Monday, November 25, 2019

Plan your day

My default state is distraction. What that means is that if I'm doing something, I can suddenly jump to something unrelated and not return at all.  From the time I've reflected upon myself, I found that I'm easily distracted.

I've been trying to understand how best to live with this state and how to be productive in spite of this. Cal Newport's books - Deep Work and Digital Minimalism helped with ways to work with that.

The first important step that defines my day is whether I have taken the time to plan my day out. Take a day where I start my day without planning when I'll do what. I'll find myself starting with my first task and it taking most of the day if not the whole day.
The only solution that worked to avoid this is to take the time to plan the day. In the morning,  sit in front of you calendar and plan all the things you want to do that day in the calendar.  This step will create an intentional day. It will make it easy to resist the distractions and plough ahead. It also is the rock to which we can return to if we have wandered somewhere unrelated. This sounds simple but simple things make all the difference. Pair it with the following deep work rules to have a focused day -  Don't use the internet for entertainment and use internet during a specified time.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Interesting ideas from Digital Minimalism - Cal Newport

Cal Newport wrote about digital Minimalism which is about the tools to beat digital distraction. As you know I'm a fan of Cal's so good they can't ignore you and Deep work. So though this topic felt familiar I felt compelled to read it. And boy I am not disappointed. There are many great tools about beating digital distraction. So you should just go and read the book. What follows are things that I found interesting and would like to remember.

After convincing us of the fact that being distracted always is not doing is any good, he asks us to do a one month digital detox. I.e completely do cold turkey on digital media. Then after one month deliberately bring back those tools which you feel add value to your life and only if that tool is the best way to add that value. Then after adopting that tool develop a strict standard operating procedure for using it basically about when you're allowed to use it and for how much time. This is the gist of the process.

Then he goes on to give various practical tactics about using digital tools effectively. Following are the things that felt very useful to me.

Create a seasonal leisure plan. This is a great idea as the kind of things we can do varies by season and by thinking and planning your leisure for the season you can follow them effectively.  Pair them with weekly plans to make it concrete.

Choose active leisure. - Mr Money Moustache who is a millionare buys and fixes up houses and his leisure consists of making things.

Join a group - There is a cafe in Canada called the snakes and Lattes cafe where you go in a play board games with whoever is before you.

Life 3.0 - Interesting things I learnt from that

I read an interesting book called Life 3.0 written by <>

Memory and computation are substrate independent.

AI can grow and develop very fast

Once it develops there are various ways in which it can takeover

Earth is doomed in millions and billions of years. So the way for human race to live is by becoming an interplanetary species. If we develop vehicles which can travel very fast we can go and that is where we should focus.

There are multiple theories of studying consciousness. According to an interesting theory, consciousness is how it feels when our body is processing and reconciling the data with existing data stored 

The wonder of scientific development

The story I'm about to tell may be obvious to lot of you but it was not obvious to me at all.

This is about how scientific inventions and discoveries happen. 
Since ancient times it was evident that rubbing fur on a smooth thing have people shocks. But it was not possible to study the nature of electricity. Then Volta found a way to create electricity on demand. People started to play with it and then slowly the principles surrounding electricity were discovered. Then in one experiment someone discovered that electricity can cause magnetism and playing with that again caused people to play with it and they discovered electromagnetic effects and then it revolutionized everything and more and more secrets of the nature opened up.

Let's consider the theory of gravitation.  He wondered how Earth and moon are hanging in balance and why is an apple falling to earth. Building on Galelio and Kepler's theories and with his grip on maths he calculated and proved that the attraction between objects varies based on the square of the distance between objects. In doing so he also created a new field of calculus. It was a giant leap for mankind in unlocking the secrets of nature.

What I'm trying to say here is that there are few true new inventions, most of the things are invented in the adjacent possible whenever a new invention happens. Just by playing with the new invention, combining, applying that to multiple unsolved problems, diligently experimenting and analysing the results  that have us 90% of the inventions and discoveries and that doesn't take a genius but just a committed,  diligent and curious person. There is also a role of serendipity in this. Lot of times speaking and working with other intelligent people can help break a logjam. So the learning here is that keep up to date with new discoveries in the field, experiment with it, talk about it and share your learnings. You might find or do something that can push mankind forward. 

