Stop trying to be someone else or someone you aren’t. You don’t have to change anything about yourself in order to be both happy and content.

7. Beware of indecision.

Life isn’t easy and you’re going to make tough decisions. Instead of missing out on an opportunity you can’t be indecisive. At the same time, make sure that you’re objective by gathering as many facts as you can so that you can make more informed decisions.

8. Avoid anger and negative energy.

Always try to remain positive and optimistic and eliminate any anger or negativity in your life, such as that friend who always complains.

9. Having a sense of humor.

Don’t take yourself so seriously. Laugh, joke, and have fun!

10.Helping others and living with meaning. Volunteer, give back to the community, treat others with respect and kindness, play to your strengths, and get in the flow.

11. Embracing your mistakes.

We all make mistakes. Learn from them and move on.

12. Spending money on experiences.

Happiness and satisfaction over material items fade over time. Experiences, however, become a part of who we are, can be shared with others, and gives us a sense of meaning.

13. Taking care of your health.

Make exercise a regular habit, eat healthy, mediate, and get the quality sleep that you need each night.


Source –


Thursday, January 14, 2021

This Too Shall Pass

If you are looking for the perfect phrase to get the balance we all strive for in our lives, this is it. 'This Too Shall Pass' gives one hope when things are going wrong and keeps one in check when everything is going right. It represents the cycle of life and asks you to respect, if you will. The story goes that this phrase was inscribed in the ring worn by the king, whose desire was for a phrase that captures the wisdom of the world. Very apt, isin’t it?

Today we will delve into the examples of disruptions – where leaders have given up their power and position to challengers – countries, corporations, cities, dynasties, monarchies, wealthy families etc. the cycle is everywhere.

The title of the worlds most powerful moved along (with a lot of bloodbath) from the Asians to the Ottomans to the French to the Dutch to the British to the Americans and many in between (Spain, Portugal, China, Japan, Russia, Italy, India etc). You see one can’t hold on to this title for too long.

The corporate version of this is much more fun. Just think of it -

IBM was the original tech co before other tech majors came along and upstaged it

DC (with Superman) were unbeatable before Marvel superheroes

Orkut was original before Facebook

Yahoo before Google; Rediffmail before Gmail

Boeing before Airbus

Tesco before Walmart

GM before Toyota

SBI before HDFC Bank

Everyone else before Jio

Those with power give it away due to external factors (anti trust regulations - Carnegie Steel, Standard Oil and competition –) or internal factors (mostly hubris – look at GE and many financial institutions that ceased to exist post the great financial crisis). So it should only be expected that todays largest companies will not be the largest in the next few decades – this churn is actually desirable as it reflects a dynamic and a functional system.   

The point is that one has to respect the cycle. That’s why the triad of Brahma – Vishnu – Mahesh (creator - preserver – destroyer) is such an exceptionally powerful concept. We desire status quo while nature abhors it.

So if you are an underdog in the fight – don’t despair – history is on your side if you play your cards well, stay in the game and get some lucky breaks. And if you currently have the pole position – be paranoid and enjoy it till it lasts, for someone will come along who you will have to pass the baton to. For this too shall pass, as it always does.

Friday, January 1, 2021

What Are You Looking For?

As we get into the new year and a new decade, it is as good a time as any to sit back and think on our goals and aspirations. What are we looking for? How are we going about to get it? How will we feel once we get there? What will we do once we get what we are looking for, as it is a journey and not a destination? We can be looking for status, wealth, happiness, power, creating a social impact, meaning, bliss, social circle, knowledge, health, our definition of a perfect life and what not - there is no judgement here. Anything that makes us happy and gives us energy to go after it will do.  

People who are looking for meaning in their lives eventually get it. People who are looking for purpose conduct their lives accordingly, it is perfectly ok to have different purpose to suit the stages of our lives and where we currently are in the journey. Only thing we need to look out for is that over the medium term, we should be moving forward. Setbacks are a part of the package, testing us for how strong is our will and commitment. People who are looking for trouble get into it, too often. People who are looking to get outraged find their community in twitter 😊

All of us are smart with lots of drive and we will ultimately get what we are looking for. We will also ultimately keep only as much as we deserve. So plan well, execute well, be prepared for both headwinds and tailwinds and along the way, get capable to retain what you get.

Wishing you a very happy, prosperous, meaningful and healthy decade ahead.