Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Why the rush?

When I see my son, I realize how ineffective rushing things are. I was like that and I'm still like that. My previous manager used to tell me to take it slow. I now see clearly that is another case of a hyperactive mind. We want to complete the work quick and dirty and go to the next thing. But it begs the question what next and why ? It really doesn't make sense. It just becomes an excuse to not really tackle the hard bits. Because getting to 70% is easy, the next 30% is the difficult part. If we are impatient, we are tempted to skip over that 30%. But if we are going slowly but steadily, we can stomach the tough parts slowly and try to work through that.

When I'm in the office in the morning, I just say good morning and keep rushing to my desk. Why is that necessary? Why can't I stop at someone's desk and ask them how their day is. It is literally stopping and smelling the roses isn't it? I really am appreciating this slow and steady way of doing things. 

Monday, March 25, 2019

A few thoughts on living in Massachusetts

I lived in Mass for couple of years. I had heard a lot about Boston and about how it was one of the first place the English settlers came to in  the US. Mass is the place where the revolution against British rule started with the Boston tea party. I was also aware that MIT the best engineering school world is also based in Mass. So I was pretty excited to live there. 

I worked in Boston near the South station. The subway system in Boston  pretty old but it worked well 80% of the time. I used to travel on the red line. In Boston the subway uses a third rail for the power. The equipment was old and there used to break down pretty frequently. And it used  take a lot of time to clear up and the delays cascaded through the system. Commuter rail worked better than this and the instances I traveled in commuter it was fast   and worked well. New train cars are coming on the red line and it should be better. 

Boston is a nice city. It is small but doesn't lack anything. It is healthcare hub with lot  great hospitals. It has  great innovation centers with the presence of multiple universities. 

Downtown is walkable and has great places like parks, shopping, museums and the like. 

Being in New England we can expect good snow here. I used to stay in the South shore region and luckily the two years I stayed it didn't snow much at all. But people here still reminisce about the 2014 snow which caused so much disruption that people worked from home about a month. When I was in NJ even for little snow I used to work from home but here till it is 6 inches of snow no one cares. It is part of living in NE. And people here love the snow. Most of the people enjoy winter sports like skiing, ice skating and snowboarding. I didn't get a chance though. 

There is good beach near the city at Revere and otherwise we have to  drive down to Cape cod. The beaches in Cape cod are good and I had so much fun here. The beaches are not as crowded as in NJ, so a trip to the beach was very relaxing.

One thing I miss from Boston is about restaurant called Clover which creates dishes with local grown stuff and it is amazing. Don't forget to try if you're there. 

I lived in a town called Quincy which is a suburb of Boston. The cost of living was high starting from the apartment rents. The apartment complexes are huge and we made lot of friends there.

Mass is close to Vermont and New Hampshire and if you love nature, they are some of the best places to visit. The white mountains, lakes region of NH and the green mountains of Vermont have breathtaking views in fall. And the best part is it is just a couple of hours of drive from Mass. This is something I will definitely miss.

The taxes are high in Mass. There is a personal property tax for cars and other vehicles. For Indian, there are couple of Indian grocery stores in Quincy  and a few stores in other places like Waltham, Norwood and Attleboro. So it is great if you're in any of those towns, otherwise you need to drive far for them.

 But that said the civic services are great. The libraries are pretty amazing And parks are good too!

On the whole, if you make peace with the cold weather, it is a great place to live. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

An Update

After Feb 12, I haven't made any updates to the blog. It was because I moved to NJ from Mass. I have some topics lined up and will get back to my regular schedule.

Upcoming posts:
1. Learnings from my previous job
2. Decision making snafu
3. The good and bad of living in Massachusetts

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Practical Ideas helping my year of focus

This is my year of focus where I resolved to do whatever I do with complete focus.

These are some of the tools and ideas that have kept me on the path. Hope they help you too!

As I alluded to previously, I am learning meditation from the waking up course by Sam Harris.
Whenever we get distracted, Sam just asks us to take a moment to notice to observe everything that is appearing in your consciousness via visual, audible and sensory medium. The new addition to this, courtesy of Sam is that your thoughts are also appearances in consciousness and you can also observe them during your meditation. This is something that is very interesting and is sure to free you up from whatever thought distracted you. This is helping me on my journey on the year of focus.

I've also observed that the most frequent time I get distracted is when I'm waiting for my application to build on my machine. I think that is a great time to practice my meditation and also to see how I can speed up the build time.