Friday, August 9, 2019

Notes from Five Stars - The communication secrets to get from good to great - Carmine Gallo

Why Great Communicators Are Irreplaceable 

Five Stars is for those who believe their ideas matter 

  • It’s easier to rally a team around one common goal than to divide their attention
  • Frame the argument within a grand purpose 

To make an argument easy to follow and exciting to hear, use the following techniques

  • Antithesis - juxtaposing two contrasting ideas “Society in every state is a blessing, but government, even in its best state, is a necessary evil” 
  • Anaphora - repetition of the same word or words in successive sentences or within clauses - “It is not an affair of a city, a country, a province, or a kingdom, but of a continent. “
  • Alliteration - Repetition of similar letter sounds in two or more words in a group - “By referring the matter from argument to arms,...”
  • Parallelism - Express several parts of a sentence in a similar way to show the ideas are equally important, adding balance and rhythm to a speech - “ I offer nothing more than simple facts, plain arguments and common sense.” 

  • Qureshi interview prep :Consider yourself a character in the story and structure your story with a beginning, middle and an end. There should be inflection points, characters and easy to understand motivations. Keep it short while preserving the color that’s interesting. Qureshi practiced the stories he would tell again and again. He recorded himself telling the narrative and asked his friends for feedback

Top leaders believe communication skills as the lubricant of execution that gives the company its competitive edge. 

Nothing happens voluntarily in an economy or society, unless someone changes her mind. Behavior can be changed by compulsion, but minds cannot.

In free societies, free talk rules. Persuasion - sweet talk - affords the greatest opportunity to leapfrog from where you are today to where you want to be. 

Rhetoric is ultimately the art of happiness. The end goal of persuasion is to use language to encourage both parties to flourish, to find  happiness. Aristotle said there at two steps to achieving it. 
First step is articulating the theme of the argument itself. Second, the speaker must prove that the argument is solid and logical.

  •  A speaker must back up the argument using three rhetorical proofs. Logic, credibility and emotion. Logos, Ethos and Pathos
Logos - Logical reasoning
Ethos - The character of the speaker
Pathos - emotion

Emotion is the fastest path to the brain. Emotion grabs our attention and emotional memories are unforgettable. 

There’s one thing that only humans can do, and that’s dream, so let us dream big. -Gary kasparov

Successful companies and entrepreneurs create a narrative around their products, services and brand. If I want to have an impact on your life or to sell you something. If I want you to use something I have created, I’ve to fit that into your narrative. I have to tell you a story that is compelling enough for you to want to be part of my story because I’ve created change, something new and interesting. And that narrative is something I want you to be part of. That is how humans have created our civilization. We tell a common story that holds us together. 

Ahrendts father said - “I can teach you anything. But I can’t teach you to feel. I can’t teach you to care.” 

Lessons of 5 star hospitality providers

  • Get the customers name right
  • Beat the greet - Be the first to say hello, to step out from the desk to say - “Good Afternoon” 
  • Anticipate Needs -  A three star employee meets, a five star employee anticipates
  • Daily Storytelling - Tell stories that reinforce the company culture. 

Who’s Earned Five Stars

  • Neil DeGrasse Tyson: The secret of communicating science and other complex topics is not to “translate” the content - but to explain with enthusiasm and where and when necessary, link the concept to something embedded in pop culture, where we all have active receptors. Take complex ideas and embed it in familiar ground. 
He wrote the following demoting Pluto from planethood. 
E.g. if Football were the sun at the 50-yard line, Earth would be at the 15-yard line. Pluto a quarter mile away, get over it. 

People are responsible for the state of the world. We are managing the world. Great communication skills empower people to lift themselves up from their current situation and to join together in a systematic effort to create a higher quality of file for everyone. 

