Monday, October 31, 2011

Pour Yourself

I have an atypically long post today where I talk about how many businesses operate and how that compares with how we live as people.

If you have worked in some business, part-time or full-time in any field, you might have noticed this interesting phenomenon. The manager or the supervisor in charge who manages and takes cares of the ins and outs of the business is driven with profit in his mind. You can't blame him really. If there's no profit, it's hard to think of a reason to stay in business! That, of course, is not the interesting observation.

You might also have observed how the manager works. A typical manager will work hard every day. However, you should have noticed how the manager will focus mostly on high profit days or periods of the year. Those high profit days could be the weekend sales or the holiday sales. As a minion of the corporate machine, you might not earn any commission (if it was such a field that you work in) and might really hate those high profit periods. Or as a commission wielding person (still a minion really but a slightly higher paid one) you might really love those extra cashish. Also, I welcome you to this exclusive club of minions (commissioned or non-commissioned) of which I am also an esteemed member.

Perils involved
Interestingly, if you were to observe more deeply, you will notice that the bulk of the profit in such a business and in almost any field will be from the low-profit days of the week/year. That makes sense since you have a much higher number of low-profit days than high-profit days. Even though you make hundreds more in profit in the weekend, volume wise the most profit comes from the weekdays for a typical small business. You would also notice that the low profit days are taken for granted while the high profit days are revered as the savior. 

This mentality is shared across the board by the managers, the owners and the workers alike. This mentality makes the individual look at the high profit periods as this period that is much more important than the other days. While this prioritization make sense from the productivity view point (average higher profit per day), you can easily conclude that this does not make sense from the volume view point (total profit is higher on the lower profit days).

So what gives? Is it justified to focus on the high profit days or the christmas sales while ignoring the rest of the week or the rest of the year? (I don't know the answer for certain so I ask this question as well.)

Even a 10 year old will be able to tell you, this strategy is costing the business some money or unneeded stress since the normal days are ignored to focus solely on high profit days. The profit either stays the same or goes up on high-profit days while the profit comes down on low-profit days. How come the businessmen can't see that flaw?

My closest answer
I was thinking about this and the closest answer I can come up with is this:

Individuals are motivated to profit at the highest level at all times. If you see a day/period with a higher profit than another one, you will be drawn towards such high-profit days and high-profit periods much more than other days. While initially you might have been paying attention to all days equally, this difference in profit draws you in to the higher profit periods. While that is not necessarily bad, you also end up ignoring those other days and take them for granted. Some people might even hate them!

The last point is interesting. The low profit days have lower profit but still they are not losses. Yet people ignore them, take them for granted or actually hate them. This differentiation is important in the lenses of people perhaps. But there's something wrong with the picture here!

A Small Thought Experiment
Let's now go to our imagination. Let's take ourselves back ten years ago, let's say in the year 2000. What do you remember?

I remember taking some board exams in Nepal called the School Leaving Certificate (SLC). Funnily, I went to high school after that again (everyone does). I remember doing well. I remember playing in a cricket tournament where we lost because our players simply left because they had to meet a deadline to get into a school (long story). I remember the first time I fell head over heels for a girl that year. I remember learning to play the guitar after the board exams. All of these events are my cherished memories. However, all of them share this same theme as the "high-profit" days or in some cases the "lowest profit days" of a business. They are memorable because they make me very happy or very sad or very (insert some emotion). Perhaps you remember similar events if you are my age or completely different events if you are at a different place in life. But that's not the point.

Now let's get back to the present. What are you thinking about? Perhaps you are thinking "Does Nitish have a point here?" or "Why the hell am I wasting my time when I could be doing something else" or "Oh, damn monday" or "What do I have for lunch today" or "I have to run for a meeting soon" or "That was a great dessert." All perfectly valid questions and observations. However, did you think about this moment too? Or better yet, did you enjoy this moment? How about that breath you just took? Did you take enough to draw it into your heart into your blood supply to provide the fuel for your brain and other parts of your body? Do you feel your heart race as well? If you did any of the latter things, please teach me how, because you are living in the moment.