A mindful companion to  web browsing :
A big part of that is not getting distracted by interested stories and articles. I'm able to do it sometimes, but I often end up distracted and in no time I end up swimming pretty fast in the stream of hyperlinks and feeds that I frequent. I have installed an extension called 'Mindful Browsing' on chrome. This extension gently asks you if you really want to spend time on a time sink which you are aware of ? It also allows us to setup an alternative activity we would be rather doing. This is helpful to certain extent. But our behavior also controls it to some extent. If you gave in and clicked '10 mins' once on the mindful browsing extension, there is all the more chance that you will do the same again after 10 mins.

Deep Work Rules: 
Another thing that has helped me is just remembering the focus rules from Deep Work. My rule is that I will not browse non-work related things before 5:30 PM. When I remember this, the day is very productive. If you want to know more about deep work, check out the book here.

Thinking about contribution 
A final thing that helps me focus is thinking about contribution. We ought to use our limited time to do things we are proud of and just getting this thought has a way of getting my thoughts focused.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Feedback Analysis - Peter Druckers way to discover your strengths

Peter Drucker the esteemed management guru writes in his book, Managing Oneself about a great way to discover your strengths. He calls is feedback analysis.

It involves before any decision or action write down the expected results- what do you think will happen and why. Then after some time may be after six to nine months, review the decision compare the actual results with your expectations.

If you practice this method consistently, you will identify what your strengths are. He expects it to take around two to three years. You will also know what you're doing or not doing that are preventing you from taking full advantage of your strengths. It will also show where you are not particularly competent and where you have no strengths at all.

Once you know your strengths, try to improve your strengths and become a star performer instead of trying to improve in areas where you don't have strengths.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Vocabulary In Use series - Great resource to improve your english vocabulary

There is an excellent series of books published by the Cambridge University Press about improving your vocabulary.

I have read through the basic vocabulary in use and I am currently working through the intermediate vocabulary in use.

I got to know the importance of  learning and using colocations, phrasal verbs, fixed expressions and idioms in speaking to make our words flow easily.

Colocations are words that go together like

make + mistakes
under + table
on + the bus
have + breakfast etc
go + up the stairs
do + the dishes

Phrasal verbs is a phrase that combines two or three words from different grammatical categories like a verb + a particle or a verb + a preposition to form a a single semantic unit.

e.g. turn down
       get along
      give up etc.

Though I know of the words already, it gave me a refresher of all the words I could use instead of good
good = nice, beautiful, great, terrific, wonderful, excellent, fantastic fine, gorgeous super, friendly, happy, thoughtful, well behaved, smart and kind.

bad = worse, awful, terrible, nasty, mean, unkind, horrible, difficult, stupid (very strong word), selfish, childish.

A fixed expression is a standard form of expression that has taken on a more specific meaning than the expression itself.
as a matter of fact
inspite of
for starters
to make matters worse etc

Idioms is a group of words with a meaning different from the individual words and often difficult to understand from the individual words. Many phrasal words are idiomatic.
get a move on - hurry up
take turns -
offhand - without looking up
small talk
make it - come
keep an eye on - watch

It has been a very helpful resource and if I'm looking for ways to practice my new vocabulary.

Each book has number of lessons. The lessons are always one page in length on the left side of the page and the right side has exercises to practice. Different units take different words or different situations for using vocabulary and make teach us.

I highly recommend going through those books if you are interested in speaking english fluently and increase your vocabulary.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Learnings from the Waking Up course with Sam Harris

Sam Harris has a course on meditation and he has generously given one month of it free. I am taking the course this month. It is a great course and he has introduced me to many profound truths about meditation. This is an attempt to note some of the teachings that had a great impact.

This is verbatim from the first lesson the logic of practice

The Logic of Practice
1. We spend our life learning how to live. In our life it is possible to want the wrong things. Quality of mind determines quality of life.
2. Everything should appear in consciousness to matter. Happiness or sadness. We could try to change the world but it is never possible to eliminate sources of self doubt, disappointment
3. Another move is to look more closely at what you're doing and stop responding in way that increases the suffering All thoughts arise and pass away unless you grab on to them and keep manufacturing them. Meditation is a tool to observe the thoughts that arise
4 With meditation it is not that you will never be angry but you can learn not to stay negative very long. Meditation is a practice that allows us to break our pattern of being lost in thought and being aware of the present
moment. This course teaches Vipassana or Insight meditation.
5. Clear, non-judgmental and undistracted attention to the contents of consciousness. It is correlated with structural changes in mind.
6. It is a method of making profound discoveries about the nature of mind. It is not passive at all. It is a passion of discerning what is subjectively real about each moment.
7. Just observing what is arising in the present without grasping what is pleasant pushing away what is unpleasant.It is the act of being less distracted in the midst of what is already happening on its own.
8. It is a way to discover the truths about ones mind which will never be discovered otherwise.