The most important messages are not the ones that inspire you to do something easy. The most important messages inspire you to achieve your highest potential and that’s hard. It’s always hard. But it’s worth doing. 

Dollar Shave club bought by unilever - guerilla marketing of DSC 

Burning a message into a person’s skull is a rare art. In order to do that, it must be memorable, clear, vivid, and have an element of emotion associated with it.  - Micheal Moritz, Investor 

Sharon - revolutionized adult diapers by trying them on. - What sets you apart - “Passion and empathy” - The people who stand out, stand up for customers.” 

Students of communication climb the career ladder. 

All leadership takes place through the communication of ideas to the minds of others. - Charles Cooley

Google’s CEO  doesn’t use bullet points, and neither should you. 

Google’s project aristotle found that effective teams have the following qualities 

Psychological Safety 
Impact of Work 

David Feinberg - President of Geisinger Health 

CICARE. Program Acronym Description - Doctors use this to communicate with patients and it improved their satisfaction scores. 

Make a great first impression, greet patient by name where possible
Introduce yourself, your name, and your role
Explain what you’re going to do
Ask Permission and Anticipate 
Ask questions - Also anticipate needs and concerns
Respond to a patient’s needs or requests promptly and positively 
End with Excellence 
Close the loop, communicate next steps, and manage up by explaining who the patients will be meeting next

Inspiring Leaders wear SCARF 

Wallace said that a real leader’s authority comes from the power we give that leader and we give them power because of the way they make us feel.We like the way we feel in the presence of a great leader. We like the way they persuade us to work harder, to push ourselves and to dream bigger than we ever imagined. 

TED Stars:

  • Replace bullet points with pictures
  • Make the audience laugh
  • Share personal stories
  • Make presentations easy to follow
    • State one headline
    • Use the rule of three
  • Promise the audience that they will learn something new 

The ability to inspire people to look beyond their circumstances and to imagine worlds that have yet to exist is a gift that should be shared, nurtured and sharpened. One great idea can light the world. Let’s shine a light on yours. 

How to Get from Good to Great 

People are dying because we can’t communicate in ways that allow us to understand each other. That sounds like an exaggeration, but I dont think it is. - Aland alda

The tool is storytelling and by including tension, conflict and hurdles within a story, you’ll add a little stress that keeps your listener glued. Stories are irresistible because we are wired to think in story, process our world in story and share in story. 

Three kinds of stories you can tell 
  •  Stories about personal experiences 
  • Stories about real customers or clients
  • Stories about signature events in the history of a brand or company

An impactful story contains the following elements

  • It’s a story with a beginning, middle and an end
  • It’s intriguing - thought provoking, novel, informative, interesting and entertaining
  • It’s authentic - The characters, settings and challenges must feel true. 
  • It includes details - Small, vivid or important details enhance the authenticity of the story
  • It reveals a surprise 
  • It introduces empathetic characters -  The listeners should be able to see themselves in the shoes or the context of the hero. 
  • It has conflict and tension - An empathetic hero overcoming a meaningful hurdle and succeeding in the end is irresistible. 

Persuasion cannot occur in the absense of Pathos, an appeal to audience’s emotion. 
Stories are the best linguistic tool we have to build Pathos because humans are wired for it. 

The three act story structure

The setup - intro and current state
The confrontation - world turned upside down and obstacles are revealed. 
The resolution - The problem is solved and everyone is happy 

Stories with an emotional trigger alter our brain chemistry which makes us more trusting and open to ideas. 

Deliver the big picture 

You have five seconds to grab my attention - Geoff Ralston 
  • Don’t cram all you know on One Slide 

Hollywood has a log line of the story
This is the logline of Godfather - The aging patriarch of an organized crime dynasty transfers control of his clandesitine empire to his reluctant son

  • Introduce one big idea within 15 seconds of starting your presentation. 
Use simple words 

He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary - about Ernest Hemmingway 
  • Use grade school language
  • Sell your idea in 10 minutes as brain tunes out after 10 minutes. 
  • Download text readability software like the Hemingway app 
  • Edit your work again and again

The computer is a bicycle for our minds

  • Use analogies and metaphors
  • Start to keep an eye for analogies and metaphors. You’ll find them everywhere. 
  • To be a master of metaphor is the greatest thing by far… it is a sign of genius

(B) - Book to read -  Shortcut: how analogies reveal connections, Spark Innovation, and Sell our greatest ideas. 

