28

3 words come to mind as I think of entering my 28th year – engagement, perspective, and faith.

Engagement. Engagement is my theme for the year. For the longest time, I was fascinated by a quote from a zen master that said – “The essence of zen is to be able to focus on one thing at a time.” So simple and, yet, so profound. That is my goal this year – to be engaged through my days and to focus on one thing at a time. As I live these days, so I live my life.

Perspective. Thanks to immigration related issues, there’s a fair bit of uncertainty as to where we’ll be a few months from now. While we’re doing everything we can to sort this out, there’s little we actually control. However, as much as we’d love for the uncertainty to go away, I recognize that the “worst case” isn’t a “worst case” after all. A combination of some hard work and a few lucky breaks have ensured we don’t have to worry about the basics. That privilege is a reminder of how much I owe and is a wonderful source of perspective. The beauty of this perspective, in turn, is that it enables me to keep good humor as I go through the inevitable ups and downs. And, I hope to keep that combination of good humor and perspective with me as I engage through my days this year.

Faith. Yuval Harari’s Sapiens drove home a beautiful point. As humans, we all worship some faith. It might be traditional religions like Christianity, Islam or Hinduism or it could be non-traditional ideologies like liberalism, communism or even celebrity culture. David Foster Wallace, in his legendary commence speech – “This is Water” – wisely asked us to “be careful what you worship.”

I had an epiphany yesterday that my faith of choice is learning. And, I’ve come to be thankful for such a wonderfully benevolent faith that ignores the nature of what happens and just reminds me to ask – “What am I learning from this experience?”

Here’s to engagement, perspective and learning this year. Hope you all have a lovely day. 🙂

(Past birthday notes: 2726, 25, 2423)

26

3 things I’m thinking about as I complete my 26th year –

1. Self confidence and the unwillingness to compromise on what matters. The primary reason for starting this blog was to learn to get over my own insecurities and build self confidence. I’ve learnt a few things about confidence over these past few years and a key part of this learning has been the understanding that confidence doesn’t come from dots, it comes from lines. So, a consistent set of small wins does more good for your confidence than an out-of-the-blue big achievement. It is that realization that’s led to an intense, obsessive, sometimes pedantic, focus on process over the past few years. This focus on process has resulted in better results, more happiness and, over time, more confidence.

I’ve begun to observe that this increase in confidence has had an interesting side effect – an unwillingness to compromise on what matters to me.  I think that’s because confidence brings with it a sense of comfort in your skin. And, a mix of this comfort combined with a sense of purpose that’s been a result of all the thinking on the topic for the past 2 years has led to more clarity on why I do things. This, in turn, has helped with making all those little decisions that make up our days. And, as we live our days, so we live our lives.

It is a fascinating evolution though. And, I’m enjoying the change.

2. History lauds the individual but it is teams that make history. Hat tip to Walter Isaacson and “The Innovators” for this one. I’ve really been struck by how every great innovation in the past 150 years was brought forth by teams. I always considered myself reasonably well acquainted with the history of technology and I associated many technology shifts with lone geek genius. I’ve been blown away by the recurrence of this very simple idea – history is made by great teams. That, in turn means, if you want to really make a positive difference, you want to hone your ability to build great teams. (Note: build doesn’t necessarily mean lead)

I have 3-4 interesting team projects in progress and, in the remaining year or so of being a student, I am really interested in digging deep and understanding how great teams are built. It is nice to be able to experiment with no serious consequences. 🙂

3. Learning to “see” and learning to make the most of an inch by going a mile deep. A close friend recently said he thought I was very observant. I found this to be an interesting observation as I have always thought of myself as someone with really bad observation skills. And, in some senses, that is very true. I am lost in my own thoughts and world far too often. But, observation in his eyes was to be able to view a situation and take insight from it. And, I think what he described as observant is what the wonderful Seth Godin describes in his post about “learning to see.” 7 years of looking for interesting ideas to blog about has inadvertently taught me to scratch beneath the surface a lot more. Allow me to digress for a moment here – it never ceases to amaze me as to how often people around you can point out things you never knew. I’ve learnt nearly everything about myself, especially about my strengths, thanks to insightful notes from people around me. I do my best to do the same to others around me. These observations around strengths are very valuable – we focus on weaknesses far too much.

His comment, however, led me to think about the idea observation some more. And, the more I think of it, the more I realize that observation is as powerful an idea as it gets. Great learners don’t need too many experiences to learn powerful lessons. They make the most of experiences by extracting an unimaginable amount of insight. I’d like to be able to do that more. And, perhaps that’ll be a great theme to take forward into this 26th year – to be able to make the most of the experiences I choose to immerse myself into by learning to make the most an inch… by going a mile deep.

Thank you to you for reading these notes, liking, sharing, and sending in your thoughts and comments. It is always lovely hearing from you. You make this blog a blog. And, for that, I am very grateful. Thank you for all you do.

(Past birthday notes: 25, 2423)