The idea is to pay close attention to whatever is arising in consciousness.

Free will is an illusion. Though we feel that we are the doer of the things, everything is just happening in consciousness.

You will not learn to meditate by accident. You have to practice.

Being fully present is pleasurable. Hence if you can pay attention and be fully present in any moment,, there is no chance for being bored. Boredom is just the inability to pay attention. Once you learn to meditate, even simple act of breathing will be a source of contemplation.

You are very lucky if you are able to read this blog post, and there are a billion people who want to trade places with you.

Problems continually arise so enjoy them.

You are not a thing, you are a process. Different people can affect your moods differently. It depends how much we are encumbered by a neurotic self concern. When with other, use the meditation practice shouldn't make you more aware of yourself.  It should free yourself to pay more attention to who you're talking to. You will feel negative states of mind - self judgment, self doubt and annoyance etc. Feel them and let them go. Don't act on them. We are surrounded by carnival of human fraility. Compassion is available. This is the only life you have and you might as well enjoy it. When you leave a social situation, mindfulness allows not to carry it around with you. Don't finish conversations later.

There are some problems that cannot be solved by more thinking but only by experience.

When you know that everyone will die, you know you have this moment in life. You got this one opportunity to fall in love with existence. So relax.

When we are with other, it is like a hall of mirrors. We see how others are feeling and their expressions and other see ours and it affects each other. But it doesn't matter because the memories of last night or anxieties of next moment are just appearances in consciousness. It is like consciousness is being shackled to a monkey. When we meditate or paying attention, those can be moments where we can cut the connection to these evolved tendencies and recognize the space in which they are appearing.

What is the purpose of life - are pseudo questions. If we are asking these there are voids that needs to be filled. It is better to find another starting point. In the cosmos, life has evolved. If you see a wolf will you ask what is the purpose for its life ? No, we can argue the same for humans also. If you stand outside the world you will not ask that question. You don't know what you think before you think. Though there is no reason, we still want to be happy. The best solution is to come up with good enough reasons to stay in the present moment. 4 states of consciousness. Body is comfortable, but the mind is making us uncomfortable. Bodies may be uncomfortable like workout, but mind is happy. Body is uncomfortable and mind is at unease. 4th is both are comfortable.
Search for meaning comes when we are in states 1 and 3, mind is uncomfortable. Mind and body are separable. It is useful to believe that there is a silver lining in difficult experiences. It cuts down on worry and takes smart risks. Wisdom is understanding that it is not worth holding our happiness hostage till we achieve something. It is still rational to plan for the future. trick is to remain process oriented. Most of the life is journey. It is not basking in the absence of all problems. So you cannot wait till you solve all your problems to be happy. Connect with present moment.

This is a great course. Go try it.

Year of focus

I liked the message in the practicing mind a lot. As long as we are working with full focus, we are always winning. This is something I will come back to again and again and I will be focused on this.
Time rushes by and all the free time which is not scheduled is gone. So always have a schedule for your time.
Do less, once you are rushing you will fall down badly. Better do less things with focus and take more rest so that you will go longer
Get into action directly. The more you dilly dally the harder it is to get in.
Don't use internet for entertainment. This is the most difficult part of my intentions but I set the evening commute to 7 PM as the internet time.
Understand and also remember that time is running out, so is it worth watching netflix or taking rest and getting a head start on tomorrow?
That is what this year is going to be about. Enjoying the process. 

Circadian rhythms of the body and their importance - Concepts from the Circadian Code by Dr. Satchin Panda

1. Most of the body functions follow a circadian rhythm and having good rhythm is important for optimal functioning of the body. Disruption of the rhythm can cause lifestyle diseases like obesity, diabetes to other diseases like depression or cancer.

2. Each organ of the body has different clocks and are set by different things. For e.g. the master clock is set by melanopsin produced by the eyes when bright light is seen whereas the gut clock is set by the food we eat.

