Monday, October 28, 2019

Winners don't lose?

Being an inveterate reader, I cannot resist reading anything...even unto T-Shirt slogans. This habit of mine, I am sure, is going to lead to immense trouble, some day or the other, going by exactly where the slogans are printed, especially on women's T-Shirts. No matter my age, I'd find it rather tough going to explain that my focused staring is only an attempt to read the slogan. Which, I swear, it really is.

Be that as it may, this slogan that I read yesterday really got my goat. (THIS was on a man's T-Shirt, so there!) "Winners don't lose" it proclaimed to the world. One is not really expecting profound wisdom from T-Shirt slogans but one is not looking to see rank stupidity either.

I mean, really? So, a Federer, when growing up, never lost a single match? That would mean that he was careful to play only against people he could readily beat. Which, in effect, means that, from an early age (which means, as soon as he got taught that winners do not lose), he ensured that he was never stretched. That he ensured that he never had to face an opponent who showed him the limits of the skills he had acquired up to that point, just so he did not lose. Because if he lost, his quest to being a winner would be finished, wouldn't it?  If that is not a classic recipe to never ever improve on his skills, I don't know what is.

And, of course, the moment he lost a match it was all over for him. He can no longer say that he never lost, so he cannot claim that he is a Winner! Finis, career done, now he can go back, herd cows, and eat chocolate for the rest of his life?

A Winner is someone who is not afraid of stretching himself, of going beyond his comfort zone; someone who does not let fear of failure keep him from trying. Which essentially means that he WILL fail every now and then. And will NOT let that failure deter him from trying again to pursue his dreams.

'Winners don't lose' is as good as saying 'Winners don't try', which is a oxymoronic statement if not a moronic statement. Not trying IS the classic definition of a Loser, for a Loser is one who fears to try, not the one who tries and fails.

If there be a Society which actually believes that 'Winners don't lose'; if people in Society deride those who try and fail, then THAT is a Society which is geared to producing ONLY Losers.

Staying in your comfort zone is a time-tested way of never losing. But I am yet to see anyone praising frogs in a well for being Winners.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Work-Life balance?

Every time I hear of this Work-Life balance I get a weird feeling. (No, you @#$$, it is not because I neither have work nor life. If you choose to think that there is no work without a job and no life without a spouse, that's your problem, not mine.)

I mean, I get this strange feeling that, just as they start for work, people switch on the 'Zombie Mode'. And switch it off when they go back home. If you are balancing work and life, then obviously you think of work as something apart from life, don't you? Like you have to put your life of hold for so long as you are working, merely so you can afford the costs of the rest of the time when you are indulging in 'life'.

I get how it can be. I was not always into 100% life, as you may choose to call it, like I am now since I am not working. This 'life' portion of the day is when you are free to mix and match things. Your relationship with your spouse does not necessarily go into an irreversible tailspin just because you pop out for a couple of beers with a friend in-between. (Unless, of course, it invariably turns out to be 20 beers and you routinely need four people to pour you back into your bed so that you can sleep it off.) Nor does forgetting an birthday or an anniversary, every now and then, inevitably lead to divorce. (Though, of course, it can mean going through soul-harrowing experiences in the aftermath, or so I hear). With work, though, it is like you have to leave the rest of what's happening in your life at the door when you walk in. And deadlines, unfortunately, cannot be treated as casually as birthdays, not without bringing the relationship with your employer to an acrimonious end.

But, yet, such things can be said of marriage as well. THAT relationship is not the same as your friendships, say. It is more demanding than the rest as well and, yet, one does not hear of a Marriage-Life Balance. THAT's still a part of your life, on the right side of the Work-Life thingy. So what's with work that makes it not Life? Is it the fact that it expects you to leave the rest outside the office door but refuses to stay back at office when you walk out? Or the fact that it is not an emotional relationship like the rest are? Or, perhaps, the fact that there is always the feeling of power imbalance in it - that you need your employer more than your employer needs you?

