Tuesday, March 30, 2021

The 500th post

This post marks a significant milestone in this insignificant blog written by a nobody.

This is my 500th post.

Wow! Never expected to be on this journey so long! While I am a procrastinator, I realize I can also be unimaginably persistent. You my dear readers have now dwindled to probably a single digit number since I started writing here more than 14 years ago. I sincerely thank you for indulging in my egocentric rants here and patiently reading whatever I have to say.

If you have been reading me for the last few years, I think these are the 4 most important ideas that have impacted me (in no particular sequence) and I believe they more or less keep repeating in one form or another in my blog posts. (A summary of sorts):

  1. Minimalism
  2. Fitness
  3. Building Habits
  4. Meditation and Mindfulness

So, 14 years, 500 posts and I hope this relationship continues - either till death (or Google) does us apart.

 



Sunday, March 28, 2021

Mindfulness

So I managed to read the Miracle of Mindfulness a third time. It is a super simple book and can easily be read in a day. It is the only book I have read more than 2 times in my life, because I felt I was too shallow in understanding it.

I realize that every time I read it, I understand a little bit more about mindfulness. While it sounds very mystic and spiritual, it indeed is a very simple concept. The problem really lies in how difficult it is to be mindful every breath of your day!

If I have to summarize my understanding of mindfulness it would be - Your mind has a continuous stream of thoughts (Monkey Mind). How you "react" to those thoughts decides how you "feel" (Fear, anxiety, stress, love, hate, anger, jealousy are all feelings - outcomes of thoughts that came in your mind). When you are practicing mindfulness - all you are really doing is completely focusing on whatever task you are currently doing (eating, sleeping, reading, walking, etc.). From a mind's perspective you are neither engaging in thinking about your past or your future (consciously or subconsciously). Also, even when thoughts indeed come in your mind (which they always will!), you are acknowledging the presence of "those" thoughts, but choosing not to "engage" in them (By not "engaging" I mean you do not "feel" or "drift" with the emotion that your mind generates with regards to those thoughts). 

If you are a practitioner of mindfulness, you might as well correct me. This is my current understanding and it may definitely change as I try to implement it more in my life and potentially understand and experience it more. And if you are not yet a student of mindfulness then I recommend you give it a shot for a few days/ weeks/ months to really "experience" it.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Game of Life

So I am approaching a very significant age milestone in my life. Naturally I have been ruminating about age and life in general for the past few weeks. My current understanding of the journey called "life" is a bit more gamified than before. At this stage of my life I equate it to a game.

Why do I think of life as a game now? Well, we spend first 2 decades of our life learning skills (tooling) to survive the rest of it. If we survive the first 2 decades, then we "apply" these skills and get better at it (experience). As you progress through life you collect coins (salary). The world brings obstacles in our path and based on our "knowledge" (our weapon of choice) of how to overcome the obstacle, we "solve" and move on. There is nothing truly "right" or "wrong". Whatever you do is based on your understanding of approaching life at that point in time.

As you grow older hopefully you develop more skills and/or gain more experience increase your risk appetite and the game continues. Of course there is always that probability that you do something stupid or something happens and you are terminated. The game of course only gives you 1 life (unless you believe in rebirth then you re-enter the game in a new body and start all over again - Life does not give you the possibility to save your progress mid-way unfortunately).

So if you wish to be good at this game called "Life", you need to be continuously learning and evolving. Your only weapon to survive this game is your ability (skills) to manage obstacles. The last and most important aspect is - the journey itself is the entertainment, there is nothing at the end other than the "credits" (a euphemism for game-over) which you are not really looking forward to.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

The new year lull

 Wow! Feb 2021 felt like it just zoomed past. There we were celebrating the lunar new year, and here we are at the end of the month already! Working in Singapore for the last few years, I have realized - corporate business activities tend to slow down starting last week of December and then they do not pick up much momentum till after the lunar new year. Right after the lunar new year break, businesses wake up like "Oh no, Q1 is half way through (or more!) now let's race". Work tends to get crazy busy all the way till March end. So this is now "that time" of the year.

It's been almost a year since we all started working from home. Now it has become a routine, this is the new normal (yeah sounds so cliche!) but we are stuck in this now. I was a bit more disciplined with my personal schedule in the first 6-7 months of the pandemic, but now I have more or less fallen back to my old procrastinating and lazy ways.

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Motivation vs. Habit

 As I grow older, I realize that motivation is difficult to sustain and if you plan to do things because you are motivated, you generally are setting yourself up for failure. Of course, there are few awesome people out there in the world who do things out of motivation and passion, but for the rest of us a lazy weekend or a bout of Netflix is enough to kill that motivation. And then being the self-proclaimed "God of procrastination" doesn't really help me much in that aspect as well.

Over the last few years, I have realized the easiest way to work towards a goal is by forming a habit. I know I have written about habits before, but I realize I understand them better; only now. If I had discovered this trick a few decades ago, I would have been a better person. Just to give you context, I will provide two examples from my life:

My company gives me access to LinkedIn Learning. It is a treasure trove of amazing videos to learn about almost anything under the sun. Now if I set a goal like "I want to get certified in xyz", it is too far-fetched and insurmountable because of the number of lessons required to be taken and the discipline/ motivation required to study through them. However, if I set a habit like - I will listen to 15 minutes of LinkedIn Learning lessons everyday, then in a matter of 1 month, I can do almost 7.5 hours of lessons - a respectable amount of time to study a lot of things (most courses are less than 12 hours).

