All the noise

There’s all this noise. The news, the chatter about others we know, the chatter from others we know, the plaudits about the movers and shakers of the day, and everything else that we think we need to keep up with.

The default setting for the noise in our lives at this time is “on.” And, it is easy to forget that none of it matters unless we earn our livelihood by writing about the noise.

For most of the rest of us, all that counts is just what we do with what we control and how thoughtfully we do it.

The more time we can spend with the noise turned off, the more we’ll ship, the better we’ll get at shipping what we want to ship, and, if we’re thoughtful about it, we might learn a thing or two about living these days better.

So, let’s put those proverbial headphones and get to work.

Entertainment on the cheap

I hung out with my daughter for about an hour today while she happily ran up and down carpeted stairs. We conversed a bit, sang a bit, and mostly just went up and down those stairs. Times like this are a great reminder that there’s so much entertainment available on the cheap.

As we journey through life, we get exposed to many forms of expensive entertainment – fancy gadgets, expensive sports, and so on. And, while many of these are great, it is easy to forget how little it actually takes for us to have a good time.

As I was taught this morning, a combination of some physical activity, outdoors or a bit of novelty in the location (in this case, carpeted stairs), and folks you like hanging out with is all it takes for a good time.

I wish you plenty of that over the weekend. :-)

Career decisions and partners

A member of our team did a fireside chat with an executive/wise friend who was leaving our organization. One of the questions he asked was about her most important career decision.

After giving it a moments thought, she said – “Marrying my husband.” She went on to share her appreciation for their relationship, for their partnership as parents, and explained that it was key to any success she had enjoyed in her career and also to her happiness.

I think about that answer from time to time.

I grew up in India where marriage is a default decision. Most kids growing up in India don’t think about whether marriage is for them. It is just something you do once you get out of college and get a job. Kids come after that.

Economic development changes the nature of such default decisions. The US in the 1950s wasn’t all that different. You found a job, married young, and had kids. That has changed and we’re seeing that change in the urban centers of India too. We all have our own unique journeys. Marriage is not for everyone. And, having kids is definitely not for everyone.

That said, if you do decide that it ought to be part of your journey, marriage does end up being a critical decision. Once you are past the honeymoon phase, your partner becomes your shrink, best friend, life coach, loyal critic, movie buddy, and romantic partner all in one. By this time, you’ve heard all of each other’s stories and know every one of your crazy quirks. It can be hard to both love and like people you know well – that’s why relationships take work.

In addition, both your personalities, likes, and dislikes influence each other and you find a thermodynamic equilibrium of sorts over time. If you then decide to have kids, you move from testing your partnership in the little leagues to playing in the major leagues. The challenges and stakes get higher as you try and balance being parents and partners while learning to trust each other’s decision making processes.

Successful careers are the result of a large team of contributors. No one does anything of note by themselves. A few succeed despite bad partnerships. But, in most cases, careers are only as successful as the strength of the partnership at the center of it all. That’s because great partnerships in life are like great partnerships in sports and business – both of you push each other and grow together to become the best versions of yourself while complementing each other as a team.

Over the years, I’ve spoken to a lot of friends and colleagues who were thinking about marriage. It is a hard topic to talk about because you don’t have many personal data points to draw from if you have done it well. It is also why I don’t write about it that much. But, if I were to speak from my experience, I’d probably say it is worth being very thoughtful about that choice. And, once we choose, it is on us to commit wholeheartedly and do the work – every day. It definitely is the among the most important decisions we get to make.

In the final analysis, this partnership and this life are completely what we make of it. And, if we want to and are lucky, we have the opportunity to work at making it special and fun – together.

What has meaning

So, what has meaning and what doesn’t?

Whenever I share a book/article/recommendation with people, I always ask them to share what they learnt with me. It rarely happens. But, it gives me great joy when it does. This morning, a friend shared a profound portion of David Foster Wallace’s awesome “This is Water” speech.

 if you really learn how to pay attention, then you will know there are other options. It will actually be within your power to experience a crowded, hot, slow, consumer-hell type situation as not only meaningful, but sacred, on fire with the same force that made the stars: love, fellowship, the mystical oneness of all things deep down. Not that that mystical stuff is necessarily true. The only thing that’s capital-T True is that you get to decide how you’re gonna try to see it. This, I submit, is the freedom of a real education, of learning how to be well-adjusted. You get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn’t. You get to decide what to worship.

This was a great reminder. A large portion of our lives is spent responding to everything that happens around us. So, for the most part, it is just us learning to roll with punches.

The beauty about this is that we get to consciously decide what has meaning. That freedom comes with responsibility. And, it is on us to wear it well.

Day Traders or Venture Capitalists

We have a unique opportunity in front of us today – to choose between being day traders or venture capitalists. However, the opportunity comes with a twist (doesn’t every opportunity?). Few realize that the opportunity exists and fewer know that the default option is day trading.

Day trading requires us to engage with all the goings on in the day. The nature of the day dictates our mood. We like good weather and good news and generally struggle to find motivation otherwise. We invest in the now and avoid crazy swings. It is the default option and works just fine.

However, a few realize that there’s an alternative. When we play venture capitalist, we look at things differently. Yes, we’re engaged with today but, really, we’re focused on building for a few years from now. We’re on the lookout for opportunities to invest in ideas and people who might building something of value. They key word is might, of course. There are no guarantees. Unlike in day trading, there’s more risk and more volatility. But, there’s also tremendous excitement about possibilities.

So, today, we get to choose if we want to live this day and week as a day trader or venture capitalist. One feels safe and the other feels full of tension, discomfort and risk.

Then again, sometimes avoiding risk is the greatest risk of them all.

Trees of green

I see trees of green, red roses too
I see them bloom for me and you
And I think to myself what a wonderful world

I see skies of blue and clouds of white
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night
And I think to myself what a wonderful world

The colors of the rainbow so pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces of people going by
I see friends shaking hands saying how do you do
They’re really saying I love you e

I hear babies crying, I watch them grow
They’ll learn much more than I’ll never know
And I think to myself what a wonderful world
Yes I think to myself what a wonderful world


We have before us an opportunity to connect with everything Louis Armstrong sang about today. Trees of green, flowers, clouds, skies, friends – these aren’t hard to find.

Or, we can spend our time today fretting about things we don’t control, poring over news feeds and email and waiting for a miracle to give us happiness.

Our choice.

Dealing with the unresolved

I wish there was a class on learning to deal with the unresolved. But, since there isn’t a good one that I know of, here’s what I’ve learned from the school of hard knocks.

The first step to dealing with the unresolved is accepting that there will always be something unresolved in our lives. We will always have to deal with the unknown, experience the fear of launching something new and walk into a game with trepidation knowing we are at a seemingly obvious disadvantage.

Sure, we can choose to worry. But, worry does nothing to solve the problem except make it seem worse.

Scott Peck beautifully pointed to the wisdom in accepting that life is difficult. As he eloquently put it, “once we truly know that life is difficult – once we truly understand and accept it – then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.”

It works the same with dealing with the unresolved. We need to take the first step and accept that we will always have to deal with it.

There is no second step.