Much like the profit oriented business person, we also own a business. That business is ourselves. And much like the manager, we focus many times on high profit periods. Our graduation, our weekends, favorite TV shows, anniversaries, wedding days. That's excellent. However, when we focus a great deal on these sorts of items, we lose the enjoyment of the normal days, the plain dull mondays, the weekdays, the dish washing hour, the cool wednesday nights. The "low-profit" periods are many more than the "high-profit" periods. Yet we willingly and forcefully ignore them. There's something wrong about the picture here, isn't there?

The Impending Platitude
Here's the impending platitude that draws in as a conclusion to the above observations: Try to cherish and live each of your moments. Observe that breath, observe that glass of water trickling down your throat. Pour yourself into your work of choice. Pour yourself into the steamy hot shower/bath. Pour yourself into that cup of green tea.

Please share if you like it, comment on the post or just say namaste or hi.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Perception of Selfishness

"I think it all comes back to being very selfish as an artist. I mean, I really do just write and record what interests me and I do approach the stage shows in much the same way, " David Bowie exclaimed.

Most endeavors have selfish motives. But the effects are much more important.

The effect is what determines selfishness or selflessness for people, it seems.

Artists specialize in inherently selfish acts. Art mostly is about the self.

I am writing to you because I like writing. I like to converse with people. Sometimes, I might be helping you. Sometimes, I might be simply writing my thoughts. The common denominator in all my writings however is that I write because I like it. Hence, it is a selfish act. A selfish act does not make its effect selfish.

Artists and scientists, by indulging in selfish actions,  have propagated selfless acts and dreams in others and themselves. Many physicists do physics because they love it. Their intentions are many times selfish. But their effects have been selfless and helped humanity in many levels. The advancement of the medical field or food production can be seen as an example that has helped the world.

By focusing on one's benevolence, you potentially waste energy that could be focused on your work/creation. Being mindful of your action means focusing on your action singularly. When I write, I write best when I focus simply on my own writing. When Mozart composed his music, I am certain he did his best work thinking about his own ideas singularly. When Feynman started teaching Physics, his love for Physics and his "selfish" act of propagating that love, produced many fine scientists, artists and people of that generation, I am sure.

Brandishing an act as selfish could be acting on incomplete information. The effect might be selfish while the intention might be selfless. Brandishing an act as selfless could be acting on incomplete information. The effect might be selfless while the intention might be selfish.

A selfless effect is much more important than a selfish effect no matter what the original intention is. The examples cited are sufficient to see that and one could come up with many more examples. 

The truth is that asking such a question is irrelevant to your actual work as fun and tempting such discussions are. However many words we use to describe and analyze this situation, the fact remains that work which has a selfless effect is much more useful and effective at solving problems and propagating the collective conscious forward.

There is a catch
It is, of course, very important that you do not quash other people's dreams, work or feelings. Being selfish is not a linear endeavor. You can look out for yourself to improve your work and still not quash other people's work, dreams and feelings. One needs to be selfish with the highest ethics to be successful and human. If one does treat others in a way that profits themselves but harms other people in any way, the effect is obviously selfish as well. In any event, the effect has to be truly selfless to justify their own "selfishness."

I would like to assert that I am not talking about a "Me, Me, Me" kind of selfishness where the world revolves around a person, the kind that is associated with a person with narcissistic personality disorder.

The "selfishness" I am talking about instead is the kind that focuses your energy on improving your mind, your body, your actions, your work, your environment, your relationships and your condition.

A selfish act which has purely selfless effects is definitely not a paradox. As a matter of fact, it appears to be the norm in artistic and scientific endeavors. 

