Learning to Desire

When a child is born into the planet, he doesn’t know much, or rather at all about what the world is like. What is good and what is bad. What he’s supposed to be doing ,and what he’s supposed to be not doing. If you refuse to believe the astrological theory of zodiacs, time and place of birth shaping one’s personality, all of the behavior and personality are learned from the time the child is born. The human mind and heart of course carries forward the learnings from the evolutionary process, which means some instinctive knowledge that the humans acquired some centuries ago, would perhaps still be stored in my genes. I wonder, if this way of transmission of knowledge extends beyond the survival skills and other biology related processes.

Do we learn who to trust and whom not to trust from our genes? The thing about positive and negative vibes? The thing about aspiration turning into greed? Is a child born with all that knowledge?

Perhaps not. Most of it, is imbibed by what he sees in the surrounding. And who impacts his learning the most? The heroes, the ones who’ re regarded highly by the society. No one would care about the private realities of these heroes, but they’re idolized. This small child, naturally, not briefed about the deceptive nature of the world, where sinners masquerade as saints, takes his confused lessons from all these sources and then begins the race – a constant quest of becoming what’s heralded by the society as the best. If the surrounding world respects money, then that is the object of pursuit and likewise many other things.

By the very nature and process of learning, humans seem to be becoming the followers of the social mentality. Nothing inherently wrong with it, but when the society is not the best teacher, would we prefer isolating the kid and enable the learning from a select few, that are our idols? Isnt’ that an imposition on the child, to idolize what we believe is the best? What happens of his own choice? Should a more wholesome approach be to expose him to different walks of life, and let him learn and mature with that, giving him a true picture of the different virtues and vices as they are, without any judgmental statements. When he matures, he must decide for himself as to what he wants.

What we sometimes do, is try and keep the child in a cocoon, perhaps an incubator of sorts, when he’s shielded from the bad things in the world. Essentially, for a small period, it’s necessary but if it goes on for too long, it’ll mess up the child’s life.

Perhaps the story of the kind man extracting the pupa out of its shell is relevant here. If too much of help is given in the initial phases of growth, you might just hinder future growth by making it dependent on you.



Perfection, is that a journey or a destination? What is the quest all about? Does it make any difference if it’s internal or externally motivated? Am I to be perfect in my own right, in a personal quest or is it that I want to showcase something to the world, or do something in the exemplary perfect fashion to make a statement. What’s the cause and what’s the effect. Accolades motivate perfection or is it perfection that is entailed by accolades anyway? There’s always an inspiration, but that can’t just be material benefits. Is that recognition? Perhaps not. Maslow answered that with his need hierarchy model, that the ultimate quest in life is not for someone else, but for your own self actualization. You would seek security for your near and dear ones, with food, shelter and clothing. You would like to love and be loved, quench your social needs. There would be a need for esteem too, to be socially recognized. For all of these things, you’d pursue success, not perfection.

In behavioral denominations, success is perhaps more akin to a satisficing behavior, when your benchmarks are external and the effort is to just cross that barrier.

While pursuing perfection, the external benchmarks become irrelevant. Your good life is your own personal goal. It’s your object to make this journey called life an evolutionary one. It’s not a destination that you’ll reach one day and say, it’s perfect. More likely, you’ll live a life and at the end of it, turn back to say that, yeah, it’s been perfect. Most people won’t have that feeling of having lived a rather complete and perfect life. How close you can move to it, is going to determine how content you are when you’re saying goodbye to earthly life.


Winning and Losing

To attach a lot of importance to winning and losing, sometimes takes the fun away from the match. But some other times, some games aren’t fun enough if it’s not about winning and losing. Gambling is one of them. If you play just for the fun of it, with fake currency, it’s no point because no one will really play seriously. The stakes must be high for the game to be taken seriously. In life’s games, whether love or business, the stakes are what make it interesting. That’s when you gamble, that’s when you decide to take risks that you wouldn’t otherwise. But then, if the fear of failure overwhelms you, you’re likely to play safe and not a big gamble. And of course, as drilled in by the finance professors, a higher risk is the only way of seeking higher returns.

So how do you now reconcile the thoughts when they say about not bothering so much about the outcome or the result and enjoying the journey or the game anyway? A Miss World once remarked, that you got to be prepared to lose if you really want to win. Now how does one ensure the poise and the killer instinct which seems to come out of desperation, when one is convinced that failure is not an option. Guess Rudyard Kipling would have a convergent answer to the puzzle, when he spoke of the true man being capable of staking all his life’s earnings on a game of toss, and having the courage to start all over again after he loses.

It’s not the individual little battles that you keep fighting that matter. You should gamble, put in your heart and soul into the effort, with or without the fear of failure, but if you do fail, then the world hasn’t ended yet. There is the war waiting to happen.


Aggressive Networking?

Behavioral sciences often throw interesting insights to human behavior. While one person might be too shy to say the first hello, the other person would perceive him as a snob and make an impression of him, without having said the first hello. Attempts at networking at a dinner go a lot haywire when there’s too many students chasing too few speakers. Typically, you’ll be surrounded by random other people, constantly attempting to hijack the conversation, sometimes, just for the sake of making a conversation and in the process of courteously sticking around, you end up looking like the one climbing up the speaker’s nose. Now how do you make a sensible conversation in the middle of the thing, without being perceived as a nosy bloke, is your challenge.

Is there courtesy to it, or humility or should you showcase your aggression without being offending. What if it becomes impossible to not offend? What if someone just gets on your nerves altogether?