It’s rare that a fresh idea comes up out of nowhere. More often we put together disparate ideas that nobody has put together - James Patterson

  • Connect ideas from everywhere
  • Find your theme song - songs that motivate you
  • Read more books to become a better speaker
There are very few problems that a new challenges
Reading enhances the leader's ability to create powerful, emotional rhetoric to galvanize a team. 
  • Take a trip to the unfamiliar to spark to new ideas
  • When planning a presentation to deliver your original ideas, don’t start with the slides. Put yourself in a creative space and think through the elements of the narrative before creating slides or documents. People are not moved by slides, they’re moved by the emotional components of your story. 

Conquer the fear that holds you back

Reappraise your experience
Rehearsal - train under pressure 

Great communicators are made not born. All of them have overcome stage fright. You can too. 
There are two techniques that help. Reappraisal means reframing your experience from negative to positive. Then put in the practice. Repeating a presentation over and over will boost your confidence for the big day. 

Find the tune that makes your heart sing. 

Words from the heart enter the heart - Jewish Proverb

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Notes from Everything is F***ed - Mark Manson

The uncomfortable truth is a our lives are small and inconsequential in the grand scheme of things
Our brain has both a thinking brain which is logical and a feeling brain which is emotional. Feeling brain is the driver because emotion gets us to act.
A feeling of pain opens up a moral gap. When moral gaps persist for a long time they normalize and lodge themselves inside our value hierarchy. These values form your identity. Your identity
will stay your identity until a new experience acts against it. We group with people according to their values

Religions all sell hope to the hopeless. They can be spiritual religions (outside world), idealogical religions (inside world) or interpersonal religions. Develop some rituals for the Religions
Pain is never ending, we notice the relative level of pain. If our health is good, then we notice the shoe against our leg. Basically we always sense a level of pain. If we solve all problems, we
still look for other problems.
If a parent tries to remove all problems, the kid will be disappointed for even small things.
Religions give hope and postpone the existential crisis. Hope depends on destroying the current thing. We should look beyond hope, look beyond values, we should have amor fati. or love of one's fate.
Nietzsche says man is the rope between beast and something greater. Don't hope of being better. BE better.
Kant's principle for humanity - Treat humanity not as a means but as an end. Always maintain consciousness.
Pain is the universal constant. Pain is the source of all value. To numb ourselves to pain is to numb ourselves to anything that matters in this world.
Feeling makes the world go round. Value is created by decreasing pain (innovations) or avoiding pain (diversions)
Variety is fake freedom. Commitment is freedom. Embrace the pain.
AI is the final religion and the authors hope is that we will create the AI which will supply an antidote to our uncomfortable truth which I'm not so confident about.

The way to do that is to adapt our technology for our flawed psychology rather than to exploit it. To create tools to promote greater character and maturity in our cultures than diverting us from growth
To enshrine the virtues of autonomy liberty privacy and dignity not just in our legal documents but in business models and lives
To encourage anti fragility and self imposed limitation rather than protecting everyone's feelings
To create better tools to help our thinking brain communicate with our feeling brain better to bring them in alignment. 

Monday, July 15, 2019

Wisdom from The Wisdom of No Escape - Pema Chodron

The message for the dathun as well as for the reader is to be with oneself without embarrassment or harshness. This is to love oneself and ones world.