Whatever it is, Work uses up at least half of the waking hours of the average person. It is one thing to use Work-Life Balance as a way to denote how you manage the requirements of the work and non-work portions of your life. But the very fact that this denotation has seemed so natural to people suggests that, somehow, Work is seen as 'not-Life'. To sort of mark time for nearly half your life, considering it as not living, is, to put it mildly, foolish. Life is what it is, limited in years, and it is best to make the most of whatever time you have. It's best to do the work that you can come to love doing, if you have the choice, OR to change your attitude to try and like as much as you can of what you have to do. In other words, Work IS a part of Life and it has to be LIVED, not merely endured.

If you get too used to switching on the Zombie mode, sooner or later it will refuse to go off when you want it to!

Monday, October 14, 2019

Money and Happiness

"You know, you suffer from the wrong notion that money is enough to be happy."

As usual. Here is another friend who knows exactly what is wrong with me. If ever the day came when a friend found something right with me, I'd probably die of the shock.

"Whoever said money can buy happiness just did not know where to shop", I said triumphantly. It is not often that I can remember the right quote at the right time, so I was understandably thrilled to be able to do it once.

"Yeah. Trust you to remember all the pithy sayings that sound clever but mean shit. So, you think if you have the money to go to the finest concerts, your tone-deaf ears will learn to enjoy music? If you can buy the finest wines, you will acquire the palate to enjoy them?"

It NEVER works for me, does it? I mean, quotes like this from others shuts off the contempt. For me, it only seems to convert a trickle to a Niagara.

"So, you mean that you can do without money and be happy?"

"If a doctor cautions you against over-eating does it mean he wants you to starve?"

"Exactly what is your point, then?"

"That money is a tool which can get you what you want. You need to count the cost of getting the money, though, otherwise..."

"What cost? If I am GETTING money, then..."

"See what I mean? You think all cost is measured in money?"

What the hell else do you measure cost in? Marbles? What an idiot.

"So, what do you mean by cost?"

"Well, assume that you are working day and night to be able to hike up all the mountains in the world. And, when you have enough money, what if you can hardly climb a flight of stairs without fearing a heart attack? Your money has cost you your ability to pursue what you wanted, hasn't it?"

Hmmm. Not so much of an idiot, perhaps but...

"The guy who works 24x7 all his life in order to be able to smell the roses after retirement. And, after retiring, makes a project out of smelling all varieties of roses, rushing from one to the other, muttering things like 'Ugh! This is the same rose I smelled two months and 4 days back. What a waste of time.' A lifetime of chasing money can mold attitudes which makes you incapable of enjoying leisure, can it not?"

"Well, all I can say is I'd rather be unhappy with money than without", I said gleefully. Twice in one day, I got the quote for the occasion! Yippee!

"Well, if you are resigned to being unhappy..."

Huh! This chap was too much for me.

"So you will say that pleasure and happiness is different and all that spiritual guff."

"Well, they ARE different. Pleasure is a temporary high caused by your senses. Happiness is a state of mind. But I would not waste my time talking of that to you. Why, I will not even bother to talk of relationships or love or compassion or charity. You'd only have called that sentimental guff."

"So, exactly are you talking about?"

"Remember, even your 'wise saying' says you can't do with money alone. You also need to know where to shop for happiness. I'd add a couple more things. You need to know WHAT to shop for and you need to keep alive the ability to USE and ENJOY what you buy."

These guys! They have to complicate everything!

Monday, October 7, 2019


"It's difficult to say when a Society is progressing."

"What's so difficult about that?" I could have bitten my tongue almost as soon as I said this. When will I learn that opening my mouth when in the company of friends, especially when it's a group of them like today, is a sure recipe for disaster?

"Ah! So what IS progress, O wise one?"

"Well...I suppose if success is achieving your goals, then progress is when you advance towards your goals."

"Ah! So easy, is it not? Tell me, does improving security in a Society count as a goal? That when Society advances towards lesser possibility of riots or terrorist activity, it's progress?"

"Of course it is." Was this guy an idiot? Who wants a Society where you are afraid to go out for fear of being beaten up or blown to bits?

"So, increasing security is progress? Even if that means security agencies monitoring all your conversations, your financial transactions, your social media interactions? After all, better information helps to nip terrorist activities in the bud. Even if it means that the Government restricts what you can say and where you can say it? So that hate speech does not lead to riots?"