The Sad Part
 We probably need a new word for this kind of "selfishness" as the same word to describe an act that advances positive ideas is confused with really selfish acts that have disdainfully negative effects. 

This is selfishness which frees you from negativity. This is selfishness which makes the world better. This is selfishness which clears your mind and provides nutrition to your mind, body, friends, family and your work. This is selfishness which advances you. This is selfishness which respects other people and never tramples their dreams, hopes, feelings. This is selfishness which instead inspires you and other people. This is selfishness which transmutes the selfish intention into a selfless and benevolent effect. This is selfishness which needs another set of consonants and vowels.

Do your best work. Work on what you love. Be selfish in your own advancement. On the way, make sure you are following the highest ethical standards. Let your creative juices flow. Make it worthwhile.

Monday, October 17, 2011


Recently, I cleared my place. It feels good to pare down. As the night cools down, having the bare essentials with the emptiness, empties your mind, it seems like.

My possessions have diminished gradually over the last month. I have sold equipment that had lingered such as the Keyboard Piano, Event 20/20 Passive speakers and much of my clothes. I only have my books, a mattress, a desk, a laptop, my cell phone, my Washburn guitar, my clothes, my car and daily use belongings. The relief that I have felt after selling and donating the stuff I don't use or need, has been stimulating.

In this post by Steve Pavlina titled "How to find your life purpose in 20 minutes", Pavlina mentions an anecdote about Bruce Lee. The story goes like this:  a student asks Bruce Lee about learning everything that Bruce Lee knows about, Bruce Lee states that only by pouring out the previous knowledge, can the student learn everything new. It is brilliant and something I would like to venture towards.

I mentioned this anecdote about Bruce Lee because I feel, that my paring down is simply a start of a journey. It's my first couple of practice rows in my boat. It's not nothing and it's not everything. It is a start.

The link between the Bruce Lee story and my minimalism is that, I am unlearning all my previous behaviors and patterns of thinking. I am not doing it simply for the fact that minimalism is cool or simplicity as a counter-cultural movement is hip. The bigger picture is that, by making room in my life physically and mentally, I will be lean and ready to absorb and notice important values, purpose and qualities that lie within me.

My experience has been a bit gradual and I will be speeding up my own evolution in a measured way. Step by step, toning it up, the good way, if it is to be so. I am prepared to let go, if not.

Monday, October 3, 2011

You know you have been slapped when...

You know you have been slapped in the face when:

1) Instead of being appreciated for the favor you have done, the "favoree" proceeds to point out the flaws in this favor.

2) You boss cuts your paycheck/salary/hours or fires your pretty assistant.

3) Your significant other doesn't bring your favorite food/beverage from the store because they are still mad about you ogling over some beautiful girl in the restaurant the other day. You were probably literally slapped as well.

4) Life gives you lemons and when you cut the lemons, it's actually genetically engineered onions which look like lemons. You drown in your own tears...perhaps out of sorrow also.

5) The $25 fix it ticket that you got from the motorcycle cop could have been easily avoided, had you listened to the two ladies who frantically called you aside to point out your broken brake light, while you were at the local library to drop your books off. You had simply thanked them for their gesture while completely ignoring to fix this minor issue. You also commented to your friend in the car how weird the two ladies were, that they were so flustered about such a silly thing. A couple of hours of your life have now vanished in dealing with the ticket. Perhaps one of those ladies was related to the motorcycle cop, a point to be noted and investigated (as if...).

6) Life handed you lemons. You made lemonade. The lemonade got promptly spilled and the knife that you used to cut the lemon with also scratched your thumb. You were somewhat happy that you did not fare worse. However, the blood that was spilled frightened your lemonade making colleague who fainted. You thought it ironic that he wanted to be a medical doctor. Then again, maybe he just wanted to be a dermatologist.

7) You are in the Himalayas and the helicopter that was supposed to pick you up at the summit was too full to pick you up. The sparrow in the cockpit also took a dump, right on your goggles.