Another example would be my resolution to read more books. Like everyone else, I am distracted, I binge watch and then I surf aimlessly. Reading books is a boring task that requires motivation and will-power. Now how about this - at the beginning of the year make a list of books you want to read. Arrange them in this order - Jan - Book 1, Feb - Book 2 etc. Then see the number of pages in Book 1 (e.g. 300). Resolve to read 10 pages a day. Viola, you can read a book in a month.

I think forming habits is the lazy man's way towards a resolution.


Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Me-day

 Since the start of the pandemic, one thing that is sourly missing is - vacations. Its been a very long time since we have taken any vacations. What this also means is that we have been working from home all the time every day in and out. I ended up forfeiting quite a bit of my leave at the end of 2020 (because my organization does not allow me to carry forward leaves). That's a tonne of rest and rejuvenation gone down the drain.

I decided that in 2021 I will take these one off, random personal time offs (PTOs). Relax and rejuvenate in the middle of the week just so that - I get some "me" time and I do not end up wasting my entitled leaves this year again. Vacations still seem to be a very distant dream.

I call such PTOs "Me-days". These are my days where I do what I want. It could be reading a book, going out for exercise or just go window shopping. The aim is to disconnect and not work and not do your household chores. I already managed to take 2 till now and lets see how this goes.

I feel like Me-days make me happy and help me recharge!

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Biking

 And before we know it, the first month of the new year is over. 2021 is no longer new. We are 8% into the year already. January has been a busy month catching up on work and adjusting to new changes. COVID-19 situation continues to be as-is and even worsening in some countries.

A new thing I seem to have discovered in the last few months is - bicycling. I think with the lock-downs, the social distancing and the overall lack of entertainment options indoors, people seem to have  generally ended-up outdoors. And if you are not the jogging kind I guess cycling is a nice form of low intensity work out. It can take you long distances, you can get some wind in your hair and also get a bit of cardio.

Singapore has been encouraging people to pedal (and generally remain active). The Park Connector Network (PCN) is an amazing network of bicycle paths that are trying to connect all the parks in the entire island so that you can literally navigate the entire island by your bicycle (or on your feet). Naturally, biking seems to have become a very common activity for a lot of people island-wide. This is evident by 2 things - the no. of people on bikes in the PCN and the general lack of new bicycles available for purchase in most bike shops.

FOMO hit me hard, and I have been trying to bike some miles last few weeks. I am not sure how long this new found hobby is going to last, but if you are sitting on the fence and thinking about a new activity to start, I guess biking should be a good one to try out in 2021 and beyond.

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Thank you people

As 2020 comes to an end, I can say that this has been the most unique year of my life so far. Things have been difficult mentally and physically.

The silver lining of this year has been, I met (virtually) a lot of amazing people.

Complete strangers, long lost friends, neighbors, doctors and good samaritans went out of their way to help me when I felt helpless. Never have I ever realized before that we all are a part of an co-dependent ecosystem and humans are helping by nature. While social media is making us divisive and angry over trivial pursuits, deep down most people are fundamentally nice.

I just wish to end this year by sincerely thanking everyone who made a difference to me this year.

Thank you!

The Magical Chair

So I served a 14-day quarantine order in a hotel in Singapore for doing a crazy airline trip to India and back in the pandemic. While, I do not have much to say other than the fact that I am pleasantly surprised by the chain of events I had to go through. I am "glass half-full" kind of guy. I felt that the 14 days in a hotel room were my most productive days ever. I went in with a mission to not waste my time in there, and I feel like I accomplished it.

I was not allowed to step out the hotel room, and there was nothing else I could really do. I just want to highlight that in my quarantine I found this magical chair that was kept outside my door that auto-magically had breakfast, lunch and dinner 3 times a day at exactly 08:00 AM, 12:00 PM and 6:00 PM without me doing anything about it. All I had to do was open the door, and the food would magically appear on the seat. I wanted to bring it home, but unfortunately, the hotel did not allow. So I wish to salute the chair on my blog for eternity.

The chair was mostly very health conscious, so I got healthy food (tasty was a hit or miss - but I generally have no expectations from the food I eat). I have put a photo of one of the tasty foods I received from the chair once.

Chicken Rice
Chicken Rice

Another interesting aspect of the chair was, every lunch it would give me a small pastry that I would then ruminate over around 4 PM with a coffee to complement it.

Coffee with pastry

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

The quest for a red shirt

Christmas is coming. While nothing has really changed with the COVID and WFH situation, my organization has decided to celebrate Christmas virtually. One of the "asks" is to wear something red to suit the occasion. Christmas's and Santa's association with the red color is the work of art of the Coca-cola marketing department. Brilliant indeed. However, we talk about it some other time.

After browsing through my big wardrobe (or even before browsing through it), I realized that I only carry shades of black (Black, Blacker and Blackest) for informal t-shirts and shades of blue for my formals. Thinking hard now, it has dawned on me that if you are a man living in Singapore, you need to have at least 1 red t-shirt in your closet. Hold your horses to read why.

The 3 biggest occasions that are celebrated en-masse in Singapore are - Christmas, Lunar New Year and the Singapore National Day. Tradition demands that you wear red on all these occasions (Coca-cola is not responsible for the association of red with the Lunar New Year by the way - they just got lucky there!).

So after years of refraining from buying bright colors, I have succumbed to the idea that I need a red. So you shall see me in red hopefully at least 3 times in the year going forward.