Huh? Now what? I mean, yeah, security is great but...

"I think you are being unfair there. Of course there is need to balance..."

"And exactly what is the right balance? Ask the guys who want security and they will want to ensure absolute security and, after that, if there is some leeway for privacy and freedom of speech, they may grant that. The other guys would want personal liberties inviolate and the Government should somehow find a way to also ensure security without compromising on that. So, exactly where is the consensus?"

I interjected. "Forget that, politics is always messy. In economics and business there must be real clarity."

THAT was like throwing a stone into a hornets' nest.

"Yeah, right! If business finds it more efficient to use robots or AI, or outsource, is that progress?"

"Course it is."

"So, it is Ok if people get thrown out of jobs and starve? Nice."

"Of course not! But why are you assuming that..."

"I am NOT assuming. The point is YOU are assuming that improved efficiency of business will happen without any distress. That there is no choice being made there."

Another guy chimes in.

"Where do you deploy resources? To produce goods and services that people with money want, or to produce food for starving people who cannot pay for it?"

This was nonsense. I mean morbid speculation of this sort. I said as much. THAT set off a perfect cacophony of voices. Everyone screaming at once.

"Really? Tell me, do you know of any system, yet, where a minimal level of food, clothing, shelter, medicare and education has been guaranteed to every citizen regardless of their earning ability? To ensure that resources do not get diverted away from satisfying the minimal needs?"

"Yeah! But that would need, then, population control. If you guarantee all the basic needs to everyone, without limiting family sizes...And mandatory population control? That opens out a whole new can of worms."

"Every time anyone speaks of possibilities, people cry it down as dystopian speculation. Which is why nothing gets done till it becomes a crisis. Take climate change for example..."

"That's another thing. Leave it to business chasing profits, and you will soon have a desert for a planet."

"The market economy will take care..." I interjected, weakly.

"Yeah! Once we said God will take care. NOW we say the markets will take care of it. As though the Market is some sort of fairy godmother..."

"The only thing markets do is take care of goods and services. Not of the environment."

"Not even that. It is a long time since we had that so-called perfect competition that is supposed to make markets work. If it ever existed. Pharma carves out monopolies with its patents. Most business is turning big business, oligopolies if not monopolies. And now you have the e-business guys who seem intent on becoming monopsonies as well as monopolies - a combination that Adam Smith may not even have dreamed of..."

I was feeling dizzy. What was all this? I mean, one doomsday theorist was enough to keep me in nightmares for months. And here was a total army of them.

Looked like this social progress thing was too messy. Too many conflicting goals, no real agreement on any non-negotiable minimal levels for each of those goals, everyone wanting the maximum possible for their own goals and the devil take the short, humans behaving like humans, irrational and grasping.  And, in all probability, the rich and powerful getting their way as they always do. But there was that one thing that would be rational...

"Forget all that, guys." I said. "Scientific progress..."

Again that nasty chorus. Really!

"Nonsense.  The research that gets paid for gets done. From all reports, especially in medicine, the results that get paid for get reported."

"What scientific progress? Are our most important goals in Science to find out the origin of life or the Universe? Finding out habitable planets in our galaxy? Of determining the right Grand Unification Theory?"

What was all this gobbledygook? Of course, I was thinking about important scientific progress in AI/ML, even perhaps, you know, those space habitats around the sun when Earth gets too difficult to breathe in...

"Of course, he is thinking about scientific goals like innovations that will slash the price of his smartphone in half, get him Netflix for free...important things like that."

"I'm sure that, for him, society is certainly progressing and fast. After all, we certainly are progressing towards the day when you can get all your needs satisfied without getting out of bed. That would suit him absolutely."

Should I be happy? I don't know. I would have been, but for that crack about 'monopsony and monopoly'. I mean, if the same guy ends up being the only guy suppliers can trade through and customers can buy from, even if he delivers everything to my bed, will he deliver it to me at prices I can afford?

I sure hope so. These guys, though...they have given me enough nightmares to last me years!