Take it easy, get out of the situation and get in again. The speaker shall also know who’s the sensible one around.


Geeta and Result Orientation!

The Bhagwat Geeta is in my opinion one of the (if not the) most misinterpreted texts, which for convenience sake, most people just happily believe to be true and use it as an excuse to not heed the messages of the great text. The action and result doctrine has been very easily interpreted to mean that man should focus on the work and not bother about the outcomes, given that he can control only his actions but not his results. Now, this has been extrapolated and interpreted to mean that one should not desire any fruits out of his action. Now, it would be utopian to believe that one would go on working without the desire of a fruit or a positive outcome. A simpler interpretation that was made in the class was about focusing on what you can control, rather than wasting your energy bothering about things that you can’t control.

As it is, the result of any action is a combination of the direct consequence plus some random noise, which we usually like to call luck. What can be ascribed to the action and what is luck, is a questionable proposition. A lot of people would place high trust in Allah, but not even tether their camels. And then when things go wrong, they have only ‘luck’ to blame. Some others, would try and control everything, and be shattered if things still don’t go their way. Random noise shall have a role to play, like it or not. How much you let it affect you and your action, is your smartness.

Thus came the prayer that O Lord, give me the power to change the things I can change, and accept the ones that I can’t. This is, in no way a surrendering statement. It is an exercise in practicality. No point obsessing about things that are pretty much out of your control and letting them chew your brain. A simple case in point was elaborated by a senior marketer in a classroom, in a different context. This company was running a huge ad campaign, supposed to be the mega launch of a product, with loads of advertising bucks being spent on a single day on mass media, in a particular geography. The d-day came, the campaign run, but due to some random accident somewhere, a large part of that geography was under a power cut, blowing up all the money for nothing.

One has to take such things in his stride and move on too! If you’d attach a lot of your personal expectations and start spending energy on those kind of calculations, you’ll end up becoming less effective with your work anyway. A business consultant would perhaps tell a CEO, to decide all the variables that affect his business. Next, he needs to classify which variables can be brought under control and which can’t. Then focus sharply on how much effect he wants to have on all the controllable ones, and for the moment, pretty much forget about the uncontrollable ones. If you’ve done a good job, the result shall take care of itself.

My personal take on the whole thing is slightly modified. I would say, if you’re too obsessed with reaching the destination and constantly lost in the calculation of the same, you’ll not enjoy the journey. And for me, the journey is as important as the destination.



Resist the temptation to justify or explain yourself. Simplistic reasoning- friends don’t need it and enemies won’t believe you anyway. Another way of understanding it, is something like a rationalization process, when you’re not convinced about your right-ness in a particular action situation and later on, you’re trying to convince someone as you justify or explain yourself. It’s an extremely strong temptation, but if you can let go of it, perhaps it would help you take greater control of your actions. You’re not someone’s agent, so you have to go back to explain it to them. You’re not doing something just so that you can explain something to someone in a particular way. You’re doing, what your sensibility suggests is the best thing for you to do. If you’ve been myopic and bungled, then it’s for you to learn the lessons and accept your mistakes. Often, if you’re able to successfully/convincingly explain a bungled up action, you might just save your face but lose the lesson. With a lot of afterthoughts, we build up the situation so that we can reasonably well defend ourselves, but internally we know that it was a mistake.

Of course, impression management would require proving yourself to be the ‘smart’ one in every situation, but it’s for you to still see and understand that you don’t end up rationalizing just about everything you do or say. At best, it’s a defense mechanism.


Indulgent Escapades..

One line of thought as an excuse to indulge oneself materially is that of escapism. In an attempt to run away from a whole lot of messy thoughts, a haunting past or an intimidating future, you try to indulge yourself and become oblivious to all that might be slightly uncomfortable. Partying and rocking the dance floor, drinking away to glory, binging on food, catching on with the movies, amusement parks and everything that would leave you too tired to stare at the fan and think, when you’re getting into bed. Or you might just take someone there for a night’s company and wake up in the morning to again busy your self in the web of life.

People tend to have a negative disposition towards partying too hard too often and all of this indulgence is interpreted as vices in some way. Why don’t we see that they’re only means to an end and not really the end in itself. And well, why hate the means, when there’s not so much wrong with the end itself. Would someone make an unqualified remark that all escapism is bad? Sometimes, life gives you jerks so hard that you need momentary escapes in order to absorb the shock well.

What about psychotherapy and counseling to victims of natural and man made disasters and accidents? Isn’t hypnosis sometimes used as a justified scientific way to help someone get over something that would be extremely difficult for him to come to terms with. What is that if not temporary escapism?

It’s a courageous thing to say that one should face reality as it is, not as it was or as he wished it were. The complexities of life sometimes forces you to believe counter to reality, perhaps humor yourself or just plain distract yourself. Escapism may not be a weakness, it could be used very well as a strength in some cases.

I don’t want to sleep tonight looking at the fan and thinking about all those many things. Is it a bad idea that I go to the gym, jog around some, play some sport, lift some weights and come back so freaking worn out that I would crash as soon as I hit the sack. So if this is acceptable, what’s so wrong with someone who parties hard every night, gets high and drunk, only for the objective that he sleeps easily. Some others would take sleeping pills with the same objective.

The judgment of what’s avoidable only comes in, when you let these escapes strengthen you as a person over a period and not let them overpower you. It’s you, using them and not becoming a slave to them.