Loving Kindness

  • If we are committed to comfort at any cost, as soon as we come up the least edge of pain, we're going to run; we'll never know what's beyond that particular barrier or wall or fearful thing.
  • Generally people think if they meditate they will improve, but loving kindness (maitri) toward ourselves doesn't mean getting rid of anything. Meditation practice doesn't mean throwing ourselves away and becoming something better. It's about befriending who we are already.
  • One of the main discoveries of meditation is seeing how we continually run away from the present moment, how we avoid being here just as we are. It's not a problem; the point is to see it.
  • The path of meditation has to do with curiosity, inquisitiveness. It involves being gentle, precise and open. Gentleness is a sense of goodheartedness toward ourselves. Precision is beeing able to see very clearly, not being afraid to see what's really there just as a scientist is not afraid to look under the microscope. Openness is being able to let go and open.
  • The effect of month of meditation will be as if at the end of the day, someone were to play a video of you back to yourself and you could see it all. You probably would see that you do all those things that you criticize all the people you don't like in your life. Making friends with yourself is making friends with all those people too, because when you have this goodheartedness and clarity about yourself, then there is no obstacle to feeling loving kindness for others as well.


  • It is helpful to realize that being here, sitting in meditation, doing simple everyday things like working, walking outside, talking with people, bathing, using the toilet, eating is acutally all we need to be fully awake, fully alive, fully human. The body and the mind we have are exactly what we need to be fully human, fully awake and fully alive. The emotions that we have right now, the positive and the negative are what we actually need. Being satisfied with what we have already is a magical golden key to being alive in a full, unrestricted and inspired way.
  • One of the major obstacles to what we traditionally call enlightenment is resentment, feeling cheated, holding a grudge about who you are, where you are, what you are. Meditation is a process of lightening up, of trusting the basic goodness of what we have and who we are and realizing that any wisdom that exists, exists in what we already have.
  • Our wisdom is all mixed up with what we call our neurosis. Our brilliance, our juiciness, our spiciness is all mixed up with our craziness and our confusion, therefore it doesn't do any good to try to get rid of our basic wonderfulness. We can lead our life so as to become more awake to who we are and rid of who we are or what we're doing.
  • We know we're never really going to know all the answers, because these kinds of questions come from having a hunger and a passion for life. They have nothing to do with resolving anything or tying it all up into a neat little package. This kind of questioning is the journey itself. The fruition lies in beginning to realize our kinship with all humanity.
  • Our journey of making friends with ourselves is not a selfish thing. We're not trying to get all the goodies for ourselves. It's a process of developing loving-kindness and a true understanding for other people as well.

Finding our own true nature

  • Regarding practice - If you think the things are going well, it is some kind of arrogance. If it is too easy for you, you just relax. You don't make a real effort and therefore you never find out what it is to be fully human.
  • The karma kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism are called the mishap lineage because of ways in which the venerated teachers of this lineage blew it time after time. They are good examples of people who never gave up on themselves and were not afraid to be themselves, who thefore found their own genuine quality and their own true nature.
  • The point is that true nature is not some ideal that we have to live up to. It is who we are right now, and that's what we can make friends with and celebrate.