3. Our body processes are circadian. so the gut digests food for some time and during the downtime it repairs the gut, gets ready with some hormones. So to keep the gut in the best condition, do time restricted eating i.e to eat only within 8-10 hrs during the day. The gut motility is high in the day and less during the night. Once the first food bite is taken, the stomach is active for 8-10 hours. After that it becomes slower, so it is better to not eat after that. The body's fat saving mechanism is active when there is food. If we keep eating the whole day, there is no chance for the body's fat burning mechanism to be active. This way the blood sugar levels are always high and there is no chance for fat burning. This causes diabetes.

4. We sleep with different cycles drowsiness, light sleep and deep sleep. Each day we need to get two to three cycles of the whole sleep cycle. Each part of the cycle different things happen like consolidation of memories, cleaning of impurities in brain and production of new neural connections. So it is important we get good sleep. The biggest disruptor for sleep are blue light and screens. best avoid blue light during sleep and also keep screens away. Give good sleep opportunity of 9 hrs. If you have sleep debt try to take a nap as it will help you clear the sleep debt. When we didn't sleep well, the inflammation in the body is not reduced. so if we wake up with stiff joins then it means we didn't sleep well. If we have sleep apnea we can take a CPAP machine to make sure we sleep well. Try not to get up during sleep by keeping water at the bed side so that we don't need to wake up.

5. There is a best time to take medicine as all the drug targets are circadian. It is best to do cardiac exercise in the morning and resistance training during the day when the muscle tone is high.

6. The gut microbiome also has a circadian rhythm. Maintain good microbiome by eating probiotics

7. We are most attentive in the mornings so it is better to the most challenging work in the mornings. Brighter office has better sunlight and helps us feel active. Caffeine can improve alertness but doesn't reduce your sleep debt, so it will not keep you healthy.

8. IBS, GERD and gas could be casued by circadian disruption.

9. Circadian rhythms control the immune response also at the cellular level. So there are best times for getting surgery and best time for taking medicines also. NSAIDs perform better in the evening.

Regular sleep ( 8 hrs) + TRE ( 8-10 hrs) + exercise = Best health. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Thoughts that I learnt from the most in 2018

When we let go of judgement and are fully present in the work we are doing every moment, we are always winning. Experiencing impatience is one of the first symptoms of not being in the present moment, not doing what you are doing, and not staying process-oriented. - The Practicing mind - Thomas Sterner. Read the full review of the excellent book here

Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become. No single instance will transform your beliefs, but as the votes build up, so does the evidence of your new identity. This is one reason why meaningful change does not require radical change. Small habits can make a meaningful difference by providing evidence of a new identity. - James Clear, Atomic Habits. This is an excellent book. You must read this. Read my thoughts on this here and here.

You made a goal and started working towards that. But in between you start second guessing your decision. The best way to get back on track is to spend some time thinking the part of brain that is putting up that resistance and understand where it is coming from. Thank it for thinking about you and doing it to help you. Now get back to that decision will help you in the long term and get back to it. - Meditation by Al Jaffery from Insight timer meditation app. You can download the app here. Listen to the meditation here to here it more eloquently that what I have written here. 

One of the greatest (and least discussed) barriers to compassion practice is the fear of setting boundaries and holding people accountable. We have to stay away from convincing ourselves that we hate someone or that they deserve to feel bad so that we can feel better about holding them accountable. That’s where we get into trouble. When we talk ourselves into disliking someone so we’re more comfortable holding them accountable, we’re priming ourselves for the shame and blame game. - Brene Brown, The gifts of imperfection. Very important book. Read my review here.

Five life changing values are - Mark Manson, The Subtle art of not giving a f*ck

- Taking complete responsibility for everything in your life, even when you're not a fault.
- Acknowledgement of your ignorance and constant cultivation of doubt in your own beliefs
- Willingness to discover your flaws by failing, so that they can be improved
- The ability to both hear and say no, clearly defining what you will and will not accept in your life
- Contemplating one's own morality because keeping death in our mind can give perspective to all other values. 
Read my thoughts on it here. 

Reversible and irreversible decisions - Decide based on if a decision is reversible or irreversible. Pay attention accordingly - Jeff bezos. Read about this and other great ideas from Bezos here. 

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time. A schedule is a mock-up of reason and order—willed, faked, and so brought into being; it is a peace and a haven set into the wreck of time; it is a lifeboat on which you find yourself, decades later, still living.― Annie Dillard, The Writing Life. This is from the excellent work by Maria Popova in Brain pickings. Read it here