Precision Gentleness and Letting Go

  • The Buddha taught that we share an innocent misunderstanding that we all share, that can be corrected, and seen through as if someone switched on a light in a dark room. The key to being less shut off is to be able to see clearly who we are and what we're doing.
  • The innocent mistake that keeps us caught in our own style of ignorance, unkindness is that we are never encouraged to see clearly what is, with clearness. Instead there is a basic misunderstanding that we should try to be better that we are, if we get away from painful things, we will be happy. This is the innocent naive misunderstanding that keeps us unhappy.
  • Meditation is about clearly seeing the body that we have, the mind that we have, the domestic situation that we have, the job that we have, and the people who are in our lives. It's about how we react to all these things. It's seeing our emotions and thoughts just as they are right now, in this very moment, in this very room on this very seat. It's about not trying to make them go away, not trying to become better than we are, but seeing clearly with precision and gentleness.
  • This is not an improvement plan; it is not a situation in which you try to better than you're now. If you have bad temper if you feel that sitting and meditating here will make your bad temper go away. The problem is the desire to change is fundamentally a form of aggression toward yourself. The other problem is that our hangups, unfortunately or fortunately contain our wealth. Our neurosis and wisdom are made out of the same material. If you through out your neurosis, you throw out your wisdom.
  • Someone who is very angry also has a lot of energy; That's the reason people like that person. The idea isn't to try and get rid of your anger but to make friends with it, to see it clearly with precision and honesty, and also to see it with gentlesness. That means not seeing yourself as a bad person, but also not bolstering yourself up by saying, "It's good that I'm this way, it's right that I'm this way. Other people are terrible and I'm right to be so angry at the all the time." This gentleness involves not repressing the anger but also not acting it out. It is something much softer and more openhearted than any of that. It involves learning how, once you have fully acknowledged the feeling of anger and the knowledge of who you are and what you do, to let it go. You can let go of the usual pitiful little story line that accompanies anger and begin to see clearly how you keep the whole thing going. So whether it's anger or craving or jealousy or fear or depression - whatever it might be - the notion is not to try to get rid of it, but to make friends with it. That means getting to know it completely, with some kind of softness , and learning how, once you've experienced it fully, to let go.
  • The meditation technique itself cultivates precision, gentleness and the ability to let go - qualities that innate within us. Below are the steps of the technique.


  • The technique is first to take good posture and second to become mindful of your out-breath. Just feel the breath go out and touch the breath as it goes out. This seems simple but to be actually be with the breath and be with every breath requires a lot of precision. Just the fact that you always come back to the breath, that you try in a gentle way, to be as fully with the breath as you can sharpens your mind.
  • The third part of the technique is that, when you realize that you've been thinking, you say you yourself, "Thinking". Now that requires a lot of precision. If you just wake up from your throughts and go back directly to breathing and accidentally forget about the labelling, then just pause for a little bit and say to yourself "Thinking". Use the label because it is so precise.


  • If we emphasized only precision, our meditation might become quite harsh and militant. It might get too goal-oriented. So we emphasize gentleness.
  • If you notice your stomach and shoulders tense, relax them.
  • We are also not maintaining 100% awareness on the outbreath, we only maintain a gentle 25% of the attention. We have our eyes open and because the gaze is not tight our emphasis here is on openness, even though you're mindful of the out breath, you're not sshutting out all the other things that are going on. Touch the breath and let it go. The touch is the precision part and also the softness part.
  • The moment you label your thoughts "Thinking" is probably the key place in the technique where you cultivate gentleness, sympathy and loving-kindness. Rinpoche used to say, "Notice the tone of voice when you say "thinking.". If you notice you're being harsh, say it a second time to cultivate the feeling that you can say it to yourself with kindness and gentleness. You're cultivating a non judgemental attitude.
  • The honesty of precision and the goodheartedness of gentleness are qualities of making friends with yourself.

Letting Go

  • The third aspect of the technique is the quality of opening and letting go. This simple technique helps us rediscover this ability that we already have to open beyond small-mindedness and let go of any fixation or limited view.
  • In this technique we are asked to be only with the out breath and we are given no instruction as to what to do within the out breaths. So one could just let go at the end of the out breath. Breath goes out and dissolves, and there could be some sense of letting go completely. Nothing to hold on to until the next out-breath.
  • Even though it is difficult to do, as you being to work with mindfulness of the out-breath, then the pause, just waiting, and then mindfulness of the next out-breath, the sense of being able to let go begins to dawn on you. Just do the technique, as months and years go by, the way you regard the world will begin to change.
  • The experience of labelling your thoughts as thinking also becomes more vivid over time. You say yourself "thinking" and as your'e saying it basically you're letting go of your thoughts. Once you get the hang of it, it's incredibly powerful that you could be completely obsessed with hope and fear and all kinds of other thoughts and you could realize what you've been doing - without criticizing it - and you could let it go.
  • This is probably one of the most amazing tools that you could be given, the ability to just let things go, not to be caught in the grip of your own angry thoughts or passionate thoughts or worried thoughts or depressed thoughts.